Is there trace Iberian results in your British DNA? This might be why

I’m fast on the genealogy trail of my Welsh ancestors. This involves families like Cadwal(l)ader, Evans, Jones, Matthews, Price and Pugh.

celtic_nations_lg_nationalgeographic_900w

Map showing the geography of the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula with Cornwall and Wales in western and southwestern Britain. 

Looking at my DNA matches for others with these families, I kept seeing trace DNA from the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). I made a mental note of this, but it certainly wasn’t anything in the forefront of my mind.

My own Iberian results are minuscule. AncestryDNA doesn’t show it all. Genebase puts it at 0.7%. FamilyTreeDNA estimates it at 0.5%. And various Gedmatch DNA analytic tools puts it between 0.3% to 0.9%. Let’s agree on one thing: it’s tiny. Really, really tiny. I wrote it off as being part of my ancient DNA. It may not be quite as ancient as I assumed.

I’ve come across some interesting articles and books about the genetic composition of the Welsh. Needless to say I learned something new about the Welsh.

I’d always thought that the Welsh were a Celtic people. That’s what I’d heard for the 30 years I’d lived in England. The story goes something like this: the Welsh were the original inhabitants of the British Isles. They were pushed back into present days Wales after a steady stream of invaders: the Anglo Saxons, followed by the Normans. However, there was an even older arrival that had a direct impact on the original Welsh. The Celts.

The first article I came across is an antiquarian piece. And I should caveat this by saying that there is some ethno-centric language and prejudices expressed within it. Long story short, the Anglo-Saxons believed themselves to be superior to the Celtic-Iberian Welsh. This superiority was used to justify their dominance over the Welsh. It’s more than a little racist when it comes to speaking about the Welsh and their Iberian forefathers. Some things never change. Nevertheless, it’s worth reading to gain a basic insight into the geographical movements of older Welsh peoples within Wales as different conquering groups came to occupy their lands: The Athenaeum: Journal of Literature, Science, the Fine Arts, Music and the Drama, Volume 2866:

https://books.google.com/books?id=dJFUAAAAcAAJ&dq=celts%20displaced%20iberians%20south%20in%20wales&pg=PA125&output=embed
https://books.google.com/books?id=dJFUAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA125&dq=celts+displaced+iberians+south+in+wales&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiGzYvw_LzRAhWDMSYKHXtxCcAQ6AEIGjAA#v=onepage&q=celts%20displaced%20iberians%20south%20in%20wales&f=false

There’s also The British Quarterly Review, Volumes 55-56:
https://books.google.com/books?id=67BHAQAAMAAJ&dq=celts%20displaced%20iberians%20south%20in%20wales&pg=RA1-PA250&output=embed
https://books.google.com/books?id=67BHAQAAMAAJ&pg=RA1-PA250&dq=celts+displaced+iberians+south+in+wales&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiGzYvw_LzRAhWDMSYKHXtxCcAQ6AEIOzAG#v=onepage&q=celts%20displaced%20iberians%20south%20in%20wales&f=false

The last article I’ll reference is a contemporary one: DNA of the nation revealed…and we’re not as ‘British’ as we think (Ancestry.com): https://www.ancestry.com/corporate/international/press-releases/DNA-of-the-nation-revealedand-were-not-as-British-as-we-think

There’s plenty of sound, primary sources that cover this topic. If you’re interested, Google “Iberian settlement of Wales” in either Google or Google Books.

This is one potential explanation for the trace amounts of Iberian in my own DNA. It comes via my Welsh ancestry. Another route will be via my Cornish ancestry, with a slight twist.

The indigenous Cornish are proud of their connection to the Saracens, a Semitic people, who traded goods with the Cornish for much-needed tin.

The town symbol for Penryn, the first Cornish village I lived in? A Saracen. It’s also the logo for the village rugby team, also named for the Saracens.l

The Saracens left more than just goods and currency. They left their DNA among the Cornish too – a source of pride for the indigenous Cornish to this day.

https://books.google.com/books?id=y8c2AQAAMAAJ&dq=saracens%20in%20cornwall&pg=PA55&output=embed
https://books.google.com/books?id=y8c2AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA55&dq=saracens+in+cornwall&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiXkNbv_7zRAhVGNiYKHc03D04Q6AEIHzAB#v=onepage&q=saracens%20in%20cornwall&f=false

Again, there are plenty of respected primary sources online which provide a history of the Saracens and the Cornish.

I mention this because the Saracen’s trade wasn’t limited to Cornwall or neighbouring Devon. They traded with the Welsh…and the Iberians, introducing their DNA to southwest England and to Wales. The article Genomic signals of migration and continuity in Britain before the Anglo-Saxons (via Nature Communications via http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms10326) touches on ancient Middle Eastern DNA within the British population.

So why is there only a trace amount of DNA? I have a few hypotheses. I’m doing a fair bit of reading to see how accurate or not this theory is. My Welsh ancestors tended to marry within the same families. Yep – a whole new batch of cousin marriages. These cousin marriages go right back to the 1100’s. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that half of these ancestors carried small amounts of Iberian DNA. That DNA continued to be passed back and forth, just enough being preserved through 20 or so generations to come down to descendants as trace amounts of Iberian DNA.

9e3940c9542600d489d1482e9643416d

An illustrative example showing how inherited DNA segments become shorter as they are passed down from generation to generation. In this example, let’s say the pink regions in the image above are Saracen. Let the 100% Saracen segment represent a Saracen ancestor.  Working from left to right, let’s say this ancestor married a Welsh Celt (illustrated by the blue). His or her descendants would be 50% Saracen and 50% Celtic Welsh. The Saracen reduces over time within each subsequent generation.

As for the Saracen? This could explain the trace amounts of Middle Eastern DNA results that pop up in my Welsh DNA cousins’ test results. Probably for the same reason as Saracen DNA does. This too requires more reading and research.

Those trace amounts of Iberian is beginning to make sense.

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Genetic genealogy, DNA triangulation, and the search for my missing Futrell ancestor

When it comes to my genealogy adventures, more often than not, I feel like Sherlock Holmes or Poirot when it comes to uncovering the identity of missing ancestors who lived in the 17th, 18th and early 19th Century. Paper trails invariably run out, especially when it comes to my ancestors who were either working class whites, blacks, mulattos, Native American, or free people of colour. There are various reasons for this. Either records were lost, destroyed during times of upheaval (i.e. Revolutionary War, Civil War, Bacon’s Rebellion, etc) or were lost due to things like courthouses burning down. Given the remote areas some of ancestors lived, records may have never been produced at all. Or, if enslaved, full names weren’t provided. Or, due to ethnicity, they weren’t seen as people.

DNA testing is one key to uncovering the identities for ancestors where paper documents never existed, or no longer exist…or have yet to be digitized.  The process of DNA triangulation is key to this process:

Triangulation for autosomal DNA is kind of a chicken and egg thing.  The goal is to associate and identify specific DNA segments to specific ancestors.  The easiest way to do this, or to begin the process, is with known relatives.  This gets you started identifying “family segments.”  From that point, you can use the known family segments, along with some common sense tools, to identify other people that are related through those common ancestors.  Through those matches with other people, you can continue to break down your DNA into more and more granular family lines. (DNAeXplained, “Triangulation for Autosomal DNA” via https://dna-explained.com/2013/06/21/triangulation-for-autosomal-dna)

Regular readers will know I’ve developed a talent for triangulation over the years. In truth, much credit goes to my team of genetic genealogists who spent long and patient hours explaining how genetic genealogy and triangulation work; and mentoring me through my first forays into triangulating with my own DNA.

I’ve saved one of the most challenging triangulation tasks for last: discovering the father of my 2x great grandmother, Selinda Futrell, born about 1842 in Rich Square, Northampton County, North Carolina. This falls on my mother’s side of the family tree.

matilda

There are a couple of phases when it comes to organizing how I approach working with DNA and vital documents identifying a parent, or parents, for an ancestor. I’m still very much in the early phases with Selinda.

A preliminary to Phase I

Let’s start with her mother, Melinda, whose name appears as Melinda Futrell in official documents. Melinda was born around 1824 in Northampton County, North Carolina.  The first question I had to tackle was whether or not Melinda was a Futrell by birth, or was it a name she assumed after Emancipation.  In short, what was her connection to the Futrell name?

The three documents I have for Melinda, including the 1870 Census, cite that she is black.  All three documents are consist in this fact. There is nothing to-date to indicate that she was of mixed race. Now this could be for one of two reasons: either she was born of mixed parentage and simply didn’t appear to be.  Or, as I strongly suspect, she wasn’t born of mixed parentage. I am satisfied on the score that she was not a Futrell by birth.

Melinda’s children, on the other hand, are consistently cited as being mulattos. All of them. Which indicates that, unlike Melinda, her children had a white father. Given some 20+ DNA matches with white Futrells and Futrell descendants with roots in Northampton County, North Carolina, the team and I are very confident that man was a Futrell. This would explain Melinda’s adoption of the Futrell name, which she passed on to her children.

This is a prelim into Phase I.

Phase I: The Futrell family tree

So, the preliminary to Phase I was all about determining if Selinda Futrell was indeed a blood relation to the Quaker-descended Futrells in Northampton, NC.

Phase I, which is still ongoing, requires me to do a full and thorough work-up on the Quaker-descended Futrell family tree. This is easier said than done.  I’m not going the lie. The Futrells are a nightmare to research.

Let’s just start with the surname. When it comes to misspellings and variants of the name, it’s in a league of its own: Fewtrell (the old English spelling of the name), Futral, Futrill, Fetral, Tutrill, Titrill, Futrelle…the list goes on and on.

Then there are the beloved family names that were commonly used among numerous branches: Shadrach, William, Charity, Daniel, John, Nathaniel, and Mary, just to cite a few. Online family trees are aren’t an option – too many have confused or merged individuals who borne the same first name and were born within a few years of each other.

The one book I hoped to get a hold of, 12 Northampton County, North Carolina Families
Bridgers, Daughtry, Futrell, Jenkins, Joyner, Lassiter, Martin, Odom, Parker, Stephenson, Sumner, and Woodard by Rebecca L. Dozier is no longer in print.

But then, as luck or providence would have it, I discovered a second book: The Futrell Family Revised by Roger H. Futrell (available to read and/or download via: https://dcms.lds.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE99258)  This book has been an absolute godsend. I’m not exaggerating when I say that we couldn’t have done an accurate family tree without it.

The book allowed us to ramp up Phase I, and begin Phase II.

Phase IIa: Eliminating and shortlisting paternity candidates

The 18th and early 19th Century Futrell family is huge. The family was not only prolific, it produced an unusual number of male children generation after generation.

At the moment, we’re just shy of 60 Futrell men born between 1650 and 1820. In order to have the fullest list of possible paternity candidates, we’re required to try and trace as many descendant lines for Thomas “The Immigrant” Futrell (born 1659 in Shropshire, England, lied for a period in Surry County, Virginia –  and died in 1693 in Bertie County, North Carolina). Once this has been done, we can begin to specifically look at Futrell men who were old enough, and resident in Northampton County, NC prior to Selinda Futrell’s birth in 1842.

I don’t know if ‘luck’ is the right word, but I’m going to use it anyway.  As luck would have it, around two-thirds of the Futrells who were in North Carolina had moved to Trigg and Christian Counties in Kentucky by 1814. Why is this lucky?  These Futrell men are automatically eliminated as possible descendant lines who could have fathered Selinda and her siblings. These Futrells didn’t moved back and forth between Kentucky and North Carolina.  Once they arrived in Kentucky, that was it.

We next looked into the proximity of Futrell men to Melinda and her family in Rich Square.  There were a dozen or so men of the right age either living in Rich Square. Another 8 Futrell men lived within a day’s horse ride away from Rich Square. Then there was the extended family group of Futrells who lived in Onslow County, NC.

Next we looked at which Futrells owned slaves.  This ruled the Onslow County group of Futrells out almost immediately. None of them had enslaved people.

This, again, helps us narrow the field of identifying the best, most likely paternity candidates on paper before we begin using DNA to triangulate.

After eliminating so many Futrells from consideration, we are left with a few family lines to investigate more closely:

  1. Male Futrell descendants of John W Futrell (1715-1788) and Martha “Polly” Daughtry;
  2. Male Futrell descendants of Benjamin Futrell (1720-1790) and Mourning Smith; and
  3. Male Futrell descendants of Thomas Futrell III (1713-1770) and Elizabeth Dickinson.

Work continues in investigating these three family groups.

Phase IIb: Wills and probate…and more Wills and probate

Wills and probate records are a vital – and rich – source of ancestral information. On the one hand, they provide the names of surviving family members, including grandchildren (e.g. I bequeath to my grand-daughter Hezekiah Heathcock, the daughter of Anne,…)

Next, Wills and probate are important for my Futrell ancestry for another reason. Wills and probate tells me who held enslaved people and who did not. This isn’t always a hard and fast rule.  My formerly missing German-American Sheffey 4x grandfather, John Adam Sheffey, was the only 18th Century Sheffey to not own slaves.  However, his brothers did. Yet, as far as DNA is showing, only John Adam Sheffey seems to have fathered children with Jemimah, an enslaved woman in the household of his brother Maj Henry Lawrence Sheffey. Slave ownership isn’t always a reliable factor when it comes to determining paternity.

For the Futrells who held enslaved people, the names of the enslaved are cited in their Wills.  It is actually possible to follow the trail of the enslaved from generation to generation through subsequent Futrell family Wills.

Using an example, let’s say Futrell #1 had an enslaved woman by the name of Amey. She goes from him to his son, Futrell #2.  Next, we might see in Futrell #2’s Will that Amey and her children, Patsy and Shadrach, pass to his son, Futrell #3.  Not only can I track Amey, I can now see that she has two children. Further Wills will provide further clues and information about Patsy and Shadrach.

The above is an illustrative example.  The Will of Elliot Futrell below, is a real-world working example:

elliott-futrell-1elliott-futrell-2

I’ll go ahead and say.  Creating family trees from Wills is a strange and unsettling business. I don’t think I’ll ever reconcile myself to it. With that said, it is a critical skillset to acquire when it comes to genealogy.

As part of my genealogy practice, I add this information my Ancestry.com family tree for the respective individuals who held and inherited enslaved people.  I do this in the hopes that it helps other African Americans  researching their own family trees. I include the names of the enslaved and how that individual came by them (i.e. inheritance or purchase) with links back to the original course. The two images below show my working practice using the Will above:

mitchell-futrell

The image above shows notes I add to respective Ancestry.com pages to track the movement of enslaved ancestors from generation to generation.

Now, in the instance above, I don’t know if any of the enslaved people cited are part of my Futrell family’s story. However, they will be part of someone’s family story. So many have helped me along my way in my adventure, it would be churlish for me to not pay it forward.

Phase IIc: Identifying Futrell DNA segements

While I grapple with the traditional genealogy required in Phases IIa and IIb, the team is working on identifying my Futrell DNA segments and the Chromosome(s) associated with this segment or segments. While I’ve become adept at this part of the process, it is time consuming. And, in this instance, exceedingly tricky due to endogamy (cousin marriages, in short). I’m going to say it: the professionals are far quicker at this than I am!

This article from DNAeXplained gives you a glimpse into what’s involved: Concepts: Match Groups and Triangulation https://dna-explained.com/category/triangulation.

Phase III: Working with online DNA cousin matches

This final phase will do one of two things.  It will either identify the father of Selinda Futrell and her siblings. Or, it will narrow the search down to a single family group, a father and his sons, in other words. Most of the time, we get a solid hit and there’s no doubt about it.  Other times – and this is largely due to endogamy – we can only narrow it down to a father and/or his sons.

For example, it’s not unusual in my family tree for two brothers from one family to marry sisters from another family – and both sets of couples were cousins. Add the fact that the parents of the 2 brothers and 2 sisters were 2nd or 3rd cousins. Nothing skews DNA triangulating quite like this. It’s a bit of a nightmare. Less frequent is a father and a son marrying a mother and a daughter from another family, who may or may not be related to them.

Part of Phase III includes me relaying any possible DNA overlaps back to the genetic genealogists. For instance, the Quaker descended Futrells married Outlands, Exums, Vinsons and Lassiters quite often In Northampton, NC. I know already that I have Lassiters and Exums in Virginia on my father’s side of the family. I also have Outlands from Pennsylvania and Virginia on both my parents’ ancestral lines. Regardless of which colonial territory or State they lived in, these Outlands, Lassiters and Exums are part of the same family. Add in the Quaker White family, which links all of these families and more…and you have some tricky triangulation to do.

This information is crucial for the genetic genealogy team to reduce the risk of them arriving at a false positive. They need to find ‘pure’ lines – lines that don’t share common DNA with any other, in order to successfully identify Selinda Futrell’s father.  We use this as a benchmark against which we compare every other line.

Each Futrell line will be examined individually to see which one matches me closer, in terms of generation, than any other. For instance, if all of my DNA matches are at the 5th, 6th and 7th cousin level, save one that matches me at the 4th generational level or less – the most recent shared match is the one we need to investigate more closely. The identity of her father rests on Futrells who match me more closely in terms of generational distance than any other Futrell descendant line.

Normally, we’d also rely on the length of DNA segments shared, and the number of segments shared, between me and my Futrell DNA matches.  However, because of cousin marriages, I already know we’ll share more DNA in common than is typical for 4th to 8th cousins.  As an example, I have a Quaker cousin in Pennsylvania who Ancestry.com suggests is a 3rd cousin. We know a number of the ways we’re related, which makes us 5th, 6th, and 7th cousins respectively (due to endogamy within the colonial Quaker communities, we share at least 6 sets of common ancestors). We share a crazy amount of DNA segments for two people whose common ancestors lived between 1660 and 1770. It’s not Ancestry.com’s fault, it can only go by what the genetic numbers are telling it.

Yep, I know, it sounds like a whole lot of work to identify one ancestor. It’s what you do when the paper trail runs out.

And why spend so much time and effort to identify a father-owner ancestor?  I’ll touch on that in the next article.

Genetic Genealogy: Parental Phasing Explained

The wonderful DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy blog has been posting a series of excellent articles on the topic of genetic genealogy. The one I’m featuring here is on the topic of Parental Phasing using your DNA test results. While it requires plenty of concentration and more than a few steps..it’s an excellent way of working with your DNA test results.

Parental phasing works by comparing your DNA against your matches’ DNA, then comparing your matches’ DNA against your parents’ DNA, and telling you which, if either, or both, parents they match in addition to you.

Oh yes, and there’s one more tiny tidbit – they must match you and your parent(s) on the same segment(s).

denny-me-child

The image above is an example of a Matches Spreadsheet.  Matches are color coded to better see the match comparison relationships. If Denny (a DNA match) matches both me and my child, you will see a common segment on that chromosome for both me and my child in the spreadsheet. Rows where Denny matches my child are light orange and rows where Denny matches me are light blue, similar to the chromosome browser colors.

For the full article, please surf on over to:
https://dna-explained.com/2016/04/06/concepts-parental-phasing

How Your Autosomal DNA Identifies Your Ancestors

An illustrative example of DNA inheritance.

An illustrative example of DNA inheritance.

All of autosomal genetic genealogy is based on these concepts of inheritance and matching, so if you don’t understand these, you won’t understand your matches, how they work, why, or how to interpret what they do or don’t tell you.

This article provides an excellent, illustrative overview of DNA inheritance from one generation to the next: http://dna-explained.com/2016/02/25/concepts-how-your-autosomal-dna-identifies-your-ancestors 

 

So I’m starting to explore AncestryDNA’s ‘Shared Matches’ tool…

I’ve recently started to explore AncestryDNA’s  ‘Shared Matches’ feature. By recent, I mean only 48 hours ago. Explorations like this makes my inner geek happy. I’ve tinkered with digital stuff and technology for years, so tech like this isn’t daunting to me. I fearlessly dive in to see how things work…or least try to figure out how things like this tool work.

I offer this caveat up-front: I’ll be covering the ‘Shared Matches’ feature as it appears on the new Ancestry / AncestryDNA site. So please don’t be thrown or confused when looking at the screen grabs. They will look very different from the old version of the site, if that’s the one you’re still using.

I’m just exploring and working things out at the moment. There is an end game for this exploration. I hope I can make some in-roads into my Irish and Ashkenazi Jewish genealogy. Yes, that’s right, I have 3 of the most challenging ethnicities to research when it comes to genealogy: African-American, Irish and Central/Eastern European Jewish. Three ethnicities that have undergone a worldwide diaspora with some of the most challenging records to find. That’s me. If there is a genealogy higher power, s/he must be laughing.

What better way to finely hone my pending approach to tackling my unknown Irish and Jewish ancestors than a thorough understanding of how this feature works with my known African-American cousins and known European cousins? I can then apply this insight to DNA cousins I have yet to find common ancestors for. If I can understand the strengths and weaknesses of the ‘Shared Matches’ algorithm and results, I can have a more informed  approach to understanding the many Irish and Jewish DNA cousins I have on AncestryDNA. I have a staggering number of each.

That’s my working premise at the moment.

Ok, with that out of the way, let me show you how I’ve been exploring this AncestryDNA tool.

Below is the standard AncestryDNA family matches landing page. No surprises here for those of you familiar with the service. And yes, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. I really do have 49 pages of DNA cousin matches.

image showing my AncestryDNA family matches landing page

My AncestryDNA family DNA match landing page. Please note that I have will be protecting the identities of my DNA matches in this post. Click for a larger image

Now I have a LOT of cousins with connections to what was the Old Ninety-Six County of South Carolina (this county was dissolved to create the following counties: Abbeville, McCormick, Edgefield, Saluda, Greenwood, Laurens, and Union counties, parts of  Spartanburg County; much of Cherokee and Newberry counties; and small parts of Aiken and Greenville Counties). I know exactly how I’m related to a number of these 3rd, 4th and 5th cousins. There’s a group of us who are very, very active genealogy researchers and share information of various family groups on Facebook.

I connect to these cousins in a myriad of ways. We are the descendants of enslaved Africans, free people of colour and Quakers who left England and Scotland for Antrim and Ulster in northern Ireland, made their way to Pennsylvania and later the former Old Ninety-Six. Knowing how we’re related tells me a bit about how ‘Shared Matches’ works.

And, in a way, my Edgefield family heritage is a good one when it come to understand this DNA matching analysis tool. Whether Quaker, formerly Quaker or African-American, my Edgefield ancestors and relations married within the extended family for generations. So many of my Edgefield-connected cousins and I, regardless of ethnicity, are related to one another a few times over (so far, the winner is a cousin I’m related to at least 4 different ways). Why is this important to note? There are few single sets of common ancestors when it comes to the Edgefield side of my family tree. Which makes pinpointing isolated common ancestors a bit tricky. I’m going to find the same pattern for my rural, agricultural Irish ancestors (who married within a clan structure) and my Ashkenazi Jewish ancestors. Edgefield, it turns out, will be a great genetic genealogy proving ground. It really is as complicated and intricate as general genealogy, much less genetic genealogy, gets.

So, I want to see how many DNA cousins there are who also share a connection to Edgefield. So I typed this search term in the search box as shown in the image below:

image showing how to filter for a specific place on AncestryDNA

Image showing how to filter for a specific place on AncestryDNA. Click for a larger image.

And this is what I got:

image showing how to filter for a specific place on AncestryDNA

Click for larger image.

Turns out I have 78 at the moment. I’m sure if I have added the other counties created from Old Ninety-Six, this number would have been much, much higher.  For this exercise, I want to solely concentrate on Edgefield.

Roughly a third of these 78 matches are cousins that I share a common set of 18th Century Quaker x-times-many great grandparents who lived in Pennsylvania. These ancestors didn’t live in Edgefield themselves – but had descendants or extended family members who did. The only reason they appear in the search results above is down to the fact that, like me, they are researching the whole family and not just their own direct line. I already had their ancestors in my tree and they had mine in theirs.

So I’ve placed this group of cousins to one side. For this exercise, I’m solely focussing on cousins whom I know I share a common set of Edgefield-born ancestors.  It’s always a good idea to grapple with a small sample size when dealing with something new; and something as complicated, complex and intricate as genetic inheritance. It’s like learning how a car engine works for the first time. You wouldn’t tackle how the engine works as a whole. You start with how two parts of it relate to one another and work together, and then add a third engine component and a fourth and a fifth until you finally understand how the whole engine works. This is how I’m approaching the Shared Matches tool.

78 people is just far too many to begin to unravel the mystery of this DNA analysis tool.

So I started hunting around within these results for someone who would match me and only a handful of other DNA cousins on the service within these Edgefield results.

The hunt is on for a DNA match who matched me as well as other Edgefield-based DNA matches. Click for larger image

Trial and error: the hunt is on for a DNA match who matched me as well as other Edgefield-based DNA matches. Click for larger image

So I searched around until I found the DNA cousin above. I’ll call her ‘Mary’. 

When I clicked on the ‘Shared Matches’ link on her page, this is what appeared:

Click for larger image

Click for larger image

Mary matches with me as well as 3 other people. Now this is a sample size I can work with when it comes to analyzing the Shared Match tool!

To re-cap, the 5 of us (Mary, myself and the 3 people who share DNA with Mary and I), share ancestors who lived in Edgefield. Which is exactly what I wanted. Now I have to unravel how, exactly, we’re related. Why are there only five of us -and not all of the other people who match me for Edgefield? Why do my known Edgefield cousins (from families like Matthews/Mathis, Holloway, Settles, Williams, Dorn, Ouzts, Peterson, Timmerman, Harlan/Harling, Gilchrist, Borum, etc) match me, but not Mary or the 3 matches she and I have in common. What family line do the five of us share that none of my other Edgefield relations do? Understanding this not only fills in a genealogy information gap. It will give me a sound insight into how the Shared Matches tool works. Only when I understand how this tool really works can I begin to extrapolate and apply what I’ve learned to other groups of shared matches.

I have a feeling that this Shared Match tool is AncestryDNA’s compromise offering for not having a Chromosome Analysis tool like the ones available from Family Tree DNA and Gedmatch.

image A chromosome analsyis i ran on DNA couin match group on Family Tree DNA

A chromosome analysis I ran on DNA cousin match group on Family Tree DNA. Click for larger image.

AncestryDNA’s position on not having a chromosome analysis tool is entrenched. Like many others, I think it’s a bad call.  Knowing the DNA segment lengths you share with DNA matches can provide critical insights. I have nicknames for parts of my chromosomes that I match others on on Gedmatch and FTDNA: names like my Roane segment or my St. Clair segment, my Josey segment or my Matthews/Mathis segment. Or I name them by region: those are my Arab chromosomes or my Central Asian Chromosomes or my Jewish Chromosomes. On FTDNA and Gedmatch, I don’t even have to know the name of person to see how we’re related. More often than not all I need to see is which chromosome segment we match on and share.

While Ancestry’s Segment Match is better than nothing, and will ultimately yield results, it’s not really a substitute for a chromosome anlaytics tool.

With that said, a few things have already piqued my interest with this group of DNA Shared Matches. Mary and two of the other matches have a 100% European ancestry as reported by AncestryDNA. One person has an Ancestry that’s as mixed as mine. Which, initially, tells me that the shared Ancestor pair we have in common is most likely European. And looking at the major ethnicities of Mary and the two other European-descended matches, this common ancestral pair has the highest likelihood of roots in England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland.

And I’m very excited about the guy with an ancestry as mixed as my own, who I will call Joe. Why? Because I know Joe. I know how we’re related on our known white and black Edgefield lines. The common ancestors Joe and I share can’t be shared by Mary and the other 3 people in this shared match result. Which means I can exclude all of the ancestors and relations that Joe and I share in common when it comes to identifying the common ancestral pair that links us to Mary and the 3 others in these results. Somewhere out there is a new white family name I have yet to find. One that Joe and I don’t share with all of our other known Edgefield cousins who have taken the AncestryDNA test to-date.

This is the benefit of working with a small match pool. It narrows the parameters which results in a narrower field of inquiry. And if this is all beginning to sound like a forensic, CSI-esque kind of experience?  Well, it kind of is. Again, it makes my inner-geek happy.

The next step is to dive into the family trees for these matches…if their trees are public. Heck, if they even have them at all. in this case, only one of the trees is private. So I have 3 trees to work with. Which is kind of a lucky break. Trust me, 3 trees to work with was more than I could have hoped for.

The next step will be applying what I will be learning about this tool to other Edgefield family match groups that are larger. And when I have a finely-tuned understanding of this tool? I’ll start applying it to the Irish and Jewish DNA cousins where absolutely nothing is known in terms of ancestors we share in common. That is my end-game.