Working with POISON DNA Segments

Earlier this week Blaine Bettinger posted on “The Danger of Distant Matches.”[1. Blaine Bettinger, “The Danger of Distant Matches,” 6 January 2017, The Genetic Genealogist ( : accessed 7 January 2017). This was a follow-up to an earlier post, “Small Matching Segments–Friend or Foe?,” 2 December 2014 ( : accessed 6 January 2017).] In his post Blaine colorfully calls segments smaller than 10 cM[2. cM is an abbreviation for centiMorgan, defined in the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) wiki as “a unit of recombinant frequency which is… often used to imply distance along a chromosome.” “CentiMorgan,” International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki ( : accessed 7 January 2017).] POISON segments. While I think Blaine is, as usual, right on the money about the risks involved with small segments, I want to share a case where a collection of POISON segments allowed me to solve a puzzle.

A cousin and I were attempting to locate evidence from original sources on the parentage of our ancestor Hannah (Lutz) Frantz (1818-1890) of Tamaqua, Pennsylvania. The Frantz genealogy published by Nancy Joy Hendricks asserts that Hannah was the daughter of Jacob Lutz (1790-1862) of Lewistown, Pennsylvania but provides no source for the relationship.[3. Nancy Joy Hendricks, The Frantz Family of Alsace, Lorraine (Vero Beach, Florida: Nancy J. Hendricks, 2006), 227.] Examination of relevant church, census, cemetery, land, newspaper, and probate records failed to substantiate the link, although there was evidence of some connection between Jacob and Hannah. (Land records showed that Jacob of Lewistown sold land to Hannah’s husband,[4. Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, Deeds, 33: 441-43, Jacob Lutz to Stephen Frantz, warrantee deed, 25 August 1846; Register of Deeds, Pottsville. Also Schuylkill Co., Pa., Deeds, 39: 564-66, Jacob Lutz to Stephen Frantz, warrantee deed, 1 October 1847.] and census records showed Hannah and her husband living close to Jacob.[5. 1850 U.S. census, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Schuylkill township, p. 310 recto (stamped), dwelling 238, family 251, Jacob Lutz, and p. 310 verso, dwelling 246, family 258, Stephen Frantz and Hannah Frantz; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 7 January 2017.)])

Four descendants of Hannah Lutz have tested their autosomal DNA with AncestryDNA: the cousin I was working with (C.S.), her sister (G.S.), another cousin (L.W.), and me. I administer my own kit and L.W.’s kit, while C.S. administers her kit and her sister’s. Searching the Ancestry match lists for all four kits for the surname Lutz turned up three matches with testers whose trees show descent from Jacob Lutz of Lewistown, his children, or his grandchildren.

My kit has a 6.4 cM, 2 segment POISON match with G.M., who is descended from Jacob Lutz’s son Jacob H. Lutz, and an 8.2 cM, 1 segment POISON match with J.S., who is descended from Jacob’s son Solomon H. Lutz. L.W.’s kit has a 9.5 cM, 1 segment POISON match with J.S., and no match with G.M. C.S. and her sister G.S. both have 6.9 cM, 1 segment POISON matches with J.D., a descendant of Jacob’s daughter Salome Lutz, and no matches with G.M. or J.S.[6. Ancestry match list results are as of 7 January 2017.]

I reached out to my matches G.M. and J.S. through Ancestry’s messaging system. J.S. did not respond, but G.M. did! G.M.’s research files included a newspaper article providing direct evidence that G.M.’s ancestor Jacob H. Lutz, Hannah (Lutz) Frantz’s sons Jonas and Jacob Aaron, and others were descendants of Jacob of Lewistown.[7. “War Record,” Tamaqua Courier, 30 January 1897, p. 1, col. 3.] With this direct evidence of these family connections, I was able to locate the probate record of a previously unsuspected daughter of Jacob of Lewistown naming Hannah Frantz as her sister.[8. Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, Will Book 7: 194-195; digital image, “Pennsylvania Probate Records, 1683-1884,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 7 January 2017).]

Are the DNA matches connected with Jacob Lutz POISON segments? I don’t know. My mother, my three cousins, and all have kits uploaded to GEDmatch where segments could be examined, but the Ancestry DNA matches do not. My match with G.M. did, however, lead to uncovering direct documentary evidence of Hannah Lutz’s relationship to her father Jacob Lutz.