An Adoptee’s Match with My Wife’s Mother and Aunt

I recently had a message from an adoptee named Martha. Martha was understandably enthused about a match she had with my wife’s Aunt Elaine and mom, Joan.

Martha’s DNA Matches

Here is how Martha matches Aunt Elaine:

Based on the match, MyHeritage puts Martha and Aunt Elaine between 1st cousin twice removed and 2nd cousin twice removed.

Here is how Martha matches Elaine’s sister Joan:

The big difference is that Elaine had a match on Chromosome 19 with Martha that Joan did not. Joan and Martha are said to be between 3rd cousin and 5th cousin. I find it interesting that MyHeritage distinguishes between 2nd cousin twice removed and third cousin as from a DNA standpoint, I would think that they would be quite similar.

Martha and Joan at FTDNA

Martha and Joan are both at FTDNA. Martha mentioned that she and Joan match on the X Chromosome, but I don’t believe that the match is significant:

My understanding is that a match between two women of less than about 15 cM is not significant. These matches are all below 7 cM and are quite tiny. I suppose that the matches could represent some type of general ethnic similarity.

Where is the Common Ancestor between Joan, Elaine and Martha?

If Martha is a 3rd cousin with Joan and Elaine, that means that their common ancestor would be back 4 generations. MyHeritage shows Shared Matches which come in handy:

Joan and Martha’s first shared match is, of course, Elaine. After that, the next match is Vance. Let’s look at his tree:

The father’s side is missing. However, I did find this additional information on a Family Tree at Ancestry:

That gives me a better feeling about Vance’s family tree.

Here is Joan’s father’s tree. It seems like Martha and Joan must match in PEI:

George Ellis and Lillian Rayner are Joan’s paternal grandparents. My guess is that Martha and Joan may match on more than one line. The two names I see in common in the tree of Vance and Joan are MacArthur and Yeo. However, MacArthur appears more recently in Joan’s tree than Yeo. So this may be the closer match.

Back to the DNA and Triangulation

Using Triangulation, we can know where Martha, Vance, Joan and Elaine have common DNA. This DNA should correspond to a specific common ancestor.

This shows that Joan, Martha and Vance triangulate on Chromosomes 4, 17 and 18. I checked between Elaine, Martha and Vance and the triangulated segments are the same.

Martha at Ancestry

Martha also tested at Ancestry. At AncestryDNA, Martha and Elaine are predicted as 4th cousins which is a big difference from what MyHeritage showed. Based on the color mapping of Elaine to her four grandparents, it seems like Martha matches on the Ellis side rather than the Rayner side.  This type of mapping is also known as the Leeds Method. Based on this, my best bet is that the match could be through the MacArthur side.


This seems to be confirmed by the spreadsheet that I have for Joan:

Based on past research I had found a common ancestor of MacArthur/MacDougall. This was for a DNA match that Joan and Barry had right at the spot where there were triangulated segments on Chromosome 4 between Vance, Joan, Elaine and Martha.

Summary and Conclusions

  • Different testing companies have different ways of representing what relationship the test results represent. AncestryDNA turns out to be fairly accurate.
  • I looked at common matches at Ancestry between Elaine and Martha. These seemed to put Martha and Elaine’s match along the Elaine’s Ellis ancestry Line.
  • Martha, Joan, Elaine and Vance triangulated at MyHeritage. Vance had Yeo and MacArthur in his ancestry which was shared with Joan and Elaine. However, the MacArthur ancestry occurs more recently in Joan and Elaine’s ancestry.
  • Joan’s worksheet shows that I had identified MacArthur as a common ancestor with another match on Chromosome 4. This was in the same place as the triangulated segments between Vance, Joan, Elaine and Martha. Right now, MacArthur seems like the best bet for a common ancestral surname between Martha and Elaine. Assuming that Malcolm MacArthur is the common ancestor, that would make Elaine and Martha about 4th cousins. The DNA matches could be higher due to matches on other more distant lines.


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