A Tale of Two DNA Matches

At RootsTech last month both MyHeritage and AncestryDNA announced new DNA tools and features. For MyHeritage, these were AutoClusters and Theory of Family Relativity (TFR); for AncestryDNA they were enhancements to DNA match lists and ThruLines.

Like everyone in the genetic genealogy community, I’ve been exploring the new tools since they were rolled out. This afternoon I discovered that one of my matches also has DNA kits at AncestryDNA and MyHeritage, and that we have both a Theory of Family Relativity at MyHeritage, and a ThruLine at Ancestry. This gives me a great opportunity to compare and contrast the new tools at the two sites.

I haven’t contacted this match, and I don’t have her permission to share her information, so I’ll refer to her as “Mary Neifert Descendant,” “MND” for short.

I discovered “MND” at MyHeritage before the advent of TFR and entered her into my Neifert descendant tracking spreadsheet. After the TFR rollout, I noticed that MyHeritage had connected us with a TFR, so I explored it. My match to MND is 8.5 cM at the very end of chromosome 11.[1. “DNA matches,” database report, MyHeritage (https:www.myheritage.com : 12 March 2019), for Lois Mackin and (name withheld for confidentiality–“MND”), predicted 3rd cousin-distant cousin; match on chromosome 11 (start-stop points 131328076-134945120), 8.5 cM; documented relationship: third cousins.] This is a very small segment[2. See Blaine T. Bettinger, “A Small Segment Round-Up,” 29 December 2017, The Genetic Genealogist (https://thegeneticgenealogist.com/2017/12/29/a-small-segment-round-up/ : accessed 12 March 2019).]—we’ll address whether it is a real segment later.

The MyHeritage TFR. The TFR connects us with two theories: (1) we are third cousins on my mother’s side, with the common ancestors being Martin Neifert (1841-1912) and Harriet Gerhard (1839-1915); and (2) we are fifth cousins on my mother’s side, with the common ancestors being Jacob Frantz (1786-1852) and Elizabeth Andreas (1788-1865).[3. “Theory of Family Relativity,” database report, MyHeritage, L. Mackin and (name withheld).]

One of the nice features of the TFRs at MyHeritage is that, in the full theory view, paths of relationship showing the trees and records supporting the connection are presented, with confidence scores (expressed as percentages) attached to links within the path, and to the path as a whole. Theory 1, the Neifert-Gerhard connection, has five paths. Theory 2, the Frantz-Andreas connection, also has five paths.[4. Ibid.]

The paths for the two theories draw on 11 MyHeritage trees, two census indexes at MyHeritage, and the FamilySearch family tree. They are summarized below:

  • Theory 1: Third cousins on mother’s side descended from Martin Neifert (1841-1912) and Harriet Gerhard (1839-1915)
    • Path 1, 100% confidence: My tree (MyHeritage) >/100% confidence MND’s tree, (MyH).
    • Path 2, 32% confidence: My tree (MyH) >/37% 1880 census (MyH) >/32% MND’s tree (MyH).
    • Path 3, 27% confidence: My tree (MyH) >/37% 1870 census (MyH) >/27% MND’s tree (MyH).
    • Path 4, 100% confidence: My tree (MyH) >/100% tree 3 (MyH) >/100% MND’s tree (MyH).
    • Path 5, 100% confidence: My tree (MyH) >/ tree 4 (MyH) >/100% MND’s tree (MyH).
  • Theory 2: Fifth cousins on mother’s side descended from Jacob Frantz (1786-1862) and Elizabeth Andreas (1788-1865). Note that in trees 6, 8, 9, and 10 the parents of the connecting children are not Jacob Frantz (1786-1862) and Elizabeth Andreas (1788-1865) but Jacob John Frantz (dates variously given) and Christina Walk (1777-1850).Jacob Frantz (1786-1862) and Elizabeth Andreas (1788-1865)
    • Path 1, 35% confidence: My tree (MyH) >/89% tree 5 (MyHeritage) > (100% confidence) FamilySearch family tree >/35% MND’s tree (MyH).
    • Path 2, 35% confidence: My tree (MyH) >/67% tree 6 (MyH)–parents of connecting children incorrect >/45% tree 7 (MyH) >/100% FamilySearch family tree >/35% MND’s tree (MyH).
    • Path 3, 35% confidence: My tree (MyH) >/66% tree 8 (MyH)–parents of connecting children incorrect >/45% tree 7 (MyH) >/100% FamilySearch family tree >/35% MND’s tree (MyH).
    • Path 4, 35% confidence: My tree (MyH) >/78% tree 9 (MyH)–parents of connecting children incorrect >/45% tree 7 (MyH) >/100% FamilySearch family tree >/35% MND’s tree (MyH).
    • Path 5, 35% confidence: My tree (MyH) >/78% tree 9 (MyH) >/84% tree 10 (MyH)—parents of connecting child incorrect >/72% tree 11 (MyH) >/100% FamilySearch family tree >/35% MND’s tree (MyH).[5. Ibid.]

Ancestry ThruLines. After examining the match on MyHeritage, I was curious to see whether MND had also tested with Ancestry, and whether she would show up on ThruLines. I went to the ThruLine for Martin Neifert, one of the connecting ancestors identified by MyHeritage, and found that Ancestry had identified three DNA matches descended from Martin’s daughter Mary Neifert. One, a predicted third cousin, with one 7-cM segment,[6. “Martin Neifert (1840-1912) ThruLine,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 March 2019); ThruLine for Lois Mackin, showing (name withheld–“MND”) as a match and Martin Neifert (1840-1912) as the common ancestor. “MND”‘s tree shows sound evidence of descent from Mary Neifert (1869-1948), but not from Martin Neifert. The link to Martin Neifert is provided by Mary’s death certificate (Pennsylvania Department of Health, death certificate 60327 (1948), Mary Neifert Jones; “Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966,” database and images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 March 2019).] has the same initials as the MyHeritage match. When I examined her Ancestry tree, I found that she also has the same father and the same maternal grandparents as the MyHeritage match (her mother’s identity is private on both MyHeritage and Ancestry). On the basis of the match size, the initials, and the ancestry, I think it’s safe to conclude that this is the same person as the MyHeritage match, “MND.”

Does “MND” also appear in Ancestry’s ThruLine for Jacob Frantz? She does,[7. “Jacob Frantz (1786-1862) ThruLine,” Ancestry; ThruLine for Lois Mackin, showing (name withheld–“MND”) as a match and Jacob Frantz (1786-1862) as the common ancestor. “MND”‘s tree shows evidence from Find A Grave of descent from Joshua Steigerwalt (1839-1895). The ThruLine then uses assertions from Find A Grave and “Ancestry Family Trees” in a second tree to link Joshua Steigerwalt to Solomon Steigerwalt (1807-1883) and Catherine Frantz (1807-1874), and then to link Catherine Frantz to Johann Jacob Frantz (1786-1862) and Elizabeth Andreas (1788-1865). These assertions are verified by Nancy Joy (Smith) Hendricks, The Frantz Family of Alsace, Lorraine, 2nd ed. (Vero Beach, Florida: N. J. S. Hendricks, 2007), 224-5, who alludes to but does not cite records of Catherine’s baptism and marriage from Schlosser’s Union Church, Neffs (Lehigh County), Pennsylvania.] despite the fact that the tree linked to her Ancestry DNA kit shows no evidence of such descent.[8. “Public Member Trees,” database, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 March 2019), entry for “Private” (i.e., “MND”), daughter of Thomas William Jones (1927-2012) and “Private” (daughter of John Bruno (1891-1982) and Maria Felicetti (1889-1973)), submitted unknown date by beijay0653. beijay0653’s tree shows descent only from Joshua Steigerwalt (1839-1895).]

TFR versus ThruLines. This highlights a key difference between the MyHeritage TFR and the Ancestry ThruLines: while both connect “MND” and me to our two possible paths of relationship, only MyHeritage’s TFR explicitly points out that there are two paths. This is an important point to remember when using Ancestry ThruLines, especially for a distant connection like the one connecting my match and me to Jacob and Elizabeth, seven generations removed from me! To borrow an expression from Roberta Estes’ recent blog post on ThruLines,[9. Roberta Estes, “Ancestry’s ThruLines Dissected: How to Use and Not Get Bit by the ‘Gators,” 11 March 2019, DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy (https://dna-explained.com/2019/03/11/ancestrys-thrulines-dissected-how-to-use-and-not-get-bit-by-the-gators/ : accessed 13 March 2019).] we’re in “gator territory.”

Is it a true match? Given that my match with “MND” consists of only 7 cM of DNA, the question definitely arises whether it is a true match, or a false match.[10. See Bettinger, “Small Segment Round-Up,” The Genetic Genealogist.] We could argue that two DNA databases report it as a real match, and that both Ancestry and MyHeritage phase raw data before assigning matches.[11. “Phasing,” modified 18 December 2018, International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki, (https://isogg.org/wiki/Phasing : accessed 13 March 2019).]

My mother’s kit. In addition, I can use my mother’s kit to verify my match to “MND.” My mother’s autosomal DNA was tested at FTDNA, and I transferred the results to MyHeritage. At MyHeritage, she matches “MND,” with a TFR showing the same two theories as my TFR. Her match, however, is much larger–41.6 cM, four segments.[12. “DNA matches,” database report, MyHeritage (https:www.myheritage.com : 13 March 2019), for Lois Irene Neifert and (name withheld–“MND”), predicted 3rd-5th cousin; matches on chromosomes 1 (start-stop points 62429665-72701100), 11.4 cM; 6 (start-stop points 155815-3644874), 9.2 cM; 7 (start-stop points 13319183-20308751), 11.9 cM; 11 (start-stop points 131174374-134945120), 9.2 cM; documented relationship: second cousin once removed (common ancestors Martin Neifert and Harriet Gerhard) or fourth cousin once removed (common ancestors Jacob Frantz and Elizabeth Andreas).] This indicates to me that my match to “MND” is probably real.

Determining the shared line of descent. Can we tell which TFR/ThruLine correctly identifies the chromosome-11 segment “MND” and I share?

MyHeritage AutoClusters. The segment I share with “MND” is too small for the match to be included in MyHeritage AutoClusters for me.[13. The minimum threshold for the AutoCluster analysis run 1 March 2019 on my MyHeritage kit was 25 cM. ReadMe.pdf, attachment to MyHeritage to Lois Mackin, e-mail, 1 March 2019; privately held by author.] Since the segment my mother shares with “MND” is over 25 cM, “MND” appears in my mother’s AutoCluster report, sharing a cluster with three other matches.[14. “AutoClusters for Lois Irene Neifert,” MyHeritage, 2 March 2019.] Of the three matches, one is descended from Martin Neifert’s grandparents Johann Jacob Neifert (1765-1848) and Maria Magdalena Breiner (1760-1826), one connects to the Kleckner line descended from Catherine Frantz, and one has a one-person tree.

Ancestry shared matches. My match to “MND” at Ancestry has 26 shared matches,[15. “DNA matches,” database report, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 March 2019), Lois Mackin and (name withheld–“MND”), 7.1 cM, 1 segment.] of which 12 have no tree or a tree so truncated that it is impossible to determine ancestry. Of the remaining 14 matches, 13 have Neifert descent (of these 13, 8 also have known Andreas descent; one has no Andreas descent), and 1 has Andreas (but no Neifert) descent.

MyHeritage shared matches. On MyHeritage, I have ten shared matches with “MND,” including my mother. Only the match with my mother indicates a triangulated segment.[16. “DNA matches,” MyHeritage, 12 March 2019, Lois Mackin and “MND.”] My mother also has ten shared matches with “MND,” including me. While three of my mother’s shared matches with “MND” have triangulated segments, only the shared match with me shows triangulation on the chromosome-11 segment I share with “MND.”[17. “DNA matches,” MyHeritage, 13 March 2019, Lois Irene Neifert and “MND.”] Five of the shared matches are common to my test and my mother’s test. Of the five common shared matches, two are known Neifert descendants, two have no or one-person trees, and one has a tree containing an ancestor who connects to the Catherine Frantz line.

Conclusion. Despite its small size, it appears that my match to “MND” on MyHeritage and Ancestry represents a true segment. Attempts to trace the origin of the match using MyHeritage AutoClusters and shared matches at Ancestry and MyHeritage were inconclusive. It appears that the short chromosome-11 segment may come either from Martin Neifert and Harriet Gerhard (more likely from Martin than Harriet) or from Jacob Frantz and Elizabeth Andreas. Tree information and segment data for more matches are needed.