Have you wondered how to apply traditional research techniques to your DNA analysis? By breaking my DNA matches into clusters, my search was narrowed to a single family with six sons. In this post, I will explain how to use the process of elimination with genetic genealogy and traditional research to narrow your search even more and get you closer to breaking through your brick wall. You can read my previous posts where I start from the beginning of the research process here: post 1, post 2, post 3.
1. Research Descendants: Usually when we do genealogy, we focus on our ancestors. With genetic genealogy you’ll want to focus on their descendants as well, even down to the living people. Why is that? The descendants, living people, will be the ones that you match with on genetic testing services. If you start locating potential DNA matches in your tree, then you’ll be able to analyze your results more efficiently. If you are using an online public tree such as Ancestry, remember to list any living people or potential living people as living to protect their privacy.
2. Identify Residences: Identifying all residences of a family is crucial in genetic genealogy. Seeing if people were living in the same place at the same time is essential in establishing parent/child relationships. In my grandma’s case, I had found that her biological mother was living in San Diego in the year prior to my grandma’s birth. Our family suspected that her father may have been in the military since it was at the time of World War II and her mother knew many men that lived on the nearby military bases. Since Jeanie’s father may have been a soldier, this added to the complexity of the research problem, but it was an important clue.
3. Build a FAN Club: A FAN club consists of the friends, associates, and neighbors of the person or family you are researching. Building a FAN club for the people in your research project is very important in genetic genealogy, particularly in cases of adoption. If you don’t know either of the biological parents, you’ll want to start by building a FAN club for the adopted parents. By locating these people, you can interview them for any details that they may be aware of about the biological parents. It’s possible that a member of their FAN club could be a biological family member! Even subtle clues, such as someone’s ethnicity or occupation, may end up being extremely helpful in your search. Since adoption is a sensitive subject for many, you should approach others gently about the matter.
Process of Elimination
In my previous post, I explained that I found six contenders for my grandma’s father who were brothers. Using several research strategies, I eliminated three of the matches and continued to focus my research efforts on the three remaining candidates. As a review, here is the family tree that I showed in the last post; green boxes denote living persons whose names have been anonymized with the exception of myself and my mother. The gray box, “Father X,” is the hypothesized father of my grandma, and is one of the six sons in the family.
First, I was able to eliminate Robert as a candidate. I found a Find A Grave Memorial and a military burial record which both stated that he died in 1938. Since Jeanie was born in January of 1943, it was impossible for Robert to be her father.
Second, Hampton was eliminated under two conditions. According to a school yearbook, he was attending the University of North Carolina in 1942 and 1943. A military record also stated that he didn’t enlist until 1943. This geographic separation between him and Lois made him an unlikely candidate. Hampton’s granddaughter, DNA match Gina, also only shared 136cM with Kathy. If Hampton was Jeanie’s father, then Gina and Kathy would be half first cousins. According to the Shared cM Project, 136cM is not in the range for half first cousins. Given this evidence, Hampton was considered an unlikely candidate for Jeanie’s father and research continued on other members of the family to find someone who was a better fit.
Third, Richard was eliminated as a candidate for Jeanie’s father with DNA evidence. If Richard was Jeanie’s father, then Dorothy would be Kathy’s half aunt. However, Dorothy and Kathy only matched with 383 shared cM. The range for a half aunt relationship is 500-1446 cM, so 383 cM is far outside this range.
Since it was not impossible for Hampton or Richard to be “Father X,” they were not completely eliminated as candidates. However, since they were highly unlikely to be Jeanie’s father, research continued on the other three brothers to maximize efficiency. In my next and final post, I will share how I was able to conclude which of the brothers was Jeanie’s father.
It’s important to do a thorough search for each individual involved in your genetic genealogy project to satisfy the Genealogical Proof Standard. I hope that you feel prepared to move forward in your research and feel confident in analyzing the evidence you have to make conclusions!