Last week I noticed one of those leaves. You know the sort - the little 'hints' that appear on Ancestry, to indicate that they have identified an item in their records, or in someone else's pedigree, which the company's search tools suggest could possibly relate to someone in my own pedigree. When I first put my tree online, there were over 1000 of these and some of the suggestions seemed so ridiculous to me that I soon decided to ignore the little leaves.
But not this one.
This one was on my DNA account. That's the same pedigree for me, but being matched to a specific group of people as comparisons, people already identified by Ancestry as connected to me through shared DNA.
Excitedly, I checked my match's details. A private tree. Never mind, send a message - and wait. (Did they receive the message? How long should I wait before sending another, 'just in case' the first went astray? Oh, aren't we genealogists so impatient at times!)
I receive a reply. Hurrah!
And, yes, we do appear to have a common ancestor. Or, more correctly, a common ancestral couple. Thomas DOWDING (b. 1768 d. 1857) and Ann WHATLEY (d. 1861), living in Donhead St Andrew. I descend from their son, George , who married Mary COLLINS and my match descends from their daughter Jane, who married a John HOWELL. I show the family on my "DNA Tree" at http://homepage.ntlworld.com/im.griffiths/parryfamilyhistory/personaldnatree.htm (search the page for "Whatley" to find them, as I haven't yet added links to specific families).
The research for this family was mainly carried out by my mother, and it is part of my "Genealogy Do-Over" goals to check her work during this year. But, at the death of Ann DOWDING, the widow of Thomas DOWDING, the informant was a John HOWELL, and I have found some look-ups I did for Mum on Ancestry, back in 2005, relating to the John HOWELL, so we were definitely considering that family as another descendant branch.
John HOWELL appears to have first been married to a Mary (HO107/1175/5/ED8/F22/P6) and had at least four children by 1841. There is a possible death for Mary in March 1849 and, based on the 1851 census, John and Mary had, had further children by then (HO107/1849/62/24). John then marries Jane DOWDING* and has at least three children, Emma J, Georgina and Abigail.
My DNA match is descended from Emma Jane HOWELL.
The Ancestry relationship prediction is that we are 5th-8th cousins. From the genealogical relationships, we are 4th cousins , once removed.
Unfortunately, at Ancestry there is no chromosome browser, so we cannot see where we share DNA. If we could, it would enable us to each identify our other matches over the same area. If those matches then matched both of us there, this would mean we all shared the same common ancestry somewhere on the lines through Thomas or Ann (either their descendants, or, as descendants of one of their ancestors). Thus it would potentially help us find our connection to these other people, who might not have sufficient detail in their pedigrees for us to spot the link from the pedigrees alone.
Also, currently, even though the two of us have found common ancestors, it does not necessarily follow that the shared DNA definitely comes through them - so, finding other matches who share the same DNA segments with both of us would enable us to see whether their pedigrees have the potential to link to this same ancestral couple, which would help to confirm where the DNA actually came from.
I wonder if my match might be willing to upload their data to Gedmatch, so that we can actually compare DNA - currently, transferring the data elsewhere is the only way to make up for the deficiency in the Ancestry provision.
So, there is still a lot to confirm, but at least this 'shaking leaf' does seem to be a hint in the right direction.
[*Jane appears to have been married before as well - a Jane DOWDING marrying an Elias DUNFORD in 1842, with Elias dying in 1843, and a 'Jane DUNFORD' then marrying John HOWELL in 1849. These details do still need confirming.]