Finally! A 23andMe known relationship!

23andMe finally comes through

It isn’t any secret around here that The Legal Genealogist has found 23andMe a very tough row to hoe when it comes to autosomal DNA testing.

23andMe.matchI first tested with 23andMe in February 2011. As of today, I have a total of 996 matches. Three are in the 3rd-to-4th cousin range. Another 24 are in the 3rd-to-5th cousin range. Fifty-four are in the 3rd-to-6th cousin range. And a whopping big 914 are in the most-remote 3rd-to-distant cousin range.

But until this week, I’d been able to positively identify a known relationship with exactly one match — the 996th match.

And that one was a bit of a no-brainer.

I mean, really, since I asked him to share with me after he told me he’d tested there, I kinda had a clue it was my nephew.

Until this week, of my 10 closest matches at 23andMe other than my nephew, six of them hadn’t bothered responded to an invitation to share information even though I’ve had invitations out to them since 2011. One had affirmatively declined an introduction. And the other three, well, we’re still trying to figure out where and how we might be kin.

So to say that I have been distinctly underwhelmed by 23andMe as a useful testing medium is a bit of an understatement.

And then, one week ago today, came an unexpected email. It had the standard 23andMe introduction language: “Through our shared DNA, 23andMe has identified us as relatives. Our predicted relationship is 3rd Cousin, with a likely range of 3rd to 4th Cousin. Would you like to explore our relationship?”

Third to fourth cousin? You betcha. (Heck, I never turn down any request to share info.)

I accepted the invite and, after seeing Texas and Oklahoma on this match’s profile, I wrote back that my mother was born in Texas, her parents had both lived in Oklahoma, and there was at least one marriage in her tree with a surname this match had in her list. So I was hopeful that the match might be on that side, but since the match had German ancestors I couldn’t rule out my father’s German side either.

And the response came: “My mother was also born in Texas. Both of her parents … settled in East Texas…. Cooper, Commerce, Paris, Sulpher Springs, etc.”


Cooper. County seat of Delta County. Paris. County seat of Lamar County. Sulphur Springs. County seat of Hopkins County.

All counties where my mother’s Robertson kin had settled and where her grandfather, my great grandfather, Jasper Carlton Robertson was born.

It took us all of about an hour to nail this one down: this cousin’s great great grandmother was Nancy Arminta Robertson, Jasper’s older sister, fifth of the 11 known children of Gustavus and Isabella (Gentry) Robertson. (Jasper was the baby.)

Among the three testing companies, we now have descendants of five of the 11 Robertson children turning up as matches.

• At AncestryDNA, descendants of William M. Robertson, the oldest son, and George Galloway Robertson, the fourth son and sixth child, match Jasper’s descendants.

• At Family Tree DNA, descendants of Mary Isabella Robertson, fourth daughter and eighth child, match Jasper’s descendants.

• And, now, at 23andMe, a descendant of Nancy Arminta, second daughter and fifth child, matches my nephew and me — both Jasper’s descendants.

Five down. One with no descendants. Five to go.

Any descendants of Bird Alexander Robertson out there who wanna take a DNA test? How about John Elijah Robertson? Martha Wilmoth (Robertson) Crenshaw? Fannie Boone (Robertson) Harrison? Maybe Lillie (Robertson) Enloe Wilson?


You know you want to…

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12 Responses to Finally! A 23andMe known relationship!

  1. Kathleen says:

    Oh that I should be so lucky! My great grandmother Julia Chivers was one of ten daughters and several are still “missing!”
    Congratulations on your success.


  2. Mary Ann Thurmond says:

    Judy, I think there are still a couple of living grandchildren of Fannie Boon Crenshaw Emmons, through her son, Andrew Jackson Buster” Emmons, in Texas. I’ll see if I can dig deeply enough in my “genealogy piles” to find some contact information. Don’t know about the son but I think the daughter might be willing.

  3. Thank you for sharing this great story with us. In my experience, comparing genomes and pedigree charts is the most efficient method for finding the common ancestors from whom two individuals inherited their shared DNA. I eschew surname lists.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Surname lists can still provide clues, Shannon, so I still use them whenever I can. Even in this case, while the location was the major clue, the surname was very helpful as well.

  4. Paula Williams says:

    No Betty McA?

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Hmmm… hadn’t thought of her, but she’d be a good candidate, wouldn’t she???

      • Paula Williams says:

        I’m just glad you actually matched someone rather than waiting for me to come along with the “good genes” and do it! (running away and hoping you’ll forget I said that)

        • Judy G. Russell says:

          Just remember who got the Gentry matches, cousin dear… We’ve both won some and lost some in this genetic lottery! :)

  5. Paula Thomas says:

    I found my first 1st cousin on 23andme. Until then I’ve only found 3rd and 4th cousins. I find it strange though cuz I’m 39 and this person that is supposed to be my 1st cousin is 90. Not sure how that is possible. I didn’t recognize their name but they definitely come from the same town my mom was born. They accepted my invite to connect right away well actually this person’s daughter accepted it and have been talking to her. We haven’t figured out yet how exactly we are related. I need to call my mom and ask some questions. :)

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Remember that the relationships are estimated. This person could be a first cousin once removed at the high end of shared DNA for that relationship rather than a first cousin.

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