I posted this missive about DNA matches and errors and thought it would make for a good tip. If you are on our Facebook page, you may have already seen it. Comments welcome.

Your DNA matches can be used as clues even if their trees are wonky.

I have matches on one branch of my family where a few people have assigned parents for an ancestor that have been disproven and are questionable from a geographic standpoint.

But…they are still my matches. I know how they are related. It’s just that they’ve given my ancestor parents that are not right. I don’t have to use that information–they won’t change it either which is frustrating, but a reality.

I can still see who I have as shared matches with those people.

And my approach if I think someone is wrong about something is to ask what evidence they have of the relationship or statement that I’m questioning. Generally speaking, I don’t make statements if I don’t have some sort of documentation to back it up. My “gut” focuses on eating and digestion, not making genealogical statements–other than statements about which ancestral cuisine I could do without or which ones I like (sauerkraut).

Sometimes it leads to a dialogue and they realize there is an error.

Sometimes they just say “they don’t know” or “it doesn’t matter.” I usually respond with “if you find any evidence, please let me know I’d love to hear about it” and offer to share what I have. I don’t often hear from those people.

Sometimes it turns out that I am wrong and the person has solid and reliable evidence of the statement they made. I’m always willing to admit that, but I need some evidence.

But I’ve taken a gentle approach with most of these errors largely because it’s better on my blood pressure and there are better ways to use my time. I write up what I have found and what my conclusions are. I can’t convince some people that they are wrong. And getting into arguments with genealogists who aren’t necessarily interested in being correct is not a good use of my time. Discussions and disagreements with those who are making a concerted effort trying to figure stuff out is.

Just my 1/50 of a dollar.

Or my 16% of a bit. I think my math is right.

Check out Ancestry’s St. Patrick’s DNA sale–maybe you can purchase your own kit or a test kit for that relative you’ve been wanting to ask.



6 Responses

  1. A “bit” of wisdom you showed here. A cheer from my high school, back in the days when cheerleaders literally led cheers: “Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar, all for Converse (or your favorite school) stand up and holler!” As math teachers say, “Show your work!” That’s exactly what you are asking the fellow genealogist to do. At first I didn’t think your math was right, but you got it right.

    • I always told students to show their work: can’t help them find errors if I don’t and there’s no partial credit if I can’t see your process. Writing our your process is one of the best ways to catch errors. I doublecheck the bit calculation before I posted this .

    • Yes there are two bits in a quarter, making a bit $.125. 16% of .125 is $.02 making it “my two cents.”

  2. If a bunch of people have the wrong parents for a shared ancestor on their tree, and I have proved the errors to my own satisfaction, I will prepare a word document explaining the research I’ve undertaken that disproves the erroneous relationship, and post a pdf of that document in the gallery on the profile(s) of the relevant person(s) in my public tree. That way, people who choose to check out my gallery can read my evidence and evaluate the situation for themselves. When I’m feeling particularly proactive, I’ll post a public comment to encourage people to check out the document in the gallery.

  3. I was required to take a Missouri History course in order to graduate from Truman State U. The biggest thing I learned was that “back when” a coin was used, it was sometimes cut up into eighths, and two bits was a equal to a quarter. That’s my two cents worth, but not two bits worth!

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