Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Disappearing DNA Match

With the recent upgrade to the "Family Matching Tool" at Family Tree DNA, I was curious to see if things became any clearer for me. I've been taking a close look, over the last week, while I do my usual due diligence on trying to figure out just how these people match me.

It's no secret that, despite now having 1,261 matches to my autosomal test at Family Tree DNA, I have precious few confirmed relationships. Same thing goes for my husband's resultsI'm the administrator for those at FTDNAwhere we have a 777-person genetic genealogy puzzle piled up.

I like the fact that the new interface allows customers to identify a close relative who has also tested. The example FTDNA used in announcing their recent changes was that of parent to child. Well, in our cases, those opportunities have long since passed, so that handy device for identifying matches held in common with close relatives almost seemed beyond reach for both of us.

However, I noticed a mention that these close matches could also include a relationship as distant as, say, an uncle. This would be great for us, as we are awaiting results on one such relative. In addition, I also have a half-brother's test already in the system. The challenge now is to insure that test names and genealogical database names match up exactlyin other words, remove the nicknames, if it's the full name showing on the family tree. Once I get those little discrepancies cleared up, I'm looking forward to seeing whether I'm gifted with any revelations.

The change in interface brought with it another surprise, though. When I pulled up the new look for my husband's records, the change in graphics seemed to direct my eye immediately to one distant match that I had needed to follow through on. This was with someone whom I had emailed over a year ago, and then we got stuck in all the comparisons. I knew we would have a match, though, because of a surname we mutually shared—Ambrose. It was just a matter of inspecting both pedigrees to determine how distant our match actually was, then entering inand confirmingthe degree of relationship on our respective accounts.

Well, last week I did the calculations. To do so, I had to transfer another entire line to my tree at Ancestry, but that was just fine. It was yet another one of those lines I had researched and recorded on my database on that other (read: wood burning) computer, so it was about time I took care of it.

When I finally got everything straightened out on the updated database, I determined my husband and this person he matched were sixth cousins, once removed on that Ambrose line. As Family Tree DNA requests us to do, I entered the appropriate level of relationship on my husband's page at FTDNAsince there wasn't that exact classification, I had to enter "distant cousin"and emailed this fellow Ambrose researcher to let her know she'd have to do the same on her end.

Funny thing was, when I went back to the site to check something about our match, poof! She was gone. No matter how I searched, the entry was no longer there. For whatever reason, by saying it was that distant, had I suddenly pushed it beyond the parameters acceptable by the company? Or just stumbled upon a glitch in the new system? Oh well...while I no longer can access the records for this match, at least I have her email. Our mutual line is a surname going back centuries in this country, and quite well researched, so we will likely keep in touch despite having dropped off each other's radar at FTDNA.

Over at Ancestry DNA, where the system has automatically built in a way to glean from posted pedigree charts, we still are struggling with some challenges in matching. My own DNA matches now number 325an increase, in the last two weeks, of only ten matchesand my husband's matches are now up six at 137. Even though Ancestry has initiated a number of sales recentlyand now boasts a database of over two millionour receipt of new results there have slowed to a trickle. And although they had, in the past, warned of changed that might bring upon us a similar disappearance of known matches, none of the ones I'm eyeing as possibilities has done so. Thankfully.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Ancestry equation, I've been jousting at windmills hints for the past two weeks since having complained about my predicament in that department. Try as I might, the more I add to those family trees, the more the hints seem to multiply. Since the beginning of the month, I've added 398 names to my mother-in-law's tree, bringing her total to 7,659 entries; 3,500 of those people have hints still awaiting my inspection. Worse, the total number of record hints for her tree in the past two weeks has escalated 1,579 to a total of 15,308 despite my best efforts to clear them.

Perhaps it's a good thing that I made absolutely no effort whatsoever to add any names to my father-in-law's tree. There, without so much as typing in an iota, the total number of record hints advanced seven, adding up to 930 hints awaiting my attention. And that's after I cleared out all the hints for three of the people in that tree. So much for trying.

On my own side of the family equation, all of my progress has been made on my mother's tree, where an addition of 261 names now gives me a tree of 8,296 people. I'm still focused on that task to enter all the descendants on my matrilineal line. Right now, I'm working on all the descendants of colonial couple Thomas Lewis and Jane Strother. It's quite a challenge to bring each of these lines down to the present day, but I'm plugging away at it still. Goals like this can only be conquered bit by bit over the long haul.

Considering the plans our family had had for this week, I wouldn't have expected to gain those 261 entries for my family tree, nor the 398 for my husband's tree, but sometimes plans change. While we had hoped to be back east, visiting familyand researching our roots along the way, of coursesome health issues have prevented us from following through on plans now. Hopefully, we'll be able to postpone those visits to the falla much more pleasant time for travel, in my opinionand reconnect with all the people we were longing to see this summer.

In the meantime, I've found a way to put those unexpected hours to good use.

Above: "In the Berry Field," 1890 painting by American Impressionist Theodore Clement Steele; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. I hope you get to Ohio before long -

    1. Thank you, Iggy. We hope so, too. There are some folks we really are hoping to see soon--and they're not getting any younger :(

  2. I hope who ever is ill is better real soon:)

    1. Thank you, Connie. We hope so, too. It sure was hard to cancel the trip, but even more important to consider the health situation. Hopefully, we'll be able to reschedule for this fall.


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