15 May 2011

Autosomal DNA Testing: Will You Find A Match?

     Since I first heard about genealogical DNA testing (around 2004?), I'd wanted to try it. I was hopeful that DNA would help prove connections between distant families. I was first able to afford a test in 2007 and have since purchased a number of different DNA tests. Last spring I purchased an autosomal DNA test from Family Tree DNA called Family Finder and last month I purchased a similar test from 23andMe called Relative Finder. I've blogged about aspects of these tests a number of times, including some of the matches I made. Here's a consolidated rundown on my results:

Family FinderRelative Finder
MembershipMar 2010May 2011
"Close" Cousins106158
"Distant" Cousins83791
Requests Sent11615
Replies Received109 (93%)4 (26%)
Ancestor Found51

     My results are a bit skewed by the limited amount of time that I've been with Relative Finder. I've only tried to connect with my closest matches, but I have few responses from them. On the other hand I have received a very high response rate from my Family Finder matches. The key here is that many folks test with 23andMe for the health report - they aren't interested in genealogy. Those who test with Family Tree DNA are almost all genealogists.

     However despite a high response rate, I haven't actually uncovered our common ancestor very often. I've gotten lucky with a few where we have a surname in common and can follow it back on already researched lines. Other times I've found a common surname in a common area and with more research, made a match. Two of my oldest matches were made by connecting to a match's well documented family tree.

     For the most part, however, I haven't made a match.  Some folks I match with have trees that don't seem to match mine at all.  In these cases I have to assume that it's on one of our brick wall lines or the match is very far back.  In the end though, most of the matches I've made are pretty far back.  Here are my known common ancestors:

Bedie (maiden name?) Evansabt 18334x Great Grandmother
Moses Cashabt 17855x Great Grandfather
Samuel Armstrongabt 17425x Great Grandfather
George Harrisbef 17706x Great Grandfather
William Yanceyabt 17307x Great Grandfather
John Boatrightabt 16807x Great Grandfather
Thomas Powellabt 160011x Great Grandfather

     Pretty far back! I'd say that if you really want to make matches from these autosomal DNA tests, you need to be able to trace a majority of your family lines back to the 1700s. It all comes down to chance - are your distant cousins involved in genealogy and DNA testing and do you both have the paperwork to make a connection?

     Of course that's not to say that if you can't trace back that far that you shouldn't take the tests. These are my results and my experiences, others may be different. Good Luck!


Your Genetic Genealogist said...

Awesome! When you determined a common ancestor with your match, wasn't it a common ancestral couple or were you descended from different wives/husbands?
Thanks for posting!

Unknown said...

@CeCe: You know, I didn't even think about that when I wrote the post but yes, I'm matching couples, not just men. The only reason I have the one female listed is because her husband's name is unknown.

I think I recorded the men because when I'm looking for a match I'm looking at surnames first. Surname inheritance is associated with direct male lines. Looks like I've gotten stuck in tunnel vision - I'll have to watch out for that!


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