Saturday, February 24, 2018
Taking a Stroll Down DNA Lane
It's been a while since I attended to some of my DNA matches at the now four—yes, count them, four—DNA companies where I've taken a test. Not only that, but I'm supposed to be administering test results for my husband and both his sisters. It's high time I got busy.
But those results all seem to look the same: the predictable few ancestors seem to have lots of progeny who are now fascinated with genetic genealogy. The rest of the bunch on my family trees? Not so much.
I thought I'd try something different for my approach this week: on Family Tree DNA, where I have three tests belonging to my husband's family, I checked each one, then clicked the "not in common with" button to eliminate each person's sibling's matches. That way, I got to see which matches were exclusive to that person and that person alone. No three way matches showing up on all three siblings' readouts.
I tried this first on one sister-in-law's test. She, the one I jokingly dub "the most Irish" of my in-laws, ends up with matches straight from Ireland—and several generations back. Those genes seem to drop off the scene before they reach her two siblings. I was curious to see if there were any other strong matches that only she possessed.
So there I was, scrolling through all her matches who supposedly didn't match either of her siblings, when I came across a name that made me stop in my tracks.
"I know that name," I thought to myself, although I could have said it out loud, I was so surprised to see it. It looked like a name from our local genealogical society's membership list. I took a look at the email address provided, then hurried over to our society's database to check it out. Sure enough, it was one of our members, and she lived right here in town.
"You won't believe what I found," I immediately wrote her in an email. She was as surprised as I was. Because it involved a fairly distant relationship—one I'd normally have bypassed, had it not been for the fact that I already know this person—we decided to get together the next day to see if we could figure out the connection.
Searching DNA match results, no matter which company's interface you use, can be difficult when the target person is buried on page kazillion in the results readout. We had to come up with some fancy work-arounds to actually locate our respective results on the website. Turns out, my friend had also done as I've done—tested at several different DNA companies, as well as uploading results to GEDmatch—and not only that, but she had tested several of her relatives, as well. Thankfully, one is from the preceding generation, so we're hoping that will reveal more details.
Nothing in DNA is ever easy, of course, so I now have loads more to examine, once I returned home and pored over the details. But it does remind me that using different ways to view the same match lists can sometimes help something to pop up that otherwise would remain obscured on account of the sheer volume of results. When the match count gets past one thousand and edges its way toward two thousand, it's hard to pay attention to what each individual set of data may be telling us.
It was fun connecting with a real live person I actually know. Of course, we talked about everything genealogical during our visit, and the time just flew by. It was a welcome change from "reading" people on a database as nameless—often faceless as well—entities. While the actual nexus between our two families is likely to be at the level of fourth cousin or more distant—thus, seeking a set of third great grandparents or beyond in our mutual pedigree charts—we're both persistent enough that we'll work at it until we find the answer soon.