The drama a DNA test brings to a family tree

Four years ago, I thought it only would be a dream to know the maiden name of my paternal grandfather’s mother. He didn’t even know her maiden name.

So I was beyond thrilled when a researcher solved the mystery by digging through census and birth records. She was successful with just having her first and middle names, birth year and general area where she was born.

I posted on genealogy forums looking for relatives of my great-grandmother. Some distant cousin must be out there researching the same family when she was one of 9 kids.

It took two years for a cousin to contact me after seeing my posts. His great-great-grandfather was brother of my great-grandmother.

The enthusiasm for finding each other has hardly died down two years later. We continue to exchange family information and write to each other on a regular basis.

A few months ago, I finally asked the DNA test question. He wanted to do a test but couldn’t afford one. With the Russian ruble crashing, spending money on a DNA test was a luxury.

Thanks to the $69 Family Finder test sale at Family Tree DNA over the summer, it was the perfect time to confirm our relationship.  I counted down every day for a month until the results were expected.

The first day the results were expected, the status changed to a delay of two to four weeks. I checked the next day whether the status had changed again. The matches were available. I was excited and nervous.

My cousin had 259 matches, compared to my 209 I’ve accumulated over 5 years. I wasn’t sure about how our relationship would be identified.  I wasn’t the closest match as I had expected.

With that shock, I didn’t have the patience to scroll through 9 pages of matches. I searched for myself by my last name and our common surname.

I was nowhere to be found. This had to be a mistake. To my annoyance, it took until the next morning to get his raw data file. I immediately uploaded his file to Gedmatch to get a second opinion on this DNA testing disaster.

Not one pinch of us matched by DNA, disappointing on so many levels. But I should have known better with doing DNA genealogy for 5 years.


Image from Family Tree DNA

Family Tree Maker designates us as 3rd cousins 2 times removed. I could have increased the chances of matching with his family by having his father take the test.

The most annoying part of this experience was the message from Family Tree DNA that the results were available. The message was sent 27 times. Apparently, this is supposed to be the haha moment.

I am not worried that my cousin isn’t my cousin. A researcher documented the family tree and my cousin has an old family tree that is backed up by family documents.

DNA doesn’t have the precision of documents. As DNA data gets passed down to each generation, there isn’t a magical formula to guarantee certain DNA from each ancestor. Documents don’t change over time, just fade.

Previous related posts:
New Russian cousins found again!
Wondering if my family tree is about to grow

7 thoughts on “The drama a DNA test brings to a family tree

    1. Thanks. Luckily, I used a tool on Gedmatch and my cousin and I have 33 matches in common, but, of course, all are distant matches. I was reminded to use this tool on a Facebook genealogy group page.


  1. I have just gone through the DNA process on my brother who is the closest relative to get results for my grandfather’s paternal line. Tested with all three Ancestry, 23&me and FTDNA. I have also transferred all the tests to Gedmatch with hopes on tracking done someone with shared DNA results. Now I am going through the process of comparing all the results. I didn’t see many people sharing information from the Latvian or other Baltic regions, including the Russian region. What message boards should be used to find family from these regions. Looking for new family names resulting from information from my grandfather’s Social Security Application form. Mother’s maiden name spelled Zalkovskis with a lot of various other spellings Salkowsky, Salkovskis, Zalkowsky. Her first name is Ohrte also seen as Orta. Don’t remember if I has updated this information before after being on so many sites. Thanks for your continued stories and searches for family information. It give me such hope that someday all the pieces of the puzzle will come into focus. Linda Batchelder.


    1. Just found your message in spam…You’re welcome! Have you tried the message boards on Ancestry? I recommend trying any possible Facebook geneaology groups connected to Latvian or Baltic regions.


  2. Jo Fitzgerald

    I do understand what you are saying about DNA. However, what people forget is they only get 1/2 of their parents DNA. If you are going back further than this, remember you might have little or none from the person you are searching for because of the half division. This is one of the problems with DNA is people don’t realize if they go back to let’s say their grandmother’s DNA, The are already at a 1/4 of that person’s DNA and then depending on what side you want to follow, you might find the chromosomes you received are mainly from one grandparent over the other.

    I agree with not many people have been doing DNA from certain areas. I was lucky enough to find 2 people who come from areas around where my father’s mother and her parents came from in Poland (or Russia Poland depending). However, as one area does not have information online, I’ll need to hire someone to go in and see if we can get the information from the church. Due to the lack of documentation, and the language barrier for me, I could not formally lock in where these 2 people fit into my family tree unfortunately. One day I might be rich enough to get this information found.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I finally figured out how to use Gedmatch and we have matches in common. I have found archives in Poland very easy to use. I use Google Translate to write to them and retype what they write. E-mail me if you need any help with Russian Poland. That is where is my great-grandmother was born.


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