Where DO I Go from Here?

Great, the DNA results are in, I get the concept of building a tree based on matching to see where I might fit.  How can I use matches that either don’t have information or have private trees?  Last week a poster in one of the forums I belong to suggested deleting people because they added no value to his experience on Ancestry if they didn’t have a visible tree.  I felt  both sad and frustrated that he failed to grasp the larger picture of what a match with no visible information could mean to someone doing research.

I will take for example my matches on Ancestry.  My two highest matches were two individuals that show as what Ancestry calls a First Cousin at around 1100 centimorgans and what Ancestry calls a second cousin at 480 centimorgans. The only problem was that the first cousin had no information and just a user name and the 2nd cousin had a very common user name and a three node visible from the landing page, and those names appeared private. If I had followed the gentleman’s philosophy I would have discarded them both as rubbish clogging my feed, however, I am not a person that knee jerks.

I used another Ancestry feature, the Shared Matches button.  When selected I could see that my two top matches were related.  How were they related? The only way to find that out was to build a tree out and be able to place them in it. Matches this close would most likely signal that we shared Grandparents if we were truly first cousins, however, there are other reasons to share that high of centimorgans with a match.  They could be a First Cousin, Half -Aunt, Uncle, Niece, Nephew, Great Grandparent, Great Grandchild, Great Niece or Nephew.

For the second cousin match, the DNA prediction chart suggested-First Cousin Once Removed, Half-First Cousin, Half-Great Niece, Nephew, Aunt or Uncle.  This seemed more puzzling.  To make matters more confusing neither of the matches had been on in almost a year.  Ancestry has stated that they will not send out emails to lapsed users via in system messages, because it bogs down their servers.  I think it would be a great way to get people to renew their memberships-“Hey you’ve got mail, renew your membership and connect with family.” Turn it into marketing for the positive, but I don’t work for you, Ancestry I just log in every day and am frustrated by the lack of message system use.

I clicked on the second cousins three person node that appeared to be nothing.  There in the node was what looked like a sister who had passed away.  I used that sister’s information to find her obituary online.  From the obituary I was able to get her mother’s name who was my first cousin match and also much too old to be my first cousin. So what was she to me then? That opened the rest of my family tree.  It was a large family, her mother’s family had 12 children on one side and 7 on the other that I would have to research each branch up to today to find possible matches.

If I had discarded these matches, it would have been foolish on my part hurting only me.  Find the good in each match.  Look at shared matches to find commonality, look for user names online to see where they fit into existing trees. Watch matches with no information, check back for added trees and added shared matches.  Someone may test they may become the bridge or the AHA! between you and a brick wall.  Message your matches if you’re still unsure, it MAY go through.