Sunday, June 18, 2023

How Close is Close Enough?


DNA can be a powerful tool in confirming one's place in a pedigree chart—and likewise for assembling the descendants of collateral lines. But even the best tool has its weaknesses; the reach of autosomal DNA in confirming relationships loses its strength, the farther the connection stretches between distant cousins.

Despite that risk, I've been working behind the scenes to assemble a diagram of the descendants of Mathias Ambrose's children. The end goal is, for each collateral line to my mother-in-law's direct ancestor, her second great-grandmother Elizabeth Ambrose, to add all the brothers and sisters of Elizabeth's generation in our family tree. There may be a problem with that, though: how close is close enough for two distant cousins to share enough DNA to show up as a match?

Apparently, it is indeed possible to make such a DNA connection, albeit not as often as with closer relatives. Keep in mind, I couldn't test my mother-in-law, herself, but I have tested her son. That, of course, removes us one additional generation from the target ancestor, but despite that, there are a few matches for us to examine.

The first match I checked was a descendant of Elizabeth's oldest brother Jacob. According to the Ambrose website I've been following, Jacob and his wife, Esther Shock, had at least three children whose names I've been tracing: Mathias, Jacob, and Elizabeth. That DNA match descended from Jacob's son Mathias, and shares one fifteen-centiMorgan segment of DNA with my husband. Not much, but at least there's something to connect them genetically as well as genealogically.

The routine I follow when working on collateral lines is to confirm connections through documentation as best I can. For each of the three children of Jacob and Esther I mentioned, I'm now in the process of listing and documenting each of their children—Jacob's grandchildren. Then, from oldest to youngest grandchild, I push forward another generation, and repeat the process.

The idea with this system is, as thoroughly as possible, to construct each collateral line's family tree. The hope is that it will enable me to put DNA matches in their proper place with a bit more ease. Who knows? Perhaps this will prompt the ThruLines mechanism to pick up a few more possible relationship hints at Ancestry, speeding up the process of identifying matches in my tree.

One of the side benefits of going step by step through the descendants of all collateral lines is the surprising stories I come across in the process. Distant cousins can turn out to be the most interesting people. In this same line of Mathias' son Jacob Ambrose, I recently ran across one such vignette. I'll save that one for tomorrow's post.

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