In the last ten years, genetic genealogy (DNA for genealogy) has provided the family historian and genealogist with another tool in which to find and make connections with previously unknown ‘cousins’. This tool can help prove the paper trail and lead one’s research off in directions not previously considered. The task of the genetic genealogist is to figure out where and when two individuals share a common ancestor.
This post begins a series of posts sharing our genetic genealogy process and findings to date. I do this for three reasons – one, to bring all the information together in one place; two to share with the world in the hope that others will find the process useful and finally to make more cousin connections.
Members of our family have tested at two genetic genealogy companies located in the USA. These are 23andme.com and Family Tree DNA. Not surprisingly we’ve had the most success with my husband’s side of the family.
Why? Because my husband’s ancestral background is predominately American and presumably more Americans have tested at these two American companies thus making it more likely we will find matches, which certainly seems to be the case. Secondly, we have more family tree information on his side of the family and can more easily match the paper trail to sort out the DNA connections we receive.
Our HILLMAN DNA Match
One of the most exciting matches was found in June of this year through the RELATIVE FINDER autosomal DNA testing at 23andme. Relative Finder identifies regions of DNA in common on the 22 pairs of autosomal chromosomes and the X chromosome. One typically shares 50% DNA with each parent, 25% with each grandparent and 50% with siblings. Cousins, depending on the degree of relationship share lesser amounts of DNA.
We received notification that my husband RWM matched at the second to third cousin level with a person with initials of CW.
The match was 1.80% shared DNA in 9 different segments and a total of 135 centiMorgans (cM)*.
This is a significant match.
*A centiMorgan (cM) is a unit of genetic distance along a chromosome that takes into account how often recombination occurs in that region. A region with few cM undergoes relatively less recombination. Closer relationships tend to have longer segments because there have been fewer opportunities for recombination to occur.
Here is what I do STEP by STEP when we get a match at 23andme.com
1. I take a quick glance at the person’s profile to determine if we both share surnames and geographic interests in common. Unfortunately not everyone will have this information in their profile.
2. I then send a message to the match with our surnames and geographic interests along with a request to share genomes at the BASIC LEVEL ONLY. Basic level shares only genetic genealogy information and not health information. Messages can be sent via the internal message system in 23andme. Email addresses are not shared unless you give your email to the other person in a message.
Some individuals will share basic genomes right away and others will want more information. Messaging back and forth can establish a common bond to proceed to sharing at the basic level. It helps to point out that no health information is shared at this level.
Note – don’t be discouraged if the match never answers. Many people test for health reasons only and are not interested in genealogy…Imagine!
I will also note the person’s haplogroup more for interest’s sake although this knowledge can be useful in some cases. (More on this in another post).
3. Once we are sharing genomes at the basic level I go to ANCESTRY LABS/FAMILY INHERITANCE ADVANCED in the 23andme dashboard and compare just where on the chromosomes we have a match. There are drop down menus that allow you to choose the individuals you wish to compare, in this case CW vs RWM.
The results appear in two forms – a schematic as below and numerical values in a table which you can view or download as an excel spreadsheet.
Reading the schematic
Take a look at the blue section shown on the chromosome 5 near the top of the picture. The blue section is a DNA segment that both my husband and CW share in common. This means they both have exactly the same DNA sequence in that region which indicates a DNA match. Another example – A smaller blue piece is seen on chromosome 7 and a slightly larger one on chromosome 8 and so on. Every blue piece is another match between CW and RWM.
NINE segments in all for a total of 135 cM! This means CW and RWM share a common ancestor and this ancestor was probably in the not so distant past. Our daughter HM also matched CW on a 16 cM segment located on chromosome 9.
Below is the table of the data which shows the numeric position of the matches on each chromosome, the start and end points, how large the segment is (genetic distance) and how many SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms).
Comparison Chromosome Start point End point Genetic distance # SNPs
CW vs. RWM 5 115000000 126000000 13.0 cM 2425
CW vs. RWM 7 101000000 105000000 5.0 cM 932
CW vs. RWM 8 1 8000000 19.5 cM 3708
CW vs. RWM 9 70000000 81000000 14.0 cM 2573
CW vs. RWM 10 19000000 34000000 18.0 cM 3251
CW vs. RWM 13 72000000 99000000 25.5 cM 5535
CW vs. RWM 17 21000000 32000000 12.0 cM 1750
CW vs. RWM 18 13000000 36000000 20.0 cM 4080
CW vs. RWM 18 42000000 46000000 5.5 cM 1017
UPDATE – CW vs our daughter HM.
CW vs. HM 9 70000000 81000000 15.5 cM 2648 (only one segment in common)
CW and I were excitedly messaging back and forth comparing family trees. We quickly found a name in common (HILLMAN) and noted that the geographical region matched my husband’s father’s side of the family – New Brunswick.
My Family Tree database showed the following HILLMANS:
Edmond Hillman married to Jerusha Dow (my husband’s great grandparents). Their children were:
- Mary Ann “Annie” Hillman
- Isabella Belle Hillman
- George Nelson Hillman
- Moses Hillman
- Horace Greeley Hillman
- Cora J Hillman married to Ward Beecher Miller of Royalton, New Brunswick (my husband’s grandparents)
- Elsie Hillman
- Jasper Hillman
- Judson Hillman
- Sylvia B Hillman
CW had a Thelma Hillman in her direct lineage. No Thelma in our list, but as we discussed this further CW thought that the name “Judson” rang a bell. She hurried off to consult with other family members. A day later we had our answer.
Judson Hillman is CW’s great grandfather! Judson and his wife had a daughter Thelma who married Clarence Rideout (CW’s grandparents)
(RIDEOUT rings a bell for me. My mother in law has letters in the old trunk from “Rideout cousins” of my father in law. Note to self – check out those letters! )
Hubby’s grandmother Cora Hillman was the sister of CW’s great grandfather Judson Hillman. RWM and CW’s most recent common ancestors (TMRCA) were Cora and Judson’s parents – Edmond Hillman and Jerusha DOW.
From the paper trail we have this:
Jerusha Dow was born the 08 March 1843 in Dowville,York County, New Brunswick. She married Edmond HILLMAN on the 19 Jul 1863 in Southhampton, York County, New Brunswick. She died on the 21 April 1922. Her husband Edmond HILLMAN (1831 – 1914) was born on the 10 Nov 1831 in Canterbury, NB. He died the 30 March 1914** in Greenbush, NB (Source – The Book of Dow, more information here.)
[**UPDATE – Edmond HILLMAN died 23 March 1914 as noted on an online tombstone transcription – research of Calvin Miller. Edmond Hillman was the son of George HILLMAN and Mary “Polly” MILLER.]
Degree of Relationship
The software at 23andme predicted my husband RWM and his DNA match CW were second to third cousins which indeed is the case. According to my family tree program RWM and CW are second cousins twice removed.
[UPDATE – the relationship is second cousin once removed (not twice as my family tree program indicated). The actual percentage 1.80% matches the predicted (1.563%) confirming that this match is probably second cousin once removed. Thanks CeCe Moore for catching that.]
Here is a picture of Cora Hillman Miller who was my husband’s grandmother and CW’s great grand-aunt. I’m on a mission to find photos of her parents Edmond Hillman and Jerusha DOW. If you can help please leave a comment below.
So there you have it. We determined our connection based on DNA evidence and the paper trail in only 2 days!
How’s that for a good Genealogy DNA match?
Connections, photos? Please comment below.