Barbara Sing, Seng or Sang (1645-1686), Childbirth Claimed Her – 52 Ancestors #364

Barbara Sing, Seng or Sang was born in Endersbach, Germany in 1645 to Hans Sing/Sang and Barbara Eckardt.

She was surely baptized in the church there, but records don’t exist from the period of the Thirty Years’ War.

Endersbach is just a mile and a quarter up the road from Beutelsbach.

There seemed to be a lot of interaction and intermarriage occurring between Beutelsbach and Endersbach families.

It’s interesting that while, according to the local heritage book, her father, Hans Sang was born in Endersbach, Barbara was the only one of her siblings born there.

Her mother, Barbara Eckardt was born in Beutelsbach, so clearly, the couple chose to live there after their marriage.

The fact that only one child was born in Endersbach, and that birth was during the 30 Years War makes me wonder if the family had to seek refuge in Endersbach during that timeframe.

The Beutelsbach records resume in 1646. We find Barbara’s younger sibling born in Beutelsbach on March 6, 1648. It’s possible that Barbara had a sibling born between 1645 and 1648 in Endersbach or elsewhere.

During the war, record-keeping either wasn’t possible or didn’t bubble up to the top of the priority list when simple survival was a struggle. The people had been brutalized by marauding armies and soldiers for, literally, 30 years – more than a generation. Farms, villages, and entire cities were burned, and their fields ruined. Food was scarce and no one was ever safe.

We know that Barbara was raised in Beutelsbach from 1648 forward, so from the time she was about three years old.

Martin Goll, historian and Beutelsbach resident tells us that Barbara was the daughter of Hans Sang who was a butcher and quite wealthy, at least comparatively, after the Thirty Years War.

8 Marktplatz

The Hans Sang home and butcher shop was located at 8 Marktplatz in Beutelsbach which still exists today, adjacent the fortified gate of the Beutelsbach church.

The home of Barbara’s beau and future husband, Hans Lenz, the son of another wealthy merchant was only 100 feet or so distant at Stiftstrasse 17..

The church, of course, was both the center of Beutelsbach and the center of the community. Having a shop near the church assured that parishioners would pass by your door several times a week.

Having the shop right next to the steps of the fortified tower entrance to the church assured that no one would forget to purchase meats. Today, someone would be out front giving samples and coupons to hungry parishioners after Sunday services😊.

In this photo of the church and tower, the building connected to the tower on the right, directly in front of the white automobile, is the Sing home, 8 Marktplatz.

We are fortunate to have a drawing of Beutelsbach from 1760.

The round fortified tower is visible to the right of the road, with the first house attached to that tower being the Sang home, pointed out by the yellow arrow. The Lenz home is the red arrow, as best I can tell.

This postcard from 1916 shows the gate, church, and adjacent buildings as well. I wonder if the drawing was from an earlier era.

Literally, everyone going to church passed by the door of the butcher shop.

Most villages only had one person practicing any profession, so Hans Sang was probably the only game in town anyway. I hope he did the actual butchering elsewhere, or at least not during church services.

Perhaps the good smells from the Lenz bakery a few feet away helped to overcome the odors emanating from the butcher’s shop which would have been attached to their home. Yes indeed, much more desirable to be the baker’s child.

Marriage

Barbara Sing married Hans Lenz on February 23, 1669, in Beutelsbach, in the church right next to her home.

Sharon Hockensmith took this photo inside the church when she was visiting. I don’t know how much of the interior was the same in 1669, but we can rest assured that the primary structure didn’t change. The choir loft, organ, and windows are likely original.

We don’t know if the custom of the time was to be married in the church proper, or in the adjacent parsonage. Regardless, Barbara and Hans would have attended this church every Sunday during their marriage, except when war, danger, childbirth, or illness interfered.

They probably saw this exact same scene hundreds of times, only with people dressed in clothing of their period.

Children

Barbara’s parents and in-laws were apparently both wealthy, but money can’t buy everything. In fact, it can’t purchase the things we cherish most in life.

Barbara and Hans had 11 children, beginning with their first child who was born in the late fall of 1669.

  • Anna Katharina Lenz was born on November 19, 1669, and married Simon Dendler, a widower from Schnait, on November 30, 1693, in Beutelsbach. However, Martin found no children in the church records. We don’t know what happened to Anna Katharina. They could have moved away and had children elsewhere.
  • Margaretha Lenz was born on January 24, 1671, and died July 13, 1678, in Beutelsbach, only 7 years old.
  • Barbara Lenz was born on March 10, 1672, and died July 11, 1678, two days before her sister, Margaretha. She was 6 years old.

These two sisters passing away two days apart tell us that either there was a communicable illness being passed around, or there was an outbreak of dysentery or something similar. As the only non-infant girls in the family, they probably slept together.

It may not have been a coincidence that the next year, 1679, saw a massive outbreak of plague. We know that malaria was present in Europe in 1678, having arrived on ships from Africa, but Beutelsbach is not a port city. I can’t help but wonder who else in the family was ill, and how many more Beutelsbach residents died in the summer of 1678.

Barbara, four months pregnant at the time, must have been heartbroken, losing her two little girls just two days apart.

  • Johann Georg Lenz was born on February 21, 1674, and died on April 2, 1758, in Beutelsbach of old age at 84. He married Sibilla Muller on February 2, 1698, also in Beutelsbach. After his parents passed away, he and Sibilla lived in the home place, continuing the vinedresser and vintner profession. Unfortunately, Johann George’s back was injured by falling stones. They had 8 children, 3 or 4 of whom lived to adulthood. Johann George and Sibilla are my ancestors.
  • Daniel Lenz was born November 14, 1675, and died November 7, 1758, seven months after his older brother. He married Anna Katharina Lang in 1702 and they had 8 children, 3 of whom lived to adulthood. Daniel was a vintner as well, but was described as having “stupid eyes” which likely meant he was either partially blind or cross-eyed. He did field work, fell down from an apple tree, and nearly died another time from choking on his own blood. Daniel couldn’t read but was an avid churchgoer and seemed to have a good life in spite of having “stupid eyes.”
  • Elisabetha Lenz was born July 27, 1677, and no death or marriage records are found for her, nor are any children’s baptismal records. She likely died young. I wonder if she died in the same outbreak that took her two sisters in July of 1678.
  • Anna Maria Lenz was born December 19, 1678, and died May 5, 1721, in Beutelsbach from a tumor. I’d love to know what kind of a tumor. She married Hans Jakob Bechtel about 1698. He was a baker, then a judge, and eventually, mayor. They had 12 children, 6 of whom lived to adulthood.
  • Johann Jakob Lenz, a vinedresser and vintner, was born April 19, 1680, and died on May 6, 1744, in Beutelsbach of “high-temperature gastric fever” which was probably dysentery, also known as “bloody flux.” He married Anna Katharina Knodler in 1717 in Grunbach. They had 8 children, of which two lived to adulthood. Two others died as young adults before marrying. Their last child was listed as “simple” at his baptism and likely did not survive.
  • Philip Lenz was born on November 2, 1681, and died September 24, 1737, in Beutelsbach at 56 years of age of melancholy. He was a vintner and married Justina Bohringer in 1716. They had 5 children, of whom 2 lived to adulthood and one died as a young adult of heatstroke.
  • Martin Lenz was born November 11, 1683, and died a few days later on November 27th.
  • Barbara Lenz, the last child, probably named for her mother, was born July 2, 1686. She died 25 days later, on July 27th, 17 days after her mother. Clearly, complications of childbirth took both mother and child.

Of the 41 grandchildren we know were born to Barbara, only 16 or 17 survived to adulthood. That’s a 61% mortality rate, meaning almost two-thirds of the children didn’t live to marriage age.

The Grim Reaper

The Grim Reaper is merciless.

Barbara Sing died on July 10, 1686. We don’t know why, other than it was assuredly something to do with childbirth. It could have been Puerperal Fever, also known as childbed fever, which can lead to blood poisoning. However, her death could also have been a result of a hemorrhage, internal damage, or loss of a large amount of blood.

Given that the child died too, I’d be inclined to think that perhaps childbed fever was the culprit as a result of a long labor. The long labor could have caused the child’s death as well, especially if something went wrong, such as a breach birth.

Regardless, Barbara was gone. She was only 40 or 41 years old, and left several children behind.

  • Katherina was 17
  • Johann George was 12
  • Daniel was 10
  • Elisabetha, if she was living, would have turned 9 on the day her new sister, Barbara, died
  • Anna Maria was 7
  • Johann Jakob was 6
  • Philipp was 4

Barbara had to wonder, as she was desperately ill, who would raise her children?

Who would kiss their boo-boos?

Who would take care of them?

Fix their favorite foods?

Hold and comfort them?

Who would love them the way she loved them?

Would they remember her?

What about her newborn baby? Would she survive? How, without her mother’s milk?

And what was her husband, Hans, to do?

How could he possibly tend the vineyards, press the grapes, produce wine and maintain his business selling wines while looking after 7 or 8 children?

He couldn’t exactly take all the children to the fields with him, especially not a baby.

Those questions cross the mind of every mother from time to time. However, in Barbara’s case, this was very real and pressing – not an abstract thought.

Unfortunately, the Grim Reaper visited all too often in the days before antibiotics and modern medicine.

The good news, or bad news, or both, was that there were others in the same situation. Joining forces made sense.

A Step-Mother for Barbara’s Children

Barbara didn’t exactly get to select her successor – the woman who would raise her children after she could no longer do so.

Hans waited a respectable amount of time before remarrying, 12 months to be exact. The banns had to be posted for 3 weeks, and the minister would have posted and read the marriage banns on the first Sunday following the 1-year anniversary of Barbara’s death, inviting anyone who had any knowledge of why the couple shouldn’t marry to come forth.

On August 2, 1687, Hans married Barbara Roller(in) who was the widow of Sebastian Heubach from Endersbach. Barbara was born in 1748, so she would have been 39 years old when she married Hans. However, we find no children born to them, nor do I find any record of children born from her first marriage either, which occurred in 1672.

If Barbara already had children, she and Hans joined their families when they wed. If not, then perhaps Barbara welcomed the opportunity to become a mother and love the first Barbara Lenz’s children.

Step-parents are the parents who choose us.

Mitochondrial DNA Candidates

Mitochondrial DNA is a special type of DNA passed from mothers to their children, but only passed on by daughters. It’s never admixed with the DNA of the father, so it is passed on essentially unchanged, except for an occasional small mutation, for thousands of years. Those small mutations are what make this DNA both genealogically useful and provide a key to the past.

By looking at Barbara’s mitochondrial DNA, we can tell where her ancestors came from by evaluating information provided by the trail of tiny mutations.

Only one of Barbara’s daughters, Anna Maria who married Hans Jakob Bechtel (Bechthold,) is known to have lived to have children. Although, if two other daughters lived, it’s possible that either Anna Katharina (born 1669) or Elisabetha (born 1677) married and had children elsewhere.

Anna Maria Lenz Bechtel had two daughters who lived to adulthood, but only one married.

  • Anna Maria Bechtel was born in 1715 and married Jakob Siebold/Seybold of Grunbach. Their children were all born in Remshalden.
    • Anna Maria Seybold was born  in 1737 and married Johann Jacob Lenz in 1761, children unknown
    • Regina Dorothea Seybold was born in 1741, married Johann Wolfgang Bassler in 1765, and had one known daughter.
      • Johanna Bassler was born in 1785, married Johannes Wacker in 1814, and had three daughters, Johanna Elisabetha (1818), Dorothea Catharina (1822), and Carolina Friederica (1825.)
    • Anna Catharina Seybold born in 1751 married Johann Leonhard Wacker in 1813 in Remshalden. No known daughters.
    • Elisabeth Seybold born in 1752 married Johann Michael Weyhmuller in 1780 in Remshalden and had three daughters who lived to adulthood, married, and had daughters.
      • Anna Maria Weyhmuller born 1785, married Eberhard Sigmund Escher from Esslingen in 1807, but children are unknown.
      • Regina Dorothea Weyhmueller born 1787 and married Salomo Dautel in 1814 in Remshaulden. They immigrated to America in 1817, location and children unknown.
      • Elisabetha Weyhmueller born in 1792 and had daughter Jakobine Hottmann in 1819 with Daniel Hottmann. She then married Wilhelm Friedrich Espenlaub and had Josephina Friederika Espenlaub in 1830. Children unknown.

For anyone who descends from Barbara Sing through all females to the current generation, which can be male, I have a DNA testing scholarship for you.

Please reach out! Let’s see what we can discover about Barbara together!

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FamilyTreeDNA DISCOVER™ Launches – Including Y DNA Haplogroup Ages

FamilyTreeDNA just released an amazing new group of public Y DNA tools.

Yes, a group of tools – not just one.

The new Discover tools, which you can access here, aren’t just for people who have tested at FamilyTreeDNA . You don’t need an account and it’s free for everyone. All you need is a Y DNA haplogroup – from any source.

I’m going to introduce each tool briefly because you’re going to want to run right over and try Discover for yourself. In fact, you might follow along with this article.

Y DNA Haplogroup Aging

The new Discover page provides seven beta tools, including Y DNA haplogroup aging.

Haplogroup aging is THE single most requested feature – and it’s here!

Discover also scales for mobile devices.

Free Beta Tool

Beta means that FamilyTreeDNA is seeking your feedback to determine which of these tools will be incorporated into their regular product, so expect a survey.

If you’d like changes or something additional, please let FamilyTreeDNA know via the survey, their support line, email or Chat function.

OK, let’s get started!

Enter Your Haplogroup

Enter your Y DNA haplogroup, or the haplogroup you’re interested in viewing.

If you’re a male who has tested with FamilyTreeDNA , sign on to your home page and locate your haplogroup badge at the lower right corner.

If you’re a female, you may be able to test a male relative or find a haplogroup relevant to your genealogy by visiting your surname group project page to locate the haplogroup for your ancestor.

I’ll use one of my genealogy lines as an example.

In this case, several Y DNA testers appear under my ancestor, James Crumley, in the Crumley DNA project.

Within this group of testers, we have two different Big Y haplogroups, and several estimated haplogroups from testers who have not upgraded to the Big Y.

If you’re a male who has tested at either 23andMe or LivingDNA, you can enter your Y DNA haplogroup from that source as well. Those vendors provide high-level haplogroups.

The great thing about the new Discover tool is that no matter what haplogroup you enter, there’s something for you to enjoy.

I’m going to use haplogroup I-FT272214, the haplogroup of my ancestor, James Crumley, confirmed through multiple descendants. His son John’s descendants carry haplogroup I-BY165368 in addition to I-FT272214, which is why there are two detailed haplogroups displayed for this grouping within the Crumley haplogroup project, in addition to the less-refined I-M223.

Getting Started

When you click on Discover, you’ll be asked to register briefly, agree to terms, and provide your email address.

Click “View my report” and your haplogroup report will appear.

Y DNA Haplogroup Report

For any haplogroup you enter, you’ll receive a haplogroup report that includes 7 separate pages, shown by tabs at the top of your report.

Click any image to enlarge

The first page you’ll see is the Haplogroup Report.

On the first page, you’ll find Haplogroup aging. The TMRCA (time to most recent common ancestor) is provided, plus more!

The report says that haplogroup I-FT272214 was “born,” meaning the mutation that defines this haplogroup, occurred about 300 years ago, plus or minus 150 years.

James Crumley was born about 1710. We know his sons carry haplogroup I-FT272214, but we don’t know when that mutation occurred because we don’t have upstream testers. We don’t know who his parents were.

Three hundred years before the birth of our Crumley tester would be about 1670, so roughly James Crumley’s father’s generation, which makes sense.

James’ son John’s descendants have an additional mutation, so that makes sense too. SNP mutations are known to occur approximately every 80 years, on average. Of course, you know what average means…may not fit any specific situation exactly.

The next upstream haplogroup is I-BY100549 which occurred roughly 500 years ago, plus or minus 150 years. (Hint – if you want to view a haplogroup report for this upstream haplogroup, just click on the haplogroup name.)

There are 5 SNP confirmed descendants of haplogroup I-FT272214 claiming origins in England, all of whom are in the Crumley DNA project.

Haplogroup descendants mean this haplogroup and any other haplogroups formed on the tree beneath this haplogroup.

Share

If you scroll down a bit, you can see the share button on each page. If you think this is fun, you can share through a variety of social media resources, email, or copy the link.

Sharing is a good way to get family members and others interested in both genealogy and genetic genealogy. Light the spark!

I’m going to be sharing with collaborative family genealogy groups on Facebook and Twitter. I can also share with people who may not be genealogists, but who will think these findings are interesting.

If you keep scrolling under the share button or click on “Discover More” you can order Y DNA tests if you’re a biological male and haven’t already taken one. The more refined your haplogroup, the more relevant your information will be on the Discover page as well as on your personal page.

Scrolling even further down provides information about methods and sources.

Country Frequency

The next tab is Country Frequency showing the locations where testers with this haplogroup indicate that their earliest known ancestors are found.

The Crumley haplogroup has only 5 people, which is less than 1% of the people with ancestors from England.

However, taking a look at haplogroup R-M222 with many more testers, we see something a bit different.

Ireland is where R-M222 is found most frequently. 17% of the men who report their ancestors are from Ireland belong to haplogroup R-M222.

Note that this percentage also includes haplogroups downstream of haplogroup R-M222.

Mousing over any other location provides that same information for that area as well.

Seeing where the ancestors of your haplogroup matches are from can be extremely informative. The more refined your haplogroup, the more useful these tools will be for you. Big Y testers will benefit the most.

Notable Connections

On the next page, you’ll discover which notable people have haplogroups either close to you…or maybe quite distant.

Your first Notable Connection will be the one closest to your haplogroup that FamilyTreeDNA was able to identify in their database. In some cases, the individual has tested, but in many cases, descendants of a common ancestor tested.

In this case, Bill Gates is our closest notable person. Our common haplogroup, meaning the intersection of Bill Gates’s haplogroup and my Crumley cousin’s haplogroup is I-L1195. The SNP mutation that defines haplogroup I-L1145 occurred about 4600 years ago. Both my Crumley cousin and Bill Gates descend from that man.

If you’re curious and want to learn more about your common haplogroup, remember, you can enter that haplogroup into the Discover tool. Kind of like genetic time travel. But let’s finish this one first.

Remember that CE means current era, or the number of years since the year “zero,” which doesn’t technically exist but functions as the beginning of the current era. Bill Gates was born in 1955 CE

BCE means “before current era,” meaning the number of years before the year “zero.” So 2600 BCE is approximately 4600 years ago.

Click through each dot for a fun look at who you’re “related to” and how distantly.

This tool is just for fun and reinforces the fact that at some level, we’re all related to each other.

Maybe you’re aware of more notables that could be added to the Discover pages.

Migration Map

The next tab provides brand spanking new migration maps that show the exodus of the various haplogroups out of Africa, through the Middle East, and in this case, into Europe.

Additionally, the little shovel icons show the ancient DNA sites that date to the haplogroup age for the haplogroup shown on the map, or younger. In our case, that’s haplogroup I-M223 (red arrow) that was formed about 16,000 years ago in Europe, near the red circle, at left. These haplogroup ancient sites (shovels) would all date to 16,000 years ago or younger, meaning they lived between 16,000 years ago and now.

Click to enlarge

By clicking on a shovel icon, more information is provided. It’s very interesting that I-L1145, the common haplogroup with Bill Gates is found in ancient DNA in Cardiff, Wales.

This is getting VERY interesting. Let’s look at the rest of the Ancient Connections.

Ancient Connections

Our closest Ancient Connection in time is Gen Scot 24 (so name in an academic paper) who lived in the Western Isles of Scotland.

These ancient connections are more likely cousins than direct ancestors, but of course, we can’t say for sure. We do know that the first man to develop haplogroup I-L126, about 2500 years ago, is an ancestor to both Gen Scot 24 and our Crumley ancestor.

Gen Scot 24 has been dated to 1445-1268 BCE which is about 3400 years ago, which could actually be older than the haplogroup age. Remember that both dating types are ranges, carbon dating is not 100% accurate, and ancient DNA can be difficult to sequence. Haplogroup ages are refined as more branches are discovered and the tree grows.

The convergence of these different technologies in a way that allows us to view the past in the context of our ancestors is truly amazing.

All of our Crumley cousin’s ancient relatives are found in Ireland or Scotland with the exception of the one found in Wales. I think, between this information and the haplogroup formation dates, it’s safe to say that our Crumley ancestors have been in either Scotland or Ireland for the past 4600 years, at least. And someone took a side trip to Wales, probably settled and died there.

Of course, now I need to research what was happening in Ireland and Scotland 4600 years ago because I know my ancestors were involved.

Suggested Projects

I’m EXTREMELY pleased to see suggested projects for this haplogroup based on which projects haplogroup members have joined.

You can click on any of the panels to read more about the project. Remember that not everyone joins a project because of their Y DNA line. Many projects accept people who are autosomally related or descend from the family through the mitochondrial line, the direct mother’s line.

Still, seeing the Crumley surname project would be a great “hint” all by itself if I didn’t already have that information.

Scientific Details

The Scientific Details page actually has three tabs.

The first tab is Age Estimate.

The Age Estimate tab provides more information about the haplogroup age or TMRCA (Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor) calculations. For haplogroup I-FT272214, the most likely creation date, meaning when the SNP occurred, is about 1709, which just happens to align well with the birth of James Crumley about 1710.

However, anyplace in the dark blue band would fall within a 68% confidence interval (CI). That would put the most likely years that the haplogroup-defining SNP mutation took place between 1634 and 1773. At the lower end of the frequency spectrum, there’s a 99% likelihood that the common ancestor was born between 1451 and 1874. That means we’re 99% certain that the haplogroup defining SNP occurred between those dates. The broader the date range, the more certain we can be that the results fall into that range.

The next page, Variants, provides the “normal” or ancestral variant and the derived or mutated variant or SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) in the position that defines haplogroup I-FT272214.

The third tab displays FamilyTreeDNA‘s public Y DNA Tree with this haplogroup highlighted. On the tree, we can see this haplogroup, downstream haplogroups as well as upstream, along with their country flags.

Your Personal Page

If you have already taken a DNA test at FamilyTreeDNA, you can find the new Discover tool conveniently located under “Additional Tests and Tools.”

If you are a male and haven’t yet tested, then you’ll want to order a Y DNA test or upgrade to the Big Y for the most refined haplogroup possible.

Big Y tests and testers are why the Y DNA tree now has more than 50,000 branches and 460,000 variants. Testing fuels growth and growth fuels new tools and possibilities for genealogists.

What Do You Think?

Do you like these tools?

What have you learned? Have you shared this with your family members? What did they have to say? Maybe we can get Uncle Charley interested after all!

Let me know how you’re using these tools and how they are helping you interpret your Y DNA results and assist your genealogy.

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You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

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William Crumley’s Original 1792 Will Surfaces – 52 Ancestors #360

Sometimes late at night, just before I go to bed, I check MyHeritage for Record Hints and Ancestry for those little green leaf hints.

One recent midnight, I noticed a hint at Ancestry for William Crumley II. Of course, I have to have three William Crumley’s in a row in my tree.

Clicking on this hint revealed West Virginia Wills.

Of course, the first thing I noticed was that West Virginia wasn’t formed as a state until 1863, but I also know that counties and their earlier records “go with” their county into a new state. Berkeley County was formed from Frederick County, Virginia in 1772.

However, William Crumley II died between 1837 and 1840 in Lee County, Virginia, so I wasn’t very hopeful about this hint. Nonetheless, I clicked because, hey, you never know what you might discover. That’s why they’re called hints, right?

Hint 1 – The Will Book

I discovered the Berkeley County Clerk’s Will Book where William Crumley the first’s will had been dutifully copied into the Will Book on pages 185 and 186 after it was “proved” in court by witnesses on September 17, 1793. Witnesses who proved a will swore that they saw him sign the original and the will submitted was that same, unmodified, document.

This William Crumley is not William Crumley II, where this hint appeared, but his father, who did not have this hint.

I’ve been in possession of that will information for several years, so there was no new information here.

While I always read these wills, even when I have a typewritten published transcription, I know that the handwriting and the signature is not original to the person who wrote the will. The handwriting is that of the clerk.

To begin with, the signature of the deceased person can’t possibly be original after he died. William’s will was written and signed on September 30, 1792, almost exactly a year before it was probated on September 17, 1793. William was clearly ill and thinking about his family after his demise.

Given that court was held every three months, William likely died sometime between June and September of 1793.

I really wish Ancestry would not provide hints for a 1792/3 will for a man who died between 1837 and 1840.

My ancestor, William II who died in about 1840 is at least mentioned in his father’s will as a child. However, if I saved this will to William II from this hint, Ancestry would have recorded this event as his will, not the will of his father, so I declined this hint. I did, however, later connect this document to William I, even though Ancestry did NOT provide this document as a hint for him.

Hint 2 – 1764 Tax List

I clicked on the next green leaf hint for William II. A tax list for 1764. Nope, not him either given that William II wasn’t born for another three years.

Next.

Hint 3 – Executor’s Bond

Something else from Berkeley County attached to the wrong person, again.

Bother.

What’s this one?

Executor’s bonds for William Crumley’s estate who died in 1793. Now this is interesting because the bond includes the signatures of the executors, including William’s wife Sarah. I got VERY excited until I remembered that Sarah was William’s second wife and not my ancestor.

Not to mention this record dated in 1793 is still being served up on the wrong William Crumley – the same-name son of the man who died in 1793.

Worse yet, these hints did NOT exist on the correct William Crumley the first who I wrote about, here.

Ok, fine.

There’s one more hint for William II before bedtime.

Hint 4 – Berkeley County AGAIN

What’s this one?

I saw that it was from Berkeley County and almost dismissed the hint without looking. By that time, I was tired and grumpy and somewhat frustrated with trying to save records to the right person and not the person for whom the hints were delivered.

Am I EVER glad that I didn’t just click on “Ignore.”

Accidental Gold

Staring at me was the ORIGINAL WILL of William Crumley the first in a packet of Loose Probate Papers from 1772-1885 that I didn’t even know existed. I thought I had previously exhausted all available resources for this county, but I clearly had not. I’m not sure the contemporary clerks even knew those loose records existed and even if they did, they probably weren’t indexed.

Thankfully, they’ve been both scanned and (partially) indexed by Ancestry. They clearly aren’t perfect, but they are good enough to be found and sometimes, that’s all that matters. I’d rather find a hint for the wrong person so I can connect the dots than no hint at all.

My irritation pretty much evaporated.

There’s additional information provided by Ancestry which is actually incorrect, so never presume accuracy without checking for yourself. The date they are showing as the probate date is actually the date the will was executed. If I were to save this record without checking, his death/probate would be shown as September 30, 1792. That’s clearly NOT the probate nor William’s death date.

Not to mention, there were many more than 3 additional people listed in this document. There was a wife, 15 children, and the 4 witnesses to the will itself. I actually found another two names buried in the text for a total of 22 people.

Always, always read the original or at least the clerk’s handwritten copy in the Will Book.

Originals are SELDOM Available

I’ve only been lucky enough to find original wills in rare cases where the will was kept in addition to the Will Book copy, a later lawsuit ensued, or the will surfaced someplace. The original will document is normally returned to the family after being copied into the book after being proven in court.

For some reason, William’s original will was retained in the loose papers that included the original estate inventory as well. That inventory was also copied into the will book a couple of months later. Unfortunately, I’ve never found the sale document which includes the names of the purchasers.

Normally, the original will is exactly the same as the clerk’s copy in the Will Book. It should be exact, but sometimes there are differences. Some minor and some important. The will book copy is normally exact or very close to a copy transcribed by someone years later. Every time something is copied manually, there’s an opportunity for error.

Therefore, I always, always read the will, meaning the document closest in person and in time to the original, just in case. You never know. I have discovered children who were omitted in later copies or documents.

In his will, William stated that he had purchased his plantation from his brother, John Crumley. Their father, James Crumley had willed adjoining patented land to his sons, John and William. I was not aware that William had purchased John’s portion, probably when John moved to South Carolina about 1790.

William states that his plantation should be sold by the executors. The purchaser was to make payments but the land “not to be given up to the purchaser till the 26th of March in the year 1795 which is the expiration of John Antram’s (?) lease upon it.” It’s unclear whether William was referring only to the plantation he purchased from John, or if he’s referring to the combined property that he received from his father and that he purchased from John as “his plantation.”

This also tells us that William clearly didn’t expect to live until the end of that lease. The fact that the land was leased was probably a result of his poor health even though he wasn’t yet 60 years old. This also makes me wonder how long he had been ill.

William also explicitly says he has 15 children, then proceeds to name them, one by one. Unfortunately for everyone involved, William’s youngest 10 children were all underage, with the baby, Rebecca, being born about 1792.

William probably wrote his will in his brick home, above, with a newborn infant crying in the background. Sarah, his wife must have been distraught, wondering what she would do and how she would survive with 10 mouths to feed, plus any of his older children from his first marriage who remained at home. The good news, if there is any, is that the older children could help. Sarah was going to need a lot of help!

I surely would love to know what happened to William.

I can close my eyes and see the men gathered together, sitting in a circle that September 30th in 1792. It was Sunday, probably after church and after “supper” which was served at noon. William might have been too ill to attend services.

Maybe one man was preparing a quill pen and ink at a table. William spoke thoughtfully, perhaps sitting on the porch or maybe even under the tree, and the man inked his feather and wrote. You could hear the feather scratch its way across the single crisp sheet of paper. William enunciated slow, measured words, conveying his wishes to the somber onlookers who would bear witness to what he said and that, at the end, when he was satisfied, they had seen him sign the document.

From time to time, someone would nod or clear their throat as William spoke. At one point, the scrivener made a mistake and had to scratch out a couple words. Or perhaps, it wasn’t the scrivener’s error. Maybe William misspoke or someone asked him if he really meant what he said. It’s heartbreaking to write your will with a house full of young children. He knew he was dying. Men of that place and time only wrote wills when they knew the end was close at hand.

Of course, we find the obligatory language about Sarah remaining his widow. He tried to provide for Sarah even after his death. Sarah was 15 years or so younger than William and died in 1809 when she was about 59 years old. Her baby would have been about 17 years old, so she was about 40 or so when William wrote his will and died, with a whole passel of kids.

William appointed one David Faulkner, probably related to his brother John’s wife, Hannah Faulkner, along with his wife, Sarah Crumley, as his executors. Sarah’s stepfather was Thomas Faulkner, who was also her bondsman. David may have been her brother, so William probably felt secure that Sarah’s interests would be looked after.

The selection of executors may tell us indirectly that son William Crumley II had already left for the next frontier, Greene County, TN. William II was listed on the Berkeley County tax list in 1789, but not again, suggesting he had already packed up and moved on, probably before his father became ill.

But here’s the best part, on the next page…William Crumley’s actual original signature.

I wonder if this was the last time he signed his name.

Signature Doppelganger

It’s extremely ironic that the signature of his son, William Crumley the second, looks almost identical to the signature of William the first, above. We know absolutely that this was the signature of the eldest William, and we know positively that later signatures in 1807 and 1817 in Greene County, Tennessee were his son’s.

This nearly identical signature of father and son suggests that perhaps William Crumley the eldest taught his son how to write.

The family was Quaker. We know William’s father, James Crumley was a rather roudy Quaker, and William the first married Quaker Sarah Dunn in 1774, after his first wife’s death. That marriage is recorded in the Quaker minutes because Sarah had married “contrary to discipline” which tells us that William Crumley was not at that time a Quaker, or had previously been dismissed.

Quakers were forbidden from many activities. If you were a Quaker, you couldn’t marry non-Quakers, marry a first cousin, marry your first spouse’s first cousin, marry your former husband’s half-uncle, administer oaths, do something unsavory like altering a note, purchase a slave, dance, take up arms, fight, game, move away without permission, encourage gambling by lending money, train or participate in the militia, hire a militia substitute, attend muster, or even slap someone. Every year, several people were “disowned” for these violations along with failing to attend meetings, failing to pay debts, moving away without settling business affairs, or helping someone else do something forbidden, like marry “contrary to discipline.” Heaven forbid that you’d attend one of those forbidden marriage ceremonies or worse yet, join the Baptists or Methodists!

It’s unknown if William returned to the Quaker Church although it’s doubtful, because in 1774 Sarah is listed as one of the persons “disowned” for marrying him, and there is no reinstatement note or date. Furthermore, in 1781, William was among the Berkeley County citizens who provided supplies for the use of the Revolutionary armies.

One certificate (receipt) dated September 30, 1781 indicated that he and three others, including his wife’s brother William Dunn and her stepfather Thomas Faulkner were entitled to 225 pounds for eleven bushels and a peck of wheat.

We also know that William Crumley owned a slave when he died and Quakers were prohibited from owning slaves based on the belief that all human beings are equal and worthy of respect. Regardless, many Quakers continued to own slaves but purchasing a slave, at least at Hopewell, caused you to be “disowned.”

Still, William may have sent his children to be educated at the Quaker school given that the Quaker school was the only educational option other than teaching your children yourself. Quaker schools were open to non-Quaker children. We know, based on the books ordered in the 1780s for local students in multiple languages that the school was educating and welcoming non-Quaker children too.

The Hopewell Quaker Meeting House (church) built an official schoolhouse in 1779, but it’s likely that school had been being conducted in the Meeting House before a separate school building was constructed. By that time, William Crumley the second would have been 12 years old and had likely already been taught the basics, perhaps by his father.

Of course, the William Crumley family at some point, probably in 1764 when William’s father James Crumley died, if not before, had moved up the road and across the county line to Berkeley County which was about seven and a half miles from the Hopewell Meeting House (and school). That was quite a distance, so William the first may have been instructing his own children, making sure they knew how to read and write and sign their names.

No wonder his son’s signature looks exactly like his.

Education and the Hopewell Meeting House

In 1934, the Hopewell Friends History was published to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the church which provided a great deal of historical information about the church itself, that part of Frederick County and the Quaker families. Unfortunately, the notes from 1734 to 1759 were lost when the clerk’s home burned, along with most of the 1795 minutes later.

Based on his will, William clearly placed a very high value on education. He instructed that his “widdow Sarah Crumley shall rays my children together to give them learning out of the profits that arises from my estate, the boys to read, write and cifer, the girls to read and write.” Apparently, females weren’t perceived to need “cifering.”

William himself would have attended school at Hopewell after his family moved from Chester County, PA in 1744 when he was 9 or 10 years old.

William’s children, following in his footsteps, may well have attended the Hopewell School or perhaps another brick school that existed near White Hall, about halfway between The Crumley home and the Hopewell Meeting House, although it’s unclear exactly when that school was established.

Many Quakers mentioned in the 1800s in the church notes are buried at what is now the White Hall United Methodist Church on Apple Pie Ridge Road. The earliest burial there with a stone is 1831 which seems to be when headstones began to be used in the area.

William also directed his funeral expenses to be paid, of course, and his executors sold a steer to pay for his coffin.

It’s doubtful that William is buried here, in the Hopewell Cemetery, unless he reconciled with the church. William’s parents are most likely buried here. His father, James, died in 1764 and his mother, Catherine, died about 1790. William would have gazed across this cemetery as a child attending services and stood here during many funerals, possibly including the service of his own first wife, Hannah Mercer, and perhaps some of their children.

I wonder if it ever occurred to him as a child that he might one day rest here himself.

No early marked graves remain before the 1830s, but people had been buried here for a century in unmarked graves by that time.

I can’t help but think of William the first, as a child, probably attending school in this building, peering out these windows, after his family moved from Pennsylvania in the early 1740s. He worshiped here on Sundays. Perhaps his son, William II and his older children attended school here some three decades later.

This stately tree in the cemetery was likely a sapling when William was a young man.

Given that William seems to have left the Quaker Church, willingly or otherwise sometime before 1774 and probably before 1759, it’s much more likely that William is buried in the cemetery right across the road from his home in an unmarked grave adjacent and behind what is now the Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church.

I don’t know, but I’d wager that this is the old Crumley family cemetery.

Perhaps William was the first person to be buried here, or maybe his first wife or one of his children. His brother, John, may have buried children here too.

Almost Too Late

Thank goodness William’s original will was microfilmed when it was, because the pages were torn and had to be carefully unfolded and repaired. William’s will might have been beyond saving soon. After all, his will had been folded several times and stored in what was probably a metal document box, just waiting to be freed, for more than 225 years.

There is information on these original documents that just isn’t available elsewhere.

It’s interesting to note the legal process that took place when wills were brought to court when someone died. The clerk wrote on the back of the will, below William’s signature, on what would likely have been the outside of the folded document that the will had been proven in open court (OP), he had recorded and examined the will and that the executors had complied with the law and a certificate was granted to them.

I believe the bottom right writing is No. 2 Folio 185 which correlated to the book and page.

It’s nothing short of a miracle that William’s original will still exists and got tucked away for posterity. I’m ever so grateful to Mr. Hunter, that long-deceased Clerk of Court who is responsible for resurrecting William’s signature, the only tangible personal item of William’s left today, save for a few DNA segments in his descendants.

Flowers, looking into the window of the Hopewell Meeting House.

_____________________________________________________________

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Dorcas Johnson’s Mitochondrial DNA Secret Revealed – 52 Ancestors #357

Dorcas (also spelled Darcus) Johnson was born about 1750 and died about 1835. We know she died in Claiborne County, Tennessee, but the location of her birth has always been assumed to be Virginia.

You know there’s already trouble brewing when you read that assume word, right?

Dorcas, in the early genealogies, was reported to be the daughter of Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Philips, but always a skeptic, I had my doubts. I’m working through the various options to prove or disprove that connection. I wrote about my initial findings, here.

What we do know, positively, about Dorcas is that she married Jacob Dobkins in Dunmore County, Virginia, in 1775. There’s no date listed, but it is shown between the September and October marriages.

Dunmore County was renamed as Shenandoah a few years later, so all of the early Dunmore County records aren’t “missing,” they are Shenandoah County records.

Dorcas and Jacob migrated to eastern Tennesee, probably before Tennessee was even a state n the 1790s, settling in Jefferson County on the White Horn Branch of Bent Creek, Near Bull’s Gap. By 1800, they had moved once again to the fledgling Claiborne County when it was first formed. Dorcas Johnson and Jacob Dobkins spent the rest of their lives in Claiborne County, Tennessee.

The Johnson Books

Peter Johnson’s descendants wrote several early books in the 1900s about that family, specifically focused on the child they descended from. More recently, Eric E. Johnson wrote a book where he distilled the earlier books and added a great deal of original research compiled over decades. Eric has very graciously shared and I am ever so grateful for his generosity.

Dorcas’s Siblings

Not all early books report the same children for Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Philips, so I’ve prepared a composite list of children, as follows:

  • Richard (Derrick, Derrie) Johnson (1746-1818) married Dorcas Dungan in Pennsylvania and later, Elizabeth Nash in Westmoreland County, PA. Richard was born in Cumberland County, PA and died in Jefferson County, Ohio.
  • Dorcas Johnson (c1748/1750 – c1831/1835) married Jacob Dobkins in 1775 in Dunmore/Shenandoah County. Dorcas is reported in one of the early Johnson books and was reported to have married Reuben Dobkins. She married Reuben’s brother, Jacob. Jacob’s other brother, Evan Dobkins, married one Margaret Johnson, earlier in 1775 in the same location where Dorcas married. However, Margaret Johnson is not listed in any of the Johnson books.
  • James Johnson (1752-1826), was born in Pennsylvania and died in Lawrence County, Illinois after having lived in Indiana for some time. He married Elizabeth Lindsay in 1783.
  • Solomon Johnson (1765-1843), apparently the youngest child was born near Greencastle, Cumberland (now Franklin) County, Pennsylvania and died in Forward Township, Allegheny County, PA. He inherited his father’s land and married the neighbor, Frances (Fanny) Warne in 1790. It was Solomon’s Bible records that provided Peter Johnson’s wife’s name as Mary Philips. It’s worth noting that Solomon named a daughter, Dorcas, and the Dorcas Johnson who married Jacob Dobkins named a son Solomon.

Two other sources report Peter’s wife’s first name as Polly which is a well-known nickname for Mary. The only source for Mary Polly Phillips’ surname is the Solomon Johnson Bible.

Four additional daughters are reported with much less specific information available.

  • Mary Johnson – Nothing known.
  • Polly Johnson – Nothing known, although it has been speculated that Mary and Polly were one person, and possibly Richard’s only child by his first wife that Peter Johnson and Mary/Polly Philips took to raise when Richard’s wife died. If this is the case, then Mary would have been born about 1768 and can therefore NOT be the Margaret Johnson who married Evan Dobkins in 1775.
  • Rebecca Johnson, possibly born about 1762. One book states that Rebecca married John Stephens or Stevens and moved to Monongahela County, West Virginia but nothing more is known. This same source states that Stephens served with Richard Johnson in the Revolutionary War, although that could be militia duty. This line needs to be fleshed out and could prove critical. What happened to Rebecca Johnson?
  • Rachel Johnson is reported to have married a John Dobkins and possibly moved to Knox County, Indiana, but nothing more is known. Jacob Dobkins’ brother, John Dobkins married Elizabeth Holman. It’s possible that there’s an unknown brother, or Rachel is the Johnson daughter who married Reuben Dobkins. Dorcas was reported to have married Reuben, but she married Jacob.

In the various Johnson books, two Johnson daughters are reported to have married Dobkins men, and indeed, that’s exactly what happened, but the first names don’t match exactly

If indeed Dorcas Johnson is the full sibling of Mary, Polly, Rebecca or Rachel Johnson, they would carry the same mitochondrial DNA passed to them from their mother – which they in turn would have passed on.

This means that if we can locate someone descended from those daughters through all females to the current generation (which can be male), their mitochondrial DNA should match at the full sequence level.

In summary, we know very little about Mary Polly Philips herself. We don’t know who her parents were, nor if she had siblings. We also don’t really know how many children, specifically daughters, she had.

Where Did Mary Polly Philips Come From?

One of the books reports that Mary Polly Philip’s son, Richard, born in 1746, also known as Derrie, was born in Amsterdam. We know this cannot be true because Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips were already living in Antrim Township of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania by 1742 when he obtained a land grant.

However, since Derrie is a Dutch nickname for Richard, the story that Dorcas was Dutch, or spoke Dutch, may have originated from this nickname. This does beg the question of how Richard obtained that nickname.

The Pennsylvania Dutch settled heavily in Cumberland County where the couple is first found, so it’s possible that Mary Polly may have spoken German. Regardless, one of the family histories states that she didn’t speak English when she married Peter Johnson which raises the question of how they communicated.

Of course, this is confounding given that many early genealogies suggest or state that they were either Scottish, Scots-Irish or Welsh. One history suggests that Peter settled at Wilmington, Delaware, then lived at Head of Elk, Maryland which are both Swedish settlements.

Peter Johnson was supposed to have a brother James and they were both supposed to be from Scotland, with noble peerage, nonetheless.

And another report had Peter sailing from Amsterdam where he had been born.

Clearly these can’t all be true.

Bottom line is this – we don’t know anything about where either Peter or his wife’s families originated. The first actual data we have is Peter’s 1742 land grant in Cumberland County, PA, an area settled by both the Germans and Scots-Irish.

We have a real mystery on our hands.

Not to mention that we still don’t know positively that the Dorcas reported in Peter Johnson’s line who married a Reuben Dobkins is the same person as “my” Dorcas who married Jacob Dobkins. However, given the autosomal matches, I’m quite comfortable at this point, between both documentary and genetic evidence, in confidently adding Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Philips as Dorcas Johnson Dobkins’ parents.

Well, that is, unless someone or something proves me wrong.

One thing is abundantly clear, if Dorcas isn’t their daughter, she’s related to them in some fashion because many of Peter Johnson’s descendants and Dorcas Johnson Dobkins’ descendants match and triangulate when comparing autosomal DNA.

Mitochondrial DNA

Dorcas Johnson inherited her mitochondrial DNA from her mother, whoever that was, who inherited it from her mother, on up the line.

Mitochondrial DNA is never mixed with the DNA of the father, so it’s never divided or diluted. In other words, except for an occasional mutation, it’s passed intact from mothers to all of their children. However, only females pass it on.

In the current generation, males can take a mitochondrial DNA test so long as they descend through all females from the ancestor whose mitochondrial DNA is being sought. In other words, their mother’s mother’s mother’s line on up the tree through all mothers.

I’ve been fortunate enough to find two direct descendants of Dorcas Johnson Dobkins through all female lines (different daughters) who were kind enough to take a mitochondrial DNA test.

Not only did they match each other, they also matched other people at the full sequence level.

What did we discover?

Haplogroup

Dorcas’s descendants were determined to be haplogroup H2a1, a European haplogroup found dispersed widely across Europe.

This can put to rest any speculation about Native American heritage which often arises when a woman’s parents are unknown.

What Information Can Be Gleaned from the Haplogroup Alone?

Using the public mitochondrial DNA tree, we can see that H2a1 is found in 57 countries as identified by testers’ earliest known ancestor (EKA) entries.

This is one reason why it’s important to enter earliest ancestor information (under the gear when you mouse over your name in the upper right-hand corner, under Genealogy in Account Settings.)

But that’s not the only reason to enter as much information as possible. Everyone helps everyone else in genetic genealogy by providing complete information, or as complete as possible.

Matches

Dorcas’s descendants who took the mitochondrial DNA test have a total of 299 HVR1, HVR2 and Coding Region matches. Today, testers can only order the mtFull product which tests the entire 16,569 locations of the mitochondria. Years back, people could order a partial test that only tested part of the mitochondria, called the HVR1 (HVR=Hypervariable Region) or the combined HVR1 & HVR2 regions.

You can select to view matches at the full sequence level, or people you match at the HVR1 or HVR2 level which will include people who did not take the higher mtFull test.

While some people are inclined to ignore their HVR1 and HVR2 results, I don’t because I’m always on the hunt for someone with a common ancestor or other useful information who did NOT test at the full sequence level.

You just never know where you’re going to find that critical match so don’t neglect any potential place to find leads.

To begin, I’m focusing on the full sequence matches that have a genetic distance of 0. GD0 simply means those testers match exactly with no mutations difference.

My cousin has 9 exact matches.

Matilda Holt is Dorcas’s granddaughter.

I viewed the trees for the closest matches and added some additional info.

I viewed the trees, worked several back in time, and found a few other testers who also descend from Dorcas.

One match remains a tantalizing mystery.

Bobby’s line hits a dead-end in Claiborne County, Tennessee, but I cannot connect the dots in Dorcas’s line.

Evan Dobkins, Jacob’s brother who married Margaret Johnson lived in Washington County, VA until the 1790s, but reportedly died in Claiborne County about 1835. Bobby’s EKA could be a grandchild of Dorcas that is previously unknown. She could also be the granddaughter of Margaret Johnson who married Evan Dobkins. I traced his line back to a woman born in 1824 and noted as Catherine Brooks in her marriage to Thomas Brooks in 1847. The Brooks family were close neighbors and did intermarry with the Dobkins family.

I emailed my cousin’s other matches; Karen, Catherine, Leotta, and Betty, and heard back from only one with no information.

With no earliest known ancestor, no tree, and no reply, I’m stuck on these matches, at least for now.

Let’s take a look at the GD1 matches, meaning those with one mutation difference and see what we can find there.

GD1 Matches

My cousin has 36 GD1 matches, meaning one mutation difference. Might they be useful?

Hmmm, well, here’s something interesting. With one exception, these earliest known ancestors certainly are not English, Welsh or Scots-Irish. They also aren’t German or Dutch.

I attempted to build a tree for Sarah Anna Wilson who was born in 1823 and died in 1858, but without additional information, I quickly ran into too much ambiguity.

Maybe there’s better information in the rest of the GD1 matches’ earliest known ancestors.

These people all look to be…Scandinavian?

Let’s take a look at the Matches Map.

Matches Map

On the matches map, only a few of the 36 GD1 matches filled in the location of their earliest known ancestor. This can be done on either the matches map, or when you complete the earliest known ancestor information.

Exact matches are red, and GD1, 1 step matches, are orange.

All 10 of the GD1 matches that have completed their locations are found in Scandinavia, one in Denmark and Sweden, respectively, with the rest concentrated in Finland.

In fact, the largest cluster anyplace is found in Finland, with a second pronounced cluster along the eastern side of Sweden.

Generally speaking, the green 3-step matches would be “older” or more distant than the yellow 2-step matches that would be older than the orange one-step matches which would be older than the red exact matches.

What Does This Mean?

I’d surely like more data. Scandinavian testers are wonderful about entering their EKA information, as compared to many US testers, but I’d still like to see more. Some show ancestors but no location, and some show nothing evident.

I’m going to dig.

Where Can I Find More Info?

For each person, I’m going to utilize several resources, as follows:

  • Trees on FamilyTreeDNA (please, let there be trees)
  • Earliest known ancestor (EKA)
  • Ancestry/MyHeritage/FamilySearch to extend trees or location locations for listed ancestors
  • Email address on tester’s profile card
  • Google their name, ancestor or email
  • Social media
  • Surnames/locations on their FamilyTreeDNA profile card
  • WikiTree/Geni and other publicly available resources

Even just the email address of a tester can provide me with a country. In this case, Finland. If the tester lives in Finland today, there’s a good chance that their ancestor was from Finland too.

Sometimes the Ancestral Surnames provide locations as well.

Search everyplace.

Create A New Map

Using Google My Maps, a free tool, I created a new map with only the GD1 matches and the location information that I unearthed.

I found at least general (country level) locations for a total of 30 of 36 GD1 matches. Ten are the locations provided by the testers on the Matches Map, but I found an additional 26. All of the locations, with one exception, were found in either Finland or Sweden. One was found in Denmark.

Some locations were the same for multiple testers, but they did not have the same ancestors.

While I’m still missing 6 GD1 match locations, with one exception noted previously, the names of the matches look Scandinavian as well.

This message is loud and clear.

Dorcas’s ancestors were Scandinavian before they came to the US. There’s no question. And likely from Finland.

Thoughts

So, maybe Dorcas really didn’t speak English.

But if she didn’t speak English, how did she communicate with her Scottish or Scots-Irish or maybe Dutch husband? The language of love only suffices under specific circumstances😊

And how did they get to Pennsylvania?

But wait?

Didn’t one of the family histories suggest that Peter Johnson was from Wilmington, Delaware and then from Head of Elk, now Elkton, Maryland?

Weren’t those both Swedish settlements?

Head of Elk, Maryland

Sure enough, Head of Elk, Maryland was settled by Swedish mariners and fishermen from Fort Casimir, Delaware, now New Castle, in 1694 – just 15 miles or so upriver.

Here, moving right to left, we see Fort Casmir, Delaware, then Elkton, Maryland, followed by the location on the border of Maryland and Pennsylvania where Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Philips settled in 1742.

One of those early Johnson books says that Peter Johnson spent some time in Frederick County, Virginia which would be near Winchester, Virginia, halfway between 1742 and 1775 on the map. However, many modern researchers discount that and presume that Virginia was mistaken for Maryland. The 1742 land bordered on and extended into Frederick County, Maryland.

However, since Dorcas Johnson married Jacob Dobkins whose father lived on Holman Creek in Dunmore County in 1775, and Rachel Johnson was supposed to have married a John Dobkins, and, Margaret Johnson married Evan Dobkins, Peter Johnson HAD to have spent at least some time in that location in 1775 if these were his daughters. Those girls were certainly not traveling alone during the Revolutionary War.

By 1780, Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips were in Allegheny County, by Pittsburg where they spent the rest of their lives.

Their daughters had moved on to East Tennessee with their Dobkins husbands, assuming that indeed, Dorcas Johnson is the daughter of Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips.

Conclusions Anyone?

I’m always hesitant to draw conclusions.

However, I would suggest the following:

  • I would expect Scandinavian mitochondrial DNA to be found in a Swedish settlement that also happened to include people from Finland and Denmark.
  • It would be unlikely for Scandinavian mitochondrial DNA to be found in a heavily Scots-Irish and German area such as Cumberland County, PA and Frederick County, MD.
  • We have several triangulated matches between my cousin, Greg, who descends from one of Peter Johnson’s sons and Dorcas Johnson Dobkins’ descendants through multiple children.
  • I match several people autosomally who descend from Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Philips through their other children.
  • Mary Polly Phillips doesn’t sound very Scandinavian. Was her name anglicized?

How Can We Firm This Up?

The best way to verify that Dorcas Johnson descends from Mary Polly Phillips is to test another person who descends through all females to the current generation through a different daughter. If they are sisters, both descending from Mary Polly Phillips, their descendants’ mitochondrial DNA will match very closely if not exactly.

The only other potential daughters are:

  • Rachel who is reported to have married a Dobkins male, possibly John, and maybe moved to Knox County, Indiana.
  • Margaret Johnson married Evan Dobkins, but she isn’t reported as a daughter of Mary Polly Phillips.
  • Rebecca who may have married John Stephens and might have moved to West Virginia.

That’s a whole lot of maybe.

Finding Rebecca and a mitochondrial DNA descendant would be a huge step in the right direction. The only record I can find that might be Rebecca is in December of 1821 when John Stephens’ will is probated in Boone County, KY with wife, Rachel, daughters Salley, Catharine, Rebecca, Mary, and Rachel who is encouraged to never go back to live with John Smith. Wonderful, a Smith – every genealogists nightmare.

If you descend from this couple, PLEASE get in touch with me!

It doesn’t look like this avenue is very promising, so let’s think outside the box and get creative.

Peter Johnson’s Y DNA

Given that Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips were married, they assuredly had to be able to talk, so either she spoke English, or he spoke her Native tongue.

One of the stories about Peter’s family is that he was either Swedish or Dutch, and that his family was from the New Sweden settlement in America.

If this is accurate, then Peter Johnson would have Scandinavian Y and mitochondrial DNA. Since men don’t pass their mitochondrial DNA on to their offspring, that route is not available to us, but what about his Y DNA?

Is there a Y DNA test through a Johnson male descendant of Peter Johnson, and if so, what information does it convey?

Can we use the Y DNA test of a descendant of Peter Johnson to help confirm that Dorcas Johnson is the daughter of Mary Polly Philips? How would that work?

Stay tuned!

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DNA Shows Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Philips Are My Relatives, But Are They My Ancestors? – 52 Ancestors #350

One of the requests by several people for 2022 article topics revolved in some way around solving challenges and showing my work.

In this case, I’m going to show both my work and the work of a newly-discovered cousin, Greg Simkins.

Let’s start by reminding you of something I said last week in Darcus Johnson (c1750-c1835) Chain Carrier – Say What??.

Darcus is reported in many trees to be the daughter of Peter Johnson (Johnston, Johnstone) and his wife Mary Polly Phillips. Peter reportedly lived in Pennsylvania and died in Allegheny County, PA. However, I am FAR from convinced that this couple was Darcus’s parents.

The distance from Shenandoah County, VA to Allegheny Co., PA is prohibitive for courting.

The Shenandoah County records need to be thoroughly researched with various Johnson families reconstructed. I’m hoping that perhaps someone has already done that and a Johnson family was living not terribly far from Jacob Dobkins father, John Dobkins. That would be the place to start.

Greg, Peter Johnson’s descendant through son James reached out to me.

Hi Roberta, I read your essay today on Dorcas Johnson. I wanted to write to you because I am a descendant of Dorcas’s brother James and have DNA matches to support our connection.

Clearly, I was very interested, but I learned long ago not to get too excited.

Then, Greg kindly shared his tree and DNA results with me. He was also generous enough to allow me to incorporate his information into this article. So yes, this article is possible entirely thanks to Greg.

I was guardedly excited about Greg’s communication, but I wasn’t prepared for the HUGE shock about to follow!

Whoa!!!

Greg has done his homework and stayed after school.

First, he tracked the descendants of Peter through all of his children, to present, where possible, and added them into his trees at the genealogy vendors. The vendors can do much better work for you with as much ammunition as you can provide.

Second, he has doggedly tracked matches at MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, Ancestry and GEDmatch that descend through Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips’s children. By doggedly, I mean he has spent hundreds to thousands of hours by his estimation – and based on what I see, I would certainly agree. In doing so, he pushed his own line back from his great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Johnson, three generations to Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips – and proved its accuracy using DNA.

Altogether, Greg has identified almost 250 matches that descend from Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips, and mapped those segments across his chromosomes.

Greg made notes for each match by entering the number of matching cMs into their profile names as a suffix in his tree. For example, “David Johnson 10cM” instead of “David Johnson Jr.” or Sr.  That way, it’s easy to quickly see who is a match and by how much. Brilliant! I’m adopting that strategy. It won’t affect what other people see, because no living people are shown in trees.

Of course, DNA is on top of traditional genealogical research that we are all familiar with that connects people via deeds, wills, and other records.

Additionally, Greg records research information for individuals as a word document or pdf file and attaches them as documents to the person’s profile in his tree. His tree is searchable and shareable, so this means those resources are available to other people too. We want other researchers to find us and our records for EXACTLY this reason.

One thing to note is that if you are using Ancestry and use the Notes function on profiles, the notes don’t show to people with whom you share your tree, but links, sources and attached documents do.

Greg has included both “Other Sources” and “Web Links” below.

Click images to enlarge

For example, if I click on Greg’s link to Historic Pittsburg, I see the land grant location for Peter Johnson. Wow, this was unexpected.

Ok, I love maps and I’m hooked. Notice the names of the neighbors too. You’ll see Applegate again. Also, note that Thomas Applegate sold his patent to Richard Johnson. Remember the FAN club – friends and neighbors.

Ok, back to DNA for now.

The Children

Ancestors with large families are the best for finding present-day DNA matches. Of course, that’s because there are more candidates. More descendants and that means more people who might test someplace. This is also why you want to be sure to have your DNA in all 4 major DNA vendors, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, Ancestry, and 23andMe, plus GEDmatch.

This is a portion of Greg’s tree that includes the children of Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips. Note that two Johnson females married Dobkins men. I’ve always suspected that Margaret Johnson and Dorcas Johnson were sisters, but unless we could use mitochondrial DNA, or figure out who the parents of either Peter or Mary are, there’s no good way to prove it.

We’re gathering some very valuable evidence.

At Ancestry, Greg has 85 matches on his ThruLines for Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips, respectively.

  • Of course, Greg has the most matches for his own line through Peter’s son James Johnson (1752-1826) who married Elizabeth Lindsay and died in Lawrence County, IL: 35 matches.
  • Next is Margaret Johnson (1780-1833) who married Evan Dobkins in Dunmore County, VA, brother of my ancestor, Jacob Dobkins. She probably died in Cocke County, TN: 25 matches. Dorcas named one of her children Margaret and Margaret may have named one of her children Dorcas.
  • Solomon Johnson (1765-1843) married Frances Warne and stayed in Allegheny County, PA: 8 matches. Notice one of Peter’s neighbors was a Warner family. Dorcas named one of her children Solomon, a fairly unusual name.
  • Mary Johnson (1770-1833) married Garrett Wall Applegate and died in Harrison County, IN: 7 matches. The Applegates were Peter Johnson’s neighbors and Garrett served in the Revolutionary War in the 8th VA Regiment. Clearly, some of these settlers came from or spent time in Virginia.
  • Dorcas Johnson (c1750-c1835) married Jacob Dobkins in Dunmore County, VA and died in Claiborne County, TN: 5 matches.
  • Peter Johnson (1753-1840) married Eleanor “Nellie” Peter and died in Jefferson County, KY: 4 matches.
  • Richard D. Johnson (1752-1818) married Hannah Dungan and Elizabeth Nash: 2 matches.

Unfortunately, since most of those matches are between 7 and 20 cM, and Ancestry does not display shared matches under 20 cM, we can’t use Ancestry’s comparison tool to see if these people also match each other. That’s VERY unfortunate and extremely frustrating.

Greg matches more people from this line at MyHeritage, GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA, and thankfully, those vendors all three provide segment information AND shared match information.

Cousins Are Critical

While Greg, unfortunately, does not match me, he does match several of my cousins whose tests I manage.

Two of those cousins both descend from Darcus Johnson through her daughter Jenny Dobkins, through her daughter Elizabeth Campbell, through her daughter Rutha Dodson, through her sons John Y. Estes and Lazarus Estes, respectively.

Another descends through Jenny Dobkins son, William Newton Campbell for another 5 generations. These individuals all match on a 17 cM segment of Chromosome 20.

Other known cousins match Greg on different chromosomes.

Looking at their shared matches at FamilyTreeDNA, we find more Dobkins, Dodson and Campbell cousins, some that were previously unknown to me. One of those cousins also descends through William Newton Campbell’s daughter for another 4 generations and matches on the same segment of chromosome 20.

DNAPainter

Emails have been flying back and forth between me and Greg, each one with some piece of information that one of us has found that we want to be sure the other has too. Having research buddies is wonderful!

Then, Greg sent a screenshot of a portion of his chromosome 20 from DNAPainter that includes the DNA of the cousins mentioned above. I didn’t realize Greg was using DNAPainter. It’s an understatement to say I’m thrilled because DNAPainter does the cross-vendor triangulation work automatically for you.

Just look at all of those matches that carry this Johnson/Phillips segment of chromosome 20. Holy chimloda.

Greg also sent his DNAPainter sharing link, and it turns out that this is only a partial list, with one of my cousins highlighted, dead center in the list of Peter Johnson’s and Mary Polly Phillip’s descendants. Greg has even more not shown.

Trying Not to Jump to Conclusions

I’m trying so hard NOT to jump to conclusions, but this is just SOOOO EXCITING!

Little doubt remains that indeed, Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips are the parents of Dorcas Johnson who married Jacob Dobkins and also of Margaret Johnson who married Evan Dobkins. I’ve eliminated the possibility of other common ancestors, as much as possible, and verified that the descent is through multiple children. This particular segment on chromosome 20 reaches across multiple children’s lines.

I say little doubt remains, because some doubt does remain. It’s possible that perhaps Dorcas and her sister weren’t actually daughters of Peter Johnson, but maybe children of his brother? Peter was reported to have a brother James, a sheriff in Cumberland County, PA. but again, we lack proof. If Dorcas is Peter Johnson’s niece, her descendants would still be expected to match some of the descendants of Peter and his wife.

Also complicating matters is the fact that Greg also has a Campbell brick wall with a James Campbell born about 1790 who lived in Fayette County, PA, in the far northwest corner of the state. Therefore, DNA matches through Dorcas Johnson Dobkins’s daughters Jenny and Elizabeth who married Campbell brothers need to be verified through her children’s lines that do NOT descend through her daughters who married Campbell men.

Nagging Questions

I know, I’m being a spoilsport, but I still have questions that need answers.

For example, I still need to account for how the Johnson girls managed to get to Shenandoah County, VA (Dunmore County at that time) to meet the Dobkins boys, spend enough time there to court, and then marry Evan and Jacob nine months apart in 1775. Surely they were living there. Young women simply did not travel, especially not great distances, and marriages occurred in the bride’s home county. Yet, they married in Shenandoah County, VA, not in PA.

What About the Records?

We are by no means done. In fact, I’ve just begun. I have some catching up to do. Greg has focused on Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips in Pennsylvania. I need to focus on Virginia.

Of course, the next challenge is actual records.

What exists and what doesn’t? FamilySearch provides a list for Dunmore County, here, and Shenandoah, here.

Was Peter Johnson ever in Dunmore County that became Shenandoah County, VA, and if so when and where? If not, how the heck did his two daughters marry the Dobkins boys in 1775? Was there another Johnson man in Dunmore during that time? Was it James?

Where was Peter Johnson in 1775 when Dorcas and Margaret were marrying? Can we positively account for him in Pennsylvania or elsewhere?

Some information has been published about Peter Johnson, but those critical years are unaccounted for.

It appears that the Virginia Archives has a copy of the 1774-1776 rent rolls for Dunmore County, but they aren’t online. That’s the best place to start. Fingers crossed for one Peter Johnson living right beside John Dobkins, Jacob’s father. Now THAT would convince me.

Stay tuned!

Note – If you’d like to view Greg’s tree at Ancestry, its name is “MyHeritage Tree Simkins” and you can find it by searching for Maude Gertrude Wilson born in 1876 in Logan County, Illinois, died January 27, 1950 in Ramsey County, Minnesota, and married Harry A. Simkins. Elizabeth Ann Johnson (1830-1874) is Maude’s grandmother.

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WikiTree Challenge Fun – It’s My Turn!

For the past year, WikiTree has been having a weekly Challenge where volunteers work with the genealogy of guests.

Every Wednesday at 8 PM Eastern, a publicly viewable reveal is held for the guest from the week before, and the guest for the new week is introduced.

This week, I’m fortunate enough to be the guest and it’s going to be like Christmas early. If you’re interested, you can view last evening’s kickoff, here.

As an added bonus, Shelley, last week’s guest and I discovered that multiple of our ancestors lived in the same places and even attended the same church. Serendipity at work. I have brick walls. She does too. Maybe Shelley and I are related. Wouldn’t THAT be fun!!!

Want to work on a Challenge or learn more? There’s a great video here.

You can sign up for a Challenge team here, but you don’t have to. Anyone can research and add information to WikiTree profiles. You are most welcome to work on mine this week. In fact, I’m hoping that people with common ancestors will improve the information available. Maybe you’ll discover information that’s new to you too!

The Goal

The goal, broadly speaking, is for WikiTree to provide the most complete, documented, accurate genealogy in a one-large-tree format.

Before WikiTree, I was skeptical and discouraged about big one-single-trees because there were (are) so many errors, but WikiTree is different because it’s collaborative, genial and there are people available to help resolve any issues. Did I mention that everyone is a volunteer?

I enjoy WikiTree. WikiTree is free and allows descendants to enter their Y and mitochondrial information, as well as their GEDmatch ID for autosomal.

WikiTree now has about 27 million-ish profiles, so assuredly there’s something there for everyone.

Challenge is Fair Game

How do volunteers work with genealogy during the challenge? Pretty much any way you want!

People:

  • Break down brick walls (my favorite)
  • Find interesting information about known ancestors
  • Add data and detailed information
  • Provide proofs
  • Upload photos and documents
  • Correct information
  • Saw off branches (yep, it happens)

Volunteers who work on the challenge can accrue points, but it’s more about solving puzzles.

If you want to research, here’s my tree on WikiTree. I’m RobertaEstes13 at Ancestry and you can find my tree by searching for my father, William Sterling Estes 1902-1963. No, it’s not cheating to use every resource available.

Of course, everything is game. I tried to add at least the basic information at WikiTree for all of my known and proven ancestors ahead of time because I didn’t want people to replow a field I had already plowed.

I also made notes when people or data previously added was questionable or needed documentation. I also add each of the 52 Ancestors articles I’ve written about many ancestors.

Brick Walls Set in Concrete

I’ve created a list of my most painful, particularly difficult, brick walls that need attention. I’m hoping that maybe someone else either has that same ancestor, or perhaps has experience in the region. Something. Anything.

James Lee Claxton’s father

I feel like this one is so close, but so far away. We first find James Lee Claxton (Clarkson) in Russell County, VA in 1799. He married and shortly thereafter, moved down the valley to Claiborne County, TN. James died in 1815 in the War of 1812, and thankfully, his widow Sarah Cook, provided information in her land and pension applications. The surname is spelled both Clarkson and Claxton in various places, but based on Y DNA matches, the spelling seems to be Claxton in the other family who shares an earlier ancestor with my James.

In the Claxton Y DNA project, James’s descendants match with a group of people from Bedford County, TN, whose earliest known ancestor is James Claxton born about 1746 and eventually found in Granville Co., North Carolina in 1769. He may be connected to an early Francis Claxton from Bertie County.

Two genealogists compiled information about this line on a now somewhat dated website. Some links are broken, but the data is still quite useful. However, a lovely summary can be found, here.

James Claxton born about 1746, reportedly, had a son James who was found in 1798 in Sumner County, TN, so my James could not be the son of James born in 1746 if this is accurate. However, based on autosomal DNA matches between the two groups, these two lines, meaning mine and the Bedford County line, can’t be very distantly removed.

The James from North Carolina is named in 1784 as the executor of the will of John Hatcher whose wife, Mary, is proven Native based on their son’s Revolutionary War testimony. We don’t know why James was named as executor, or if they were related. It would be easy to assume that he was married to a daughter, but there is no evidence for that either.

Unfortunately, there are no other Claxton Y DNA matches that can push this line further back in time, anyplace.

I wrote about James Lee Claxton, here and his WikiTree profile is here.

Joel Cook and Family

Sarah’s says, in her pension application, that her father was Joel Cook and he is quite a conundrum. Based on the history of the region, he was clearly born elsewhere and settled in Russell County about 1795, as the frontier was settled. He is associated with a Clayton (Claton) Cook who moved to Kentucky about 1794, then back, then back to Kentucky again.

Records are sparse. Joel sells his land in 1816. It has been suggested that he migrated to Floyd County, KY, or perhaps elsewhere, along with Clayton, but I don’t have any evidence of that – or anything else for that matter.

Joel arrived out of thin air and disappeared into thin air. The only other hint we have is that a young man, Henry Cook, served as a drummer in the War of 1812 from Claiborne County, TN, and died in the service. It’s certainly possible that he was Sarah’s younger brother or maybe nephew.

We don’t have Y DNA from this line. If the Floyd County Cook group Y DNA tests, it would be nice to know if any of those people match any of Sarah Cook’s descendants.

I haven’t written about either Sarah or her father, Joel, but Sarah’s Wikitree profile is here and Joel’s is here.

By the way, I inadvertently think I and other early genealogists were responsible for the misinformation on her profile that Sarah’s birth surname is Helloms. In 1850 she is living with a man, John Helloms, 5 years younger than she is who is listed as an “idiot.” It was assumed that this was her brother and her surname was assigned as Helloms before we had her pension application. Now I suspect that as a widow, she may have been paid by the Hancock County court to take care of him. Court records have burned. There may be a connection with this family however, as she was assigned as the administrator of a William Hulloms estate in Claiborne County in 1820, not long after her husband’s death.

Unfortunately, Helloms as Sarah’s maiden name won’t seem to die, no matter how many times I saw that branch off of the tree. Having said that, it’s probable that somehow, given her relatively close involvement with Helloms men twice, 30 years apart, that she is somehow related.

Charles Campbell’s Father

John Campbell born about 1772 and George Campbell born about 1770, probably in Virginia, are believed to be the sons of Charles Campbell who lived in Hawkins County, TN. Unfortunately, Charles, who died about 1825, had no will and much to my chagrin, the deed for his land after his death was never actually recorded.

The Y DNA clearly provides matching to the Campbell line from Inverary, Argylishire, Scotland. Both the migration path and neighbors combined with DNA matching suggests strongly that Charles migrated from the Orange/Augusta/Rockingham County portion of Virginia.

I chased a hot lead based on matches that suggest Gilbert Campbell’s line and wrote about that, here. Gilbert had a son named Charles, but in-depth research indicates that his son Charles is probably accounted for in Virginia. Gilbert did have a brother or son named James. We don’t know who the parents of James and Gilbert were and that’s key to this equation.

Oral history suggests a connection with a James Campbell. It’s possible that this John and this George were a different John and George than Charles jointly sold land to, although it’s highly doubtful.

Both John and George Campbell married Dobkins sisters, daughters of Jacob Dobkins who lived up the road from Charles Campbell before the entire Dobkins/Campbell group moved to Claiborne County, TN together about 1800.

I wrote about John Campbell, here and his WikiTree profile is here. Charles Campbell’s story is here and his profile is here.

Julien Lord or Lore’s Origins

Julien Lord, born someplace about 1652, probably in France, is one of the early Acadian settlers. Julien is listed in 1665 on a list of soldiers who sailed for Nova Scotia. He would only have been 13. He is later listed on various census documents which is how we obtained his birth year.

I know that recently additional documents have become available in France and I’m hopeful that perhaps his association with the other men might pinpoint an area and we can find Julien’s parents. Of course, the surname could have been spelled much differently in France – Lohr, Loire, Loree, etc. I can’t help but wonder if he was an orphan and that’s why he was shipped out.

Julien Lord’s WikiTree profile is here.

Magdalene (birth surname unknown,) wife of Philip Jacob Miller

This one is driving me insane. Magdalena was born sometime about 1730, probably in Pennsylvania among the Brethren or possibly Mennonite families. She married Philip Jacob Miller, a Brethren man, about 1751, just as he was moving from York County, PA to Frederick Co., VA.

Magdalena was assuredly Brethren or Mennonite, because marriages outside the faith were not allowed at that time and those who did were effectively shunned unless the spouse converted.

Magdalena’s surname was rumored to be Rochette for years, but thorough research produced not one shred of evidence that Rochette is accurate. There aren’t even any Rochette families living anyplace close. Everyone has heard that rumor, and no one knows it’s source.

We do have Magdalena’s mitochondrial DNA signature. Her haplogroup is H6a1a and she has 2 exact matches. One match provided no genealogical information but the other match showed her ancestor as Amanda Troutwine (1872-1946) who married William Hofaker. I did some genealogical sleuthing several years ago and based on superficial information, found the following lineage for Amanda Troutwine.

  • Sarah Baker 1851-1923 and George Troutwine

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/141291811

  • Elias Baker and Mary Baker 1824-1897

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/141291811

  • Jacob Baker and Sarah Michael 1801-1892

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/10806589/mary-baker

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/36831933/sarah-baker

  • Mary Myers 1775-1849 buried Clayton, Montgomery Co., Ohio m Jacob Michael

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/38045030/mary-michael

https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/91021180/person/74020727592/facts?_phsrc=fxJ1330&_phstart=successSource

  • Johannes Meyer and Margaretha Scherman 1750-1825

https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/91021180/person/280002009231/facts

I have not confirmed this information. If it is accurate, Margaretha born in 1750 could be Magdalena’s sister or niece, perhaps?

I created a tiny tree and discovered that Mary’s husband lived in Frederick County, Maryland, the same place that Philip Jacob Miller and Magdalena lived. Mary died in Montgomery County, Ohio, the same place that many Brethren families settled and very close to the Miller men.

Mary’s WikiTree profile is here and shows her mother, Margaret Sherman/Schuermann to have been born about 1750 in York County, PA, the location where the Miller family was living. The question is, who was Margaret’s mother. Is this the clue to solving the identity of Magdalena, the wife of Philip Jacob Miller?

I wrote about Magdalena, here, including a list of known Brethren families, and her WikiTree profile is here.

Barbara (birth surname unknown) Estes Mitochondrial DNA

Barbara (birth surname unknown) Estes, born sometime around 1670 was (at least) the second wife of Abraham Estes.

Abraham’s first wife, Barbara Burton, died in England before he immigrated in 1673.

For years, on almost every tree, her surname has been shown as Brock, but there is absolutely no evidence that’s correct.

Abraham’s daughter, Barbara Estes married Henry Brock, so there was indeed a Barbara Brock, but this person was the daughter, NOT the wife of Abraham Estes. A man wrote a novel, as in fiction, in the 1980s that assigned Abraham’s wife’s surname as Brock and that myth simply won’t die.

I would very much like to find a mitochondrial descendant of Barbara, Abraham’s wife, mother to his children, to take a mitochondrial DNA test. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited from a direct line of matrilineal ancestors. Anyone today, male or female, who descends from Barbara directly through all females from any of her daughters carries Barbara’s mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondrial DNA may lead us to Barbara’s parents.

I wrote about Barbara, here, and her WikiTree profile is here.

Bonus Round – Elizabeth (surname unknown,) wife of Stephen Ulrich

Elizabeth was born about 1725, possibly in Germany and if not, probably in Pennsylvania. She married Stephen Ulrich sometime around 1743 and died in around 1782 in Frederick County, Maryland. Unfortunately, her identity has been confused with that of her daughter, Elizabeth Ulrich (1757-1832) who married Daniel Miller. And as if that wasn’t confusing enough, her mother-in-law’s name was also Elizabeth, so we had three Elizabeth Ulrich’s three generations in a row.

We have two testers who believe they descend from Elizabeth. Unfortunately, one of them is incorrect, and I have no idea which one.

Tester #1 shows that he descends from Hannah Susan Ulrich (1762-1798) who married Henry Adams Puterbaugh (1761-1839), is haplogroup U2e1, and matches with someone whose most distant ancestor is Elizabeth Rench born in 1787 in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania and died in 1858 in Ohio. I did as much research as possible and wrote about that, here.

Then, I went to visit Elizabeth’s WikiTree profile here which, I might note, reflects the long-standing oral history that Elizabeth’s birth surname was Cripe.

I noticed at WikiTree that another individual has indicated that he has tested for Elizabeth’s mitochondrial DNA, and it’s an entirely different haplogroup, H6a1b3. Uh oh!

He descends through daughter, Susannah Ulrich who married Jacob I. Puterbaugh.

My heart sank. I don’t know who is right and who is wrong, but both can’t be correct. Unless of course Stephen Ulrich was married twice.

My tester’s most distant ancestor on WikiTree is found here. If the genealogy is accurate, her line will connect with Hannah Susan Ulrich (1762-1798) who married Henry Adams Puterbaugh (1761-1839).

A third mitochondrial DNA tester through a different daughter would also break this tie. Anybody descend from Elizabeth, wife of Stephen Ulrich, through all females? If so, please raise your hand!

WikiTree Challenge Results Next Wednesday

I can hardly wait until next Wednesday’s reveal to see what so many wonderful volunteers will find. Breaking through tough brick walls would be wonderful, but so would anything.

I’m excited and oh so very grateful for this opportunity.

If you’re not familiar with WikiTree, take a look for yourself.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

A Triangulation Checklist Born From the Question; “Why NOT Use Close Relatives for Triangulation?”

One of my readers asked why we don’t use close relatives for triangulation.

This is a great question because not using close relatives for triangulation seems counter-intuitive.

I used to ask my kids and eventually my students and customers if they wanted the quick short answer or the longer educational answer.

The short answer is “because close relatives are too close to reliably form the third leg of the triangle.” Since you share so much DNA with close relatives, someone matching you who is identical by chance can also match them for exactly the same reason.

If you trust me and you’re good with that answer, wonderful. But I hope you’ll keep reading because there’s so much to consider, not to mention a few gotchas. I’ll share my methodology, techniques, and workarounds.

We’ll also discuss absolutely wonderful ways to utilize close relatives in the genetic genealogical process – just not for triangulation.

At the end of this article, I’ve provided a working triangulation checklist for you to use when evaluating your matches.

Let’s go!

The Step-by-Step Educational Answer😊

Some people see “evidence” they believe conflicts with the concept that you should not use close relatives for triangulation. I understand that, because I’ve gone down that rathole too, so I’m providing the “educational answer” that explains exactly WHY you should not use close relatives for triangulation – and what you should do.

Of course, we need to answer the question, “Who actually are close relatives?”

I’ll explain the best ways to best utilize close relatives in genetic genealogy, and why some matches are deceptive.

You’ll need to understand the underpinnings of DNA inheritance and also of how the different vendors handle DNA matching behind the scenes.

The purpose of autosomal DNA triangulation is to confirm that a segment is passed down from a particular ancestor to you and a specific set of your matches.

Triangulation, of course, implies 3, so at least three people must all match each other on a reasonably sized portion of the same DNA segment for triangulation to occur.

Matching just one person only provides you with one path to that common ancestor. It’s possible that you match that person due to a different ancestor that you aren’t aware of, or due to chance recombination of DNA.

It’s possible that your or your match inherited part of that DNA from your maternal side and part from your paternal side, meaning that you are matching that other person’s DNA by chance.

I wrote about identical by descent (IBD), which is an accurate genealogically meaningful match, and identical by chance (IBC) which is a false match, in the article Concepts – Identical by…Descent, State, Population and Chance.

I really want you to understand why close relatives really shouldn’t be used for triangulation, and HOW close relative matches should be used, so we’re going to discuss all of the factors that affect and influence this topic – both the obvious and little-understood.

  • Legitimate Matches
  • Inheritance and Triangulation
  • Parental Cross-Matching
  • Parental Phasing
  • Automatic Phasing at FamilyTreeDNA
  • Parental Phasing Caveats
  • Pedigree Collapse
  • Endogamy
  • How Many Identical-by-Chance Matches Will I Have?
  • DNA Doesn’t Skip Generations (Seriously, It Doesn’t)
  • Your Parents Have DNA That You Don’t (And How to Use It)
  • No DNA Match Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Related
  • Imputation
  • Ancestry Issues and Workarounds
  • Testing Close Relatives is VERY Useful – Just Not for Triangulation
  • Triangulated Matches
  • Building Triangulation Evidence – Ingredients and a Recipe
  • Aunts/Uncles
  • Siblings
  • How False Positives Work and How to Avoid Them
  • Distant Cousins Are Best for Triangulation & Here’s Why
  • Where Are We? A Triangulation Checklist for You!
  • The Bottom Line

Don’t worry, these sections are logical and concise. I considered making this into multiple articles, but I really want it in one place for you. I’ve created lots of graphics with examples to help out.

Let’s start by dispelling a myth.

DNA Doesn’t Skip Generations!

Recently, someone emailed to let me know that they had “stopped listening to me” in a presentation when I said that if a match did not also match one of your parents, it was a false match. That person informed me that they had worked on their tree for three years at Ancestry and they have “proof” of DNA skipping generations.

Nope, sorry. That really doesn’t happen, but there are circumstances when a person who doesn’t understand either how DNA works, or how the vendor they are using presents DNA results could misunderstand or misinterpret the results.

You can watch my presentation, RootsTech session, DNA Triangulation: What, Why and How, for free here. I’m thrilled that this session is now being used in courses at two different universities.

DNA really doesn’t skip generations. You CANNOT inherit DNA that your parents didn’t have.

Full stop.

Your children cannot inherit DNA from you that you don’t carry. If you don’t have that DNA, your children and their descendants can’t have it either, at least not from you. They of course do inherit DNA from their other parent.

I think historically, the “skipping generations” commentary was connected to traits. For example, Susie has dimples (or whatever) and so did her maternal grandmother, but her mother did not, so Susie’s dimples were said to have “skipped a generation.” Of course, we don’t know anything about Susie’s other grandparents, if Susie’s parents share ancestors, recessive/dominant genes or even how many genetic locations are involved with the inheritance of “dimples,” but I digress.

DNA skipping generations is a fallacy.

You cannot legitimately match someone that your parent does not, at least not through that parent’s side of the tree.

But here’s the caveat. You can’t match someone one of your parents doesn’t with the rare exception of:

  • Relatively recent pedigree collapse that occurs when you have the same ancestors on both sides of your tree, meaning your parents are related, AND
  • The process of recombination just happened to split and recombine a segment of DNA in segments too small for your match to match your parents individually, but large enough when recombined to match you.

We’ll talk about that more in a minute.

However, the person working with Ancestry trees can’t make this determination because Ancestry doesn’t provide segment information. Ancestry also handles DNA differently than other vendors, which we’ll also discuss shortly.

We’ll review all of this, but let’s start at the beginning and explain how to determine if our matches are legitimate, or not.

Legitimate Matches

Legitimate matches occur when the DNA of your ancestor is passed from that ancestor to their descendants, and eventually to you and a match in an unbroken pathway.

Unbroken means that every ancestor between you and that ancestor carried and then passed on the segment of the ancestor’s DNA that you carry today. The same is true for your match who carries the same segment of DNA from your common ancestor.

False positive matches occur when the DNA of a male and female combine randomly to look like a legitimate match to someone else.

Thankfully, there are ways to tell the difference.

Inheritance and Triangulation

Remember, you inherit two copies of each of your chromosomes 1-22, one copy from your mother and one from your father. You inherit half of the DNA that each parent carries, but it’s mixed together in you so the labs can’t readily tell which nucleotide, A, C, T, or G you received from which parent. I’m showing your maternal and paternal DNA in the graphic below, stacked neatly together in a column – but in reality, it could be AC in one position and CA in the next.

For matching all that matters is the nucleotide that matches your match is present in one of those two locations. In this case, A for your mother’s side and C for your father’s side. If you’re interested, you can read more about that in the article, Hit a Genealogy Home Run Using Your Double-Sided Two-Faced Chromosomes While Avoiding Imposters.

You can see in this example that you inherited all As from your Mom and all Cs from your Dad.

  • A legitimate maternal match would match you on all As on this particular example segment.
  • A legitimate paternal match would match you on all Cs on this particular segment.
  • A false positive match will match you on some random combination of As and Cs that make it look like they match you legitimately, but they don’t.
  • A false positive match will NOT match either your mother or your father.

To be very clear, technically a false positive match DOES match your DNA – but they don’t match your DNA because you share a common ancestor with your match. They match you because random recombination on their side causes you to match each other by chance.

In other words, if part of your DNA came from your Mom’s side and part from your Dad’s but it randomly fell in the correct positional order, you’d still match someone whose DNA was from only their mother or father’s side. That’s exactly the situation shown above and below.

Looking at our example again, it’s evident that your identical by chance (IBC) match’s A locations (1, 3, 5, 7 & 9) will match your Mom. C locations (2, 4, 6 8, & 10) will match your Dad, but the nonmatching segments interleaved in-between that match alternating parents will prevent your match from matching either of your parents. In other words, out of 10 contiguous locations in our example, your IBC match has 5 As alternated with 5 Cs, so they won’t match either of your parents who have 10 As or 10 Cs in a row.

This recombination effect can work in either direction. Either or both matching people’s DNA could be randomly mixed causing them to match each other, but not their parents.

Regardless of whose DNA is zigzagging back and forth between maternal and paternal, the match is not genealogical and does not confirm a common ancestor.

This is exactly why triangulation works and is crucial.

If you legitimately match a third person, shown below, on your maternal side, they will match you, your first legitimate maternal match, and your Mom because they carry all As. But they WON’T match the person who is matching you because they are identical by chance, shown in grey below.

The only person your identical by chance match matches in this group is you because they match you because of the chance recombination of parental DNA.

That third person WILL also match all other legitimate maternal matches on this segment.

In the graphic above, we see that while the grey identical by chance person matches you because of the random combination of As from your mother and Cs from your father, your legitimate maternal matches won’t match your identical by chance match.

This is the first step in identifying false matches.

Parental Cross-Matching

Removing the identical by chance match, and adding in the parents of your legitimate maternal match, we see that your maternal match, above, matches you because you both have all As inherited from one parent, not from a combination of both parents.

We know that because we can see the DNA of both parents of both matches in this example.

The ideal situation occurs when two people match and they have both had their parents tested. We need to see if each person matches the other person’s parents.

We can see that you do NOT match your match’s father and your match does NOT match your father.

You do match your match’s mother and your match does match your mother. I refer to this as Parental Cross-matching.

Your legitimate maternal matches will also match each other and your mother if she is available for testing.

All the people in yellow match each other, while the two parents in gray do not match any of your matches. An entire group of legitimate maternal matches on this segment, no matter how many, will all match each other.

If another person matches you and the other yellow people, you’ll still need to see if you match their parents, because if not, that means they are matching you on all As because their two parents DNA combined just happened, by chance, to contribute an A in all of those positions.

In this last example, your new match, in green, matches you, your legitimate match and both of your mothers, BUT, none of the four yellow people match either of the new match’s parents. You can see that the new green match inherited their As from the DNA of their mother and father both, randomly zigzagging back and forth.

The four yellow matches phase parentally as we just proved with cross matching to parents. The new match at first glance appears to be a legitimate match because they match all of the yellow people – but they aren’t because the yellow people don’t match the green person’s parents.

To tell the difference between legitimate matches and identical by chance matches, you need two things, in order.

  • Parental matching known as parental phasing along with parental cross-matching, if possible, AND
  • Legitimate identical by descent (IBD) triangulated matches

If you have the ability to perform parental matching, called phasing, that’s the easiest first step in eliminating identical by chance matches. However, few match pairs will have parents for everyone. You can use triangulation without parental phasing if parents aren’t available.

Let’s talk about both, including when and how close relatives can and cannot be used.

Parental Phasing

The technique of confirming your match to be legitimate by your match also matching one of your parents is called parental phasing.

If we have the parents of both people in a match pair available for matching, we can easily tell if the match does NOT match either parent. That’s Parental Cross Matching. If either match does NOT match one of the other person’s parents, the match is identical by chance, also known as a false positive.

See how easy that was!

If you, for example, is the only person in your match pair to have parents available, then you can parentally phase the match on your side if your match matches your parents. However, because your match’s parents are unavailable, your match to them cannon tbe verified as legitimate on their side. So you are not phased to their parents.

If you only have one of your parents available for matching, and your match does not match that parent, you CANNOT presume that because your match does NOT match that parent, the match is a legitimate match for the other, missing, parent.

There are four possible match conditions:

  • Maternal match
  • Paternal match
  • Matches neither parent which means the match is identical by chance meaning a false positive
  • Matches both parents in the case of pedigree collapse or endogamy

If two matching people do match one parent of both matches (parental cross-matching), then the match is legitimate. In other words, if we match, I need to match one of your parents and you need to match one of mine.

It’s important to compare your matches’ DNA to generationally older direct family members such as parents or grandparents, if that’s possible. If your grandparents are available, it’s possible to phase your matches back another generation.

Automatic Phasing at FamilyTreeDNA

FamilyTreeDNA automatically phases your matches to your parents if you test that parent, create or upload a GEDCOM file, and link your test and theirs to your tree in the proper places.

FamilyTreeDNA‘s Family Matching assigns or “buckets” your matches maternally and paternally. Matches are assigned as maternal or paternal matches if one or both parents have tested.

Additionally, FamilyTreeDNA uses triangulated matches from other linked relatives within your tree even if your parents have not tested. If you don’t have your parents, the more people you identify and link to your tree in the proper place, the more people will be assigned to maternal and paternal buckets. FamilyTreeDNA is the only vendor that does this. I wrote about this process in the article, Triangulation in Action at Family Tree DNA.

Parental Phasing Caveats

There are very rare instances where parental phasing may be technically accurate, but not genealogically relevant. By this, I mean that a parent may actually match one of your matches due to endogamy or a population level match, even if it’s considered a false positive because it’s not relevant in a genealogical timeframe.

Conversely, a parent may not match when the segment is actually legitimate, but it’s quite rare and only when pedigree collapse has occurred in a very specific set of circumstances where both parents share a common ancestor.

Let’s take a look at that.

Pedigree Collapse

It’s not terribly uncommon in the not-too-distant past to find first cousins marrying each other, especially in rather closely-knit religious communities. I encounter this in Brethren, Mennonite and Amish families often where the community was small and out-marrying was frowned upon and highly discouraged. These families and sometimes entire church congregations migrated cross-country together for generations.

When pedigree collapse is present, meaning the mother and father share a common ancestor not far in the past, it is possible to inherit half of one segment from Mom and the other half from Dad where those halves originated with the same ancestral couple.

For example, let’s say the matching segment between you and your match is 12 cM in length, shown below. You inherited the blue segment from your Dad and the neighboring peach segment from Mom – shown just below the segment numbers. You received 6 cM from both parents.

Another person’s DNA does match you, shown in the bottom row, but they are not shown on the DNA match list of either of your parents. That’s because the DNA segments of the parents just happened to recombine in 6 cM pieces, respectively, which is below the 7 cM matching threshold of the vendor in this example.

If the person matched you at 12 cM where you inherited 8 cM from one parent and 4 from the other, that person would show on one parent’s match list, but not the other. They would not be on the parent’s match list who contributed only 4 cM simply because the DNA divided and recombined in that manner. They would match you on a longer segment than they match your parent at 8 cM which you might notice as “odd.”

Let’s look at another example.

click to enlarge image

If the matching segment is 20 cM, the person will match you and both of your parents on different pieces of the same segment, given that both segments are above 7 cM. In this case, your match who matches you at 20 cM will match each of your parents at 10 cM.

You would be able to tell that the end location of Dad’s segment is the same as the start location of Mom’s segment.

This is NOT common and is NOT the “go to” answer when you think someone “should” match your parent and does not. It may be worth considering in known pedigree collapse situations.

You can see why someone observing this phenomenon could “presume” that DNA skipped a generation because the person matches you on segments where they don’t match your parent. But DNA didn’t skip anything at all. This circumstance was caused by a combination of pedigree collapse, random division of DNA, then random recombination in the same location where that same DNA segment was divided earlier. Clearly, this sequence of events is not something that happens often.

If you’ve uploaded your DNA to GEDmatch, you can select the “Are your parents related?” function which scans your DNA file for runs of homozygosity (ROH) where your DNA is exactly the same in both parental locations for a significant distance. This suggests that because you inherited the exact same sequence from both parents, that your parents share an ancestor.

If your parents didn’t inherit the same segment of DNA from both parents, or the segment is too short, then they won’t show as “being related,” even if they do share a common ancestor.

Now, let’s look at the opposite situation. Parental phasing and ROH sometimes do occur when common ancestors are far back in time and the match is not genealogically relevant.

Endogamy

I often see non-genealogical matching occur when dealing with endogamy. Endogamy occurs when an entire population has been isolated genetically for a long time. In this circumstance, a substantial part of the population shares common DNA segments because there were few original population founders. Much of the present-day population carries that same DNA. Many people within that population would match on that segment. Think about the Jewish community and indigenous Americans.

Consider our original example, but this time where much of the endogamous population carries all As in these positions because one of the original founders carried that nucleotide sequence. Many people would match lots of other people regardless of whether they are a close relative or share a distant ancestor.

People with endogamous lines do share relatives, but that matching DNA segment originated in ancestors much further back in time. When dealing with endogamy, I use parental phasing as a first step, if possible, then focus on larger matches, generally 20 cM or greater. Smaller matches either aren’t relevant or you often can’t tell if/how they are.

At FamilyTreeDNA, people with endogamy will find many people bucketed on the “Both” tab meaning they triangulate with people linked on both sides of the tester’s tree.

An example of a Jewish person’s bucketed matches based on triangulation with relatives linked in their tree is shown above.

Your siblings, their children, and your children will be related on both your mother’s and father’s sides, but other people typically won’t be unless you have experienced either pedigree collapse where you are related both maternally and paternally through the same ancestors or you descend from an endogamous population.

How Many Identical-by-Chance Matches Will I Have?

If you have both parents available to test, and you’re not dealing with either pedigree collapse or endogamy, you’ll likely find that about 15-20% of your matches don’t match your parents on the same segment and are identical by chance.

With endogamy, you’ll have MANY more matches on your endogamous lines and you’ll have some irrelevant matches, often referred to as “false positive” matches even though they technically aren’t, even using parental phasing.

Your Parents Have DNA That You Don’t

Sometimes people are confused when reviewing their matches and their parent’s match to the same person, especially when they match someone and their parent matches them on a different or an additional segment.

If you match someone on a specific segment and your parents do not, that’s a false positive FOR THAT SEGMENT. Every segment has its own individual history and should be evaluated individually. You can match someone on two segments, one from each parent. Or three segments, one from each parent and one that’s identical by chance. Don’t assume.

Often, your match will match both you and your parent on the same segment – which is a legitimate parentally phased match.

But what if your match matches your parent on a different segment where they don’t match you? That’s a false positive match for you.

Keep in mind that it is possible for one of your matches to match your parent on a separate or an additional segment that IS legitimate. You simply didn’t inherit that particular segment from your parent.

That’s NOT the same situation as someone matching you that does NOT match one of your parents on the same segment – which is an identical by chance or false match.

Your parent having a match that does not match you is the reverse situation.

I have several situations where I match someone on one segment, and they match my parent on the same segment. Additionally, that person matches my parent on another segment that I did NOT inherit from that parent. That’s perfectly normal.

Remember, you only inherit half of your parent’s DNA, so you literally did NOT inherit the other half of their DNA. Your mother, for example, should have twice as many matches as you on her side because roughly half of her matches won’t match you.

That’s exactly why testing your parents and close family members is so critical. Their matches are as valid and relevant to your genealogy as your own. The same is true for other relatives, such as aunts and uncles with whom you share ALL of the same ancestors.

You need to work with your family member’s matches that you don’t share.

No DNA Match Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Related

Some people think that not matching someone on a DNA test is equivalent to saying they aren’t related. Not sharing DNA doesn’t mean you’re not related.

People are often disappointed when they don’t match someone they think they should and interpret that to mean that the testing company is telling them they “aren’t related.” They are upset and take issue with this characterization. But that’s not what it means.

Let’s analyze this a bit further.

First, not sharing DNA with a second cousin once removed (2C1R) or more distant does NOT mean you’re NOT related to that person. It simply means you don’t share any measurable DNA ABOVE THE VENDOR THRESHOLD.

All known second cousins match, but about 10% of third cousins don’t match, and so forth on up the line with each generation further back in time having fewer cousins that match each other.

If you have tested close relatives, check to see if that cousin matches your relatives.

Second, it’s possible to match through the “other” or unexpected parent. I certainly didn’t think this would be the case in my family, because my father is from Appalachia and my mother’s family is primarily from the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, and New England. But I was wrong.

All it took was one German son that settled in Appalachia, and voila, a match through my mother that I surely thought should have been through my father’s side. I have my mother’s DNA and sure enough, my match that I thought should be on my father’s side matches Mom on the same segment where they match me, along with several triangulated matches. Further research confirmed why.

I’ve also encountered situations where I legitimately match someone on both my mother’s and father’s side, on different segments.

Third, imputation can be important for people who don’t match and think they should. Imputation can also cause matching segment length to be overreported.

Ok, so what’s imputation and why do I care?

Imputation

Every DNA vendor today has to use some type of imputation.

Let me explain, in general, what imputation is and why vendors use it.

Over the years, DNA processing vendors who sell DNA chips to testing companies have changed their DNA chips pretty substantially. While genealogical autosomal tests test about 700,000 DNA locations, plus or minus, those locations have changed over time. Today, some of these chips only have 100,000 or so chip locations in common with chips either currently or previously utilized by other vendors.

The vendors who do NOT accept uploads, such as 23andMe or Ancestry, have to develop methods to make their newest customers on their DNA processing vendor’s latest chip compatible with their first customer who was tested on their oldest chip – and all iterations in-between.

Vendors who do accept transfers/uploads from other vendors have to equalize any number of vendors’ chips when their customers upload those files.

Imputation is the scientific way to achieve this cross-platform functionality and has been widely used in the industry since 2017.

Imputation, in essence, fills in the blanks between tested locations with the “most likely” DNA found in the human population based on what’s surrounding the blank location.

Think of the word C_T. There are a limited number of letters and words that are candidates for C_T. If you use the word in a sentence, your odds of accuracy increase dramatically. Think of a genetic string of nucleotides as a sentence.

Imputation can be incorrect and can cause both false positive and false negative matches.

For the most part, imputation does not affect close family matches as much as more distant matches. In other words, imputation is NOT going to cause close family members not to match.

Imputation may cause more distant family members not to match, or to have a false positive match when imputation is incorrect.

Imputation is actually MUCH less problematic than I initially expected.

The most likely effect of imputation is to cause a match to be just above or below the vendor threshold.

How can we minimize the effects of imputation?

  • Generally, the best result will be achieved if both people test at the same vendor where their DNA is processed on the same chip and less imputation is required.
  • Upload the results of both people to both MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA. If your match results are generally consistent at those vendors, imputation is not a factor.
  • GEDmatch does not use imputation but attempts to overcome files with low overlapping regions by allowing larger mismatch areas. I find their matches to be less accurate than at the various vendors.

Additionally, Ancestry has a few complicating factors.

Ancestry Issues

AncestryDNA is different in three ways.

  • Ancestry doesn’t provide segment information so it’s impossible to triangulate or identify the segment or chromosome where people match. There is no chromosome browser or triangulation tool.
  • Ancestry down-weights and removes some segments in areas where they feel that people are “too matchy.” You can read Ancestry’s white papers here and here.

These “personal pileup regions,” as they are known, can be important genealogically. In my case, these are my mother’s Acadian ancestors. Yes, this is an endogamous population and also suffers from pedigree collapse, but since this is only one of my mother’s great-grandparents, this match information is useful and should not be removed.

  • Ancestry doesn’t show matches in common if the shared segments are less than 20cM. Therefore, you may not see someone on a shared match list with a relative when they actually are a shared match.

If two people both match a third person on less than a 20 cM segment at Ancestry, the third person won’t appear on the other person’s shared match list. So, if I match John Doe on 19 cM of DNA, and I looked at the shared matches with my Dad, John Doe does NOT appear on the shared match list of me and my Dad – even though he is a match to both of us at 19 cM.

The only way to determine if John Doe is a shared match is to check my Dad’s and my match list individually, which means Dad and I will need to individually search for John Doe.

Caveat here – Ancestry’s search sometimes does not work correctly.

Might someone who doesn’t understand that the shared match list doesn’t show everyone who shares DNA with both people presume that the ancestral DNA of that ancestor “skipped a generation” because John Doe matches me with a known ancestor, and not Dad on our shared match list? I mean, wouldn’t you think that a shared match would be shown on a tab labeled “Shared Matches,” especially since there is no disclaimer?

Yes, people can be forgiven for believing that somehow DNA “skipped” a generation in this circumstance, especially if they are relatively inexperienced and they don’t understand Ancestry’s anomalies or know that they need to or how to search for matches individually.

Even if John Doe does match me and Dad both, we still need to confirm that it’s on the same segment AND it’s a legitimate match, not IBC. You can’t perform either of these functions at Ancestry, but you can elsewhere.

Ancestry WorkArounds

To obtain this functionality, people can upload their DNA files for free to both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage, companies that do provide full shared DNA reporting (in common with) lists of ALL matches and do provide segment information with chromosome browsers. Furthermore, both provide triangulation in different ways.

Matching is free, but an inexpensive unlock is required at both vendors to access advanced tools such as Family Matching (bucketing) and triangulation at Family Tree DNA and phasing/triangulation at MyHeritage.

I wrote about Triangulation in Action at FamilyTreeDNA, here.

MyHeritage actually brackets triangulated segments for customers on their chromosome browser, including parents, so you get triangulation and parental phasing at the same time if you and your parent have both tested or uploaded your DNA file to MyHeritage. You can upload, for free, here.

In this example, my mother is matching to me in red on the entire length of chromosome 18, of course, and three other maternal cousins triangulate with me and mother inside the bracketed portion of chromosome 18. Please note that if any one of the people included in the chromosome browser comparison do not triangulate, no bracket is drawn around any others who do triangulate. It’s all or nothing. I remove people one by one to see if people triangulate – or build one by one with my mother included.

I wrote about Triangulation in Action at MyHeritage, here.

People can also upload to GEDmatch, a third-party site. While GEDmatch is less reliable for matching, you can adjust your search thresholds which you cannot do at other vendors. I don’t recommend routinely working below 7 cM. I occasionally use GEDmatch to see if a pedigree collapse segment has recombined below another vendor’s segment matching threshold.

Do NOT check the box to prevent hard breaks when selecting the One-to-One comparison. Checking that box allows GEDmatch to combine smaller matching segments into mega-segments for matching.

I wrote about Triangulation in Action at GEDmatch, here.

Transferring/Uploading Your DNA 

If you want to transfer your DNA to one of these vendors, you must download the DNA file from one vendor and upload it to another. That process does NOT remove your DNA file from the vendor where you tested, unless you select that option entirely separately.

I wrote full step-by-step transfer/upload instructions for each vendor, here.

Testing Close Relatives Is VERY Useful – Just Not for Triangulation

Of course, your best bet if you don’t have your parents available to test is to test as many of your grandparents, great-aunts/uncles, aunts, and uncles as possible. Test your siblings as well, because they will have inherited some of the same and some different segments of DNA from your parents – which means they carry different pieces of your ancestors’ DNA.

Just because close relatives don’t make good triangulation candidates doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable. Close relatives are golden because when they DO share a match with you, you know where to start looking for a common ancestor, even if your relative matches that person on a different segment than you do.

Close relatives are also important because they will share pieces of your common ancestor’s DNA that you don’t. Their matches can unlock the answers to your genealogy questions.

Ok, back to triangulation.

Triangulated Matches

A triangulated match is, of course, when three people all descended from a common ancestor and match each other on the same segment of DNA.

That means all three people’s DNA matches each other on that same segment, confirming that the match is not by chance, and that segment did descend from a common ancestor or ancestral couple.

But, is this always true? You’re going to hate this answer…

“It depends.”

You knew that was coming, didn’t you! 😊

It depends on the circumstances and relationships of the three people involved.

  • One of those three people can match the other two by chance, not by descent, especially if two of those people are close relatives to each other.
  • Identical by chance means that one of you didn’t inherit that DNA from one single parent. That zigzag phenomenon.
  • Furthermore, triangulated DNA is only valid as far back as the closest common ancestor of any two of the three people.

Let’s explore some examples.

Building Triangulation Evidence – Ingredients and a Recipe

The strongest case of triangulation is when:

  • You and at least two additional cousins match on the same segment AND
  • Descend through different children of the common ancestral couple

Let’s look at a valid triangulated match.

In this first example, the magenta segment of DNA is at least partially shared by four of the six cousins and triangulates to their common great-grandfather. Let’s say that these cousins then match with two other people descended from different children of their great-great-great-grandparents on this same segment. Then the entire triangulation group will have confirmed that segment’s origin and push the descent of that segment back another two generations.

These people all coalesce into one line with their common great-grandparents.

I’m only showing 3 generations in this triangulated match, but the concept is the same no matter how many generations you reach back in time. Although, over time, segments inherited from any specific ancestor become smaller and smaller until they are no longer passed to the next generation.

In this pedigree chart, we’re only tracking the magenta DNA which is passed generation to generation in descendants.

Eventually, of course, those segments become smaller and indistinguishable as they either aren’t passed on at all or drop below vendor matching thresholds.

This chart shows the average amount of DNA you would carry from each generational ancestor. You inherit half of each parent’s DNA, but back further than that, you don’t receive exactly half of any ancestor’s DNA in any generation. Larger segments are generally cut in two and passed on partially, but smaller segments are often either passed on whole or not at all.

On average, you’ll carry 7 cM of your eight-times-great-grandparents. In reality, you may carry more or you may not carry any – and you are unlikely to carry the same segment as any random other descendants but we know it happens and you’ll find them if enough (or the right) descendants test.

Putting this another way, if you divide all of your approximate 7000 cM of DNA into 7 cM segments of equal length – you’ll have 1000 7 cM segments. So will every other descendant of your eight-times-great-grandparent. You can see how small the chances are of you both inheriting that same exact 7 cM segment through ten inheritance/transmission events, each. Yet it does happen.

I have several triangulated matches with descendants of Charles Dodson and his wife, Anne through multiple of their 9 (or so) children, ten generations back in my tree. Those triangulated matches range from 7-38 cM. It’s possible that those three largest matches at 38 cM could be related through multiple ancestors because we all have holes in our trees – including Anne’s surname.

Click to enlarge image

It helps immensely that Charles Dodson had several children who were quite prolific as well.

Of course, the further back in time, the more “proof” is necessary to eliminate other unknown common ancestors. This is exactly why matching through different children is important for triangulation and ancestor confirmation.

The method we use to confirm the common ancestor is that all of the descendants who match the tester on the same segment all also match each other. This greatly reduces the chances that these people are matching by chance. The more people in the triangulation group, the stronger the evidence. Of course, parental phasing or cross-matching, where available is an added confirmation bonus.

In our magenta inheritance example, we saw that three of the males and one of the females from three different descendants of the great-grandparents all carry at least a portion of that magenta segment of great-grandpa’s DNA.

Now, let’s take a look at a different scenario.

Why can’t siblings or close relatives be used as two of the three people needed for triangulation?

Aunts and Uncles

We know that the best way to determine if a match is valid is by parental phasing – your match also matching to one of your parents.

If both parents aren’t available, looking for close family matches in common with your match is the next hint that genealogists seek.

Let’s say that you and your match both match your aunt or uncle in common or their children.

You and your aunts or uncles matching DNA only pushes your common ancestor back to your grandparents.

At that point, your match is in essence matching to a segment that belongs to your grandparents. Your matches’ DNA, or your grandparents’ DNA could have randomly recombined and you and your aunt/cousins could be matching that third person by chance.

Ok, then, what about siblings?

Siblings

The most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of you and someone who also matches your sibling is your parents. Therefore, you and your sibling actually only count as one “person” in this scenario. In essence, it’s the DNA of your parent(s) that is matching that third person, so it’s not true triangulation. It’s the same situation as above with aunts/uncles, except the common ancestor is closer than your grandparents.

The DNA of your parents could have recombined in both siblings to look like a match to your match’s family. Or vice versa. Remember Parental Cross-Matching.

If you and a sibling inherited EXACTLY the same segment of your Mom’s and Dad’s DNA, and you match someone by chance – that person will match your sibling by chance as well.

In this example, you can see that both siblings 1 and 2 inherited the exact same segments of DNA at the same locations from both of their parents.

Of course, they also inherited segments at different locations that we’re not looking at that won’t match exactly between siblings, unless they are identical twins. But in this case, the inherited segments of both siblings will match someone whose DNA randomly combined with green or magenta dots in these positions to match a cross-section of both parents.

How False Positives Work and How to Avoid Them

We saw in our first example, displayed again above, what a valid triangulated match looks like. Now let’s expand this view and take a look more specifically at how false positive matches occur.

On the left-hand (blue) side of this graphic, we see four siblings that descend through their father from Great-grandpa who contributed that large magenta segment of DNA. That segment becomes reduced in descendants in subsequent generations.

In downstream generations, we can see gold, white and green segments being added to the DNA inherited by the four children from their ancestor’s spouses. Dad’s DNA is shown on the left side of each child, and Mom’s on the right.

  • Blue Children 1 and 2 inherited the same segments of DNA from Mom and Dad. Magenta from Dad and green from Mom.
  • Blue Child 3 inherited two magenta segments from Dad in positions 1 and 2 and one gold segment from Dad in position 3. They inherited all white segments from Mom.
  • Blue Child 4 inherited all gold segments from Dad and all white segments from Mom.

The family on the blue left-hand side is NOT related to the pink family shown at right. That’s important to remember.

I’ve intentionally constructed this graphic so that you can see several identical by chance (IBC) matches.

Child 5, the first pink sibling carries a white segment in position 1 from Dad and gold segments in positions 2 and 3 from Dad. From Mom, they inherited a green segment in position 1, magenta in position 2 and green in position 3.

IBC Match 1 – Looking at the blue siblings, we see that based on the DNA inherited from Pink Child 5’s parents, Pink Child 5 matches Blue Child 4 with white, gold and gold in positions 1-3, even though they weren’t inherited from the same parent in Blue Child 4. I circled this match in blue.

IBC Match 2 – Pink Child 5 also matches Blue Children 1 and 2 (red circles) because Pink Child 5 has green, magenta, and green in positions 1-3 and so do Blue Children 1 and 2. However, Blue Children 1 and 2 inherited the green and magenta segments from Mom and Dad respectively, not just from one parent.

Pink Child 5 matches Blue Children 1, 2 and 4, but not because they match by descent, but because their DNA zigzags back and forth between the blue children’s DNA contributed by both parents.

Therefore, while Pink Child 5 matches three of the Blue Children, they do not match either parent of the Blue Children.

IBC Match 3 – Pink Child 6 matches Blue Child 3 with white, magenta and gold in positions 1-3 based on the same colors of dots in those same positions found in Blue Child 3 – but inherited both paternally and maternally.

You can see that if we had the four parents available to test, that none of the Pink Children would match either the Blue Children’s mother or father and none of the Blue Children would match either of the Pink Children’s mother or father.

This is why we can’t use either siblings or close family relatives for triangulation.

Distant Cousins Are Best for Triangulation & Here’s Why

When triangulating with 3 people, the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) intersection of the closest two people is the place at which triangulation turns into only two lines being compared and ceases being triangulation. Triangle means 3.

If siblings are 2 of the 3 matching people, then their parents are essentially being compared to the third person.

If you, your aunt/uncle, and a third person match, your grandparents are the place in your tree where three lines converge into two.

The same holds true if you’re matching against a sibling pair on your match’s side, or a match and their aunt/uncle, etc.

The further back in your tree you can push that MRCA intersection, the more your triangulated match provides confirming evidence of a common ancestor and that the match is valid and not caused by random recombination.

That’s exactly what the descendants of Charles Dodson have been able to do through triangulation with multiple descendants from several of his children.

It’s also worth mentioning at this point that the reason autosomal DNA testing uses hundreds/thousands of base pairs in a comparison window and not 3 or 6 dots like in my example is that the probability of longer segments of DNA simply randomly matching by chance is reduced with length and SNP density which is the number of SNP locations tested within that cM range.

Hence a 7 cM/500 SNP minimum is the combined rule of thumb. At that level, roughly half of your matches will be valid and half will be identical by chance unless you’re dealing with endogamy. Then, raise your threshold accordingly.

Ok, So Where are We? A Triangulation Checklist for You!

I know this has been a relatively long educational article, but it’s important to really understand that testing close relatives is VERY important, but also why we can’t effectively use them for triangulation.

Here’s a handy-dandy summary matching/triangulation checklist for you to use as you work through your matches.

  • You inherit half of each of your parents’ DNA. There is no other place for you to obtain or inherit your DNA. There is no DNA fairy sprinkling you with DNA from another source:)
  • DNA does NOT skip generations, although in occasional rare circumstances, it may appear that this happened. In this situation, it’s incumbent upon you, the genealogist, to PROVE that an exception has occurred if you really believe it has. Those circumstances might be pedigree collapse or perhaps imputation. You’ll need to compare matches at vendors who provide a chromosome browser, triangulation, and full shared match list information. Never assume that you are the exception without hard and fast proof. We all know about assume, right?
  • Your siblings inherit half of your parents’ DNA too, but not the same exact half of your parent’s DNA that you other siblings did (unless they are identical twins.) You may inherit the exact same DNA from either or both of your parents on certain segments.
  • Your matches may match your parents on different or an additional segment that you did not inherit.
  • Every segment has an individual history. Evaluate every matching segment separately. One matching segment with someone could be maternal, one paternal, and one identical by chance.
  • You can confirm matches as valid if your match matches one of your parents, and you match one of your match’s parents. Parental Phasing is when your match matches your parent. Parental Cross-Matching is when you both match one of each other’s parents. To be complete, both people who match each other need to match one of the parents of the other person. This rule still holds even if you have a known common ancestor. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve been fooled.
  • 15-20% (or more with endogamy) of your matches will be identical by chance because either your DNA or your match’s DNA aligns in such a way that while they match you, they don’t match either of your parents.
  • Your siblings, aunts, and uncles will often inherit the same DNA as you – which means that identical by chance matches will also match them. That’s why we don’t use close family members for triangulation. We do utilize close family members to generate common match hints. (Remember the 20 cM shared match caveat at Ancestry)
  • While your siblings, aunts, and uncles are too close to use for triangulation, they are wonderful to identify ancestral matches. Some of their matches will match you as well, and some will not because your close family members inherited segments of your ancestor’s DNA that you did not. Everyone should test their oldest family members.
  • Triangulate your close family member’s matches separately from your own to shed more light on your ancestors.
  • Endogamy may interfere with parental phasing, meaning you may match because you and/or your match may have inherited some of the same DNA segment(s) from both sides of your tree and/or more DNA than might otherwise be expected.
  • Pedigree collapse needs to be considered when using parental phasing, especially when the same ancestor appears on both sides of your family tree. You may share more DNA with a match than expected.
  • Conversely, with pedigree collapse, your match may not match your parents, or vice versa, if a segment happens to have recombined in you in a way that drops the matching segments of your parents beneath the vendor’s match threshold.
  • While you will match all of your second cousins, you will only match approximately 90% of your third cousins and proportionally fewer as your relationship reaches further back in time.
  • Not being a DNA match with someone does NOT mean you’re NOT related to them, unless of course, you’re a second cousin (2C) or closer. It simply means you don’t carry any common ancestral segments above vendor thresholds.
  • At 2C or closer, if you’re not a DNA match, other alternative situations need to be considered – including the transfer/upload of the wrong person’s DNA file.
  • Imputation, a scientific process required of vendors may interfere with matching, especially in more distant relatives who have tested on different platforms.
  • Imputation artifacts will be less obvious when people are more closely related, meaning closer relatives can be expected to match on more and larger segments and imputation errors make less difference.
  • Imputation will not cause close relatives, meaning 2C or closer, to not match each other.
  • In addition to not supporting segment matching information, Ancestry down-weights some segments, removes some matching DNA, and does not show shared matches below 20cM, causing some people to misinterpret their lack of common matches in various ways.
  • To resolve questions about matching issues at Ancestry, testers can transfer/upload their DNA files to MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, and GEDmatch and look for consistent matches on the same segment. Start and end locations may vary to some extent between vendors, but the segment size should be basically in the same location and roughly the same size.
  • GEDmatch does not use imputation but allows larger non-matching segments to combine as a single segment which sometimes causes extremely “generous” matches. GEDmatch matching is less reliable than FamilyTreeDNA or MyHeritage, but you can adjust the matching thresholds.
  • The best situation for matching is for both people to test at the same vendor who supports and provides segment data and a chromosome browser such as 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, or MyHeritage.
  • Siblings cannot be used for triangulation because the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) between you and your siblings is your parents. Therefore, the “three” people in the triangulation group is reduced to two lines immediately.
  • Uncles and aunts should not be used for triangulation because the most recent common ancestors between you and your aunts and uncles are your grandparents.
  • Conversely, you should not consider triangulating with siblings and close family members of your matches as proof of an ancestral relationship.
  • A triangulation group of 3 people is only confirmation as far back as when two of those people’s lines converge and reach a common ancestor.
  • Identical by chance (IBC) matching occurs when DNA from the maternal and paternal sides are mixed positionally in the child to resemble a maternal/paternal side match with someone else.
  • Identical by chance DNA admixture (when compared to a match) could have occurred in your parents or grandparent’s generation, or earlier, so the further back in time that people in a triangulation group reach, the more reliable the triangulation group is likely to be.
  • The larger the segments and/or the triangulation group, the stronger the evidence for a specific confirmed common ancestor.
  • Early families with a very large number of descendants may have many matching and triangulated members, even 9 or 10 generations later.
  • While exactly 50% of each ancestor’s DNA is not passed in each generation, on average, you will carry 7 cM of your ancestors 10 generations back in your tree. However, you may carry more, or none.
  • The percentage of matching descendants decreases with each generation beyond great-grandparents.
  • The ideal situation for triangulation is a significant number of people, greater than three, who match on the same reasonably sized segment (7 cM/500 SNP or larger) and descend from the same ancestor (or ancestral couple) through different children whose spouses in descendant generations are not also related.
  • This means that tree completion is an important factor in match/triangulation reliability.
  • Triangulating through different children of the ancestral couple makes it significantly less likely that a different unknown common ancestor is contributing that segment of DNA – like an unknown wife in a descendant generation.

Whew!!!

The Bottom Line

Here’s the bottom line.

  1. Don’t use close relatives to triangulate.
  2. Use parents for Parental Phasing.
  3. Use Parental Cross-Matching when possible.
  4. Use close relatives to look for shared common matches that may lead to triangulation possibilities.
  5. Triangulate your close relatives’ DNA in addition to your own for bonus genealogical information. They will match people that you don’t.
  6. For the most reliable triangulation results, use the most distant relatives possible, descended through different children of the common ancestral couple.
  7. Keep this checklist of best practices, cautions, and caveats handy and check the list as necessary when evaluating the strength of any match or triangulation group. It serves as a good reminder for what to check if something seems “off” or unusual.

Feel free to share and pass this article (and checklist) on to your genealogy buddies and matches as you explain triangulation and collaborate on your genealogy.

Have fun!!!

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I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

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23andMe Genetic Tree Provides Critical Clue to Solve 137-Year-Old Disappearance Mystery

DNA can convey messages from the great beyond – from times past and people that died long before we were born.

I had the most surprising experience this week. It began with receiving an email with the sender name of my long-time research buddy, cousin Garmon Estes.

It’s all the more surprising because not only did Garmon never own a computer, despite my ceaseless encouragement, he passed over in 2013 at the age of 85. So, imagine my shock to open my email to see a message from Garmon. Queue up spooky music😊

As it turned out, Garmon’s nephew is also Garmon. I had communicated with the family off and on over the years since the death of Garmon the elder. Garmon, the younger, had written to tell me that the second “great brick wall” that haunted his Uncle Garmon had fallen – and how that happened, thanks to DNA.

Garmon, the Elder

Estes Garmon

Garmon Estes, the elder

I first met Garmon the elder, via letter, back in the 1970s or maybe early 80s. He was an experienced genealogist and I was beginning.

At that time, Garmon had been chasing the identity of the father of our common ancestor, John R. Estes, for decades, and I was just embarking on what would become a lifelong adventure, or perhaps it could better be called an obsession.

John R. Estes had moved from some unknown location to Claiborne County, Tennessee with his wife and family about 1820. That’s pretty much all we knew at that time. Garmon had spent decades before the age of online records researching every John Estes he could find. I can’t even begin to tell you how many John Esteses existed that needed to be eliminated as candidates.

Garmon lived in California, far from Tennessee. I lived in Indiana, then Michigan – significantly closer. He began caring for his ill spouse, and I began traveling to dusty courthouses, sometimes reading musty books page by yellowed page, extracting everything Estes. Garmon worked from his local Family History Center when he could and wrote letters.

Between our joint sleuthing and many theories that we both composed and subsequently shot down, we narrowed John R. Estes’s location of origin to Halifax County, Virginia. However, there were multiple John Esteses living there at the same time, about the same age, none using middle initials reliably, and some not at all. How inconsiderate!

I began perusing every possible record. I had eliminated some Johns as candidates, most often because they clearly remained in the community after our John had moved to Claiborne County. Late one night, in our local family history center, I found that fateful clue – John R. Estes noted as (S.G.) short for “son of George,” on just one tax list. All it takes is that one gold-nugget record.

It was after 10 PM when I left the Family History Center and even later when I got home. I debated whether I should call Garmon or not, but I decided that indeed, he would want to know immediately, even if I did call at an inconvenient time or wake him up.

The discovery of John’s father, of course, opened the door for much more research, and it solved one of Garmon’s two brick walls that had haunted his genealogy life.

He never solved the second one, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

What Happened to Willis Alexander Garmon Estes?

Willis Alexander Garmon Estes was born on December 21, 1854, in Lenoir, Roane County, TN. His nickname was Willie.

Willie married Martha Lee Mathis in 1874 and they had 4 children beginning with the first child born the next year in Roane County. Sometime between 1875 and the birth of the second child in 1877, they migrated to Greenwood, Wise County, Texas where their next two children were born in 1877 and 1881.

Martha was pregnant for their fourth child in 1883 when something very strange happened. Willie disappeared, and I do mean literally and completely. Just poof, gone.

Not sure what to do, Martha’s father, who lived in Missouri, went to Texas to retrieve his pregnant daughter and her children and took her and the children home to Missouri where their last child was born that September.

Willie was only 28 when he vanished. The family, of course, had many stories about what happened. Texas at that time was pretty much the “wild west” and the stories about Willie reflected exactly that.

Texas was sometimes the refuge of outlaws and shady characters. One story revealed that Willie had shot a man back in Tennessee and the family fled to Louisiana, then Texas. Of course, that doesn’t tell us why he disappeared in Texas, but it opens the door to speculation and casts doubt on his character, perhaps.

Another story was that he was shot by Indians.

A third story stated that Willie settled in Indian Territory north of the Red River, now Oklahoma, and that he had an altercation with an Indian over the supposed theft of firewood, although who was accusing who was unclear. Willie shot the Indian, then had to flee for his life, leaving his pregnant wife and children as a posse of Indian Police surrounded his house. Willie supposedly promised Martha that he would return, but never did. It was reported that he was shot in Mexico, but no further details emerged.

Aren’t these just maddeningly vague???

Yet another story was that Willie headed for the goldfields of California, struck it rich, and was murdered on the way back home. The details varied, but one version had him murdered by a traveling companion on the trail. Another had him becoming ill and dying in a hospital in St. Louis where his wife went to search for him, to no avail. That might explain why she went back to Missouri, Garmon postulated. And yet a third version was some hybrid of the two where “someone” tried to find Willie’s family for years to reveal what had happened, and where, but was never successful. Of course, how did the family know about this if the mystery person was unable to find the family? But I digress.

Garmon desperately wanted to solve that mystery. He wanted closure.

I didn’t realize that the genealogy bug had bitten Garmon’s nephew too, but it clearly has. Garmon would be so proud.

With Garmon the younger’s permission, I’m publishing “the rest of the story,” Connecting the Dots, as written by Garmon the younger, with a few technical interjections from me involving DNA from time to time.

Connecting the Dots

In 2015, My dad Richard Estes, my brother Corey Estes, and I took a trip to Texas and Oklahoma to see if we could find out more about Willis Alexander Garmon Estes’ disappearance.

Estes greenwood

We visited Greenwood, Texas and nearby Decatur where we looked at historical records at the Wise County Clerk Office. We also went up to Oklahoma City to see the state archives and to Tishomingo to look at any records that might be available.

Estes Oklahoma history.png

Interestingly enough, we did not find any clues as to the disappearance of Willis Alexander Garmon Estes. There were no newspaper articles or criminal records concerning any incidents with Willis Alexander Garmon Estes. The only new information that we found was a couple of land deeds showing that Willis Alexander Garmon Estes’ brother Fielding had bought and sold land in Wise County during the time that Willis Alexander Garmon Estes was living in Greenwood.

We left empty-handed on our trip but our curiosity remained strong and we began talking to each other about going on another trip to Tennessee to speak with Estes family members in Loudon County to see if they might know something about Willis Alexander Garmon’s disappearance.

DNA Testing

In December of 2018, my wife, children, and I had our DNA tested using the service 23andMe. We received test results within a month of sending in saliva samples. The results did not reveal anything unusual.

Fast forward to October 2019. 23andMe introduced a new Family Tree feature that automatically creates a family tree based on the DNA results that you share with relatives in 23andMe. This was a fascinating feature and I noticed that all of my family members were automatically placed into the correct position on the family tree without me having to do anything.

[Roberta’s note – this is not always the case, so don’t necessarily expect the same level of accuracy. The tree is a wonderful innovative feature, just treat family placement as hints and not facts.]

Every few weeks as more and more people had their DNA tested on 23andMe, new relatives were added to the family tree.

In February 2020, I noticed something interesting under the location of Willis Alexander Garmon Estes on the family tree. A woman by the name of Edna appeared as a descendent of Willis Alexander Garmon Estes. The first thing I did was to try and get in contact with her on 23andMe. No luck. Next, I thought maybe she was the descendent of one of Willis Alexander Garmon’s sons (James, John, or George). However, after researching the descendants of each of those lines, Edna’s name did not appear.

The next step I took was to look up as many Ednas by that last name on ancestry.com as I could find and trace their ancestry back to see where it led.

There were two Ednas by that last name in the United States whose age matched the one on 23andMe. I traced both of their ancestry lines back to the 1800’s. Neither one had Willis Alexander Garmon Estes as an ancestor.

Breakthrough

During the middle of March 2020, when I was quarantined at home from work due to the COVID-19 virus, I took another look at Edna’s family lines. I noticed there was a gentleman by the name of James Henry Houston mentioned as an ancestor.

The interesting thing about James was that he was born on the same day, same year, and in the same county as Willis Alexander Garmon Estes. James Henry Houston was born on December 26, 1854 in Loudon County, Tennessee. This seemed like possibly more than a coincidence, so I dived into the data a little bit more.

I looked at federal census records to find out more about James Henry Houston’s past. Strangely there were no official records of him until May 12, 1889 when he married Allie Ona Taylor in Erath, Texas. Normally, if someone is born in 1854, they would show up in one of the federal census records of 1860, 1870, or 1880. James Henry Houston does not show up in any official federal census records until 1900.

According to ancestry records, James Henry Houston married Allie Ona Taylor in 1889 and resided in the Hood County region of Texas until 1910. During this time, he raised 8 children with his wife Allie.

In 1920, the federal census placed him and Allie in Whitehall, Montana. The last federal census he appears in is 1930. He lived in Pomona, California where he died in 1933 at the age of 78.

At this point, I thought it was highly likely that James Henry Houston and Willis Alexander Garmon Estes were the same person. If my hunch was correct then a photo of James Henry Houston would most likely show a resemblance to his son, my great grandfather John Alexander Estes.

Estes James Henry Houston

The photos above show a remarkable similarity in the eyes, nose, mouth, and facial structure between the two men. To me, the photo and historical evidence is enough to conclude that Willis Alexander Garmon Estes is James Henry Houston.

Garmon’s Concluding Thoughts

As I reflect on the fact that Willis Alexander Garmon Estes renamed himself James Henry Houston and moved from Wise County down to Hood County, Texas – approximately 60 miles distance to marry and raise a new family, many more questions come to mind.

What exactly happened to cause Willis Alexander Garmon Estes to leave his wife and children behind? Was it simply a marital dispute or did it involve a criminal offense and running from the law as was mentioned in the family lore?

Did my great grandfather know that his father lived in Pomona in 1930, which was only 6 miles away from where he was living in Rancho Cucamonga? Were there other family members that knew what happened but promised not to tell anyone else? We may never know.

Finally, I want to add one more piece to the story that I found fascinating. On ancestry.com, many of the family trees for James Henry Houston state that the mother and father of James Henry Houston was Jennie Bray and Henry Houston. No information is given for their birthdates or where they came from. The mother and father of Willis Alexander Garmon Estes was Jennie McVey and William Estes. The names Jennie Bray and Jennie McVey are very similar. In order to hide his true identity, James Henry Houston would have to make up a surname for his father since he called himself Houston, not Estes. Willis Alexander Garmon Estes had a brother named John Houston Estes. This might explain why James Henry Houston chose to use the surname Houston rather than another name.

Congratulations Garmon

I know this made Garmon the elder puff up with pride for Garmon the younger’s sleuthing skills and leap for joy at the solve. Garmon, the elder, had two main genealogy goals throughout his entire life. One was solved while he was living, but it took another generation to solve this one.

Great job, Garmon!

About the 23andMe Genetic Tree

23andMe is the only vendor to construct a “trial balloon” genetic tree based only on how the tester matches people and how they do, or don’t, match each other. This occurs with no input from testers in the form of genealogical trees of identifying how people are related to the tester.

Family Tree DNA has Phased Family Matching, MyHeritage has Theories of Family Relativity, and Ancestry has ThruLines which all do some sort of DNA+tree+relationship connectivity, but since 23andMe does not support user-created or uploaded trees, anything they produce has to be using DNA alone.

On one hand, it’s frustrating for genealogists, but on the other hand, there is sometimes a benefit to a different “all genetic” approach.

Of course, the only information that 23andMe has to utilize unless your parents have tested is how closely you match your matches and how closely your matches match each other. This allows 23andMe to place your matches at least in a “neighborhood” on your tree, at least approximately accurate, unless your parents are related to each other and that shared DNA causes things to get dicey quickly.

I wrote about 23andMe’s new relationship triangulation tree when it was first introduced in September 2019, nearly a year ago, here. The launch was rocky for a number of reasons, and if you’ve done genealogy for a long time, your research goals are likely to be further back in time than this 4 generation relationship tree will reveal.

23andMe tree

Click to enlarge

This is what my relationship tree looked like at the time the function was launched. You’ll note that 23andMe places relationships back in time 4 generations, to your great-great-grandparents, meaning that you might have 3rd or even 4th cousins showing up on your genetic tree.

I initially had a total of 18 people placed on my tree, with 3 being close family, 4 being accurate, 4 unknown, 1 uncertain and 6, or one third, inaccurate.

Keep in mind that 23andMe doesn’t make any provision to accommodate or take into account half-relationships, like half-brother or half-sister, either currently or historically. Therefore, descendant placement predictions can be “off” because half-siblings only carry the DNA from one common parent, instead of two, making those relationships appear more distant than they really are.

In Garmon’s case, his great-great-grandfather is the ancestor who was MIA, so the genetic tree has the potential to work well for this purpose.

Estes 23andme tree today

click to enlarge

Today, my tree looks somewhat different, with only 14 people displayed instead of 18, and 6 waiting in the wings to see if I can help 23andMe figure out how and where to place them.

Since the initial launch, customers have been given the opportunity to add their ancestors’ names to their nodes. This works just fine so long as nobody married more than once and had children from both marriages.

Estes Willie Alexander today

click to enlarge

 

Here’s a closer image of the left-hand side of my tree where I’ve super-imposed the location of Willis Alexander Garmon Estes and Edna, as they are related to Garmon the Younger, at bottom right. Ignore the other names – I only utilized my own tree for an example tree structure.

One more generation and it’s unlikely that 23andMe would have made the connection between Edna and Garmon the younger.

Not only does this illustrate the perfect reason to test the oldest generations in your family, but also never to ignore an unknown match that seems to be within the past 3 or 4 generations. You never know what mysteries you might unravel.

Four generations actually reaches back in time quite substantially. In my case, my great-great-grandparents were born in 1805, 1810, 1812, 1813, 1815, 1816, 1818 (2), 1820, 1822, 1827, 1829, 1830, 1832, 1841 and 1848.

If you have mysteries within your closest 4 generations to unravel, the genetic tree at 23andMe might provide valuable clues, but only if you’re willing to do the requisite work to figure out HOW these people match you.

You can’t transfer your DNA file TO 23andMe, so if you want to have your results in the 23andMe database, you’ll need to test there.

Acknowledgments: Thank you to Garmon Estes, the younger, for generously sharing this story and allowing publication. My heart was warmed to see your generational research trip.

Thank you to Garmon Estes, the elder, for being my research partner for so many years. You can finally RIP now, although somehow I suspect you already have these answers.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Y DNA: Step-by-Step Big Y Analysis

Many males take the Big Y-700 test offered by FamilyTreeDNA, so named because testers receive the most granular haplogroup SNP results in addition to 700+ included STR marker results. If you’re not familiar with those terms, you might enjoy the article, STRs vs SNPs, Multiple DNA Personalities.

The Big Y test gives testers the best of both, along with contributing to the building of the Y phylotree. You can read about the additions to the Y tree via the Big Y, plus how it helped my own Estes project, here.

Some men order this test of their own volition, some at the request of a family member, and some in response to project administrators who are studying a specific topic – like a particular surname.

The Big Y-700 test is the most complete Y DNA test offered, testing millions of locations on the Y chromosome to reveal mutations, some unique and never before discovered, many of which are useful to genealogists. The Big Y-700 includes the traditional Y DNA STR marker testing along with SNP results that define haplogroups. Translated, both types of test results are compared to other men for genealogy, which is the primary goal of DNA testing.

Being a female, I often recruit males in my family surname lines and sponsor testing. My McNiel line, historic haplogroup R-M222, has been particularly frustrating both genealogically as well as genetically after hitting a brick wall in the 1700s. My McNeill cousin agreed to take a Big Y test, and this analysis walks through the process of understanding what those results are revealing.

After my McNeill cousin’s Big Y results came back from the lab, I spent a significant amount of time turning over every leaf to extract as much information as possible, both from the Big Y-700 DNA test itself and as part of a broader set of intertwined genetic information and genealogical evidence.

I invite you along on this journey as I explain the questions we hoped to answer and then evaluate Big Y DNA results along with other information to shed light on those quandaries.

I will warn you, this article is long because it’s a step-by-step instruction manual for you to follow when interpreting your own Big Y results. I’d suggest you simply read this article the first time to get a feel for the landscape, before working through the process with your own results. There’s so much available that most people leave laying on the table because they don’t understand how to extract the full potential of these test results.

If you’d like to read more about the Big Y-700 test, the FamilyTreeDNA white paper is here, and I wrote about the Big Y-700 when it was introduced, here.

You can read an overview of Y DNA, here, and Y DNA: The Dictionary of DNA, here.

Ok, get yourself a cuppa joe, settle in, and let’s go!

George and Thomas McNiel – Who Were They?

George and Thomas McNiel appear together in Spotsylvania County, Virginia records. Y DNA results, in combination with early records, suggest that these two men were brothers.

I wrote about discovering that Thomas McNeil’s descendant had taken a Y DNA test and matched George’s descendants, here, and about my ancestor George McNiel, here.

McNiel family history in Wilkes County, NC, recorded in a letter written in 1898 by George McNiel’s grandson tells us that George McNiel, born about 1720, came from Scotland with his two brothers, John and Thomas. Elsewhere, it was reported that the McNiel brothers sailed from Glasgow, Scotland and that George had been educated at the University of Edinburgh for the Presbyterian ministry but had a change of religious conviction during the voyage. As a result, a theological tiff developed that split the brothers.

George, eventually, if not immediately, became a Baptist preacher. His origins remain uncertain.

The brothers reportedly arrived about 1750 in Maryland, although I have no confirmation. By 1754, Thomas McNeil appeared in the Spotsylvania County, VA records with a male being apprenticed to him as a tailor. In 1757, in Spotsylvania County, the first record of George McNeil showed James Pey being apprenticed to learn the occupation of tailor.

If George and Thomas were indeed tailors, that’s not generally a country occupation and would imply that they both apprenticed as such when they were growing up, wherever that was.

Thomas McNeil is recorded in one Spotsylvania deed as being from King and Queen County, VA. If this is the case, and George and Thomas McNiel lived in King and Queen, at least for a time, this would explain the lack of early records, as King and Queen is a thrice-burned county. If there was a third brother, John, I find no record of him.

My now-deceased cousin, George McNiel, initially tested for the McNiel Y DNA and also functioned for decades as the family historian. George, along with his wife, inventoried the many cemeteries of Wilkes County, NC.

George believed through oral history that the family descended from the McNiel’s of Barra.

McNiel Big Y Kisumul

George had this lovely framed print of Kisimul Castle, seat of the McNiel Clan on the Isle of Barra, proudly displayed on his wall.

That myth was dispelled with the initial DNA testing when our line did not match the Barra line, as can be seen in the MacNeil DNA project, much to George’s disappointment. As George himself said, the McNiel history is both mysterious and contradictory. Amen to that, George!

McNiel Big Y Niall 9 Hostages

However, in place of that history, we were instead awarded the Niall of the 9 Hostages badge, created many years ago based on a 12 marker STR result profile. Additionally, the McNiel DNA was assigned to haplogroup R-M222. Of course, today’s that’s a far upstream haplogroup, but 15+ years ago, we had only a fraction of the testing or knowledge that we do today.

The name McNeil, McNiel, or however you spell it, resembles Niall, so on the surface, this made at least some sense. George was encouraged by the new information, even though he still grieved the loss of Kisimul Castle.

Of course, this also caused us to wonder about the story stating our line had originated in Scotland because Niall of the 9 Hostages lived in Ireland.

Niall of the 9 Hostages

Niall of the 9 Hostages was reportedly a High King of Ireland sometime between the 6th and 10th centuries. However, actual historical records place him living someplace in the mid-late 300s to early 400s, with his death reported in different sources as occurring before 382 and alternatively about 411. The Annals of the Four Masters dates his reign to 379-405, and Foras Feasa ar Eirinn says from 368-395. Activities of his sons are reported between 379 and 405.

In other words, Niall lived in Ireland about 1500-1600 years ago, give or take.

Migration

Generally, migration was primarily from Scotland to Ireland, not the reverse, at least as far as we know in recorded history. Many Scottish families settled in the Ulster Plantation beginning in 1606 in what is now Northern Ireland. The Scots-Irish immigration to the states had begun by 1718. Many Protestant Scottish families immigrated from Ireland carrying the traditional “Mc” names and Presbyterian religion, clearly indicating their Scottish heritage. The Irish were traditionally Catholic. George could have been one of these immigrants.

We have unresolved conflicts between the following pieces of McNeil history:

  • Descended from McNeil’s of Barra – disproved through original Y DNA testing.
  • Immigrated from Glasgow, Scotland, and schooled in the Presbyterian religion in Edinburgh.
  • Descended from the Ui Neill dynasty, an Irish royal family dominating the northern half of Ireland from the 6th to 10th centuries.

Of course, it’s possible that our McNiel/McNeil line could have been descended from the Ui Neill dynasty AND also lived in Scotland before immigrating.

It’s also possible that they immigrated from Ireland, not Scotland.

And finally, it’s possible that the McNeil surname and M222 descent are not related and those two things are independent and happenstance.

A New Y DNA Tester

Since cousin George is, sadly, deceased, we needed a new male Y DNA tester to represent our McNiel line. Fortunately, one such cousin graciously agreed to take the Big Y-700 test so that we might, hopefully, answer numerous questions:

  • Does the McNiel line have a unique haplogroup, and if so, what does it tell us?
  • Does our McNiel line descend from Ireland or Scotland?
  • Where are our closest geographic clusters?
  • What can we tell by tracing our haplogroup back in time?
  • Do any other men match the McNiel haplogroup, and what do we know about their history?
  • Does the Y DNA align with any specific clans, clan history, or prehistory contributing to clans?

With DNA, you don’t know what you don’t know until you test.

Welcome – New Haplogroup

I was excited to see my McNeill cousin’s results arrive. He had graciously allowed me access, so I eagerly took a look.

He had been assigned to haplogroup R-BY18350.

McNiel Big Y branch

Initially, I saw that indeed, six men matched my McNeill cousin, assigned to the same haplogroup. Those surnames were:

  • Scott
  • McCollum
  • Glass
  • McMichael
  • Murphy
  • Campbell

Notice that I said, “were.” That’s right, because shortly after the results were returned, based on markers called private variants, Family Tree DNA assigned a new haplogroup to my McNeill cousin.

Drum roll please!!!

Haplogroup R-BY18332

McNiel Big Y BY18332

Additionally, my cousin’s Big Y test resulted in several branches being split, shown on the Block Tree below.

McNIel Big Y block tree

How cool is this!

This Block Tree graphic shows, visually, that our McNiel line is closest to McCollum and Campbell testers, and is a brother clade to those branches showing to the left and right of our new R-BY18332. It’s worth noting that BY25938 is an equivalent SNP to BY18332, at least today. In the future, perhaps another tester will test, allowing those two branches to be further subdivided.

Furthermore, after the new branches were added, Cousin McNeill has no more Private Variants, which are unnamed SNPs. There were all utilized in naming additional tree branches!

I wrote about the Big Y Block Tree here.

Niall (Or Whoever) Was Prolific

The first thing that became immediately obvious was how successful our progenitor was.

McNiel Big Y M222 project

click to enlarge

In the MacNeil DNA project, 38 men with various surname spellings descend from M222. There are more in the database who haven’t joined the MacNeil project.

Whoever originally carried SNP R-M222, someplace between 2400 and 5900 years ago, according to the block tree, either had many sons who had sons, or his descendants did. One thing is for sure, his line certainly is in no jeopardy of dying out today.

The Haplogroup R-M222 DNA Project, which studies this particular haplogroup, reads like a who’s who of Irish surnames.

Big Y Match Results

Big Y matches must have no more than 30 SNP differences total, including private variants and named SNPs combined. Named SNPs function as haplogroup names. In other words, Cousin McNeill’s terminal SNP, meaning the SNP furthest down on the tree, R-BY18332, is also his haplogroup name.

Private variants are mutations that have occurred in the line being tested, but not yet in other lines. Occurrences of private variants in multiple testers allow the Private Variant to be named and placed on the haplotree.

Of course, Family Tree DNA offers two types of Y DNA testing, STR testing which is the traditional 12, 25, 37, 67 and 111 marker testing panels, and the Big Y-700 test which provides testers with:

  • All 111 STR markers used for matching and comparison
  • Another 589+ STR markers only available through the Big Y test increasing the total STR markers tested from 111 to minimally 700
  • A scan of the Y chromosome, looking for new and known SNPs and STR mutations

Of course, these tests keep on giving, both with matching and in the case of the Big Y – continued haplogroup discovery and refinement in the future as more testers test. The Big Y is an investment as a test that keeps on giving, not just a one-time purchase.

I wrote about the Big Y-700 when it was introduced here and a bit later here.

Let’s see what the results tell us. We’ll start by taking a look at the matches, the first place that most testers begin.

Mcniel Big Y STR menu

Regular Y DNA STR matching shows the results for the STR results through 111 markers. The Big Y section, below, provides results for the Big Y SNPs, Big Y matches and additional STR results above 111 markers.

McNiel Big Y menu

Let’s take a look.

STR and SNP Testing

Of Cousin McNeil’s matches, 2 Big Y testers and several STR testers carry some variant of the Neal, Neel, McNiel, McNeil, O’Neil, etc. surnames by many spellings.

While STR matching is focused primarily on a genealogical timeframe, meaning current to roughly 500-800 years in the past, SNP testing reaches much further back in time.

  • STR matching reaches approximately 500-800 years.
  • Big Y matching reaches approximately 1500 years.
  • SNPs and haplogroups reach back infinitely, and can be tracked historically beyond the genealogical timeframe, shedding light on our ancestors’ migration paths, helping to answer the age-old question of “where did we come from.”

These STR and Big Y time estimates are based on a maximum number of mutations for testers to be considered matches paired with known genealogy.

Big Y results consider two men a match if they have 30 or fewer total SNP differences. Using NGS (next generation sequencing) scan technology, the targeted regions of the Y chromosome are scanned multiple times, although not all regions are equally useful.

Individually tested SNPs are still occasionally available in some cases, but individual SNP testing has generally been eclipsed by the greatly more efficient enriched technology utilized with Big Y testing.

Think of SNP testing as walking up to a specific location and taking a look, while NGS scan technology is a drone flying over the entire region 30-50 times looking multiple times to be sure they see the more distant target accurately.

Multiple scans acquiring the same read in the same location, shown below in the Big Y browser tool by the pink mutations at the red arrow, confirm that NGS sequencing is quite reliable.

McNiel Big Y browser

These two types of tests, STR panels 12-111 and the SNP-based Big Y, are meant to be utilized in combination with each other.

STR markers tend to mutate faster and are less reliable, experiencing frustrating back mutations. SNPs very rarely experience this level of instability. Some regions of the Y chromosome are messier or more complicated than others, causing problems with interpreting reads reliably.

For purposes of clarity, the string of pink A reads above is “not messy,” and “A” is very clearly a mutation because all ~39 scanned reads report the same value of “A,” and according to the legend, all of those scans are high quality. Multiple combined reads of A and G, for example, in the same location, would be tough to call accurately and would be considered unreliable.

You can see examples of a few scattered pink misreads, above.

The two different kinds of tests produce results for overlapping timeframes – with STR mutations generally sifting through closer relationships and SNPs reaching back further in time.

Many more men have taken the Y DNA STR tests over the last 20 years. The Big Y tests have only been available for the past handful of years.

STR testing produces the following matches for my McNiel cousin:

STR Level STR Matches STR Matches Who Took the Big Y % STR Who Took Big Y STR Matches Who Also Match on the Big Y
12 5988 796 13 52
25 6660 725 11 57
37 878 94 11 12
67 1225 252 21 23
111 4 2 50 1

Typically, one would expect that all STR matches that took the Big Y would match on the Big Y, since STR results suggest relationships closer in time, but that’s not the case.

  • Many STR testers who have taken the Big Y seem to be just slightly too distant to be considered a Big Y match using SNPs, which flies in the face of conventional wisdom.
  • However, this could easily be a function of the fact that STRs mutate both backward and forwards and may have simply “happened” to have mutated to a common value – which suggests a closer relationship than actually exists.
  • It could also be that the SNP matching threshold needs to be raised since the enhanced and enriched Big Y-700 technology now finds more mutations than the older Big Y-500. I would like to see SNP matching expanded to 40 from 30 because it seems that clan connections may be being missed. Thirty may have been a great threshold before the more sensitive Big Y-700 test revealed more mutations, which means that people hit that 30 threshold before they did with previous tests.
  • Between the combination of STRs and SNPs mutating at the same time, some Big Y matches are pushed just out of range.

In a nutshell, the correlation I expected to find in terms of matching between STR and Big Y testing is not what I found. Let’s take a look at what we discovered.

It’s worth noting that the analysis is easier if you are working together with at least your closest matches or have access via projects to at least some of their results. You can see common STR values to 111 in projects, such as surname projects. Project administrators can view more if project members have allowed access.

Unexpected Discoveries and Gotchas

While I did expect STR matches to also match on the Big Y, I don’t expect the Big Y matches to necessarily match on the STR tests. After all, the Big Y is testing for more deep-rooted history.

Only one of the McNiel Big Y matches also matches at all levels of STR testing. That’s not surprising since Big Y matching reaches further back in time than STR testing, and indeed, not all STR testers have taken a Big Y test.

Of my McNeill cousin’s closest Big Y matches, we find the following relative to STR matching.

Surname Ancestral Location Big Y Variant/SNP Difference STR Match Level
Scott 1565 in Buccleuch, Selkirkshire, Scotland 20 12, 25, 37, 67
McCollum Not listed 21 67 only
Glass 1618 in Banbridge, County Down, Ireland 23 12, 25, 67
McMichael 1720 County Antrim, Ireland 28 67 only
Murphy Not listed 29 12, 25, 37, 67
Campbell Scotland 30 12, 25, 37, 67, 111

It’s ironic that the man who matches on all STR levels has the most variants, 30 – so many that with 1 more, he would not have been considered a Big Y match at all.

Only the Campbell man matches on all STR panels. Unfortunately, this Campbell male does not match the Clan Campbell line, so that momentary clan connection theory is immediately put to rest.

Block Tree Matches – What They Do, and Don’t, Mean

Note that a Carnes male, the other person who matches my McNeill cousin at 111 STR markers and has taken a Big Y test does not match at the Big Y level. His haplogroup BY69003 is located several branches up the tree, with our common ancestor, R-S588, having lived about 2000 years ago. Interestingly, we do match other R-S588 men.

This is an example where the total number of SNP mutations is greater than 30 for these 2 men (McNeill and Carnes), but not for my McNeill cousin compared with other men on the same S588 branch.

McNiel Big Y BY69003

By searching for Carnes on the block tree, I can view my cousin’s match to Mr. Carnes, even though they don’t match on the Big Y. STR matches who have taken the Big Y test, even if they don’t match at the Big Y level, are shown on the Block Tree on their branch.

By clicking on the haplogroup name, R-BY69003, above, I can then see three categories of information about the matches at that haplogroup level, below.

McNiel Big Y STR differences

click to enlarge

By selecting “Matches,” I can see results under the column, “Big Y.” This does NOT mean that the tester matches either Mr. Carnes or Mr. Riker on the Big Y, but is telling me that there are 14 differences out of 615 STR markers above 111 markers for Mr. Carnes, and 8 of 389 for Mr. Riker.

In other words, this Big Y column is providing STR information, not indicating a Big Y match. You can’t tell one way or another if someone shown on the Block Tree is shown there because they are a Big Y match or because they are an STR match that shares the same haplogroup.

As a cautionary note, your STR matches that have taken the Big Y ARE shown on the block tree, which is a good thing. Just don’t assume that means they are Big Y matches.

The 30 SNP threshold precludes some matches.

My research indicates that the people who match on STRs and carry the same haplogroup, but don’t match at the Big Y level, are every bit as relevant as those who do match on the Big Y.

McNIel Big Y block tree menu

If you’re not vigilant when viewing the block tree, you’ll make the assumption that you match all of the people showing on the Block Tree on the Big Y test since Block Tree appears under the Big Y tools. You have to check Big Y matches specifically to see if you match people shown on the Block Tree. You don’t necessarily match all of them on the Big Y test, and vice versa, of course.

You match Block Tree inhabitants either:

  • On the Big Y, but not the STR panels
  • On the Big Y AND at least one level of STRs between 12 and 111, inclusive
  • On STRs to someone who has taken the Big Y test, but whom you do not match on the Big Y test

Big Y-500 or Big Y-700?

McNiel Big Y STR differences

click to enlarge

Looking at the number of STR markers on the matches page of the Block Tree for BY69003, above, or on the STR Matches page is the only way to determine whether or not your match took the Big Y-700 or the Big Y-500 test.

If you add 111 to the Big Y SNP number of 615 for Mr. Carnes, the total equals 726, which is more than 700, so you know he took the Big Y-700.

If you add 111 to 389 for Mr. Riker, you get 500, which is less than 700, so you know that he took the Big Y-500 and not the Big Y-700.

There are still a very small number of men in the database who did not upgrade to 111 when they ordered their original Big Y test, but generally, this calculation methodology will work. Today, all Big Y tests are upgraded to 111 markers if they have not already tested at that level.

Why does Big Y-500 vs Big Y-700 matter? The enriched chemistry behind the testing technology improved significantly with the Big Y-700 test, enhancing Y-DNA results. I was an avowed skeptic until I saw the results myself after upgrading men in the Estes DNA project. In other words, if Big Y-500 testers upgrade, they will probably have more SNPs in common.

You may want to contact your closest Big Y-500 matches and ask if they will consider upgrading to the Big Y-700 test. For example, if we had close McNiel or similar surname matches, I would do exactly that.

Matching Both the Big Y and STRs – No Single Source

There is no single place or option to view whether or not you match someone BOTH on the Big Y AND STR markers. You can see both match categories individually, of course, but not together.

You can determine if your STR matches took the Big Y, below, and their haplogroup, which is quite useful, but you can’t tell if you match them at the Big Y level on this page.

McNiel Big Y STR match Big Y

click to enlarge

Selecting “Display Only Matches With Big Y” means displaying matches to men who took the Big Y test, not necessarily men you match on the Big Y. Mr. Conley, in the example above, does not match my McNeill cousin on the Big Y but does match him at 12 and 25 STR markers.

I hope FTDNA will add three display options:

  • Select only men that match on the Big Y in the STR panel
  • Add an option for Big Y on the advanced matches page
  • Indicate men who also match on STRs on the Big Y match page

It was cumbersome and frustrating to have to view all of the matches multiple times to compile various pieces of information in a separate spreadsheet.

No Big Y Match Download

There is also no option to download your Big Y matches. With a few matches, this doesn’t matter, but with 119 matches, or more, it does. As more people test, everyone will have more matches. That’s what we all want!

What you can do, however, is to download your STR matches from your match page at levels 12-111 individually, then combine them into one spreadsheet. (It would be nice to be able to download them all at once.)

McNiel Big Y csv

You can then add your Big Y matches manually to the STR spreadsheet, or you can simply create a separate Big Y spreadsheet. That’s what I chose to do after downloading my cousin’s 14,737 rows of STR matches. I told you that R-M222 was prolific! I wasn’t kidding.

This high number of STR matches also perfectly illustrates why the Big Y SNP results were so critical in establishing the backbone relationship structure. Using the two tools together is indispensable.

An additional benefit to downloading STR results is that you can sort the STR spreadsheet columns in surname order. This facilitates easily spotting all spelling variations of McNiel, including words like Niel, Neal and such that might be relevant but that you might not notice otherwise.

Creating a Big Y Spreadsheet

My McNiel cousin has 119 Big Y-700 matches.

I built a spreadsheet with the following columns facilitating sorting in a number of ways, with definitions as follows:

McNiel Big Y spreadsheet

click to enlarge

  • First Name
  • Last Name – You will want to search matches on your personal page at Family Tree DNA by this surname later, so be sure if there is a hyphenated name to enter it completely.
  • Haplogroup – You’ll want to sort by this field.
  • Convergent – A field you’ll complete when doing your analysis. Convergence is the common haplogroup in the tree shared by you and your match. In the case of the green matches above, which are color-coded on my spreadsheet to indicate the closest matches with my McNiel cousin, the convergent haplogroup is BY18350.
  • Common Tree Gen – This column is the generations on the Block Tree shown to this common haplogroup. In the example above, it’s between 9 and 14 SNP generations. I’ll show you where to gather this information.
  • Geographic Location – Can be garnered from 4 sources. No color in that cell indicates that this information came from the Earliest Known Ancestor (EKA) field in the STR matches. Blue indicates that I opened the tree and pulled the location information from that source. Orange means that someone else by the same surname whom the tester also Y DNA matches shows this location. I am very cautious when assigning orange, and it’s risky because it may not be accurate. A fourth source is to use Ancestry, MyHeritage, or another genealogical resource to identify a location if an individual provides genealogical information but no location in the EKA field. Utilizing genealogy databases is only possible if enough information is provided to make a unique identification. John Smith 1700-1750 won’t do it, but Seamus McDougal (1750-1810) married to Nelly Anderson might just work.
  • STR Match – Tells me if the Big Y match also matches on STR markers, and if so, which ones. Only the first 111 markers are used for matching. No STR match generally means the match is further back in time, but there are no hard and fast rules.
  • Big Y Match – My original goal was to combine this information with the STR match spreadsheet. If you don’t wish to combine the two, then you don’t need this column.
  • Tree – An easy way for me to keep track of which matches do and do not have a tree. Please upload or create a tree.

You can also add a spreadsheet column for comments or contact information.

McNiel Big Y profile

You will also want to click your match’s name to display their profile card, paying particular attention to the “About Me” information where people sometimes enter genealogical information. Also, scan the Ancestral Surnames where the match may enter a location for a specific surname.

Private Variants

I added additional spreadsheet columns, not shown above, for Private Variant analysis. That level of analysis is beyond what most people are interested in doing, so I’m only briefly discussing this aspect. You may want to read along, so you at least understand what you are looking at.

Clicking on Private Variants in your Big Y Results shows your variants, or mutations, that are unnamed as SNPs. When they are named, they become SNPs and are placed on the haplotree.

The reference or “normal” state for the DNA allele at that location is shown as the “Reference,” and “Genotype” is the result of the tester. Reference results are not shown for each tester, because the majority are the same. Only mutations are shown.

McNiel Big Y private variants

There are 5 Private Variants, total, for my cousin. I’ve obscured the actual variant numbers and instead typed in 111111 and 222222 for the first two as examples.

McNiel Big Y nonmatching variants

In our example, there are 6 Big Y matches, with matches one and five having the non-matching variants shown above.

Non-matching variants mean that the match, Mr. Scott, in example 1, does NOT match the tester (my cousin) on those variants.

  • If the tester (you) has no mutation, you won’t have a Private Variant shown on your Private Variant page.
  • If the tester does have a Private Variant shown, and that variant shows ON their matches list of non-matching variants, it means the match does NOT match the tester, and either has the normal reference value or a different mutation. Explained another way, if you have a mutation, and that variant is listed on your match list of Non-Matching Variants, your match does NOT match you and does NOT have the same mutation.
  • If the match does NOT have the Private Variant on their list, that means the match DOES match the tester, and they both have the same mutation, making this Private Variant a candidate to be named as a new SNP.
  • If you don’t have a Private Variant listed, but it shows in the Non-Matching Variants of your match, that means you have the reference or normal value, and they have a mutation.

In example #1, above, the tester has a mutation at variant 111111, and 111111 is shown as a Non-Matching Variant to Mr. Scott, so Mr. Scott does NOT match the tester. Mr. Scott also does NOT match the tester at locations 222222 and 444444.

In example #5, 111111 is NOT shown on the Non-Matching Variant list, so Mr. Treacy DOES match the tester.

I have a terrible time wrapping my head around the double negatives, so it’s critical that I make charts.

On the chart below, I’ve listed the tester’s private variants in an individual column each, so 111111, 222222, etc.

For each match, I’ve copy and pasted their Non-Matching Variants in a column to the right of the tester’s variants, in the lavender region. In this example, I’ve typed the example variants into separate columns for each tester so you can see the difference. Remember, a non-matching variant means they do NOT match the tester’s mutation.

McNiel private variants spreadsheet

On my normal spreadsheet where the non-matching variants don’t have individuals columns, I then search for the first variant, 111111. If the variant does appear in the list, it means that match #1 does NOT have the mutation, so I DON’T put an X in the box for match #1 under 111111.

In the example above, the only match that does NOT have 111111 on their list of Non-Matching Variants is #5, so an X IS placed in that corresponding cell. I’ve highlighted that column in yellow to indicate this is a candidate for a new SNP.

You can see that no one else has the variant, 222222, so it truly is totally private. It’s not highlighted in yellow because it’s not a candidate to be a new SNP.

Everyone shares mutation 333333, so it’s a great candidate to become a new SNP, as is 555555.

Match #6 shares the mutation at 444444, but no one else does.

This is a manual illustration of an automated process that occurs at Family Tree DNA. After Big Y matches are returned, automated software creates private variant lists of potential new haplogroups that are then reviewed internally where SNPs are evaluated, named, and placed on the tree if appropriate.

If you follow this process and discover matches, you probably don’t need to do anything, as the automated review process will likely catch up within a few days to weeks.

Big Y Matches

In the case of the McNiel line, it was exciting to discover several private variants, mutations that were not yet named SNPs, found in several matches that were candidates to be named as SNPs and placed on the Y haplotree.

Sure enough, a few days later, my McNeill cousin had a new haplogroup assignment.

Most people have at least one Private Variant, locations in which they do NOT match another tester. When several people have these same mutations, and they are high-quality reads, the Private Variant qualifies to be added to the haplotree as a SNP, a task performed at FamilyTreeDNA by Michael Sager.

If you ever have the opportunity to hear Michael speak, please do so. You can watch Michael’s presentation at Genetic Genealogy Ireland (GGI) titled “The Tree of Mankind,” on YouTube, here, compliments of Maurice Gleeson who coordinates GGI. Maurice has also written about the Gleeson Y DNA project analysis, here.

As a result of Cousin McNeill’s test, six new SNPs have been added to the Y haplotree, the tree of mankind. You can see our new haplogroup for our branch, BY18332, with an equivalent SNP, BY25938, along with three sibling branches to the left and right on the tree.

McNiel Big Y block tree 4 branch

Big Y testing not only answers genealogical questions, it advances science by building out the tree of mankind too.

The surname of the men who share the same haplogroup, R-BY18332, meaning the named SNP furthest down the tree, are McCollum and Campbell. Not what I expected. I expected to find a McNeil who does match on at least some STR markers. This is exactly why the Big Y is so critical to define the tree structure, then use STR matches to flesh it out.

Taking the Big Y-700 test provided granularity between 6 matches, shown above, who were all initially assigned to the same branch of the tree, BY18350, but were subsequently divided into 4 separate branches. My McNiel cousin is no longer equally as distant from all 6 men. We now know that our McNiel line is genetically closer on the Y chromosome to Campbell and McCollum and further distant from Murphy, Scott, McMichael, and Glass.

Not All SNP Matches are STR Matches

Not all SNP matches are also STR matches. Some relationships are too far back in time. However, in this case, while each person on the BY18350 branches matches at some STR level, only the Campbell individual matches at all STR levels.

Remember that variants (mutations) are accumulating down both respective branches of the tree at the same time, meaning one per roughly every 100 years (if 100 is the average number we want to use) for both testers. A total of 30 variants or mutations difference, an average of 15 on each branch of the tree (McNiel and their match) would suggest a common ancestor about 1500 years ago, so each Big Y match should have a common ancestor 1500 years ago or closer. At least on average, in theory.

The Big Y test match threshold is 30 variants, so if there were any more mismatches with the Campbell male, they would not have been a Big Y match, even though they have the exact same haplogroup.

Having the same haplogroup means that their terminal SNP is identical, the SNP furthest down the tree today, at least until someone matches one of them on their Private Variants (if any remain unnamed) and a new terminal SNP is assigned to one or both of them.

Mutations, and when they happen, are truly a roll of the dice. This is why viewing all of your Big Y Block Tree matches is critical, even if they don’t show on your Big Y match list. One more variant and Campbell would have not been shown as a match, yet he is actually quite close, on the same branch, and matches on all STR panels as well.

SNPs Establish the Backbone Structure

I always view the block tree first to provide a branching tree structure, then incorporate STR matches into the equation. Both can equally as important to genealogy, but haplogroup assignment is the most accurate tool, regardless of whether the two individuals match on the Big Y test, especially if the haplogroups are relatively close.

Let’s work with the Block Tree.

The Block Tree

McNIel Big Y block tree menu

Clicking on the link to the Block Tree in the Big Y results immediately displays the tester’s branch on the tree, below.

click to enlarge

On the left side are SNP generation markers. Keep in mind that approximate SNP generations are marked every 5 generations. The most recent generations are based on the number of private variants that have not yet been assigned as branches on the tree. It’s possible that when they are assigned that they will be placed upstream someplace, meaning that placement will reduce the number of early branches and perhaps increase the number of older branches.

The common haplogroup of all of the branches shown here with the upper red arrow is R-BY3344, about 15 SNP generations ago. If you’re using 100 years per SNP generation, that’s about 1500 years. If you’re using 80 years, then 1200 years ago. Some people use even fewer years for calculations.

If some of the private variants in the closer branches disappear, then the common ancestral branch may shift to closer in time.

This tree will always be approximate because some branches can never be detected. They have disappeared entirely over time when no males exist to reproduce.

Conversely, subclades have been born since a common ancestor clade whose descendants haven’t yet tested. As more people test, more clades will be discovered.

Therefore, most recent common ancestor (MRCA) haplogroup ages can only be estimated, based on who has tested and what we know today. The tree branches also vary depending on whether testers have taken the Big Y-500 or the more sensitive Big Y-700, which detects more variants. The Y haplotree is a combination of both.

Big Y-500 results will not be as granular and potentially do not position test-takers as far down the tree as Big Y-700 results would if they upgraded. You’ll need to factor that into your analysis if you’re drawing genealogical conclusions based on these results, especially close results.

You’ll note that the direct path of descent is shown above with arrows from BY3344 through the first blue box with 5 equivalent SNPS, to the next white box, our branch, with two equivalent SNPs. Our McNeil ancestor, the McCollum tester, and the Campell tester have no unresolved private variants between them, which suggests they are probably closer in time than 10 generations back. You can see that the SNP generations are pushed “up” by the neighbor variants.

Because of the fact that private variants don’t occur on a clock cycle and occur in individual lines at an unsteady rate, we must use averages.

That means that when we look further “up” the tree, clicking generation by generation on the up arrow above BY3344, the SNP generations on the left side “adjust” based on what is beneath, and unseen at that level.

The Block Tree Adjusts

Note, in the example above, BY3344 is at SNP generation 15.

Next, I clicked one generation upstream, to R-S668.

McNiel Big Y block tree S668

click to enlarge

You can see that S668 is about 21 SNP generations upstream, and now BY3344 is listed as 20 generations, not 15. You can see our branch, BY3344, but you can no longer see subclades or our matches below that branch in this view.

You can, however, see two matches that descend through S668, brother branches to BY3344, red arrows at far right.

Clicking on the up arrow one more time shows us haplogroup S673, below, and the child branches. The three child branches on which the tester has matches are shown with red arrows.

McNiel Big Y S673

click to enlarge

You’ll immediately notice that now S668 is shown at 19 SNP generations, not 20, and S673 is shown at 20. This SNP generation difference between views is a function of dealing with aggregated and averaged private variants on combined lines and causes the SNP generations to shift. This is also why I always say “about.”

As you continue to click up the tree, the shifting SNP generations continue, reminding us that we can’t truly see back in time. We can only achieve approximations, but those approximations improve as more people test, and more SNPs are named and placed in their proper places on the phylotree.

I love the Block Tree, although I wish I could see further side-to-side, allowing me to view all of the matches on one expanded tree so I can easily see their relationships to the tester, and each other.

Countries and Origins

In addition to displaying shared averaged autosomal origins of testers on a particular branch, if they have taken the Family Finder test and opted-in to sharing origins (ethnicity) results, you can also view the countries indicated by testers on that branch along with downstream branches of the tree.

McNiel Big Y countries

click to enlarge

For example, the Countries tab for S673 is shown above. I can see matches on this branch with no downstream haplogroup currently assigned, as well as cumulative results from downstream branches.

Still, I need to be able to view this information in a more linear format.

The Block Tree and spreadsheet information beautifully augment the haplotree, so let’s take a look.

The Haplotree

On your Y DNA results page, click on the “Haplotree and SNPs” link.

McNIel Big Y haplotree menu

click to enlarge

The Y haplotree will be displayed in pedigree style, quite familiar to genealogists. The SNP legend will be shown at the top of the display. In some cases, “presumed positive” results occur where coverage is lacking, back mutations or read errors are encountered. Presumed positive is based on positive SNPs further down the tree. In other words, that yellow SNP below must read positive or downstream ones wouldn’t.

McNIel Big Y pedigree descent

click to enlarge

The tester’s branch is shown with the grey bar. To the right of the haplogroup-defining SNP are listed the branch and equivalent SNP names. At far right, we see the total equivalent SNPs along with three dots that display the Country Report. I wish the haplotree also showed my matches, or at least my matching surnames, allowing me to click through. It doesn’t, so I have to return to the Big Y page or STR Matches page, or both.

I’ve starred each branch through which my McNiell cousin descends. Sibling branches are shown in grey. As you’ll recall from the Block Tree, we do have matches on those sibling branches, shown side by side with our branch.

The small numbers to the right of the haplogroup names indicate the number of downstream branches. BY18350 has three, all displayed. But looking upstream a bit, we see that DF97 has 135 downstream branches. We also have matches on several of those branches. To show those branches, simply click on the haplogroup.

The challenge for me, with 119 McNeill matches, is that I want to see a combination of the block tree, my spreadsheet information, and the haplotree. The block tree shows the names, my spreadsheet tells me on which branches to look for those matches. Many aren’t easily visible on the block tree because they are downstream on sibling branches.

Here’s where you can find and view different pieces of information.

Data and Sources STR Matches Page Big Y Matches Page Block Tree Haplogroups & SNPs Page
STR matches Yes No, but would like to see who matches at which STR levels If they have taken Big Y test, but doesn’t mean they match on Big Y matching No
SNP matches *1 Shows if STR match has common haplogroup, but not if tester matches on Big Y No, but would like to see who matches at which STR level Big Y matches and STR matches that aren’t Big Y matches are both shown No, but need this feature – see combined haplotree/ block tree
Other Haplogroup Branch Residents Yes, both estimated and tested No, use block tree or click through to profile card, would like to see haplogroup listed for Big Y matches Yes, both Big Y and STR tested, not estimated. Cannot tell if person is Big Y match or STR match, or both. No individuals, but would like that as part of countries report, see combined haplotree/block tree
Fully Expanded Phylotree No No Would like ability to see all branches with whom any Big Y or STR match resides at one time, even if it requires scrolling Yes, but no match information. Matches report could be added like on Block Tree.
Averaged Ethnicities if Have FF Test No No Yes, by haplogroup branch No
Countries Matches map STR only No, need Big Y matches map Yes Yes
Earliest Known Ancestor Yes No, but can click through to profile card No No
Customer Trees Yes No, need this link No No
Profile Card Yes, click through Yes, click through Yes, click through No match info on this page
Downloadable data By STR panel only, would like complete download with 1 click, also if Big Y or FF match Not available at all No No
Path to common haplogroup No No, but would like to see matches haplogroup and convergent haplogroup displayed No, would like the path to convergent haplogroup displayed as an option No, see combined match-block -haplotree in next section

*1 – the best way to see the haplogroup of a Big Y match is to click on their name to view their profile card since haplogroup is not displayed on the Big Y match page. If you happen to also match on STRs, their haplogroup is shown there as well. You can also search for their name using the block tree search function to view their haplogroup.

Necessity being the mother of invention, I created a combined match/block tree/haplotree.

And I really, REALLY hope Family Tree DNA implements something like this because, trust me, this was NOT fun! However, now that it’s done, it is extremely useful. With fewer matches, it should be a breeze.

Here are the steps to create the combined reference tree.

Combo Match/Block/Haplotree

I used Snagit to grab screenshots of the various portions of the haplotree and typed the surnames of the matches in the location of our common convergent haplogroup, taken from the spreadsheet. I also added the SNP generations in red for that haplogroup, at far left, to get some idea of when that common ancestor occurred.

McNIel Big Y combo tree

click to enlarge

This is, in essence, the end-goal of this exercise. There are a few steps to gather data.

Following the path of two matches (the tester and a specific match) you can find their common haplogroup. If your match is shown on the block tree in the same view with your branch, it’s easy to see your common convergent parent haplogroup. If you can’t see the common haplogroup, it’s takes a few extra steps by clicking up the block tree, as illustrated in an earlier section.

We need the ability to click on a match and have a tree display showing both paths to the common haplogroup.

McNiel Big Y convergent

I simulated this functionality in a spreadsheet with my McNiel cousin, a Riley match, and an Ocain match whose terminal SNP is the convergent SNP (M222) between Riley and McNiel. Of course, I’d also like to be able to click to see everyone on one chart on their appropriate branches.

Combining this information onto the haplotree, in the first image, below, M222, 4 men match my McNeill cousin – 2 who show M222 as their terminal SNP, and 2 downstream of M222 on a divergent branch that isn’t our direct branch. In other words, M222 is the convergence point for all 4 men plus my McNeill cousin.

McNiel Big Y M222 haplotree

click to enlarge

In the graphic below, you can see that M222 has a very large number of equivalent SNPs, which will likely become downstream haplogroups at some point in the future. However, today, these equivalent SNPs push M222 from 25 generations to 59. We’ll discuss how this meshes with known history in a minute.

McNiel Big Y M222 block tree

click to enlarge

Two men, Ocain and Ransom, who have both taken the Big Y, whose terminal SNP is M222, match my McNiel cousin. If their common ancestor was actually 59 generations in the past, it’s very, very unlikely that they would match at all given the 30 mutation threshold.

On my reconstructed Match/Block/Haplotree, I included the estimated SNP generations as well. We are starting with the most distant haplogroups and working our way forward in time with the graphics, below.

Make no mistake, there are thousands more men who descend from M222 that have tested, but all of those men except 4 have more than 30 mutations total, so they are not shown as Big Y matches, and they are not shown individually on the Block Tree because they neither match on the Big Y or STR tests. However, there is a way to view information for non-matching men who test positive for M222.

McNiel Big Y M222 countries

click to enlarge

Looking at the Block Tree for M222, many STR match men took a SNP test only to confirm M222, so they would be shown positive for the M222 SNP on STR results and, therefore, in the detailed view of M222 on the Block tree.

Haplogroup information about men who took the M222 test and whom the tester doesn’t match at all are shown here as well in the country and branch totals for R-M222. Their names aren’t displayed because they don’t match the tester on either type of Y DNA test.

Back to constructing my combined tree, I’ve left S658 in both images, above and below, as an overlap placeholder, as we move further down, or towards current, on the haplotree.

McNiel Big Y combo tree center

click to enlarge

Note that BY18350, above, is also an overlap connecting below.

You’ll recall that as a result of the Big Y test, BY18350 was split and now has three child branches plus one person whose terminal SNP is BY18350. All of the men shown below were on one branch until Big Y results revealed that BY18350 needed to be split, with multiple new haplogroups added to the tree.

McNiel Big Y combo tree current

click to enlarge

Using this combination of tools, it’s straightforward for me to see now that our McNiel line is closest to the Campbell tester from Scotland according to the Big Y test + STRs.

Equal according to the Big Y test, but slightly more distant, according to STR matching, is McCollum. The next closest would be sibling branches. Then in the parent group of the other three, BY18350, we find Glass from Scotland.

In BY18350 and subgroups, we find several Scotland locations and one Northern Ireland, which was likely from Scotland initially, given the surname and Ulster Plantation era.

The next upstream parent haplogroup is BY3344, which looks to be weighted towards ancestors from Scotland, shown on the country card, below.

McNiel Big Y BY3344

click to enlarge

This suggests that the origins of the McNiel line was, perhaps, in Scotland, but it doesn’t tell us whether or not George and presumably, Thomas, immigrated from Ireland or Scotland.

This combined tree, with SNPs, surnames from Big Y matches, along with Country information, allows me to see who is really more closely related and who is further away.

What I didn’t do, and probably should, is to add in all of the STR matches who have taken the Big Y test, shown on their convergent branch – but that’s just beyond the scope of time I’m willing to invest, at least for now, given that hundreds of STR matches have taken the Big Y test, and the work of building the combined tree is all manual today.

For those reading this article without access to the Y phylogenetic tree, there’s a public version of the Y and mitochondrial phylotrees available, here.

What About Those McNiels?

No other known McNiel descendants from either Thomas or George have taken the Big Y test, so I didn’t expect any to match, but I am interested in other men by similar surnames. Does ANY other McNiel have a Big Y match?

As it turns out, there are two, plus one STR match who took a Big Y test, but is not a Big Y match.

However, as you can see on the combined match/block/haplotree, above, the closest other Big Y-matching McNeil male is found at about 19 SNP generations, or roughly 1900 years ago. Even if you remove some of the variants in the lower generations that are based on an average number of individual variants, you’re still about 1200 years in the past. It’s extremely doubtful that any surname would survive in both lines from the year 800 or so.

That McNeil tester’s ancestor was born in 1747 in Tranent, Scotland.

The second Big Y-matching person is an O’Neil, a few branches further up in the tree.

The convergent SNP of the two branches, meaning O’Neil and McNeill are at approximately the 21 generation level. The O’Neil man’s Neill ancestor is found in 1843 in Cookestown, County Tyrone, Ireland.

McNiel Big Y convergent McNeil lines

I created a spreadsheet showing convergent lines:

  • The McNeill man with haplogroup A4697 (ancestor Tranent, Scotland) is clearly closest genetically.
  • O’Neill BY91591, who is brother clades with Neel and Neal, all Irish, is another Big Y match.
  • The McNeill man with haplogroup FT91182 is an STR match, but not a Big Y match.

The convergent haplogroup of all of these men is DF105 at about the 22 SNP generation marker.

STRs

Let’s turn back to STR tests, with results that produce matches closer in time.

Searching my STR download spreadsheet for similar surnames, I discovered several surname matches, mining the Earliest Known Ancestor information, profiles and trees produced data as follows:

Ancestor STR Match Level Location
George Charles Neil 12, 25, match on Big Y A4697 1747-1814 Tranent, Scotland
Hugh McNeil 25 (tested at 67) Born 1800 Country Antrim, Northern Ireland
Duncan McNeill 12 (tested at 111) Married 1789, Argyllshire, Scotland
William McNeill 12, 25 (tested at 37) Blackbraes, Stirlingshire, Scotland
William McNiel 25 (tested at 67) Born 1832 Scotland
Patrick McNiel 25 (tested at 111) Trien East, County Roscommon, Ireland
Daniel McNeill 25 (tested at 67) Born 1764 Londonderry, Northern Ireland
McNeil 12 (tested at 67) 1800 Ireland
McNeill (2 matches) 25 (tested Big Y-  SNP FT91182) 1810, Antrim, Northern Ireland
Neal 25 – (tested Big Y, SNP BY146184) Antrim, Northern Ireland
Neel (2 matches) 67 (tested at 111, and Big Y) 1750 Ireland, Northern Ireland

Our best clue that includes a Big Y and STR match is a descendant of George Charles Neil born in Tranent, Scotland, in 1747.

Perhaps our second-best clue comes in the form of a 111 marker match to a descendant of one Thomas McNeil who appears in records as early as 1753 and died in 1761 In Rombout Precinct, Dutchess County, NY where his son John was born. This line and another match at a lower level both reportedly track back to early New Hampshire in the 1600s.

The MacNeil DNA Project tells us the following:

Participant 106370 descends from Isaiah McNeil b. 14 May 1786 Schaghticoke, Rensselaer Co. NY and d. 28 Aug 1855 Poughkeepsie, Dutchess Co., NY, who married Alida VanSchoonhoven.

Isaiah’s parents were John McNeal, baptized 21 Jun 1761 Rombout, Dutchess Co., NY, d. 15 Feb 1820 Stillwater, Saratoga Co., NY and Helena Van De Bogart.

John’s parents were Thomas McNeal, b.c. 1725, d. 14 Aug 1761 NY and Rachel Haff.

Thomas’s parents were John McNeal Jr., b. around 1700, d. 1762 Wallkill, Orange Co., NY (now Ulster Co. formed 1683) and Martha Borland.

John’s parents were John McNeal Sr. and ? From. It appears that John Sr. and his family were this participant’s first generation of Americans.

Searching this line on Ancestry, I discovered additional information that, if accurate, may be relevant. This lineage, if correct, and it may not be, possibly reaching back to Edinburgh, Scotland. While the information gathered from Ancestry trees is certainly not compelling in and of itself, it provides a place to begin research.

Unfortunately, based on matches shown on the MacNeil DNA Project public page, STR marker mutations for kits 30279, B78471 and 417040 when compared to others don’t aid in clustering or indicating which men might be related to this group more closely than others using line-marker mutations.

Matches Map

Let’s take a look at what the STR Matches Map tells us.

McNiel Big Y matches map menu

This 67 marker Matches Map shows the locations of the earliest known ancestors of STR matches who have entered location information.

McNiel Big Y matches mapMcNiel Big Y matches map legend

My McNeill cousin’s closest matches are scattered with no clear cluster pattern.

Unfortunately, there is no corresponding map for Big Y matches.

SNP Map

The SNP map provided under the Y DNA results allows testers to view the locations where specific haplogroups are found.

McNiel Big Y SNP map

The SNP map marks an area where at least two or more people have claimed their most distant known ancestor to be. The cluster size is the maximum amount of miles between people that is allowed in order for a marker indicating a cluster at a location to appear. So for example, the sample size is at least 2 people who have tested, and listed their most distant known ancestor, the cluster is the radius those two people can be found in. So, if you have 10 red dots, that means in 1000 miles there are 10 clusters of at least two people for that particular SNP. Note that these locations do NOT include people who have tested positive for downstream locations, although it does include people who have taken individual SNP tests.

Working my way from the McNiel haplogroup backward in time on the SNP map, neither BY18332 nor BY18350 have enough people who’ve tested, or they didn’t provide a location.

Moving to the next haplogroup up the tree, two clusters are formed for BY3344, shown below.

McNIel Big Y BY3344 map

S668, below.

McNiel Big Y S668 map

It’s interesting that one cluster includes Glasgow.

S673, below.

McNiel Big Y S673 map

DF85, below:

McNiel Big Y DF85 map

DF105 below:

McNiel BIg Y DF105 map

M222, below:

McNiel Big Y M222 map

For R-M222, I’ve cropped the locations beyond Ireland and Scotland. Clearly, RM222 is the most prevalent in Ireland, followed by Scotland. Wherever M222 originated, it has saturated Ireland and spread widely in Scotland as well.

R-M222

R-M222, the SNP initially thought to indicate Niall of the 9 Hostages, occurred roughly 25-59 SNP generations in the past. If this age is even remotely accurate, averaging by 80 years per generation often utilized for Big Y results, produces an age of 2000 – 4720 years. I find it extremely difficult to believe any semblance of a surname survived that long. Even if you reduce the time in the past to the historical narrative, roughly the year 400, 1600 years, I still have a difficult time believing the McNiel surname is a result of being a descendant of Niall of the 9 Hostages directly, although oral history does have staying power, especially in a clan setting where clan membership confers an advantage.

Surname or not, clearly, our line along with the others whom we match on the Big Y do descend from a prolific common ancestor. It’s very unlikely that the mutation occurred in Niall’s generation, and much more likely that other men carried M222 and shared a common ancestor with Niall at some point in the distant past.

McNiel Conclusion – Is There One?

If I had two McNiel wishes, they would be:

  • Finding records someplace in Virginia that connect George and presumably brothers Thomas and John to their parents.
  • A McNiel male from wherever our McNiel line originated becoming inspired to Y DNA test. Finding a male from the homeland might point the way to records in which I could potentially find baptismal records for George about 1720 and Thomas about 1724, along with possibly John, if he existed.

I remain hopeful for a McNiel from Edinburgh, or perhaps Glasgow.

I feel reasonably confident that our line originated genetically in Scotland. That likely precludes Niall of the 9 Hostages as a direct ancestor, but perhaps not. Certainly, one of his descendants could have crossed the channel to Scotland. Or, perhaps, our common ancestor is further back in time. Based on the maps, it’s clear that M222 saturates Ireland and is found widely in Scotland as well.

A great deal depends on the actual age of M222 and where it originated. Certainly, Niall had ancestors too, and the Ui Neill dynasty reaches further back, genetically, than their recorded history in Ireland. Given the density of M222 and spread, it’s very likely that M222 did, in fact, originate in Ireland or, alternatively, very early in Scotland and proliferated in Ireland.

If the Ui Neill dynasty was represented in the persona of the High King, Niall of the 9 Hostages, 1600 years ago, his M222 ancestors were clearly inhabiting Ireland earlier.

We may not be descended from Niall personally, but we are assuredly related to him, sharing a common ancestor sometime back in the prehistory of Ireland and Scotland. That man would sire most of the Irish men today and clearly, many Scots as well.

Our ancestors, whoever they were, were indeed in Ireland millennia ago. R-M222, our ancestor, was the ancestor of the Ui Neill dynasty and of our own Reverend George McNiel.

Our ancestors may have been at Knowth and New Grange, and yes, perhaps even at Tara.

Tara Niall mound in sun

Someplace in the mists of history, one man made a different choice, perhaps paddling across the channel, never to return, resulting in M222 descendants being found in Scotland. His descendants include our McNeil ancestors, who still slumber someplace, awaiting discovery.

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Concepts: Chromosome Browser – What Is It, How Do I Use It, and Why Do I Care?

The goal of genetic genealogy is to utilize DNA matches to verify known ancestors and identify unknown ancestors.

A chromosome browser is a tool that allows testers to visualize and compare their DNA on each chromosome with that of their genetic matches. How to utilize and interpret that information becomes a little more tricky.

I’ve had requests for one article with all the information in one place about chromosome browsers:

  • What they are
  • How and when to use them
  • Why you’d want to

I’ve included a feature comparison chart and educational resource list at the end.

I would suggest just reading through this article the first time, then following along with your own DNA results after you understand the basic landscape. Using your own results is the best way to learn anything.

What Does a Chromosome Browser Look Like?

Here’s an example of a match to my DNA at FamilyTreeDNA viewed on their chromosome browser.

browser example.png

On my first 16 chromosomes, shown above, my 1C1R (first cousin once removed,) Cheryl, matches me where the chromosomes are painted blue. My chromosome is represented by the grey background, and her matching portion by the blue overlay.

Cheryl matches me on some portion of all chromosomes except 2, 6, and 13, where we don’t match at all.

You can select any one person, like Cheryl, from your match list to view on a chromosome browser to see where they match you on your chromosomes, or you can choose multiple matches, as shown below.

browser multiple example.png

I selected my 7 closest matches that are not my immediate family, meaning not my parents or children. I’m the background grey chromosome, and each person’s match is painted on top of “my chromosome” in the location where they match me. You see 7 images of my grey chromosome 1, for example, because each of the 7 people being compared to me are shown stacked below one another.

Everyplace that Cheryl matches me is shown on the top image of each chromosome, and our matching segment is shown in blue. The same for the second red copy of the chromosome, representing Don’s match to me. Each person I’ve selected to match against is shown by their own respective color.

You’ll note that in some cases, two people match me in the same location. Those are the essential hints we are looking for. We’ll be discussing how to unravel, interpret, and use matches in the rest of this article.

browser MyHeritage example.png

The chromosome browser at MyHeritage looks quite similar. However, I have a different “top 7” matches because each vendor has people who test on their platform who don’t test or transfer elsewhere.

Each vendor that supports chromosome browsers (FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, 23andMe, and GedMatch) provides their own implementation, of course, but the fundamentals of chromosome browsers, how they work and what they are telling us is universal.

Why Do I Need a Chromosome Browser?

“But,” you might say, “I don’t need to compare my DNA with my matches because the vendors already tell me that I match someone, which confirms that we are related and share a common ancestor.”

Well, not exactly. It’s not quite that straightforward.

Let’s take a look at:

  • How and why people match
  • What matches do and don’t tell you
  • Both with and without a chromosome browser

In part, whether you utilize a chromosome browser or not depends on which of the following you seek:

  • A broad-brush general answer; yes or no, I match someone, but either I don’t know how are related, or have to assume why. There’s that assume word again.
  • To actually confirm and prove your ancestry, getting every ounce of value out of your DNA test.

Not everyone’s goals are the same. Fortunately, we have an entire toolbox with a wide range of tools. Different tools are better suited for different tasks.

People seeking unknown parents should read the article, Identifying Unknown Parents and Individuals Using DNA Matching because the methodology for identifying unknown parents is somewhat different than working with genealogy. This article focuses on genealogy, although the foundation genetic principles are the same.

If you’re just opening your DNA results for the first time, the article, First Steps When Your DNA Results are Ready – Sticking Your Toe in the Genealogy Water would be a great place to start.

Before we discuss chromosome browsers further, we need to talk about DNA inheritance.

Your Parents

Every person has 2 copies of each of their 22 chromosomes – one copy contributed by their mother and one copy contributed by their father. A child receives exactly half of the autosomal DNA of each parent. The DNA of each parent combines somewhat randomly so that you receive one chromosome’s worth of DNA from each of your parents, which is half of each parent’s total.

On each chromosome, you receive some portion of the DNA that each parent received from their ancestors, but not exactly half of the DNA from each individual ancestor. In other words, it’s not sliced precisely in half, but served up in chunks called segments.

Sometimes you receive an entire segment of an ancestor’s DNA, sometimes none, and sometimes a portion that isn’t equal to half of your parent’s segment.

browser inheritance.png

This means that you don’t receive exactly half of the DNA of each of your grandparents, which would be 25% each. You might receive more like 22% from one maternal grandparent and 28% from the other maternal grandparent for a total of 50% of the DNA you inherit from your parents. The other 50% of your DNA comes from the other parent, of course. I wrote about that here.

There’s one tiny confounding detail. The DNA of your Mom and Dad is scrambled in you, meaning that the lab can’t discern scientifically which side is which and can’t tell which pieces of DNA came from Mom and which from Dad. Think of a genetic blender.

Our job, using genetic genealogy, is to figure out which side of our family people who match us descend from – which leads us to our common ancestor(s).

Parallel Roads

For the purposes of this discussion, you’ll need to understand that the two copies you receive of each chromosome, one from each parent, have the exact same “addresses.” Think of these as parallel streets or roads with identical addresses on each road.

browser street.png

In the example above, you can see Dad’s blue chromosome and Mom’s red chromosome as compared to me. Of course, children and parents match on the full length of each chromosome.

I’ve divided this chromosome into 6 blocks, for purposes of illustration, plus the centromere where we generally find no addresses used for genetic genealogy.

In the 500 block, we see that the address of 510 Main (red bar) could occur on either Dad’s chromosome, or Mom’s. With only an address and nothing more, you have no way to know whether your match with someone at 510 Main is on Mom’s or Dad’s side, because both streets have exactly the same addresses.

Therefore, if two people match you, at the same address on that chromosome, like 510 Main Street, they could be:

  • Both maternal matches, meaning both descended from your mother’s ancestors, and those two people will also match each other
  • Both paternal matches, meaning both descended from your father’s ancestors, and those two people will also match each other
  • One maternal and one paternal match, and those two people will not match each other

Well then, how do we know which side of the family a match descends from, and how do we know if we share a common ancestor?

Good question!

Identical by Descent

If you and another person match on a reasonably sized DNA segment, generally about 7 cM or above, your match is probably “identical by descent,” meaning not “identical by chance.” In this case, then yes, a match does confirm that you share a common ancestor.

Identical by descent (IBD) means you inherited the piece of DNA from a common ancestor, inherited through the relevant parent.

Identical by chance (IBC) means that your mom’s and dad’s DNA just happens to have been inherited by you randomly in a way that creates a sequence of DNA that matches that other person. I wrote about both IBD and IBC here.

MMB stats by cM 2

This chart, courtesy of statistician Philip Gammon, from the article Introducing the Match-Maker-Breaker Tool for Parental Phasing shows the percentage of time we expect matches of specific segment sizes to be valid, or identical by descent.

Identical by Chance

How does this work?

How is a match NOT identical by descent, meaning that it is identical by chance and therefore not a “real” or valid match, a situation also known as a false positive?

browser inheritance grid.png

The answer involves how DNA is inherited.

You receive a chromosome with a piece of DNA at every address from both parents. Of course, this means you have two pieces of DNA at each address. Therefore people will match you on either piece of DNA. People from your Dad’s side will match you on the pieces you inherited from him, and people from your Mom’s side will match you on the pieces you inherited from her.

However, both of those matches have the same address on their parallel streets as shown in the illustration, above. Your matches from your mom’s side will have all As, and those from your dad’s side will have all Ts.

The problem is that you have no way to know which pieces you inherited from Mom and from Dad – at least not without additional information.

You can see that for 10 contiguous locations (addresses), which create an example “segment” of your DNA, you inherited all As from your Mom and all Ts from your Dad. In order to match you, someone would either need to have an A or a T in one of their two inherited locations, because you have an A and a T, both. If the other person has a C or a G, there’s no match.

Your match inherited a specific sequence from their mother and father, just like you did. As you can see, even though they do match you because they have either an A or a T in all 10 locations – the As and Ts did not all descend from either their mother or father. Their random inheritance of Ts and As just happens to match you.

If your match’s parents have tested, you won’t match either of their parents nor will they match either of your parents, which tells you immediately that this match is by chance (IBC) and not by descent (IBD), meaning this segment did not come from a common ancestor. It’s identical by chance and, therefore, a false positive.

If We Match Someone Else In Common, Doesn’t That Prove Identical by Descent?

Nope, but I sure wish it did!

The vendors show you who else you and your match both match in common, which provides a SUGGESTION as to your common ancestor – assuming you know which common ancestor any of these people share with you.

browser icw.png

However, shared matches are absolutely NOT a guarantee that you, your match, and your common matches all share the same ancestor, unless you’re close family. Your shared match could match you or your match through different ancestors – or could be identical by chance.

How can we be more confident of what matching is actually telling us?

How can we sort this out?

Uncertainties and Remedies

Here’s are 9 things you DON’T know, based on matching alone, along with tips and techniques to learn more.

  1. If your match to Person A is below about 20cM, you’ll need to verify that it’s a legitimate IBD match (not IBC). You can achieve this by determining if Person A also matches one of your parents and if you match one of Person A’s parents, if parents have tested.

Not enough parents have tested? An alternative method is by determining if you and Person A both match known descendants of the candidate ancestors ON THE SAME SEGMENT. This is where the chromosome browser enters the picture.

In other words, at least three people who are confirmed to descend from your presumptive common ancestor, preferably through at least two different children, must match on a significant portion of the same segment.

Why is that? Because every segment has its own unique genealogical history. Each segment can and often does lead to different ancestors as you move further back in time.

In this example, I’m viewing Buster, David, and E., three cousins descended from the same ancestral couple, compared to me on my chromosome browser. I’m the background grey, and they show in color. You can see that all three of them match me on at least some significant portion of the same segment of chromosome 15.

browser 3 cousins.png

If those people also match each other, that’s called triangulation. Triangulation confirms descent from a common ancestral source.

In this case, I already know that these people are related on my paternal side. The fact that they all match my father’s DNA and are therefore all automatically assigned to my paternal matching tab at Family Tree DNA confirms my paper-trail genealogy.

I wrote detailed steps for triangulation at Family Tree DNA, here. In a nutshell, matching on the same segment to people who are bucketed to the same parent is an automated method of triangulation.

Of course, not everyone has the luxury of having their parents tested, so testing other family members, finding common segments, and assigning people to their proper location in your tree facilitates confirmation of your genealogy (and automating triangulation.)

The ONLY way you can determine if people match you on the same segment, and match each other, is having segment information available to you and utilizing a chromosome browser.

browser MyHeritage triangulation.png

In the example above, the MyHeritage triangulation tool brackets matches that match you (the background grey) and who are all triangulated, meaning they all also match each other. In this case, the portion where all three people match me AND each other is bracketed. I wrote about triangulation at MyHeritage here.

  1. If you match several people who descend from the same ancestor, John Doe, for example, on paper, you CANNOT presume that your match to all of those people is due to a segment of DNA descended from John Doe or his wife. You may not match any of those people BECAUSE OF or through segments inherited from John Doe or his wife. You need segment information and a chromosome browser to view the location of those matches.

Assuming these are legitimate IBD matches, you may share another common line, known or unknown, with some or all of those matches.

It’s easy to assume that because you match and share matches in common with other people who believe they are descended from that same ancestor:

  • That you’re all matching because of that ancestor.
  • Even on the same segments.

Neither of those presumptions can be made without additional information.

Trust me, you’ll get yourself in a heap o’ trouble if you assume. Been there, done that. T-shirt was ugly.

Let’s look at how this works.

browser venn.png

Here’s a Venn diagram showing me, in the middle, surrounded by three of my matches:

  • Match 1 – Periwinkle, descends from Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy
  • Match 2 – Teal, descends from Joseph Bolton and Margaret Claxton
  • Match 3 – Mustard, descends from John Y. Estes and Rutha Dodson

Utilizing a chromosome browser, autocluster software, and other tools, we can determine if those matches also match each other on a common segment, which means they triangulate and confirm common ancestral descent.

Of course, those people could match each other due to a different ancestor, not necessarily the one I share with them nor the ancestors I think we match through.

If they/we do all match because they descend from a common ancestor, they can still match each other on different segments that don’t match me.

I’m in the center. All three people match me, and they also match each other, shown in the overlap intersections.

Note that the intersection between the periwinkle (Match 1) and teal (Match 2) people, who match each other, is due to the wives of the children of two of my ancestors. In other words, their match to each other has absolutely nothing to do with their match to me. This was an “aha’ moment for me when I first realized this was a possibility and happens far more than I ever suspected.

The intersection of the periwinkle (Match 1) and mustard (Match 3) matches is due to the Dodson line, but on a different segment than they both share with me. If they had matched each other and me on the same segment, we would be all triangulated, but we aren’t.

The source of the teal (Match 2) to mustard (Match 3) is unknown, but then again, Match 3’s tree is relatively incomplete.

Let’s take a look at autocluster software which assists greatly with automating the process of determining who matches each other, in addition to who matches you.

  1. Clustering technology, meaning the Leeds method as automated by Genetic Affairs and DNAGedcom help, but don’t, by themselves, resolve the quandary of HOW people match you and each other.

People in a colored cluster all match you and each other – but not necessarily on the same segment, AND, they can match each other because they are related through different ancestors not related to your ancestor. The benefit of autocluster software is that this process is automated. However, not all of your matches will qualify to be placed in clusters.

browser autocluster.png

My mustard cluster above includes the three people shown in the chromosome browser examples – and 12 more matches that can be now be researched because we know that they are all part of a group of people who all match me, and several of whom match each other too.

My matches may not match each other for a variety of reasons, including:

  • They are too far removed in time/generations and didn’t inherit any common ancestral DNA.
  • This cluster is comprised of some people matching me on different (perhaps intermarried) lines.
  • Some may be IBC matches.

Darker grey boxes indicate that those people should be in both clusters, meaning the red and mustard clusters, because they match people in two clusters. That’s another hint. Because of the grid nature of clusters, one person cannot be associated with more than 2 clusters, maximum. Therefore, people like first cousins who are closely related to the tester and could potentially be in many clusters are not as useful in clusters as they are when utilizing other tools.

  1. Clusters and chromosome browsers are much less complex than pedigree charts, especially when dealing with many people. I charted out the relationships of the three example matches from the Venn diagram. You can see that this gets messy quickly, and it’s much more challenging to visualize and understand than either the chromosome browser or autoclusters.

Having said that, the ultimate GOAL is to identify how each person is related to you and place them in their proper place in your tree. This, cumulatively with your matches, is what identifies and confirms ancestors – the overarching purpose of genealogy and genetic genealogy.

Let’s take a look at this particular colorized pedigree chart.

Browser pedigree.png

click to enlarge

The pedigree chart above shows the genetic relationship between me and the three matches shown in the Venn diagram.

Four descendants of 2 ancestral couples are shown, above; Joseph Bolton and Margaret Claxton, and John Y. Estes and Rutha Dodson. DNA tells me that all 3 people match me and also match each other.

The color of the square (above) is the color of DNA that represents the DNA segment that I received and match with these particular testers. This chart is NOT illustrating how much DNA is passed in each generation – we already know that every child inherits half of the DNA of each parent. This chart shows match/inheritance coloring for ONE MATCHING SEGMENT with each match, ONLY.

Let’s look at Joseph Bolton (blue) and Margaret Claxton (pink). I descend through their daughter, Ollie Bolton, who married William George Estes, my grandfather. The DNA segment that I share with blue Match 2 (bottom left) is a segment that I inherited from Joseph Bolton (blue). I also carry inherited DNA from Margaret Claxton too, but that’s not the segment that I share with Match 2, which is why the path from Joseph Bolton to me, in this case, is blue – and why Match 2 is blue. (Just so you are aware, I know this segment descends from Joseph Bolton, because I also match descendants of Joseph’s father on this segment – but that generation/mtach is not shown on this pedigree chart.)

If I were comparing to someone else who I match through Margaret Claxton, I would color the DNA from Margaret Claxton to me pink in that illustration. You don’t have to DO this with your pedigree chart, so don’t worry. I created this example to help you understand.

The colored dots shown on the squares indicate that various ancestors and living people do indeed carry DNA from specific ancestors, even though that’s not the segment that matches a particular person. In other words, the daughter, Ollie, of Joseph Bolton and Margaret Claxton carries 50% pink DNA, represented by the pink dot on blue Ollie Bolton, married to purple William George Estes.

Ollie Bolton and William George Estes had my father, who I’ve shown as half purple (Estes) and half blue (Bolton) because I share Bolton DNA with Match 2, and Estes DNA with Match 1. Obviously, everyone receives half of each parent’s DNA, but in this case, I’m showing the path DNA descended for a specific segment shared with a particular match.

I’ve represented myself with the 5 colors of DNA that I carry from these particular ancestors shown on the pedigree chart. I assuredly will match other people with DNA that we’ve both inherited from these ancestors. I may match these same matches shown with DNA that we both inherited from other ancestors – for example, I might match Match 2 on a different segment that we both inherited from Margaret Claxton. Match 2 is my second cousin, so it’s quite likely that we do indeed share multiple segments of DNA.

Looking at Match 3, who knows very little about their genealogy, I can tell, based on other matches, that we share Dodson DNA inherited through Rutha Dodson.

I need to check every person in my cluster, and that I share DNA with on these same segment addresses to see if they match on my paternal side and if they match each other.

  1. At Family Tree DNA, I will be able to garner more information about whether or not my matches match each other by using the Matrix tool as well as by utilizing Phased Family Matching.

At Family Tree DNA, I determined that these people all match in common with me and Match 1 by using the “In Common With” tool. You can read more about how to use “In Common With” matching, here.

browser paternal.png

Family Matching phases the matches, assigning or bucketed them maternally or paternally (blue and red icons above), indicating, when possible, if these matches occur on the same side of your family. I wrote about the concept of phasing, here, and Phased Family Matching here and here.

Please note that there is no longer a limit on how distantly related a match can be in order to be utilized in Phased Family Matching, so long as it’s over the phase-matching threshold and connected correctly in your tree.

browser family tree dna link tree.png

Bottom line, if you can figure out how you’re related to someone, just add them into your tree by creating a profile card and link their DNA match to them by simply dragging and dropping, as illustrated above.

Linking your matches allows Family Matching to maternally or paternally assign other matches that match both you and your tree-linked matches.

If your matches match you on the same segment on the same parental side, that’s segment triangulation, assuming the matches are IBD. Phased Family Matching does this automatically for you, where possible, based on who you have linked in your tree.

For matches that aren’t automatically bucketed, there’s another tool, the Matrix.

browser matrix.png

In situations where your matches aren’t “bucketed” either maternally or paternally, the Matrix tool allows you to select matches to determine whether your matches also match each other. It’s another way of clustering where you can select specific people to compare. Note that because they also match each other (blue square) does NOT mean it’s on the same segment(s) where they match you. Remember our Venn diagram.

browser matrix grid.png

  1. Just because you and your matches all match each other doesn’t mean that they are matching each other because of the same ancestor. In other words, your matches may match each other due to another or unknown ancestor. In our pedigree example, you can see that the three matches match each other in various ways.
browser pedigree match.png

click to enlarge

  • Match 1 and Match 2 match each other because they are related through the green Jones family, who is not related to me.
  • Match 2 and Match 3 don’t know why they match. They both match me, but not on the same segment they share with each other.
  • Match 1 and Match 3 match through the mustard Dodson line, but not on the same segment that matches me. If we all did match on the same segment, we would be triangulated, but we wouldn’t know why Match 3 was in this triangulation group.
  1. Looking at a downloaded segment file of your matches, available at all testing vendors who support segment information and a chromosome browser, you can’t determine without additional information whether your matches also match each other.

browser chr 15.png

Here’s a group of people, above, that we’ve been working with on chromosome 15.

My entire match-list shows many more matches on that segment of chromosome 15. Below are just a few.

browser chr 15 all

Looking at seven of these people in the chromosome browser, we can see visually that they all overlap on part of a segment on chromosome 15. It’s a lot easier to see the amount of overlap using a browser as opposed to the list. But you can only view 7 at a time in the browser, so the combination of both tools is quite useful. The downloaded spreadsheet shows you who to select to view for any particular segment.

browser chr 15 compare.png

The critical thing to remember is that some matches will be from tyour mother’s side and some from your father’s side.

Without additional information and advanced tools, there’s no way to tell the difference – unless they are bucketed using Phased Family Matching at Family Tree DNA or bracketed with a triangulation bracket at MyHeritage.

At MyHeritage, this assumes you know the shared ancestor of at least one person in the triangulation group which effectively assigns the match to the maternal or paternal side.

Looking at known relatives on either side, and seeing who they also match, is how to determine whether these people match paternally or maternally. In this example below, the blue people are bucketed paternally through Phased Family Matching, the pink maternally, and the white rows aren’t bucketed and therefore require additional evaluation.

browser chr 15 maternal paternal.png

Additional research shows that Jonathan is a maternal match, but Robert and Adam are identical by chance because they don’t match either of my parents on this segment. They might be valid matches on other segments, but not this one.

browser chr 15 compare maternal paternal.png

  1. Utilizing relatives who have tested is a huge benefit, and why we suggest that everyone test their closest upstream relatives (meaning not children or grandchildren.) Testing all siblings is recommended if both parents aren’t available to test, because every child received different parts of their parents’ DNA, so they will match different relatives.

After deleting segments under 7 cM, I combine the segment match download files of multiple family members (who agree to allow me to aggregate their matches into one file for analysis) so that I can create a master match file for a particular family group. Sorting by match name, I can identify people that several of my cousins’ match.

browser 4 groups.png

This example is from a spreadsheet where I’ve combined the results of about 10 collaborating cousins to determine if we can break through a collective brick wall. Sorted by match name, this table shows the first 4 common matches that appear on multiple cousin’s match lists. Remember that how these people match may have nothing to do with our brick wall – or it might.

Note that while the 4 matches, AB, AG, ag, and A. Wayne, appear in different cousins’ match lists, only one shares a common segment of DNA: AB triangulates with Buster and Iona. This is precisely WHY you need segment information, and a chromosome browser, to visualize these matches, and to confirm that they do share a common DNA segment descended from a specific ancestor.

These same people will probably appear in autocluster groups together as well. It’s worth noting, as illustrated in the download example, that it’s much more typical for “in common with” matches to match on different segments than on the same segment. 

  1. Keep in mind that you will match both your mother and father on every single chromosome for the entire length of each chromosome.

browser parent matching.png

Here’s my kit matching with my father, in blue, and mother, in red on chromosomes 1 and 2.

Given that I match both of my parents on the full chromosome, inheriting one copy of my chromosome from each parent, it’s impossible to tell by adding any person at random to the chromosome browser whether they match me maternally or paternally. Furthermore, many people aren’t fortunate enough to have parents available for testing.

To overcome that obstacle, you can compare to known or close relatives. In fact, your close relatives are genetic genealogy gold and serve as your match anchor. A match that matches you and your close relatives can be assigned either maternally or paternally. I wrote about that here.

browser parent plus buster.png

You can see that my cousin Buster matches me on chromosome 15, as do both of my parents, of course. At this point, I can’t tell from this information alone whether Buster matches on my mother’s or father’s side.

I can tell you that indeed, Buster does match my father on this same segment, but what if I don’t have the benefit of my father’s DNA test?

Genealogy tells me that Buster matches me on my paternal side, through Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy. Given that Buster is a relatively close family member, I already know how Buster and I are related and that our DNA matches. That knowledge will help me identify and place other relatives in my tree who match us both on the same segment of DNA.

To trigger Phased Family Matching, I placed Buster in the proper place in my tree at Family Tree DNA and linked his DNA. His Y DNA also matches the Estes males, so no adoptions or misattributed parental events have occurred in the direct Estes patrilineal line.

browser family tree dna tree.png

I can confirm this relationship by checking to see if Buster matches known relatives on my father’s side of the family, including my father using the “in common with” tool.

Buster matches my father as well as several other known family members on that side of the family on the same segments of DNA.

browser paternal bucket.png

Note that I have a total of 397 matches in common with Buster, 140 of which have been paternally bucketed, 4 of which are both (my children and grandchildren), and 7 of which are maternal.

Those maternal matches represent an issue. It’s possible that those people are either identical by chance or that we share both a maternal and paternal ancestor. All 7 are relatively low matches, with longest blocks from 9 to 14 cM.

Clearly, with a total of 397 shared matches with Buster, not everyone that I match in common with Buster is assigned to a bucket. In fact, 246 are not. I will need to take a look at this group of people and evaluate them individually, their genealogy, clusters, the matrix, and through the chromosome browser to confirm individual matching segments.

There is no single perfect tool.

Every Segment Tells a Unique History

I need to check each of the 14 segments that I match with Buster because each segment has its own inheritance path and may well track back to different ancestors.

browser buster segments.png

It’s also possible that we have unknown common ancestors due to either adoptions, NPEs, or incorrect genealogy, not in the direct Estes patrilineal line, but someplace in our trees.

browser buster paint.png

The best way to investigate the history and genesis of each segment is by painting matching segments at DNAPainter. My matching segments with Buster are shown painted at DNAPainter, above. I wrote about DNAPainter, here.

browser overlap.png

By expanding each segment to show overlapping segments with other matches that I’ve painted and viewing who we match, we can visually see which ancestors that segment descends from and through.

browser dnapainter walk back.png

These roughly 30 individuals all descend from either Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy (grey), Elizabeth’s parents (dark blue), or her grandparents (burgundy) on chromosome 15.

As more people match me (and Buster) on this segment, on my father’s side, perhaps we’ll push this segment back further in time to more distant ancestors. Eventually, we may well be able to break through our end-of-line brick wall using these same segments by looking for common upstream ancestors in our matches’ trees.

Arsenal of Tools

This combined arsenal of tools is incredibly exciting, but they all depend on having segment information available and understanding how to use and interpret segment and chromosome browser match information.

One of mine and Buster’s common segments tracks back to end-of-line James Moore, born about 1720, probably in Virginia, and another to Charles Hickerson born about 1724. It’s rewarding and exciting to be able to confirm these DNA segments to specific ancestors. These discoveries may lead to breaking through those brick walls eventually as more people match who share common ancestors with each other that aren’t in my tree.

This is exactly why we need and utilize segment information in a chromosome browser.

We can infer common ancestors from matches, but we can’t confirm segment descent without specific segment information and a chromosome browser. The best we can do, otherwise, is to presume that a preponderance of evidence and numerous matches equates to confirmation. True or not, we can’t push further back in time without knowing who else matches us on those same segments, and the identity of their common ancestors.

The more evidence we can amass for each ancestor and ancestral couple, the better, including:

  • Matches
  • Shared “In Common With” Matches, available at all vendors.
  • Phased Family Matching at Family Tree DNA assigns matches to maternal or paternal sides based on shared, linked DNA from known relatives.
  • The Matrix, a Family Tree DNA tool to determine if matches also match each other. Tester can select who to compare.
  • ThruLines from Ancestry is based on a DNA match and shared ancestors in trees, but no specific segment information or chromosome browser. I wrote about ThruLines here and here.
  • Theories of Family Relativity, aka TOFR, at MyHeritage, based on shared DNA matches, shared ancestors in trees and trees constructed between matches from various genealogical records and sources. MyHeritage includes a chromosome browser and triangulation tool. I wrote about TOFR here and here.
  • Triangulation available through Phased Family Matching at Family Tree DNA and the integrated triangulation tool at MyHeritage. Triangulation between only 3 people at a time is available at 23andMe, although 23andMe does not support trees. See triangulation article links in the Resource Articles section below.
  • AutoClusters at MyHeritage (cluster functionality included), at Genetic Affairs (autoclusters plus tree reconstruction) and at DNAGedcom (including triangulation).
  • Genealogical information. Please upload your trees to every vendor site.
  • Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA confirmation, when available, through Family Tree DNA. I wrote about the 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy, here and the importance of Y DNA confirmation here, and how not having that information can trip you up.
  • Compiled segment information at DNAPainter allows you to combine segment information from various vendors, paint your maternal and paternal chromosomes, and visually walk segments back in time. Article with DNAPainter instructions is found here.

Autosomal Tool Summary Table

In order to help you determine which tool you need to use, and when, I’ve compiled a summary table of the types of tools and when they are most advantageous. Of course, you’ll need to read and understand about each tool in the sections above. This table serves as a reminder checklist to be sure you’ve actually utilized each relevant tool where and how it’s appropriate.

Family Tree DNA MyHeritage Ancestry 23andMe GedMatch
DNA Matches Yes Yes Yes Yes, but only highest 2000 minus whoever does not opt -in Yes, limited matches for free, more with subscription (Tier 1)
Download DNA Segment Match Spreadsheet Yes Yes No, must use DNAGedcom for any download, and no chromosome segment information Yes Tier 1 required, can only download 1000 through visualization options
Segment Spreadsheet Benefits View all matches and sort by segment, target all people who match on specific segments for chromosome browser View all matches and sort by segment, target all people who match on specific segments for chromosome browser No segment information but matches might transfer elsewhere where segment information is available View up to 2000 matches if matches have opted in. If you have initiated contact with a match, they will not drop off match list. Can download highest 1000 matches, target people who match on specific segments
Spreadsheet Challenges Includes small segments, I delete less than 7cM segments before using No X chromosome included No spreadsheet and no segment information Maximum of 2000 matches, minus those not opted in Download limited to 1000 with Tier 1, download not available without subscription
Chromosome Segment Information Yes Yes No, only total and longest segment, no segment address Yes Yes
Chromosome Browser Yes, requires $19 unlock if transfer Yes, requires $29 unlock or subscription if transfer No Yes Yes, some features require Tier 1 subscription
X Chromosome Included Yes No No Yes Yes, separate
Chromosome Browser Benefit Visual view of 7 or fewer matches Visual view of 7 or fewer matches, triangulation included if ALL people match on same portion of common segment No browser Visual view of 5 or fewer matches Unlimited view of matches, multiple options through comparison tools
Chromosome Browser Challenges Can’t tell whether maternal or paternal matches without additional info if don’t select bucketed matches Can’t tell whether maternal or paternal without additional info if don’t triangulate or you don’t know your common ancestor with at least one person in triangulation group No browser Can’t tell whether maternal or paternal without other information Can’t tell whether maternal or paternal without other information
Shared “In Common With” Matches Yes Yes Yes Yes, if everyone opts in Yes
Triangulation Yes, Phased Family Matching, plus chromosome browser Yes, included in chromosome browser if all people being compared match on that segment No, and no browser Yes, but only for 3 people if “Shared DNA” = Yes on Relatives in Common Yes, through multiple comparison tools
Ability to Know if Matches Match Each Other (also see autoclusters) Yes, through Matrix tool or if match on common bucketed segment through Family Matching Yes, through triangulation tool if all match on common segment No Yes, can compare any person to any other person on your match list Yes, through comparison tool selections
Autoclusters Can select up to 10 people for Matrix grid, also available for entire match list through Genetic Affairs and DNAGedcom which work well Genetic Affairs clustering included free, DNAGedcom has difficulty due to timeouts No, but Genetic Affairs and DNAGedcom work well No, but Genetic Affairs and DNAGedcom work well Yes, Genetic Affairs included in Tier 1 for selected kits, DNAGedcom is in beta
Trees Can upload or create tree. Linking you and relatives who match to tree triggers Phased Family Matching Can upload or create tree. Link yourself and kits you manage assists Theories of Family Relativity Can upload or create tree. Link your DNA to your tree to generate ThruLines. Recent new feature allows linking of DNA matches to tree. No tree support but can provide a link to a tree elsewhere Upload your tree so your matches can view
Matching and Automated Tree Construction of DNA Matches who Share Common Ancestors with You Genetic Affairs for matches with common ancestors with you Not available Genetic Affairs for matches with common ancestors with you No tree support Not available
Matching and Automated Tree Construction for DNA Matches with Common Ancestors with Each Other, But Not With You Genetic Affairs for matches with common ancestors with each other, but not with you Not available Genetic Affairs for matches with common ancestors with each other, but not with you No tree support Not available
DNAPainter Segment Compilation and Painting Yes, bucketed Family Match file can be uploaded which benefits tester immensely. Will be able to paint ethnicity segments soon. Yes No segment info available, encourage your matches to upload elsewhere Yes, and can paint ethnicity segments from 23andMe, Yes, but only for individually copied matches or highest 1000.
Y DNA and Mitochondrial Matching Yes, both, includes multiple tools, deep testing and detailed matching No No No, base haplogroup only, no matching No, haplogroup only if field manually completed by tester when uploading autosomal DNA file

Transfer Your DNA

Transferring your DNA results to each vendor who supports segment information and accepts transfers is not only important, it’s also a great way to extend your testing collar. Every vendor has strengths along with people who are found there and in no other database.

Ancestry does not provide segment information nor a chromosome browser, nor accept uploads, but you have several options to transfer your DNA file for free to other vendors who offer tools.

23andMe does provide a chromosome browser but does not accept uploads. You can download your DNA file and transfer free to other vendors.

I wrote detailed upload/download and transfer instructions for each vendor, here.

Two vendors and one third party support transfers into their systems. The transfers include matching. Basic tools are free, but all vendors charge a minimal fee for unlocking advanced tools, which is significantly less expensive than retesting:

Third-party tools that work with your DNA results include:

All vendors provide different tools and have unique strengths. Be sure that your DNA is working as hard as possible for you by fishing in every pond and utilizing third party tools to their highest potential.

Resource Articles

Explanations and step by step explanations of what you will see and what to do, when you open your DNA results for the first time.

Original article about chromosomes having 2 sides and how they affect genetic genealogy.

This article explains what triangulation is for autosomal DNA.

Why some matches may not be valid, and how to tell the difference.

This article explains the difference between a match group, meaning a group of people who match you, and triangulation, where that group also matches each other. The concepts are sound, but this article relies heavily on spreadsheets, before autocluster tools were available.

Parental phasing means assigning segment matches to either your paternal or maternal side.

Updated, introductory article about triangulation, providing the foundation for a series of articles about how to utilize triangulation at each vendor (FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, 23andMe, GEDmatch, DNAPainter) that supports triangulation.

These articles step you through triangulation at each vendor.

DNAPainter facilitates painting maternally and paternally phased, bucketed matches from FamilyTreeDNA, a method of triangulation.

Compiled articles with instructions and ideas for using DNAPainter.

Autoclustering tool instructions.

How and why The Leeds Method works.

Step by step instructions for when and how to use FamilyTreeDNA’s chromosome browser.

Close family members are the key to verifying matches and identifying common ancestors.

This article details how much DNA specific relationships between people can expect to share.

Overview of transfer information and links to instruction articles for each vendor, below.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

  • Celebrate DNA – customized DNA themed t-shirts, bags, and other items