I can’t tell you how many people write to me and tell me that we must be related because they share a match with several people at the testing companies that have the surname Estes, either today or in their family history. And, they’d like to know what I think about that list.
What they are really hoping, or wishing for, is that I’d wave my magic Estes wand and say, “well, yes, of course, I know exactly who all of those people are and how they are related.” If I could do that, I would not have any dead ends on my own tree, believe me. My magic wand is broken!
A name, alone, does not a match make. And a list of names doesn’t make an ancestral connection either.
That list of Estes people is interesting, but it really doesn’t mean much of anything, at least, not alone. These people could be related to the tester through different ancestral lines – although many people find that hard to believe. But it’s true, and it’s most often the answer. Let’s take a look at why.
In 10 generations, every person has 1024 direct ancestors. For someone born in the year 1950, and assuming 4 generations a century, 10 generations take them back to about 1700.
Given that 2 people do have a DNA match – the odds that the match is from any specific one of those 1024 people is 1 in 1024, or if from a couple, 1 in 512.
Given that there are 42,000+ people in the US who carry the Estes surname today, there are many more who don’t, but have an Estes in their tree someplace. It’s not unlikely that someone would match people who have Estes ancestors – just by chance. We’ve been here since the mid-1600s – and our early Estes ancestors were prolific.
I ran a little experiment, just for fun. I selected a group of people who do NOT have Estes ancestors, and I checked their matches at Family Tree DNA to see how many Estes matches they show.
I am quite familiar with the trees of each of these individuals. Except for me, none of these people have Estes ancestors. The Estes surname column is who carries that surname today that they match. The Estes Ancestor column is the Estes ancestral surname, minus the people who appeared in the Estes surname column if they are duplicated.
I have divided these into two groups – people who came from areas where Estes family members are found, and those who did not. For comparison, I’m the last entry at the end.
|Name||Geography||Total Matches||Estes Surname||Estes Ancestor|
|GB||Hatteras Island, NC – not where Estes lived||880||0||1|
|JC||Tennessee – not where Estes lived||1500||3||5|
|PB||Not where Estes lived||340||0||1|
|CF||European ancestry, not where Estes lived||400||1||4|
|DL||Acadian – not where Estes lived||590||1||2|
|RG||Germanic, not where Estes lived||620||2||1|
|DB||Tennessee – where Estes lived||1440||2||6|
|JG||Tennessee – where Estes lived||1570||4||14|
|DM||Where Estes lived||1090||1||4|
|GM||Where Estes lived||1530||1||5|
|JZ||Where Estes lived||1370||4||6|
|TM||Where Estes lived||1430||1||16|
|JC||Where Estes lived||1380||1||7|
|KH||Where Estes lived||530||1||1|
|WH||Where Estes lived||1910||2||12|
|WH2||Where Estes lived||1640||2||10|
As you can see, I have a very low number of matches as compared to other people who don’t have any Estes ancestry. Clearly, those who both descend from areas where Estes families lived for long periods of time stand a better chance of matching people who have Estes in their trees. They don’t share an Estes ancestor, but they share a common ancestor someplace.
So, while I feel for these people who write me these notes, and wish I had the answer they want – I don’t. Their list of Estes matches means nothing without finding a common ancestor and matching on a common segment between at least 3 known Estes descendants. If the person matching those people also matches them on that same common Estes segment, then, we’re beginning to cook.
That evaluation process is called triangulation, of course. Family Tree DNA and 23andMe both provide tools for triangulation and segment matching, but Ancestry does not. You can download your Ancestry results to both Family Tree DNA and to GedMatch, fish in multiple ancestor pools, and triangulate from there.
So, get busy triangulating. No one is going to do the work for you, no matter how hard you wish!
Happy Ancestor Hunting!!!