Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Determining a genealogical connection using online family trees - Part 2

In my last post, I talked about how to find an online family tree using a Google search. So now I have identified my match, I have found her online family tree, where do I go from here?

How do I find a connection between us?

I will start by looking at her online family tree in pedigree view. I will assume that my match is the home person in this tree marked as "private." This view illustrates my match's ancestry from her to all 16 of her 2nd great-grandparents.

I don’t recognize any of the people listed in the first page of this pedigree. So I start by clicking through each of the arrows one by one to expand the tree. I start at the top with Leroy Beauchamp. Clicking on the arrow beside his name brings up the expanded trees for the Beauchamp-Martin family. This view shows her ancestry back to her 6th great-grandparents.

The Family Finder test says it can find matches up to the 5th cousin level. 5th cousins share the same 4th great-grandparents. So I should be able to find a connection to my match without going any further back in her tree. I don't see any familiar surnames in the Beauchamp-Martin family tree, so I’m ready to move down to her 2nd great-grandmother, Nancy Ellen Layman. To return to the original view of her 2nd great-grandparents, I simply click on the minus button beside Leroy Beauchamp's name. This will bring the original pedigree chart back into view. Next I click on the arrow beside Nancy Ellen Layman. Again, I go through the surnames, but I do not see any in common. I click the minus sign beside her name to collapse the tree and do the same for the remaining 14 of her 2nd great-grandparents (except for Thomas W. Dyer who does not have any ancestors listed).

When I expand the ancestors of Thomas Daniel Dendy, I see a familiar surname - TINSLEY. I wrote about them last week in my Follow-up Friday post. My match's 6th great-grandmother is Rachel Tinsley. This is what it looks like in expanded view:

I hover my mouse over the name of Rachel Tinsley and I see that she died in Newberry County, South Carolina. My Tinsleys were from Laurens County, South Carolina. My curiosity piqued, I then expand the tree further to show me the Tinsley family by clicking on the arrow beside Rachel Tinsley's name.

The expanded tree includes Thomas Tinsley I and II as the father and grandfather of Rachel Tinsley. BINGO! That’s it! Thomas Tinsley I was the 9th great-grandfather of my match and the 10th great-grandfather of me, making us 9th cousins 1x removed. Our common ancestor is Thomas Tinsley II and his wife Sarah Jackson.

Just for kicks and giggles, I kept going, looking through my match's pedigree. I got down to the very bottom and expanded the tree for Nancy E. Minter, another one of my  match’s 2nd great-grandmothers. Doing so pulled up two Hill ancestors. Hill is another common name that comes up a lot when doing the Family Finder test. I didn't recognize the Abner Hill or Tibitha Hill that showed up in this view, so I expanded their trees further. As it turns out, both Abner and Tilitha Hill turned out to be children of Robert Hill and Tabitha Green. And as it turns out, their grandchildren intermarried with each other (see Abner Hill Minter and Charity Chapman in the red box).

To my surprise, I am also connected via Robert Hill and Tabitha Green's daughter Ann Hill who married John Steed in Brunswick County, Virginia. Robert Hill was my 9th great-grandfather. He was my match's 7th great-grandfather, making us 8th cousins, 2x removed (in addition to being 9th cousins, 1x removed on the Tinsley line).

Finding a 2nd connection was the "surprise" I mentioned in my last post. I am not really surprised to find a connection so far back as 8th or 9th cousins. The test is validated or guaranteed or whatever terminology Family Tree DNA uses in their FAQs to go back to 5th cousins with a good amount of surety. After that, the DNA gets diluted. In fact, on their FAQs page, they say that the chance of finding a match to a 6th cousin or more distant is “remote or typically less than 2%.” I have 7 confirmed matches so far and of those 7, 2 are 3rd cousins, 1 is a 4th cousin, 1 is a 5th cousin 3x removed, which can be rounded up to a 6th cousin; 1 is an 8th and 1 is a 9th; and 1 I have not figured out yet.

The reason I'm highlighting this methodology as a post is because when I first started trying to connect with my matches there was a lot of family tree exchanging, especially on And the problem I was running into was that I was constantly getting lost in all the profiles of each individual and then losing sight of exactly how my match was connected to the profile I was looking at. In my genealogy software, all of my direct ancestors are color-coded red. So when I look at the index of names, I know immediately who my direct ancestor is. But in's family trees, especially in the profile view, there are no color coded ancestors.

This is what the list of descendants look like in the profile view. From this view, there is no indication of from whom or how my match is related to Robert Hill. 

I finally figured out that the success to finding a connection to a match is to find the COMMON ANCESTOR and he or she WILL show up in the PEDIGREE VIEW of their tree. I do not have to look at all of the children of everyone in their tree to find my ancestor. I only have to look for the common ancestor. At least this is what has finally started working. So give it a try and let me know if this works for you or not.


  1. Thanks for this helpful walk through, Ginger. I am one of those FF clients who is a bit overwhelmed by the matches and hw obwork with them. This is great!

    1. You are very welcome. I would be happy to help you work through your results if you get too overwhelmed. Just shoot me an email! (ginger dot reney at gmail dot com)