A reasonably close DNA match whose seemingly complete tree contains no names that match can be confusing. The difficulty is determining where the problem rests. An informal adoption is one reason this can happen. A relatively close relative who was born in the 1870s reminded me of this. Initial research on him located records towards the end of his life which covered the time period from his 1912 marriage until his death in the 1940s. Several children with this wife were mentioned in various records. When I worked to complete the gap between his birth and his 1912 marriage, a more accurate chronology was completed:
living in Nebraska in 1880 and 1900 census (with parents)–from census records;
married in Nebraska 1901–marriage record;
child was born in 1904 in Nebraska–1910 census;
living as a family in 1910 in Nebraska–1910 census;
wife and husband both marry again in 1912 (in different states)–images of county marriage records;
wife and second husband living together in 1920–child born in 1904 is listed as child of second husband—1920 census;
various later records list the child born in 1904 as being the son of the mother’s second husband and child is listed in various records with that last name throughout the duration of his life–including his tombstone.
Descendants of this son born in 1904 could very easily take a DNA test. Their tree could easily be full of names back quite a few generations and I’ll see none that resonate with me because the adopted father (who raised the child) is on the pedigree chart.
So if that close match has a complete tree and nothing seems even close, keep in mind that all it takes is the name of one non-biological great-grandfather to throw off one-eighth of the names going further back. If the error is closer, the proportion of wrong names gets even higher.
It’s also possible that an informal adoption in your own tree–that you don’t know about–is making your results more confusing.
In most counties in the United States, probate records come in one of two forms: record copies of legal documents created during the probate process which are typically recorded in bound volumes and files/packets containing original copies of documents that were used to settle up the estate.
Depending upon the time period and the location, there may be several different types of record volumes of probate records: bonds, wills, appraisements, inventories, etc. Occasionally the record copy contains handwriting that is easier to read than the original document or annotations that are not on the original. The file/packet of loose papers may contain items that are not recorded in the bound volume.
For those reasons, it is advised to search both the record copies and the file/packet of papers–if the location has them both.
In some locations and in some time periods, couples may have executed a marriage contract which outlined which property belonged to the future husband and which property belonged to the future wife. These documents were to clarify how property would be distributed when one member of the future couple died.
The date of the marriage contract is not the date of the marriage. It is the date that the contract was executed. There is also the possibility that the couple never actually married.
I have my “good” tree where information is documented and sourced to the best of my ability. That tree is tied to my DNA results.
Then I have a working tree that I keep private and is for my use only. It’s used for analyzing my DNA matches. It contains what was in my “good tree” and other information I’ve added but not necessarily always validated as much as I should. It contains information on ancestors of various cousins and DNA matches who are not my own direct line ancestors. It contains information I’ve compiled in my attempts to determine the connections I have with some of my DNA matches. That way I don’t duplicate work trying to figure out matches and sometimes while working on a new match I discover that I’ve got part of their connection to me already figured out.
But my working tree is not made public and is for my use only.
There’s a certain thrill to discovering something that we don’t know. Some genealogists are constantly on the hunt for something “new” that they neglect to revisit those conclusions that were reached years ago, were taken as truth based on a relative’s statement, or came from a document that “had to be correct.”
Failure to revisit can be a mistake. That mistake is how some mistakes get passed down and shared with future generations. Even if revisiting does not uncover errors, additional information can be obtained and a greater picture of the family who was “already known” emerges.
Don’t forget there is a thrill of discovery in finding something is incorrect as well. The thrill is lessened when it was your own mistake. Those should be embraced as well–as opportunities for growth.
The ease of accessing information online sometimes makes it easier to transcribe certain documents. We can search for what we think something might say and see if someone has transcribed a similar word or phrase. We can look at what an image of another record says the date of marriage is if we cannot quite read it on the marriage license we have.
That’s helpful and resourceful. But one has to be careful.
Just because others have transcribed a word or name as “Pine” does not mean that is what it actually is. It could really be “Jane.” Just because another record indicated the marriage date was 8 June 1842 does not mean the date was not actually written as 8 Jan. 1842 on the marriage license.
It’s sound procedure to get a little guidance in reading things that are difficult to interpret. But don’t let that guidance force an interpretation on you.
Every genealogist has had that moment when they’ve made a big discovery. The following excitement often motivates the researcher to immediately continue to the research. That’s not always the best idea. The thought that “I’ve solved it,” can cause us to overlook inconsistent pieces of information, new pieces of information, etc. Our euphoria at having figured it out can sometimes blind us to relevant information that doesn’t fit. It can also cause us to overlook key clues or jump to additional conclusions that aren’t supported by the information we’ve located.
And like Charlie the dog in the picture, we may be a little out of focus when we are excited. That’s not always the best time to immediately research.
After the information has been saved, printed/downloaded, copied, and filed it may be time to do something else for a little while and let the discovery simmer in the recesses of our mind. Doing something non-genealogy related for a short time can allow us to come back to the information when the excitement has worn off.
It’s all right if our excitement allows us to jump for joy. We just don’t want to jump to conclusions in that same excitement.
One reason for tripping over a stumbling block in our research is that there’s a piece of information we don’t have and that we don’t know we don’t have. When a research situation is confusing you, ask yourself:
Was there a historical event taking place of which I am not aware?
Did these two people have a relationship that I don’t know about and which might not have left a record?
Is there a term that I don’t understand?
Is there a process (legal, military enlistment, religious, cultural, etc.) that I don’t understand completely or am not aware of?
And so on.
The difficulty is that we don’t always know what we don’t know.