Elizabeth O’Neal has put out the July blog party challenge – What amazing discoveries have we made with DNA?
I have to admit that I waited a very long time to jump into the DNA pond and I still am not all that driven to pursue DNA discoveries. How recently did I jump in ? Well, two months ago to be exact – the very end of April of this year.
Dave and I both swabbed for the basic autosomal test with FamilyTree DNA. That was just days before we left on our cruise. Results came in as we were sitting in Heathrow Airport waiting for our flight back home.
If I compare the number of close results each of us has to the number of direct ancestors already discovered in our family tree, they are in inverse proportion to each other. I have long, deep New England lines on my mother’s side and Slovak lines on my fathers, but, overall, I have many more direct lines that go back much further than Dave’s lines. That’s because his ancestors lived in all the places where records burned or they were out on the frontier where there weren’t any records.
That means that I have very few – really no – close matches. The best I have in the list are 2nd-4th cousins, a few of whom I recognize as past genealogy correspondents.
I think the best discovery I would have made, had I not already known about it, was my Mayflower line to George Soule. Many of those 2nd-4th (more like 4th) cousins include the Boone family from New Brunswick, Canada and Rhode Island and some of them also have Soule in their family list of names.
The Soule name would have caught my attention and I would have investigated further. I did contact one cousin in that line who already belongs to the Mayflower Society and she didn’t realize that the Boones led to another line for her.
That is about the most exciting thing I’ve discovered in my family.
Dave, who has the shorter direct lines in the family tree, had five close matches – 1st-2nd cousins – who we didn’t know anything about. They shared 300+-460+ centimorgans, which I think is a lot to still not ever have heard of them when I’ve been researching for 37 years.
The answer is simple – his mother had six siblings and there are many descendants in that family. His dad had only one sister, but his father was one of 14 children, so that there are tons of descendants in that line, too.
The close matches were grandchildren of our generation and, while we knew the first cousins, we had lost contact with the succeeding generations.
The best discovery, though, was a young man I’ll call Cousin N. He is the grandson of one of Dave’s aunts, who passed away many years ago. I never met her. His mother apparently had only kept in touch with a few of her zillions of cousins and Cousin N had only two or three facts (that were mixed up and wrong anyway) about our branch of the family.
He was first on the DNA “hit list” so I emailed to inquire how he and Dave were so closely related. When he shared his garbled facts, I knew exactly where he fit in the family. I explained the whos and wheres and sent him a gedcom and an invitation to a shared family photo folder on Dropbox.
Cousin N said he was stunned – his exact words were, “15 minutes ago, I hardly knew anything about my family. Now, I’m overwhelmed. Thank you so much!”
That’s what finding cousins is all about.