Clusters at Brick Walls

A Segmentology TIDBIT

Finding Common Ancestors with Matches in a Cluster sometimes “stops” at a specific generation – for example at the 3xGreat grandparent [4C] level. In other words, I’ve found cousins up to that generation, but not beyond. When one of these 3xGreat grandparents is a Brick Wall (or an “iffy” Ancestor), that’s probably the reason. The Cluster really goes back farther, but I don’t recognize any Common Ancestor further back.

It’s time to research and take notes.

I see three courses of action:

  1. If a surname is known or suspected, look in the Cluster for Matches with Trees and search them for that surname. Often, when I find one, I can build the Match’s ancestry out from there – looking for a link to my line.
  2. If a surname is unknown, jot down each Match’s surnames and try to find a Common Ancestor among them. Then I build the family around that Ancestor – looking for a link to my line.
  3. Alternatively, look for a common place and time approximately where the Cluster stops. Noodle around for any likely links. Check other Matches in the Cluster for those same links.

I use the Shared Clustering program which shows me the Matches for each Cluster, Common Ancestors from ThruLines, the number of people in their Tree, my Notes, and a hyperlink back to their AncestryDNA Profile. For each Cluster it’s easy to see potential CAs, then click on Match links, and see the surnames in common or call up their Tree for a more in depth review. It goes pretty quickly.

The result of these courses of action have ranged from easy “low hanging fruit” to “Mission Impossible”. In other words – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I try these alternatives because they work in enough cases to encourage me to try more. I hope they will help you.


[22AS] Segment-ology: Clusters at Brick Walls TIDBIT by Jim Bartlett 20200507