Clusters form on a Common Ancestor (CA). We don’t have proof of this but a) it makes sense (why else would our Matches match each other in a Cluster?); and b) it sure seems to work (I’ve found many new CAs with Matches, just by focusing on the CA in a Cluster).
So, with this concept in mind, let’s use our Clusters!
- Known CA – If you *know*, or even suspect, the CA of a Cluster, search other Matches in that Cluster for that CA or location or a collateral line. If a Cluster Match has a good Tree, there’s a good chance you’ll find the CA in their Tree. There’s a good chance multiple Matches in a Cluster will all have the same CA. Armed with a known CA, I’ve often been able to build out a Match’s Tree to that CA.
- Unknown CA – If you don’t have a clue to the Cluster CA, find the most likely CA among the Matches – whether you have that surname or not. Let the Matches tell you the Cluster CA – per this blogpost. This is also effective for Brick Walls and unknown parentage.
- Suspect CA – If some on the internet propose an Ancestor for one of your lines without proof, or if you are suspicious of their “proof”, test out that Ancestor. Look for that surname among the Matches in appropriate Clusters. “Appropriate” means these Clusters are probably on that line. Try the Unknown CA process and see if this same surname comes up. Clearly, if many people have bought into this Suspect CA, this process won’t work (however, then using this process with the Suspect CA’s mother’s surname, may be helpful). Example: During 40 years of research on my NEWLON line, many had heard the claim by one researcher that a spouse was “Martha JANNEY”, but without proof, few used that information. So I decided to test it. Virtually none of my Cluster Matches had the JANNEY surname; but many had the CUMMIN/GS surname. In fact, searching all of my DNA Matches (over 125,000 of them) turned up 17 Matches (down to 6cM) with the JANNEY surname in Loudoun Co, VA – none in any of my “appropriate” Clusters.
Bottom line: Use the concept that Clusters form on a CA. Use it to find CAs with more Matches; Use it to break through Brick Walls or explore Clusters without a CA. Use it to *test* likely or suspicious surnames in selected Clusters – if the CA is correct, it should show up in multiple Matches in a Cluster.
[19J] Segment-ology: Use Clusters! by Jim Bartlett 20200705