Sunday, March 25, 2018
DNA Made Me Do It
...or blame it on the flu. Either way, I haven't felt up to doing much this past week, other than poking around online and plugging names into family trees.
That's probably a good thing in the long run, considering it's time once again to do my biweekly tally. Admittedly, some of the results will seem lopsided—am I playing catch-up on my mother's side of the equation?—but anything is progress, and I'm willing to accept that.
I made a few connections this week that were unexpected, and they all had to do with DNA matches. These, in turn, spurred some record-checking and updating, which meant that, thankfully, I made some progress on the two trees suffering the most neglect over the years: my father's tree and my father-in-law's tree.
I got a surprise email from my husband's cousin—also a genetic genealogy aficionado—who had taken her DNA match results, downloaded them into a spreadsheet and, in a "what do you think of this?" mode, cc'd me on the readout. Just like I've noticed on my more-Irish-than-you sister-in-law (whose test results I administer), this cousin had some particularly interesting family connections. One, in fact, was a distant cousin I had researched on paper years ago but had never thought to re-contact and ask to do a DNA test. Apparently, he had—and shown up as a match to this cousin, but not to my husband. Always nice to discover those confirmations.
Reviewing our new matches the other night, I also spotted another distant cousin's name on a different company's readout. I had been particularly proud of figuring out this family connection—on paper, that is—but this cousin had been reticent about testing. Apparently, all objections had been addressed, and there sat the results in my husband's match readout: third cousin once removed, just as I had projected so long ago.
With encouraging successes like these, I felt like I was on a roll when I received a new match on my side of the family. While this was one of those "second to fourth cousin" ranges, I noticed the person's family was mostly from one of the states where my mother's ancestors had settled. Thinking I could bag this one with little effort—perhaps a little too encouraged by those other DNA discoveries of the past week—I took the better part of an afternoon to discover...that I don't have the foggiest notion how the two of us connect.
No matter. Bottom line was that several new names got added to the family trees, which is always helpful for future reference. A couple email contacts from researching cousins provided me additional family information, which got added to the trees, as well.
So here, after two weeks of work despite flu and other setbacks, is the tally. For my mother's tree, the count is up 294 to total 12,598. My mother-in-law's tree suffered from lack of attention during that rally on my side of the family: up six to 14, 475—but she and all her Catholic forebears are still ahead by nearly two thousand...not that this is a race or anything...
But the best news: contact with cousins helps grow that family tree, especially on the dads' sides. My father's tree managed to grow by eleven to total 499, a welcome improvement after languishing for so long. And my father-in-law's tree is now at 1,423, up thirteen.
With all these connections in the past week, I am looking forward to doing some chromosome mapping to help with this overwhelming amount of unconnectable DNA matches. When I have a distant cousin who doesn't seem to fit into the picture at any of my trees, I try to see which chromosome segment we have in common (easier done at Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage, or 23andMe). Then, I jump to GEDmatch.com to do a Tier One search to isolate all my matches with roughly the same segment on that same chromosome. I want to have a simple way to document some of these discoveries, and I believe the chromosome mapping program at DNA Painter will be a good way to achieve this.
The number of DNA matches that both I and my husband have keep going up—in most cases. It's clear that several others have opted out of sharing, not only at 23andMe, where the ever-shrinking number of matches is glaring evidence of this on a weekly basis, but also at AncestryDNA, where our matches are about two hundred less than this time last year, and at Family Tree DNA, where our matches have gone down by almost five hundred each from our results a year ago. Still, the trend for this year is again upward, though the resultant bulge from holiday sales has slacked, making me wish for a rally around another holiday event.
I've got 2,899 matches at FTDNA, 973 at AncestryDNA, 1,050 at 23andMe, and an unbelievable 3,980 at MyHeritage. As for my husband's matches, he has 1,853 at FTDNA, 511 at AncestryDNA, 1,095 at 23andMe, and 2,784 at MyHeritage. You'd think that would be plenty of DNA matches to play with, but no...most of them are rather distant connections, and I had to make the decision to not pursue matches below a certain threshold. I draw the line at the fourth cousin level, mainly for the sake of not overreaching my pedigree, but also because the smaller number of centiMorgans in common can push us into doubtful territory. There's still plenty of work to do with just those, of course—more puzzles than I care to wrestle with, right now. It's always nice when the science provides a confirmation of a guess on a brick wall research enigma, though, so I keep at it.