Thanks to genetic genealogy, I believe my biggest brick wall has finally been knocked down, shattered, destroyed. I now have a huge lead as to who my biological father is.
Searching for who my biological father might have always been a major purpose behind my genealogical passion. I have been trying to figure it out for decades without real success, until now.
In 2012, Y-DNA tests I took indicated that I was a “Roberts.” Family Tree DNA’s results indicated that my four closest relatives were all surnamed Roberts.
My Closest Y-DNA Matches on Family Tree DNA
% Common Ancestor is likely in 4 generations
W. A. Roberts
Has a great tree available on-line.
D. R. Roberts
Unable to Contact. Possibly deceased.
C. E. Lathem
50% likelihood in 11 generations
From this and similar results on the now defunct Ancestry Y-DNA, I surmised that my ancestor was probably a Roberts. W. A. Roberts was kind enough to share his tree with me, so I began looking closely at his ancestors’ descendants, looking for potential individuals that might have been in the right place at the right time. No success. Nothing seems to fit.
The DNA is matching!
When Ancestry began its autosomal DNA testing, I was an early adopter. When Family Tree DNA began accepting transfers of results from Ancestry DNA, I did a DNA Transfer with them. I also imported my results into GED Match. I figured that the more places you have your DNA out there, the greater the likelihood you will have a match. Maybe even a close match. No such luck. There were a few, four to 8 generations away. Some had nicely developed trees; some only had a couple generations documented. I helped some of the latter improve their trees, but nothing I found seemed to connect with the Roberts “notional tree” I was working on – Until now.
This week, I rechecked my results on Ancestry DNA and couldn’t believe the results. There was a new person, T.C.[i] who was identified as a 1st or 2nd cousin. Wow! She and I shared 313 centimorgans across 20 segments. And she has a tree that included a grandmother and great grandparents with the surname of Roberts. Could this be the breakthrough I’ve been looking for?
I added the names and the general relationships to my “Roberts Notional Tree” and took note of some of her sources. Then I began researching this potential line. If we really are 1st or 2nd cousins, then we must share a grandparent or great grandparent. I was almost giddy in my excitement. The initial problem was I didn’t see anything that fit the dates and places that my biological father needed to come from. I knew it wasn’t going to be quick, but if I researched, I might find the link I was looking for.
I found that TC’s great grandparents had five children – two girls and three boys. Any of the three boys would be the correct age to be my biological father. So, the search was on.
The first son I investigated was Bert Allen Roberts, Jr. He was born in Terre Haute, IN. He grew up there and relocated to Cleveland, OH as an adult. As I looked more and more closely at his life, I determined that he wasn’t likely.
The second son I investigated was Hugh Eugene Roberts. He was born in Detroit, MI, (like my mother) but moved to Terre Haute, IN, as a child. I found evidence that in May 1950, he was back in Detroit. From that, it is easy to surmise that he could have been in Detroit in October of 1949, when I was conceived.
The third son was J. H. Roberts[ii]. He was also born in Terre Haute. He married in 1947 in Detroit, MI. It appears that their marriage continued beyond 1950. I haven’t found much more about his life yet, but I don’t believe he is the “baby daddy” at this time.
Bert doesn’t appear to have located to Detroit.
J. H. although in Detroit at the right time was married and is a less likely candidate.
Hugh was in Detroit at about the right time and is a highly likely candidate.
I see two major directions for my research to take from here.
Research the ancestors of Bert Allen Roberts, Sr. and see if there is a connection into my known Y-DNA cousins. That would prove that the Roberts line in TC’s tree is the correct connection in her
Research the children of Hugh Eugene Roberts, contact them, and see if any of them would be willing to take a DNA test. If they are my half-siblings, as I suspect, we should share about 25% of our DNA. So, if they show up in that 787-2134 centimorgan range, I will have proven a very close relationship, probably half-siblings.
Oh, yes, also I will continue my research of this Roberts line.
Finally, am I certain that Hugh Eugene Roberts is my biological father? No, but I am certain that this finding is the biggest, best lead I’ve ever had in determining who my biological father is.
Talk about a Christmas present… Wow.
[i] In order to maintain privacy, I am only including initials of potentially living individuals.
[ii] I have been unable to find death information regarding J. H. Roberts, so I am only
I recently connected with a third cousin I hadn’t known of through Ancestry DNA. We knew we were a match, but my cousin’s tree was private. After contacting her, she shared her tree with me and we quickly determined our common ancestors are our 2nd great grandparents, John William and Eliza Jane Fannin Manning. I am descended from their daughter Mary and cousin Bonnie is descended from their other daughter Phoebe. Now that I saw her tree information, the question arose in my mind, what do I do with this new information?
Twenty years ago, I probably would have accepted what Bonnie had in her tree, incorporated it into my tree (duplicating much information), and felt that I had a breakthrough finding lots of new information. Today things are a little different. Instead of accepting her work, I reviewed her sources and citations. Did she have sources I didn’t have? Of course, I expected her to have many things regarding her ancestors before our common ancestor and she did. So, I dutifully made notes of those sources and citations so that I may go through them personally and glean what facts I might.
1870 Mortality Schedule entry for Rachael Mannin
I also reviewed her sources and citations for individuals that we had in common. The vast majority of them were the same as I already had. For example, we both cited the same census records. She did have a couple sources that I didn’t have. One was a US Census Mortality Schedule showing the death of Rachael Fugate Mannin (John William Manning’s grandmother). It provided a cause of death that I didn’t have before. I had the dates for her death from a family bible, but finding collaborating evidence in a census schedule is great. I should have looked for a record in the Mortality Schedule but hadn’t. There were a couple other little things I noticed, for example, she cited John William Manning in the 1850 Census. I hadn’t. I had his father, Enoch, in the census, but hadn’t made an entry in 4-year-old John’s record showing he was living with his mother and father in Bath county, Kentucky and that I had accounted for him in the 1850 census. It is a little thing, but I like to be thorough.
Then, I used my genealogy software to find another ancestor who died during the year preceding the 1870 census. I had one, 3rd great grandfather Stephen Blackhurst. He was in the mortality schedule, which shows he died of dropsy of the bowels (ascites) a new fact regarding another ancestor.I am very happy for the DNA Match with cousin Bonnie and the new facts that sharing information can bring. Thank you Bonnie!
If a person died in the year preceding the 1870 Census, be sure to check for that individual in the mortality schedules.
I decided to add a couple slides regarding Family Me and We Relate because both of them focus on sharing your family tree and then incorporating a Social Media element in order to allow for collaboration. Once I’ve given the presentation at the GPC-MGS, I’ll try my hand at recording a voice-over and making it a “canned” presentation and then posting it to my website.
This week I received the results from Ancestry DNA for my mother-in-law’s atDNA test. The good news is my wife is genetically her daughter so she isn’t a hospital changling/mix-up. (We never thought she was.) Not many surprises.
ANCESTRY atDNA Results
As I look at the results, they kind of imply that my wife father’s line was predominately from Ireland. Because of the way Ancestry groups ethnicity, it still makes sense because “Ireland” includes not only all of Ireland, but also includes the rest of the United Kingdom. There is a heavy overlap with Wales and Scotland, which is where her father’s people were reportedly from.
It also interesting to note that most of my wife’s matches do not match with people her mother matches with, so the matches my wife has must relate through her father’s DNA. Lots more about the matches once I can get to working that project. Again, more paternal matches makes sense because my mother-in-law’s ancestors tended to have smaller families than my father-in-law’s family did.
Finally, when I have time, I’ll export my mother-in-law’s Ancestry raw data and import it into GEDMatch and see what connections I can find through them. GEDMatch is a great service, one that I highly recommend.
I was bad. I mean, I was very bad. I got my wife an Ancestry autosomal DNA test for her birthday. Sure, she received some other gifts from me, but she thinks the autosomal DNA test was more for me than for her. She’s probably right – actually, she’s always right. I like figuring out relationships of DNA matches. For me it is great sport and she knows me well. So, I guess it really was my gift to me on the occasion of the celebration of her birth.
After the test was done and the results were received, I started looking at her results. Ireland, Scandinavia, Great Britain – no surprises there. Iberian Peninsula is a bit odd, but not unbelievable. Then it hit me – No Swiss!? That is very odd. Two of her great grandparents emigrated from Switzerland. Her great-grandfather, John Huber, came from Windlach, Zürich, Switzerland. Family oral history says that his family farmed the same land for 800 years. Her great-grandmother, Bertha Trümpi, came from Ennenda, Glarus, Switzerland. With both great-grandparents coming from Switzerland, I would have expected her grandmother to have been 100% Swiss. With her grandmother being 100%, I expected my wife to be about 25% Swiss. However, there was no reference to that ancestry in Ancestor.Com’s ethnicity profile for her. That is really odd. Now, the “trace regions” make up 10% of her DNA, but diving into that showed that she about 9% Italian, Greek, and “Europe West.” Anyway, 9% is a far cry away from the 25% that I expected. I’ll have to see if I can get her mother to test as well and see what comes through from those results.
About 9% from areas that include Switzerland
Although the Ethnicity Estimates are fun, the real reason for DNA testing is to make connections with others researching the same family trees and to facilitate communications between cousins researching the same family. For that, I was disappointed that Ancestry allows you to connect your DNA profile only to one tree. Long ago, I separated my wife’s family trees into two different trees – one for her paternal line and one for her maternal line. The biggest reason I did that was that other people, who are researching one line, are never researching the other line. I’ve also found that few people really care about the genealogy of individuals related only by the marriage of a distant cousin. Anyway, I think Ancestry should allow you to link an individual’s DNA to any tree that they are a part of.
Anyway, because Ancestry.com doesn’t allow for multiple trees to be linked to an individual DNA profile, I needed to create a new tree just for her autosomal DNA results. So, I exported her two trees, then merged them into one, uploaded that as a new tree, and then linked her DNA to that tree. Sigh… Not a huge task, but now I have an instance of her tree that I probably will not manage.
I looked closer at the DNA Matches. Wow, 180 matches at 4th cousin or closer. That’s amazing. One of the matches shared a common ancestor hint. A new 4th cousin’s relationship appeared. Ancestry showed my wife’s tree going up to the common ancestor and back down to the cousin.
Then I looked at the cousin’s tree closer. She had parents for that common ancestor, names that I didn’t have. So, I now have two new ancestors named. The great thing is that individual also had sources for those ancestors. I can then take what she has and determine if I can follow her analysis and see if I agree. So, it is a great beginning to another research project.
Matching tree from Ancestry.com
(first two generations not displayed)
The other matches (3rd cousin or closer) either have private trees or do not have meaningful trees on Ancestry matched to their DNA. I will need to contact each individual and see if they have a tree elsewhere they will share with me. In any event, there are many new leads to follow because of the autosomal DNA testing of my wife.
Actions to take:
Have my wife’s mother tested though Ancestry.
Follow-up research with Catherine A.D. Walter (wife’s shared common ancestor).
Contact each of the 5 people identified as 3rd cousins and see if we can determine the relationship and identify and research any new ancestor leads.
Where I am at with my various DNA Projects, October 1st, 2014.
I was mightily disappointed when Ancestry quit support for their Y-DNA testing. I was surprised to see that my results and other information was still on Ancestry, but, of course, there were no new matches.
My Y-DNA Lineage from Ancestry.Com
My plan to follow my closest DNA match from Ancestry up five generations and back down five generations didn’t yield any potential candidates for the “baby daddy.” So, without any further Y-DNA matches possible through Ancestry it appears that further looking into that line is not going to be fruitful.
My Wife’s Y-DNA – Ancestry
My wife’s brother’s Ancestry Y-DNA test results are in the same state. No new matches because Ancestry has stopped supporting Y-DNA. Another promising tool that has ended in a dead end.
I definitely feel that I wasted some money with Ancestry on their Y-DNA tests. As such, I will probably never recommend Ancestry DNA Testing of any kind because of my bad experience with due to their decision to stop support of Y-DNA testing.
My closest hit to my DNA (89% likelihood a common ancestor in 8 generations) still hasn’t answered. So, I emailed him again. I did do a search for him on line and found a person with his name died a couple years ago. Not looking good for the home team. The email address for him in Family Tree DNA is pointing to another person, so it is still possible that I will be able to connect with a relative of his and possibly share information. We will see.
Again, no new connections on Family Tree DNA.
I did not do an upgrade kit for my brother-in-law so there is nothing about any connections to him in Family Tree DNA.
My Friend T-Roy
I’ve been helping a friend, T-Roy, with his genealogy. In particular his paternal side is lost. We know precious little regarding his grandfather and nothing before that. A search for his great grandparents has yielded several potential candidates, however, none are clear. I suggested that a Y-DNA test might help us find someone who is related and then be able to connect the dots from the potential candidates. We’ll see.
My Autosomal Results
There was a new “3rd” cousin identified on Ancestry. Because Ancestry doesn’t tell you anything about the match I have no idea if the match is on my mother’s line or my unknown paternal line. The individual, who is now my closest atDNA match didn’t relate their DNA to a tree so I have no idea about potential surnames. I emailed the individual and hopefully she will share her tree and other information. There were several other new matches, however, they were all 4th cousin and greater. I looked at any family trees that they have and didn’t see anything of interest.
23 and Me has been my most
successful DNA testing company that I have used so far. There are several
reasons for that. First, and foremost, I had both my mother and my DNA Tests
submitted to 23 & Me. That is a big help in determining where matches come
from. My initial plan was to use the tests to be able to discriminate matches
from my unknown father’s side from my known mother’s side of the family.
My mother’s matches:
Looking at my mother’s matches,
the closest match (excluding me) is Ronald M. with 2.3% Shared and 11 segments
in common. I was able to contact the individual and after comparing trees,
found that my mother and Ronald are second cousins, once removed. They share common
ancestors with my mom’s great grandparents (Henry & Marian (Sanford)
The next closest match to my
mother is Rick C. He and my mom share 1.61% and 10 segments. He responded to
some queries and we quickly determined his is a 1st cousin, twice
removed, from my mother. Their common ancestors are my mom’s grandparents
(Arthur D & Mary (Manning) Brown).
The 3rd closest match
is to M. C. this match was really great as it expanded our understand of a line
and broke through a “brick wall.” A review of M. C.’s tree yielded a surname
match on Blackhurst. Further investigation showed that M. C.’s ancestor, William
Stephen Blackhurst, had a sibling named Sarah who was born about the same date
as my mother’s grandmother. Another of the siblings and the father of William
and Sarah died in the same city, Albion, MI, that our Sarah lived. Further
correlation showed me that their William was, indeed, the sibling of our Sarah
and that through this connection we were able to extend the line back another
generation to our common ancestors, Stephen and Fanny (Taylor) Blackhurst.
On my paternal side, matches to me and not my
mother, are much less interesting. The closest match is a male with whom I
share only four segments (.91%). I sent him an introduction but he hasn’t
responded. I’ve sent a few other individuals introductions and received no
responses from most of them. The few that have responded I have looked at their
trees, but haven’t found anything of particular interest. When less than 1%
matches, investing much time isn’t very helpful.
I recently sent a DNA kit to my half aunt (my
mother’s half sister). In a phone call last week, she indicated that she
received the kit and registered it. She said she’d have it in the mail later in
the week. They take several weeks to process so that should be interesting. With
some luck, she will have received some different segment from my mother and we
can those differences to potentially find other relatives.
As I write this GEDMatch.com website is
down. This free site has a lot of
potential and is the only place that I know if that allows you to submit your
DNA results from multiple sites. It is
an unaffiliated, volunteer, website and is in need of donations to maintain its
operation. If you use it, please donate
to them so they can keep the site in operation.
They give instructions on how to export your
autosomal DNA test results from Ancestry.Com, Family Tree DNA, and 23&Me and
you import the results into their system. Although their takes a while to process
your data and populate into their system, don’t complain about the speed. Again, did I say donate?
The X Chromosome
I’ve recently been hearing a lot about X
chromosome matching. This has really
gotten me excited and rejuvenated regarding using DNA as a method to find
I’m looking forward to using the GEDMatch
system to look at the X chromosome matches for my mom and my aunt (when her
results are received). Because one of
the X chromosomes comes from the mother
and one from the father, having both my mother and her half sister’s X results
will yield a clear look at their father’s (Clifford) X marker. My mother and my aunt should match the X
completely because the X chromosome is passed down from a person’s father
relatively unchanged. Thus, by testing
two females with the same father we can basically jump a generation. Their father, Clifford, received his X from
his mother, Mary Elizabeth Manning which is a mix of her parents, approximately
50% from each. Mary received her two X
chromosomes from each parent so Clifford has a 50-50 chance to have received
his X from his grandfather (John William Manning) and 50-50 chance from his
grandmother (Eliza Fannin). His grandfather received his X from his great
grandmother (Minerva Tolliver Mannin). If, as family legend says, Minerva was full-blooded
Cherokee, Because Clifford whould have received about 50% of his X DNA from
Minerva, we should be able to see some markers that are in common with Cherokee
people if she was, in fact, Cherokee. The other great thing about this test is
that Clifford should have also received about 25% of his X from Eliza’s parents
both of whom are unknown. It certainly has the potential to open up a whole new
area of investigation.
Using the X isn’t as clearly defining as using
the Y chromosome but it clearly can yield more definitive results than the other
22 chromosomes typically do. I am very excited about pursuing this direction. One of the really cool things about your X Chromosome inheritance is that the potential surnames follow a really clear pattern. In my case the surnames of interest are:
DNA is a helpful tool. It has the potential to break down some brick walls, as it did for my Blackhurst tree. However, it is not likely to magically solve a problem or give answers to difficult questions.
There are a number of utilities that can help understand the matches I’ll look at them in a future blog posting. In the meantime, I’ll continue my searching in this area.