AutoClustering My First Cousin Once Removed

I’m excited about the new changes in AutoClustering by GeneticAffairs. They have clustered their clusters which help take some of the guesswork out of analyzing the clusters. Clusters are DNA matches that match each other. The new mega-clustering put the clusters together that are most like each other.

My First Cousin, Once Removed Joyce: Setting the Limits

Joyce is important because she goes one more generation back with DNA matches. Joyce matches me on my two great-grandparent lines of Snell and Hartley. The Snell lines are pretty well-defined, going back to Colonial Massachusetts. The Hartley Line comes from Lancashire, England and has a brick wall around the year 1800. I was hoping that clustering Joyce would separate her many Massachusetts Colonial matches with her Lancashire, England matches. Because we are one generation apart, my great-grandparents are Joyce’s grandparents. She also has two grandparent lines that I am, for the most part, not related. These also have many Massachusetts roots. That means that Joyce has three-quarters old-time Massachusetts DNA and 1/4 Lancashire DNA. However, I suspect that Joyce will have very few Lancashire matches.

I put some thought into Joyce’s limits for her matches. I wanted the upper limit high enough to include some matches I knew about but not so high that they would include many matches that were on two of her grandparent sides. Then I wanted the lower limit low enough to find Lancashire, ENG matches but not so low that there would be too many clusters. I set the upper limit at 250 cM and the lower limit at 25 cM. I wasn’t sure what to expect as Joyce has over 1,000 4th cousin or closer matches. Joyce also has 249 Shared Ancestor Hints.

Jocye’s AutoCluster Results

Joyce has 61 clusters which is a lot:

The more clusters there are, the more difficult it is to see all the clusters.

Identifying Joyce’s Clusters

Here are Joyce’s four grandparents:

I am interested in Joyce’s two maternal grandparents. However, I will try to identify some of her paternal side also.

Joyce’s First 16 Clusters

Cluster 1 is easy. I should be in this group as these are Joyce’s closest relatives. I’m not in the group because I cut off the upper limit of matches at 250cM. The first match is my sister’s son. His results just came in last week. It seems like my Hartley clusters should go as far as the blue Cluster 9 and then Cluster 10 may be a new group of clusters.

Speeding Up the Process

I can speed up the process by taking the Autocluster data file and compare it with my own clusters.

This tells me that I match Joyce at her Clusters 1, 3, 4, 32, and 37.

Here I put a box around Joyce’s Clusters 1-4, 32 and 37. I checked with my other 4 tested siblings and one sibling added another Cluster 57 for Joyce.

Checking Joyce’s Shared Ancestor Hints (SAHs)

This should be a quick way to identify a few clusters. The first SAH I found for Joyce below the threshold was C.L. However, he is a 1st cousiin twice removed to Joyce. That means he could match on the Snell or Hartley side. However, he is in Joyce’s Cluster 1.

The second SAH is A.M.

He is on Joyce’s Cluster 16

Mixed Messages from K.R.

K.R. looks like he matches on my Hartley/Snell side. However, he has a Chace in his ancestry that is not built out. AutoCluster has K.R. in Cluster 19 which is probably not a Hartley/Snell Clusrter. K.R’s shared matches confirm this. I found quite a few other trees that appeared to be on Joyce’s Hartley side, but by shared matches appeared to be not on the Hartley side that match me and my family.

Some Massachusetts Colonial Clusters

Louisa is a SAH but she has a private tree. She tells me we match by a common ancestor born in 1711. At this point, I’m just looking for Joyce’s Hartley side SAHs.

An Old Snell Cluster

Joyce’s SAH match with John shows this:

However, not all of John’s lines are built out:

That means that the SAH could be off. However, John is in Cluster 8. I will say that Cluster is on Joyce’s Snell grandparent’s line.

O.T. in Cluster 8

O.T. is Joyce’s top match in Custer 8. I was surprised to find a common ancestor there.

Ancestry didn’t pick this up as a SAH due to the way the names were recorded in O.T.’s tree. I even have a photo of Mary and Otis:

That makes O.T. and Joyce third cousins.

Here is the spreadsheet I am working on for Joyce:

When I first looked at the Joyce’s clusters, I thought that Clusters 1-9 would be on the Hartley/Snell side and then there would be a change. That seems to be what is happening.

Anne From Australia

Anne has shared Hartley grandparent ancestry with Joyce:

Unfortunately, Anne was in a singleton match and didn’t make the criteria to be in a cluster.

AutoCluster Vs. Ancestry Circles

For what I was looking to do (i.e. separate my Hartley and Snell ancestors) it turns out that Ancestry Circles do a better job. Or at least an easier job. Here are Joyce’s Circles:

The two families in the green box are the ones I’m trying to separate. Joyce has nine circles on her paternal side and four on the side that matches my Hartley family. Of the four that match my family, one goes back to England and three are Colonial Massachusetts.

The reason why the Circles are easier than clusters is that the Circles use lower thresholds and make use of Ancestry Trees. Here is Joyce’s Pilling Circle:

Joyce and my family and my 2nd cousins are at the top of the circle. Then there is ce and the Robert family of two on the bottom. Joyce matches ce at 6.8 cM and one of the two in the Robert group. The one she does match in the Robert group Joyce matches at 9.6 cM. So this is far below the 25 cM lower threshold that I set for Joyce’s clusters.

Joyce’s First Clusters – More Detail and a Discovery!

Having said that Circles work well, I still want to look into Joyce’s Hartley/Snell side clusters in more detail to see what I can find. I don’t know if Joyce has any English Hartley Clusters, but if she does, I suspect that they will be small clusters.

Here are Joyce’s first nine clusters which I suspect relate to my family.

Cluster 2 – Jennifer and Emily

Cluster 2 has only two people in it. That means that these two are in an obscure Massachusetts colonial cluster or they could have roots back in England. Jennifer has the larger match, but Emily has a tree. I see by Emily’s tree that she has ancestors both in England and in the area of Massachusetts that I live in. I don’t like building out trees, but I will.

Emily’s tree is built out to her 16 2nd great-grandparents.

As I look more closely, I see an Elizabeth Burrows 5 from the bottom in the last row. It turns out that this is a line that I have been looking for for a very long time:

The Pilling/Hartley Tree

This gets to my Pilling/Hartley story. Mary Pilling was a single mother in Trawden, England. She had a son named John Pilling who moved to Fall River. That is one line. Mary then married Robert Hartley and had two children. That is my line. Robert died and she then married a Wilkinson. The Hartley and Wilkinson family moved to New Bedford. That is another line.

This tree is missing the Pilling Line:

However, it shows some of the people who have had their DNA tested. Now I can add Emily:

That means that Emily isJoyce’s 2nd cousin three times removed. The other good news is that I don’t have to build out Emily’s tree. This completes the other half of the missing Hartley Line. Banner day. That means that I need to try to get in touch with Emily and Jennifer. It is big news to find a whole half of a Hartley family that I have been looking for.

Here are Greenwood Hartley and Ann Emmet:

Joyce’s Cluster 3

Cluster 3 is like Cluster 2 in that the two members match many second cousins, the Shared Matches quickly die out to only one other. However, the match to Joyce is much smaller. The first match is to Howard who has no tree. The second match is to Philip. He has a tree going back to his eight great- grandgrandparents. I need to stretch this out at least another generation. It looks like Philip’s ancestors are mostly from England, so that is a good start. I filled out Philip’s tree and didn’t see an obvious connection. Perhaps one of his Yorkshire ancestors crossed over to Lancashire to become one of my ancestors.

 Joyce’s Other Clusters

Here is what I came up with. There were some trees where Joyce must have Colonial Massachusetts ancestors on both sides, so it gets confusing. Note the trend in the table above. The largest match is at the top, then there are associated clusters of reducing match size. Then there is another large match which indicates a shift in families then again associated clusters in descending order.

Summary and Conclusions

  • I went into this exercise wanting to separate my Snell and Hartley DNA between Colonial Massachusetts and Lancashire, England.
  • At first I was skeptical and wondered whether autocluster could do this.
  • I found an important Snell/Parker common ancestor DNA match that was missed by AncestryDNA due to the way the ancestors were recorded.
  • I looked at Ancestry Circles and how Ancestry does a lot of the work combining DNA and trees that makes Circles easier than identiftying Clusters.
  • In Joyce’s Cluster 2 I found a match identifying a branch of the Lancashire, England Hartley family that I had been looking for for a long time. It would be helpful if this match uploads their DNA results to a site that has a Chromosome Browser for comparison.

2 Replies to “AutoClustering My First Cousin Once Removed”

  1. Thanks for sharing and interpreting these!

    I’ve only done two autoclusters, but from what you said I understand why I can barely see my latest autocluster of 1/2/19. I used the parameters

    cM thresholds of 250 cM and 15 cM were used. A total number of 853 matches were identified with 89 clusters identified!

    My original autocluster from 12/3/18 used the same settings
    250 cM and 15 cM were used. A total number of 351 matches were identified with 44 clusters identified!

    I know the program’s been tweaked since I used it last, but I don’t understand how I ended up more than doubling the number of clusters.

    I’ve added a *lot* of notes to my Ancestry DNA matches that I recognize in some fashion, and they’ve matched in the clusters, or given me hints about the cluster for those that don’t have any notes attached. Curiously there’s a cluster of 44 with no notes, cMs ranging from 19 – 34, that makes me wonder if there’s a NPE several generations back.

    1. Hi Julie,

      It may be that improvements in the program gave you more matches the second time. On your first run, you may have never gotten down to your 15 cM lower limit for the matches.

      You don’t have to idenditfy every cluster. Just because a cluster is large doesn’t mean that it is more important than a small cluster. A large cluster may represent comnmon ancestors in a branch that you haven’t identified. Some of the most important matches may be in clusters of two or not even in a cluster.


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