I work with adoptees a lot. They often order Personalized DNA Reports with the hope of finding some hint of their family. Women have a distinct disadvantage – they have no Y chromosome. About 30% of the time by looking at the Y chromosome, I can figure out the most likely genetic surname for men – and sometimes there is absolutely no question. But women aren’t so lucky.
When adoptees order these reports, I suggest, strongly, that they also have the Family Finder test at Family Tree DNA performed. This gives me two tools to work with, and they can be used together.
Recently, I completed a report for Caroline. Here’s the sum knowledge of what she knew about her biological family. She was born in Flagstaff, Arizona to a mother who was a college student. That’s it. Let’s just say there was a lot of opportunity for DNA to help Caroline. Caroline said to me, “I don’t know the names of any of my blood relatives.” Well Caroline, we’re about to fix that!!!
And indeed, she does now, through the magic of DNA and a little sleuthing. Caroline, it turns out, is one of the lucky ones – she had a good match and that match has led us to well, a Davenport…and more.
No, not this kind of Davenport – well – maybe not – but the Davenport family. Maybe it’s the same Davenport family, because although the word davenport is generic like “Kleenex” today, it all started with the Davenport family, a Massachusetts furniture manufacturer, the A. H. Davenport Company. Hmmm….I wonder.
Using Family Finder, Carolina had a solid second cousin match. She contacted this person, we’ll call him Mr. Midkiff, who provided some initial information, but the 4 surnames Mr. Midkiff listed as Ancestral Surnames proved to be much more useful than the information provided to Caroline.
Often, it’s a good idea to list as many surnames as you possibly can, but in this case, Mr. Midkiff only listed 4 plus his own, for a total of 5 to work with, so I’m betting here that they are Mr. Midkiff’s closest surnames, meaning the grandparents generation plus one great-grandparent surname.
With that, I used the handy-dandy genetic relationship chart to show Caroline how this works. One of the reasons I love this chart is because it’s all related to “self,” so you don’t have to try to figure out where and how you fit into the chart.
If Mr. Midkiff is her second cousin, and she is “self” then we can see that self and the second cousin connect via great-grandparents. Mr. Midkiff’s great-grandparents would have the following surnames, plus three additional.
- 3 additional unknown
These are the surnames of Mr. Midkiff’s ancestors and it’s all we have to work with since we don’t know the surnames of Caroline’s ancestors.
Using the chart and retrofitting surnames, we know that of Mr. Midkiff’s 5 surnames, 2 or 3 come from his mother’s side and 2 or 3 from his father’s side. We know genetically that Caroline is related closely to at least one of those 5 lines, and possibly to more than one, meaning 2 or 3, depending on how closely she and Mr. Midkiff are actually related.
Next, we need to figure out which of those 5 surnames Caroline is related to.
Caroline only had one close match, but she had 960 total matches. In order to be able to sort through those matches, I entered the 5 surnames listed by Mr. Midkiff as Caroline’s surnames. This allowed me to then search for these ancestral surnames and to see them bolded in Caroline’s match list.
Because of different surname spellings, instead of simply relying on the search, I went through page by page and looked at each bolded surname. I discovered that this was a very good move, because the Davenport family was spelled any number of ways, like Diefenback, Dieffenback, etc. The Ancestral Surname search does not pick up alternate spellings, but the bolded surnames in the lists sometimes do.
A total of 13 people matched one or more of these surnames.
Her matches sort out like this:
- Midkiff – 1
- Jennings – 5
- Davenport – 3
- Potter – 4
- Veach – 1 Vaux
I grouped people into categories by their surnames and then began using the Chromosome Browser to compare people to Caroline.
Normally, I could compare all 13 people in 3 comparisons (the browser allows 5 selections per comparison), download them, and then use a spreadsheet to sort by chromosome matches, but the downloads have been experiencing technical difficulties recently, so instead, I simply compared randomly and then by surname group.
One of the great options in the Chromosome Browser is the option for “common surnames” which then displayed all of 13 of her common surname matches and no non-matches. So I, thankfully, did not have to sort through 960 people to find the 13 she matches for comparison.
Below, with the chromosome browser set to 1cM, you can see her matches to the Davenport group, plus a Fry who lists Potter as her ancestral surname but also matches the Davenport group.
What we are looking for here are people who match Caroline on the exact same chromosome segments and match each other as well. This allows us to identify that segment with that surname. In this case, chromosome 12 fits that bill exactly.
So Caroline, welcome to the Davenport family!!!
However, since Ms. Fry does not list Davenport, but does list Potter, let’s take a look at that Potter group.
Now, this gets very interesting, because look at that same segment of Chromosome 12 – in addition to the Davenport folks, it also matches a Pinson who lists both Jennings and Potter in their list of ancestral surnames. So the Davenport DNA is also Potter DNA. Welcome to the Potter family Caroline!
So, let’s take a look at the Jennings folks.
Again, let’s look at Chromosome 12 and indeed, 4 of the 5 people who carry the Jennings surname also match Caroline on that same segment of Chromosome 12.
What does this tell us? Well, it tells us that this chromosome is inherited from the same ancestor. What I can’t tell Caroline is which ancestor. What we can say is that all three of these surnames, and all of these individuals share that ancestor and the chromosome is inherited through the Jennings, Davenport and Potter families in a particular family line – in Caroline’s family line and also in Mr. Midkiff’s. Now it will be up to genealogy, and contacting these matches and asking for their Davenport/Potter/Jennings ancestry, to disclose just how these people’s ancestors are related.
Oh yes, and before I forget, welcome to the Jennings family Caroline!
So, here’s what I’m guessing. Caroline has in essence no matches to Midkiff (other than the initial match to Mr. Midkiff) or Veach. However, both Caroline and Mr. Midkiff have several matches, including the same segment of chromosome 12, to Jennings, Davenport and Potter. I’m guessing that this is Mr. Midkiff’s mother’s side of the family and that if Caroline were to contact all of these people, she would, by process of elimination, discover commonalities in their pedigree charts and genealogy. Then, by working forwards from what she finds, she can, again, by process of elimination, hopefully, find a line of the family that went to Arizona and candidates for one of her parents.
Maybe one of you holds the answer to Caroline’s quandry. Does anyone know of a family with some history in Texas and in Arizona that carries the surnames Jennings, Davenport and Potter and perhaps married in to the Veach or Midkiff family? If so, you can perhaps put some color into Caroline’s mysterious Davenport family. Contact Caroline directly at email@example.com. She would love to hear from you.
Caveat: Please note that this level of autosomal research is not normally included in a Personalized DNA report which focuses on either the Y-line or the Mitochondrial DNA lines. Some research is included and was included for Caroline, identifying the Davenport common line. The balance of this research was performed for the blog posting, with Caroline’s permission of course. This type of autosomal research is available through www.dnaexplain.com at an hourly rate. Everyone’s situation is unique and varies, and it is impossible to create a standard report product for autosomal situations. Generally, a good approach is to start with a Y-line or mitochondrial DNA report and move forward from there. You can see what it did for Caroline!