My First Six “Cousin” Matches on AncestryDNA

I have hundreds of cousin matches on AncestryDNA. I’m not yet certain how many I will eventually try and contact.

The first six matches were particularly interesting for me  as  AncestryDNA grouped them as “second cousins.” The first five matches were indicated as being “first or second cousins” and the sixth was indicated as being a  “second or third cousin.”  A little quick review:

  • first cousins share a set of grandparents
  • second cousins share a set of great-grandparents
  • third cousins share a set of great-great-grandparents

Given my family structure and precluding any “surprises,” I probably knew the second cousins personally or at least knew who they were even if we have never met. My experience is based upon my own family and may not be representative of the experiences of others.

I only have three first cousins and did not expect that they had taken the test. That meant that these first six matches (assuming they were actually second cousins or closer) were descendants of one or more of great-grandparents.

Of my first four matches, the identity of the first two were known by me simply by their username. They were first cousins of my mother (on her paternal side) and are half-siblings of each other.  This makes them first cousins once removed to me (consistent with the range given by the AncestryDNA results). They took the test mainly for reasons of ethnic curiosity. I did not contact them via the messaging on AncestryDNA because I knew who they were and am already friends with one on Facebook.

I contacted the third match via the messaging on AncestryDNA. She is a first cousin of my mother (maternal side) and was someone of whom I was aware. I’m not certain how interested she is in genealogy, but she did respond within twenty-four hours to my request. She would be my first cousin once removed.

The fourth match was for a first cousin of my father (on his mother’s side) with a test administered by his wife. Based upon the username and the pedigree I was able to determine who this person was. Since we are already in contact, I did not see a reason to contact again. He would be my first cousin once removed.

Identifying details removed for privacy reasons

The fifth match was from a test administered by the daughter of the donor. She responded within twenty-four hours to my email telling me who she was. The donor is a first cousin to my mother (maternal side) and would be my first cousin once removed.

The sixth match was from a test of someone with whom I am in communication already. In fact, her mother was somewhat involved in genealogy years ago. The grandmother of this match is a sister to my paternal grandmother. This makes her my second cousin.

I really did not expect the AncestryDNA relationship determinations to be incorrect. In this case, the responses may have been quicker given that I already knew some of these people and that we are fairy closely related.

It is important to remember that people take AncestryDNA  for different reasons. Some want to simply determine their ethnic ancestry and others interested in their genealogy. It is worth noting that some who are interested in their genealogy have a passing interest. Some are rabidly obsessed. That partially impacts the speed with which one gets a response as do non-genealogy commitments that many people have.

We will continue posting about my experiences with AncestryDNA

Your experience may vary. Stay tuned.


Returned from Salt Lake City and the Genealogy Jamboree

I spent a successful week in Salt Lake at the Family History Library with my group. We’ve almost set the dates for the 2018 trip, but wrapping up a few minor details before making an announcement.

Some work was done on my Ohio, Virginia, New York, and Ontario families. We’ll have updates as I have time to put together the material. Always check the Family History Library card catalog to know whether something is only available at the library on microfilm  or whether it is available online in digital form. That allows you to make better use of your library time.

I gave three lectures at the Genealogy Jamboree of the Southern California Genealogical Society. A few new details about the BLM tract books were discovered during the preparation for that presentation. We will be mentioning them in future posts.

If you’d like to bring me to present to your group, please let me know at



Ancestral Clues and Connections: Hinrich Jacobs Fecht (1823-1912)

Hinrich Jacobs Fecht was born in 1823 in Wiesens, Ostfriesland, Germany, and died in 1912 in Elvaston, Hancock County, Illinois. He married Marie Bruns in Wiesens, Ostfriesland, and later married Antje (Jaspers) Habben in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1877. What I’ve learned about research from Hinrich:

  • last names can be dropped. Hinrich is enumerated in the 1870 census with the last name of Jacobs.
  • in some cultures patronyms matter. Fecht is an ancestral surname for Hinrich. Jacobs is the patronym based upon his father’s first name. Hinrich’s children had the “middle name” of Hinrichs and the last name of Fecht.
  • people may be related in more than one way. Several children of Hinrich later married into the family of his second wife. One of his cousins married his step-daughter.

Hinrich is my 3rd great-grandfather. He can be found on my ahnentafel.

My AncestryDNA Results Are In and I’m Surprised

I was surprised just a little with my DNA test results which came in over the weekend.

Using my third great-grandparents as a point of reference (simply because I’m not going to use my 10th great-grandparents to create the percentages for this post), my genealogical ancestry is approximately:

  • 50% Ostfriesen (my maternal side)–which qualifies as Europe West using terms.
  • 12.5% Irish (my great-grandfather Neill)
  • 12.5% German (my great-grandfather Trautvetter)–which qualifies as Europe West using  terms.
  • 25% not known precisely (my great-grandmothers Neill and Trautvetter who have significant ancestry from Great Britain (at least half) with probably a dash of German thrown into the mix).

Based upon my genealogical tree (and not taking into account migrations), I should have been (roughly):

  • at least 12.5% Irish
  • at least 62.5% Europe West
  • at least 12.5% Great Britian


The “thousands of years ago Ethnicity Estimate” doesn’t really help with my more recent research problems. As we will see in future posts, there were other reasons I had for taking the test.

The 12% Scandinavian surprised me as did the 4% Irish. My speculation is that there is some ancient Scandinavian lineage in my Ostfriesian lines and that my Irish ancestors (half of whom are from Northern Ireland) weren’t really Irish at all when pushed back several generations. I’ve got an idea why my Great Britain percentage is so high as well which we will explore in a future post. Ancient migrations are interesting, but don’t help me solve problems from 1850

I’ve got some more immediate interesting results from my test that we will discuss in a future post.


Ancestral Clues and Connections: Antje (Jaspers) Habben Fecht (1823-1900)

Antje was born in Wiesens, Ostfriesland, Germany, in 1823 and died in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1900. She married Mimke Lubben Habben in Ostfriesland and later married Hinrich Fecht in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1877.  Some things I have learned from Antje:

  • wills get denied. The Hancock County, Illinois, judge over probate affairs refused to probate Antje’s will for unspecified reasons.
  • many of your children may have no descendants. Antje had over ten children. Five of them lived to have children of their own, but only three have any descendants living today.
  • ethnicity and social ties matter. Antje married a fellow native of Wiesens within six months after her husband’s death. Five years later her son married her second husband’s daughter. And some time after that, her granddaughter married her second husband’s youngest son.

My ancestor table can be viewed on my site. Antje is my 3rd great-grandmother.

Digital Images on FamilySearch–There May Be Restrictions

I was hurriedly looking at records the last day I was at the Family History Library in Salt Lake. I assumed that whenever I searched the card catalog and found a “camera” as the showing format icon for a microfilm that I could look at it when I got home. I knew some books had restrictions, but it did not dawn on me that local records that had been microfilmed for some time had any such issues.

So when I saw a reference to a land entry book for Amherst County, Virginia, was in digital format, I decided to wait to look at it until I was home. I wanted to spend my time in the library looking at actual film I could not access elsewhere.


Imagine my surprise when I went to view the images from outside the Family History Library. The records I was interested in were only available for members of “supporting organizations” or when at an actual family history center. Just something to keep in mind for those who are not members of supporting organizations or whose access to a family history center is limited.

What Was the Last Thing You Wrote?

You don’t have to write an entire book–but you should not write genealogical fiction either.

I like to research. It is fun to find things. The “thrill of the hunt” is what keeps many genealogists actively engaged in their pursuit of long-deceased ancestors.  It’s not always so much fun to look for things, but looking without finding is the nature of genealogy.

It may be the nature of life, but that is another story.

Writing that research up, if only for yourself–but keeping in mind a reader who is not familiar with your family–can really enhance your research. The grammar doesn’t have to be entirely perfect. The citations do not have to be in the correct form.

But you should explain your reasoning.

You should explain your conclusions.

You should have sources for your information. You should know what those sources are.

If you’ve never written any of your research up, start small.

Pick a date of an event or a relationship for one ancestor that you had to prove using more than one document.  One ancestor and one event or relationship. That’s a small chunk. It’s manageable.

You might be surprised what you learn in the process of writing.



Ancestral Clues and Connections: Mimke Lubben Habben (1823-1877)

Mimke Lubben Habben was born in 1823 in Velde, Ostfriesland, Germany and died in 1877 in Hancock County, Illinois. He married Antje Janssen Jaspers in Ostfriesland. Some things I’ve learned about research from Mimke:

  • their family may stay behind. Mimke and his wife and children immigrated to the United States in the 1860s. None of his siblings or first cousins immigrated with him.
  • pictures may eventually turn up. I had researched Mimke for over thirty years before a photograph of him was discovered.
  • people do things for reasons. Mimke willed his wife estate in his real estate in 1877, which was to be shared equally after his death. He did not give her any portion of it outright. Based on his wife’s attempt via a will to leave all the real estate to only one child, Mimke may have had a reason for leaving his wife the property the way he did.

My ancestor table can be viewed on my site. Mimke is my 3rd great-grandfather.