Home DNA AncestorGenetic Genealogy Brick Wall Case Study | AncestryDNA
Genetic Genealogy Brick Wall Case Study | AncestryDNA

Genetic Genealogy Brick Wall Case Study | AncestryDNA

Join Crista Cowan for a look at how she is using AncestryDNA cousin matches in conjunction with traditional genealogical research to break through one of the toughest brick walls on her family tree.


28 thoughts on “Genetic Genealogy Brick Wall Case Study | AncestryDNA

  1. I'm stuck on my Watson line my 3rd great grandfsther randomly shows up for marriage then disapared after last one was born I have matches for this line all stuck on same person. His wife was married 4 times her 3 child with the Watson was named after her First husband.

  2. If a case of illegitimacy or adoption is found in one's tree, what is one to do about them? Should the nonbiological parents be listed in one's tree in some way? What of the rest of their nonbiological family? If not somehow included, how is one to record their existence so their contribution to that member of your tree isn't forgotten. What of other individuals who were somehow significant to the ancestor's life like close friends? Is there some function available to record them?

  3. Crista? Ive almost finished my entire tree! 4 days of work.

  4. Ive hit a brick wall on my paternal great great grand father AND my Moms great grandparents in UKRAINE! Ill never get anything.

  5. Ireland lost most of their records, so good luck.

  6. Okay, I can not resist to ask this question: are you really barefoot?

  7. Lana K says:

    Oh my goodness, I just found this video and it's nice to know I'm not alone. I have the same situation. My husband's great gpa born 1850 can not be found on a census until a state census in 1875. He died in 1894. Luckily we aren't dealing with multiple spouses like you. I merely want to know who the great great grands are. My husband has a not real common last name and no DNA matches with that last name in their direct lines so our issue now is that the great gpa likely changed his name.

  8. Thanks for sharing this Crista. I just sent off samples for each of my parents for ancestrydna, but have not done so myself. If I have my parents done why would I want to do the test for myself?

  9. Thank you so much for your videos Crista. I have been looking for my great grandmothers parents for the better part of two years. I recently began watching your video's and if I have learned anything it is that sometimes you really need to look outside the box.
    After searching through hundreds of records for information and even contacting the churches where my great grandmother was married and buried I went back through the records I did have. Several census records, and her daughters birth certificate had her born in New Jersey. A marriage record had Westtown New Jersey as her place of birth. This had me stumped because there is no Westtown New Jersey. There is one in New York and Pennsylvania. I looked into them and found nothing. Then I remembered how you said to check out the geographic area of a location. Then it hit me to check on just how close Westown New York was to New Jersey. Sure enough it is right on the border. I then thought could there have been a border dispute between New york and New Jersey in that area. BINGO! While I have only just started to research this, I definetley feel that I am getting closer to the answers I need.

  10. Christa, I made my daughter Editor for my DNA, as she has been doing research for many years. I can "see" her tree, she attached my DNA to "my family tree" on her Ancestry account … how to continue? ALSO we know the 4th great paternal grandparents came here with one son in 1847 – 1849 THOSE three born in England, the next child, born in 50 was born in Ohio! … they must have been dropped in by stork, cause in spite of MANY searches we cannot find any ships list, immigrants with their names! There are SOOOO many errors in "other" trees! Some have this 4 great grandmother having babies born in the US and England the same year! and tho census records show the couple having 13 children…some folks have them with 18 … a real mess! Thanks for reading!

  11. It would be nice if Ancestry.com would give us the use of folders that we can place people in after we have researched them and know what family line they belong to so we could have a working data base of those we don't know. It would also require that when you used the search button it would pull from all the people you have placed in files also. I find that after putting my notes on each person it would be nice if I could just keeping moving down the line and the next time I had time to work on my DNA file it would be people I have not worked.

  12. I would say if you have any direct male lines from John O'Brien might help you find the O'Brien descendants!

  13. Zach Evans says:

    I'm completely stuck on my Croatian side of my family tree, is there a certain document I should be looking for?

  14. Jeffrey M says:

    I have a brick wall because my great great grandfather in Eastern Kentucky was a moonshiner who murdered several people in a dispute. He changed his last name a bunch of times because he was wanted dead or alive. Not much anyone can help on that lol

  15. Another great video, Christa.  Unfortunately, not many people still alive in my family to test so this would probably not help me, but it is interesting to see the process.  Enjoyed meeting you at the NGS Conference!

  16. Christa, I really enjoy all of your videos. You are a very good teacher. Watching your videos have made me a better more effective researcher. I recommend your videos to others. I have an interesting case study. I know who my g. grandfather is. I know when and where he was born, married, raised his children and died. I know this through his marriage, death, cemetery records and his obituary. Unfortunately, these records do not identify his parents names. I know I'm on the right track up to my g. grandparents because I have a DNA match with a known cousin sharing the same g. grandparents. Now have gotten two DNA matches that are common matches to me. One of these matches also is a common cousin match to my known cousin the other is not. The cousin match who matches me and my known 2nd cousin does not know who her paternal grandparents are because her father was adopted. Anyone have any ideas how to work this one out?

  17. ajmexico says:

    Good luck with your brick wall. Aren't you working near the limits of the usefulness of DNA for genealogy? For one thing, after 4 or 5 generations back, you are probably related to just about everyone in an entire region. For example, my parents are both from Georgia, and unrelated. There are people who match both sides of the family with DNA as distant cousins. Also, isn't it right that 4th cousins only have about a 50% chance of sharing "matchable" amounts of DNA? So you are looking for a very weak signal in with a lot of noise. One thing that would help is if there was an option to limit the number of generations back when searching your matches for a surname or location. Ancestry DNA revealed a deep family secret for me. I posted a video on my channel about this. I don't know who my actual paternal grandfather was! I am still working to solve this.

  18. is there a way to send you an email?

  19. by the way christa, if ancestry had a chromosome browser it would be easier to do this analysis. I have a hard time getting users to upload to gedmatch.

  20. I would like to see a video on desendancy research post 1940 brink wall. also techniques getting strangers to take dna tests.

  21. mtpokit says:

    A couple of points:
    1. What I like about the match search for surname is that you can broaden the search by checking the "include similar surnames" box. That is how I found relatives to my grandmother's Graber family who spelled their name Grejber.
    2. This is also how I proved that my 3rd great grandfather moved to Washington after his first wife died in Illinois in 1860. He married a native Duwamish (chief Seattle's grand daughter) and now has a whole other line of descendants, one of whom was willing to take the test I provided. WIN!!

  22. Char B says:

    Crista, at the end of the video you said we could comment on the public Ancestry Facebook page at the end of your link there to this video. I couldn't find it, so I'm here commenting.

    The minute you started the story my brain started clicking.

    I realize you very very likely have already checked out the following, but figured my thoughts might be helpful to others researching this type of brick wall.

    #1 Searching John's enlistment list to see if another O'Brien had enlisted at the same time. Maybe a sibling or cousin?

    #2 Searching the 1880 census with him as the hired hand, to see if there were any other O'Briens on the same census in the same area. Maybe family?

    #3 Searching to see if perhaps there is an O'Brien family that is related to one of his wife's 2 previous husbands. Maybe he came to work for the family because he was a relative?

    #4 Searching those new North American Family Histories that came online, to see if there is any reference to him, his wife, her family, her previous husbands, or her children.

    #5 Checking his wife and her family's earlier censuses, to see if an O'Brien family was living near them.

    I look forward to your next video and to getting updates on how this brick wall is going.


  23. AHindu says:

    Crista, Which Order do I do it in for the DNA?

  24. Kim Holman says:

    I test my theories all the time..I love it!

  25. Very interesting video. I'm just starting to try to use ancestry DNA to help with my research, so this information will be quite useful.

    Regarding John O'Brien … company H of the 7th Iowa Infantry was enrolled at Washington County Iowa in 1861. Might be a way to narrow down the portion of the state he was living in around 1860. There is a John O'Brien of the correct age living in the adjacent county (Henry County) with a farmer named Fielding Turner in the 1860 Federal census. Don't know if that John O'Brien is one of your candidates, or if you have been able to eliminate him as a possibility with some other piece of evidence.

  26. One thought. How many "John's" do you know that have taken the nickname of "Jack?"

    I've never understood why, they're both four letter names. My biggest for instance would be John F Kennedy, who was frequently referred to as Jack by his friends and family.

  27. Thank-you for the presentation. I find the case studies really helpful.

  28. KaosReigns says:

    We have an O'Brien brick wall too!

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