John M. Smith case study #16

In 2016, I asked my mother and 3 of her siblings to take DNA tests for me. I also asked one of their 1st cousins on my Smith side to test. I have been working to get as many of the Smith matches into my tree as I can. But other than my own family, very few people have John M. Smith in their tree. If they do have John, they do not have a wife with documentation. How to proceed?

I am NOT a DNA expert. Give me some steps to follow and I can do that. I have watched webinars, listened to podcasts and read books and still feel like I only have a very basic idea of what is going on. But I decided I’d take a leap and see the results.

My theory is that John M. Smith is the John Smith in Mercer County, Kentucky who married Elizabeth Arbuckle in 1798. I know that trying to connect “John Smith” to anyone else’s tree can be overwhelming, so I decided to see if it was possible that my family has DNA connections to the Arbuckle family.

I added Elizabeth Arbuckle to my tree in Ancestry as the wife of John M. Smith. I added a profile picture of the word THEORY so that anyone looking at my tree would know that I had not proven the relationship. I also added Thomas Arbuckle as the father of Elizabeth.

John M. Smith is my mother’s 3x Great Grandfather, making Thomas Arbuckle a potential 4x Great Grandfather. As I understand it, getting beyond a 4x Great Grandparent is next to impossible with DNA, so I’m not sure if any of this will be considered conclusive proof. I am certainly open to input in the comments!!

Using Ancestry’s ThruLines, I’ve been working through the matches and confirming the connections. If you can add the people in the “chain” to your tree, you can connect the DNA match to your tree as well. I only add people in the “chain” if I have records to confirm the relationship. For example, in this portion of my ThruLines matches with Thomas Arbuckle, any boxes with solid lines show people who I already have in my tree. Boxes with dotted lines are not in my tree but are in the DNA match’s tree or in the trees of other people researching Thomas Arbuckle. In other words, Ancestry is looking in the trees of my DNA matches for any Arbuckle names and then tries to tell me how the connection might be made based on other trees in Ancestry and they are showing that this is a hint by making the dotted line around the box. If you click on the boxes that say “Evaluate”, you can see all of the records that others have attached in their tree. I try not to do that because I don’t want to make assumptions that something is correct unless I’ve done the research myself.

An example of my process would be to go to Ann Arbuckle in my tree and see if I can find a marriage record to someone with the last name Lowe. From there, I begin to fill in as many of the family as I can. I try to fill in the family as completely as I can (all of the children for the marriage – not just Vincent) so that I have a better chance of pulling in additional DNA matches. As I get closer to the match, if records aren’t found easily for all family members, I focus on the line of the person who gets me to the match. I continue the process all the way down to the DNA match. Occasionally, I find incorrect information and I’m able to rule a match out, but the majority of the time, the matches work. Sometimes, if I get stuck on finding a marriage from that long ago, I will start with the DNA match and try to build their tree “up” to see if I can make the connection that way. As I update my tree, the Thrulines boxes change from dotted lines to solid lines.

While showing my results here, I do not want to run the risk of revealing anything that would be considered private, so I’m not going to give any specifics. I’m going to show a chart with the matches and the number of cMs shared. My uncle’s kit is not on Ancestry, so he is not in ThruLines and will not be included on this chart. Confirming these DNA matches is still a work in progress, so the chart may update over time.

Matches to Thomas Arbuckle (removing my own DNA testers) as of Apr. 5, 2021:       

Thomas Arbuckle had 2 wives and at least 9 children. All of the DNA matches in Thrulines so far come from 3 of Thomas’s children. And 2 of the 3 children are from Elizabeth Arbuckle’s stepmother. I don’t know if that means anything, I’m just trying to get all of the information together.

Everyone in my chart is either a 5th cousin (5C) or a 5th cousin once removed (5C1R). The majority of these people are actually ½5C or ½5C1R, but the charts I’m looking at don’t have the half relationships for that distant of a relationship. But the lower threshold on all of these distant relationships is 0, so for the sake of this post, I’m lumping them all as 5C or 5C1R.

According to the ISOGG wiki[1], there is a 70% chance that you will share NO DNA with a 5th cousin, so I feel pretty good about the number of matches I do have in my list.

Looking at the 6 cM matches, the Shared cM Project tool shows a 64% probability that the relationship is a 5C or 5C1R. Moving up the scale to the highest cM match, 19 cM has a 59% probability that the relationship is a 5C or 5C1R.

So does this prove anything? I don’t know. I think the probability numbers are encouraging. And the fact that I have this many matches to people who have Arbuckle in their tree is also encouraging. But now, I need to see if I can confirm that these people have the Arbuckle branch that Ancestry is filling in for everyone. And that takes quite a bit of time! But I’m working on it.

Bottom line, I see nothing in my DNA results to prove that Elizabeth Arbuckle is NOT part of my Smith line.

What about DNA matches with John Smith (1809)? I feel less confident about these “trees” because there are several DNA matches who Ancestry has listed as potential matches through children of John Smith who were not listed in John’s will. For this table, I’m only including the matches for children mentioned in the will.

There are soooooooo many things I’d like to do and learn about using DNA for matches this far back. I need to look more at my Uncle’s test, which is on another site that I’m not nearly as familiar with as Ancestry. But I suppose I never will be familiar with it if I don’t get into it! When I think about really getting into the DNA side, I feel overwhelmed. So for now, my purpose is just to see if I could disprove a connection based on my theory. And so far, I think the theory is still a possibility.


[1]https://isogg.org/wiki/Cousin_statistics