Genetic Geneology and Fantastic Finds

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A determining factor in delving back into genealogy was the advent of reasonably priced DNA testing.  I tossed it around in my head for a couple of years…. no need to rush in to anything, right?  Well, it was something that was well worth waiting for, and by the time I got around to it they had a lot of the bugs works out.  I had a lot of unanswered questions and thought I might find the answers here.  The first company I tested with was 23andme.  It is a great site for beginners, as I could not have been any less knowledgeable about how this all works together.  They not only do the testing and provide you with a very long list of matches, but they also have video tutorials and tools to help you understand the whole genetic research process.  I really can’t say enough good stuff about this site.  The one drawback to it is that in order to compare genome’s with someone you have to get their permission.  And while you would think that we are all seeking, there are some that just really aren’t ready to go public with what couldn’t possibly be any more personal than your genetic make-up.  After 6 months, I still have some 2nd cousins that have chosen not to share their information with me.  But, that is their option and I respect their right to remain silent.  You can share only what information you are comfortable with.  In the beginning I was a little shy and didn’t add much at all.  Eventually I opened up enough to add surnames to my profile so that others could seek common families, then I set it so that others could send an invitation to share genomes without having to send an introductory letter first.  I am now sharing genome information with over 70 second to distant cousins.  They give you two different options for actually comparing  matches on each gene.  There is a one to one comparison, and another advanced tool to help you compare any of your sharing cousins with up to 5 other people.  This is how you determine which ones to put together in family groups.  If you match two different people on over-lapping segments on one gene, then they likely share common ancestor.  It is a long time-consuming process, but sometimes it comes together very fast.  The key is to get people to accept your sharing request.  My first discoveries were from the Maxwell side of my family.  I have to say though, it wasn’t a real surprise because I already knew that they had tested there.  The big surprise was from two of my 3rd cousins whose great-grandmother is a sister to my great-grandfather. One of them I have a very high match enough that she is identified as a 2nd cousin and not a 3rd, and the other I have NO match to!  We’ve both tested with other companies now, but still no match, so it wasn’t a mistake.  It just happens that the one I have no match with inherited more of her mother’s Italian genes than of the Irish Maxwell genes that I have.  And the other just happened to inherited more of the Maxwell genes than normal to show such a high much for the two of us.  This is where all of the great video tutorials come in handy, to help you understand it all.

In the beginning of my association with 23andme they had a tree that you could fill in so that others could compare.  Now they have partnered with Heritage.com for their trees and it is an extra expense, so I have not chosen to use that option.  Even if it was free, I would not have used it that extensively since I have put all my work into my Ancestry.com tree and don’t feel like doing that all over again.

Below are the great-grandparents that I share with the two cousins I found on 23andme.  William J. Maxwell b. 1835 in Ontario, Canada and Arvilla Dibble b. 1844 in New York.  The young girl pictured is Sara Maxwell, the last born of their 12 children. William J.’s parents were William Maxwell b. 1797 and Elizabeth Toner b. 1797, who immigrated from Ireland in 1831.  Arvilla is the brick wall of this particular generation.  Some seeker cousins have been looking for her family for more than 30 years.  But (the infamous connecting word), that was before DNA testing and I suspect that we will have a break-through one day soon.

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I continue to research on 23andme and have made some small discoveries, but even the small ones are another step towards filling in all the blanks in my life profile.  I have made some great new friends of distant cousins, and each one offers more individuals to my growing tree.  In the next couple posts I will share information on the other two companies I have tested with and some very surprising and exciting finds!

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