Sunday, June 11, 2023

In DNA's Murky Middle


With Mother's Day approaching last month, my one-track mind secretly hoped that many people would get the idea to give their mother a mitochondrial DNA test. The more tests taken, the greater the possibility that I would finally find a match to my own matriline. This month is no different. Since Father's Day will soon be here, so also will be those sales for Y-DNA tests. Hopefully, that will mean more DNA matches on my father-in-law's patriline, just in time to start researching some of his Irish roots next month.

Right now, though, my research focus is on the big, murky middle of DNA test results. Somewhere smack-dab in the middle of my mother-in-law's pedigree chart lies the most recent common ancestor whom I'm hoping will be claimed as someone else's ancestor, as well. 

In my mother-in-law's Ambrose line—the one I'm researching this month—it would require a long, hard look at the family tree to locate a DNA test volunteer who would qualify to reveal results on either the Ambrose patriline or the matriline of Mathias Ambrose's daughter, my mother-in-law's direct ancestor. This line goes from my mother-in-law to her father, up through that patrilineal for three generations, then jumps to that ancestor's matriline for one generation to arrive at Mathias Ambrose's daughter Elizabeth. A zigzag line of ascent like that can only rely on autosomal DNA to reveal genetic matches.

Plus, we're looking at a potential DNA connection with her third great-grandfather. Still, even though the connection is so far away, there are a few matches showing up. And for those few, I am documenting those lines of descent. Thus, I'm beginning to trace the collateral lines of Elizabeth Ambrose, who became the wife of Joseph Flowers.

That is slow going, though, due to difficulty identifying the right people who would be Elizabeth's collateral lines—her brothers and sisters. Knowing, thanks to his will, that Mathias Ambrose had a daughter named Barbara may be helpful, but discovering that her married name became Miller—with no husband's given name in sight that I can find—has me stuck in much the same spot where I was two weeks ago.

Still, I'm making progress—a bit. In the past two weeks, I've been able to add 347 people to my mother-in-law's tree. That means the tree now includes 32,658 individuals whose entries include ample documentation. But there could have been more, if I could have located more documents from early 1800s Bedford County, Pennsylvania. Thankfully, I still have almost three full weeks left to work on this research goal.

In the meantime, various unplanned discoveries of connections on my own family lines led to some work on my mother's family line. An unexpected sixty three people were added to my own tree in the past two weeks, thanks to those developments. Right now, that tree has grown slightly to a new high of 33,563.

While the challenge of researching family history so far removed from our current day is definitely there, I'm hoping my mother-in-law's tree will continue that slow growth process. We'll keep chipping away at this Ambrose family tomorrow. Sometime progress is only made when we stick to the work step by step.

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