Autosomal DNA and Solving Brick Walls
On Saturday, our local genealogy society (PCGS) learned about the power of DNA from genetic genealogist Cece Moore. Cece painted a vivid picture of autosomal DNA inheritance – that our DNA is literally made up of small pieces of our ancestors. We carry bits of them in our cells and this information can be used to help us solve long standing genealogy brick walls.
Cece said that after testing with Ancestry DNA, we should sort our matches into genetic networks. Finding the matches of our matches can add additional people to the networks. This can be easily done with Ancestry DNA results by clicking on a match, then clicking “shared matches.”
The genetic networks we create which have known connections to certain branches within our tree can be named “Genetic Network [insert surname]” – i.e. “GN – Kelsey,” and “GN – Creer.” The other matches that don’t go with a known genetic network can be investigated further to find out how they are connected. These unknown matches are the best clues to finding our missing ancestors.
My grandfather’s ancestors are all from the southern United States. I have traced one of his lines back to a woman named Lucinda Keaton, born in 1805 in South Carolina. I formed a hypothesis that her parents were William Keaton and Katy Gresham, but I needed more clues. I learned that the parents of Katy Gresham were Barbara Burdine and John Gresham. I searched in my DNA match list for anyone with these surnames, and found a cousin match with the surname Burdine in their direct line! Looking at my cousin match’s family, I realized that she is a descendant of Barbara Burdine’s sister. This DNA match clue has provided a tiny bit of evidence for my theory.
After learning about genetic networks, I’m hopeful that I can prove my William Keaton and Katy Gresham hypothesis. My next step is to gather more DNA results from cousins who descended from Lucinda as well as cousins who descended from William Keaton and Katy Gresham’s children who are well documented. If I can test several more descendants, perhaps I can gather enough data to make a more definitive conclusion.
Combining genealogy record sleuthing with genetic testing looks to be the next generation’s favorite method for solving genealogy brick walls. I can’t wait to solve my mysteries using genetic genealogy!