My first DNA results from AncestryDNA were a surprise to me.I could find no matches to my family tree. How was I going to break the news to my parents that I had been swapped at birth?

I had DNA matches to other people’s DNA results but no links to my tree. This seemed odd for I have been researching my tree for many years. I can identify all my 3rd great grandparents and a large number of my more remote forebears.

At present I have 98 pages of matches on AncestryDNA. At 50 matches per page this is just under 4,900 people who seem to share DNA with me and have tested with ancestry.com. Of these, 21 are estimated to be 4th cousins or closer, the closest being an estimated 3rd cousin who shares 127 centimorgans of genetic linkage across 8 segments; statistically, there is a high confidence we are related. The most distant match shares 6.0 centimorgans across 1 segment. (That match is linked to a private tree. I don’t know how we might be related.)

AncestryDNA summary as at 4 February 2017, as of 5 February I have 21 matches calculated to be at the 4th cousin level or closer.

On my ancestryDNA summary page I now have 6 green leaves, which in the AncestryDNA system indicates shared DNA together with a connection in our trees. I can see our connection in 5 of these. The sixth has a private tree, so I cannot see the link. When my DNA matches were first made there were only two green leaves and both these were to my 7th great grandparents, Daniel Dana (1663-1749) and Naomi Cresswell (1670-1751), a connection too remote to be reliable. (We may connect differently on an as yet undocumented part of our tree.) Without a chromosome browser, which shows shared segments with other matches who have the same ancestry, I cannot be sure I have correctly identified our most recent common ancestors.

a shared DNA match where both our trees include common ancestors
My 6th great grandfather Richard Dana (1700-1772), portrait by John Singleton Copely painted about 1770. Portrait now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

It is not surprising that the matches were to the Dana branch of my tree. The Dana were early emigrants to the United States. As the Dana family is well-documented I would expect members of it to show up in people’s trees and to find connections on that branch. A chromosome browser would give me more confidence that the connections have been made reliably.

Of my top 21 matches, that is, matches predicted to be 4th cousins and closer, I have managed to identify the most common recent ancestor in four cases. Only one of my AncestryDNA green leaf hints is estimated to be a 4th cousin and it would appear she is actually a 7th cousin once removed. Even when there are only small trees that do not connect with my family tree I have had some success in working out the connections with my DNA matches .

Spreadsheet analysis of my matches who are estimated to be 4th cousins or closer (click to enlarge)

AY, whose kit is administered by JB, is estimated to be my 4th cousin with 40 centimorgans shared across 3 segments. The match shows there is no family tree linked to the kit. However, when viewing the match, although a family tree has not yet been linked to the DNA results there are trees created by JB that can be previewed. In this case there were 3 trees,  
  • one with 27 people and no surnames I recognised and no apparent link to AY whose DNA was tested
  • The second was similar, with only 5 names
  • The third, although it had only 6 people, had a name I thought I recognised and seemed to have AY as the initial person. I searched my tree for the surname Yeates and found that in 1857 my 3rd great aunt, Dymphna Maria Cudmore (1836-1899) married Sydney van Butchell Yeates (1831-1918). 
screenshot of my DNA match with AY showing public but unlinked trees in the bottom left of the screen

AY and I are 3rd cousins once removed. Our most recent common ancestors are Daniel Michael Paul Cudmore (1811-1891) and his wife Mary Cudmore née Nihill (1811-1893).

More recently I had a shared match with AY. TH was estimated to be a 4th cousin and we share 20.7 centimorgans across 2 DNA segments. TH had no tree. However, because of the shared match I speculated that we might be connected on the Cudmore or Nihill lines.

shared matches are shown when you click on the middle tab; the green contact button is on the top-right of the screen but is not always effective as there is no email notification that a message has been sent
profile page showing brown contact button in top-right-hand of screen

In September 2016 I contacted TH using the green button on the top right hand side of  the DNA match screen but did not hear back. After reading that communication with DNA matches using the brown contact button on the top-right-hand side of a person’s profile page, was likely to be more successful, I tried contacting TH by that method and providing my email address in the message. He replied by email almost immediately and confirmed a connection to the Nihill or Niall or Nihell family. We are 4th cousins once removed.

Daniel Michael Paul Cudmore (1811-1891), my 4th great grandfather, about 1865. Image from the State Library of South Australia reference B30912
Mrs Mary Cudmore née Nihill (1811-1893), my 4th great grandmother, about 1865. Image from the State Library of South Australia reference B 30913

If your research is like mine I have a few suggestions:

  • Although a DNA match may show as having no tree, check if there is an unlinked public tree available to view. In my top 21 matches, 8 apparently had no tree, but in 4 cases there was an unconnected tree.
  • A connection can be made with a tree of very few people. (I found two connections by following the descendants of a 3rd great aunt.)
  • Shared matches give hints as to how other DNA matches might be connected.
  • DNA matches might not be ancestry subscribers and, even if they are they might not log in often. Consider contacting them by using the brown contact button on their profile page, providing your own email address. Contacting by the brown button provides an email alert. There is no similar alert for contacts made by the green button.