Why you should test your DNA for Family History.

A general topic today. Why you should do a DNA test to help you in your research.

I have read much about DNA testing regarding accuracy, privacy and so on. Some people say it has no value, is not accurate or does not support your research.

Well, I think it has great value and I will tell you why.

First, it gives you an ethnicity estimate, mine being:

Screen Shot 2019-02-07 at 6.04.05 PM

This makes sense to me as my ancestry on the paternal side has been in Kent as far back as the 1500’s and in Somerset on the maternal side back to the 1700’s. The Irish comes from my maternal grandfather who was born Clones. And the 4% for Norway, well we all know about the Vikings. For some people the ethnicity estimate may contain surprises.

But while this is interesting, it is not where the value is to me in my research.

Secondly, it matches you to potential relatives and herein lies the value.

Using Ancestry as an example, I currently have 33 Shared Ancestor Hints and 205 4th cousins or closer.

First, lets look at the 205 4th cousins or closer. Many of these have no tree, which is OK, they wanted to do a DNA test, but not for reasons of family history. Then there are those who have a tree but did not link it to their DNA or who have made the tree private. This is OK too. We won’t do anything with those for now. You can reach out to people with a private tree, and I have done this in a few instances. Most often for those with a 3rd cousin or closer estimate in the match.

The best matches have trees. These give you two opportunities. First are the trees with shared ancestor hints. As mentioned above, I have 33 of those. This means that your tree and theirs have an overlap of people in them and you get something like this:

Screen Shot 2019-02-07 at 6.16.15 PM

This is awesome. You can see how you are related to the match. In some cases you may have two lines of relationship, if for example, cousins married cousins somewhere along the line. 

This match represents research that you have already done and validates that research. And gives you the opportunity to fill in gaps.

The second type of match does not link your trees. But it will give you the shared surnames between the two trees and  a link to the other persons tree. This let’s you manually look for the connection. In many cases you will need to build a path from your shared ancestor down to them. Thus adding a whole new branch to your tree.

Using the above two methods I have been able to validate my relationships and research to 168 DNA matches in the last year. And new matches are added frequently now that DNA testing is catching on.

So far I have connected to:

01 – 1st cousin 1x removed
01 – 2nd cousin
07 – 2nd cousins 1x removed
01 – 2nd cousin 2x removed
09 – 3rd cousins 1x removed
10 – 3rd cousins
16 – 4th cousins 1x removed
03  – 4th cousins 2x removed
08 – 4th cousins
20 – 5th cousin 1x removed
35 – 5th cousins
10- 6th cousins 1x removed
19 – 6th cousins
03 – 7th cousins 1x removed
01 – 7th cousin

39 matches are Maternal and 129 matches are Paternal

Not too shabby. Especially since I emigrated to a new country at a young age and grew up without any cousins. Some of these are people I already knew and was working with on a tree, many are new and the data is now validated. This only counts one person per family, but I am also then connected to their siblings and at least one parent.

It has also been an opportunity to connect some broken lines and fill in gaps for other cousins. New children have been found that I did not know about in doing this.

Of course, not everyone tests on Ancestry. But you can upload your data to MyHeritage, Living DNA (in the works, hosted by Findmypast) and GEDmatch to find other matches. There is also 23andme. Most of these can be uploaded to GEDmatch, Living DNA and MyHeritage.

So come on cousins, test your DNA, and better yet your parents and grandparents DNA and let’s get connected.

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