I am still an amateur with DNA testing, but I am slowly learning.
The truth is, my mom simply doesn’t have a lot of second, third and fourth cousins and her results show matches that are fairly distant, often 9th or 10th cousins, if findable at all. I knew this all along, because even early on using Ancestry.com, I never found any of my great great grandparents in other trees, only, if anything, 3x great grandparents. Even that was rare.
So there was no reason to expect that DNA matches would turn much up that was new. I did find that mom matched the early families of Warwick and East Greenwich, Rhode Island, thereby firming up a theory I had about her Andrews line. And I found a third cousin in a Martin line that had been a mystery to me.
I have tests on Ancestry DNA and Family Tree DNA. I have also moved all results to GEDmatch. At first GEDmatch seemed like a total mystery to me, but I gradually started trying every feature, and it began to make more sense.
One surprising result turned up. I had previously tested a fifth cousin in one of my mom’s mystery lines, trying to find proof of a theory that the person my gg-grandmother Jessie McLeod said was her father, William MacLeod, really was her father, despite some confusing evidence of an adoption. The cousin was not a match for my mom, but actually their statistical likelihood of a match was fairly low, so I couldn’t make much of that.
But I tested my mother’s first cousin (I’ll call her my aunt) recently, also a descendant from the McLeod line. She DID match the fifth cousin (in fact, he is her 12th closest match). While looking at that match in the chromosome browser, I could also see tiny matches to my mother in the same spot that had not been strong enough to show as a real match. So I am quite sure that William MacLeod was Jessie’s father or close relative.
Reaching people by email
I used the “People who match both kits, or 1 of 2 kits” function on GEDmatch to see which other matches the fifth cousin and my aunt had in common. There were 10 people. Only one had a tree. I sent them them each a separate email. I told them:
- what the name and number of their test is (some people have lots of tests)
- the names and numbers of my tests in this case
- a picture of the matches in the chromosome browser (in this case, on Chromosome 4)
- the couple that my fifth cousin and aunt descend from, and the names of all their children
- my wish to know if that couple or any possible ancestors for them in Scotland were familiar
I received 3 replies. One said her father was adopted so she had no information. Another said nothing there seemed to match what they knew. A third said it was her husband’s test, and he was mostly Irish, which would match with some of my aunt’s lineage, and the fifth cousin’s. It made me wonder if by some crazy coincidence the fifth cousin matches my aunt through her Irish side, but on the other hand, mom and I both match some smaller spots of that match so I am hoping this is not a coincidence.
It is hard to get people to answer DNA emails, usually, I think, because they don’t know the thing you are asking about. Thanks to all the special sales out there, more people are testing all the time. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, because many have no trees on the testing sites. I hear you can often find their tree out there somewhere, but this takes a lot of searching, especially when you consider that their version of their tree is not guaranteed to be correct, by any means.
Of course I also ran tests to find those who matched my aunt AND my mom, on both GEDmatch and FamilySearch, with no very useful results yet. These old New England matches can be very, very far back. It’s frustrating.
I learned recently of a new site to upload your DNA results to (they don’t test directly). DNA.land is new, and I heard about it through various blogs (see Kitty Cooper’s post here and CeCe Moore’s here). I uploaded mom’s test, with her permission. I got no matches, although that’s not surprising. I will upload additional tests (each needs their own account) soon, unless I decide there’s really not much there. But I feel like this DNA stuff is in its infancy and I want to welcome players who have some agenda beyond simply making money.
I am learning from DNA
For instance, I now have a test for my husband. His family background is pretty cloudy. What surprised us was finding out that the hints he had gleaned over the years actually turned out to be true. His Mohegan ties in Connecticut, documented a bit elsewhere by others, are found in the trees of those he is connected to by DNA matches. His closest match happens to be in the Fowler line we were wondering about.
Someone has done a surprising amount of work on my husband’s Fowler line on FindAGrave.com. There are copies of obituaries, pictures, and many notes. I wrote to him to thank him but never got a reply; my husband’s grandparents are not well documented so perhaps he doubted what I was telling him. Turns out, from DNA, it appears to be true. Perhaps I should write again!
Questions and more questions
More so than any other genealogy avenue, DNA-related queries tends to elicit no response from so many people. Perhaps they tested for other reasons. Perhaps they know very little about their tree.
I try to answer the questions I get, but I almost never answer the ones that are like this: “Hi I’m Denise and I saw we have a match. Can you help me I’m looking for my family.” What is missing from that question are the site they’re looking at, the identity of the test they’re matched to (I have 7 now), the size of the match so I don’t have to look it up, and any indication of what they know (even “I don’t know who my father is; I was born in the mid-1960’s in Maine” would be a huge improvement). And, more often than not, I have placed a tree on all sites, but obviously they have chosen not to look for that. But perhaps I am guilty, too.
Onward into the brave new world of DNA testing, I guess!
The post you are reading is located at: https://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/10/29/dna-and-me-part-iii/