2018 Resolution – Unveiling Hidden Evidence

I spent New Year’s Eve, doing what I’ve done for years on New Year’s Eve – celebrating by researching. In fact, it was at the stroke of midnight in 2005 that I ordered kit number 50,000 from Family Tree DNA.  Yes, I’m just that geeky and yes, I had to purchase several kits in a row to get number 50,000.

That kit went on to help immensely, as I used it to test an elderly cousin of my great-grandmother’s generation who took both the Y DNA test, and then, eventually, autosomal.

This year I made a wonderful discovery to mark the new year.  But first, let’s see how I did with last year’s resolution.

Last Year’s Resolution

Last year, I made 1 resolution. Just one – to complete another year’s worth of 52 Ancestor stories.

Now, that didn’t mean I had to do 52 in total.  It meant I had to be committed to this project throughout the year.  You know, unlike cleaning out that closet…or losing weight…or exercising more. Commitments that are abandoned almost as soon as they are made.

So, how did I do?

I published 37 stories.  I shudder to think how many words or even pages that was.  I’m ashamed to say that I plucked much of the “low hanging fruit” early on, so these were tough ancestors for an entire variety of reasons.

That’s not one article each week, but at least I’m making steady progress. And I must say that I couldn’t do it without a raft of helpers – all of whom I’m exceedingly grateful to.  Friends, professionals, cousins, DNA testers, blog subscribers and commenters – an unbelievable array of very kind souls who are willing to give of their time and share their results. Thank you each and every one!

Now, I’m thrilled to tell you that Amy Johnson Crow has revitalized the 52 Ancestor’s project.  It’s free and you can sign up here.  There’s no obligation, but Amy provides suggestions and a “gathering place” of sorts. Think of her as your genealogy cheerleader or coach. It’s so much easier with friends and teammates! I miss reading other people’s stories, but I won’t have to miss that much longer!

Randy Seaver (of Genea-Musings) and I will have company once again.  He’s the only other person that I’m aware of that has continued the 52 Ancestors project – and he has put me way to shame.  I do believe he published number 286 this week.  I keep hoping that some of his ancestors and some of mine are the same so I can piggyback on Randy’s research! I need an index! Randy, are you listening?

You might wonder why I enjoy this self-imposed deadline ancestor-writing so much.

It’s really quite simple.  It’s an incredible way to organize and sort through all of your accumulated research “stuff.”  I cherish the end product – documenting my ancestors lives with dates, compassion and history.  BUT, I absolutely hate parts of the research process – and the deadline (of sorts) gets me through those knotholes.

I absolutely love the DNA, and I really, REALLY like the feeling of breaking through brick walls.  It’s like I’m vindicating my ancestors and saving them from the eternal cutting room floor. DNA is an incredible tool to do just that and there are very few ancestors that I can’t learn something from their DNA, one way or another – Y, mtDNA,  autosomal and sometimes, all three.  And yes, DNA is in every one of my articles, one way or another. I want everyone to learn how to utilize DNA in the stories of their ancestor’s lives.  In many cases the DNA of theirs that we (and our cousins) carry is the only tangible thing left of them. We are wakling historical museums of our ancestral lines!

How Did You Do?

Not to bring up an awkward subject, but if you recall, I asked you if you had any genealogy resolutions for 2017?  How did you do?

Congratulations if you succeeded or made progress.

It’s OK if you didn’t quite make it. Don’t sweat last year.  It’s over and 2018 is a brand spanking new year.

New Year Equals New Opportunities

2018 is stacking up to be a wonderful year. There are already new matches arriving daily due to the Black Friday sales and that’s only going to get better in the next month or two.  Of course, that’s something wonderful to look forward to in the dead of winter.  We’ll just call this my own personal form of hibernating. Could I really get away with not leaving my house for an entire month? Hmmm….

I want to give you three ideas for having some quick wins that will help you feel really great about your genealogy this year.

Idea 1 – Finding Hidden Mitochondrial DNA

This happened to me just last night and distracted me so badly that I actually was late to wish everyone a Happy New Year.  Yes, seriously.  One of my friends told me this is the best excuse ever!

I was working on making a combined tree for the descendants of an ancestor who have tested and I suddenly noticed that one of the female autosomal matches descended from the female of the ancestral couple through all females – which means my match carries my ancestor’s mitochondrial DNA!

Woohooooooo – it’s a wonderful day.

Better yet, my match tested at Family Tree DNA AND had already taken the mitochondrial DNA test.

Within about 60 seconds of noticing her pattern of descent, I had the haplogroup of our common ancestor. That’s the BEST New Year’s gift EVER.  I couldn’t sleep last night.

So, know what I did instead of sleeping? I bet you can guess!

Yes indeed, I started searching through my matches at Family Tree DNA for other people descended from female ancestors whose mtDNA I don’t have!

So, my first challenge to you is to do the same.

Utilizing Family Finder, enter the surname you’re searching for into the search box in the upper right hand corner of your matches page.

That search will produce individuals who have that surname included in their list of ancestral surnames or who carry that surname themselves.

Your tree feeds the ancestral surname list with all of the surnames in your tree.  I understand this will be changing in the future to reflect only your direct line ancestral surnames.

Some people include locations with their surnames – so you may recognize your line that way. Click on your match’s surname list (at far right) to show their entire list of surnames in a popup box. Some lists are very long.  I selected the example below because it’s short.

Your common surnames are bolded and float to the top.  The name you are searching for will be blue, so it’s easy to see, especially in long lists of surnames. 

About half of my matches at Family Tree DNA have trees.  Click on the pedigree icon and then search for your surname of interest in your match’s tree.

Hey, there’s our common ancestral couple – William George Estes and Ollie Bolton!!!

Idea 2 – Finding Hidden Y DNA

Now that I’ve shown you how to find hidden mitochondrial DNA, finding hidden Y DNA is easy.  Right?

You know what to do.

I this case, you’ll be looking for a male candidate who carries the surname of the line you are seeking, which is very easy to spot on the match list.

Now, word of warning.

As bizarre as this sounds, not all men who carry that surname and match autosomally are from the same genetic surname line.

As I was working with building a community tree for my matches last night, I was excited to see that one of my cousins (whose kit I manage) matches a man with the Herrell surname.

I quickly clicked on the match’s tree to see which Herrell male the match descends from, only to discover that he didn’t descend from my Herrell line.

Whoa – you’re saying – hold on, because maybe my line is misidentified.  And I’d agree with you – except in this case, I have the Y DNA signature of both lines – because at one time I thought they were one and the same. You can view the Herrell Y DNA project here.  My family line is Harrold Line 7.

Sure enough, through the Family Finder match, I checked my Harrell match’s profile and his haplogroup is NOT the same as my Herrell haplogroup (I-P37.)

I could have easily been led astray by the same surname. I really don’t need to know any more about his Y DNA at this point, because the completely different haplogroup is enough to rule out a common paternal line.

Don’t let yourself get so excited that you forget to be a skeptical genealogist😊

My second challenge to you is to hunt for hidden Y DNA.

You can  increase your chances of finding your particular lineage by visiting the relevant Y DNA projects for your surname.

Click on Projects, then “Join a project,” then search for the DNA project that you’re interested in viewing and click on that link.

Within the project, look for oldest ancestors that are your ancestors, or potentially from a common location.  It’s someplace to start.

You can read more about how to construct a DNA pedigree chart in the article, “The DNA Pedigree Chart – Mining for Ancestors.”

Idea 3 – Pick A Puzzle Piece

Sometimes we get overwhelmed with the magnitude and size of the genealogy puzzle we’d like to solve. Then, we don’t solve anything.

This is exactly WHY I like the 52 Ancestor stories.  They make me focus on JUST ONE ancestor at a time.

So, for 2018, pick one genealogy puzzle you’d really like to solve. One person or one thing.  Not an entire line.

Write down your goal.

“I’d like to figure out whether John Doe was the son of William Doe or his son, Alexander Doe.”

Now admittedly, this is a tough one, because right off the bat, Y DNA isn’t going to help you unless you’re incredibly lucky and there is a mutation between Alexander Doe and his father, William.  If indeed that was the case, and you can prove it by the DNA of two of Alexander’s sons who carry the mutation, compared to the DNA of one of William’s other sons who does not, then you may be cooking with gas, presuming you can find a male Doe descended from John to test as well.

This is the type of thought process you’ll need to step through when considering all of the various options for how to prove, or disprove, a particular theory.

Make a list of the different kinds of evidence, both paper trail and genetic, that you could use to shed light on the problem. Your answer may not come from one piece of evidence alone, but a combination of several.

Evidence Available/Source Result
William’s will No, burned courthouse Verified
Alexander’s will No, burned courthouse Verified
Deeds with William as conveyor No, burned courthouse Verified
Family Bible Nope, no Bible
Deeds with Alexander as conveyor, naming John Possible, some deed books escaped fire Check through county, Family search does not list
Deeds with John as conveyor Yes, check to see if they indicate the source of John’s land John is listed in index, need to obtain original deeds from county
Y DNA of John’s line Yes, has been tested Matches DNA of William’s line as proven through William’s two brothers
Y DNA of Alexander Not tested (to the best of my knowledge), find descendant to see if they will test Search vendor DNA testing sites for male with this surname to see if they have/will Y DNA test
Closeness (in total cM and longest segment) of individuals autosomal matching through any of William’s descendants Mine both Ancestry and FTDNA for surname and ancestor matches This step may produce compelling or suggestive evidence, and it may not.  Make a McGuire chart of results.
Does John match any relatives of the wife of Alexander Doe? Search FTDNA and Ancestry for matches.  Triangulate to determine if match is valid and through that line. This is one of the best approaches to solve this type of problem when paper records aren’t available. Fingers crossed that Alexander and his wife and not related.

You can add pieces of evidence to your list as you think of them.

Making a list gives you something to work towards.

Your Turn!

Select one thing that you’d like to accomplish and either set about to do it, like mining for mitochondrial or Y DNA evidence, or put together a plan to gather evidence, both traditional and genetic.

In the comments, share what it is you’ll be searching for or working on.  You just never know if another subscriber may hold the answer you seek.

I can’t wait to hear what you’ll be doing this year!

Have a wonderful and productive New Year searching for those hidden ancestors!



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20 thoughts on “2018 Resolution – Unveiling Hidden Evidence

  1. Hi Roberta,

    Thanks for the shout out. It’s only 207 weeks for me – I’m up to #287 on my ancestor chart (about 80 missing in the chart at this point). I missed two weeks in 2017, once at RootsTech and once at Jamboree.

    Cathy Meder-Dempsey and Bill West are keeping up with us, and I think there are a few more trying to write every week.

    It’s hard to keep it up because of real life, other priorities, and sometimes lack of information about an ancestor. I have to go back and add information for a profile once in awhile. I still find records, or haven’t found all of the records, for some profiles.

    The discipline of doing one a week is great, but we have to adjust at times.

    Keep up the good work on all of your fronts – you are one of the top geneabloggers in my book, and I appreciate all you do.

    • Thanks much Randy. I have a guilty confession to make. I read your blog every morning while laying in bed. It’s my morning treat to myself!!! Thank you for the massive amount of work you do, and share.

  2. Roberta,
    This is a great article today, as always, but this one lead me to more searching which I had not tried before. I have many brick walls and I’m hoping this will help. I also found your family names in mine and my uncle’s matches. I have an mtdna that goes back to the 1820’s. This is a new result from a relative. Please let me know if you are interested. Thank you so much for your blog. It is always a great read and something I look forward to.

      • Sarah W. Smith is my GGGrandmother. She was born 1826 in Georgia (assumed) and married in Telfair Co., GA in 1845 to my GGGrandfather, Joseph Arthur Lewis Lowery Clements (1823-1893) GA/TX. My male cousin agreed to test and I offered and have responsibility of his mtDNA. He is descended from this couple as well, completely through the female line, which tested to be T2b (with ftDNA). I hope I have processed the lineage and testing correctly, with him being the recipient of their mtDNA. PLEASE tell me if I am in error.
        You actually showed up as a match on my uncle’s Family Finder, Joseph B. Floyd, 5th-distant cousin. This was a few years ago. I was VERY excited to say the least. I went back to find you again and you were not there :(. So with the search you spoke of, the one that I had never entertained the idea of using, I used it yesterday. There are three people that matched when I typed in Estes and Vannoy. Some of your other surnames did not produce matches. Other names that showed up in the matches family names tied in with mine, both on the maternal and paternal sides of my dad’s/uncle’s direct lineage, those being Smith, Quinn, Pope, Taylor. So I thought I would write and share.
        I don’t get to spend as much time researching as I would like, almost nil in fact. I would be holed up mostly all the time researching if I had my way! Ah, but then there’s life!
        Thank you again for all you do in genealogy world. I am trying to learn as much as I can from you. I do look forward to every post. To read what you have uncovered is so fascinating, even if it is someone else’s family! I just love the research. It’s fun!!
        Happy New Year Roberta and best wishes for a VERY blessed year ahead!

  3. Another thank you, Roberta, for sharing your resources and for being my number one resource! I joined 52 ancestors with Amy Johnson Crow and earlier took advantage of the free promethease reports. Aside from the medical aspect the reports have helped me immensely with understanding SNPs. In 2018 I plan to do many of the exercises you generously describe in your posts to get a better understanding of how to use DNA with traditional genealogy. I just wish I had more ancestor lines tested. Wishing you a wonderful 2018!

    • I finished my free uploads to Promethease last night. I hope you enjoy Amy’s series as much as I have. I love reading other people’s stories too. They are so inspiring.

  4. Hi Roberta – Happy New Year! Here’s my DNA related resolution for 2018:

    I’d like to get the ball rolling on Y-DNA testing for descendants of two Ainsworth lines, both originating in Dorset, England. One line is descended from my GGG Grandfather William Ainsworth who immigrated to St. John’s, Newfoundland by 1820.

    I have not yet discovered the identity of the parents of my GGG Grandfather, William Ainsworth. However, I have found Y-DNA descendants from this line living in Australia. They are my 4th cousins.

    The other line is descended from Ainsworths from Dorset who immigrated to Wisconsin. I don’t know whether I am related to them, but there are Y-DNA descendants from this line too, now living in Wisconsin. I have found a website online that includes a listing of the ancestors and collateral relatives of these Wisconsin Ainsworths. That list includes a William Ainsworth, b. 1797 in Dorset who would be just the right age to be my ancestor, but the genealogy online includes no further information about that William other than his birthdate. He was a brother of the ancestor of the Wisconsin Ainsworths. I think this William might be my GGG Grandfather.

    So – my resolution is to initiate contact with Y-DNA descendants from both of these lines of Ainsworths. I hope that the result will be their willingness to participate in Y-DNA testing – and that I will find some new cousins!

    Kathy McHale

  5. Roberta,

    You wrote: I could have easily been led astray by the same surname. I really don’t need to know any more about his Y DNA at this point, because the completely different haplogroup is enough to rule out a common paternal line.

    Is Harrell a common surname? Is it worth considering that this man’s paternal line might lead to a non-genetic ancestor who is your genetic ancestor? It seems that following that line might not be a high priority for research but could potentially lead around a brick wall.

    • Yes, that’s actually one of the reasons I was looking at autosomal DNA. But this line goes quite a ways back proven to an ancestors that autosomal would be very difficult to utilize. Not impossible, necessarily, and I’m looking.

  6. Roberta, thanks for today’s post. I actually have two connected things I hope to accomplish this year; dedicate more time to my own genealogy & DNA searches, and use some of that time to hunt for the DNA trails of my most difficult ancestral couple.

    I run two projects and co-manage a third. One of the projects is just getting off the ground and I spend quite some time getting the word out. The other Two projects are running smoothly, but I do find myself spending some amount of time answering questions and helping point folks in the right direction, as should be.

    But lately I found that I’ve been spending little time one my own research. That’s where my second resolution comes in, tracing the DNA trail of my mystery GGGrandparents who first appear in the records when they got married, raised a family who appeared in two consecutive census’, and then disappeared from the records again.

    Working for almost 20 years on this couple has turned up a few peeks over that wall, but it is so frustrating to keep banging my head on that same wall that I find myself turning away from that research and doing something easier, like answering questions for project members.

    But I resolved last week that I will redouble my efforts this year and see if I can’t make a crack in that particular wall. Thanks to today’s post, I have some fresh ideas on where to look. Thanks!

    • No, you can’t assume that. Additional testing is needed. However, a completely different haplogroup can rule that out. By completely different I mean with the first letter being different. Like R and Q or H and J.

  7. Great post. I spent New Years eating my 12 grapes – I live in Mexico after all. It occurred to me that I have several 2nd and 3rd cousins whom I have identified but who don’t have trees. Last night I sent a cousin, whose DNA I don’t match, a list of my 2nd and 3rd cousins without trees and voila her dad matched one of them. Since we are on Ancestry, we can’t match chromosomes but this is a boost to our theory that her 2nd great grandfather is my 2nd great grandmother’s half brother.

    I guess my resolution this year is to get more cousins on GedMatch or FTDNA.

  8. My main genealogical goal over the last few years have been to find the names of the 7 holes in my 10th generation row. They say 80% of French Canadian genealogists can fill the 10th row, I don’t want to stay in the unlucky 20% forever.

    My last year goal was to look up in the online Belgian archives and find traces of my ancestors in Antwerp, as the immigrant’s grand-parents represent four blank spaces among the seven ones (we have his parents’ names in the marriage act). It didn’t get too far, as the documents online only go back to about 1800, still 40 years too late for the latest my ancestor could have been in the country. I’ll give it a yearly check until they reach the right decade.

    I tried to find more info he could have left in Canada and found an illegitimate son, which wasn’t legally illegitimate, because they forgot to mention to the priest they were not married. The kid unfortunately died a few month later, the priest still unaware the parents weren’t married. It happens in the best families… or does it? xD I had a thought for your German ancestors who were unmarried until they reach America.

    For 2018, I’ll work on my parents’ y-ancestors and mt-ancestresses. I’ll have the BigY and Y-111 results for my father; I need to beg a maternal uncle for DNA (I bought the kit three years ago); I’ll try to tidy my mt-matches info and contact that woman who’s specialized in Quebec’s anglophone ancestors; I’ll have to start to reach out to my paternal grand-mother’s mt-matches, as I had her result two months ago and only joined a few project. Finally I’ll try to officially triangulate all four of my y-ancestors and my mt-ancestresses.

    My mt-ancestress is also one of the 10th generation’s seven black spaces.

  9. After two years of procrastinating, I signed up yesterday for “52 Ancestors”. I slept fine on New Year’s Eve, except for the fireworks that disturbed Ranger. However, last night I got up in the middle of the night and spent several hours on Ancestor #1 … actually he isn’t even an ancestor, but that’s another story! I have over a page written and he is only 21. At least, he died relatively young, so I won’t be creating “War and Peace” … I hope!

    Several years ago, I tested a paternal cousin to get my paternal grandmother’s mtDNA. I guess I looked at it at the time, but hadn’t really done anything with it. A month or so ago, I revisited it (because of something in one of your blogs) and realized it proves which of the two wives of a third great grandfather I descend from. Another Ancestor story, I think! Anyway, I have been looking for who to test to prove other mtDNA lines.

    Thanks for all you do! Off to finish Ancestor #1.

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