Article by Guest Blogger, Mike Murray - WAGS London & South East England Group Joint Convenor and DNA enthusiast.
What's happend so far in Mike's DNA journey...
Well over a year ago (in Feb 2014) I posted a piece about the anticipated DNA test journey that I was about to embark upon.
Since then there have been queries about progress. I gave an update to the Computer Group last month but maybe a summary for a wider audience is in order. But I need to change a few names to protect the innocent bystanders!
And the story is still unfolding.
As predicted, it's a simple process. We had bought the Family Finder autosomal test from www.familytreedna.com. I think the tests were $US99 each. The test kits arrived with a unique kit number for each of us. We swabbed both cheeks, put the swabs in the little test tubes and sent them off to the USA in the enclosed envelope. Postage cost - $2.80.
A month later we both got emails to say the tests were done and we could individually log into the website and view results.
So we did.
I'll focus on my own test results.
When you log on to the familytreedna website (and create your own password), the first thing you're likely to want to look at is your matches. The website lists all the people in their database who are predicted to be related to you, based on the shared segments of "unshuffled" DNA across numerous points across all the chromosomes.
The theory is, the more shared segments (and the length of the identical sequences), then the closer the relationship.
I had something like 80 pages (10 to a page) of .˜matches'. Almost all were 3rd to 5th cousins, or 5th to remote cousins. There were a few 2nd to 4th cousins. There was one 1st to 2nd cousin (call her Jane Doe) and one 1st to 3rd cousin (call her Mary Doe, she was Jane's daughter).
Many of the matches had included a list of surnames in their ancestry, often with a location. A few had included pedigree trees. So I had a bit of fun going through the names of the closest matches and trying to work out where and how the relationship could happen, but to be honest I got bored with it all. I saw no recognisable relatives or relationships, so I decided to not bother with it. I didn't make any contact with any of my "matches".
I didn't even report the results on this blog. I didn't want to put anyone off thinking this was a waste of money. I figured that I was just unlucky - remember that the number of matches you get is very dependent on who else has bothered to get tested. So I figured none of my Isle of Lewis or Irish descendants had done so.
Time passed. Life went on.
I got my first contact in November 2014 from a lady who had just got her test results and noticed one of my names and locations matched hers (Campbell in Templepatrick, Antrim). On her results I came up as 2nd to 4th cousin, so she made the contact and we very quickly established that she was my 4th cousin once removed. She had information that I didn't have about her branch of my Campbells, so that was good. A new 4th cousin. OK, good.
A week later I had another contact from a 3rd to 5th cousin who was a MacAulay and his ancestry back in 1750 included the MacAulays in Uig, Isle of Lewis. Me too. But we couldn't establish the common link which is unsurprising at that distance of relationship. But he's clearly related. So is a large percentage of the Isle of Lewis.
And then - in December Mary Doe made contact. She is the 1st to 3rd cousin and her mother is 1st to 2nd cousin in my matches. Now that's close. She lives in Canada. Here's what she said:
Hello. I'm Mary Doe, daughter of Jane Doe..
I recently noticed that you are a very close match for both myself and my mom on familytreedna, with an estimated relationship range of 1st to 3rd cousin. Having had a look at your ancestral surnames and places I was thinking the match was in Co. Antrim, Ireland HOWEVER, you do NOT match our first cousin a McSomething at all according to familytreedna and he is our Co. Antrim link through the McOther family.
As far as I know we have no known Isle of Lewis connections. But my mom's grandmother, [let's call her Sally Smith] and her family are completely unknown to us. I am hoping that perhaps you are a link to her family. Would you be willing to correspond and compare family notes?
Looking forward to hearing from you.
So we exchanged some thoughts and tried to work out where the relationship might have come in.
In one of my earlier emails I noted: There may be some sensitive issues come out of all this. Are you and your mom prepared?
She replied: I had a chat with my mom and we're prepared to go down this path, wherever it may lead us.
We explored possible common Irish heritage through her maternal grandmother (who came from Antrim) but then stopped that because her grandmother's son from a second marriage was tested and he showed no relationship to me, so we were able to eliminate that side of the family.
That's one of the great advantages of DNA testing - by testing multiple people you can focus more closely where the relationship is likely to be.
I won't go into the gory details on a public blog, but suffice to say we are now exploring possible NPEs (non-paternity events) among quite close relatives in the late 1800s. It turns out that Jane Doe's grandmother 'Sally Smith' is not who she said she was...no-one in the Doe family knows where she came from or even what her birth name was. We've looked at some of my Lewis relatives who were in Western Canada in the late 1800s early 1900s. We've pondered about missing Irish great-aunts who might have adopted another persona. We're considering all sorts of things.
We may not solve the mystery, but it's fascinating.
And it may be a shock and quite hurtful to some of my relatives when the truth emerges, if it ever does. Until we know more, I'm reluctant to share anything with my relatives about the possibilities that need to be considered.
Which leads me on to:
Is this sort of DNA test worthwhile?
Whenever people say they want to do a DNA test, we always query why they want to do it and urge them to consider how they will react if the results are not what they expect.
For me, the unexpected revelation of an unknown close relative has spurred me on to refresh my family tree and carefully relook at all of my reasonably close relatives with a new eye, looking at geography, time and opportunity. It's a real forensic quest, trying to eliminate those relatives who have a solid alibi for the time period we're considering (too young, wrong place) and focusing on those who might be possibilities.
So one of the great benefits has been a renewed and reinvigorated attack on parts of my family tree which have lain stagnant for 15 years or so, since I first had the great urge to find as many of the clan as I could. The resources we now have available (which weren't there 15 years ago) have made the quest enjoyable and profitable.
But cousin Mary Doe and I continue to work on the mystery of how we're related and to whom.
Will we solve it? Who knows.
Convenor, Computer Interest Group and DNA enthusiast