Would like a tool that finds surname of a DNA match in tree

+12 votes

I've looked, couldn't find such a tool, but perhaps I was blind.  Seems like a common problem, you are notified of a new match on some companies' DNA database, and you check their name and it rings a faint bell that you're sure you have seen it down some related family line, but you have no idea where that is.  I've just been notified of a Davis with about as high a matching total as I've ever seen, 95, and I'm pretty sure I saw a Davis family *somewhere*, but can't find it now, and it's probably a good distance away.  Now if I had a tool "Find DNA match in tree", I assume it would ask for the surname to search, and how many cousins away to try, then come back with a list of profiles with that surname, if any.  It could default to 6th cousin for max distance.

The surname treewidget (profileID/10, e.g. https://www.wikitree.com/treewidget/Jacobson-1250/10) is a good start, but it's vertical only and the DNA match is living therefore a lateral match.  I presume the tool would gather a list of all the ancestors of 5, 6, or 7 generations back, then search all of their descendants.

Since the match is living, I'm well aware that permissions, 'Private's, and 'Unlisted's are likely to interfere, but I would like to at least *try* to locate them, or their parent or grandparent.

I'm sure some will say just contact them directly, but some of us aren't very social, and have trouble cold-emailing strangers (plus they often don't respond).  Many of you find it easy though, and won't be interested in a tool like this.

in WikiTree Tech by Rob Jacobson G2G6 Pilot (128k points)
First, I sincerely apologize for how badly sidetracked I got (actually, sidetracked from the last sidetrack, which was a sidetrack from other sidetracks ...).  I in no way meant to drop this, just got totally tied up in other projects, and work and life.  Still am actually ...

I really appreciate all of the responses, amazingly prompt too! (Not like me!)  As far as I could, I examined and tried each of the methods.  I found a fifth method also - use Geni's tools to find matching names then how they relate to you, and it turned out to be successful, indirectly.  This B Davis was unconnected, but had her grandfather listed, and I recognized him as a son of a brother of my grandfather.  This exposed another issue in that Davis appears to be her married name, and no tool is likely to be useful for finding someone who is living *and* using their married name!  In this case, Davis was not a surname by blood.  (I still haven't found the other Davis's that *are* related by blood.)

What quickly became evident was a major flaw with every method - no tool can search for something that is not there!  You can only find people that have been entered and are accessible within the database of that tool or site.  I don't know how Andreas handles his database, but it's unlikely you can match someone who hasn't been manually entered.  For WikiTree tools, you can't find anyone that hasn't been entered into WikiTree, or is hidden.  And the same with Geni, you can't find 'what ain't there'.  That's a problem because most of us work with multiple tools and databases, and when a name pops up, we can't remember if we saw that surname in WikiTree, FamilySearch, an Ancestry tree or AncestryDNA, on FindAGrave, on Geni, on FTDNA, etc etc.  To some extent, that's not solvable, and we'll have to try tools on each one.  Perhaps Andreas (for version 2!) can add the capability to build a client database by pulling basic tree info from WikiTree, FamilySearch, Geni, and any other publicly accessible tree, including some Ancestry trees.  All he should need is a link to an anchor person from each, and later a conflict handling mechanism.  Could be refreshed on demand, when you want to use the tool.

4 Answers

+7 votes
Best answer
Try going to your profile’s DNA page (in the drop-down menu under your user-name) and click on the ‘DNA Tests’ button near the top of the page. Scroll down the page a little and you should see a link entitled ‘Test Details & Connections’. That gives you a list of all the related people in WikiTree in range of your test. (If you have more than one test, make sure you use the autosomal one.)
by Suzanne Doig G2G6 Mach 3 (33.2k points)
selected by Veni Joyner
Thank you, that was another tool I didn't know was there!  And it does follow up *and* down, at least for a ways.  It's the only tool that listed both ancestors and siblings *and* quite a few descendants of them.  The problem is that since it follows autosomal rules, it stops after a certain distance, and in my test cases this was somewhat shorter than I expected.  I'm related to certain Carters (fully sourced profiles), and their DNA is marked on some of my ancestors, along with mine.  This list does not include them, but does include some of their ancestors who descended from our common ancestors.  So it's a partial help, but doesn't descend far enough to reach the living ones (and new testers are usually living!).
The URL of the link described by Suzanne Doig is
https://www.wikitree.com/index.php?title=Special:DNATests&u=13827073&id=2  - this link is specific to my results
+5 votes
Our app does this automatically, it finds the same surnames from your DNA matches in either possible triangulated groups (similar to a in-common-with but all are sharing with you on overlapping loci) or within triangulated groups (which is even more powerful and can in many cases lead to a MRCA).

We do have a screenshots of the surname matching graph in our Facebook group ( https://www.facebook.com/yourDNAfamily/ ), you need to scroll down a bit as this was posted a couple months ago.

Please note we will be launching to the general public in Summer, currently still in beta.
Sounds really interesting!  Once it's ready, and I have the time, I'll definitely be trying it.  However, I'm not sure how useful it will prove to be for this problem, for the reasons mentioned above.  Typically, in third party tools, we don't generally make the same effort to enter every ancestor, plus their siblings and families, plus all of their descendants, especially very far back.  I did make a suggestion above, which you can ignore(!), but it would help to solve the problem.

A minor issue - I'm not a very social person, am not on Twitter or Facebook.  I'm not against them, just they don't fit me.  I try not to be a part of the "they are only for announcing and recording your burps" crowd, but sometimes am not far from them, sorry!

I do still want to use your tool once ready.
+6 votes
Your WikiTree Family List at https://www.wikitree.com/index.php?title=Special:FamilyList may be helpful if you include siblings of ancestors in your list.  (After you create the list, search on surnames.)
by Ellen Smith G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
Thank you, I tried this, hadn't seen it before, especially the ways it can be customized.  Besides the flaw above (you can't search for anyone not in WikiTree or hidden), you can't make it include the descendants of the ancestors and their siblings.  What you *can* do, once you find the right ancestor, is look at their Family List, and view and search their descendants.  But if it's a distant relation, you have to go back additional generations, and there are a LOT of ancestors and siblings back there.  You have to guess at the most likely ones, and check each one for descendants, which does work but is time-consuming and laborious.
+4 votes
It's not ideal, but maybe you could get this information by downloading your gedcom of ancestors (which includes all relatives I believe) and then searching that file. Certainly it would be nicer to have an app, but this might work in a pinch :)
by Shawn Ligocki G2G6 Mach 2 (21.4k points)
Thank you, I did try this, but it suffers from the same problems as Ellen's Family List method.  You can't create a GEDCOM from yourself that includes descendants of ancestors.  You can do the same thing as I did with Ellen's method and go to each of the numerous ancestors, plus their siblings, and create and download GEDCOM's of each of them that include their descendants.  You could collect all of these in a folder, then use a file search tool that searches for text within a file, and reuse this each time you want to find someone.  That's a LOT of work up front, and requires occasional refreshing, to keep it up to date.  And of course only includes those currently entered into WikiTree, and not hidden.  But it should work for WikiTree.
Oh, you are right, I thought the ancestors list did have all relatives, but now I see it only has siblings and marriages to siblings of ancestors. It doesn't seem to have grandchildren and further ancestors of ancestors.

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