Casting my net upon the waters

Perhaps a better title would be “Playing the Lottery, Ancestry-style”.

Some of you who have been around a while know the story of my family history, or lack thereof regarding a branch.  I’ve gone to great lengths to confirm/dispel family stories about that branch and unfortunately came up empty-handed…or “leafless”.  Given that my mother passed away 17 years ago and the stories were wild goose chases, I figured that was the end of that.  I’ve continued on with my ancestry research and filling in all the known branches and just accepted the fact that one branch would forever be blank.

I have my family tree on Ancestry.com and have done the majority of my research through them, especially since they started adding world collections to their databases, which has enabled me to find ancestors from Canada, Ireland and France.  Being able to see the original images from the census, birth and baptism records, marriage records, ships logs, etc, has been great.

As far as DNA tests for ancestral information, in the past there had been a paternal lineage DNA test (for males only since it was for the Y-chromosome handed down from father to son), and a maternal lineage DNA test (for both males and females since it’s for the mother’s mitochondrial DNA passed down to the child).  These revealed information on ancient origins up to 100,000 years ago.  Pretty cool, but also a bit pricey at approximately $180 each.  It wasn’t something I was really interested in since I was looking  for more recent info.

Not too long ago Ancestry introduced a new DNA test.  It was only available to registered members during the beta phase.  This test looked at the autosomal DNA, which includes the entire genome, all 23 pairs of chromosomes, instead of just looking at the Y-chromosome or mitochondrial DNA.  The example they posted was the Y-DNA test looks at 40 locations in the DNA, while the autosomal test looks at 700,000 locations.  By comparing your DNA sample to ones around the world, they can trace back generations to areas where your ancestors lived.  Not ancient history like the other tests, but just hundreds of years, to about one thousand.  You get geographical results, can link your results to your family tree, find common links in other member’s trees and possibly find matches to distant cousins.  Beta price is $99.

I thought it sounded pretty cool, so I ordered it.  After about six weeks the results were in.  Geographically my DNA is 80% British Isles, 16% Eastern European, and 4% Uncertain.  Uncertain means there are traces of a specific genetic population that were too low to pinpoint to an ethnicity.  They also said they’re improving the technology as time goes on, and would update all results to a more accurate assessment if it becomes available.  They provided an entire history lesson on the British Isles and Eastern Europe, from modern day locations to historical events, as well as migrations to and from the region over the last thousand or so years.

When I first got the results back I had about a page and a half of DNA matches to other people, mostly distant (5th through 8th) cousins, but a 4th cousin finally popped up.  Some of us have common people in our family trees–one woman and I had John Colbath as our great-great-great-grandfather, while another man and I shared a great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Veronique Paradis.  Some matches don’t have a family tree on Ancestry, or they have their tree “locked”.  Whatever floats their boat.  I personally am one for sharing information, and readily give credit to the source the information came from.  Others aren’t as forthcoming or honest about giving credit where credit is due.

That page and a half of matches has grown to 21 pages, with 50 people per page.  Twenty-one people are 4th cousins with a 95% to 96% match.  Another 107 are moderate confidence distant cousins, while the rest were either low or very low confidence.  However, I had a few positive matches with same family members in the tree for some of those “low” confidence matches.

I was happily going along, reading up on the geographical results, checking out the geographical results of people who had some sort of a match to me (you can set it where people can or cannot see the results, can only see the geographical portions that actually match or all the geography, can make the tree private or public, etc).  I’d star the ones I wanted to go back to later on and do more in-depth research.  While on the DNA results page, I noticed next to the AncestryDNA Member Match it had a slide bar for Relationship Range.  I hadn’t really paid attention to it before, so I moved my cursor over it.  I soon realized the ends of it were movable (yes, sometimes I’m slow), and I’m watching the little info boxes that pop up as I scoot the thing back and forth.  “Distant Cousins” (either moderate, low, or very low), “4th Cousins 96% confidence”, “3rd Cousins 98% confidence”.  I’m thinking this is really neat–scoot it around and you can limit what it pulls up by what you set the parameters to.

Since the test had stated “find distant cousins”, that was what had stuck in my brain.  Hey, I already admitted I’m slow.  I continue sliding the little marker.  “2nd Cousins 99% confidence” and “1st Cousins 99%  confidence”.  Neato.  Then I realize I can scoot the marker a little…bit…further.  Holy crap.  The last setting is “Immediate Family 99% confidence”.

I thought I was going to faint.  It finally dawns on this aging brain that this DNA test not only shows distant cousin matches, but half-siblings, siblings, grandparents, parents, nieces, nephews, etc.  I do a quick double check to verify the highest match I’ve made so far is 4th cousin.

Since this thing is updated daily, it’s like I’m playing the lottery every single day.  If anyone from that missing branch joins Ancestry and takes this test, those results will link up to mine.  Of course, the day I get an “Immediate Family” link and it’s not any of my known brothers or sisters will probably be the day I have a heart attack from the shock, lol!

So, after resigning myself to the forever blank branch, there is a chance, albeit a tiny one, that I might actually be able to draw in some leaves on it one day.  Not bad for $99.

If you have the extra cash, give it a whirl.  You never know what you might find.  😉

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One thought on “Casting my net upon the waters

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