Wednesday, June 7, 2023

When the Most Recent is Distant


The power of DNA is that it can show some family connections even when we don't have the paperwork to prove the point. We've all seen how DNA has connected adoptees to birth parents, for instance, but what about those more distant relationships like the ones I'd be dealing with this month?

Mathias Ambrose might indeed be my mother-in-law's third great-grandfather, but when it comes to DNA tests, unfortunately my mother-in-law never tested. My only option was to test her children, which of course removes the connection by another generation. With the distance to the most recent common ancestor—that's Mathias Ambrose, in this case—yielding same-generation descendants at the range of fifth cousins, Ancestry's DNA test can detect the relationship in about thirty two percent of the time to show the genetic cousins. All the rest—the genealogical fifth cousins—would not have enough DNA material shared to detect the relationship.

There are, however, several Ambrose matches which show up at Ancestry DNA, one of the companies where my husband tested. Overall, according to Ancestry's ThruLines comparison, my husband has sixty seven DNA matches for whom Mathias Ambrose is a shared ancestor. Granted, the proof is in the trees, themselves—and hopefully those trees are well documented, a problem we've already begun to realize will be a challenge we all face.

Out of those sixty seven DNA matches, the great majority are from my husband's direct ancestor, Mathias' daughter Elizabeth (thirty five), followed by her sister Susannah (seventeen), the two sisters who married two Flowers brothers. Because those matches are descendants of double cousins, the estimated relationships showed far closer than they actually turned out to be on paper.

For the descendants of Mathias' other children, I was interested to see which ancestors were represented in this collection of matches. Furthermore, since I have very little information on those other children of Mathias Ambrose, I was wondering whether these DNA results might lead me to any welcomed discoveries. Tomorrow, we'll see what the DNA helped us see about this family constellation.

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