My DNA story

DNA symbol

My DNA story begins a while ago when I purchased a kit from Family Tree DNA back in 2009.  I have received several matches but they all need reviewing to check against the ‘paper trail’.

I then purchased an Ancestry test and the first two results, claimed by Ancestry to be 2nd cousins were indeed correct. One of those cousins I had actually met in Canada a few years ago. I now have several 2 – 4th cousins who can all be proved with paper trails.

Now I have to work out what to do with the plethora of other ‘cousins’, many of which I suspect will not be related close enough to be proved.

I did discover a Masterclass written by Peter Calver who created the Lost Cousins website, this will give me quite a lot of work for those long winter evenings! Updated to Peter’s latest version.

3 thoughts on “My DNA story”

  1. Tris,
    The more people you can classify as coming from one or another branches of your tree, the better your chances of figuring out who other matches might be — or at least in which branch of the tree they belong. I have tested on all three of the majors (Ancestry, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA), and I like Ancestry the best because so many people have posted extensive trees there.
    However, that said, I don’t post everything I know on Ancestry because many people there just copy blindly anything and everything they see, as if they were “scrapbooking.” I want to have an exchange of information and ideas with distant cousins, so that we both expand our understanding of “the family.” So on AncestryDNA I mostly post years for dates and county with state/province for places, but not much more exact than that. This way, my DNA matches can see enough to distinguish one “John Doe” from another of the same name, but not so much as to take my complete information and claim it as their own without giving attribution.
    “Why even bother?” you might ask…. Because I actually took the Ancestry test only to please a third cousin who was trying to identify birth families for female ancestors we had in common, but for whom we had no maiden names. Because these women were from “Pennsylvania Dutch” counties, where the record keeping was exceedingly good, he reasoned that with the aid of known cousins from the branch in question he could study the trees of unknown matches who had to be from that branch due to matching those known cousins. Then, when many of those “unknowns” reported a particular surname in common, the next step was to determine the Most Recent Common Ancestor(s) whom they shared. From there, it was time to use the document trail to establish a complete descendant list for several generations, and look for a daughter who “went missing” at the right time.
    He has done this twice now, and is working at present on tying a mid-Atlantic family into a Plymouth Colony family. But I will briefly describe his first discovery. We had a 3rd great-grandmother “Catherine,” born in October 1794 in PA – the date coming from her tombstone. In studying the unidentified matches my 3rd cousin had with a first cousin of his, he saw that the surname “MEYER” (with variations) was repeated often in the trees of their unidentified matches. Narrowing the search down, he looked at the larger family of a man named Samuel Meyer, b. 1735 in Lancaster County. This man and his wife Catherine had seven children, four boys and three girls. The girls when marrying took their husbands’ surnames, but the boys would of course pass the surname down to the grandchildren. Each of those boys had a daughter Catherine! Now to study those four….
    Three Catherines were accounted for in genealogies, but the fourth was not. In studying her parents, he determined that son Cornelius md. (another Catherine!!) in Nov. 1791 Lancaster County, but that they received a divorce from the Penna. Supreme Court in Sept. 1795. Wow! That wasn’t common then. So they had a daughter Catherine, born at the right time, who now becomes an “orphan” as luck would have it (due to remarriages). By process of elimination, supported by DNA matches, my 3rd cousin built a circumstantial case for identification that we can accept. And because Samuel Meyer has Swiss Mennonite heritage, suddenly a whole new ancestral world opened up for us.
    So, Tris, yes it’s possible to identify 4th cousins. But harnessing document research to the DNA matches allows one to go much farther back into the past, if one has the time and the records access. Just by opening a line of communication with one of my wife’s 23andMe matches, we were able to place one fellow as a 5th cousin to our children. This man matched at only 0.53% and two segments, and we found the common ancestors to be my wife’s 3rd GGPts who md. in 1801 in or near Nashville, TN. Direct contact, good records as to ancestry, and sharing are the essential ingredients to success.

  2. Hi All,
    I agree with Gordon. I have done testing on Ancestry and was able to verify 4th, 5th and even some 6th cousins with my paper trail. Some had only one or two small segments that matched, which I find amazing! Having an extensive and meticulous paper trail seems to be key, but this can take many years of continued effort and collaboration. So far, I find the DNA match is nearly always correct.
    I love doing type of research because it connects me with history, geography and customs of places and people and always seems to present some new learning opportunity. I have traced my family and those of others all over North America well back into the 1600’s and it has given me a real appreciation for our history from many different points of view.
    I think this is something that can also help us as Rotarians, to understand other people’s values and points of view.
    Vi Hughes

  3. I found a relative through my Ancestry DNA results — it was clear his mother and mine were first cousins. When I reached out to him, he told me he was given up for adoption. With a little bit of information, it was clear who his mother was, and she was in my tree. I invited he and his wife over along with some other cousins. Meeting him at the door with balloons that said, “It’s a Boy!!”, we had an amazing afternoon. I’m so glad he entered our lives, and he says he’s pretty happy about it, too. (he now knows his sisters and brother!).

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