Saturday, May 23, 2020


There is a family tree swirling around in the genealogical ether at that somehow belongs to me, but for which I can't find a handle to grab it and plug it into the rest of my ancestral existence.

For that, you can blame my paternal grandfather. He was the one who refused to level with his kids and grandkids about his true origin. Even if I had had the chance to meet him—he died before I was even born—I don't suppose I'd have any greater success at getting him to change his mind than did my older siblings and cousins. He took the family secret of his origin with him to the grave.

Eventually, there became a way to sneak around this research roadblock, of course. Thanks to DNA testing, I now have several genetic matches who are apparently connected to this very line of my paternal grandfather—but how, I can't yet say. The clues have amassed enough detail to demonstrate just how each of these DNA matches connect with each other, if not exactly to me.

Not that those clues arrived instantly or all in a clump. It took several years before the first of those matches even showed up. It was as if a dam broke loose at that point, and though not flooding me with information, the many subsequent matches have confirmed the connections within a large extended family.

I've taken to building a tree for all of these connections, something which can easily be accomplished on I started this project almost a year ago—at the end of June 2019, to be precise—and have slowly (and sporadically) built up this private, unsearchable tree to 341 names. Of course, being the "quick and dirty" type of tree like those built by adoptees seeking their birth parents, my tree still needs a lot of documentation. But for now, it was the diagram of relationships that I needed to sort out all those DNA matches. If I couldn't connect them with me, at least I could visualize how they connect with each other.

Now, though, I—the woman with umpteen different family trees posted at—really want to just find a way to connect that giant hairball of a mess to my own family tree. Perhaps I'm being unduly influenced by a comment Crista Cowan made in the chat dialog running concurrently with her NGS Virtual Conference presentation last Thursday. Apparently, according to her report, I am in the rare two percent of Ancestry subscribers who have more than one tree posted on that service. It's not the first time I've been an outlier, but this multi-tree thing is beginning to wear on me. I want to plug in those 341 mystery ancestors to my real family tree and call it good. But how?

Notwithstanding all that fearmongering among longstanding researchers who talk as if posting just one mistake on a tree—even if inadvertently—will ricochet into multiplied thousands of cloned copies of inaccurate information, at some point, I'll need to take a stand. State a hypothesis to test. And see what happens. Perhaps I'll need to flag the guess with bold print or red letters or skulls and crossbones. Warning! Copy at your own risk! Hypothesis being posted here!

Being unattached can be such a lonely feeling. My mystery family tree wants to come in for a safe landing and reconnect with its roots. There has got to be some sort of way to test the approach before making the perfect connection.


  1. I hope you find that one twig that can make this happen!

    1. Miss Merry, I think I am just going to get brave and pull the trigger. I need to plug this line into my own tree, and have a reasonable hypothesis...but have been too chicken to draw the line and say it's so. There will *never* be adequate documentation to show the connection, just a solid proof argument to support what the DNA indicates.

  2. That is so interesting to see that you have this problem. It makes me feel better somehow :-) I have two groups like that - with an unknown place in my life. In each group, the people match to each other (via the wonderful colored dots), but I have no idea how I am related to them. Each group numbers about 400 people (matches) so far. I call one group the Mystery Group, because I haven't sussed out a common ancestor name (only clue is most have ancestors from eastern TN). The other group I named the Greenlee Gang, because they have a clear descent from Peter Greenlee and Deborah Willis, who settled in Pendleton around 1780.

    My hunch is that these groups are the paternal and maternal links to my one brick-wall ancestor, 2GR grandfather Jeffers. All other groups are accounted for and easily linked. I can build a tree for the Greenlees, but so far not for that huge Mystery Group. This is so much fun.

    1. Oh, Lisa, I suppose misery does love company ;)
      But with both your Pendleton and eastern Tennessee connections, who knows...maybe you and I are researching closer lines than we thought.


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