I’m doing the Happy Dance (almost)

Updated: Jan 23




Well, it’s been an exciting week. Let’s review my Research Plan

Over the past few weeks, I’ve taken you through my process of working the Research Plan. Last week I discussed using DNA and Shared Matches. This past week has been a DNA week. I’m using Diahan Southard’s book, Your DNA Guide: the Book to go through the process of making sense of the matches. My objective is to identify the mother of Rachel Johnston, as well as Rachel’s siblings. I also have a matche to a descendant of Arthur Johnston, and I’d like to know how we are related.


I don’t know about you, but I have thousands of matches on Ancestry, as well as on 23andme, MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA and GedMatch. I began with Ancestry. I have a paternal 1st cousin who has tested, so all of our shared matches should be on my paternal side so this is the group I’ll be working with.


Identify your Best Known Match. (Southard) “This would be someone a generation younger than the ancestor your looking for” For a 3rd great grandparent, the person you are looking for would be a 3rd cousin…someone descended from a sibling of my 2x great grandmother. If you are using Ancestry, Thrulines might be able to help.

I do have a known sibling to my 2x great grandmother. My genealogy has documented Margaret as a sister. I also have a hypothesis that William is a brother, but have no known matches to him yet. Margaret has 16 descendants identified on Thrulines. For my best match, I picked a 4th cousin descended from Margaret with the highest cM match of the various cousins to me.

I then did shared matches with that person and ended up with 35 matches from 1007cM (my paternal 1st cousin) to about 20 cM. Each person in that list would theoretically be somehow related to Margaret Johnston, so using the “dots” at Ancestry, I marked each one of these people as a Johnston descendant with a yellow dot, and if possible noted our relationship. I created another spreadsheet listing each of these individuals, the number of cM shared with me as well as the number of segments, and the most recent common ancestor (MRCA).

I then did the same with a known Half 4th cousin descended from James and his second wife. The people in this group will only share my relationship to James.

The third group were those related to a Johnston with an unknown relationship to me. We share DNA and her ancestor was from the same area, and her ancestor was a witness at my 2x great grandmother’s marriage, but we don’t know how we are related. This is the Arthur question.


Check the Genetics and Genealogy (Southard). Now the fun part…you get to do genealogy. For each of these people, try to figure out where they fit. When you run into the dreaded No Tree, Private Tree, or Tree with 3 people check other sources. Is the person listed in someone else’s tree? Put the information in an Ancestry (or other database) search and select only Family Trees for the result. Can you find a connection in that tree? And of course, message the person. I probably sent out 15 messages in the last few weeks with few responses (but I did get a response this week from a message I sent in 2018). Now that I’m keeping a log of my messages, I’ll wait a couple of weeks and try again. I usually add a line in the second message that says, if you are not interested in research, please let me know and I won’t contact you again. I’ll also check Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to see if they have a profile since some people have not logged in recently. When I message people I always give my email address to try and move them off the messaging platform. That allows me to send them a chart of our relationship and other documents to get them interested. I'm continuing to work on this step.


What about the Happy Dance? Back at the end of December when I had gone through and updated my Trees at Ancestry and MyHeritage, I got a message about a match and did I want to move 40 people into my tree…NO! But I did check out the Tree and a descendant of William was listed in a tree as the ex-wife of the tree owner. I messaged him indicating I was interested in his wife’s family and would be forward my information or put me in touch with her. Not surprisingly, no response. I had forwarded my spreadsheet on matches to my half 4th cousin and she came back and mentioned two additional people I hadn’t picked up because they were on 23andme. So I jumped over into 23andme and did shared matches with her there and in checking out the top matches, there was the name of wife of the MyHeritage tree owner. OMG! I had not recognized her name before I did the descendant research on William. That’s the problem…if you haven’t researched everyone, especially the females who change their names at every generation, you won’t recognize these matches. That was about 11 pm last night and I was jumping up and down. I wrote to her right away and she responded this afternoon…yes she was the person I was looking for, her father was George Moore Johnston and yes, she had two brothers and a sister. The amount of DNA shared was in the range to be the 2nd cousin, twice removed that would make William the brother of Rachel and Margaret.

Although DNA is never proof, considering the lack of records and the other bits and pieces I have, it is a strong indication that I’ve found the additional siblings of Rachel and Margaret…William, and a spinster sister who lived with him in both the 1901 and 1911 census, Eliza.


The almost in the title, is that one of her (deceased) brothers had two sons (great!) but one had no children and the other had four girls! The second brother had a son, but he had no children. Therefore I still have no candidate for Y-DNA testing on my Johnston line. But there is still hope. William had two other sons. Because the births were all after 1919, I’ll need to do this research in Ireland. The online records for births have a 100 year embargo online, but can be obtained in Ireland from the GRO. A couple of additional items added to my to do list. I’ll start with the FamilySearch index of births, death, and marriages which goes to 1958 and then pick the likely candidates to pick up the certificates in Ireland.


So keep the faith! If it was easy, we’d probably lose interest.😀

Happy Hunting and Stay Safe!





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