Applying My DNA Results To My Research in Genealogy Records

Applying My DNA Results To My Research in Genealogy Records

Sometimes a DNA test alone gives you the family history answers you need. Most of the time, it doesn’t. But you can combine your DNA results with your research in genealogy records to help you identify family. Here's how I'm doing just that. You can learn more about this useful strategy in the Fall 2018 Virtual Conference, Sept. 21-23.

Sometimes your genealogy DNA test all by itself gives you the answers you need about your ancestry. Most of the time, it doesn’t.

So then what do you do? You do what Shannon Combs Bennett will talk about in her Fall 2018 Virtual Genealogy Conference live Q&A, Applying Your DNA Results to Your Paper Trail. The Virtual Conference is a weekend Sept. 21-23 of online genealogy video classes, Q&A sessions and networking.

Fall 2018 Virtual Conference DNA

I’m using some of Shannon’s DNA techniques in my research, and it’s slow going, but I’m starting to see the payoff. Here’s how:


Taking a DNA Test

My dad’s paternal grandparents were Lebanese. They were very young newlyweds when they immigrated to the United States from Syria in 1900.

When I started doing genealogy, I knew only their names, Mike Haddad and Mary Ganem, and that they lived in Texas for awhile. We had a copy of my grandfather, Joseph’s, baptismal certificate, transcribed from the church register in Gonzales, Texas. It named his sponsors, “Lazarus Ganium” and “Saida Markov.”

My grandfather grew up in an orphanage after Mike got caught bootlegging in Texarkana in 1913, and Mary filed for divorce.

After I took a DNA test back in 2015, the first person to message me noticed we had some distant common matches. She also friended me on Facebook and told me we both match people in a Facebook group of folks with roots in the Mount Lebanon region.

Mount Lebanon, my ancestral homeland, in 1886. David Rumsey Map Collection.

My dad also took a DNA test, which helped me find more, better matches on the Lebanese side of the family. But for the most part, our DNA tests were only mildly helpful. I did find some fourth-or-more-distant cousin matches with family trees that had Ganems or Ghanems. Some of those relatives even had birth- and death places near Gonzales.


Researching Genealogy Records

Meanwhile, I didn’t know how I fit into the Facebook group. The members seemed to know a lot about their families, and they posted photos, records and stories. I’d search my dad’s matches for surnames they mentioned, and not find anything helpful. It was frustrating!

Then earlier this year, I noted that a couple of my dad’s DNA matches had family trees with the same person named Ganem from Gonzales. Each match appeared on Dad’s list of shared matches with the other. They had small trees, with only a couple of generations. But the name, life dates and birthplace were enough for me to use genealogy records to identify that guy’s father, and then his father.

I looked in their census and other records for someone who might be my great-grandmother. I didn’t find anyone.

The amount of shared DNA meant these matches were pretty distant cousins of my dad’s. Maybe I needed to broaden my search.

So I started building a family tree for the Ganems, using vital records, censuses, military records and newspapers—just like I build my own tree. I’m adding in-laws and siblings, making the tree as big as I can in hopes of finding someone connected to my great-grandmother.

I’m finding quite a few repeated surnames, with cousins marrying, or siblings in one family marrying siblings in another family. In one family, two sisters each married a Ganem brother. I noticed their mother’s name from the sisters’ death certificates: Sadie Metron. Take a look at the name of my grandfather’s female baptismal sponsor, from the original church register on microfilm:

Fall 2018 Virtual Conference DNA

Sadie Metron is quite possibly the “Saida Markov” from the transcribed baptismal record. I have a good potential connection to my great-grandparents.


Continuing the Connections

And the Facebook group? A member posted a photo of a couple from his family tree. The discussion turned to the names of the woman’s parents and grandparents. A grandmother’s name sounded familiar.  She was in the tree I was building, along with her brother and his daughter—who had married a Ganem.

Mind you, I don’t know where my great-grandmother—or I—belong in this tree. But I know I have a DNA connection to it, and now I also have encouraging hints in genealogy records.


DNA Help and More in the Virtual Conference

Shannon’s live Q&A on Applying Your DNA Results to Your Paper Trail is just one way to learn from experts in the Family Tree University Fall 2018 Virtual Conference, taking place online Sept. 21-23.

Fall 2018 Virtual Conference DNA

The 15 brand-new video classes and three live Q&As cover genetic genealogy, genealogy websites, research strategies for solving genealogy problems, organizing your family history, and ethnic research. The Legal Genealogist (and captivating speaker) Judy G. Russell will deliver our live keynote about preserving family memories through time.

And I especially love watching folks meet each other and exchange problems and solutions on the Virtual Conference message board. See the Family Tree University Fall 2018 Virtual Conference program here, and save $40 when you register today.

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