Search on a Surname – Using It Part II

A Segment-ology TIDBIT

In Search on a Surname, I proposed a little experiment for my Matches to see if they, too, had an Ancestor I thought they had.

Here is another way to use the same search-on-a-surname/location process. A Match and I found a Common Ancestor, but on looking at his Tree, I thought one of the links in his ancestry was incorrect. So I proposed that he search his Matches for the link’s spouse’s surname/location in one case and search for my version of his link’s spouse’s surname/location in the other case. He reported “many, many Matches” in one case and none in the other. Case closed.

This often works because the Matches to an MRCA couple, should usually also match on the spouse. And Matches with a specific line of descent from an MRCA couple, should also descend from the spouses along that line of descent. From all of their Matches at Ancestry, some of them should be from those spouses who are also their Ancestors. If they list an Ancestor who is not a bio-Ancestor, they should have few if any Matches on that Ancestor. Actually, the same goes for your own Ancestry…

This is a process that may, or may not, always work. There is no guarantee. It’s something to try that might add evidence one way or the other.

[22AZ] Search on a Surname – Using It Part II TIDBIT by Jim Bartlett 20210625

Extending a Match’s Ancestry

Don’t you just hate it when you get a Match sharing 30 or 40 or 50cM, only to find they only have 7 people in their Tree? I know many Matches have no Tree, but I’m focused on the positive here. I’m focused on what may be possible with Matches with small Trees. How can I tease out more from the information I’m given?

Think about all those probable 4C Matches – they share a Common Ancestor only 5 generations back. If they list their grandparents in a Tree, we have 2 of the generations already – only 3 more to determine.

This process works with Matches at any of the companies (FTDNA and MyHeritage primarily, but also GEDcoms at GEDmatch). And any Match you can communicate with who can tell you their parents or grandparents. Of course, it also works well with AncestryDNA Matches (but you won’t have segment data in that case). You may need to extend all 4 grandparents out to the 3xGreat grandparents (4C level). However, a quick look at them might reveal a surname or location to start with.  

Steps to Extend a Match’s Ancestry:

1. Select an Ancestor of a Match. It’s best if the Ancestor has birth and death dates and places. The key is enough information to find this Ancestor in the Ancestry database.

2. Find this Ancestor – at the Ancestry toolbar use Search > Public Member Trees, and type in the known info – then click the orange Search:

Note 1: Usually not much info is needed; just be sure the results posted by Ancestry are the Ancestor you want – sometimes Ancestry proposes a wild tangent…

Note 2: if Ancestry offers a standard for the location, accept it. I had just typed “virginia” in the above, and accepted their standard of “Virginia, USA”

3. The resulting list often has many links. Usually the one you want is at the top. Click on “See more like this” and then Click “View all”

4. Usually just click on the Tree hyperlink at the top of the list – that Tree usually has the most records and sources, but feel free to scroll down the list to see what other Trees are available.

5. This brings up a profile page for this Ancestor. You probably already knew the basics for this Ancestor, but this may present a lot more. But this Ancestor is NOT the one you are looking for – you started with this Ancestor because you wanted to extend the Ancestry for your Match. So, focus on the parents of this Match. Actually, just click on Tools > View in Tree (see red arrow below):

6. This brings up the pedigree view of the Ancestor’s ancestors (see below). If your Common Ancestor is listed here – you’re done – you’ve found the CA of your DNA Match. If not, the CA may be on the maternal side below which is not in this Tree – delete this page and try another public tree.

7. You can also click on any Ancestor in this pedigree – to get their profile page – and then click on Search (on top right of the profile page). This takes you back to Steps 2 and 3 above with a new Ancestor. In this manner, you can “chain” together these pedigree searches in your quest to find a Common Ancestor. And you can always start the process anew, with a different Ancestor of your original DNA Match. Remember – the truth is out there.

BOTTOM LINE: This process allows you to extend the Ancestry of a DNA Match, and, hopefully, find your Common Ancestor. This is an important method of finding Common Ancestors with Matches at companies which don’t have many good Trees.

[22AY] Extending a Match’s Ancestry TIDBIT by Jim Bartlett 20210613

Search on a Surname

A Segment-ology TIDBIT

Here is a process to help me and my Matches. I have a number of my Triangulated Groups (TGs) for which I believe I know the Ancestor back to the 4C to 8C level (3x to 7xGreat grandparent couple). I blogged about CUMMINGS here, and wrote about HIGGINBOTHAM in Chapter 1 of the “Advanced Genetic Genealogy” book (here) – in both cases over 50 Matches in a TG share that ancestry.

So I invite Matches in a TG or a Cluster to try this little expertiment:

1. Open your full list of DNA Matches.

2. On right side of top row, click on Search:

3. This brings up a new row of three search boxes:

4. Type in the surname I give you (e.g. CUMMINGS) in the Surname box; and the Birth location I give you (e.g. Virginia; or Loudoun County Virginia – accept any standardized option offered by Ancestry)

5. Click on the green Search button (under the red arrow above)

6. Hopefully, you’ll get a list of Matches – everyone of them will: share a DNA segment with you, have a Tree, and have an ancestor with the surname and born in the location you specified. This is a huge time saver when looking for Common Ancestors.

This list could have mostly Matches from the same family – in which case your Match probably shares that same line with you. As a further test of this result, most of the Matches should have many of the other Matches in their Shared Match List (they form a Cluster) – it’s easy to check this. I’d call this a BINGO. This list could also be a small random group which doesn’t appear to be from the same family, nor do the Matches Cluster much – in which case it was probably not helpful. But the whole process is not very labor intensive. And in my experience, particularly when the searches are based on strong evidence, the group usually turns out good (and help you and your Match).


1. Very easy to do – a few clicks, type in surname and/or location => get a list of DNA Matches.

2. Efficient – virtually all of the Matches are very likely to yield positive results.

3. Targeted – you establish a fairly narrow target search, and all the Matches meet your criteria. Try it on all the Matches in one TG or Cluster or Shared Match (ICW) list.

4. Maiden names – once you have established an MRCA couple, try the wife’s maiden surname to see if the DNA segment (TG or Cluster) continues back on her side) – BINGO.

5. Which spouse? (usually wife) – try both surnames – hopefully one is a BINGO, the other is not.

6. Given names – if a child of an MRCA couple has an unusual given name, try it – a BINGO means the DNA probably came from that surname. [A non-BINGO doesn’t rule that surname]

7. Bolster evidence – this process may well add to your evidence of a Common Ancestor for a TG. In that sense it is an expansion of a previous post, so there is some overlap.

8.  Brickwall buster – this process looks beyond your end-of-the-line/brickwall. If you have a clue from genealogy records (deed, witness, neighbor, etc.) or even a family story, use this process to check it out. Either a BINGO or not a BINDO is another piece of evidence – explore the surname in more depth, or move on to other research.

Bottom line: Ancestry’s Search is a powerful tool. You are invited to post in the comments about your experience – pro or con – about using this tool.

[22AX] Search on a Surname TIDBIT by Jim Bartlett 20210609