Evaluating DNA matches: Part Two

Catedral Santa Ana in San Francisco de Macoris. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

My last post discussed how corresponding with autosomal matches may add additional ancestors to your research when family names or places have been forgotten. This post builds on that idea with how you might be able to assist others in adding ancestors to their family tree.

Responding to messages from autosomal matches can have their frustrations. I manage over sixty accounts and frequently the messages I receive do not indicate which account they match. Frequently the amount of shared DNA is simply too small for me to be able to provide any meaningful assistance. (I’ll respond as best I can.) But when I am able to help, it makes the process all the more worthwhile.

This discovery concerns a match on AncestryDNA between my wife and a woman named Casilda. She matched my wife at 127 centimorgans across 7 segments. While I have had my mother-in-law tested on Ancestry (for the reasons I discussed in the previous post), I have yet to have my father-in-law tested there, but since Casilda and my mother-in-law shared less DNA, I could quickly infer Casilda had to be a higher match to my wife’s father.[1] Casilda also said her family was from San Francisco de Macoris, as is my father-in-law. Further, she also matched three children of my father-in-law’s elder half-sister. In evaluating Casilda’s tree, and these close matches, deducing the kinship seemed promising.

The surname Vargas … was the only common surname in their respective ancestries.

The surname Vargas (also written as de Vargas) was the only common surname in their respective ancestries. Casilda’s grandmother Maria Magdalena Vargas had died when Casilda’s father Ramon (who was born in 1927) was only eight years old, and no one in Casilda’s family knew the names of this grandmother’s parents. In evaluating what this number of centimorgans could mean, always referring to the information on DNA Autosomal Statistics, one likely kinship (of several) emerged, that Casilda was a second cousin once removed to Arlene and her cousins.

For this to be their kinship, Casilda’s grandmother Maria Magdalena Vargas would need to be a sister to Arlene’s great-grandmother Virginia de Vargas. Virginia was born about 1893, and her parents married in 1884. I had identified two older siblings born in 1886 and 1892, but there were likely more. Going back to the civil and church records of Virginia’s native San Francisco de Macoris, I identified a total of eight siblings born between 1886 and 1902 (summarized here). Virginia’s youngest sister, born on 18 September 1902, was Magdalena de Vargas![2] This was a perfect fit. I shared this information with Casilda, confirming the connection. She replied that I almost made her cry!

While Casilda could have found her grandmother’s parents from Magdalena’s own marriage record, having Arlene as an autosomal match allowed us to focus our efforts on what I had already researched on this family. I shared what I had on the common ancestry of Lino de Vargas and Maria Antonia Ovalle. Lino’s maternal grandfather, Jose Alvarado, appears at age 16 with his parents on the 1812 census of San Francisco de Macoris. Also on this census is Jose’s paternal grandfather, Juan Alvarado, aged 99, the earliest ancestor I have identified in my father-in-law’s ancestry (and now in Casilda’s!).

Assisting DNA matches with their ancestry when possible can be a very rewarding experience, as can be seen here. Hopefully one day one of your matches may assist you on an unknown part of your ancestry!


[1] Casilda and my mother-in-law shared 16 centimorgans. As my wife shared 127, the overwhelming majority of the DNA my wife shared with Casilda was through my father-in-law. This is another example of a match having shared DNA through both parents.

[2] In these Dominican records, full names are not always listed in every record – Maria Magdalena was sometimes listed only as Magdalena. Similarly, her mother Maria Antonia was sometimes only listed as Antonia.

About Christopher C. Child

Chris Child has worked for various departments at NEHGS since 1997 and became a full-time employee in July 2003. He has been a member of NEHGS since the age of eleven. He has written several articles in American Ancestors, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The Mayflower Descendant. He is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton (NEHGS, 2011), co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2011) and Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus and Alice Nelson Pratt (Newbury Street Press, 2013), and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2014). Chris holds a B.A. in history from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

4 thoughts on “Evaluating DNA matches: Part Two

  1. Great research stories! Thanks.

    Here is another example in which DNA evidence helped focus the search for documentation.

    My spouse found a DNA match to a descendant of Edward Livingston Wolf. We then found more than a dozen DNA matches to descendants of Edward’s siblings. They were plausibly related to my spouse’s great grandfather Ira Wolfe, son of Anna Brenizer and an unknown father. This led us to court records that state that Edward was Ira’s father. Another court record states that Edward was the father in another genealogical mystery in which the descendant is a DNA match. The DNA evidence appears to confirm the testimony of the mothers in both court cases.

    See the notes on our genealogy website at this link:

    1. Chris: You’ve gotten very very good at concisely presenting what could be complicated to read. Your years of editorial experience are showing!

      To the Wolfes: No further information on the Wolfe-Bricker daughter in the 1860 Census or did I miss that somehow? Also, nice dovetailing of DNA and records. I take it Edward went onto a “respectable” life, re his photo!

      1. Oh, I see it now. Forgot to click through at the top of page links. One way or another, that’s a good number of kids!

      2. Yes, in Christopher’s examples and in mine, the DNA matches prompted new searches that led to finding new information about the ancestors in archival records. The records in these examples were already there in the archives, but no one had thought of looking at the specific records until the names and places suggested by the DNA matches came to light.

        In my example, we were already quite convinced about the paternity result based on the DNA matches and the physical proximity of the people well before we found the court records. I first happened on the brief newspaper reports about the court cases months after we had studied the DNA matches. That led to investigation of the court records. Armed with the name of the court, the names of the people, and the date, a helpful court employee was able to find the paper records of the court testimony.

        Yes, Edward appears to have had a very successful life and career in Illinois.

        By the way, the interest of the Pennsylvania Court in such cases in this era (1854) appears to have been solely to establish financial responsibility for the child rather than to punish either of the parents.

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