Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Compounding Cousin Connections
What a difference an email can make. When you factor in two, the effect can get exponential.
You may be aware of how easily I can become discouraged when other bloggers brag about their "cousin bait." I am easily provoked to sniveling in such cases. Here I am, blogging my heart out—and everyone else gets all the cool emails.
Well, cancel my right to complain. In this lull between family stories—actually, I have no idea which direction to take us next—came two very welcome messages. Both of them turn out to yield cousin connections. One came from a DNA test result at Ancestry.com. The other came out of the blue, thanks to a blog post from last September, following my trip to Florida, home of my McClellan roots.
It may seem like a no-brainer to assume that there would be cousin connections galore for those jumping on the genetic genealogy bandwagon. Not so, as I've discovered after more than a year fishing in the gene pool at Family Tree DNA. Despite having over a thousand matches there, it's been slow going, tediously piecing together groups of potential cousins with similar matches, trying to determine which side of the family claims each connection.
Ancestry DNA, however, may have found the key to super-charging that process: an already well-established family-tree-savvy network of users. And the algorithms to ferret out those matches automatically, complete with diagrams to help make the connections.
Even so, that doesn't guarantee that participants always produce perfectly documented trees—or, in some cases, any tree at all. Nor does it compel those participants to answer messages promptly.
Despite the lack of any posted family tree, I took my chances with one particular enigmatically coded user name which I thought just might have incorporated a surname that, handily, also belongs in my own family tree. The quick reply confirmed not only one match—at the level of third cousin, fairly close for me—but two additional DNA matches from that person's family.
While that alone is cause for genealogical ecstasy, there's been more in store for me this week. An unsolicited email arrived, the day before yesterday, from someone who had stumbled upon a blog post on a mutual relative. Only thing is—neither this writer nor I previously knew each other. A quick volley to compare family notes resulted in the conclusion that we are third cousins. We look forward to sharing notes and collaborating on our family stories.
Cousin bait: besides that unparalleled opportunity to share our micro-history and stories with that wider circle of as-yet-unknown family, isn't this what geneablogging is supposed to be all about?
Above: "The Saucer of Milk," watercolor by English painter Helen Allingham; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.