For my mother, we already have DNA matches with two known distant Todd cousins and one known McIntire cousin. After assigning those known relationships in FTDNA, I was able to use the filter matches by the “in common with…” feature. First, I selected my mother and a Todd cousin. Thirty nine people came up as having the same shared DNA. Of those, six matches were estimated at 3rd or 4th cousins.
FTDNA has a feature to keep track of your notes. On all thirty-nine people, I made a note of the date and the match. Again, through FTDNA, I was able to send messages to the six matches. Many people, myself included, administer DNA accounts for others, so in the body of the message, I’ve learned to always include the name of both matches and to include my family names and geography. You get a better response than just saying “Hey, we match.” If I do a little more work upfront, not expecting the other person to figure out the match, I get better responses.
But before sending out messages, I went through the same “in common with…” matching process with the other Todd cousin and with the McIntire cousin, documenting all the matches in notes. Some people matched both Todd cousins and some people only matched one. A couple of people matched the Todd cousins and the McIntire cousin!
Out of a total of 115 possible matches between my mother’s DNA and her three known 3rd or 4th cousins, FTDNA identified eighteen new people as possible 3rd or 4th cousins.
From the messages to these possible cousins, within two days, I had responses from ten people – one who was able to immediately identify himself as a descendant of Walker Todd, my 4th great-grandfather. I’ve talked with my mother’s new 2nd cousin 2X removed. He’s sent me video of the Todd Cemetery in Cannon County, Tennessee, where I hope to visit someday.
As I was responding to the followup messages, I realized I needed to have my place names better organized to sort by city/county/state. When I have Oklahoma City listed in my Family Tree Maker place name as OKC, OK City, Okla. City, and Oklahoma City, those don’t sort, nor does AR, Ark., ARK, and Arkansas. It took two solid days of data entry using the “check unrecognized place names to resolve misspelling and other errors” function, which pulled up over 4500 place names to be checked. After the cleanup, I was down to 2214 place names for the 5674 people in my tree and the place sort function was now useful. (Now I need to do the people clean-up, but that’s another week.)
Another response yielded a match in our documents to a descendant of a brother of Elvira/Elmira Haynes, so we now have potential DNA identified on the Haynes line from this 3rd cousin.
So basically, in the searches, we’re looking for DNA matches where people have a documented paper trail that matches our ancestors. Then we assume the DNA comes from the documented ancestor, realizing assuming can get us in trouble. The goal is to have two or three matches showing the same gene sequence, then you can confirm the relationship.
While I was working away on my mother’s matches, I received an email from a woman about a possible match with my father’s DNA. She did a really great job of sending me her family names and dates. After trading several emails and chasing a couple of red herrings, we identified a match in our paper trails to John Riley Francis and Margaret “Peggy” Davidson – my father’s 3rd great grandparents. Mary Pennington Musgrove, my dad’s grandmother, was the daughter of Elnora Melvina Francis, who was the daughter of John Riley and Peggy. So dad has a new confirmed 4th cousin.
Now I can run the “in common with…” feature in FTDNA for each of my parents and their new cousins to find more new cousins and hope for responses. That will keep me busy until other four kits are completed, but now, I need to get back to work for my study group covering Mastering Genealogical Proof and then download and label documents off the flippal and camera from my summer research trips – a different kind of fun than working with DNA testing.1
1. Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013).Copyright © 2013 Andrea Musgrove Perisho