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Knocking down 'brick walls' with DNA

Discussion in 'DNA Questions and Answers' started by canadianbeth, Jun 21, 2019.

  1. canadianbeth

    canadianbeth LostCousins Member

    Peter, you and your brother are probably a couple of my "lost cousins", since I see both of you in my DNA results at Ancestry. However, you are probably part of my paternal grandfather's DNA and since I have no idea what his name was, I will probably never know just where you fit.
  2. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Did you not read the latest newsletter?
  3. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Superstar

    Peter, I agree with what you say about the importance of having documented cousins among our DNA matches.

    However, only three of my Lost Cousins matches are showing as having done a DNA test, and of those I can only find one among my Ancestry DNA matches.

    This is out of a total of 22 'responding' LC matches. Is this about average?
  4. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Pauline, you won't be told whether your matches have tested their DNA unless they have been identified as cousins (based on the entries the two of you have made). Only 13 of your 25 matches are with cousins, and of those only 4 have updated their My Details page to say whether they have tested or not - of those 4 there are 3 who have tested, which is 75%.

    Some of those 3 may have tested with providers other than Ancestry - and even if they've tested with Ancestry you'll only be able to find them (for certain) if you know their Ancestry user name, and even then only if they are in the user directory (which is optional). Searching your DNA matches for the ancestors you share will only produce results if they have linked a public or private-searchable tree to their DNA results.

    Ancestry will soon be introducing a feature that will allow you to search your matches by name or user name, but not until next month (at the soonest), unless you have been included in the trial.

    But the point I was making when I said:

    is that when you wrote:

    you were forgetting why it is we use DNA at all, ie to overcome gaps or inaccuracies in the surviving records.

    As I said to someone earlier today, most 'brick walls' are in our own imagination, and this certainly applies to your paternal grandfather. How many success stories do I have to print in the newsletter before readers take the message on board?
  5. canadianbeth

    canadianbeth LostCousins Member

    I do have a lot of documented cousins, but the majority of them are with my maternal grandmother - Joyce, Stuckey, etc. A few are on my mother's side - Riches, Barratt. There are a couple of matches with high numbers that do not appear to fit in those categories but those people either have no trees or they are unlinked and have not replied to my messages. I have made a list of possible paternal matches with high numbers and keep checking but without knowing who was in London in 1907 it is difficult. I have my grandmother in the 1901 and 1911 census' but no idea where she was in 1907 besides working in someone's household. I have my Dad in the 1911 census, being fostered out and on my aunt's emigration record as her next of kin in England when he was in his teens. He does not appear to have been baptised; all I have for him is his birth registration with father unknown on it.
  6. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Superstar

    As it happens, quite a few of my LC relatives are actually cousins so it could be useful to know if they’ve tested. With more recent contacts (relatives or cousins) it’s an issue that usually comes up, but with contacts I made some years ago, it generally didn’t.

    Is it the case that those who have done a DNA test are more likely to say so on their My Details page?

    As for DNA and breaking down brick walls, some brick walls can realistically only be solved by DNA testing. Some people will find answers straight away, while others may have to wait until more people test.
  7. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    There's little evidence of that - just about everyone who has joined since the question was added provided an answer, and the ratio isn't very different from those who completed it retrospectively. Indeed some people who said No or Maybe when they joined may have tested since and forgotten to update the entry.
    For those of us who are hoping to knock down 'brick walls' at the very fringes of the reach of autosomal DNA that may be true, but anyone looking for an ancestors in the last 3 or 4 generations is likely to have more than sufficient evidence already - provided the ancestor was from the British Isles, North America, Australia or New Zealand.
  8. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    It's not sufficient to have documented cousins - they need to have tested their DNA as well. To identify the genetic cousins from your missing ancestor's line you can eliminate the genetic cousins from other lines, by looking at the matches you share with cousins from those lines. If you work through all of your near matches you're likely to be left with between 10% and 50% which can't tied to any of the other three grandparents.
  9. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Superstar

    Won't this depend on many close family members have tested? I know who all my ancestors are back to 2 x great grandparents, but there are at least 60% of my close cousin matches (ie those not listed as Distant cousins) that I can't identify which of my 4 grandparents they connect to.

    My sister has tested (and there are about the same percentage of unknowns among her closer matches), but the next nearest family to have tested are 3 half blood second cousins - two of whom are siblings. Useful though it has been for my sister to test as well, her DNA results don't help much in sorting out which matches relate to which branch of our family. But I am out of options for other family members I could ask to test.
  10. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    If there are 1st cousins available then this cuts the number of tests that are needed to knock down a 'brick wall' that's only one generation back. If you have to use 2nd cousins that doubles the number of tests that are needed (and so on).

    Who tests and how many people need to test is going to vary according to the question you're trying to answer. Of course, in the process of solving one question you might well answer several others.
  11. canadianbeth

    canadianbeth LostCousins Member

    The closest match at Ancestry is my niece on my mother's side. She has no trees. The next match is my cousin's daughter, also a Riches. The third is one to whom I have written but received no reply. (198cM across 9 segments) I also see that person at GEDMatch so I may try communicating with him again through that site. He is listed second there, after my cousin's daughter. The next three at GED are documented as Joyce matches and I have been in contact with them. I have also messaged the next person at Ancestry with high numbers (151/7) and no common ancestors but again received no reply. Maybe I am asking the wrong questions?

    At MyHeritage the closest matches are another maternal cousin's daughter and granddaughter and I have matched the next several names to Joyce.

    Since I really doubt that my grandmother was truthful when she said all three of her children had the same father, I am afraid that even if one of my paternal cousins does test (and I only am in touch with the daughters of one of them) the results will be quite different. Especially since she said his name was Roberts and I do not get any close matches with that name.
  12. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    That's excellent - it means you can eliminate most of your close matches from your mother's side. But you will ideally need access to your niece's matches (since some of your close matches will be distant matches for your niece) - presumably that won't be a problem?
    That doesn't matter - you already know she's related to you.
    MyHeritage is unlikely to help you at this stage - I would suggest focusing on Ancestry.
    That's very good news indeed - it's just what you need to be able to separate your matches through your paternal grandfather from those through your grandmother. If your cousin had shared your grandfather as well as your grandmother it wouldn't help with your primary objective, which is to identify your grandfather.
  13. canadianbeth

    canadianbeth LostCousins Member

    I had forgotten about shared matches, and just now, with the new Beta feature, find that there are a lot more than when I first looked. I started with my cousin, since we share no paternal genes, and made a custom group of those names that are not already matched to Riches, Barratt or Bowyer, gave it a 'probably not paternal name ' and given a colour. I then checked my niece's list; of 39 names 10 are matched and 8 have the probably not paternal star. So that leaves 21 possibilities between 198/9 and 20/2 but most with low numbers. Do I have that correct? Should I concentrate on the higher numbers, since I am looking for a descendant of my grandfather?
  14. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    If your grandfather had other descendants apart from you and one of them had tested their DNA, that would make it easy to solve the mystery. But the chances of that are pretty small (perhaps 1 in 20).

    What you are looking for are cousins who are related to your through your grandfather's line. The more closely they're related to you (and, therefore, to your grandfather) the easier it will be to figure out who your grandfather was, so start with the closest matches.

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