Research Your Family Tree Forward to Work Out DNA Matches

Research Your Family Tree Forward to Work Out DNA Matches

I have many DNA matches on FTDNA and GEDMatch and I’ve researched collateral lines. Yet, I struggle to figure out how we my DNA matches are related to me.  Knowing we’re related is only the beginning.  Figuring out how is the hard part.  I’ve spent considerable time going backwards with my research.  I’m bringing my lines  forward in hopes of learning who my DNA matches are.

How about you?

DNA Research is a Challenge

My autosomal test results have confirmed a few relationships that I’d already worked out through research.  That’s great news!  No one wants to find out that they have been researching the wrong family tree.

FTDNA test kit looks scary but it’s not

Working out stranger connections via DNA is more challenging.  Maybe more challenging than regular ol’ research.

Why?  Maybe it’s because you beat yourself senseless trying to figure out how you are related to your matches because the darn data says so!

Not Many Quality Matches

Part of the problem is I only have a handful of really good matches.  Have you heard people mention that you should start with looking at your matches with 100 cM (centimorgans) or more?  Well, I have 3 of those.  I’ve got another in the 90s and the rest fall more into the 60 and below range.

Since this is a quality over quantity kind of thing, the size of the blocks are more important than the total.  My biggest blocks are only about 30cm.  Most are more fragmented.

This is one of the best books on Genetic Genealogy. It covers the basics of testing and what to expect from your results in a way that’s easy to understand.

I’m the Only One in My Immediate Family Who Has Tested

No one in my immediate family is interested in genealogy.  No one else has shown interest in DNA testing.  It is better to have more family members test if you want to make cousin connections.  The more the merrier, as they say.

Some of my third cousins have tested and this is awesome!  Through them, I have begun to separate my matches.  For instance, I know that if someone matches my Breilh cousins they are my Dad’s maternal side of the tree.

As more of my known cousins test, I will be able to divide up my matches even more.

My Azorean Family Tree Complicates Matters, I Think

It gets a little bit tricky with my Azorean cousins.  When you have lines that go back to the 1400s in the same village, a lot of families are going to intermarry…and intermarry…and intermarry.  Who knows how many times I’m my own cousin in Maia (a village on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores)

Immigrant ancestors in my family tree

I have three cousins with similar roots in Maia who are related to multiple parts of my tree.   When there is so much sharing of roots over multiple families, it seems to me it complicates the whole DNA thing.

The good news is I won’t have as much trouble with the Pacheco lines since the maternal came from one village and the paternal came from another.  If any of those cousins test and they know their roots, I should be able to identify our connection.

By separating out the Pacheco DNA, I might have more luck with those folks in Maia.

Judy Russell’s Article Gives Me Some Hope

Judy Russell over at the Legal Genealogist wrote an article, Reaching Critical Mass, about how DNA testing will hit critical mass in the not too distant future and then this is going to be easier.

I sure hope so.

I have some serious brick walls that I haven’t been able to bust no matter how much research I do.

  1. Harry Kenneth Jackson, my great grandfather, one  of 18 and stowaway as a child (or so the family says), left me nothing to go on except the fact that he was British.
  2. Martin Kelly and Catherine Dolan, left me just enough to piece together my San Francisco and Boston roots, but not enough to leap back to Ireland
  3. John Jones and Mary Jane Hayward left good solid roots in San Francisco.  But, they had a double migration.  They came to San Francisco from Australia–and neither of them were born there.  (He was from Wales and she waffles on being from England or Ireland.)

It’s those lines I hope my DNA matches will help me resolve.  I’m close with a couple of matches, but not close enough.

I’m Researching Forward

I’ve always been one of those genealogists who gets sidetracked.  I will find start searching for great grandma, then I’m off on a tangent.  Oh, look!  Those people came from Kilauea too!  Let’s see if this son married one of my Pacheco kin.

Hey, it works for me.

DNA Chromosome Chart
Pile up on chromosome 21

So, I already have quite a bit of information on some lines to the present.  But, now I’m focusing more on it.  My cousin, Rita, and I have done extensive work bringing our lines from Maia forward.  This is how we made connections to Canada. I hope to do the same with my other lines as well.

One of things that is painfully clear with DNA research is generation and cousin ranges are estimates.  You may have to go back 5 generations to find a match.  You have travel along the once, twice, and third removed branches to find a match.  There’s no key as to which direction to travel.

If You Haven’t Tested, Consider It

Remember that critical mass thing?  The more people who test, the better the companies will get at analyzing data and determining matches.  That’s better for all of us.

Just think.  A few years ago, autosomal tests weren’t even a thing.  Now, all the companies offer them.  Who knows what developments are coming down the pike?

If You’re Azorean Consider Testing with FTDNA

There are many companies to choose from.  They each have their plusses and minuses.

If you have Azorean roots, consider testing there and adding yourself to the Azorean DNA Project.

If you have tested elsewhere, you can copy your data to FTDNA, too, for a small fee.

No matter where you test, upload your raw files to  This helps us all by allowing us to compare to people who tested with other companies.


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One thought on “Research Your Family Tree Forward to Work Out DNA Matches

  1. Hello Melody, I enjoy reading your blogs and ever hopeful that one day I’ll see something on Madeira. My maternal great great grand parents sailed on a ship from there to British Guiana in the 19th century, along with their daughter Maria. Unfortunately, I have no other info on their names or name of ship, or date they arrived. Maria’s oldest son’s middle name was Alves. So I want to suspect that Alves was her parents last name. I’m really grasping at straws here. Cannot find info in British Guiana now called Guyana.

    Looking forward to reading more of your blogs.

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