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.

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