AncestryDNA, that Warm Mug of Cocoa Helps the Blue Pill Go Down

continued from AncestryDNA and the Comforting Feeling of Being Comforted Comfortably

So there I was preparing for the worst. My wife’s results came in first. Finally, she would see how very difficult this all is and come to appreciate all work I’ve had to do to get where I’m at. Certainly, with just a glimpse of the locked trees, no trees, non-responders and the great horde of her super distant cousins, she would break down and cry.

Of course…nope. She had multiple second cousin level matches and many thirds. Her shaky leaves pointed to people in her family, and I don’t mean the same people everyone has from the Mayflower, I mean deadly hard brick wall people! In just minutes we were browsing the family tree of one of her brick wall relatives..and they were over on the other side of the brick wall.

Not just that one either, she gets multiple matches to relatives on both sides of her family and they share with each other in Ancestry’s “shared matches” tab. There are no DNA circles, but still it was just all there.

I was robbed.

My wife comes in off the street and someone gives her a pretty pony just for showing up. I work for years and years…and years and I feel like I’m constantly getting handed a steaming bag of horse…well, I don’t get a pony anyway.

Or do I?

We mailed our kits in at the same time but somehow, mine took longer to come back. You see the unfairness of it all right? So I prepared myself for another hard slog and then, there they were. All of my Murphy relatives from my mom’s family. I had no idea they had tested, but there they are and ancestry has them in their right spots as far as genetic distance. Not just them, but also several people related to my grandfather too from his brick wall Mitchell and Purnell family. Yeah, they’re stuck on the same wall, but at least they are there. Sure I’ve got some locked trees (DB move genealogists..DB) and some no trees, but there were a lot more public trees.

I’ve contacted people related to my McQueens (another tough group for me), A very likely Price or Hutchinson match, Someone who may be related to the Purnells (and I find I may have their name wrong). My Elmore family match ranks up there with the others. Overall, it was a pretty good haul and not entirely comprised of my grandmother’s colonial family.

What didn’t I get? Well, other than my expected Elmore match, I didn’t get a big showing of Elmores. There was one man who was possibly related, but not a big cluster of them or anything and my Elmore match has no shared matches. Since that feature appears to be immature, I’m not too surprised by that. I’m also generally not surprised with the lack of Elmores. I’ve only ever been able to find two or three trees created by descendants of that family. So there are really just less to be had.

People who have answered my messages have been willing to upload to Gedmatch so I can compare them to others and make sure their segments are going in the right direction (that’s how I know the shared matches feature has some issues). So far, all the shaky leaves have been pointing to the right families.

So, unlike my experience with my aunt’s results which were just one frustration after another, my own results have really been a piece of cake.

Now that I have taken the blue pill and been willingly put back into the matrix, I’m thinking about where I may have done things right that had some effect on the outcome or where fate has worked in my favor.

  1. Opportunity, or Coverage helps with the most important factor when buying a DNA test: Dumb Luck. The odds are in your favor if you have a nice big base of matches. Since ancestry has been able to draw people (like my Murphy relatives) out of hiding, I have more opportunities for success. I didn’t really have to do anything to make this happen, it just is.
  2. Family trees. At 23 and me, Gedmatch and FTDNA you need to wrestle a family tree out of the death grip people have on it. They’ll more willingly hand you their DNA than share a link to a family tree. Since Ancestry’s audience is really people who have family trees, you have more opportunities to do your own research without bothering them. People without trees may be adopted, or they may not have known how to attach a tree (in which case Ancestry provides a drop down list of their public trees). There are always going to be people who lock down their tree for a variety of reasons (some of which are reasonable). There is, however, a special Hell for people who are just gaming the system while hiding their own trees.
  3. I hid my tree. Not really hidden, but limited. I copied it down to my local machine and used a version of Gramps to narrow things down by deleting people and then exporting only my ancestors as a new tree. So I could limit the scope and thereby knowingly leave out the big Mayflower offenders that everyone is related to. I don’t have a ton of shaky leaves, but then I’m also not chasing down relatives from the Salem Witch trials. Rather than put the limit on segment length which can be misleading, I put a limit on how many generations I’m going to display in my tree. Since my regular tree is completely public, I have a clean conscience about putting some limits in place for my genetic tree.
  4. I lowered my expectations. I didn’t expect to find a better link to the Elmore family, or any matches to my Thompsons. My experience with my aunt is that ancestry doesn’t do unknowns. Brick walls maybe, but not unknowns. So I put up my best genetic tree, realizing I have several generations of unknowns on my grandfather’s side of the family and let the chips fall where they may. That opened me up to experience finding family member connections outside of my usual core research. Treating it as a welcome diversion rather than a life and death struggle made it more enjoyable. Basically, approach it the way most people do.

That last point, may be the best one. Instead of approaching this as a way to find my paternal lineage, I allowed AncestryDNA to solve the mysteries it was geared up to solve and let the rest go.

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