I have 393 pages of DNA matches at AncestryDNA. I will never get through all of them. I have no intention of getting through all of them. I have 475 matches at the 4th cousin level or closer. I’ll never get through all of those either–at least it doesn’t seem like it.
I had 12 matches that were second or third cousin matches. I have those figured out. I have figured some of the fourth cousins, based upon their trees, our shared matches, or direct communication with them. I’ll never get through them all. There are always a few more popping up. Determining who they all exactly are has never been my goal–much like it has never been my goal to locate all the descendants of each of my fourth great-grandparents. Roughly sorting them is necessary, if only to help figure out the ones who may contain clues to problems I am actively working on.
My own “sorting” for the fourth cousins matches is initially crude and based upon my own heritage, which generally can be broken up into the following chunks:
- my maternal lines–all 18th century immigrants from basically three very small villages (and environs) in Ostfriesland, Germany, who essentially settled in two adjacent Illinois counties. Many relatives are related in more than one way. Church books and other records have allowed me to extend these pedigrees to the late 16th century. Unless it’s a match whose exact relationship I can easily figure out, I classify it as a “maternal match” and move on.
- my Irish great-great-grandparents–I don’t have many matches here and I use some of the descendants of my Irish great-great-grandparents to sort these people out. I’m really interested in these matches.
- my paternal “Southern” people–two of my great-great-grandparents have almost all of their ancestry from Maryland and Virginia. The families are intertwined. One fourth great-grandmother in this mix was from southern Pennsylvania, which isn’t “Southern” but is in my genetic mix of “Southern” people, so that’s where she gets lumped. It’s too small a segment of my background to separate out.
- my Germans from Southern Germany–my paternal grandmother has grand and great-grandparents who immigrated from probably three areas of Germany in the 19th century. This area is a significant distance from Ostfriesland where my maternal people are from.
- my more Northerners–two of my paternal great-great-grandparents are essentially of New England and New York ancestry–with stops in Ontario and Michigan.
It’s been helpful for me to think about the “mix” of my own background in sorting out my matches. Compounding the problem ever so slightly is the fact that there are two other families other than my own who descend from som
e of my maternal and paternal ancestors. Fortunately those intermarriages are all mid-twentieth century so the number of potential matches who share my maternal and paternal lines (besides me) is relatively small. But it’s always something to consider.
Your heritage will be different. But thinking about how your background “pools” can be a helpful exercise in analyzing your own matches.