One thing I always stress to people when they want to take a genetic DNA test is to start building their family tree first. Not only that, please have an available family tree or pedigree chart that they are willing to show to DNA matches upon request to aid in figuring out family connections. Even if they desire for their family tree to be private, I advise people to be willing to accept requests from DNA matches to view it.
I have prepared two family trees on ancestry.com. One is loaded with pictures, scanned documents, etc. that is synced to my Family Tree Maker software. This tree is for my use only. I have another one that contain names, dates, locations, and any other information I chose to show that’ll help DNA matches to connect the dots. This second tree is the one that I allow DNA matches to view publicly. It’s attached to my ancestry profile. Viewing family trees or pedigree charts is essential to making the connection. Back and forth e-mail exchanges of names and surnames can swallow up a lot of time. Just simply show me a family tree! I will demonstrate how this greatly helped to connect the dots within an hour! This DNA connection is especially wonderful because it enabled me to find my great-grandmother’s younger sister!
Recently, I obtained a new match in AncestryDNA. Her name is Sherri, and she is a “Very High” confidence match with a prediction of 4th cousins. According to AncestryDNA, “very high” confidence means that the approximate amount of sharing is 20-30 cMs. Her DNA account is maintained by her husband. Thankfully, he made Sherri’s family tree public. I clicked on it and started looking at the names of her ancestors. The first ancestor to catch my attention was her maternal great-grandmother, Maria Bass, because Bass is one of my surnames.
Then, I opened up the profile for Maria Bass to garner more information. Census records were attached to her great-grandmother’s profile, which helped a great deal. My eyes opened wider when I noticed that her Maria Bass resided in Sharkey County, Mississippi in 1910. My father’s maternal grandmother, Angeline Bass Belton, lived in Sharkey County too after 1910. She was originally from Warren County. Shortly after her daughter, my great-aunt Pearlie, was born in 1912, Grandma Angeline relocated to Sharkey County, leaving Aunt Pearlie in Warren County to be raised by her father. Apparently, Grandma Angeline had family in Sharkey County. I opened up that 1910 census page to look at Maria Bass’ household. Immediately, I saw a major clue!
1910 Census – the Robinson Household, Sharkey County, Mississippi
Source Citation: Year: 1910; Census Place: Beat 4, Sharkey, Mississippi; Roll: T624_749; Page: 7B;
Enumeration District: 0085; FHL microfilm: 1374762
Maria Bass Robinson (age 28) was the wife of Will Robinson. This was Will's first marriage because "M1" was recorded. This was Maria's second marriage because "M2" was recorded. Two children that Maria had before her marriage to Will Robinson were in the household. Their surname was McAllister. This was a big clue! Take a look at the 1900 Warren County, Mississippi census below, where I had found my great-great-grandmother, Frances Morris Bass McAllister, and her second husband, George McAllister. Her first husband, my great-great-grandfather Jackson “Jack” Bass, had died after 1880, and Frances remarried to George McAllister in 1888.
1900 Census – the McAllister Household, Warren County, Mississippi
Source Citation: Year: 1900; Census Place: Bovins, Warren, Mississippi; Roll: 831; Page: 3B;
Enumeration District: 0138; FHL microfilm: 1240831
In 1900, the McAllister household was a blended family that contained some of Grandma Frances’ adult children by Grandpa Jack; one of them was Grandma Angeline Bass (age 20). Two of George McAllister’s children by his previous wife were also in the household. By 1900, George and Grandma Frances had two children together, Willie (son) and Annie McAllister; they were also in the household. But more importantly, Maria McAllister (age 18), with her baby daughter Rebecca (age 1), was also in the household. Her marital status was “married.” Maria was reported as being George’s daughter-in-law.
Prior to this, I had assumed that Maria McAllister was Grandma Frances’ step-son’s young wife. I was wrong. Why? Because on Maria Bass’ profile page, Sherri’s husband included the following note: Maiden name: An obit has her down as Mariah Bass Robinson. Therefore, Maria was truly a Bass and appears to have been another daughter of Grandpa Jack Bass & Grandma Frances who was born around 1882. While Grandma Frances remarried to George, Maria married one of George’s sons. Was she truly my great-grandmother Angeline’s younger sister? Well, a second major clue was in the 1920 census!
1920 Census – the Robinson Household, Drew County, Arkansas
Source Citation: Year: 1920; Census Place: Bartholomew, Drew, Arkansas; Roll: T625_61; Page: 11B;
Enumeration District: 48; Image: 772
Thankfully, Sherri’s husband had also attached the 1920 census to Maria Bass’ profile. The family had left Sharkey County, Mississippi and relocated to Drew County, Arkansas by 1920. Maybe that was the reason why Aunt Pearlie never mentioned them. By 1920, Maria and Will Robinson now had a total of eight children together. However, the second major clue was that a young man named Will McAllister was living in the household. He was reported as the head of household's brother-in-law! Bingo! As previously mentioned from the 1900 census, Will (Willie) McAllister was indeed Grandma Frances’ son with her second husband.
Therefore, Sherri and I are a DNA match in AncestryDNA as predicted 4th cousins because our great-grandmothers were sisters! We are actually 3rd cousins. Her match to me identified a new sister that I had not included on my family tree. To add, this new sister – Aunt Maria(h) Bass McAllister Robinson – had 10 additional children with her second husband, Will Robinson, for a total of 13. All this time, my father and I thought that this branch of his biological mother’s family tree had basically “died out.”
There are three things that made this DNA connection very discoverable:
(1) A public family tree was included on Sherri’s AncestryDNA profile.
(2) Census records were attached to her ancestors’ profiles, which allows DNA matches to see where they were living.
(3) Sherri’s husband included an important note on her ancestor’s profile about her maiden name.
This blog post is not to suggest that if people have a viewable family tree available, family connections will be made within an hour. That is not the case at all. However, family connections can indeed be found more quickly if family trees are available for DNA matches to view. Again…show me the family tree!