Select Page

First thoughts and experience ( or lack of ….) with DNA

In October 2015 I finally decided to see what an Ancestry DNA test might show. I had vaguely started a one name study of my maiden name as we have been trying to join all the isolated pockets of the name together.

I had a little luck and identified a match who from his surname was likely to be fairly closely related. I could see that his tree seemed to match mine. He is in fact a maternal 3rd cousin once removed, and I was able to send him pictures of mine and his father’s x2 great grandparents. His own great x2 grandparents had gone out to South Africa in the 1890s and he is now living in the USA. He has since uploaded his father’s and a sibling’s DNA.

I had another match with a paternal second cousin who I already knew existed. I also had a 3rd cousin match with somebody who said he wasn’t planning on doing a tree until he retired and I haven’t found out the connection – yet, but we have some shared matches, so who knows when that will happen. Other than that, I had lots of 4th-6th cousins and even more 5th-8th cousins. I was overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do, so I didn’t do a lot.


                        Original ethnicity estimate

Then later that November, Ancestry had a discount on their DNA tests so I jumped in to get a test for my father and on the spur of the moment got one for my brother too, it meant that the postage was cheaper than waiting until later and after all I thought, I might not even need to use it. I am glad I did – my brother has almost double the number of matches to me which also meant we acquired a DNA circle between us with a dozen of our Australian/USA 5th cousins.

The ethnicity estimate was of passing interest because I am short with dark hair, freckles and dark brown eyes and my brother is over 6 foot with red hair, fair skin, freckles and very pale eyes. We have some Scottish heritage, possible Irish but otherwise mostly Central Southern and Middle England with a dash of East Anglia and Yorkshire. He had a lot of Scandinavian, I had virtually none, but I had some Iberian and Southern Europe instead. The estimates vary across the sites but all agree that we are mostly from the British Isles and 100% European.

To start with, I fiddled around for a while not having a clue what I was doing, uploaded our tests anywhere I could, kept finding the same distant matches and read a lot, which confused me even more, so ended up occasionally having a look to see if any close matches had appeared and then “running away” again.

Eventually things began to make more sense. I installed the recommended extensions for Chrome and began to record the amount of cMs in the notes so I could see them easily. DNAHelper means I could now search for other user names and see that there are shared matches at a glance. I learned how to use shared matches more effectively and keep an eye on the 2 (although Ancestry likes to pretend it’s 3 but two of them are a married couple) DNA circles, one maternal, one paternal.

I got into a daily routine of checking for new matches quickly and putting the cMs in to the notes and looking for shared matches with known family groups then I wander off looking off looking at other matches.

I worked out a way of entering the results into Family Historian which suited me and the way I work in it. although there are bound to be better ways, and contacted a few people at random, some of whom replied and I gradually came across family groupings by looking at my tree, member trees and google.

Most of my identified matches are in the USA and Australia and are descended from my maternal families who were farming in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Gloucestershire and married cousins along the way so even though they are as distant as 6th cousins, this luckily gives us stronger matches.

I’ve had people close their trees suddenly or people who vaguely tell me that the connection might be with their Ann Smith in their locked tight trees – I have 6 Ann Smiths, and I’ve been told that I don’t know what I’m talking about because they are a genetic genealogical consultant – well their tree is still wrong. But I have also come across others who want to work together to find things out.

Three years down the line I still don’t do anything really complicated. I am beginning to get my head round the vocabulary and have made contact with distant matches I wouldn’t otherwise have known about. My tree has grown as I construct trees to find the distant joins. I dabbled, and soon gave up, with FTM 2017 in the hopes that I would then have an instantly up-to-date tree, and every time I see a GEDmatch number I head off to compare it with mine ….

Oh and although we’ve got some paternal matches through various “married ins”, none seem to have Lewcock (or Lucock) in their tree (if they have a public one of course) yet.

Surprise match

Since ThruLines appeared, a small group of descendants of James Budden and Mary Littlefield, my great x5 grandparents, has been building up. The Buddens are a West Sussex family and if I have the right marriage, Mary is from Hambledon just over the border into...

read more
Genetic memories …. or just coincidence?

Genetic memories …. or just coincidence?

The picture above is taken looking west from fields in Yapton. The spire in the distance is Chichester Cathedral and if you stand in exactly the right place the spire can be seen on a clear day. It is about 12 miles as the crow flies. At least one of my ancestors must...

read more

DNA and other musings

Ever since I first started my website in 2006, I had intended to include a sort of blog. Setting up the site while researching my family history, getting involved with FamilyTreeForum, relocating from Belgium to West Sussex and the incredibly fast moving world of...

read more

Am I a name collector?

It's my tree and that is how I like it. The other day I saw somebody commenting that they would never bother to even look at a tree with fewer than 2000 people. This was in a Facebook group where the central theme was DNA. Others won't look at a tree with high numbers...

read more

AncestryDNA changes

In March (2019), things began to go awry on the Ancestry site to the accompaniment of much wailing and gnashing of teeth on social media as new features appeared and disappeared, worked and then stopped working on some browsers. A good sign that we are about to gain...

read more

Test the siblings if you can.

The world of DNA testing for genealogy has been moving rapidly and I have been trying to keep up! Strong marketing by Ancestry with regular reductions in the cost of tests means that they now have over 14 million kits so I am gradually adding to my list of matches. It...

read more