My mother is a Rathfelder. That is a fairly uncommon name. According to forbears.io, it is the 413,549th most common name in the world. By comparison, my last name, Hartley, is in the 6,000’s. My mother’s father Alexander grew up in Latvia. He worked on a ship and jumped ship in New York City in the early 1900’s. So he doesn’t have a lot of relatives around here. My mom’s family tree at Ancestry.com looks like this:
On the bottom left, are the Nicholson and Lentz families. Ann was born in Sheffield, England. The Lentz family was in current day Philadelphia by the time of the American Revolution.
Here are the DNA testers:
- Me – tested at all three DNA companies for autosomal DNA. I also tested for mitochondrial DNA. This covers the line on the bottom of the chart only.
- My 2 sisters – Tested at AncestryDNA and transferred to FTDNA
- My mother – tested separately at FTDNA and AncestryDNA
- Judy – a second cousin. She tested at 23andme, but hasn’t uploaded her results yet to gedmatch.com for comparison. Our common ancestors are Jacob Lentz and Annie Nicholson.
- Catherine – a Rathfelder second cousin in England. Our common ancestors are Joahnn Rathfelder and Maria Gagnus.
I have also test results from my father’s side. When I put all my known test matches together, it looks like this:
The matches we are looking at here are on my Maternal side, so that would be the red (Lentz/Nicholson) and flesh colored (Rathfelder/Gagnus) segments at the bottom of each Chromosome. Note that we receive DNA from both our parents on each chromosome. This means that if someone matches me and Catherine on the same segment of Chromosome 13 that is colored in, I will know that person matches us on my mother’s side. And more specifically, the match will be along one of the ancestors of this Rathfelder/Gagnus couple.
My Mother’s Rathfelder/Gagnus DNA
My mother will have more Rathfelder/Gagnus DNA than I do, because my DNA is watered down with my father’s DNA. If I look at cousin Catherine’s DNA matches with my mother, me and my sisters, this should show us the DNA the 3 of us got from this Rathfelder/Gagnus couple that were born in the mid 1800’s. That’s what I did, and it looks like this:
Here, my mother, Gladys, is in orange, I’m in blue. My sister Heidi is green and sister Sharon is pink. On Chromosomes 2, 8 and 14, some of the Rathfelder segments didn’t make it to me or my 2 sisters. Also note, that I am missing Rathfelder segments from Chromosome 4, 6 and 10, that the rest of my family have.
Does Anyone Else Match the Rathfelders?
As one might guess, this line is German. I checked at gedmatch.com using a utility showing people that matched both Catherine and my mom, Gladys. Then I compared them in something called an autosomal matrix to see how they all matched each other.
The upper left part of this matrix represents matches between Catherine and my family. The upper right part shows our matches to others that match Catherine and Gladys. The lower right part shows how the people that match Catherine and Gladys match each other. This is important for triangulation and finding common ancestors. From this, we can see that Michael and Tara match each other closely. In fact, they have the same last names, although I don’t show it here. Christine and Kenneth match each other at 20.8 cM, so let’s look at that. It turns out that they don’t match Catherine or my family where they match each other, so there is no triangulation there.
Let’s try something else. On the Excel spreadsheet I have created of my mother’s matches, I show where she has triangulated groups already. Here is the most promising Triangulation Group as seen from Gladys’ matches:
I went in to gedmatch.com and made sure that Catherine matched the last 2 matches and that the last two matches matched each other. All these overlap on the same Chromosome 13 and at the same areas of that Chromosome. This makes a TG or Triangulation Group. This means that these last 2 people will have the same ancestors as Catherine and Gladys, somewhere up on our shared Rathfelder or Gagnus family tree. Perhaps these 2 people have good family trees and it will be easy to see. Or they may not know much about their family history. At this point, one could contact these people by email to try to find out if they know where we match.
What About the Lentz/Nicholson DNA?
This is a bit more difficult. Cousin Judy has tested at 23andme. I have tested there, but no one else in my family has. I have downloaded Judy’s results to my spreadsheet. There I can check other matches around her matches to see if they match on my mother’s side. Not many do. Here is one spot where there are a few matches at Chromosome #17:
The blue matches are on my paternal side. We can ignore those. The pink is my maternal side. The white don’t match either side so are IBC (Identical By Chance) or they go below the threshold when checking which side they are on. At any rate, I can ignore the unhighlighted names for now. LinnyLou and Douglas are closely related. However, they do triangulate with my mom and Judith. That means we likely have a set of common ancestors out there.
DNA the Ancestry Way: Trouble With Schwechheimers
Ancestry automates all this work: easy for me and easy for them. Right? Actually, easy, but not accurate. Here is another mistake I notice that they’ve made. They see where I have a DNA match and then they find if there are common ancestors in our trees and say this is a likely match. The problem is is they don’t triangulate. And Ancestry doesn’t know if our trees are correct. For my Ancestry kit, this is what they found:
Ancestry found that I (represented by the line on the left) matched the person represented by the line on the right. We matched at 5.4 cM on one segment. That is tiny, but Ancestry puts the results through a filter, they reason, which filters out the bad matches. So what is wrong? The problem is that I tested my mom and she doesn’t come up with the same match. That means if she doesn’t match, I can’t match with this Schwechheimer as I would have gotten all my Schwechheimer DNA from my mom.
- I’m glad to have the testing results of Judy and Catherine because they each represent one side of my mother’s family – Paternal for Catherine and Maternal for Judy
- Even with these testers, it is difficult to find many matches that triangulate
- Don’t always trust Ancestry. Upload your results to gedmatch.com where you can see where the match is on the Chromosome and check for triangulation there.