My Other DNA Projects

My first two projects are probably useful for someone but did not really sate my desire for involvement, so I went looking for more.

THE READING PROJECT – a surname project.

For those with surname Reading/Redding/Reddin/Redden etc etc.

My ancestor here is Darby Reddan, and you’d think with a name like that I’d have found something about him.  But NO!  He did exist, but I really haven’t touched anything that makes him a real person.  He is a shadow and I just take it on faith that he lived a full life.

My paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Reading.  She was a younger child of her father Thomas Reading’s second marriage and he was aged 55 when she was born.   Thomas Reading born 1863 in Kempton, Tasmania was my earliest-born great grandparent.  His father, in turn, was John Reading/Redding/Reddin born in Tipperary in 1820.  John lived a full and it seems very interesting life before marrying at the age of 38 to a girl still in her mid-teens (there’s a lot of that amongst my ancestors).

John Reddin is by a whole 24 years the earliest born of my great great grandparents.  This gives me a DNA window into a generation which some need quite elderly relatives to reach.  If I can only talk my father into DNA testing who knows what I’d find!

John Reddin told us on various official records that his father was Darby Reddin of Tipperary in Ireland.  I have found one likely candidate – Darby Reddan born 1800 who died 1883 in Borrisokane, Tipperary, Ireland.   But this is not confirmed as my ancestor yet.  I’d quite like DNA matching to resolve this one.

John Reddin's family details on his arrival in Tasmania.  Still trying to deduce his mother's name.

John Reddin’s family details on his arrival in Tasmania. Still trying to deduce his mother’s name. It says F: Darby, M: ? Brothers: Patrick, William, Thomas at Native Place (Tipperary). 97th Regiment (John was a soldier).

The Reading DNA project has a responsive manager who is seeking her own Readings in Borrisokane, Tipperary, and maybe we will find a link.  She made the very good suggestion that I find some Reading males to YDNA test.  I have found two, both rather elderly, but they live interstate and in a world without internet where the telephone is connected in an unheated hallway and used only in emergencies.  I would have to fly there, convince them in person and pay for everything.  If I had the funds, I’m quite willing.  But we are looking at over a thousand dollars.  I’ll wait for a miracle.

This project is hosted on WorldFamilies rather than by FtDNA, however it can be accessed via FtDNA projects.  I like the forums and the posted pedigrees which show some of the Reading families who are endeavouring to trace their origins.  It is set up very nicely for YDNA and MtDNA, however, I think autosomal DNA is somewhat overlooked.   In my mind, just because IBS is an issue doesn’t mean a potential match should be ignored.  Most of us have followed many a paper trail that was easily as tentative and felt it was an avenue worth exploring, even if only to eliminate the possibility. However, joining this project certainly helped me feel as if I was in a group working towards a common goal.


I came to this project in a very different way.  Seeking my connection with that 2nd-4th cousin of mine and with my Prince Edward Island cousins, the Normanites Project continually appeared in my google searches.  This project was tracing a special group of people: Scottish settlers at Prince Edward Island who had then left the island with the Reverend Norman McLeod in the 1850s and come to Australia.  They came first to South Australia where some already had family, then to Victoria and eventually the main group headed for New Zealand where they stayed.  All along the way, some of them dropped off and made homes. Children were born en route, some passed away.  The long journey gave them roughly five years of nomadic existence and they are brick walls for many of their descendants who really want to get their lines back to the Scottish homeland.

In the end, after about the 100th time I found a snip of one of their pages in my google search, I sent an email to the manager and explained that I was not a descendant of their group but the surnames were the same surnames that I was seeking – McLeod, McEachern, McIsaac and Morrison.  I wondered if the administrator might be able to compare my kit against those in the project to see if I had a connection.

This was the beginning of a whole new stage in my DNA research.  The administrator was prompt in her reply and explained that she was unable to simply match my kit but she invited me to join the group.  I accepted the invitation.  Within 24 hours she had not only examined my details but she had sent an invitation to my potential cousin who also shared surnames with the group, and provided me with a detailed analysis of my chromosomes in relation to her project.

Over the next week, this lady taught me more than I guessed there was to learn.  She showed me where I had ‘hot spots’ and who I should contact to identify common ancestors.  She taught me about creating trees for any likely match and about building them out to seek our common surnames or locations.  She taught me how to use gedmatch properly.  I realised that with even harder work I could learn a whole lot more.  I needed to do a whole lot more research.

I emailed the cousins she suggested I contact, and went back to the paper trail to verify what I could of my previous research.  It would, I felt, be quite embarrassing to have so many people working to help me and then find that I’d been lazy and providing wrong data.

I had about six family trees to create, and a whole lot of paper records to view.

DNA Projects – Joining My First Projects

I’ve spotted a lot of recommendations to join DNA projects and I have joined several, most through FamilyTreeDNA.

My first two projects I found through the FtDNA website.  It has changed a little now, but there is a drop down menu under a heading ‘My Projects’ and in here are options to Learn More, Join and Manage.  The option of Join takes me to the Project search screen and has a list of projects at the top that my provided details presumably suggest are relevant to me.  They may not be relevant, these are just suggestions.  For instance, the first project in this list is the 464xccgg project, which is for men only.  Not being a man, I don’t feel that I have any place in this project, however, it covers a region where I do indeed have ancestry and some of my family names are amongst the listed names.  Perhaps if I have my father DNA tested his kit could join.

It is worth looking through these suggestions, but I wouldn’t rely on them to locate the best projects.  The most useful project that I have joined never did appear in this list.

There are a few different types of projects and some of them have evolved into more than they started as.  The basic kinds are, unsurprisingly, based on the type of DNA test.  There are YDNA projects and MtDNA projects.

YDNA projects came first and kind of set the uninformed world’s understanding of DNA testing, in a way which I think is detrimental to the present DNA Testing community.  These projects test the paternal line only, can determine whether different families of the same surname originated from the same line, and enable the origins of a paternal line to be discovered.  Once, this was the be-all and end-all of DNA testing.  Back in those days, women’s DNA was useless for research purposes.

MtDNA projects are now out there too, and these are harder to use but have infinitely more potential in my mind.  I have never seen statistics on this, but I’d bet that 66% or more of brick walls are women.  I have three of these myself – all women.  With men, you can locate a surname in a probably area and research all those people until your own ancestor pops up.  Women are so much harder, even if you have her maiden name.  They tended to go to where their husband came from and their name changed.  Their husband’s family names were often used first for the children and if they died after the first few their own family names never came into play.  Often their belongings became their husbands’ and they had no Will to leave.

When enough people have tested MtDNA Full Sequence, we may see some results.  In the meantime, I and hundreds of others will wait, in our exclusive little groups of ten women to a subclade at a greater genetic distance.  The connecting factors will appear for us sometime.

DNA TEST INCLUSIVE PROJECTS are also out there now, and some of the former Y or Mt projects are morphing into these.  Autosomal DNA tests (eg Family Finder) are becoming more useful as the testing algorithms are improved, as more people test, and as the results are better understood.  The blanket understanding that ‘it is only good for the most recent 5 to 6 generations’ has also been challenged by people finding MRCAs at a much greater distance.  While that is still a good guideline, the tested community can identify many connections by (cautiously) stepping outside the box.

There are two main types of Inclusive Projects:

GEOGRAPHIC projects endeavour to investigate everyone in a specific region.   I have great admiration for the courageous project leaders of these projects because I can’t really conceive a good methodology for using DNA to work out the groups.  I guess with YDNA as a backbone you could use autosomal results to fill out the local families.  I can see how it might work in a closed society such as early Van Diemen’s Land or Tristan Da Cunha, but for somewhere like Limerick in Ireland (as a random geographic region in which I have interest) I just don’t see how you can work with the comings and goings of generations of itinerants, merchants, regiments and religious refugees.   Certainly, as a surname group it works nicely and some geographic groups are going very well.

SURNAME Projects look at the DNA of specific surname in any location from any test.  Some have a starting objective, eg to identify all descendants of a specific historic figure or common ancestor.  Others simply gather data and look for patterns, making conclusions as they go.

So – having located a likely project within FtDNA, it is simply a matter of reading the entry requirements and if you match, click the join button.  Then, as every project reminds you, check the privacy settings within FtDNA to ensure you have given the Project administrator access to your data, because this is what joining a project is really about – so someone can gain an overview into trends and patterns across a range of relevant DNA tests.  An email will be sent  if you are approved – which will happen as long as the kit which is joining meets the requirements.

So – on to my first projects.

The Derwent River near Rosetta.  This is a wide river and used to have regular paddle steamers and ferries.  Some of my ancestors would have known it well.

The Derwent River near Rosetta, north and west of Hobart, Tasmania. . This is a wide river and used to have regular paddle steamers and ferries. Some of my ancestors would have known it well.

THE ULSTER PROJECT – A Geographic Project

This is a project for people with ancestry in Ulster.  I joined this one because I have an ancestor couple from Fermanagh.

John McKinley and his wife Alice nee Bowles probably warrant a whole blog post and I’ll make one if (when) I confirm a DNA connection with them.  I am pretty sure they are ancestors, the paper trial is quite complete and match family recollections and mementos.  But in brief, they were a quiet, well-behaved couple with two children who suddenly committed a crime in January 1846.  They stole some geese, together.  John was sentenced to transportation, Alice was deemed to be acting under her husband’s instructions and received a very minor sentence – 8 days in jail.  For each of them it was a first offence.

There have been reports of desperate Irishmen committing a crime in order to receive a free journey to the colony, considering seven years of servitude a small price to pay for the chance of living a full life complete with food and housing after the sentence was done.  There is still debate about how much this occurred, but it would certainly explain this couple.  I have plenty of convict ancestors – some of them were rebellious, some dysfunctional, some self-serving.  John and Alice McKinley were none of these things and their crimes just don’t gel with the rest of their history.

If the plan was to obtain passage to the colony, then they had not achieved the desired outcome.  They had simply lost the family breadwinner.  If so, the only solution was to do exactly as Alice did next.  She committed another offence.  In March 1846, Alice was found guilty of stealing shoes and a shirt, and was also sentenced to transportation.  Neither of them committed an offence again, in their whole exemplary and community-oriented lives.

Because of this couple, I jjoined this project.  I don’t really know what I expected.  It took a few days – but only a few days – to be accepted.  After a few weeks I sent an email to one of the project managers asking what we were learning.  He responded promply and was very friendly, but forwarded my email to the other manage who apparently knew the DNA stuff.  I have never heard from him.  If anything is happening in this project, it is not apparent to the average member.  But it doesn’t hurt me to be in it and maybe they are learning heaps.


‘H and HV’ and the H2 MtDNA projects have more to look at on the project page.  I am listed on the table showing member results and the main page has some information about the H haplogroup which is interesting.

In the ‘H and HV’ project there are two of us with the subclade H2a2a1c .  The other one does not show in my list of MtDNA matches so the genetic distance must be great.  Which is a shame because the earliest known ancestress comes from Ireland in about the same time period as my Fanny/Annie Rice/Price, so I’d have gotten quite excited about it.  As it is – I guess the relationship is far more distant.

In the ‘H2’ subproject, there are again the same two of us.  I don’t really know what I’m doing in these projects but I’m sure my details will be useful to someone.

These projects are clearly happening and the pages change, details are kept very up to date.  However, as a member I don’t receive much feedback on the progress.  But I do like looking through the list of members and seeing how many there are in each subclade and where the earliest ancestress came from

Since this post became so long, I’ll make another post for the other projects.

My DNA Results – Triangulation

I was looking forward to using triangulation, a technique which was often discussed in the email lists.

My understanding is that if you have a confirmed match, and you have another match at the same segment, you can hopefully deduce the MRCA of all three of you.  This, I believe, works as follows:

Suppose I have three matches – Match A, Match B and Match C. They are showing up in FtDNA or in Gedmatch or some such site.  I have probably found them by using the ‘In Common With’ tool and discovered that these matches match each other as well as myself.

Suppose then, that I view them all in a chromosome browser and find that they all match on the same chromosome and basically on the same segment.  Maybe one runs eg 5 to 13, one runs 7 to 10 and the other from 4 to 11.  We have a segment from 7 to 10 which is matched on all three, same chromosome.  This is what you need to start with.

If I have a segment 5 to 10, and another one 10 to 20, those segments did not necessarily come from the same ancestor.  They are not relevant.  The relevant portion is the exact same bit on each.  However, in my segments above the longest – 5 to 13 – might be closer to me than the smaller ones.

I have many sections like this, and I have kept a note of them.  However, I need more than this for it to be useful.

If I have identified my match with one of them, I have a good starting point.  Suppose I have identified that Match A is a second cousin on the maternal side.  Our common ancestor is one of my maternal great grandparents and I will be able to find them fairly easily. This gives me my first triangle – my own segment, my second cousin’s segment, and our common ancestor’s segment.

I have two other matches with that same chromosome, same segment.  It’s time to look at their ancestors.  Do they have our great grandparents in their tree?  If so, it is easy. The triangle is much the same.   If not, do they have an ancestor who lived in the same location as our great grandparents?  If so, we need to build our tree and theirs at that point to find a connection.

If I find it, I have the MRCA and our match.  If not, the next best thing is to take the other two matches – the ones who match each other and yourself on exactly the same segment, and see if I can find their common ancestor.  If I figure out that both of them descend from John Appleyard of Onevillage in Sussex in 1830, then I can look through my own tree for an ancestor who lived in Onevillage at the same time.  Failing that, an ancestor who lived nearby, an ancestor with a travelling job who went through that village, a runaway son or daughter who was located near that village … that type of thing.  It is necessary to truly understand my ancestor’s lives to do this.  It takes time, effort and concentration.  Luckily it is enormous fun, but sometimes relies on access to the right resources.

This sounds so simple!  Like everything else to do with DNA, I haven’t found it so.  If a common ancestor or common location cannot be found, you can’t go any further.  I have a confirmed maternal match for my example segment (the first pink segment) so the second match either matches the same ancestor on the maternal side, or it matches an unidentified ancestor on the paternal side.  So the next thing to do, if we can’t find a link on the maternal side, is to look in the paternal tree for clues.

One thing that throws people out is when this match – as in my example – was an ‘In Common With’ match.  This makes it seem likely that the match should be on the same side, but this really cannot be assumed.  Communities used to be more isolated and people married the people they met.  If all they met were the local families, you end up with a whole lot of interconnections.

Here is my diagram showing how I think it works.  I believe this diagram will enlarge if clicked.

My simplified DNA inheritance diagram.

My simplified DNA inheritance diagram.

In my diagram, each colour represents the sequence of DNA from that ancestor.  We each get two copies of each chromosome, one from the mother and one from the father.  This is greatly simplified because I am interested in how DNA from one or two specific ancestors has carried down.  In this case, the two sets of great grandparents in this picture.

Thinking of my earlier example, I have myself, I have Match A (the second cousin), Match B (the more distant maternal relative) and Match C (the aunt on the paternal side).   My matching segment is the orange block for the aunt, and the first pink block for the maternal matches.  Notice that this block is in the same position and will show as the same segment numbers (roughly) for each match.  But I can’t tell in my match list that Match A and B are pink and Match C is orange.  Having that detail would make it all straightforward. The only thing I haven’t added into this diagram is another connection between the two sides.  Just imagine that the paternal grandmother is the sister of the lady who marries the maternal great grandmother’s brother’s son. Then Match C will show as a close match to Match B through a different common ancestor. This is why ‘In Common With’ can be a guide to which matches to gather into the investigation in the first place, but doesn’t really tell you anything more.

This makes sense when you see the whole diagram, but try covering the top half with a piece of cardboard and just looking at the bottom samples.  It is very hard to see how they might connect.

The important point being that I need every element I can find in making this connection.  I need DNA matches on each side, I need as solid a paper trail as I can get, and I need a cautious and inclusive methodology.  However, once I have made the identification, this is very useful in identifying further matches on the same segments, so it is well worth making the effort.

Clear as mud?  Usually.  I’ve come to the conclusion that mud is nothing to DNA.

A Closer Look at my DNA Results – My Origins

Reading the emails which came through the lists, I began to wonder what I might learn from my spouse’s family.  He is a man who loves his privacy and I respect his desire to have a very minimal internet presence.  I have Buckley’s chance of getting him to test his DNA.  Given his disinclination, till now I had also resigned myself to leaving my children untested too.  However, my eldest son, aged twenty, expressed a desire to be tested.  I reminded him that his father wasn’t keen and he did some research, deciding that his DNA was not going to be the same as his father’s anyway.  So we did it!  As it turns out, my spouse has handled the news quite well, as long as it doesn’t become a main topic of conversation.

It was rather exciting to purchase another kit.  I uploaded my son’s gedcom, added his ancestor names and looked forward to what amazing discoveries it would lead to.  Having set up his account, there was nothing more to be done for it so I returned to my own.

This time, I looked at the ‘My Origins’ page in the Family Finder section.  It had recently been improved into a map showing the ancestral regions of the kit.  I knew I was going to be strongly British Isles and indeed I was – 98% European in the British Isles with no further breakdown.  As expected.

The other 2% was Central/South Asian with the indicator centred over Afghanistan. This was not expected.  2% is pretty small, but I’m still curious about it.  How far back is this branch of my tree?  Who was this exotic person and their many ancestors which I share?  How far back?  2,000 years? 10,000 years?  One day, maybe DNA testing will be advanced enough to tell us.

The other interesting thing was that I could see the origin percentages of my matches, which I guessed might give me a clue. Jennifer the Unresponsive was 100% European.  John my 2nd-4th cousin, however, was 97% European and 3% Central/South Asian.  Hmm, I thought.  Was this a clue?  My three cousins in Prince Edward Island show as ‘In Common With’ matches with John my 2nd-4th cousin but actually match him on a different chromosome to the one he matches me on.  I guess that’s Scottish families for you.  Of those three, two were 100% European and one was 97% European and 3% something else but not South Asian.  The page only tells me which matches share my own origins so if it is different I can’t see it.

My 2nd-4th cousin was the only one in the list – which did not show everyone – who had South Asian ancestry so I think we must have an MRCA couple where one spouse is related to the Prince Edward Island group and the other spouse has the South East Asian inheritance.  However, it might just be luck of the draw and whoever inherited which genes from the same ancestor.  Hmm, I think again to myself, what if I can talk my parents into testing?  Who knows what a generation closer might show.

I have no idea how I might talk my parents into it.  They live in another state and I suspect it would be easier face to face.  I put that tantalising thought aside and looked again at my own details.

At this time, I had gleaned all I could out of it.  I was back to the fact that I couldn’t identify a common ancestor with 279 of my 280 matches (new people coming in each week).  I realised I had more work to do on my tree.

1) Verify the names I had

2) Get another few generations back – I needed to reach 1700 on all sides to do this properly

3) Build down. Add siblings, find out who they married, see if I can identify some cousins that way.

I had bought myself a $300 puzzle that I simply could not put down.

My Genealogical DNA Test – 4th to Remote Cousins

Now over a month since I tested, I noticed that I had 24 pages of matches rather than 21.  I’d set my notifications to inform me of all new matches from close relatives to remote, but maybe, I thought, this was only referring to confirmed matches since I hadn’t received notification of the new ones.  This was when I first noticed the different ways I could sort my matches in FtDNA.  Nowadays, one of the first things I do when I log in is sort by Match Date to see if I have any new matches, however remote.

Sorting categories for Family Finder matches at FtDNA

Sorting categories for Family Finder matches at FtDNA

Noticing these new ones reminded me that I had heaps of matches that I hadn’t even looked at yet, so I decided to look through.  Advice on the forums was that the more distant matches might be accidental matches and not due to shared ancestor, but advice also disagreed over the exact amount to consider worth pursuing.

There was a nice chart floating around for a while which has also popped up in various Youtube DNA videos saying that a matching block of over 11 cM was pretty well definite, although biological beings are capable of confounding science still.  Below 10 cM, I gather, the likelihood begins to reduce.  But even here, there is debate over the figures.  Some sites will say that you can be pretty confident of any block over 5 cM, some say over 7 cM and others place it higher still.  But there seems to be consensus for the 11 cM segment and greater. This is, 11 cM in a consecutive unbroken block, not 11 cM total.  I have many of these, including nearly all my 4th-Remote cousins.  This means, I deduced, that the relationship was quite distant but likely to be genuine distant cousins.

My hopes were not high, given my experience with the closer cousins.  But why not try?

About the same percentage had provided gedcoms as the closer cousins, but since I had several pages of these I had more to look through.  However, I couldn’t hold all the names in my head.  I’d get to a new gedcom and see a name, for example Joanna Harris born 1843, and I’d remember that I saw that name just a few gedcoms back.  So back I went, looking, and just couldn’t find it anywhere.

This is when I took the advice of emailers to the DNA lists and began using a spreadsheet.  Actually, I began with a table in a word document and later evolved to a spreadsheet.   Once again, some common locations began to appear.  Most gedcoms were giving a state but nothing more detailed, so when I have ten cousins with unrelated gedcoms, all matching on chromosome 7 on the same segment, I began to notice that they all had an ancestor in eg North Carolina (which state is still featuring very strongly in my cousin’s gedcoms) or Virginia or more rarely Tennessee.  South Carolina is also there.  I used the chromosome browser extensively to do this.  Many of these families are ‘In Common With’ matches with each other, so I’m guessing they are trying to identify their brick wall ancestors who most likely descend from the same very elusive US immigrant who was probably a sibling (or great great uncle) to my Australian immigrant. Or aunt – this is actually more likely as she probably arrived in the United States as a Mrs Someone with the maiden name unrecorded.

However, I’m not sure how big these states were back in the old days.  In the Australian colonies there was often movement between.  From my home state of Tasmania, for instance, it was very common for unmarried mothers to cross Bass Strait to have their babies in Victoria, where the shame would not be known.  Often they’d find themselves a husband there, stay for two or three years and come back with a proper respectable family – husband and two children.  Only the records knew that the first child was born before the wedding and actually wasn’t the full sibling of the second child.

Did this happen in North Carolina?  One day, when I need to know, I’ll go do the research.

In the meantime, I knew better than to send such a highly speculative email to such a remote cousin.  I needed something factual and all the facts I had were related to Australia and England.  I went looking for matches with English ancestry.

Pretty quickly, I found it!  Using my word table, I began to collate location statistics and likely names.  This highlighted a few distant cousins descending from very familiar parishes in the county of Somerset.  I finally had something to look into.

Genie DNA Test – Gedmatch

One thing which my new cousin asked in one of her emails was whether I had uploaded my autosomal DNA results to Gedmatch.  I hadn’t, so I googled it to see what was involved.

As luck would have it, I picked a time when it wasn’t accepting new kits, but after a few days it was back and I registered.  I found myself in a ‘Log In Profile’ screen which I now know contains everything I need to use Gedmatch.  I found the section called ‘File Uploads’ and followed the instructions.  The trickiest bit (not really tricky) was downloading my raw data from FtDNA.  The option ‘Download Raw Data’ was on my matches page, but in there I had to choose between Build 36 and Build 37.  Gedmatch, however, very clearly told me to use Build 36 so I downloaded both the Build 36 Autosomal and the Build 36 X .  Then I uploaded one after the other.  It took at least fifteen minutes before the upload completed, a few times I was concerned that it had hung.  But it hadn’t!  Soon enough, the upload was finished.  I sat there on that screen for a while waiting for a button to appear to proceed, but it seems you just ‘x’ out of it, or use the back button to return to the previous screen.

Then was a waiting game as the uploaded data needed to be tokenized which took several days.  Finally it was done and I could run a ‘one to many’ matches compare, keeping the default to 7cM.

This is still fun.  I do it every few days now to see if anyone new has turned up.  New people have their kit number in green so once I had run it a few times I can easily see if there is someone else.  I really like Gedmatch for a few reasons.  One, everyone there has gone out of their way to upload their data and actively seek contact, so I feel much more comfortable about emailing them.  Two, it isn’t just people who have tested at FtDNA.  For an Australian this doesn’t mean as much since Ancestry won’t test Australians anyway and 23andMe are very expensive to use from overseas.  However, there are some cousins for me at both and there are also some smaller companies around the world whose customers just might upload their data.

I also find their presentation very easy to understand.  I’m fond of lists stripped of bells and whistles. Just plain text without unnecessary line spacing, a sea of letters which I can speed-scan for relevant details.  I found it quite intuitive.  \

The first column is a list of kit IDs and you can tell by the first letter which company they tested at.  While your uploaded kit is new, every kit ID is highlighted bright green.  As the weeks pass the green fades until after a month they are all white.  The second column (type) I have never used.  The third column is ‘L’ for list and by clicking this you get a list of that person’s matches in a new window.  This can be useful for seeing how close an in-common match is to that match of yours.

The fourth column is a selection check box, the fifth is gender, the sixth and seventh are the Mt and Y Haplogroup, if provided.

One of the first things I did was search this column for others of my mt Haplogroup and came up with no exacts, one H2a2a and one H2a2. This is from a list showing 1,500 matches of whom about a quarter have MT tested.   I was just curious.

The next column, ‘Details’ has an A which is a link.  This does a one-to-one compare with that kit to show which chromosomes the match is in.  This is fun.  I generally select the option to show graphics because I like to see what might be hidden – where we absolutely don’t match, where we nearly match, whether there are a thousand little fragmented matches which might add to the total match length but not be relevant.  However, the non-graphical version gives the salient details.

The total cM shared and largest block are next and this is where it gets useful.  The match screen is sorted so that the biggest match is at the top – that is, the closest predicted relation.

In my gedmatch list was my adoptee cousin from South Carolina who shares the Prince Edward Island matches, the three matches direct from Prince Edward Island, my adoptee cousin from New York, and the 3rd-5th cousin who felt our match was too tenuous to pursue.  I also recognised many other names from my ftDNA cousin list, ones without gedcoms who I had assumed were not really family tree people. I was a little surprised to see them here.

Cemetery in a forgotten town.  Alma used to be a real town with a school, a church and a cemetery.  A vital memory hiding in an empty landscape.  A bit like my DNA test results!

Cemetery in a forgotten town. Alma used to be a real town with a school, a church and a cemetery. A vital memory hiding in an empty landscape. A bit like my DNA test results!

Then comes the column where Gedmatch predicts your genetic distance.  Here, I notice, it differs from FtDNA.

My closest cousin, John, has not uploaded to Gedmatch at all.  Nor has my second closest, Jennifer.  The two adoptee cousins show as my next closest matches on FtDNA but here they are in positions 4 and 10.  Cecilia with the PEI link is fourth.  Jacqueline from New York is tenth.

The big surprise for me here was that in pride of place, the number one closest position was the man who felt we were too great a distance to follow up.  Let’s call him Bill.  Like the others, this is not his real name.  With a genetic distance of 4.4, he was my nearest relation.  Just out of interest, I clicked the ‘L’ to see what his list looked like.  He had heaps and heaps of genetic distance 1’s, 2’s and 3’s.  I was so far down his list it just wasn’t funny.  I had to scroll down to find myself! I showed at the same genetic distance, but he had so many at a closer distance that 4.4 meant nothing to him.  I now understood why he sent that email.

I then looked at some other people and it was exactly the same for them.  Even my two adoptee cousins had heaps of closer matches!  It was a bit flattening.  I was back to feeling like an alien.

I should mention, the same happens to me on family tree sites too.  Hardly anyone smart matches with my family names.  Even though a lot of Australians are into genealogy, not so many will put their details out into the world.  I went back to looking through my closest relations, this time looking at the ones from other companies, the new ones.

Second on my list was someone with the same contact email as Bill’s so I would guess his sibling.  The genetic distance was equal.  Third was a new name – I’ll call her Sarah.  She was equal genetic distance to Bill and his brother and we shared 31 cM with a longest block of 12.2 cM.  Running the one-to-one compare showed that we matched on three different chromosomes with blocks of  over 9 cM.  Clicking on her list, I found that I was her nearest relation – in her number one spot. This boosted my spirits so I sent her an email.  I also sent an email to the lady in Prince Edward Island to tell her I was now on Gedmatch.  I felt like an old hand.

Genie DNA Test – Back to 3rd-5th Cousin Matches

I received an email back from my anticipated Waller/Warren cousin within a day.  He was friendly, but felt that any possible connection was too tenuous to work with.  That was it.

Tenuous?  A 3rd-5th cousin who shares a total of 40.5 cM with me, with biggest segment 16.4?  He’s on my first page!  It made me wonder what kind of matches other people were getting if this was too tenuous to follow up. I guess 3rd-5th cousin means our common ancestor would be about 5-9 generations back and I don’t have that sort of data in my tree anyway for some branches.  But there are some which I have back to the 1600s with reasonable confidence, barring non-parental events.

Then I received an email from the other one, the lady managing three kits with whom I have a roughly similar connection but no names in common.  After the previous email, I had a feeling I knew what was coming.

But no!  This was the beginning of better times.

This delightful lady had pulled up her three connected kits and deduced which branch I was matching with.  She sent me a pdf of their family tree and although we had no common names, she felt I probably connected to a branch of Scottish settlers from a place called Cape Breton.  She suggested I look at the surnames Morrison, Campbell and McEachern which in her tree come from a place called Benbecula in the Hebrides in Scotland.  I noticed how close this was geographically to Isle of Harris and felt she may be correct.  It was definitely worth considering.  I pored over the tree she sent me with the greatest pleasure and noticed that the name McIsaac featured in the tree also, on the same branch as Morrison, McEachern and Campbell.  Since I was still pondering on a McIsaac connection with my other cousin, this seemed even more promising.  I just had to find the parents of my Annie McLeod and I had a feeling it would all fall in place.

Over the next few hours I received six emails from this lady, giving me some history of Benbecula and the Scottish emigrants to Nova Scotia.  She also CC’d someone else researching the same line and I felt very welcomed.

One of the coastal areas settled by Scottish immigrants (amongst others) in the 1850s

Ardrossan South Australia – One of the coastal areas settled by Scottish immigrants (amongst others) in the 1850s

I knew something of Scottish emigration already, through researching the exodus of the McLeods en masse to South Australia in the 1850s.  They’d been doing it tough in their native land and the landowner arranged for their emigration so he could run sheep which was a more suitable use of the land.  The Highland and Island Emigration Society handled the removal of emigrants from Scotland and sent most of them to South Australia.

What I hadn’t realised till now was that the removal to South Australia was just the last stage of a series of Clearances which had begun around 1800, and that the earlier emigrants went to Prince Edward Island and I think Newfoundland.  The chances of our emigrants having kin over on Prince Edward Island was very great, since they were of the same status, the same clan groups, the same occupations.

This new information explained so much!  An Australian descendant of Scottish emigrants from the Hebrides, Uist and  Benbecula was going to have cousins in Nova Scotia.  Many settlers in Nova Scotia eventually emigrated to the United States so I could expect to have some cousins there.   To find this link, I should be looking at anyone in their tree who came from Nova Scotia or at least Canada.    At least one of my adoptee cousins was descended from one of these Scottish people.

My confidence was growing at last.

My Genealogical DNA Test Experience Part 7 – Mitochondrial DNA Results

I had been so focused on my Family Finder results that I’d nearly forgotten the MTDNA test, but with the same lack of fanfare as the FF, I received a couple of quiet emails.  One told me the results were in, the other that I had matches. I logged in to see what I could learn about my way distant past.

First of all, my test was the MT DNA Full Sequence test.  I gather that the test has become more accurate as the years pass, and those who tested five years ago received a basic designation whereas those who did the new advanced expensive version get a a category involving several letters and numbers.

I received my haplogroup which was a meaningless number to me.  H2a2a1c.  It sounds like a serial number of an electrical appliance.  I must admit, somewhere in the back of my mind I felt as if I was being assigned my serial number.

This wasn’t necessarily a bad feeling.  There was a sense of belonging.  I didn’t know what it meant but it had cost a fair bit of money to find out and it was my mother’s mother’s mother’s type so it was important.  That 12-13 year old girl who travelled alone to Australia in 1868 was the same type (see this former blog post) .  She and I had that in common.  Her mystery mother, the one who was unable to raise her for whatever reason (death or incapacity), was also this type.  That mystery mother had a great grandmother, whose story can’t even be guessed at, who also shared this haplogroup with me.  It’s a nice thought.  Not useful in any immediate sense, but nice.

Having gotten this far, I went looking for usefulness. So I viewed my matches, looking for the English women surnamed Rice or Price who would be my Fanny/Annie Rice/Price’s sisters.  Of course, there were none there.  I know now how unreasonable that expectation was.  But it would have been nice!

Back then, in June/July, I had six matches.  Now I have twelve.  That seems pretty good really.  I don’t know what other people have.  I have 8 at genetic distance of 2, and 4 at genetic distance of 3.  I’m guessing the higher the genetic distance, the further from me it is.  I gather that with mitochondrial DNA, different haplogroups have different mutation rates and no one has yet worked out my haplogroup.  Which is interesting, because it is very close to a subclade with a story.

I gather that way back in the day, maybe the 1980s, genetic scientists first learned how to read chromosomes.  Back when it was new, they decided to completely analyze the DNA of a typical English woman, such as you saw everywhere in England, and call her type the standard ordinary normal type.  Rather than write out the whole genome sequence each time, it was easier to start with the whole thing written out and just record the difference.   A bit like phone numbers.  If you have already memorized 62788343 (random number hopefully not real), it’s easier to get a phone for your child which is the same number but the last three is a 4.  No work involved in remembering it at all.

So they did something quite similar, they mapped out a genome sequence and called it the reference sequence because it was a sequence and it was their reference.  Thus – the Cambridge Reference Sequence since they were Cambridge University.  It was a nice plan with just a few little drawbacks – first, there was contamination from other DNA.  Second, contrary to expectations, there proved to be more variations than expected in mtdna.   Their woman wasn’t so ordinary and representative after all.  There was no way they could have known, but she was a somewhat rare type of subclade  (a subclade being a subcategory of a haplogroup).

This meant that just about every genome they compared against hers was going to be quite different – each difference, referred to as a mutation, had to be written out.

After a few years they realised what happened and fixed the early problems, resulting in the Revised Cambridge Reference Sequence, called rCRS.

Later still, they figured out what an early mtdna sequence might be and used that instead.  Finally, a majority of sequences tested had less mutations than common features.  This new sequence was called the Reconstructed Sapiens Reference Sequence and seems to be working well.  The others are now being phased out.  This is my layman’s explanation.

On the Family Tree DNA website in the MtDNA section is a page for Results.  The results can be viewed as rCRS or as RSRS.   It defaults to RSRS and mine shows me where my own MtDNA varies in each part – HVR1, HVR2 and Coding Region differences.  For RSRS I have tons of differences, plus a list of extra mutations.

rCRS now – that’s different altogether.  I have one difference in HVR1, one in HVR2, and three in the Coding Region. I’m very nearly rCRS.  In fact, I think rCRS is H2a2a1 but is just a different letter after that.  I’m a ‘c’ at the end, rCRS might be ‘a’ or ‘b’.  Someone out there would know.

It’s another irrelevancy really, but I do wonder if that first woman mapped might be a distant relative of mine.

Having got this far and looked around, I had a closer look at my matches and their stated earliest known ancestresses.  Most of them had gotten back earlier than me – mostly between 1620 and 1750.  Who knows, perhaps if I could get my Fanny/Annie Rice/Price a little further back, they might be my relation.  But there was a common thread there – most of them, in fact nine of them – were in North Carolina or Virginia.  Further to this, after emailing a few of the matches we managed to get at least three of them back to a place with the strange name of Pasquotank in North Carolina (surnames Sealey, Goode and Owens).  The three women had no known connection but they had a closer genetic distance to each other than I had to them.  Two other women got back to Virginia (Barnett and Husbands) but it was at least fifty years later than the Pasquotank women.

I started a file on them and am tracing their family trees in the hopes of a breakthrough.  You have to do something.  But there is a good chance our connection really is back at the time of the Roman conquest of Britain so I won’t hold my breath.  I’ll just wait till all those archaeological remains are DNA tested and one comes up as a perfect match.

In the meantime – back to the Family Finder results.

My Genealogical DNA Test Experience Part 6 – 3rd to 5th Cousin Matches

Having exhausted all avenues for my four closest matches, I turned to the next closest – the 3rd – 5th cousin matches.  There were 17 of these.

At first I found this a bit daunting, then I discovered the ‘In Common With’ option.

As I understand it, if I have a match with two people, and they have a match with each other, this will show as an ‘In Common With’ match.

Their match may not be my match.  This happens in smaller communities such as the Australian colonies where there were only so many families around.   It actually took me a week or so to figure this out.  But having done so, I could use the chromosome browser to see if we matched on the same segment.  For every segment, I can only have two distinct matches, one on my father’s side and one on my mother’s side. If I match two people on the same segment but they don’t match each other, then they must be matches on my different sides.  It seems so simple!

Actually, it really is that simple.  What makes it hard is when you have no guide marks to work with.  21 pages of matches at 10 matches a page = 210 matches.  How on earth could I have 210 matches and not find a single common ancestor?  I was beginning to wonder if I was adopted. Either that or I’m just really really bad at genealogy.

First of all, I finally found a match who shared a surname with me.  In fact, he shared two surnames, Waller and Warren.

In my tree, Martha Waller was the wife of John Dunstall.  She was born in 1822, the daughter of soldier Michael Waller, and she married John Dunstall in 1839.  They then emigrated to South Australia on the Lalla Rookh arriving in 1840, accompanied by Martha’s fifteen year old brother William Michael Waller.

This lady is another brick wall for me.  There is a book about the Dunstalls called ‘The Dunstall Road to South Australia’ researched and published by a group of Dunstall descendants who did a truly excellent job.  I refer to the book often.  In this book is a print of John and Martha’s marriage certificate which has saved me from purchasing it.  The book also gives Martha a birthdate, October 9th 1822 but no location is given for her birth.  I have been unable to find any record for a Martha Waller born on this date.  I have, however, found a Martha Waller born in India on 9th Dec 1822, child of Michael and Ann Waller at the British military barracks in Meerut, India.  This one seems eminently likely but does not explain the date in the book.  I have not heard back from the publishers of that book and suspect it is too long after the print date to get in touch.

After a possible contact for Annie McLeod I had some hopes for a Martha Waller hint too.

My Warren connection is a family in Cork, Ireland back in the 17th century.  Wallis Warren arrived in Ireland with Cromwell’s army or shortly after and settled on land with his family.  He married Elizabeth Knolles and they had, amongst other children, a daughter Anne born around 1680.  Anne married Richard Gumbleton and they settled in Ballygarron in Cork.  This line eventually descends to my maternal grandmother, while Martha Waller descends to my maternal grandfather.

I sent off my email and looked further.

Next I spotted three matches who all showed a common surname McNeal and a common location of Prince Edward Island.  These guys had a match in common with each other and also with Cecilia Williams, my adoptee 2nd-4th cousin.  I sent an email to the lady who managed all three profiles, although I could not match a single one of the names.

Only three others had gedcoms attached and I perused carefully.  There was no common name at all, not between myself and their famiilies, not between any of them and each other.  All three however had a location of Virginia somewhere in their tree.  I didn’t email them at all.  If my 2nd cousin match looked like being a 5th cousin match, then chances were these were actually 8th cousin matches and I just didn’t have my tree out far enough.

So I went back to extending my branches to see if I could improve the odds and actually make a connection.

My Genealogical DNA Test Experience Part 3 – Perhaps I Am An Alien?

I received very quick responses from three of my four 2nd-4th cousins.  Jennifer Harrison never did respond.  Months later, I still have not heard from her although I sent a tentative second email after three months.

Cecilia Williams and Jacqueline Rhodes sent me lovely emails.  They informed me that I was showing as one of their closest matches too.  Each of them were adoptees seeking their genetic roots.  One was in South Carolina, one was in New York.  I was their first Australian match.  Neither of them matched each other and they matched me on very different chromosomes.  One of them shared matches with several of my 3rd-5th matches.  The other is an isolate and I have no common matches with her segment even now.  They eagerly awaited anything I might learn but I wasn’t going to learn it from them.

Which left me with John Samuelson,and with him I shared one name – the name McLeod.

The name McLeod appears on my mother’s side. My maternal grandfather was a Dunstall.  His grandfather was James Dunstall born in South Australia in 1842.  In 1866 James Dunstall married Annie McLeod who at her marriage gave her father’s name as ‘Kennis’.

In the 1850s there was a mass exodus of McLeods from Harris, Inverness-shire, Scotland to South Australia.  Many hundreds of McLeods arrived each year.  It looks to me as if it was mandatory for a McLeod family to have a daughter called Annie, because just about every family did.  At one time I began researching every Annie McLeod I found arriving in South Australia to see if they were mine.  After about 12 of them I gave up.  Annie was a brick wall.

Some of the Ann McLeods in South Australia

Marriage index records to some of the Ann McLeods in South Australia

James and Annie died of tuberculosis along with their older children.  Annie’s death record told us nothing because only children survived to inform the officials. Her will was full of her concern for those future orphans, but gave no clue about other family.  I couldn’t even be sure of her birth country because there were McLeods turning up from everywhere.

My Annie McLeod was born in 1844.  John Samuelson’s ancestor John McLeod was born 1846.  John McLeod was married in 1871 in the same little village that my James and Annie Dunstall had their son in 1869.  We had a name, we had a location.  It looked really good.  But, John told me, he had researched his ancestor quite thoroughly and he had no sister called Anne. The connection, we surmised, was one generation further back.  But I was very much stumped with my Annie and saw no way to get her a generation back.

So on that rather dissatisfying note, I was forced to leave my four closest matches.