Updated: Nov 8, 2019
As a genealogist, I explain to people how I utilize genetic genealogy to trace family and solve DNA mysteries. In honor of #motivationmonday, I wanted to share what's motivating me today in the world of both traditional and genetic genealogy. Although many people only take a commercial DNA test to learn about their ethnicities, I believe the DNA matches are where the fun really begins! I manage DNA accounts for several people, including my own family. This requires me to log into the different DNA testings sites regularly to check if any new matches pop up. I've solved several DNA mysteries that have included adoptions, unknown biological fathers, and NPEs (nonpaternal events in which not being connected to a parent is a surprise).
However, not all matches are scandalous (although I will be sure to share some examples of that at a future date); some are branches of trees lost to time. On Family Tree DNA (FTDNA), there is a fairly good match that shares a last name with a branch of family. Using knowledge of my own family tree along with various charts and tools, my educated guess is that he would be around a third cousin to my father. After contacting him, I did a quick search and located up to his great grandparents who immigrated from an area just a few miles from where my family listed as their home in modern day #Ukraine. They also all settled in the same area of #Massachusetts upon arrival to the United States.
Although DNA can inform you that you're related to someone, besides parent/child and full sibling relationships (and the latter isn't always even clear without checking further information), you need to build a family tree in order to figure out the relationship. In my case, the cousin I contacted knew very little about his own tree, so I started from scratch. I looked through censuses, vital and military records, naturalization papers, ship manifests, and city directories. I just started and need more information from the match, but as I'm searching, I'm also starting to piece together other potential family members gleaned from these records. It has only been a couple day since beginning my search, but I'm certainly motivated to solve this mystery and add an additional branch to my family tree.