Sunday, September 24, 2023

Initial Response


It's been another week of cleaning up those DNA matches through's ThruLines tool. My goal has been to work on the matches linked with my fourth great-grandfather, Aaron Broyles. I've been able to clear out all but one of the descendants of Aaron's eldest daughter, Jemima—with the one straggler out of the six matches being a case of mistaken identity from a different branch of the extended Broyles family. I've also worked on all but one of the four matches belonging to a different child of Aaron Broyles, his son Cain.

I'll admit, I was hesitant to work on that fourth match for one simple reason: instead of displaying an actual name, the match was labeled with a moniker. Now what? My initial response was to just bypass this match and move on to another part of my end-of-month project.

As with almost anything else in genealogy, what at first may seem like a puzzle—or even a roadblock—can be tackled successfully if taken step by step. The ThruLines tool itself walks us through that very process, if we use the steps outlined for each generation. I've found that so, when I've had to figure out the identity of a match listed only with initials—and I'll admit, some of the tests I administer have been identified only with initials, too—so I decided to take that step-by-step approach with this match, as well.

Starting with Aaron Broyles himself, there were eight generations involved in this pedigree pathway. I had already laid down three of them in my tree, then had worked on two more because of another DNA match. All I had to do was work on the last three generations, including the one labeled with the moniker.

Sometimes, when I work on such matches and they turn out to be labeled with initials, this process can provide a clear indication of the identity of the DNA match, and I can place that person in my tree. The only time that wouldn't work is when the parents were the type who thought it would be cute, or perhaps add to family unity, by selecting names resulting in the same set of initials for each of their children. I've sure been grateful for the families in which the only son turns out to be my DNA match. And this guessing game works far better for families in which the parents are already deceased—and were memorialized in the type of obituary which makes a genealogist's heart sing.

The same process can work almost as well for those matches labeled only with monikers. Initials give us at least one more clue than monikers, though, making monikers a bit more challenging. Still, sometimes that moniker turns out to be a lifelong nickname, which might be found in a high school or college yearbook picture, or in a newspaper article, especially from a sports or social section. I've seen some with a meaning which became more clear, once I discovered specific circumstances of that person's life, like where he or she lived, or a favorite hobby or characteristic.

In this particular case, once I worked the line of descent step by step through the generations from Aaron Broyles to the current time, I realized I had a gift from ThruLines. Each generation's specific descendant checked out, according to confirming documentation, leading up to the match's grandfather. From that point, each of two now-deceased sons had an only child. And because the match's father was deceased, access to his obituary provided the person's name for my tree, and for the DNA connection.

Perhaps we live in an age when almost anything is—or can be—discoverable. This is a risk we need to consider as we leap for the chance to confirm our position in our genetic family tree. With all the information out there, publicly accessible for those who know where to look, initials as a disguising label for a DNA test are hardly the cloak of anonymity we had hoped for.

The truth is out there, as has popularly been said, and yet we suffer a sort of future shock over what might eventually be done with that knowledge. Perhaps we are simultaneously longing to be found yet hoping never to be discovered.

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