It’s been a busy week, and too hot to do anything but just muddle through. I have a lot of sympathy for my daughter struggling to do her trigonometry homework in 40 Celsius heat. In some ways – yes, we are used to it. We know all the tricks to get through. In other ways – one never really handles extreme heat except by enduring. Out here where power failures are frequent we can’t depend on air conditioning so we prefer to acclimatize. Looking at a chromosome browser in these conditions only leads to mistakes. I took an enforced break.
This was tough, given that my mother’s half sister’s kit has been processed and I have a potential million exciting revelations just waiting for me. Instead, just to get through, I turned back to the nice, easy and relaxing paper research. I went searching for ancestors. I did find one fifth cousin match for my mother before I gave up, one of those dream matches where I spotted the surname instantly. The beautiful thing there is that it confirmed a previously unconfirmed great grandparent. I have now confirmed by DNA my closest four generations bar one individual – self, parents, grandparents and great grandparents. There is just my mother’s paternal grandmother to go.
Someone asked me about my family tree yesterday, but due to the heat I didn’t want to face it so instead I read other people’s family history blogs. By doing this, I found a fun game.
Back in 2012, many well known genealogists must have been feeling the way I did this week, and instead of researching they looked at a few basic stats about their trees. They tallied up how many ancestors they had found – positively identified, with some confidence – at each generation back some nine generations. They posted their results and I became curious about my own.
In a blog post a while back I wrote down my family tree objectives of the time. They were:
1) Identify all emigrating ancestors, how they arrived, why they came and where they came from.
2) Take all family lines back to 1700 to enable DNA matching in the secure autosomal range.
3) Take all lines back to 1550 (start of parish records) to enable identification of all DNA matches including US Colonial, which would enable me to come to some conclusions about DNA inheritance and the effectiveness of current DNA test results.
Should I have put something easy in there, like world peace or the cure for cancer? Well, if I don’t aim high I won’t get anywhere close. You just never know.
The first objective is so nearly complete – I still have just the two outstanding women Mary Morgan and Bridget Bain. I’m beginning to think that Bridget Bain might actually be Bridget Behan, but this is just a wild theory at present. I have indeed found an emigration record for a Biddy Behan in the correct time period. I’ll do that research after the heatwave. Mary – well, I have that DNA match with Morgan which seems rather promising, but the lack of records make that one hard to pursue yet.
I’ve done pretty well so far, but it has taken me twenty five years to get here. Admittedly the bulk of this work has been achieved in the last ten years as British digitized records have come online, so more and more can be done. Unfortunately I have finished the easy parts. The rest are in areas with poor or nonexistent records, or they deliberately obfusticated the system. DNA testing will find some of these.
My third cousins share 2nd great grandparents with me. Although I have many DNA matches in the predicted 2nd-4th Cousin range, I have only confirmed one third cousin and that one shared a much higher total cM count of DNA (105cM) than any of the others. The rest are probably fourth cousins, fourth cousins with some degree of removal, or fifth cousins or greater since the total cM shared averages 45cM-65cM. They are in that prediction range because amongst the total we share one quite large segment, generally a 30cM block.
I have identified 29 out of 32 3rd great grandparents and I have all but two surnames involved. You’d think I could get the fourth cousins. If I can’t, there are probably NPEs or adoptions involved, or someone else has their tree wrong.
Beyond that – the 3rd-5th cousin predictions, the 4th-remote, the 5th-remote speculative – it’s a miracle if I find any. Luckily miracles are occurring on a weekly basis for me and I am indeed starting to identify more cousins.
Tree size counts. Accuracy counts even more, of course, but my current advice to anyone who wants to use DNA testing to confirm their paper records – get your tree to a minimum 25,000 individuals with the strongest degree of accuracy possible. I’m at 23, 574 and it is beginning to make a difference.
My advice is particularly directed to Australians because so few in our country have tested, and the bulk of our immigration was 1800-1860. We have to get behind that half century on as many sides as possible to use the matches available to us.
The more of us who resolve our trees, the easier it will be for everyone else, and the more mysteries we can all solve.