My Mother-In-Law and Her FTDNA AutoClustering

Joan’s Genealogy

I find Joan’s DNA fun to work with. Even though Joan has Canadian background, she has no French Canadian which can muck up the works. I don’t mean to sound prejudice in a DNA sort of way. Joan is 1/4 Newfoundland, 1/4 Daley which is from Nova Scotia and the other half is from Prince Edward Island. Out of Joan’s four grandparents, the Daley side seems to be most obscure. However, the Newfoundland side is problematic due to poor records there. The Church in Harbour Buffet burned down at one point.

  • Ellis and Rayner – PEI
  • Upshall – Newfoundland
  • Daley – Nova Scotia

AutoClustering Joan

For some reason, Joan’s results came through as untitled text files:

I was able to change the first two files to csv files and the last one to an html file and that solved the problem. I chose a range between 12 and 400 cM.

How Many Clusters?

Joan had so many clusters that they ran off the graph:

I’ll say Joan has over 80 clusters. 

This represents about the first 25 of Joan’s clusters. Here is the total at the bottom of the report:

I forgot that FTDNA add small segments to make the matches larger, so I should have had a higher bottom cutoff point.

Joan’s Cluster #1 – Newfoundland

A journey of 1,000 miles starts with one step. Joan’s top match is Ken. I’ve looked at his DNA before and had trouble figuring out where all of his DNA came from. If you look real close, you will see Ken’s grey dots going toward other clusters. Those are other places where he is related to Joan. I mentioned that French Canadians mucked up the works with intermarriage. This would be true of islands also – like Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island.

Joan’s #1 AutoCluster Match: Ken

Ken and Joan both descend from Christopher Dicks born in the 1780’s and his wife Margaret. I have run a DIcks DNA project and I recognize a lot of people in this Cluster.

Joan and Nancy

I didn’t recognize Nancy’s name in the group. Here is her tree:

I don’t get a lot of Upshall leads, so this is interesting. I assume that Nancy also has Dicks ancestry at some point. See, AutoClustering leads to good things.

That was quite easy. Here is the spreadsheet I use to keep track:

Cluster 2: PEI

I recognize some PEI descendants in Cluster 2. I have written about Glenda. She descends from Elllis and Rayner and matches Joan equally on those lines. That means I need to look at other Cluster 2 people and their trees.

Barbara and Lee

Barbara and Lee from Cluster 2 both have McArthur or MacArthur in their trees. That would seem to favor the Ellis side over the Rayner side:

However, I am just matching surnames, I am not matching actual shared ancestors. That would take more work.

Agnes’ Tree

It seems that there a lot of good trees at FTNDA. Agnes matches on the Rayner side.

Agnes’ maternal side has an Edward Rayner. His parent are the Edward John Rayner and Mary Watson in Joan’s tree. Of course, that favors the Rayner side. However, I note that there is an Ellis on Agnes’ Rayner side also.

Jane’s Tree

Here is where I need Ancestry to pull the trees together for me:

Jane has McArthur and Ellis on her paternal side.

I guess I’ll call this cluster Ellis/McArthur for now.

I spent a bit of time on this cluster, but it is Joan’s second largest cluster.

Joan’s Cluster Three People Don’t Look Familiar

Unlike the first two clusters, I don’t recognize these matches. There were four trees for the 13 people in this cluster. I think I’ll skip this one. By the little dots to the left and above this cluster, I would say there is some connection to the previous PEI cluster. It seems like an odd group. At least one tree was from New Zealand and one was from Ireland.

Skipping on to Cluster 4

As I look at the names and trees, it appears that this Cluster is from Newfoundland. I’ll just call this a Newfoundland Cluster:

That also gave me an idea for a name for Cluster 3.

DNAPainter to the Rescue?

I’m getting stuck on these Clusters, so I’ll take a look at what I have already painted for Joan. Here is the key to Joan’s painted Chromsomes:

One problem I see with this is that DNAPainter takes from many places – not just FTDNA.

Melissa in Cluster 34

Melissa has a common ancestor of Ellis/Gorrill with Joan.

I’m not so sure about the other two matches in the group. So I didn’t find a lot by that method.

The Clicking on Trees Method

Next, I’ll just click on trees to see if anything shows up. This resulted in a few general discoveries. I then clicked on the highest cM button to try to overcome FTDNA’s over-counting of their DNA matches.

Here are some of the clusters partly identified:

Summary and Conclusions

  • I had trouble finding specific ancestors for many of these clusters. I think it may be related to FTDNA having higher cM matching than is warranted. This may be partially fixed by raising the lower threshold to 20 cM when running an AutoCluster Report at FTDNA.
  • At Joan’s 2nd great-granparent level, I can identify 16 ancestors. In this analysis, I got 92 clusters. That is too many. 
  • Even though the cluster identification was difficult, it was good to take a fresh look at Joan’s FTDNA through the eyes of AutoClustering. I have at least one new lead to follow up on.
  • Another issue that makes Joan’s cluster identification difficult is that her ancestors come from two islands: PEI and Newfoundland. There was some intermarriage going on there. Joan is also once quarter from Nova Scotia. I’m not aware of intermarriage there, but matches with these relatives are relatively rare (no pun intended). 

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