Saturday, March 22, 2014

Identifying descendants in Gedcoms to Compare your DNA to

In my last post I talked about looking for the parents of my ancestor, Mary Polly Allen. When I looked her up in, many online trees had her parents as Colonel Charles Allen and Ann Venable from Virginia. However, when I looked through the online gedcoms that were uploaded for each of my grandfather's matches on FamilyTreeDNA who had Allen in their list of surnames (there were 40 of them), I did not find a single one of them mentioning this ancestral couple. Since I struck out finding Charles and Ann in this list of matches, I decided to cast a wider net, though not by using the same methodology. is a 3rd party website that allows you to upload your DNA results and then compare them to results that were uploaded from the other two testing companies. Since my family and I tested with ftDNA, we are able to compare our results with people who tested with and 23AndMe. I am also able to compare to other people who tested with ftDNA. Why would I want to do this? Because I might want to be looking at lower resolution matches that did not meet the minimum 7cM and 700 SNP threshold that is required by ftDNA to be considered a match. offers several tools by which to find and compare matches; but it also offers some unique Gedcom utilities. One that I have just started using is the search feature. I can "Search All Gedcoms" for an ancestor and it will give me a list of all of the Gedmatch members who have submitted Gedcoms and their email addresses. I can then enter their email address into the Gedmatch User Information Lookup Utility (new) and it will tell me what their kit id is. Then I can run a one-to-one comparison between their kit and one of mine to see if there is a match.

In order to determine if Charles and Ann were my ancestors, I did a search of all Gedcoms for their names and it returned one match to a descendant of Charles Allen's sister Anne Allen. (The email was scrubbed for privacy).

Gedmatch Gedcom Charles Allen

I then entered the Gedcom owner's email address into the Gedmatch User Information Lookup Utility to get a list of their Gedmatch DNA kit ids to compare to:

Gedmatch User Lookup

(In this example, I entered my own email address and scrubbed some names for privacy).

Once I got a list of all of the Gedmatch Kit ids for Charles Allen's sister's descendant, I compared them one-to-one with my own family members who descend from Mary Polly Allen. Remember I am trying to determine if my ancestor, Mary Polly Allen (who married Abraham Huddleston), was the daughter of Charles Allen (who married Ann Venable) who was the brother of the Charles Allen mentioned in the Gedcom above. I can probably determine this if one of my family members is a match to one of this Gedcom owner's family members (he also managed multiple kits like me).

Gedmatch One-to-One Comparison between Allen Descendants

I entered the two Gedmatch IDs into the Kit No 1 and Kit No 2 boxes, and I entered a 1 into the Minimum segment cM size to be included in total. I like to add a 1 here so I can see the values for all chromosomes. Sometimes it's good to see if there is any matching DNA on a particular chromosome and you can do this by putting a 1 in this box.

I compared the oldest family members first: my grandfather and his father's aunt.

Gedmatch Comparison of Allen Descendants
My Grandfather vs Gedcom owner's Paternal Aunt

FamilyTreeDNA recommends to have a minimum of a 7.0 cM segment with 700 SNPs on that segment in order to be considered a match. The relationship between two people is determined by the total of these segments. In this comparison between my grandfather and his father's aunt, the largest segment is only 2.7cM (987 SNPs). This is nowhere close to being a match.

Gedmatch doesn't have such strict requirements. I believe they only require a 5.0 cM segment in order to be considered a match. When I compared my mother to the Gedcom owner's paternal aunt, there is the possibility of being a match:

Gedmatch Comparison of Allen Descendants-1
My Mother vs Gedcom owner's Paternal Aunt

On Chromosome 8, there is a 5.7 cM segment with 1,232 SNPs of shared DNA between my mother and the Gedcom owner's paternal aunt. There is also a total of 20.6 cM of shared DNA between them. Gedmatch has estimated that the MRCA or Most Recent Common Ancestor was 6.7 generations back. These are just estimates, so they are not exact. If you count my mother as generation no. 1, then James Allen, who is supposedly Charles Allen's father and the father of the Gedcom owner's ancestor, is the 10th generation ancestor from my mother. It is possible that this match with an estimated MRCA of 6.7 is from a different common ancestor all together.

10 generations is pretty far back. In fact, it is completely possible that this DNA test might not even pick up matches to an ancestor this far back! This test is only guaranteed to work back to 5 generations.


These inconclusive DNA results between my family and that of James Allen's family (the Gedcom owner) leads me to believe that my Mary Polly Allen probably did NOT descend from Colonel Charles Allen who was married to Ann Venable. Even though there is a possible match between his paternal aunt and my mother, there are no other matches between any other his other family members and mine, leading me to conclude we are not descended from the same common ancestor.

However, it is possible that this ancestral couple - Colonel Charles Allen and Ann Venable - is too far back to be picked up by the autosomal test. But I really don't believe that is true. Mary Polly Allen is only my grandfather's 7th generation back (if you include my grandfather as generation no. 1). See chart below. I have found common ancestors with 8th and 9th cousins with several of my matches, so I know it's possible to do.

7 generation chart to Mary Polly Allen

But DNA is fickle. Actually, not really. But there are so many factors to consider and possibilities to ponder. My main goal of this post was to show how you can try to verify or eliminate your questionable ancestors by identifying descendants in Gedcoms to compare your DNA to.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mary Polly Allen - My one and only Allen Ancestor

I learned about my ancestor Mary Polly Allen late last year after corresponding with a descendant of Ridley J. Thomas who had left a "post-it note" on another researcher's Rootsweb family tree on Mary's husband Abraham Huddleston.[1] The post-in note mentioned a Thomas family bible that I was very interested in seeing.[2]

The bible stated that Abraham Huddleston was the father of Nancy Huddleston who had married my ancestor William Thomas and that Mary Polly Allen was Abraham's wife.

Mary Polly Allen Pedigree
Pedigree View of my Huddleston, Thomas, and Allen Ancestors
Nova Lee Peters was my great-grandmother

According to the Family bible, Abraham Huddleston was born 13 June 1773 in Bedford County, Virginia and died 1 Feb 1858 in Thomasville, Oregon County, Missouri. His wife, Mary Polly ALLEN was born 20 Mar 1777 in Virginia. It is not known exactly when she died; however, it must have been after 1850 because she was enumerated on the 1850 Oregon County, Missouri census with her husband Abraham and two grandchildren, Henry and Martha Huddleston.[3]

Mary Allen and Abraham Huddleston were married in Bedford County, Virginia on 2 Mar 1793. Abraham's brother Daniel Huddleston provided surety and Nathaniel Shrewsbury married them. The request was made by Ann Allen.[4]

When I plugged Mary Polly Allen's name into's search box and added Abraham Huddleston as a spouse, 254 records were returned.[5] About two-thirds of these results did not have any names assigned to her parents and the other one-third had "Charles Allen" as her father and "Ann" as her mother.

Information on exactly who this Charles Allen was or where he came from was not located. Some of the trees had him identified as Colonel Charles Allen, the Revolutionary War Patriot from Virginia who married Ann Venable. Although there were several online SAR applications on about Colonel Charles Allen who was married to Ann Venable, I could not find any information about who their children might have been.

Since the online trees are notorious for being incorrect and are often bordering on the absurd, I decided to turn to DNA to help me figure out who the parents of my Mary Polly ALLEN might be. I had noticed recently that many of the matches to my maternal grandfather have ALLEN listed in their surnames. Is ALLEN becoming the new SMITH or JONES? I don't think so. But I sure am curious as to where exactly it is coming from and whether or not it is connected to my one Allen ancestor (at least that I had identified so far).

I logged into my Grandfather's ftDNA account and pulled up his Family Finder matches. I typed in "Allen" into the Ancestral Surnames search box.

Ancestral Surnames Search Box Allen

I got 60 matches back. However, the search box also picked up surnames that contained "allen" including "Ballenger." I can mark these off my list. Off these 60 matches, about 40 of them have online gedcoms uploaded to their profiles.

Next, I wanted to see if any of these matches have Colonel Charles Allen and Ann Venable OR Charles Allen and wife Ann as ancestors in their online gedcoms. I click on the first gedcom, then type in "Allen" into the search box and click the "Search Names" button:

Gedcom Search Box - Allen

ftDNA will pull up all of the "Allens" it could find in the tree and give me a list that I can select from:

Gedcom Select Box - Allen

Since there are so many trees with Allen in their list of surnames, I simply looked for Charles in the list above and if I did not see his name, I closed the tree and moved on to the next one.

Unfortunately, most of what I found were females named Allen with no known parents, dates or places of birth. This did not increase my confidence that my Mary Polly Allen was the daughter of Charles and Ann Allen. In fact, if anything, what it did was made me question this relationship even more.

Next Steps....

1)  I want to look more closely at the Allens in each of these 40 gedcoms. Is there a particular Allen that shows up over and over again? If so, then maybe they are our common ancestors.

2)  Find and contact other descendants of Colonel Charles Allen and Ann Venable. Ask them if they have done DNA testing and compare our results using If you are a descendant of this couple, or if you descend from Mary Polly ALLEN and Abraham Huddleston, please contact me.

3)  As soon as the site is back up and running (and fully functioning), I intend to search the online gedcoms there as well. I will search first for my known ancestors, Mary Polly Allen and Abraham Huddleston. Then I will compare any of this couples' descendants' DNA to that of my family. Then I will perform a search for Colonel Charles Allen and Mary Ann Venable and compare their descendants' DNA to mine as well.

Except,...there's just one little problem...I know how to search the gedcoms, but I don't know how to figure out who they belong to, how to contact the gedcom owners or find out their Gedmatch IDs so I can compare our DNA results.

Any ideas? If so, please email me or leave a comment below.


[1] Mary Jo Freeman,, WorldOneConnect File, "Willard and Related Families," accessed 11 August 2013, Abraham Huddleston. Post it note left by Jim Gray citing a Thomas Family Bible. 
[2] Thomas Family Bible, last owned by Jackson Thomas, digital copies in the possession of Jim Gray,
[3]  1850 U. S. Federal Census, Oregon Co., MO, p. 400A, Abraham Huddleston; digital image,, ( : accessed 19 March 2014); citing NARA Microfilm publication M432, Roll 408. Mary Huddleston, 73 yo. 
[4] "Bedford County, Virginia Marriage Bonds Database," VAGenWeb, a USGenWeb Project, ( : accessed 11 August 2013), Extracted from the appendix in Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, Vol VI, Virginia. 
[5], Public Member Tree Search, ( : accessed 19 March 2014); parameters included the following: First Name (Mary Polly), not exact; Last name (Allen), exact; birth (1777), not exact; in (Virginia, USA), exact; death (Missouri, USA) exact; Spouse name (Abraham) exact & (Huddleston) exact.