You still have time to order that DNA kit in time for the holidays.
Even if you don’t have someone in mind to give it to immediately, stockpile while on sale so that you have one handy when you need it. And you WILL need them – guaranteed – hopefully sooner than later.
I offered to pay for three tests last night. So far, I haven’t heard back, but hey, it’s still early!!!
Truth is, it’s really more a gift for you than it is for them, but I won’t tell if you won’t.
What I’d like for you to do is to think about your most favorite, or maybe that should be your least favorite, brick wall.
The one you’d really like to fall.
For many of us, that’s the one closest to us in time. Or maybe it the one most long-standing.
Think about how DNA might be able to help you break through that brick wall, or at least reveal more information about that person, which in turn might help you break down that brick wall. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know.
Here what to do.
What Do You Want to Know?
I’m going to use my Nancy Moore for an example. We know she married John R. Estes on November 25, 1811 in Halifax County, Virginia and around 1820, she and John headed for Claiborne County, Tennessee. Nancy’s parents were the Reverend William Moore and his wife, Lucy, whose surname we don’t know. Of course, that also means we don’t know anything else about Lucy’s heritage.
For Nancy Moore, I’d really like to know about her mother’s heritage and her father’s line as well. Like they say, for every brick all you break down, you get two more as a reward!
Because information about the patrilineal line can be gleaned from Y DNA inherited by males from their fathers, Nancy’s descendants can’t test directly, but descendants of her brothers can – and have. We have the Y DNA of Nancy’s brothers’ descendants from two different lines – so confirming that their common ancestor, Nancy’s father, also carried that same Y DNA.
In this case, we’re waiting for additional Moore Y DNA matches from someone whose ancestor goes further back in time than our known Moore line. I’m beginning to wonder if our Moore line was really a different surname in the colonies – meaning that somehow the DNA and the surname got separated, forming a “new” Moore line. We have few Moore matches and only through known descendants of William or his brothers, but then again we don’t have any close, high quality matches to other surnames either.
Matches provided through Y DNA testing are invaluable, because they help you focus on the direct line paternal genealogy.
While waiting for those matches to materialize, I could offer to purchase an upgrade to the autosomal Family Finder test for any or all of the Moore cousins who have already tested. That might help immensely.
If you don’t have the Y DNA of a paternal line, check your Family Finder matches at Family Tree DNA, or your matches at Ancestry, particularly if you have a Circle for that ancestor, and see if there is a male by that surname who would consider taking a Y DNA test. MyHeritage has a search function for matches and trees.
Review the trees for your DNA matches and see if you can run any male line forward using genealogy and then contact currently living people, asking if they are interested in genealogy.
I never broach the subject with DNA, just with a general inquiry. If you can’t generate any interest, they aren’t likely to test anyway. Ask about or offer to share photos if you have any. That’s always a good ice breaker. Inquire about oral history too. Even if they aren’t interested in DNA testing, stories are a goldmine of their own.
When I find a candidate, I simply offer to purchase the DNA test. I don’t want them to hesitating even for a minute while thinking about price. I explain that I have a testing scholarship for that line.
In the chart below, you can see that Y DNA is passed along the direct paternal blue line and mitochondrial DNA is passed along the matrilineal red line. Neither the Y or mitochondrial DNA is ever mixed with the DNA of the other parent, so it acts as a direct line periscope peering far back into time. A veritable gift direct from your ancestors.
Nancy Moore and her mother Lucy are complete blank slates. I hate that.
As with so many other early lines, there’s always that rumor of Native heritage. That rumor seems to be very prevalent when a female’s surname is unknown, and I suspect that “must be Indian” became a very early “reason” for not knowing or being able to find a female’s surname.
I suspect that comment got recorded as fact, and here we are today with many rumors and still no surname. But now, we have another avenue to pursue.
A mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) test on Nancy’s descendants who descend from either Nancy or her mother through all females to the current generation would do multiple things for me.
- I would immediately be able to confirm or refute the possibility of Native American ancestry in that line. Lucy, Nancy’s mother was probably born about 1750, someplace in Virginia, so Native ancestry is possible, if not probable.
- DNA matches to other people could be useful, either directly in terms of matching or in the larger picture showing me likely areas that Nancy and Lucy’s ancestors lived before immigrating to what became the US. Am I looking at a German family, an English line, or what exactly? Looking at the mapped locations of the matches of Nancy’s descendants may help identify a location. And that’s far more than you knew before testing. Testers receive a wealth of information with a mitochondrial DNA test.
For example, here’s what I learned about my own mitochondrial DNA line.
Women pass their mtDNA to all of their children, but only females pass it on. This means that men in the current generation can test for mitochondrial DNA as well.
Cousins are the key to autosomal DNA which provides matching across all of your ancestral lines – assuming at least some relatives have tested. Therefore, you need to test as many cousins as you can find and talk into testing.
Because those cousins will match you, and/or each other, on different parts of your ancestor’s DNA. Barring a second unknown line, the common ancestors are your common couple, in this case, William Moore and Lucy, Nancy’s parents.
My goal is to find and test as many descendants of Nancy and of her siblings as possible. When unknown matches match to multiple Moore cousins, especially on the same segment, that’s a huge hint as to which line we all descend from.
Cousin matching is how brick walls fall.
After enough cousins have tested, I will begin to see repeats of matching to some family who is unknown to me. For example, let’s say that I see the surname Henderson repeatedly in the matches descending from both Nancy’s descendants and Nancy’s siblings’ descendants.
That’s a powerful hint as to where I should look for either Lucy’s ancestry, or maybe William Moore’s.
The power of numbers, meaning in terms of cousins testing, is exactly how breakthroughs occur utilizing autosomal DNA.
Another benefit of autosomal testing is that you can make one test work for you in multiple ways.
Some cousins may have already tested elsewhere. If that’s the case, ask if they will test at your favorite vendor, or transfer their DNA to that vendor, if your vendor accepts transfers. For a list of which companies accept transfers from who, click here.
Transfers to both Family Tree DNA and GedMatch are free, and both offer advanced tools for either a minimal one-time cost of $19 at Family Tree DNA or a minimal monthly subscription of $10 at GedMatch. There are many tools at both sites for free, and since not everyone uploads to either site, you should have the DNA you need to work with at both.
Who To Test?
Still trying to figure out who to test?
These articles will help:
Family Tree DNA Coupons
It’s Monday during the holiday season, so that means it’s coupon day, courtesy of Family Tree DNA. If you can use one of my coupons below to help focus on your goals, please do. If you are currently a Family Tree DNA customer, you have a coupon on your own page as well.
I just noticed, shipping is reduced too through 12-15-2017, so that’s an additional way to save. Return postage is included within the US.
Click here to check your coupons, or redeem mine!
Please feel free to add any of your own unused coupons that you’d like to share in the comments of this article.
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