Sunday, December 16, 2018

Four Years and Counting

It's been exactly four years—as of yesterday—since I got my autosomal DNA test results from the first company I tested with, Family Tree DNA. That wasn't the first DNA test I had been involved with, of course. As soon as I could, following the tragic loss of my brother's son, I had asked the lone male survivor of my father's patriline if he would consider taking the Y-DNA test at that same company. Thankfully, at a SCGS Jamboree back in June of 2013, he agreed to play this part to help figure out our father's mysterious past. That past is still a mystery, five years later, as my brother still has only two matches, the closest of which has a genetic distance of three, not the exact match we were hoping for.

My own first foray into the world of genetic genealogy was to take the mitochondrial DNA test; I did that the very next Jamboree after the year my brother agreed to take his test at Jamboree. My results weren't much better than my brother's; I did manage to get a couple exact matches, but they were both for adoptees—one of whom, as it turned out, was determined to discover who his birth parents were.

It was this mystery cousin, that exact match to my mtDNA test, who had pleaded with me to consider also taking the autosomal test. He had hoped it would confirm just where on my family tree this adoptee could claim his own rightful place. Four years later, we are still waiting for that clue as to how we connect; pushing back two hundred years on the paper tree has not shaken loose any further hints.

Even so, we keep testing. And comparing notes. And contacting these strangers who are, in reality, our cousins.

And I, determined soul that I am, keep plugging away at that descendants' tree for all of our forebears. Of course, now that I'm getting close to the start of my SLIG course in Southern Research, I've been working solely on my mother's southern line, but that tree is blossoming as I add more branches and learn of more collateral lines' surnames. By this weekend, I had reached 16,318 in my mother's family tree, an increase of 267 names since the last two-week tally.

You can be sure, ever since my autosomal test—first at Family Tree DNA, then at AncestryDNA and 23andMe and MyHeritage and LivingDNA—that the count of matches has grown. Not steadily, of course; the surges in results are quite visible after each of the traditional sales periods, making me look forward to Christmas for yet another reason. And things are already picking up after the autumnal lull. In the past two weeks, I've received twelve additional matches at FTDNA, eleven at 23andMe, and that almost-unbelievable 159 at MyHeritage. Who knows how many new matches I've received at AncestryDNA; they top their count at one thousand, a point I've long since passed. Within a month, that rate of increase will leap with all the holiday sales, I'm sure.

That leaves me with 3,388 matches at FTDNA—the place where I first began—and 1,054 at 23andMe, the place where people keep retracting their results from view. And at MyHeritage, my 6,285 matches begin to slip into the realm of the inconceivable.

With the year rushing to a close, it will be interesting to see how much ground has been covered over the past year, both in traditional research efforts on my trees and in the high-tech boost from DNA testing companies and the auxiliary programs that help us evaluate this avalanche of information. Of course, once I've achieved my research focus for this year—delving into my mother's southern roots—it will be good to get back to a more balanced approach in working on all sides of my family's trees. In the meantime, the exclusive focus on one tree does show me how much ground can be covered with a specific research pursuit.


  1. I hope someday you and your mystery cousin will solve the parental mystery and connection:)

    1. If anyone solves that one, it will likely be my mystery cousin. He is so focused on attaining the goal!


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