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How to work on an unresponsive match

This week I’m discussing how to break down a DNA match who has not responded to your messages.

I had great success with this technique on a DNA match on My Heritage recently. If you haven’t already taken a test with them or uploaded your results from another database to My Heritage, then it is worth your while. They have a growing userbase with plenty of Irish people in the mix. I also really like their auto-clustering tool

I’ve written before about how one side of your family tree can have more matches than the other & this is certainly true for me. My mother’s ancestry featured multiple generations of large families. We know about emigrant branches in at least 4 generations. So when I get a new match, I usually presume it’ll be a maternal one.

My Dad’s side is totally different. He only had 7 first cousins, his maternal grandfather was an only child, and all his known second cousins come from just one branch.

So when I saw a new match on My Heritage who also connected to my paternal aunt and shared 113cM with her, I was excited!

This match had a small tree showing just parents and grandparents with years of birth and death. I’ll be protecting their anonymity by not mentioning any details. 3 of the grandparents had a generic birth place of Ireland. Most helpfully, the 2 grandmothers’ birth surnames were given.

Believe or not, that’s enough to go on to begin researching this tree.

Thanks to the free birth, death and marriage records on IrishGenealogy, and the full names, I was able to find the two grandparent marriages.

I started with the paternal side because there was a common name, Hall. Now, I don’t know much about my great-great-great grandmother, Esther Hall, but she married in Arklow, Co. Wicklow in 1832 and died there in 1867. I felt that the shared centimorgans was too high for a link to an ancestor back that far, but it’s always good to check out the possibilities. You can use Blaine Bettinger’s Shared Centimorgan project to find the likely relationships. This is crowd-sourced data on known relationships. You can also use Jonny Perl’s calculator version of this project on DNAPainter.com for free. Below you can see the results for 113cM, which suggest this match will be a closer relationship than Esther’s generation, but it’s still possible.

After exploring the match’s paternal tree back for 3 generations, I wasn’t seeing anything obvious, so I decided to switch to the maternal lines. This quickly looked more promising because I found a surname I did recognise: Swan. I’ve written before about my great-great grandmother, Mary Swan, here.

Ultimately, I was able to establish a direct link to a sister of Mary’s. I’d missed this connection before because she had married in Dublin, not Wicklow. I used both the church records on Irishgenealogy and Rootsireland for this research.

Once this connection was made, I set about researching her descendants and was able to add 29 new people to my family.

The following day, I started looking into shared matches between this newly minted second cousin twice removed, myself and my aunt. After another two hours of research, I’d confirmed another descendant in the same branch, and a descendant from a third Swan sister! Total additional add: 36 people.

Match no1 replied to my message after a week or so. They were pleased that I’ve figured out the connection and I may even be able to tell them some information about their own tree which they don’t know.

One of the other matches has responded to me and we’ve been chatting and sharing photographs, which makes all this hard work worthwhile.

I’m participating in DNA Day this month on 25th April. Read more about it here.

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