Post by Jan Wolfe Post by joseph cook
With the discussion of matches at 7-8cm, I agree that these matches are useless without other context or a paper trail.
I create charts like the following for all my DNA matches that also have a paper trail. These particular ones go back about as far as I find autosomal DNA connections can be useful without an extreme amount of additional information.
Still, for matches at this distance, both the paper trail AND common matches/common segments of matches are required to have any confidence that the low level is the result of the match. And of course it is just evidence, not "proof" since at this distance it would take much additional work to sort out possibilities like a possible half-relationship at the root person. But it does provide some evidence as you compile this where your NPE occured or probably did not occur.
Joe, how do you ever have time to create such charts for all of your distant DNA matches who have paper trails??? Do you check the steps in their paper trails?
Typically only to a point. I have already traced down most of the descendants of my 4x-great-grandparents (mostly in an attempt to letter-write them all seeking photographs); this has led (over 25 years) to about 25K folks connected in my tree. I add zero without a source.
But.. much of the time I already have their grandfather or great-grandfather recorded... so if I contact them and they say "this is my grandfather", I usually will just accept it at their word, and record that with the note "info from XX grandchild". I don't ask them to provide vital records :). Their word about relatives they know personally along with the DNA match is "good enough" for my purposes, and as taf says, there is only so much time in the world. If I was ever trying to really prove or publish something, I would then go back and dedicate the time to be more careful....but for likely 5th cousins? Very low on my to do list. Since the purpose of the charts was to identify potential errors (or mystery fathers) in the paper trail lines, and *most importantly* the information in these charts (cm matches) will be *totally unavailable* in 100 years. Ancestry.com will likely not have this info in this same form, and certainly it will be impossible to contact the people who donated for info at that time. So recording it for future generations to evaluate and use in their follow-on research is critical. The data is ephemeral.
Of course, the fun of DNA is that there always unexpected things. A DNA connection I couldn't figure out how the heck they could be connected turned out to be the result of an extremely brief first marriage, where the divorced wife and infant took off quite a ways west. No amount of paper research would have likely uncovered the connection.
Another half-uncle popped up whose name was changed in infancy and off to another family. Only after they popped up in the DNA, and after contacting the family was it possible to put the pieces together and "find" them.