Looking for the Father of Blake Through DNA

I recently received a message from Stephanie at AncestryDNA. She is interested in finding out who her father’s father is. Stephanie was able to trace her paternal grandfather’s ancestry to Newfoundland through DNA matches. Stephanie also uploaded her dad’s DNA to Gedmatch, which should help. Both Stephanie and I understand that Newfoundland ancestry is complicated. I’m also a bit handicapped working on my laptop.

Blake and Esther

Esther is my wife’s half great Aunt. Here are Esther’s grandparents’ surnames:

  • Upshall
  • Dicks
  • Shave
  • Kirby

These four grandparents go back to when genealogical records were scarce. My understanding is that they were all from Harbour Buffet in Newfoundland and that the Church burned down there which resulted in the loss of early vital records. Stephanie thought that her father could be associated with the names of Brown, Hodder, Faith, Reid and Worrell. However, I see none of those names in Esther’s ancestry.

Looking at Blake’s DNA

I asked Stephanie if her father’s DNA was at Gedmatch and she surprised me by saying yes. She had been in touch with Marilyn who had suggested that she upload her father’s DNA to that web site. This should help in analyzing the DNA. Esther is Blake’s first match at Gedmatch, so I can see why Stephanie would be interested in this match.

The X Chromosome

I’ll get this out of the way. Blake is believed to be related to Esther on his paternal side. The father does not pass down the X Chromosome to his son. Therefore, I would not expect Blake to match Esther on the X Chromosome. Looking at Gedmatch, I see that to be the case. This is not a proof, but supporting evidence that Blake matches Esther on his paternal side.

Diving Into Gedmatch

Let’s look at how Blake and Esther match at Gedmatch:

This looks impressive. Gedmatch thinks that Blake and Esther could have a common ancestor 3 generations ago. That would be at Esther’s great-grandparent level. The good news is that I have all the surnames for Esther filled in at this level, except for Elizabeth and I believe that she should be a Crann. The bad news is that if Blake and Esther are related on several lines, the relationships could be further back in time.

Gedmatch and Triangulation

The classic way to find unknown ancestry is through triangulation. The theory is that if A matches B by DNA, B matches C and A matches C, then the DNA from that match if it is from the same segment of the same Chromosome should point to a common ancestor. That means that if Blake is C and we have A and B with known ancestry, then their ancestry can be applied to C – or Blake in this case. However, the problem is finding out how far back in time this common ancestry is.

Common Matches at Gedmatch

First I’ll look at Blake and Esther’s common matches at Gedmatch. To do that I use a utility called “People who match both, or one of two kits”.

I’ve never watched the video mentioned above. I’ll put in Blake’s Gedmatch number first as I want to see his closest shared matches with Esther. I took the top 15 matches on that list and then chose the triangulation option at Gedmatch.

The checklist above lists Blake’s 15 top shared matches with Esther. By the way, Esther may not be the best person to do this shared analysis with. I chose her because she was Blake’s closest match and because I already know something about her genealogy. Esther is a special case as her father was born in 1879. That means that Esther will have closer than normal DNA matches to most people.

Let’s Triangulate

I am able to do this at Gedmatch because I am on Tier 1 at least for a few more days. I assume that this saves me a huge amount of time. Here were my options for Blake’s 15 matches:

I chose Triangulation.

Blake’s first triangulation is on his Chromosome 1 between Blake, M.W. and djm. Here I am a bit out of my element as I don’t know much about the genealogy of M.W. and djm. However, I like this triangulation as it is a large one of 47 cM:

This triangulation features two people who Esther is not closely matched to by DNA, so I would suspect that this match represents a set of common ancestors for Blake outside of Esther’s known ancestry. I was able to find M.W. at Ancestry, but M.W. had no tree. I believe that djm would have tested originally at FTDNA.

Another large triangulation is on Chromosome 20:

Anne appears in many of these triangulations. Each green segment represents a triangulation between Blake and two others. The largest segment represents triangulation between Blake, Anne and Joan, my mother-in-law. Let’s see if we can now triangulate the genealogy.

Fortunately, I found Anne in one of my charts that mixes DNA matches and genealogy:

This shows that Joan and Anne have the common ancestors of Christopher Dicks and Elizabeth. I have guessed based on DNA matches that she could be a Crann. This could mean a few things. It could mean that Blake’s ancestors are Christopher Dicks and Elizabeth Crann. Or it could mean that Blake’s ancestors are one generation back from Christopher Dicks and his wife Elizabeth.

Adding Brenda to the Mix

These two triangulated segments on Chromosome 20 represent matches with Brenda:

The first highlighted segmented is the triangulation between Blake, Anne and Brenda. The second is the triangulation between Blake, Joan and Brenda. Here is Brenda in my DNA tree:

Here is an analogous Crann tree. However, this one is more speculative especially on the part where my mother-in-law Joan is:

From this exercise, I gather that Blake descends from the Dicks family and probably the Crann family, though the genealogy is shaky with the Crann family.

I note that Stephanie has these potential ancestors at Ancestry on a speculative tree:

I am not tracking Sarah Ann Dicks on my Dicks tree. However, I may not have run across her yet as the descendant of a DNA match. Here is a Dicks/Reid connection I have on my tree:

Blake probably does not descend from this couple as that would make Anne and Blake first cousins once removed and this would be obvious from the DNA matches.

Anything Else?

There are more analyses that could be done. I like to do an autosomal DNA matrix match at Gedmatch, but I couldn’t get that to work today. That could give a hint as to which Dicks line Blake is most affiliated with. Another helpful tool is clustering. There are two programs for this. One is Auto Clusters which has a small fee. The other is Shared Clustering which is free. These tools could also give hints as to Blake’s Newfoundland ancestry.

Summary and Conclusions

  • Stephanie’s dad Blake has a large DNA match with my wife’s half great Aunt Esther. This places Blake’s unknown paternal ancestry solidly in Newfoundland and Esther’s parents were both from Harbour Buffet, Newfoundland.
  • Unfortunately, Newfoundland genetics is confusing due to the amount of intermarriage.
  • In addition, early vital records from Harbour Buffet are missing.
  • Blake’s DNA results have been uploaded to Gedmatch. This makes DNA triangulation possible. Using triangulation, it seems clear that Blake has Dicks and possibly Crann ancestry. This fits well with the direction that Stephanie has been heading in finding paternal ancestors for her father.

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