The Steve McQueen Connection

Maybe you’re one of those hard-to-shop-for people who already has  everything.  So, for a holiday gift this year, maybe you got a DNA test kit from Ancestry.com or another company that was advertising them at a cut rate.  You spit in the tube, send it off, find out what the pie chart of your ethnicity shows by way of percentages European, Asian, African, etc., then what?

We did the test a few years ago, after I was charmed by an Ancestry.com vendor at Rootstech.

test kit jennyskip
test kit

Oddly (to me), most of the DNA connections I’ve found through ancestry.com  have no pedigree listed on the site at all, so I have no earthly idea how I’m related to them. You can go and see what matches you have in common with them, and then presume that you’re related to them through a common ancestor from the match in common. But when you have some Smiths, Williams’s, and other such very common names in the various ancestral lines, it could be any one of them.

For one thing, my parents’ few siblings had no children, so I have no first cousins. The second cousins should be the descendants of my grandparents’ siblings.  So I would have at least 4 common ancestors with a DNA match who is a second cousin. Third cousins: we would have 8 common ancestors to be descended from.  Fourth cousin: 16 common ancestors.  Unfortunately, in the majority of my matches, I have to guess which one of the 32 common ancestors the match is descended from. That generation (5th cousin) is my great-great-great grandparents, and most people haven’t gotten that far in their research. But, some people have gotten far. And maybe they can help me, because when you go back many generations, there weren’t  as many people in the world.

Another quirky thing about the DNA test, is that a person inherits 50% of his or her DNA from their mother and 50% from their father. So it is actually possible for a brother to have a DNA match and his sister to not have that match. I have seen that first hand, since my son and daughter both had their test results registered on the site. The DNA match I’m referring to would be at the level of distant cousin.

Ancestry also has an affiliated phone app called “We’re Related.” You also have to link up with Facebook somehow, to get matches. And DNA has nothing to do with these matches, they’re all based on the pedigree you’ve entered on the site, and enhanced by information from other people’s pedigrees, I guess.  So every now and then, we get a notice from “We’re Related” telling us who may be a cousin, and exactly how we are possibly related. This week, for me, it was Steve McQueen.

Me & Cousin Steve jennyskip
Me & Cousin Steve

When we first get the notice of a match, it’s fun and interesting to see who is our distant cousin, but I never took it very seriously, since practically everyone in the US who has colonial ancestors, is related at the level of tenth cousin or so, right?  [Or, as one friend put it, “we’re all brothers and sisters when you go back to the beginning!”]

But it wasn’t until I was reading a blog called A Tree Grew in Oakland that I realized I should be checking the connections given in these notifications, to see if they are feasible. I knew by clicking on the 10 in the notice above, and seeing the ten generations the site came up with for my lineage, that I only had an ancestor for the prior 5 generations. It ended with my furtherest-back ancestor, a great-great grandmother, but they listed 5 more generations previous to hers. You could say that I had a brick wall. I didn’t know where she came from. I still don’t know for sure, but these new connections are feasible, and when I entered some of the information, hints popped up to show that there are historical records that confirm the data.

Another coincidence is that a few days before, I’d gotten a notice that Derek Jeter is possibly my 8th cousin. When I clicked on the 8 to see what they came up for our common ancestor, the lineage included that same great-great grandmother, but this time it showed  three previous generations in her maternal line, rather than paternal like the Steve McQueen connection.

Amazing, do you think that great-great grandmother wanted her lineage to be found? Time to stop all the fun speculation and actually follow up on some of these leads.

As Pat Shaul, the author of A Tree Grew in Oakland, says, not all of the connections on “We’re Related” are correct. But when he wrote that he had some checking to do, it hit me that those speculative relationships from Ancestry.com can be a gold mine of a starting point for research!

3 thoughts on “The Steve McQueen Connection”

  1. Interesting insight into the geneology side of the DNA kit. I gave up with Ancestry dot com a couple of years back, due to their pricing here in the UK. They advertise unlimited searches for the subscription. I discovered however that every time I found a match, they wanted more money to view the details. After paying what was (to me) a significant sum of money for the membership etc. I was taken aback that every search would cost, despite them being advertised as free. I mean, what use is a free search if you are unable to access the results? That’s just stupid.
    There’s a saying here in Scotland, “We’re all Jock Thompson’s bairns,” which translates to pretty much the same as “we’re all brothers and sisters when you go back to the beginning!”

    1. Sorry, Tom, I did not realize the pricing is so different in the UK. We used to pay for the ancestry.com world version, which was about $300 per year, very expensive, but with no additional charge for a search or to view details. Then we got the lds partner version, which is free to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but also just limited to the US, because we live in the US. We both have lots of UK ancestors so every once in a while we pay for Findmypast.com the UK version, by the month, if we want to do some research. I’ve heard that My Heritage will accept DNA info from ancestry or another DNA site, but I’m not sure of the pricing on My Heritage. On familysearch.org you can do all the pedigree building and researching you want for free, but of course there’s no DNA aspect on that site.

  2. Thanks for the information about “We’re Related” app. I asked my hubby for the DNA kit for Christmas and found out after that he had already bought a kit for each of us two weeks before I asked. I’ve only gone back 4 generation so far; however I am enjoying the process of finding out information that I never knew…yep, I’ve fallen down the ancestry rabbit hole 🙂

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