Mirror Mirror on the Tree

Photo from Sutterstock.com
Photo from Shutterstock.com

I have recently joined a great Facebook Group called DNA Detectives that I believe was started by Cece Moore one of the genealogists on Genealogy Roadshow. It is a group dedicated for those using DNA to locate biological family of adoptees.  Besides being inspired from all of the posts from those that have connected with lost family members,  I have gotten a lot of great ideas for new research strategies for finding my grandfather’s biological family.

I attempted to make contact with a second cousin Ancestry DNA match to my Mother. This match has a cryptic user ID such that I can not even guess one possible surname of this person.  My correspondence with this mystery cousin was at first frustrating as they revealed very little information to me.  I do not think they realized that I do not know any names that we could possibly share in common.  After learning that they do not have a paid Ancestry membership, or a personal computer at home, and  check their ancestry account from the library when they can, I became much more patient, and our repertoire improved greatly. I learned to ask specific questions, and have been very happy with the replies.

I am sure that this person has no family connections to my Mother’s maternal side of the family, and am 99% sure that they are a cousin through my grandfather’s blood line.  Assuming Ancestry’s identification of the relationship is correct, and my Mom and he are indeed second cousins, then they should share a great grandparent.  This cousin graciously provided me the names and birth locations of his eight great grandparents. None of these surnames matched the great great grandparents from the third cousin match I have already been in contact with, and I am excited to have new possibilities to explore.

Ancestry now has a feature where you can see if you and a DNA match have any shared matches, and I discovered that my Mom and this cousin share two matches (excluding their matches to me). Unfortunately, neither of these shared matches have attached their family trees so I can not (yet) determine which surnames of his greats they are matched to. I have sent messages to both of them and have not yet received a reply, but neither of these matches have logged into their Ancestry account in months.

So, I searched for the new potential surnames with my DNA matches, and found quite a bit of matches with two of the surnames, Orr and Hollingsworth.  One of these families are on the paternal side of the second cousin, and the other his maternal side. I decided to start with these families, to see if I could find any connections to  San Francisco in 1920 (when and where my grandfather was found as an infant). I was amazed to find San Francisco connections on both of these trees in the right era.

I then decided to try something I have been learning about in the DNA Detectives Facebook Group, and created mirror trees. This is when you create a new tree that copies or mirrors someone that is a DNA match to you, and then connect your DNA to the tree to see if you have any Ancestry hints.  For Ancestry DNA matches, hints show where you and your match possibly share a same relative.

For the mirror trees I created (Hollingsworth and Orr), I connected my Mom’s DNA to a place where I thought my grandfather could fit into these families. Niether of these trees showed any hints, which means that my Mom does not share any of these names with any of her matches that have trees attached to their DNA.  Since this 2nd cousin nor the two matches my Mom shares with him did not attach trees to their DNA, I am not too surprised no hints appeared. Not surprised, but slightly disappointed.

Although I have not found any concrete clues to my grandfather’s birth heritage, I am happy to have a new tool to help me with my search. I will continue waiting for more matches or replies from the shared matches.  But in the mean time, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to build two more mirror trees for the other two sets of great grandparents this second cousin provided me.  The search continues…

Written by Treena

4 thoughts on “Mirror Mirror on the Tree

  1. Hi Danielle, I feel your pain on Ancestry being slow to accept new DNA links. I was also waiting for days for matches last month. It seems like their website is working better now though. I have never tried to practice with my own DNA, and am not sure how that would work on your own account. That is a good question that I don’t have an answer to. Each mirror tree experience has been different for me, and I do not know if practicing will help too much. I do like the idea though as a learning or demonstration platform! A Gt Gt grandmother brick wall will be a tough nut to crack. I have one of those in my tree too. Do you have any promising DNA match leads to create a mirror tree from?

  2. Hi Treena, I am reading everything I can about mirror trees, having a brick wall of a GtGt Grandmother. To start with, I’m working with a practice mirror of a 2nd cousin. Still waiting on Ancestry to make the changes (about 5 days so far). Meanwhile, I am considering another DNA test of myself to “Play” with but that seems to have some logistics problems….such as “would I have to pay for a new membership”? Can you address this? Any experience? Thank you.

  3. Hi Cheryl, Mirror Trees are an excellent way to increase genealogy knowledge, and am glad that you are learning through the process. The Orr’s in this post are from a mirror tree I built off of a 2nd cousin match. I have not successfully found the shared cousin on this tree yet. THe cousin dis not provide me a tree, but a list of their 8 great grandparents. It is much more difficult to work with that information rather than a tree linking the great grandparents to a cousin. A search of the tree for Howard Orr came up empty. I will keep ypur Howrd in mind though for future work on that mirror tree. Happy hunting! Treena

  4. Hi Treena,
    Just discovered these articles about mirror trees and I am learning a lot! I hope I find the answers I’m looking for about my father’s bio parents. Oddly enough, while reading this article, I noticed you have the surname Orr in your line. Orr is my father’s bio dad’s name according to his birth certificate which we recently rec’d from Missouri. The only name I have for the father is Howard Orr born about 1908. Does that name mean anything to you?
    Hope to hear from you,
    Cheryl

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