Common Ancestor Puzzle

Do you ever participate in one of Blaine Bettinger’s DNA quizzes? Or, do you ever see someone else’s post about their DNA stats and decide to investigate your own? I know I often take the time to look at the data and see how my data compares.

That happened two days ago when someone (and unfortunately I don’t know who and can’t find the original post) posted about his Ancestry DNA Common ancestors. Basically, the poster indicated how many common ancestors he had at each cousin level and wondered how that compared to other testers.

Thus, I decided to look at mine:

  • One 1st cousin
  • Three 2nd cousins
  • Five 3rd cousins

With over 3,000 4th cousin or closer DNA matches, I expected a lot of common ancestors at the 4th cousin level. Thus, I was shocked to only find EIGHT.
Out of curiosity, I looked at my incomplete ThruLines spreadsheets to see how many cousins I have identified so far.

Not only do the numbers differ for 4th cousins, but they also differ for how many 2nd and 3rd cousins I have descending from a common ancestor. 
This sent me back to my matches list. When I looked at the number of shaky leaf icons in my matches list, the number of the shaky leaf icons for 1st thru 3rd cousins matched the number of cousins using the common ancestor filter.
The next level is a little deceiving. On the matches list this level is 4th thru 6th cousin — not just 4th cousins. So I started counting the shaky leaf icons. I had counted 155 shaky leaf icons and was still in the 4th-6th cousin section. Since I had reached a match length of just 22 cM, I stopped counting.
Once I realized that the shaky leaf is not always synonymous with common ancestor, I went back and started looking for the term ‘common ancestor’ by the shaky leaf. I quickly counted over 8 4th-6th cousins with the words ‘common ancestor’. Studying the first 15 of those ‘common ancestor’ matches, I found it odd that three of the 15 matches had two trees with a tree size of 7 and one tree in the list with a tree size of 2. When I looked at those very small trees, a common ancestor was not shown on the tree.

Since I descend from Isom Gallimore, it is possible that Isom Gallimore is our common ancestor. However, nothing in my match’s tree connects my match to Isom Gallimore. Yet, this match comes up using the ‘Common Ancestor’ filter.

Going back to my match list, I wondered why some of my known cousins don’t appear as common ancestors. For example, several descendants of my 2nd Great Grandfather, George Mentzer, have tested but aren’t listed on the ‘common ancestor’ list. 

This match descends from George Mentzer thru his son Ernest. My tree not only contains information on George Mentzer, but on his children and grandchildren.

Thus, our two trees should contain enough information to connect our two trees. Thus, I expected to find this match on the ThruLines screen for George Mentzer. 

Unfortunately, the ThruLines screen does not show George’s son Ernest and the link to my DNA match — even though our trees both contain Ernest as a son of George Mentzer.

Since this Mentzer match has an unlinked tree, I’m wondering if that is keeping the ‘common ancestor’ and ThruLnes from working for this match.
Unfortunately, I don’t have an explanation for only EIGHT 4th cousin matches showing up  with the ‘Common Ancestor’ filter. 

Can anyone else explain this?

ThruLines Validating Research

I’ve seen several negative posts and comments about Ancestry’s new DNA tool, ThruLines. I haven’t come close to looking at all of my lines, let alone verifying them. However, I am thrilled Ancestry developed this new tool.

With 231 ThruLines, it will take me some time to document them all, let alone verify the other lines. However, I have started the process of ‘archiving’ the various lines using a spreadsheet format suggested by Diahan Southard. (See: DNA Thru Lines Potential Breakthrough)

As I was entering the information from my various BRILES ThruLines into my spreadsheet, I realized that all of these DNA matches are verifying the information I found in two family genealogies: Keith Typescript and Briles Family by Max Briles.

These two genealogies were my starting points for the Briles side of my tree and thus the backbone on which I added other sources. Over the years, I’ve added census records, marriage records, wills, land records, etc to help document the various Briles families. Not only did these genealogies provide a starting point, they also helped separate individuals of the same name. My Briles research was easier because I had these genealogies as the foundation. My realization that my DNA ThruLines are confirming these genealogies was not only reassuring but also freeing.

I believe my realization is freeing because it validates the practice of using family genealogies, biographies in mug books and even online trees as a starting point to search for the additional records to verify the information found in those sources. So to the nay-sayers who reject online trees, mug books, etc. as being inaccurate, I say forget that. I’m going to use any and all sources of information, including online trees and mug books, to see if I can find additional sources to prove/disprove family relationships. Then I will use my DNA ThruLines to see whether DNA supports my research.

Searchable Trees

Do you have a private tree on Ancestry? If so, I would like to convince you to make it searchable — especially if you have a DNA test attached to that tree. (See AncestryDNA ThruLines FAQ)

Ancestry’s new DNA ThruLines tool is helping me figure out how I connect with my multitude of DNA matches. The clues provided on my James Crawford ThruLines have helped me identify another granddaughter, Matilda Caroline Stoner.

The clues provided by ThruLines were just enough for me to begin locating records to document this relationship in my tree. The ThruLines tool uses the PRIVATE box to show the generations I am missing before connecting with my DNA match.

Based on the information from ThruLines, I’ve been able to begin filling in this family in my tree. Since I’ve just begun researching Matilda’s descendants, I still need to locate information on  the descendants so I can validate this DNA Connection.

I wouldn’t have any of this information without the hints provided by ThruLines. Thus, I would never have connected with the matches at the bottom of that private tree.

Please, help make ThuLines more powerful!If you have done a DNA test and have an unattached tree, attach the tree to your DNA test.If you have a private tree attached to your DNA, make that tree searchable.

ThruLines Missing

I’m in love with how ThruLines is helping me learn more about my DNA matches. I wanted to show my husband how helpful this tool is.

Unfortunately, when I went to his DNA test to look at his ThruLines, the screen indated he didn’t have any.

When I check the DNA test for his mother, there are ThruLines.

I found this odd since both tests are attached to the same tree. Since the message indicated an issue with the tree, I started investigating the tree. A look at the pedigree view of his tree indicates that he has a fairly extensive tree.

Knowing that a lack of ‘Ancestry sources’ could cause issues with a tree, I checked one of his ancestors to see if he had any sources attached on his Ancestry tree.

I then checked his tree overview.

At this time, I can’t figure out why one DNA test has ThruLines while another test does not when they are attached to the same tree. 
I have called Ancestry about this issue. While working with the tech, I discovered that there are issues on the Matches screen. When the ‘Common Ancestor’ filter is selected, no matches are returned.

On the main DNA screen, it indicates that there are 76 Shared Ancestor Hints.

If I go back to circles, I can verify that there were at least 16 DNA circles prior to the switch to ThruLines.

Unfortunately, Ancestry wasn’t able to figure out the issue. At this point, their suggestion was to ‘improve’ the tree. 

I have used the ‘Provide Feedback’ link to add a comment about the issues on the matches pages. Since all of this is just rolling out, I’m going to be patient and see if the issue gets resolved.

DNA ThruLines Potential Breakthroush

Did you hear all about it yesterday? Both Ancestry and My Heritage announced new DNA tools. That combined with Diahan Southard’s ‘Connecting Your DNA Matches’ presentation that was live streamed by RootsTech made for a BIG day in my DNA world.

In Diahan’s session, she discussed using Blaine Bettinger’s Shared Centimorgan Project to help verify relationships suggested by DNA. Even though I was aware of and had contributed to Blaine’s project, I had never used the results to analyze my cousin matches. During her presentation, Diahan talked about using a spreadsheet to keep track of this data. 

Thus, I tried to create my own spreadsheet based on Diahan’s presentation. So far, I haven’t found any ‘surprises’ in the amount of shared DNA. However, I am finding an advantage to this type of spreadsheet for DNA matches. This type of spreadsheet will help me keep track of how I am related to my matches. Below is an image from my new spreadsheet. I have blacked out the identifying information for my matches.

While working on this spreadsheet, I was also going thru my Ancestry DNA ‘ThruLines’. As I progressed thru the generations on my CRAWFORD line, I made a couple of discoveries. First, the DNA thru line for my 3rd great grandfather, Nelson Crawford, only showed matches thru my 2nd great grandfather, Washington Marion Crawford. 

It did not show any DNA matches thru any of the other children of Nelson. This would explain why we never had a DNA circle for Nelson! I have Nelson’s children and grandchildren in my tree. 

At this point, I only have two explanations as to why matches aren’t showing thru any of Nelson’s other children. The first is that no descendant thru those lines has tested. The only other explanation I have is that some trees have those other children listed as descendants of James and Martha Crawford of Warren County, Indiana and not as descendants of Nelson Crawford. This second theory will require investigating!

As I made my way back another generation on my Crawford line to James Crawford of Preble County, Ohio, I discovered another potential granddaughter!

DNA Thru Lines suggested THREE potential DNA matches AND pulled data from two OTHER trees. When I looked at one of those other trees, I discovered Matilda Caroline Stoner as the mother of William Edward Fields. According to the ThruLines tree, Matilda Stoner would be a daughter to Polly Crawford and a granddaughter of James Crawford. I don’t have Matilda Stoner in my tree. However, she could be a daughter of Polly Crawford that I’ve missed in my research. Thus, I’ve contacted all three matches and the tree owners to see if they can help verify or disprove this connection. 

These may be little clues, but they are clues I would never have found prior to Ancestry’s DNA ThruLines. Try it for yourself and see what you can discover!