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Thursday, April 10, 2014

DNA Don’t Lie; So They Say!

DNA match results from 23andme

Last week, I log onto 23andme and I notice a new batch of relatives. So of course, I contacted some of my new cousins. Mind you, I only contact those relatives who I share at least .20% DNA.  I limit my contacts to .20% because I feel that I have a greater chance in finding our common ancestor.  Not with this match! This match, a female, caught my attention because we shared 1.23% over 5 segments. She even matched my mom with 1.65% and 6 segments.  After we agree to share genomes, I discovered that we share 92cm and my mom shared 121cms.  23andme stated that we should be 2nd – 3rd cousins.  Our hometowns are 12 miles apart; she’s from Goldsboro, NC and I’m from Fremont, NC.  Because of identity theft, I will call my new DNA cousin “Ms. J.”
I asked Ms. J. about her family. I ask for her parents and grandparents names and where they were from.  Ms. J’s parents and grandparents grew up in Snow Hill, NC in Greene County.  My first reaction was perhaps she was related to me via the Taylors, my parental great-grandparents. But since my mom is also related to Ms. J., I said she can’t be a Taylor match. So I concentrated on my mom’s relatives: Bests, Pates and Greens.

I found Ms. J.’s family tree on but there were no surname matches. This marked the beginning of my frustration and confusion, because I notice a few of her relatives were buried at the Taylor Family cemetery in Greene County.  I have a lot of family buried at this cemetery, in fact, I was told that the cemetery started out as my great-great-grandparents family graveyard. 

The only Taylor that Ms. J. has on her tree is a Mary Taylor who would had been one of my great-great-grandparent’s sister.  Later, Ms. J. told me that her great-grandmother lived by herself with her children on the 1910 census. Everyone shared their mother’s surname.  So Ms. J. came to the conclusion that her ancestor didn’t have a husband and noone can tell her who the father was.  I felt that this mystery ancestor may be our common ancestor such as a brother to one of my ancestors. 
I checked some of the children’s death certificates and there is a father and his name is Robert Sheppard.  Well, for me, I needed another document to confirm that Robert was her ancestor’s father because in the past, I’ve found death certificates with incorrect information.

Something else that frustrates me is that my Momma and Daddy were not related!  As my precious old school “Steel African Violet Magnolia” mother likes to say “that’s nasty” or “bad blood.” “Cousins Don’t Marry Cousins.” Ms. J and I are unsure of our connection. 

I posted a query about this on a facebook genealogy page and I got a response that makes me reconsider my analysis.  The response provided two theories. First, just because I share 1.23% and 92cm doesn’t mean that Ms. J is a close match because some 2nd and 3rd cousins share “more cms” and “more segments.” Okay, I didn’t know this.  Her second theory was that we were possibly endogamous people.  I never heard of the term before and was told that it meant that myself and Ms. J. ancestors “inter-marry amongst themselves.” So those matches that I thought would be closely related to on a DNA level may well be DISTANT relatives after all.

Another factor in this matter is our home state, NC.  NC did not start recording birth and date certificates until 1913.  Also, Greene County, NC courthouse burned down in 1876. So we can’t find our mystery ancestor through the usual paper trail if he or she died before 1913, which may be the case. Yet, we both can trace our ancestors back several generations.  I have a few questions. First, this match has taught me to NOT get excited over a “high match.”  Second, if our ancestors were the product of inter-marriage, would we share a high number of “cms?” If anyone reads this post and know the answer would you please contact me? Also, what are some of the avenues that I should explore when dealing with “burned courthouses?” 

They say that “DNA Don’t Lie” but perhaps it gets its cousin prediction wrong with a little help from 23andme.


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