Thursday, November 3, 2016

Mirror Trees for Genetic Genealogy

In September, my fellow genealogist, Monique Bunch, made a wonderful presentation to our DNA Special Interest Group on the use of Mirror Trees at  The mirror tree technique has grown out of the need to get more clues and even a little clarity about those pages and pages of DNA matches at AncestryDNA. We were all looking forward to her presentation as she had made a real breakthrough with the technique on the afternoon of a lecture series presented by Blaine Bettinger. She was positively glowing with excitement and her enthusiasm was infectious. She is definitely a genealogy girl after my own heart.

Without further ado, and at Monique's request, I am posting her notes from that presentation here to share with our fellow SIG members and other curious tree builders.


Mirror Trees – Why create them?  What does my DNA test have to do with it?

By Monique Bunch, NC

There are many reasons to create a Mirror Tree and attach your DNA test to that tree.  First to understand is a Mirror Tree recreates the tree of another person.  This allows their tree to essentially become yours and you now have administrative rights.  If there is a mistake, you can correct it.  It's like having a pencil and paper tree with an eraser at the ready.

Here is a list of reasons I found for creating a Mirror Tree:


Figuring out how a DNA match connects on the paper trail
Find how several DNA matches who seem to all be known to each other are connected
Connect several DNA matches to a common surname and particular line to narrow the search
Surnames are in common but locations are different
No common surnames
Different ethnicity AND the locations are different
DNA match has a small tree
DNA match has a private tree
Research a particular line
Keeps any mistakes I make out of my own tree
Place to keep all kinds of notes

Here is a list of reasons I found for attaching my DNA test to a Mirror Tree:


Any DNA matches in my many pages of them that have the same ancestors already in their own tree will be counted in the Shared Ancestor Hints
I will have a group of persons to look at instead of just one or two
I may force a DNA circle
I can climb back generations to the potential common ancestor quickly
I can essentially become any person in the tree which allows me to look at it from different angles
A larger surname list to work
Undiscovered clues in records you may have already looked at (ie, your ancestor on page 5 of a census and your DNA matches ancestor on page 7 of the same census record)
New questions that didn't occur to you before

Here is what will not happen:


You will not lose any of your DNA matches from your many pages of them
Your relationship to a DNA match that you have figured out doesn't change (ie, your parent is still your parent, your sibling is still your sibling, your known 1st cousin is still your 1st cousin)  All that was known before you started and your DNA test just confirmed it.  Remember you still need a document trail to back up the connection theory or belief.

Here is what will happen:


You will temporarily move your DNA test to another tree
You will temporarily lose your Shared Ancestor Hints because they were created as a result of your true working tree
You will hopefully get a new list of Shared Ancestor Hints*
You will hopefully force a DNA circle*
You will begin to see relationships that were otherwise unknown
You will gain a sense of direction (ie, follow the paternal line on one DNA match and the maternal line on another DNA match)
If you have a parent or parent's sibling who tested and share one of these DNA matches, you know which side of your family to work your DNA match
You can use “DNA” in the name of your match when you place them in the tree

Personal Experience:


I learned about creating a Mirror Tree to force Shared Ancestor Hints within my DNA match list at a DNA workshop presented by Blaine Bettinger.  I already had created a Mirror Tree for a DNA match but hadn't known to attach my DNA test to that Mirror Tree.  Also I wasn't aware that I could attach any test I administered to a Mirror Tree.  I have four tests total I can use to generate more information using this technique.  It won't work with adopted persons unless they have biological information.

My DNA match was K.T. who was adopted but had discovered her biological parentage years before.  K.T. had her DNA attached to her biological tree.  When K.T. contacted me, she was very excited.  I matched she and her son.  My mother also matched them.  I knew the connection was maternal for me.  K.T. was inquiring about her biological mother and whether we were connected there.  An exchange of information and review of her tree caused me to see a familiar surname – Fike.  K.T. had definite connections to the Fike family but I did not.  I only had a listing of DNA matches with that surname as did my mother and my brother.  So that was the first clue for where we should begin.

I started a Fike family tree and began it with the most distant Fike based on our suggested generation distance.  The Fike I started with is her great-great-great-grandfather.  I determined to look through all of my matches with the surname Fike to see if I could connect them to this person as well.  My theory was if they all connected here, then that was most likely our common ancestor.  I could only connect so many of my matches though.  That is until Blaine Bettinger provided me with the next level, attach my DNA test to the Fike family tree.

I put that to the test at his workshop and found many connections as well as moved up a level in my generation connection.  I linked my DNA test to the Fike family tree and chose to be K.T.  When I did so, I learned her relationship to several other matches and placed them in my tree.  Because I had administered my mother's test and my brother's, I repeated the process with each of them.  Now I have a list of DNA matches to use to solve the puzzle instead of just K.T. and her son.  I know that the connection is maternal for me and paternal for her.  I know that the surnames include Fike, Crownover and Jasper.  I have connected DNA matches to the children of Crownover/Jasper.  I have found a similar sounding surname in my maternal line living two doors down from a Fike.  That is an avenue to explore.

I have created a few other trees.  I have taken one of them a step further.  I shared the tree with a DNA match where we are both editors.  S.A.C. can add and delete as she comes up with information.  I began identifying the DNA matches in my list by using (DNA) in their first name.  If it is a shared match, now S.A.C. and I both know how that person is connected to the tree.  Either of us may already know how they are connected to us and that is another piece of the puzzle that we have.  We are collaborating with one other DNA match that we share, J.H.S.  S.A.C. and J.H.S. believe they know their connection and working this tree has given them another look at that theory.  There is more work to do but more people working on the puzzle makes the task much more manageable.

I have screen shots of the Shared Ancestor Hint connections, notes in the Notes section both in the tree and a brief relationship direction in the notes section of the DNA match as well as written communication between my shared matches. 


If there are questions, Monique's contact information is available at the end of the file here or you can contact me through the blog and I can get the message to her.

Thank you, Monique, for sharing your success with mirror trees with us and for allowing me to share your thoughts here on my blog.

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