I have heard many good and bad things about AncestryDNA Cirlces. However, I have decided to look on the positive side of things, thus let us look at a positive side of AncestryDNA circles.
First of all, how do AncestryDNA Circles work? According to their support center, A DNA circle will form around an ancestor in your family tree if your tree is public and linked to your DNA test and if two or more of your DNA matches…
- Are DNA matches to you and to each other at a 2nd cousin level or further out
- Have public family trees attached to their DNA tests; and
- Share a common ancestor (according to their trees)
In my example, I have decided to select my husband’s DNA test. He does not have a lot of matches and only recently has one DNA circle finally showed up. My husband’s paternal grandfather is the immigrant ancestor and on his mother’s side, they have only been here perhaps 100 years, or 2-3 generatons. Thus there are not a lot of descendants in the United States to be taking DNA tests.
What I am trying to do, is build out his tree, not only backwards, but what I call sideways and find who his cousins are too. I already found descendants of his paternal grandfather’s sister, who we didn’t know and was pleasantly surprise to see had come to America. From these matches, I have a lead on his great-grandparents names.
What can you learn from your DNA Circles that you can't learn from your DNA matches? It all depends on your Circles. Let’s look at my husband’s circle. His Circle has 8 people, from the list option, I can easily see those who match my husband and the one who matches someone in his circle, but not directly with him.
Therefore, this is a new person, that I might not have discovered, because the match and him don’t actually share DNA. You might wonder how they don’t share DNA when they share Ancestors. Looking at the Chances of Finding a Match chart, as you move further up your Pedigree chart or further from yourself, you will match less and less of your distant cousins. This is why most Autosomal tests can predict common Ancestors at a limit of about 8 generations.
Looking at the Relationship Path back to the common Ancestor, I can see that my Husband and his match are 3rd Cousins 1x Removed.
So his relationship falls between 3rd cousin range who will not match 10% of their 3rd cousins and 4th cousins range where he will not match about 50% of his 4th cousins. This explains why he might not match all his cousins via DNA.
When I view his matches DNA Profile, I can see her tree and I can see her grandmother married an unknown Block, thus my husband’s match’s father is an unknown Block. My matches name, which I have hidden for her privacy, has her first and last name in her username. I went a step farther and looked up the name in Facebook and found someone with that name living in Wisconsin. Since my husband’s family is from this area, I feel confident that this is most likely his match.
The final thing I like to do is to add his matches to his tree. I do this in my genealogy software program. You can read my “Tracking MyDNA Matches” blog post to see how I actually keep track of my matches.
Anyway, my matches’ tree has who her great grandmother married and the date of their marriage. Even though the 1940 marriage date does not help me with on-line census research, the last name will help my physical research. If I go back to the Shawano County, Wisconsin court house, I have several new surnames that I can look up and expand this branch of the family. I can also possibly find some information in online birth and marriage indexes from Wisconsin. I can add these tasks to my to-do-list.
Keep in mind, even though my husband doesn’t match this descendant, it doesn’t mean he won’t match some of her first cousins, or her father’s first cousins. Having new names in his tree, means my research has not hit a brick wall and has open up new research possibilities.