Can DNA Help You Strike Genealogy Gold?

Striking gold for me, means finding a location in Ireland where my family lived. I have oodles of Irish ancestry, it is something I am very proud of, but it is truly tricky research. Paper trails have been researched for years but the link back to the Emerald Isle has been broken on almost every Irish branch of my tree. I am always on the hunt for the pot of gold at the end of my genealogy rainbow. Will DNA be the tool to get me there?


Think of it like this, each one your DNA matches, each cousin, each relative is a colour in my genealogy rainbow.

Screen Shot 2018-03-10 at 8.26.22 AM

Mapping my Chromosome at DNA Painter is very rainbowish!


If I can figure out the connection with my DNA matches I will ride my rainbow all the way to that proverbial pot of gold.

Until recently, resources for genealogists were the paper trails, census, b//m/d, etc. When we exhausted these searches, what did we do? Usually, we would take a break and mull over what our next step would be. There just wasn’t a lot of options when the paper trail ran out. Now we can turn to DNA, which may be able to get us over this hurdle. How? Because once we start finding each other through our DNA matches and exchanging information, sharing our family trees the treasure may be revealed!


How Will DNA Help?

Ok, so you connect with a match at Ancestry, but your trees don’t match, now what? Well, there is the obvious things you can and likely do, send messages back and forth asking about surnames and locations, sometimes you get lucky but often it can go nowhere.  Here is something I that have been doing that has helped me to get further with my DNA matches.

What to do?

It’s simple, invite your Ancestry matches to be a ‘viewer’ of your DNA. Literally, a brick wall fell down because of doing that. Now, I am not saying go out and do this with all your Ancestry matches, be selective. Do this with people you are working with on your family tree, your relative, or a DNA match that you have been in contact with and are comfortable with. You also have the option to remove people from being a viewer of your DNA.

Why Would You?

Simply put, Ancestry is not always telling you the whole truth about your ‘Shared Matches’. It’s not really a lie, it’s just not the whole truth. For instance, if my Mom has a new DNA match at Ancestry, one of the first things I do is look at the ‘shared matches’ and check to see if her first paternal cousin there. If not maybe this isn’t a paternal match. Right?


When I view her cousin’s account low and behold the match is there. That’s right, the new DNA match does connect on her paternal branch. I wouldn’t know this though if I couldn’t view her cousin’s matches. (Obviously, I need a Chromosome browser and more research to confirm, but this is generally speaking when quickly sorting DNA matches).

Now, ideally Ancestry would let me know when my mother and her cousin are both matching someone, but that’s not happening. And it is these smaller segments that Ancestry is not reporting that can hold the biggest clues.

Search for Surnames

I have been working with DNA matches on my mother’s McMahon – McNamara family line. In my mom’s account at Ancestry, the surname McInerney keeps popping up on the trees of some of her matches. I looked at matches in common with these McInerneys and none of mom’s known relatives were there. With that name in mind, I switched accounts to her cousin (which I am added as a viewer) and did a search for the McInerney surname. Guess what? They were there! Some of the same people that match my mother match her cousin! BUT that’s not all, her cousin also has people with this surname show up that are not on my mother’s list.

Hmmm, seems interesting, checked another cousin, same deal.

What Now?

The next step is to reach out to the matches, send a message, see if you can find the link. Find out if they are on Gedmatch. Some are, some aren’t but are willing to upload, some just say no. You have to work with what you got. Gedmatch is great, but the truth is not all these matches will upload to Gedmatch. What to do?…read on.

How we worked around this is by inviting each other as viewers on our Ancestry accounts. And yesterday I received an email from one of the people working towards the pot of gold, the first line says it all –


By sharing as viewers on their Ancestry accounts these McInerney family members were now able to see how their family were linked.

We still have yet to discover how my family fits in, but it appears that my Margaret McNamara’s sister married a McInerney back in Clare, Ireland. We are talking about people born in the 1800s…and as far as we know there is no paper record to be found for this early time period. Simply put WE NEED DNA to find these links.

I doubt I would have even noticed the McInerney name if I had not had the ability to look at my mother’s cousins’ account to see if the match was there as well.

I would like to encourage you to collaborate with our DNA matches, allow matches to share viewing, keep an eye out for surnames and have fun. This is the discovery part that genealogists love. Build your rainbow and keep your eye out for clues, it may lead you to your genealogy gold.

How to add someone to view your DNA,

Step 1.   start on your homepage on your DNAScreen_Shot_2018-03-05_at_6_45_29_AM

Step 2.  Add their username or email address


Step 3.  There is no step 3, you are already done! Your match just has to accept!




Triangulating DNA With MyHeritage

This weekend at Rootstech MyHeritage introduced a new option to view your DNA matches.

To get started (assuming you have already uploaded your DNA for FREE to their site) hover over the DNA tab at the top of the page and select Chromosome Browser.Screen_Shot_2018-03-04_at_11_33_04_AM

You will get to this page where you can start selecting your matches. Once you make a selection they will be added to the top bar. You can select up to seven people for comparison.Screen_Shot_2018-03-04_at_11_33_58_AM

Your chromosomes laid out in a graph style. If your matches also match each other at the same location MyHeritage will highlight this for you by circling it.

*Please take note that MyHeritage has the default set at 2 cM, you will want to change this to 8 cM to get a clearer picture and eliminate noise created by those smalled segment matches.Screen_Shot_2018-03-04_at_11_30_56_AM_1

These are great new tools and I hope more of the testing companies will get on board with offering more options for exploring our DNA matches.

Well done My Heritage!

The Inkwell and the Captain

It’s a simple item, an inkwell that was given to me a few years ago by my great uncle. He said it was an inkwell that had belonged to his grandfather Richard Lee Norton and he used it on his voyages.

Richard was a sailor/seaman born in 1819 in Great Yarmouth, England. His father before him was a shipwright and his brothers all went to work on ships. Richard must have been sailing to Canada where met a Quebec girl Hannah Jeffery. Their wedding took place at St. Andrew’s Church, Quebec City in 1854.

In 1857 his son Thomas was born but Richard was away on the steamer the Montmorenci. Although being listed as a seaman, Captain, and mariner on many of the records, I have yet to find information about his sailing career.

So I treasure my inkwell and hope to find more of the story of the inkwell and the captain.


Sweethearts in the Old County Finally Marry in Canada

This week Amy Johnson Crow has us write about a Valentine.

The article I found about my husband’s 2nd great grandfather fits the bill. Gottlieb Wiesner was born in Poland in 1858. It seems according to the news article from the Winnipeg newspaper that he was in the army before immigrating to Canada with his wife and family.

The Wiesner family settled to life on their homestead near Steinbach, Manitoba and more children arrived.

In 1925 Gottlieb’s wife Paulina Schinkel passed away, and Gottlieb reunited with a girlfriend from his past. Wiesner, Gottlieb m. 1926

Johanna and Gottlieb were married in 1926 when he was 66 years old. They spent two years as husband and wife when Gottlieb passed away. He is buried in St. Paul’s Lutheran Cemetery in Steinbach.

Don’t you just love old newspapers and stories like these!


GottliebPaulina Wiesner.

This photo has been captioned as Gottlieb and Paulina but I have often wondered if it is actually a picture of Gottlieb with his second wife Johanna.



A Name Gone, but Not Forgotten

This week is Favorite Names prompted by Amy Johnson Crow.

Melody is a surname that my family would not let die, a homage to our petit but feisty ancestress Bridget Melody. She was born in 1864 in Galway, Ireland to parents Michael Melody and Dorothy Guinnessy/McGuinness. Her parents would have experienced first-hand the Irish Potatoe Famine and Bridget would have grown up in a community still recovering from the tragedy.


Bridget’s family likely thought there were opportunities for her further afield. In 1879 she traveled solo (as far as we know) to Canada and settled as a domestic in the home of a Scottish merchant.

Bridget was married in 1887 to Samuel Dever in Montreal. When their sixth child arrived in 1897 they passed on Bridget’s maiden name to him, John Melody Dever. (It is possible he was named after Bridget’s grandfather, more research to be done on that).

Bridget had five siblings survive to adulthood but she is the only one that had children. Her descendants have kept the Melody name alive, at the last count, there are twelve descendants carrying the name. Four generations later, the name is alive and well and I am guessing we aren’t done.

The Melody family is not forgotten because we choose to remember.

Bridget Melody-1.

Bridget Melody c1887



My McMahon DNA Breakthrough

A DNA whirlwind of discoveries

I am researching two very common names on my maternal side, McMahon and McNamara, the place, Clare, Ireland. After searching through wills, land records, civil war records, death, baptism, cemetery records, tombstones in Canada. I was no closer to where in Clare they were from.

Once the Catholic records went on-line I searched through them but was still lost, the index, once it was finished, gave me my suspicions. My McMahon family had a total of eight children, three shortly before journeying to Canada in 1851, Matilda (1844), John (1846) and Mary Ann (1849). Matilda not being the most common of names was the focus, and once I found a possible baptism I started searching for siblings. I was able to find potential records, but that’s all they are potential. The location was O’Callaghan’s Mills in Clare.

I was stumped and so I set it aside, focusing on other lines.

A little later I searched through matches my mother had at Ancestry for people with the surname McMahon. I started looking to see if there were on-line trees and sure enough there was a tree with the McMahon surname and the location for this family was, you got it, O’Callaghan’s Mills. Ok, time to make contact and I received a reply, which is almost a success in itself! After messaging on Ancestry back and forth, I asked the question, Would you upload to Gedmatch? At Gedmatch I have uploaded the DNA of seven people who descend from three sons of Michael McMahon. Gedmatch is my go-to place for matching. The reply, Not at this time. Although disappointed I set it aside, but was left wondering.

Another relative tested at Ancestry, another match to this person, another message sent to inform her of this match.

Yesterday, it all began. She messaged me to let me know she has uploaded to Gedmatch. All day I kept checking, I stayed up until midnight….her DNA was still processing.

I hurried out of bed this morning and checked Gedmatch and it was all there. This person matches a descendant of all THREE of the McMahon brothers. Did you hear that…? She is a match to all of the third cousins that have tested!



The new match the top row, my McMahon the rest


Edward McMahon descendant – one tested – a match
Cornelius McMahon – five tested – all match
Michael McMahon – two tested – all match

This match is a first-generation American, her father was born in O’Callaghan’s Mills!

Twenty-years for me, (longer for some of the other people in our family) to find a location in Ireland and one Gedmatch upload is all it took.

Without a doubt, there is a connection between our families. Now, the digging begins as she has both the surname McMahon and McNamara in her tree too!

I end this with GEDMATCH – GEDMATCH – GEDMATCH – upload, upload, upload!

Gedmatch – Quick Tip

Exploring our DNA matches is so much fun. A quick tip when looking at your one-to-many matches at Gedmatch change the selection to the X on the page and see who is matching you on your X Chromosome.

The X has a different inheritance pattern if you are a man you received your X solely from your mother. A female will receive 2, one from her father and one from her mother. It is a different way to explore your matches!


I also recommend more reading about X -Inheritance here (plus there are helpful charts to download).

Let me know if you make any new discoveries!