Ancestry’s Shared Matches Tool

Ever since Ancestry released it’s Shared Matches feature, I have fallen down several rabbit holes.

I’ve been consumed with exploring both paternal and maternal leads.

Previously, I had been using Gedmatch and contacting cousins for possible triangulation projects. It was slow going, response rate was pretty good, but so many didn’t have Gedcoms attached to their kit profiles and getting an invite to trees was laborious.

Prior to the ICW release, the reputation for testing through Ancestry for genetic genealogy has been poor — criticisms about a lack of a chromosome browser for analyzing matches, etc.
However, because FTDNA allows for a $39 import to their database, it’s most cost effective for those interested in fishing in bigger ponds to test at Ancestry first, upload to FTDNA (to save $50) and be in two databases at once… with the goal being to connect to FTDNA because there is a reputation that users are more genetic genealogy friendly.
Interestingly, my experience to date has differed from the common belief that Ancestry is practically useless for those serious about genetic genealogy. Because the emphasis is on trees at Ancestry, I’m able to more quickly determine Common Ancestors with my matches there than at FTDNA and 23andMe.
And even though the Mirror Tree technique has been terribly throttled by caching issues and bugs at Ancestry, I am still building speculative trees and have been able to keep working on several triangulation projects there.

Another bonus, Ancestry seems to be much faster than the other two companies at processing kits. I tested in July at FTDNA, and didn’t get my results for nearly 3 months. Being impatient, I tested at Ancestry and things were processed in less than 6 weeks. So, I was able to start working with matches at Ancestry much faster. Sure, I gave up a $50 discount at FTDNA by testing there first. However, the matches at Ancestry were invaluable in busting through the paternal black hole in my tree. Utilizing Mirror Trees, I was able to discover paternal matches and then close family within weeks. Of course, every case is different and results will vary for others.

Even without detailed segment analysis through Ancestry, I’ve been able to identify important migration patterns for my surnames of interest simply by using the location search feature in conjunction with surnames queried against matches.

Analyzing paper trail clues and trees not connected to DNA kits, I knew that it was possible that certain branches existed in neighboring states to my primary branch of interest. Within our branch of the Rhodes surname, we long suspected that we came out of Maryland in the late 1700s and spread across the US through Tennessee, Kentucky, and North and South Carolina. For example,  by searching “Rhodes” “Kentucky”, I am able to see distant cousin matches in those areas, and by closely examining their trees, we can make informed guesses as to our shared ancestors above our regional patriarchs.

 In this way, I was able to identify prominent families and origins in Maryland — thereby, adding a bit more evidence to support that long held suspicion. I am also utilizing Ancestry to find cousins from these neighboring branches, and soliciting them to upload to Gedmatch. These queries to persons with kits at Ancestry are better informed and response to upload to Gedmatch has been good.

There’s still much more to be researched, and segment analysis is going to be a big part of that. However, with Ancestry’s ICW clues, we now know that our future-forward Maryland research is not in vain and a worthwhile continued focus.

More writing, less digging

I need to cool my jets. Recent projects have been so interesting and consuming, that I haven’t taken the time to slow down and write them up.

Documents and photos are piling up. Some cursory analysis has been done, but just enough to catapult me into the next challenge. I think writing can wait, more discoveries! Discoveries to be made!

Might be time to slow down and embrace the famous admonition: It’s the journey not the destination. Who said that anyway? (focus, focus!)

I know there are drives for directed blogging prompts and some people really like them, but do I really need them? Don’t think so. I have enough material to last me several lifetimes.

So what have I been working on?

Facebook

In spring of this year, I felt a desire to communicate more with Seattle Genealogical Society members, but felt it hard to get down to the library. So, I have volunteered to moderate the SGS Networking Facebook Group. After a slow start, we now have about 20 members and growing everyday.

Rhodes

In November of 2014, my grandmother passed forward my second great grandmother’s genealogical notes. What a treasure! Therein, I discovered a 7-decade old brickwall that at least a dozen people have been working on. We wish to know the origins of the patriarch Alexander Rhodes (1790-1840) of the Rhodes in Illinois. So, I decided to aim my genetic genealogy skills at the problem, and now we have a thriving project well on its way to connect the Rhodes to the long suspected Rhodes and Standiford families of Anne Arundel, Maryland. Illinois Rhodes from Maryland.

Dodson

Along with that mystery came the knowledge that we also do not know much about the Dodson families of Fayette County, Illinois. It’s Anna Dodson’s search for her husband’s family patriarch (Alexander Rhodes) that brought to light that we also do not know who her father’s parents are. James Knox Polk Dodson (1850-1905), who were your parents? Speak up! I’m now in contact several Dodson families outside of Illinois that look promising. We’re comparing our chromosome segments looking for commonalities, and I hope to be able to close this cold case within a year.

Paternity

And finally, the holy grail. I discovered a year ago that I am the NPE (non paternity event) in my generation after a DNA test to contribute to a health study revealed some anomalous (but not entirely surprising) results. The journey to get to the heart of the how, why, when, where and who… intense, exhausting, at times troublesome. It’s been so challenging to get my head wrapped around, and such a sensitive issue, that I find it difficult to write about publicly. However, I still feel a desire to do so. My nature is to want to be both transparent, and yet kind and fair concerning the privacy and feelings of the living still connected with the issue. The decision to share about it always comes down to wrestling with some core issues of ethics… am I entitled? To discover, to talk, to question, to continue to seek? Whose feelings are more important… mine? Or the extended family who may feel some shame, discomforts, or insecurities about my drive to know the truth? And what about the others like me? The people I know who can benefit from what I’ve learned, how I’ve struggled, and what I’ve discovered about the nature of acknowledging that I do have a right to know the truth. They matter, they are deserving as well. I’ve learned that there are protected places that we can gather to have these conversations… so I have been taking my questions and contemplations there.

If you are a person considering trying to discover birth parents, or the nature of an NPE in your family tree, I highly recommend visiting DNA Adoption for how-to articles and support in your quest.

Great. This is a good start, and an opportunity to start fresh.