03 May 2019

2 Reasons to Add Unrelated People to Your Family Tree

When you can't go from point A to point B, you can use "bridge" relatives.

I didn't used to do this. I didn't used to add anyone to my family tree until I knew their connection to me.

But there are at least 2 good reasons to add people, and build their families inside your tree—disconnected from you or anyone else.

Of course the goal is to work on their families until you find that connection. Then they're your family. Here are 2 disconnected families I'm working on right now, and why.

1. To Find a Missing Link

I recently used the Ahnentafel numbering system to create my grandparent chart. The first missing ancestor was Ahnentafel #59. That's the mother of my 2nd great grandmother, Maria Luigia Muollo. I know Maria Luigia's father was Antonio, but I don't know anything else.

The family comes from a little hamlet in Italy that has no available records before 1861. That really limits what I can discover.

But I have a lead. A Muollo family from the same Italian hamlet came to America. They settled in a tiny Pennsylvania borough with my great grandfather's nephew.

I began building the Pennsylvania branch of the Muollo family in my family tree. I labelled them in Family Tree Maker and my document tracker as having no relationship established to me. Yet.

After adding all the United States documents I could find for them, I turned to the Italian documents. I found birth records for the Italian emigrants. Those documents gave me each person's parents' names.

With these new names, I can fit together more members of the Muollo family from my ancestral hometown. I haven't found a connection to my 2nd great grandmother yet, but I'm getting closer. I'm looking forward to that moment when "No direct relationship found" turns into something else. Anything else!

Keep track of your unattached people with an image or obvious notation.
Keep track of your unattached people with an image or obvious notation.

2. To Tie into Your DNA Connections

I've tried both the Leeds Method and DNA Painter to work on my biggest DNA puzzle. My parents share DNA. And we'd like to know how.

These tools showed me that 2 specific last names are key. They're both common in my paternal grandfather's hometown. These two last names, Pozzuto and Zeolla, have the highest concentration of DNA shared by both my parents.

There are a ton of people with those names in my collection of Italian documents. By putting together several of their families within my family tree, I can see how they all fit together. I can see how they connect to my DNA matches' family trees.

For example, I chose an 1858 birth record for an Angelo Pozzuto. That gave me his parents' names, Giuseppe and Maria. I put them in my tree. Then I found Giuseppe and Maria's 1851 marriage records. That where I found Maria's parents' names, and her father's parents' names.

It's well worth the effort when the disconnected branch gets connected.
It's well worth the effort when the disconnected branch gets connected.

Giuseppe's side of the family was better. I learned his parents' names, and all his grandparents' names. And that's where it happened. His maternal grandparents, Giorgio and Serafina, were already in my tree. They were all related to me.

Mark your unrelated people clearly.
Mark your unrelated people clearly.
This new branch of 11 people went from "no relationship established" to my distant cousins. I've had this kind of luck with other random Pozzuto and Zeolla babies. I'm building stronger connections to my DNA matches, and getting closer to solving the puzzle of my parents.

If you decide to build unrelated branches inside your family tree, follow these 2 tips:
  • Make it clear this family is not connected to you. I give them a special profile picture in Family Tree Maker that makes it unmistakable. In my document tracker spreadsheet, I highlight their name in yellow and follow it with the words NO RELATION.
  • Don't skip the sources. When you connect these people to yourself, you'll need to go back and grab the documents you found.
It's a fantastic feeling when you make that connection. Then you can remove that special profile picture and erase that yellow highlighting. And best of all, you've expanded your growing family.


  1. You are right on...this is how Brick Walls are knocked down.

  2. I don't need the DNA for my family. But hubby's paternal grandmother? What a mess!!

    My Leeds? 20% of my matches match all 4 lines. Another 20% only match one line. The remaining 60%? lolol