DNA Matches: What You Can Do with All Your Genetic 4th Cousins

(Update 2020) When genealogists take an ancestry DNA test, they are looking for more than just their ethnicity results. They are also very interested in receiving information on other people who have tested who closely genetically match them. They want to know who the closest matches are, and if those matches have family tree information that they can share. 

However, with all the people testing these days, (some being genealogists and some not) the volume of matches can become overwhelming very quickly. 

Are you one of those people who have way too many genetic “4th cousins or closer” among your DNA matches? Have you ever wondered “What do I do with all these matches?!” If so, keep reading. We’re going to explore some of your options, and most importantly, how to determine how genetically close your cousins really are. 

what to do with your 4th cousins DNA genetic genealogy

Doing the DNA Math on Your Cousins

Math can provide us with a degree of certainty in genetic genealogy. Each of us has two biological parents. We have four biological grandparents, and eight great-grandparents.
too many 4th cousins DNA matches

However, the farther back we go the less we can rely on math.

For example, on paper you should have sixty-four 3rd great grandparents. However, many of us find that the same person occupies more than one slot on our pedigree chart. While this significantly decreases the workload for traditional genealogy, it adversely impacts your genetic genealogy. Especially when it comes to that long long list of 4th cousins you have in your match list at any of the three major DNA testing companies.

Depending on how intermarried your lines are, you may be seeing individuals on your match list that genetically look like your fourth cousins, but they are genealogically your sixth cousins – EIGHT TIMES!  So how can you tell the difference?

There are two parts to that answer: one you can control, and the other you can’t.

Distinguishing DNA Matches with Genetic Tools

While your fourth cousins and your eight-time-sixth cousins may look similar genetically, there are often small clues in the genetics that can help you tell the difference. This distinction can sometimes be detected by a testing company who, through research and validation, has been able to fine-tune their algorithms to detect these subtle differences.

DNA cousins

Your Genetic 4th Cousins

You can participate in this double checking process by using some of the genetic tools that are available to you at Family Tree DNA, or at Gedmatch.com. But since you may not be an aspiring geneticist, let’s focus on the genealogical work you can do to determine if a match is truly a fourth cousin.

Use Google Earth to Plot Your DNA Matches

A fourth cousin designation just means that you and your match are separated by between six and twelve degrees (people). So that might be five back on your chart to your common ancestor, and five down to your match, which would make you true fourth cousins. It could also be some other permutation of that.

For our example, let’s assume true fourth cousins. That means that the two of you share one of thirty-two 3rd great grandparents (16 couples). In order to find out which set, you have two genealogical identifiers: surname and location.

Therefore, the first thing you should do is make a list of the surnames and locations of those thirty-two 3X great grandparents.

Now, most of us do not know all 16 of those couples, so you are going to have some holes. Feel free to fill in those holes with surnames on subsequent generations that will carry through to this fifth generation.

A great tool to plot your own list of ancestors geographically is the free downloadable Google Earth software

Check to see if you have the latest version of Google Earth downloaded to your desktop or laptop computer. On your desktop, look for a grey and white globe. If you see a blue and white globe, you have the older original free version of Google Earth. However, a few years ago, Google made their Google Earth Pro version free to everyone, and it is now the standard. 

If you do have Google Earth Pro (the grey globe software) then you’re ready to go.

Google Earth on your computer desktop


The grey Google Earth globe on the desktop.

If you don’t have it, then you will need to download it. 

How to Download the Free Google Earth Software:

  1. Go to http://www.google.com/earth/download/gep/agree.html
  2. Click the blue download button
  3. Read the Terms and Conditions
  4. If you agree to them, click the Agree and Download button
  5. Follow the installation guide
  6. When complete click Run Google Earth

Now that you have Google Earth, you can begin by creating a folder in the Places panel in Google Earth devoted to your 16 couples. Here’s how:

1. In the Places panel, right-click on MyPlaces and select Add > Folder:

how to create a folder in Google Earth Layers panel for DNA

Right-click on MyPlaces > Add > Folder

2. Name the folder and then click OK:

Creating a folder in Google Earth

Creating a folder in Google Earth

3. Now you will see your new DNA folder for your 16 couples in the Places panel. If you don’t see it, look toward the bottom of the list. You can move the folder to any location within the list by dragging and dropping it. 

Create a folder in Google Earth for DNA 32 couples

Create a folder in Google Earth for DNA 16 couples

Once you have your DNA folder created fro your 16 couples, you can then easily plot your surnames and locations. 

How to Plot Your Surnames and Locations in Google Earth:

1. Click your new DNA folder to select it. This will ensure that the placemark you are about to create will be stored in that folder. 

2. In the search box (upper left corner of the Google Earth software) type in the first location and click Search. Google Earth will fly to that location on the map.

Type the locaton in the Search box and click Search.

Type the locaton in the Search box and click Search.

3. In the toolbar along the top of the screen, click the placemark button to place a pushpin in that location:

Click the Placemark button in the Google Earth toolbar

Click the Placemark button in the Google Earth toolbar.

4. In the Placemark dialogue box, enter a title for hte pushpin placemark. Click the OK button to close the box and set your placemark.

5. Repeat the process for all the locations. 

Then evaluate the fifth generation of your fourth cousin matches for genealogical information that lines up with any of the items on your list.

You can also plot the surnames and locations of your matches in Google Earth. This is where Google Earth really comes in handy. The free software makes it very easy to see when your ancestral home may be bordering the locations of your matches. Those with whom you find a similarity become your best matches, and your best chance of determining your connection. Those without an obvious connection cycle to the bottom of your pile for a genetic evaluation. You can perform these same kinds of searches for your second and third cousins as well.

As you begin to become more familiar with the fifth generations of your matches, you may also start to see patterns of surnames or locations emerge among your matches. These then become the surnames and locations that might be able to fill the missing spaces in your pedigree chart.

More Genetic Genealogy and Google Earth Gems

If you are new to using Google Earth, I have several suggested resources for you by Lisa Louise Cooke:

Premium podcast 131

Learn more in Premium episode 131.

Here’s a video of the authors discussing three common DNA misconceptions:

 

 

Authors: Diahan Southard and Lisa Louise Cooke

Family History Episode 10 – Deeper into Census Records

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy PodcastOriginally published 2009

Republished December 10, 2013

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Episode 10: Deeper into Census Records

We’re going to start off today by continuing our use of U.S. Federal Census Records.  Last episode we located relatives in the 1930 census, and today we’re going to push further back in time to follow the census bread crumb trail.

Then in our second segment we’re going to explore some census enumerations that often go overlooked by family historians with Curt Witcher, the Manager of the nationally-recognized Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Curt is a very well-known genealogy lecturer and he has some great tips for tapping in to more obscure census resources. We’ll talk about nonpopulation schedules for the federal census, census substitutes for missing census data (like the 1890 census) and state censuses that may be available, too.

Updates and Links

As I mentioned in the show notes of the last episode, the 1940 census is now available to researchers. Check out those notes for more information. Here are some more updates and links:

  • Learn more about nonpopulation schedules and other census records in Ancestry’s online version of The Source.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau has online info on state censuses. Learn even more in Ann S. Lainhart’s book State Census Records (Genealogical Publishing Company, 1992). A lot of state censuses are now searchable on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.
  • A few fragments of the 1890 census remain. These are searchable at Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.
  • The Ancestry database substitute for the 1890 census I mentioned in the show is now supplemented by census substitute databases on Ancestry for just about every state for 1890 and other years. Search for them in the Card Catalog with the search term “1890 census.”
  • The National Archives has a portal for census records, too (what’s in them and how to find them).

Historic U.S. Newspapers & More in New & Updated Records

Historic U.S. newspapers are featured in this week’s new and updated records collections, including Hawaii, Colorado, Georgia, and North Carolina. Also new this week are updated New York passenger lists, vital records for England, Welsh newspapers, military and census records for Canada, and Austrian parish records. 

UK Newspapers records update

Historic U.S. Newspapers & More

This week we were delighted to see lots of historic U.S. newspaper made available online. Newspapers are a fantastic way to find clues about your ancestors, especially when vital records are elusive, and also learn about their daily lives.

Hawaii. If you have family from Hawaii or are interested in Hawaiian history, then you’ll definitely want to check out these three new titles added to Newspapers.com:

In 2010, the Adviser and Star-Bulletin were merged to create the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. If you’re looking for ancestors or other family members in these papers, good places to start include personals columns, society pages, local interest columns, and the like.

Colorado. History Colorado (HC) recently digitized and added two historic Denver African-American newspapers: Statesman (1905-1912), and The Denver Star (1912-1918). While these papers covered news from African-American communities in “Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and the West,” they also covered local news from Denver’s Five Points district.  These newspapers cover Denver’s African American culture and community, including its residents, businesses, and aspects of everyday life.

Georgia. Georgia Perimeter College Collection is now available online. The digital collection includes yearbooks, catalogs, and student newspapers from the 1960s to the 2010s. You can browse the collection by decade, date, format, or by the name of the institution at the time each item was published.

North Carolina. The newspaper of Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, NC has been digitized and made available online. There are 44 issues are available to browse spanning from 1971-1979 with issues published every other month. Among the news headlines are graduations, alumni news, fundraising campaigns, appointments of new abbots, and changes on campus reflective of this decade’s larger cultural movements.

New York. MyHeritage has updated their collection of Ellis Island and Other New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. This collection contains millions of records of individuals arriving at the port of New York, including individuals who arrived at three well-known immigrant processing stations: Castle Garden (1855-1890), the Barge Office (1890-1892), and Ellis Island (1892-1957).

England – Portsmouth Collection

Findmypast has an exciting new collection for Portsmouth, Hampshire. This collection of scanned images of original handwritten documents contains more than 1.3 million historical records spanning 1538 – 1917. When complete, the collection will be the largest repository of Portsmouth family history records available online. Click the links below to explore the 5 collections:

Also new this week from The British Newspaper Archive is the Ross Gazette. This newspaper is published by Tindle Newspapers in Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, England, spanning 1867 – 1910. This collection currently has over 2,000 issues available now, with more continuing to be added.

Welsh Newspapers

British Newspaper ArchiveEven more historic newspapers are new this week as we head over to Wales. The British Newspaper Archive recently added the Rhyl Journal (Clywd, 1877 – 1897) and Cambrian News (Dyfed, 1863 – 1882) to their database.

Though these collections are relatively small, they can provide wonderful clues and details about your ancestors living in Wales in the 19th century.

Canada – Military and Census Records

New for Canada this week are Certificates of Military Instruction at Fold3, which includes records from 1867 to 1932. There were initially two types of certificates: First Class (battalion-level officers) and Second Class (company-level officers). The information you can find in the certificates in this collection typically includes the man’s name, rank, and residence; the certificate type and date; and the name and location of the school.

The 1921 Canadian Census is now available for free at the Library and Archives Canada. The 1921 Census marked the sixth regularly scheduled collection of national statistics. It officially began on June 1, 1921. This research tool contains 8,800,617 records that are searchable by name.

Austria – Parish Records

Over at Ancestry.com, a new collection of Salzburg Catholic Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1600-1930 is now available. From the description: “This collection contains parish registers from numerous Catholic communities in the city Salzburg, Austria as well as numerous communities that today are part of the Austrian state of Salzburg.” Note that these records are in German, and you should search using German words and location spellings.

Native American Records

Do you have Native American ancestry? Or are you interested in Native American history? Then explore Fold3’s Native American Collection for free November 1-15, 2017. Their unique collection includes records, documents, and photos never before seen online. All you need is a free Fold3 account to start exploring!

 

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting this free podcast and blog!

Finding Naturalization Records: Where are the Women?

Women’s suffragists demonstrate in February 1913. Photographer unknown. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

Women’s suffragists demonstrate in February 1913. Photographer unknown. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

We’re nearing the completion of the enormous Community Indexing Project of U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Records. Already finding naturalization records is a lot easier: we can search newly-created indexes to millions of naturalization records at FamilySearch.org. But often we don’t find the women we’re looking for.

Let’s look at why. But I’ll warn you, the reasons aren’t pretty. In the past, women had very few legal rights. None could vote. Married women had even fewer rights. Typically their legal identity disappeared when they married, enveloped by their husband’s. Married women did not handle legal matters in their own name, own property or keep their own money. Sometimes they did not even have legal liability for their actions. This was known as the legal principle of coverture.

In 1855, a law was enacted establishing that women who weren’t ineligible for other reasons (like race) were automatically made citizens when their husbands were naturalized. There was no extra paperwork or court costs. Their husbands’ papers (in combination with their marriage records) served as proof of the women’s citizenship, even though before 1906, you will not usually find the women’s names even listed on their husbands’ applications.

This represented a step forward for most married women, but not all. If a husband didn’t naturalize, the wife couldn’t naturalize without him. On the flip side, if a U.S.-born woman married a foreigner, she often lost her U.S. citizenship, whether or not she left the country. This problem wasn’t fully resolved until many years later; learn more about the laws and resulting paperwork in this article by the National Archives.

Naturalization laws were not applied evenly, and some women got their citizenship anyway. Eventually, as women won voting rights in various states in the early 1900s, men who applied to naturalize were sometimes denied because their wives, who would be granted citizenship and therefore voting privileges, didn’t speak English or meet other requirements. Men complained that their wives’ nationalities were getting in the way, a problem women had lived with for years!

Check out this interactive timeline on women's right to vote in the U.S.

Check out this interactive timeline on women’s right to vote in the U.S.

In 1922, women gained the right to naturalize independent of marital status. If their husbands were already citizens, they didn’t have to file declarations of intentions (the first step in the paperwork process), just a petition (the second step in the process). Otherwise, they had to fill out both sets of papers. Eventually even this link to their husbands’ citizenship disappeared, and they just filled out their own entirely separate paperwork.

My Great Grandmother’s Petition for Naturalization

What about unmarried women and widows? They could apply for naturalization, but in especially before the 1900s, they sometimes didn’t if they had no property. They could not vote and the law didn’t always treat them equally. They saw little benefit in investing the funds and time in applying for citizenship.

It’s fascinating how much we can learn as family historians about the status of women by the way they were handled in the records we research. The history of women in naturalization records reminds us to look past the paperwork to the reasons and intentions behind it. Unless we really understand the history of the laws and the culture at that time, we can’t be sure that we have exhausted all of the options.

 

 

 

 

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