I haven't tried to contact a DNA match in quite a while. If they're 5th cousins or closer and have a family tree online, I've identified them. I'm good.
For more distant cousins, I like to take a look at their family trees. These matches are too distant to want to hear from me. But I can reap the benefits of their personal knowledge of their close ancestors.
Your DNA matches may be the only way to learn what became of your grand aunts, grand uncles, and cousins.
No matter where your people come from, you don't have access to all the vital records. People will slip through the cracks of those missing records. That's when you should turn to your DNA matches.
Finding that Lost Relative
Let's say you have no idea what became of your great grandmother's sister, Maria. Your great grandmother emigrated, leaving her sister behind. You don't know if Maria married, who she married, or where she died.
|All it takes is a familiar name or two, and you can tap into the family tree of your distant DNA match.|
That's where a DNA match can save the day. It's frustrating that so many DNA test-takers don't post a robust family tree. But if they name their grandparents, you can get some traction.
Start by searching for last names you know in a match's tree. AncestryDNA makes this very easy with their "Surname in matches' trees" box. Do any of your matches include that long-lost great grand aunt Maria's last name?
Use your DNA match's family tree to learn about their ancestors. Then do your own research:
- Get their immigration or naturalization papers.
- Follow them in the census or directories.
- Is there a connection to your family?
- Dig until you find the proof you need.
Piecing Together Extended Families
Growing up, I never heard anything about my great grandmother Maria Caruso's brothers. And I never knew that her husband, my great grandfather Pasquale Iamarino, had a sister. Thanks to DNA matches, I can name the extended families of those grand aunts/uncles. My DNA matches' small family trees helped me fill in lots of blanks.
|Those missing vital records can drive you crazy! But to your distant DNA match, they're just Grandma and Grandpa.|
Why not be the solution to someone else's brick wall? Be sure to include at least your great grandparents in your DNA family tree. And make it public!
As you view your DNA matches, know that a match with as little as a 5–7 person family tree can help you. But you are the researcher; your match is only a clue. Be a genealogy detective and use your matches to find the answers.