DNA + Genealogy = DNAlogy?

Okay maybe not quite. But the weirdness of my made up word looks exactly like I feel about the whole DNA thing.

I took the plunge -- after receiving my umpteenth email from Ancestry.com about AncestryDNA -- and had my dad, and later my husband, tested. I wasn't sure where it would get me, but hoped it might help me break through some of the mysteries and brick walls that abound in my tree.

The results were...interesting, to say the least. The most eye-opening part was that my dad thought that his grandmother had been at least half Native American. However, based on these results, that may not be the case:

After the initial excitement and interest I thought, okay, now what? There are, of course, matches that you get from your DNA contribution to the larger AncestryDNA pool. But all of my matches so far have been distant cousins, and not ones I could foreseeably hope to confirm.
Sidenote: There was one exception, a third cousin(!). Unfortunately, his mother died in childbirth and he doesn't know much about his father. So he couldn't (yet) help in trying to pinpoint where our trees may cross. But I will keep his information because, one day, I would love to be able to share some information about his biological roots.
Thanks to my friends on Twitter and my AGSAR friends, I learned a bit more about the other options out there for DNAlogy. But because I am very conscious about privacy, I didn't want to share my results -- or heaven forbid, pay for another test -- with just any company. So I searched around for awhile before deciding to try GEDMatch.com.

Boy is that site intimidating. It's an uncompensated "labor of love," courtesy of Curtis Rogers, and it's free. But what a great service he provides (support his efforts by donating here)! It's very popular, so that helps when you're trying to match your results with other people. There are lots of analytical tools for you to use (or just play around with, if you're clueless like me), like "Admixture" and "Triangulation" (huh?!?), or better yet "Predict Eye Color" and the best one, "Are your parents related?"!

I figured out just enough to understand that first I had to download my autosomal raw DNA file from Ancestry. Then I uploaded that file to GEDMatch. They provide some very easy to follow instructions

Once that was done, I had to wait a VERY long time (many weeks) for them to process my file. When it was done, I was able to compare my file to the GEDMatch pool -- called "One to Many Matches." That's when the fun started....

What I got was not what I expected. Lots of numbers and letters and terminology that was completely foreign. I understood enough to know that I wanted the match's autosomal largest segment to be greater than 7 cM -- whatever that means. And that the higher that cM number is, the closer on your tree that person is to you. 

At first most of my match numbers were pretty low, but then a new one popped up recently (it automatically updates!), who had a segment number of 80 cMs (good, I guess), which seems to be really pretty close.

I was nervous at first, but I reached out to her via email to see if she was interested in sharing information, to see where our trees might connect...and she was! Very excited and interested, in fact. It's always so refreshing to connect with people who love the adventure of tracing family roots as much as I do.

We share one common location -- Arkansas. Arkansas is a very large brick wall for me, because my roots start there in the mid-1800s, and so far I have not been able to find any Arkansas birth or death records on-line (a HUGE road block). So fingers crossed that she can help me break through a bit; and maybe I'll even introduce her to a new branch of her tree!

I don't intend to wallow in my DNA-ignorance. More than one person has recommended the book Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond by Emily Aulicino. I have it downloaded on my Kindle just waiting for me to crack it open...eventually. :)

To be continued....


  1. Loved this post, Nia, and have a warning for you: gedmatch and dnaology are every bit as addictive as plain old genealogy! Best of luck in busting down those walls.

    1. Thanks Dawn! The people I've connected with through GEDMatch have been great and responsive. So even if I don't yet understand it all, it already has been beneficial to my research.

  2. Thanks for mentioned that book again! I just downloaded it to my Kindle. Yes, the DNA hunt is exciting and frustrating. I have only been able to confirm one line because, I believe, my other ones don't go back far enough or the other folks don't. I have been able to confirm some new found cousins and that was good.

    1. Glad it was a helpful reminder! I'm hoping to confirm one of my cousins, but I'm still working up the nerve to ask her to take a DNA test. :) But it would be a huge confirmatory step for a line I've been tracing, if she did the test and it was a match. We'll see...

  3. I so feel you on the DNA confusion. I took both Ancestry and 23andMe DNA test, received some invites but so far no solid connections. You've encouraged me to tackle GEDMatch.

    1. You should definitely tackle GEDMatch. It's pretty easy if you just focus on the few areas you understand. :) Thanks for reading!

  4. It's a challenge these DNA results. I find myself learning something new everyday. We have a page on FB as well called DNA African Tested Descendents. I downloaded that 3.03 book and look forward to opening it up one day as well. This blog piece resonates with a lot of folks who are advanced or just starting out. So many things Pop out each day. Great piece.


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