Sunday, September 27, 2020

Working on Theories of Relatives


Stuck on how to tie together all those Falvey DNA matches I'm following, I was encouraged to see that MyHeritage has released an update to the research aid they dubbed their Theory of Family Relativity™. MyHeritage heralds this feature as "game-changing," and when they first released it over a year ago, it certainly was a game changer for my paternal grandfather's mystery Polish ancestry. 

Now, however, my challenge is to tie together the several DNA matches my husband has with unidentified distant cousins who all claim an ancestor from the Falvey family in County Kerry, Ireland—but which Falvey family that might lead to is still the question.

Right now, my behind-the-scenes task is building a private, unsearchable tree which diagrams how each DNA match traces back to County Kerry through their original immigrant ancestor. In this case, it involves reversing the path that Falveys traveled from Ireland not only to the United States, but also to England, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The only drawback to this diagramming exercise: each line leads back to a different root person. And I still can't figure out how all of them are connected.

Despite this dilemma, it still helps to visualize the path from each DNA match through their ancestral generations, so I'm left with a quite disjointed tree, leaving some ancestors in place in the tree marked with a warning sign and identified as a "hypothesis" rather than an assertion. Other ancestors are left in the online tree, detached from any connection to the rest of the Falveys, as a "floating" ancestor. Someday, somehow, maybe I'll discover the key to re-attach those lines back to the rest of the family.

Or not.

Any one of these lines could lead back to the answer I seek. Only problem is: I don't know which one. So I keep diagramming, attaching documentation in support, and then move on to send a message to the next DNA match and draw the next family tree.

Sometimes, utilizing DNA can lead to instant answers, but in the cases I've worked on, the answer seems to be much more muddled. Perhaps it's just because the people related to us aren't the DNA test-taking type. In cases like ours, it becomes clear that finding the answer may need to be a team effort rather than a solo performance. That's why I have always liked the genealogy research model developed in the earliest days of the Internet: forums where people could come together to share information on joint research projects.

I'm tempted to see how many Falvey researchers would be up for collaborating on this puzzle. After all, there are several trees out there—not to mention, Falvey descendants who have already tested. Hopefully, someone has been gifted with some oral history of their ancestors' homeland in answer to my questions. Otherwise, all we're left with will be theories.


Above: Warning icon I attach to those "theories" added to my family tree—a bright sign that though the entry is based on an educated guess, it is simply that, and no more: a guess. This is an idea inspired by Connie Knox of GenealogyTV in her episode "DNA Cousin Matches: Next Steps."

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