DNA Matching Locates a Missing Ancestor Sibling

One thing I don't like about blogging is that writing about an idea may ably make clear that more research is needed. Even though I feel pretty good that this person is who I think she is, more research is definitely required. It would be an odd coincidence that someone of the right name married someone who had an unusual name who appears in family documents. 

In 1870 Addison Lee was living in Penn Township, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.

Adison Lee age 34

Nancy Lee, age 30

Anna Lee, age 9

Clara Lee, age 7

Ira Lee, age 2

John Lee, age 3/12 (born in May)[1]

By 1880 the same family had moved to Monroe Township, Clarion County, Pennsylvania.

Adison H. Lee, age 44, occupation Miller

Lavina Lee, age 36

Annie Lee, age 20

Clara Lee, age 18

Ira N. Lee, age 12
Harry X Lee, age 1[2]

Although there is a change in the wife and the youngest child, the three oldest children are consistent: Anna/Annie, Clara, and Ira. Ira is my great-grandfather.

Addison died 10 December 1880 from a boiler explosion at Turney’s flour mill and Curllsville.[3] 

Probate proceedings were initiated, not because Addison owned a lot of property, but because he had a life insurance policy, and the fraternal organization needed assistance in identifying who should benefit.

The $2,000 fund was distributed to the guardians and divided as follows in April 1881:

Mrs. V.E. Lee Widow 1/6 $326.25

Annie Lee J.T. Lee Guardian 1/6 $326.25

Nervie Lee J.T. Lee Guardian 1/6 $326.25

Newell Lee J.T. Lee Guardian 1/6 $326.25

John Isaac Lee J.T. Lee Guardian 1/6 $326.25

Harry X. Lee G. T. Henery Guardian 1/6 $326.25[4]

On April 1884 Ira Newell Lee petitioned the court for a change of guardian:

“At an Orphans court held at Clarion in and for the County of Clarion the 25 day of Apr. 1884 was presented the petition of Ira Newell Lee respectfully representing, That the petitioner is a minor child of A H Lee late of the Township of Monroe in said county deceased. That on the twenty fourth day of January A D 1881 this Court appointed J. T. Lee guardian of petitioners person and estate the petitioner being then under the age of fourteen years. That he is now over fourteen years of age and prays the Court to admit him to make choice of a guardian for his person and estate and that his estate and that his estate consists of money and amounts to about two hundred and forty dollars. And he will ever pray &C.
And now April 28 1884 on reading the within petition the Court appoint Henry Seabold to give bond on the sum of Two hundred dollars to be approved by the Court.”[5]

There are other documents that include the name “Nervie Lee” as one of the children of Addison Lee.[6] Because all the other children are consistent with their names in the census, it seems clear that “Nervie” is the Clara of the 1870 and 1880 censuses.

A couple of weeks ago, I looked through my aunt’s DNA matches and their trees, and found one match with a dead-end line at Minerva Lee, born in November 1861 who was married to a Henry Seabold! There is much to investigate with this family. In 1900 Henry Seabold was living with his four children in Omaha, Douglas County, Nebraska. His marital status is given as divorced.[7]

It seems very likely that the Minerva Lee who married Henry Seabold in this family tree of a DNA match is the “Nervie” Lee of the Addison Lee probate file. However, searching in censuses would have failed to identify Minerva Lee’s prior location since she was enumerated as Clara. In the known records of the family in Clarion County, the probate proceedings are the only place where the name "Nervie" is apparent. The Orphans’ Court dockets where Addison Lee’s probate proceedings are recorded have not been microfilmed by the Family History Library/ Utah Genealogical Association.

The moral of the story is that sometimes other people have reason to have information that we do not have. Collaboration can result in findings otherwise undiscovered.


[1] 1870 U.S. census, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Penn Township, p. 24, dwelling 164, family 172, Adison Lee family; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll1349.

[2] 1880 U.S. census, Clarion County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Monroe Township, Enumeration District 73, p. 18, dwelling 162, family 165, Adison H. Lee; NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 1117.

[3] “Terrible Boiler Explosion at Curllsville — One Man Instantly Killed,” Clarion Democrat, 16 December 1880, p. 1, c. 1; microfilmed newspaper collection, Clarion Free Library, Clarion.

[4] Clarion County, Pennsylvania, Orphans’ Court Docket F:36-38, Distribution of Funds to Beneficiaries, 14 April 1881; Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, Clarion.

[5] Clarion County, Pennsylvania, Orphans’ Court Docket G:157, Petition of Ira Newell Lee for Change of Guardian, 25 April 1884; Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, Clarion.

[6] For example, Clarion County, Pennsylvania, Orphans’ Court Docket G:55, A.D. Lee Dec’d Petition for Removal of Guardian of Minor Children, 2 November 1883; Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, Clarion.

[7] 1900 U.S. census, Douglas County, Nebraska, population schedule, Omaha, Ward 9, Enumeration District 95, Sheet 9 A, p. 175 (stamped), dwelling 168, family 191, Henry A. Seabold; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 925.

DNA evidence doesn't negate the need for traditional research

My ancestor Mary/Polly Peel was married to John Bohannon in Calloway County, Kentucky, on 31 July 1836.[1] I had found no documentary evidence identifying Mary Peel’s parents other than the fact that there is only one Peel family in the county. A triangulated DNA segment shared with two other Peel descendants added weight to that superficial identification.

However, I had not really done thorough research in the county until May 2017. Although I had searched available probate records and deeds, I had not searched in the court records which are remarkably easy to do in this county. The loose court files are held by the genealogical society which is handily located in the basement of the courthouse. The court file which revealed Mary Peel’s connection appeared in the court case initiated by her brother Henry in 1857.

The petition nicely summarizes the relationships:


Marshall County, Kentucky, Circuit Court file #23, Henry Peel vs. James E. Ford & John Peel, petition in equity, 1857; Marshall County Genealogical Society, Benton. The files have been placed in manila folders and alphabetized by plaintiff.

Marshall Circuit Court

Henry Peel against James E. Ford & John Peell

Petition in Equity

   Plaintiff Henry Peel states that on the 

21st day of March 1835 one Hugh McCracken conveyed

one hundred acres of land then situate in Calloway but

now in Marshall County Ky. to plaintiffs Mother

Elizabeth Peel for & during her natural life and then to

her the heirs of James Peel, (plffs father,) that said Eizabeth

was the widow of said James Peel Decd said Deed is

here filed as part hereof, and reference is made to the 

same for a more particular description of the land

that said Elizabeth by her said husband had seven children 

to wit, Elizabeth, who has intermarried with Jesse

Thompson, Mary Ann who has intermarried with

John Bohannan, David Peel, Ava, who married

__ Moore who is now dead, John, Nancy who married

W. W. Gilbert, said Nancy is now dead & Henry Peel.

[1]FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/004261209: accessed 6 January 2018), digitized FHL microfilm no.1942719 > image 162, Calloway County, Kentucky, Marriage Register, p. 127, Bohannon - Peale, 31 July 1836. This register is a typescript. In an email dated 9 February 2017, the county clerk stated that they no longer had the originals. The state archives has not yet been searched. 

GEDmatch "tag groups"

I'm a BIG fan of GEDmatch. See my other post below on why you should transfer your DNA data to GEDmatch. Lately they've been rolling out some new features and the best is the ability to tag a group of kits to ease further analysis later. 

There are at least a couple of ways to select kits for comparison. One is by checking the boxes next to  entries of interest in "One-to-Many" (your match list). You might do it this way if you already know some people in the list are related to each other, and you want to see where the shared DNA lies. 

I normally use "People who match one or both of 2 kits." After selecting this option, enter two kit numbers—usually yourself or one of your kits and the other person whose relationship you want to establish or discover. 





Using "People who match one or both of 2 kits" allows you to find all the people who match on the same segment as both of the targeted people. It also will select people who match the two of you on other locations, but are related to you in the same way. But the caveat is that it can also select people related to both of you, but through different ancestral lines. Using the "People who match one or both of 2 kits" allows you to more easily find the people to triangulate a segment. Segments shared by others in the group at other locations may lead to additional trianguated groups. 









Select all the names in the resulting list. You might not want to include kits you know to be the children of others. The children can't have any shared DNA that the parents don't have. I didn't select the top two because they are my sons. I've uploaded three of my sons' kits, and only two inherited the (maternal) segment I share with this person who is Kit 2. The other son inherited the corresponding segment on my other (paternal) chromosome. You don't necessarily know that when you're starting this. Because I've already gone through these steps and I know who else matches this other person, I know this match is on my mother's side.  


Click "Submit" at the top after making the selections.







 Click on "Tag Groups." 











Enter a description for the group, select a color, and click on "Add Tag Group with Kits." 















Look back at the menu option where "Kits who match one or both of 2 kits" is located. Below that is the link to the tool "Multiple Kit Analysis." 

You can still use "Multiple Kit Analysis" by entering kits one by one as it's always been in the tab for "Manual Kit selection/Entry." But you can also use one of the groups you've already tagged. Checking the box next to the group of interest will bring up the group you've already established and enable you easily to work with the same group again. Using the interface shown in the previous image allows you to add new kits which also may match some of the same group. 









GEDmatch Visualization Options then allows you to see all the selected kits in a chromosome broswer and in a matrix (how much each person matches the others), and also allows you to download a spreadsheet (CSV) to see how all selected parties match each other by chromosome and segment location. You also can more easily locate their gedcoms. In the 2D chromosome browser, you can quickly locate segments shared by enough of the group to triangulate. Collaborate and discover your common ancestry! 





Sharing a Tree on Ancestry

The purpose for many of us doing DNA testing is to identify common ancestors with our matches. It can be frustrating if you don't have both the DNA segment matching information and the family trees of matches. One has to have both to correctly identify common ancestors. It is not good enough for a person to claim a particular ancestor if we cannot verify the lineage. And we cannot leverage multiple descendants with matching DNA to identify common ancestors without seeing the matching segments. Sharing family trees is important also to be able to eliminate the possibility having shared ancestry in more than one way.  

The solution is for Ancestry testers to transfer raw data to GEDmatch and for testers on GEDmatch and Ancestry to share their pedigree information. Learn how to transfer your DNA data from Ancestry to GEDmatch here.  I understand that not everyone wants to make their family trees public to the world. You can share your family tree information in one of several ways:

  • Create a pedigree chart in pdf format from your genealogy software. Send to DNA matches. Unfortunately because Ancestry users are stuck using the contact forms at Ancestry, you cannot send a pedigree chart until you have shared email contact information. When contacting Ancestry matches, always try to direct communication to email by providing your email address. 
  • Upload a GEDCOM from your software into GEDmatch so that matches on GEDmatch can easily find your family tree. GEDmatch does not privatize living individuals, so you will need to select options to privatize the GEDCOM export from your genealogy software. 
  • Create a tree on WikiTree which is free and offers varying levels of privacy controls. When contacting a DNA match, share the link to your tree.
  • Create a tree on Ancestry. If you want to keep it private, share it with matches when requested. This is the purpose of this post. Some of these posts I am writing are so that I can share more information, particularly with Ancestry testers, than what is easily done via the available contact form. 

Sharing a Tree on Ancestry (detailed instructions)

Why GedMatch?

This post has been updated on 11 October 2019.  

 I have done autosomal DNA testing through all four of the major testing companies (FamilyTreeDNA, AncestryDNA, MyHeritage and 23 and Me). I spend most of my time with AncestryDNA matches trying to get them to transfer their results to GEDmatch. This is to explain why and give me a place to give instructions without having to repeat them.


AncestryDNA tells you only that you match people. It identifies the common ancestor by locating the same people in trees of the match who are also in yours. This may not reliable because you may be related in more than one way or  you may have unidentified ancestors you share. Part of the reason we do DNA testing is to learn about ancestors we do not know about yet.  The matching is only as good as the genealogical work (whether good or bad) that has gone into constructing the trees. 

The other companies (FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, and 23andMe) give tools that allow matches to discover on what chromosome and on what segment on the chromosome people match. It is then up to you to search the genealogies and attempt to discover the most recent common ancestral couple. If two people match on the same chromosome and segment and they discover a common ancestral couple, they can hypothesize