Autosomal DNA…heavy sigh…I’m kind of tired

This is one of those Downers.

If you’re having a bum time with ATDNA and looking for a motivational post, then this is not it.

Having put ATDNA on the back burner for a couple of months, I decided to unsub from one of my favorite groups the DNA Newbie yahoo group. Likely not a permanent situation, I just wasn’t really following it and any input I gave seemed to be negative..or at least not helpful. An ongoing discussion about the validity of segment lengths and triangulated groups was also just feeding the overall depression surrounding my lack of meaningful progress.

Since I got my results back from 23 and me in May of 2011, I’ve had my dad, his sister, a paternal first cousin one time removed and a paternal second cousin tested there, and a possible paternal third cousin 1x removed tested at  Along with those came individual tests from the maternal side of my dad’s family; a second cousin one time removed, two second cousins and a first cousin one time removed.

What did I get?


  • My Y haplogroup was confirmed.
  • The maternal second cousin 1x removed proved our relationship to Myron Beadle and Ellen Hathaway.
  • The maternal first cousin 1x removed and Seelye second cousins, proved relationships to the Seelye family and provided a great way to juxtapose their results with the unknowns in my dad’s DNA.
  • We picked up one known relative of Daniel Abbe and Esther Nunn in my dad’s maternal family and the segments did later prove to be maternal.
  • The paternal first cousin 1x removed proved a relationship to the Finks family and covered a lot of segments which I had suspected were paternal based on mismatches with my dad’s Seelye/Beadle relatives.
  • The paternal second cousin testing showed that we weren’t related to our Thompson cousins which lined up with the Y DNA evidence we had. Not what I was hoping for, but it’s a return on investment.
  • The 3rd cousin range paternal person gave us hope of connecting to the correct Elmore family tree.
  • I got a triangulated paternal group connected to the Bolton family of Thomas Bolton and Jemima Hammack. I don’t know how we connect, but it seems very likely that we do and that it’s through my grandfather’s family.
  • We found out that my aunt is my dad’s half sister. Not shocking since she had figured it out quite some time ago, but still it put a big mystery to bed.
  • We found a triangulated group that connected her paternal family to the Robar/Robert family from Quebec.
  • My aunt also has a whopping good match (maybe at the second cousin level) with someone from the Winters family from Iron Mountain Michigan. That is not a family that my dad is connected to. So that is our best lead on her paternal family. Somewhere, I need to connect someone in the extended Winters family to someone in the Robert family.
  • In my own autosomal results, I matched very well with someone related to my maternal Hutchinson great grandfather’s sister Nina Hutchinson. The match was big enough and close enough that I haven’t worried much about triangulating it.
I count those as my “wins”. Most of them were hard fought and took a lot of time and patience.

What didn’t I get?

Seelyes, Beadles and Campbells.

Well, truthfully I haven’t put a lot of effort into the Seelye/Beadle side of things. I’m not one of the major researchers on those families. I’ve focused on my Thompson and Finks families. Still though it is a minor disappointment that I didn’t pick up anything I don’t already know. The people tested are very obviously related to me in a time frame that we might see each other at a family reunion. Although we have some tantalizing clues to possible genetic relatives that migh break boundaries, my side of the genetic family has so many unknowns that it’s hard to apply our results back to the rest of the family. So for all the testing, we’re still stuck at the same brick walls and results from my branch of the family are sidelined.

Finks, Michell, McQueen, Jeffries

DNA testing in our Finks family shows that my dad and I are related to my grandfather’s maternal first cousin. Great, because that means my grandfather is related to his mom. Unfortunately, only two shared matches (in all of her shared segments) line up with a known family.

The McQueens.

Our ties to them are documented, but not where it counts. With this single DNA match, that I’ve not been able to triangulate with any other overlapping matches and our documentation of a direct genetic relationship relying on a “county history” our connection is rightly (if disappointingly) disputed.

The Jeffries.

One 9cM match nestled among much larger matches has a tree that runs back to the 1600s and our Jeffries family. The trouble is, none of the other matches (including the 26cM match in that spot) have anything of the sort. Their trees are either stunted or non-existant and none seem to share that same family. So although it continues to pass every test, I can’t prove it with any other match.

Thompson, Williamson, Elmore

The Thompson and Williamson connection is a wash, but it was also kind of inconclusive. I have a lot of evidence that says we’re not Thompsons and that we’re not related to the Thompsons and Williamsons, but what it really boils down to is that I can truthfully say my grandfather was not related to his uncle Francis Thompson. No more than that. So while it would be unthinkable that we’re Thompsons, it’s not impossible. I would have to do everything I’ve done with my dad’s results with our Thompson cousin’s results. I just don’t have the access to their autosomal DNA right now. I can show that we’re not related and that we’re not Thompsons, but I haven’t yet shown that they are Thompsons either. Given my track record with autosomal DNA so far, I think I’ll likely turn to Y DNA again for clues to their paternal family, and follow up on their Y results which promise to be more fruitful.

The Elmores.

I’ve got Y DNA matches all over the place with the Elmers and Elmores, but only back to the late 1600s. Autosomally, I can say I don’t match any of the Elmers tested so far except for the one Elmore I recruited myself. Their result is exciting, but inconclusive. They don’t share enough segments to be very close. Only one of the segments is show to be paternal, the other is unknown and neither of them triangulate to any known relative in the Elmore family. Of note though, they do match some people who are relatives of our Finks family. Along those lines they do run back to Virginia and the Fishbach family which is connected to Germanna like the Finks. Leaving open the possibility that, what I hope is a straight Elmore autosomal match, is really a match to the Finks family paired with a connection to a grab bag of other known relatives.

The Boltons

My stand out family. The one where it really worked. 10cM or better matches with the same set of ancestors. The same family appearing in trees from other chromosomes. Awesome! Now what? How do we get from Charles Thompson 1925 back to the 1750s to meet up with these Boltons? Dear God. Do you know how many descendants they have? It must be half of Kentucky. So while, I’m very proud of the accomplishment, I am no closer to figuring out how they might be related..I’m just very certain that they are.

For My Aunt

Once you show that someone is a half sister, the next question they’re going to want to know is. What is my last name?

My aunt wanted to know if she had any sisters (she grew up in a family of boys). She wanted some basic information. Just the stuff we take for granted. To compound the issue, my grandmother refused to tell her who her father was, her uncle refused to let us use his test results for comparison and she is dying from kidney disease.

It is at this point that the normal things you deal with in genetic genealogy become overwhelming. 23 and me requires participation for anything, FTDNA requires contact to clearly triangulate and is a black box that doesn’t offer up any clues beyond a basic match list and a bunch of people who can’t or won’t share their family trees.

So far in helping my aunt, I’ve had the usual group of friendly people who don’t know much about their families or ATDNA. I appreciate them a lot, but in the mix, I’ve also been lied to, misdirected, denied, and ignored.

All those things are also things I’ve dealt with when working on my dad’s results, but when you’re working under a time limit with a person who is dying, having to tackle the bulk of crappy human interactions can really bring you down.

People don’t always get into genealogy because they want to share and grow. Some people want to hoard their precious and will do or be whatever it takes to make that happen. They want your help and information, but they don’t want to give anything in return. Now, take that natural bias towards helping yourself and add something fishy like a woman who doesn’t know who her father is…and he is somehow related to you. Well that kind of thing might threaten the precious. We can’t have that.

So, with a non-communicative 2nd cousin at 23 and me, and multiple 3rd and beyond cousins who exemplifying the worst behavior in genetic genealogy, how much progress can be made? It’s difficult under the best of circumstances, but just grindingly painful when you have to get around these people to get the information you need.

Setting it Down

For the moment. I need to take a break. It’s painful to keep running into the same walls. To have to keep performing the same task over and over and to have to keep playing a weird game of poker with people to get useful information.

It’s draining and I’m not getting anywhere. Compared to the Y results and work I’ve done, autosomal DNA has done little more than show me what I already know…or shown me that I don’t know..but has been light on answers.

I blame myself for letting it get me down and for not picking back up and running. I blame human nature for making people total turds sometimes. I blame the companies for willfully putting impediments in the way so that even people who weren’t turds end up as defacto turds by product design. I blame the technology and a lack of clearly defined standards.

All of those things have come together to make ATDNA a grinding experience. I’ve put in a lot of effort and I’ve gotten some returns, but I’ve also chased a lot more geese than I needed to. I don’t think I have very much to show for the time put in.

So I’m going to let it go for a while and see what transpires while I’m away. I don’t think I’ve hit the limit of what ATDNA can do, but I feel like I’ve hit my limit for running in the hamster wheel.

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