Connecting Cousins through DNA

Something very interesting has happened in the past few months thanks to having my DNA processed through AncestryDNA – I’ve gained a new cousin.

I know, it’s not a huge stretch for your DNA to match someone and then figure out that you are cousins. What makes this new relationship special is the back story and why we ended up getting far closer than either of us expected.

My new cousin Jennifer lost her father, much the same way that I lost my mother, far too young and without many answers about his history. What made it more difficult was that her father was adopted and never made any effort to find his birth parents while he was living. At least I was able to get to know my grandparents a little bit and to hear more about the family through other relatives including a great-aunt and a great-uncle that are still alive and have great memories. I am blessed in that regard.

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Jennifer’s father Douglas was born in 1944 in Galt, Ontario, Canada
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My mother Marlene (Elizabeth) was born in 1950 in Galt, Ontario, Canada

When she showed me a picture of her father, I nearly fell over. I thought he looked like he could be the brother to my mother and her one sister – similar nose, high cheek bones and expression when they smiled. I cannot imagine not knowing your history. Not understanding where your features come from or the names of your relatives or even where in the world your family came from before they got here – because let’s face it, nearly everyone in Canada came from somewhere.

Slowly Jennifer and I started chatting and revealing more about ourselves. She lives about a half hour away from where I live but her father was born here in Cambridge (formerly Galt). She and her husband had a dog before thinking about having children. She got the family history bug and has become obsessed with researching all that she can. We both love our nieces and nephews, adore old houses and are constantly scanning realtor.ca for any new (old) homes to dream about, among countless other things we have in common.

The more we talked, the more I wanted to help my new cousin unlock the mystery that is her heritage. And so, through the power of our DNA and mutual matches, I became completely absorbed in trying to determine how we could be connected. Here is my thought process.

  • Step 1 – Outline all of the mutual matches that I have made through my DNA with Jennifer and her brother.
  • Step 2 – Determine if any of these mutual matches have a family tree
  • Step 3 – review each match to see if there are any details revealed regarding last names and connections within my family tree
  • Step 4 – compare the match results for Jennifer and her brother to see if there are any discrepancies
  • Step 5 – Use the data collected by reviewing each mutual match to figure out any common threads in the family tree we all share.

And through a strange and roundabout series of spreadsheets and handwritten notes, I was able to determine that we are all related to people on the McNeilly family and on the Marcy family. Therefore, the best conclusion that I could draw was that Jennifer and her brother also descend from Jared Marcy, 1850 – 1905 and Sarah McNeilly, 1856 – 1938 – most likely from one of their children.

This means that we are related through one of the children in the family portrait I posted last March.

The information Jennifer has from the adoption records includes such small amounts of information, it’s nearly impossible to figure out who could have given birth. Things get even harder when you consider that the person we could be related to is not her father’s mother – which means we will have an even smaller chance of trying to figure out the names of Jennifer’s grandparents.

All we can do now is encourage others to get the ancestryDNA test done which we hope will solve this mystery once and for all and in the meantime, I’ve gained a cousin as well as a friend.

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