The “Removed” Factor

11 May

The wait seemed to last forever. I got an email from Ancestry DNA saying they were backlogged because of the holiday rush and there would be a delay on processing my results. I continued to wait, stalking my inbox daily. Finally, one afternoon, the email arrived!!!

I don’t know why I was so excited to open it. It wasn’t like I didn’t know exactly what was going to be inside. Surprisingly, I did but I didn’t.

The test came back with all the same countries and regions as the other test, but the percentages were slightly different.  What I liked about the Ancestry format is that they show you the percentages of your genetic makeup on the left side of the screen with a map of the world on the right. If you hover over the different percentages, it will show you that location on the map gives you a list of the countries that are grouped into that region. For those of us who seem to have retention issues with all the geography we learned in grade school, it is helpful to have a refresher 😉 I knew which countries were where, but when your brain is going a mile a minute because it is so excited processing information, seeing the list pop up just makes it that much easier and faster to process. As I am reading results I have bells and whistles going off in my head saying, “this country” and “that country” recognizing some of them from my research.

For a visual person like myself, a presentation like this is fantastic. If you click on the different regions they give you information about the area including historical facts which is fascinating. It tells you not only about the history of the area but also reasons people left their country, even going as far as showing the places in American where they most commonly immigrated to during that time period.

After getting through all of the ancestry information, I decided to take a peek at the DNA matches. It had way more matches than with 23 & Me so it seemed my guess was pretty on point that this might be the more popular service. I had a very long list of what they define as “distant relatives” and 141 members that came back ranked as a 4th cousin or closer.

The majority of these matches were 4th cousins. There were a few who were a little closer in relation.  There were four 3rd cousins. My mind was still blown that a simple vial of spit could actually link me to other people!

Now in the scheme of things, 3rd cousins doesn’t sound that far off. In reality though it actually is. For anyone who is not super versed in ancestry, get ready for a crash course (much like the one I had)! Haha!

A third cousin is someone who shares great-great grandparents but who are not siblings or 1st cousins. So in theory, these four people and I would share great-great grandparents. Sounds simple right? But then you have to take into account the “removed” factor.

A “removed” cousin is a cousin that is at a different generational level. For example, let’s say you draw a family tree. You have person A and person B. You find where they intersect on the tree. From there you move down the branches, counting to find the relationship.  Let’s say that mathematically, according to the tree, they come out as second cousins (they share the same great grandparents), but, when you are looking at the tree, person A is two people further down on the tree than person B. That means that there are separated by two generations on Person A’s side. Therefore, person A and person B are technically 2nd cousins twice removed. That is because they intersect at the point making them second cousins but the generational gap between them makes them twice removed. Because the test does not show generational gaps, instead of coming back as 2nd cousins twice removed, the DNA results would show as 4th cousins. So if your match predicts that you are 4th cousins, you might be just that. Or you could be 2nd cousins twice removed and other possible variations.

Here is one of the maps I used to help me better understand when I first started (I say that like I am a pro now….but I most definitely am not even close).


I wasn’t kidding when I told you it gets tricky. Add in a very tired brain that is new to this process and overwhelmed by all this new information, and it is a recipe for a meltdown. Haha! Needless to say, without some kind of base point (their relatives and my relatives), it would be nearly impossible to try to trace back where these DNA relatives and I intersect.

I also came back with two other matches. One of them fell into the 2nd to 3rd cousin range with the match predicted to be my second cousin. This person had their profile set as private. There was no way to see their surnames or any kind of family tree.

The other was listed in the 1st to 2nd cousin range, predicted to be my second cousin. She was not private which was great because it allowed me to see her information, but she did not have an extensive family tree. Just her, her parents and grandparents on each side and a few great- great grandparents. I opened her profile and looked a little more closely at the match. It showed me her ethnic heritage as well as common matches we shared.

I went through all of my more closely related matches and emailed everyone on the list, hoping to hear back from someone. My emails were vague. How do you tell someone you want to see where you connect but don’t know anything about half of your family so you are not sure where to start? That would seem like an impossible challenge. No sense in them writing you back.

Once again I was left sitting and waiting………………that was until a message appeared in my inbox!


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