Thursday, August 16, 2018

Color Clustering: Top 25 Fourth Cousins

For more on Color Clustering & DNA, please visit my new website at: 

For another look at how Color Clustering works with 4th cousins, I created a Color Cluster chart then added the test taker's top twenty-five 4th cousin matches. I was able to easily sort all but one of these 4th cousins into Color Clusters!

Original Color Cluster Chart (click here for Color Cluster Method)

Color Cluster chart for actual test taker.
Names changed for privacy.

This test taker's AncestryDNA 2nd & 3rd cousins fell into 4 Color Clusters, labeled C1 through C4, with three "unclustered" cousins.

  • 2nd & 3rd cousins who are in more than one cluster are in redBarbie, Ken, & Mark.
  • 2nd & 3rd cousins who did not have shared matches with other 2nd & 3rd cousins are in "unclustered" columns: Lena, Sue, and Mike.

Color Cluster chart LABELED

Labeled Color Cluster chart

The test taker's four sets of great grandparents were identified from her research as follows:

  • G1 - Bailey/Bowman (father's father's line)
  • G2 - Stark/Dunn (father's mother's line)
  • G3 - Hillard/Morris (mother's father's line)
  • G4 - Washington/Manning (mother's mother's line)
I looked at each cousin's tree and did one of the following:
  • Put a "NO" in the cell if there was not a tree and I couldn't easily identify to which cluster(s) the cousin belonged.
  • Typed G1, G2, G3, G4, or a combination of those in the colored cell if the person had a tree and I could determine which surnames they fit in under OR if the genealogist had done research and discovered the relationship herself. (Note:  the "unclustered" cousin, Lena, was identified as belonging to G4.)
I then labeled the columns according to the cousins found in them: G1, G1, G2, G3/G4, G4, unclustered, and unclustered.

Adding 4th Cousins

Twenty-five 4th Cousins added into Color Clusters

Directly below this Color Cluster chart, I added the names of the first twenty-five 4th cousins. For each cousin, I looked at AncestryDNA's "Shared Matches" and determined which 2nd/3rd cousins they were matching. I colored in the appropriate cell and labeled the cell with the number of shared centimorgans (cM).

2nd/3rd/4th cousin Color Cluster chart

Above is the final chart which includes all of the 2nd/3rd cousins (sharing <400 cM) and, below it, the first twenty-five 4th cousin matches. A few things to note about the 4th cousins:

  • Owen - at this point, Owen is still not in a cluster
  • Mary & Bill - they both matched previously "unclustered" cousin Sue, so the three created a new cluster. We do not know what part of the family this cluster belongs to at this point
  • Others - a few did not match any 2nd/3rd cousins, but when I opened their top match, they DID match a 2nd/3rd cousin, so I added them to that column
NOTE: Trees were not used to match the 4th cousins to the appropriate Color Clusters. The sorts were based only on shared matches. This Color Cluster method is  a quick, visual way to see how your cousins are related.

If you give this method a try, please let me know what you think and how it works for you.

Happy Sorting!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Color Clustering: Working with "4th Cousins"

Please see an updated version of this post and more on the Leeds Method of DNA Color Clustering on my new website,

If you haven't read my first two posts about the Color Clustering (aka Leeds) Method, read the original posts:

An example of Color Clustering using Excel

I thought this method would be too messy to work with 4th cousins. But, I figured out yesterday how to make it work: I built my clusters based on the shared matches of 2nd and 3rd cousins and then I just sorted the "4th cousins" into these clusters!  

Here are the steps I used:

STEP 1: Create a Color Cluster chart (see first post)
Using all of AncestryDNA's predicted 2nd & 3rd cousins (who share less than 400 cM with the test taker), create a color cluster chart. (Note: If you are not comfortable with spreadsheets, you can use colored pencils and paper or whatever you have on hand!)

Example of test taker whose DNA sorted
into 4 Color Clusters plus one 
Unclustered (purple) match, Drew
Depending on which relatives have tested, Color Clustering often results in 4 columns which are related to the four sets of great grandparents. See the original post for examples and possible explanations of cases where there are not 4 columns created. 

Note: One match, Mona (red print), sorted into TWO columns. She most likely is related to the test taker through BOTH the yellow and orange families.

STEP 2: Identify these columns if possible.

In this case, we were able to determine the relationship of the test taker to the 4 clusters (C1 through C4). If you cannot identify some (or any) of these groups, you can skip this step.

STEP 3: Compare 4th Cousins Shared Matches to your Color Cluster Chart

Color Clustering using 4th Cousin Matches
(last 10 in grey).
Below the original Color Clustering, I wrote the names of the test taker's first ten "4th cousin" matches (in grey boxes). For each person, I opened the Shared Matches and looked to see which 2nd and 3rd cousin names they matched with and assigned them that color. Note: This is not proof that they are related to that branch of your family, but it is a strong clue! (I do not continue to add more columns; I am only determining which color cluster these matches match!)

STEP 4: Sort 4th cousins who do not have 2nd or 3rd cousin matches by looking at their shared matches.  

Showing 4th cousin, Teresa, had a shared
match that matched Mona so she was
assigned to both the orange & yellow clusters.
One 4th cousin match, Teresa (in red print), did not have a cousin within the 2nd and 3rd cousin matches. But, when I opened the shared matches of her closest match, she matched Mona. Since Mona is in the Orange & Yellow clusters, Teresa was assigned to both clusters.

Note: As with most techniques, this method works best when the branches of your family - especially your 4 sets of great grandparents - are completely unrelated. But, one of the neatest thing about this method is that your matches do NOT have to have FAMILY TREES and this will STILL WORK!!

Note: While the above example uses real data, the names have been changed for privacy. Also, this test taker had a single random person in a 5th column without a tree or any 2nd/3rd cousin matches. We have not identified this "unclustered" Purple match.

Happy Sorting!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Color Clustering: Identifying "In Common" Surnames

Please see an updated version of this post and more on the Leeds Method of DNA Color Clustering on my new website,

After creating Color Clusters using the new Color Cluster Method (aka Leeds Method), the next step is to identify the surnames associated with these groups. (For creating Color Clusters, please read my original Color Clustering post.)

Note: This method is especially useful for people working with adoptees or other unknown parentage cases where they do not already know what surnames to concentrate on!

COLOR CLUSTERS: Identifying Common Surnames

STEP 1: Create Color Clusters and determine which clusters you need to work with (or work with all of them).
Actual data from an adoptee I worked with,
but names changed for privacy.
In this case, the adoptee identified the Blue Cluster as her biological mother's. We were trying to identify her biological father, so we concentrated on the Orange and Yellow Clusters. (The Green column did not have a cluster.)

STEP 2:  Determine which matches have trees and which do not and label.

Actual data from an adoptee I worked with,
but names changed for privacy.

I look at each match and see if they have a tree - whether attached or not attached! I then label them to indicate "tree" or "no tree."

STEP 3: List the "4th Gen" (great grandparents) surnames for each match with a tree. If they don't have 4th Generation matches, use grandparents or even parents.

Actual data from an adoptee I worked with,
but names changed for privacy.
To find the surnames, open the match's "pedigree and surnames" page and look at the surnames under the "4th Gen" column. If their tree is complete enough, you will see 8 surnames at this level - the match's great grandparents. In this example, both Gabby and Jamie have all 8 great grandparents listed on their tree along with their surnames.

STEP 4: Identify common surnames, if any, in each Color Cluster.

Actual data from an adoptee I worked with,
but names changed for privacy.

(I find this step truly amazing!) I have highlighted the shared surnames:
  • Orange Cluster: Griffin & Bartles
  • Yellow Cluster: Paulson, Austin, and Gray
STEP 5: Assign potential surnames to the Color Clusters, if identified, and use these clues to further your research!
Actual data from an adoptee I worked with,
but names changed for privacy.
At this point, you have clues as to what surnames you are looking for in each cluster. Continue your research using these clues!

You also might be able to look at first cousins or other "close family" matches to help label these clusters. (And, a big thank you to John Motzi for his help in refining this process!)

Happy Clustering!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Color Clustering: Creating Color Clusters

Please see an updated version of this post and more on the Leeds Method of DNA Color Clustering on my new website,

Unsure of how other people were sorting their Shared Matches from AncestryDNA, I created my own method. This method is quick - it usually takes less than 10 minutes - and visually shows genetic connections while also "sorting" the matches into groups reflecting the test taker's great grandparents' lines.

Please test out this method and let me know what you think! Although I think it will be valuable for many genealogists, I think it will be especially useful for adoptees, Search Angels, and others who are trying to identify unknown, close relatives.

NOTE: For the examples below, all results are real, but the names are fictitious.


Using AncestryDNA, list all of those they label as "second" or "third" cousins, but skip over any second cousin that shares more than 400 cM. 

Assign a color to your first DNA match (for example, blue to Ralph.)

Open the shared matches for that person (Ralph), and assign them each the same color in the same column (blue).

STEP 4: 
Find the first person who does not have a color assigned (Robert), and assign him a color in the next column (orange).

Open the shared matches for that person (Robert), and assign them each the same color in the same column (orange).

Continue steps 3 & 4 until all of your shared matches have at least one color assigned to them.

COLOR CLUSTERING: Analyzing the Results

4 Columns/No Overlap:

If your results show 4 distinct clusters, like below, without any overlap, your sort is likely showing matches to your 4 sets of great grandparents.

Less than 4 Columns:

If your results show less than 4 clusters, it is likely these clusters represent 3 of your 4 sets of great grandparents and that you have no matches at the 2nd/3rd cousins levels who have tested for the 4th set of great grandparents.

Some Overlap:

If your results show 4 clusters but some of your matches have been assigned more than one color (for example, Herbert & Stacy are both blue and orange), your sort is likely showing either your 4 sets of great grandparents, but also showing you that two of these results (i.e. blue & orange) are on one side of your family. Or, the overlapped clusters (blue & orange) might belong to one set of great grandparents and, in this example, you are missing matches for 1 set of your 4 sets of great grandparents.

Lots of Overlap

In this real example, there is a lot of overlap between all of the clusters except the yellow and brick red clusters. All of the overlapping clusters are on the maternal side of this test taker and visually show a lot of cousins marrying cousins resulting in pedigree collapse. The paternal mother's side is represented by both the yellow and brick red clusters. The paternal father's side has no cousins matching at the 2nd/3rd cousin levels. So, even though there are a lot of clusters and matches, this sort represents only 3 of the 4 sets of great grandparents for this individual.

 A special thank you to everyone who allowed me to access their DNA and gave me feedback!

Please be aware: Your results may vary! This new method is still in its infancy and more test cases are needed to see how it works in various situations.

TIP: When I say "2nd and 3rd cousins," I am using the categories Ancestry has used to define them. The 3rd cousins appear to go down to 90 shared cM which works out well for this process.

TIP: If you chart is "too messy," look at the shared cM of your top matches and take off any that are above 400 shared cM. Then redo the chart. Hopefully, it'll be a lot "cleaner!"

Happy Clustering!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Immersed in DNA

I have been immersed in DNA for the past few months! I am ready to start blogging again, but here's a quick update:

January/February: Worked with an adoptee to locate his biological father.

with Blaine Bettinger in Austin "immersed" in DNA
May: Attended a 2-day workshop with Blaine Bettinger in Austin and learned how to do Visual Phasing, use some advanced DNA tools, and more! 

June: Started working with other "unknown parentage" cases and DNA Detectives as a "Search Angel" (meaning without charging).

with CeCe Moore at GRIP in Pennsylvania

July: Spent a week at GRIP in Pennsylvania taking "Advanced Genetic Genealogy" with CeCe Moore, Blaine Bettinger, Dr. Tom Jones, and genetic counselor Brianne Kirkpatrick of WatershedDNA.

Come hear me speak on "Only Half My Genes: The Search for a Biological Father"
August: This weekend, I will be giving my first presentation - based on DNA and adoption - outside of my local genealogical society. If you're near Huntsville, Texas, I hope you can come and join us! My presentation is at 11:30 on Saturday morning. The event is the Frances Sprott Goforth Memorial Genealogy Weekend and you can find a flyer by clicking here.

I am excited about the field of Genetic Genealogy and where it is headed!

Friday, June 1, 2018

The 1828 Will of Peter Close's Relict: Catharine Elizabeth Close

Yesterday, I shared the 1810 will of my 5th great grandfather, Peter Close of Armagh, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania. Peter's wife, Catharine Elizabeth Close, wrote her will in 1828. Who were the people listed in her will?

Armagh, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, Will of Catharine Elizabeth
Close dated 1828. Probate packet retrieved by a friend in
Sep 2015 from Pennsylvania Archives in Harrisburg. 

Entire Probate Packet is attached to FamilySearch Family Tree.
Search for "Peter 
Close Sr" who died 1810 in Mifflin County,
Pennsylvania, then look at "memories"
for his wife, Catharine Elizabteh Close.

  • Peter Close - Peter & Catharine's son
  • Henry Close - Peter & Catharine's son
  • Adam Close - Peter & Catharine's son
  • Elizabeth Longwill - Peter & Catharine's daughter, believed to be married to her second husband, William Longwill
  • Susannah Riley - "my daughter" - note that she was NOT listed in Catherine's husband's will; Susannah is believed to be a daughter of Thomas Mifflin and, by this time, was married to Matthew Riley/Reighley, who Peter listed as a "good friend" in his 1810 will 
  • Mary Bridge - "granddaughter" - this is her daughter, Elizabeth's, daughter with her first husband, George Bridge (Mary had at least 3 brothers and no known sisters)
  • Eliza Close - "Peter's daughter" - (Eliza had at least 5 brothers and no known sisters)
  • Catharine Elizabeth Close - "granddaughter"/"Adam's daughter" - Adam had at least one other daughter at this time; perhaps she was bequeathing teaspoons to her because she was her namesake
  • John Gilliland - witness; unknown relationship
  • Alex [?] McGott[?] - witness; unknown relationship

WILL TRANSCRIPTION by Dana Leeds [names are in bold]

The last Will and Testament of Catharine Elizabeth Close
of Armagh Township Mifflin County and State of Pa[?]
I, Catharine Elizabeth Close, considering the uncertainty
of this mortal life, and being in sound mind and
memory, (blessed be Almighty God for the same) do
make this my last will and testament in the
following manner viz.. and in the 1st [?] I will
that all my just debts and funeral expenses be
paid by my three sons, Peter, Henry, and Adam Close.
each a share and share alike. 2nd I give and bequeath
to my daughter Elizabeth Longwill the bed and bedding
I now lie on. 3rd I give to my daughter Susannah Riley
one bed and bedding, and my sons Peter and Adam to
pay her in the year eight-teen hundred and thirty one
eighty dollars each. 4th I give and bequeath to my grand
daughter Mary Bridge a calico quilt, looking glass, stew
kettle, coffee mill, spinning wheel, Reel, Copper tea kettle[?]
half of the linen shirting, [?] of the ?? ??
sheep[?], and one hive of bees, a small pewter dish and
half of the pewter spoons 5th I give and bequeath to my Grand
daughter Eliza Close (Peter’s daughter) three silver tea spoons,
also to my Grand daughter (Adam’s daughter) Catherine Elizabeth
Close, three silver tea spoons. 6th I give and bequeath
The remainder of house hold and kitchen furniture, Two
Cows and five[?] sheep, equally to my three sons, Peter
Henry & Adam. I also bequeath at my decease two bonds[?]
I hold against Peter and Adam to be given up to them.
Of the above house hold furniture, I give and bequeath
to my son Peter, a Coverlet ([?] ball pattern) ---
Thereby appoint my son’s Peter Henry and Adam to be my
Executors of my last will and testament, revoking all
former wills by me made. In witness whereof I set
my hand and seal this Eleventh day of May
in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hund[?]
and twenty eight
     Witness Present        Catharine Elizabeth [her X mark] Close [seal]
     John Gilliland
     Alex [?] McGott[?]

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Who are the People in Peter Close's 1810 Will?

My 5th great grandfather, Peter Close, wrote his will on 27 June 1810 in Armagh, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania. When the 1810 census was taken, reportedly on 6 August 1810, Peter's widow, Catherine, is enumerated as head of household. The first document in Peter's probate file was filed on 14 August 1810. So, Peter Close apparently died between 17 June and early August 1810.

I have transcribed Peter Close's will, though I would appreciate any assistance with a few words I'm having difficulty with! [See the transcription at the end of this post and look for the question marks.] Ten people were mentioned in his will. Who were these people? And how were they related to Peter Close? [I have made all of the names bold in the transcription.]

Armagh, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, Will of Peter Close dated 1810. Probate
packet retrieved by a friend in Sep 2015. Trying to get more information for citation.
Entire Probate Packet is attached to FamilySearch Family Tree. Search for "Peter
Close Sr" who died 1810 in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, then look at "memories."
  • Peter Close - the deceased
  • Catharine Close - his "loving wife"
  • Matthew Reighley [also Riley] - "land adjoining...on the south side"; "my good friend"; possibly later married Catharine's possible daughter with Thomas Mifflin, Susannah
  • Peter Close [Jr] - oldest son (~24 years old)
  • Henry Close - son (~15 years old)
  • Adam Close - son (~12 years old)
  • Elizabeth - "daughter" (~30 years old, married to George Bridge)
  • John Smith - "my good friend"
  • William[?] [illegible?] - witness
  • Matthew Longwill [also Longwell] - witness; about 13 years later (~1823), Peter's son, Adam, married Matthew's daughter, Catharine - my 4th great grandparents!


In the name of God Amen I Peter Close considering the weak
State of my body and knowing the uncertainty of life but
perfectly sound in mind to make and ordain this my last
Will and testament Viz that my body be Decently and in
Christian like manner buryed and I do dispose of my Real
and personal estate that God has been pleasd to bless me
with in the following manner. Viz To my loving wife
Catharine Close I do give the full pai[?] and management
of the place that is on the north side of the Creek and the
cleard land adjoining Matthew Reighley on the south side
as lond [long] as she lives and I do give her all the fruit that
may grow on the place each year as long as she lives to Dis
pose of for her own use and in the manner she sees proper[?]
further I do give her two cows six sheep two beds and
beding and my kitchen and house furniture and all my
Stock and farming utencils shall be kept on the place
for the use of the farm and family until my youngest
Son comes to age and then if the see proper[?] after the
old woman shall have taken her shear the Remainder
of the stock shall be equally Divided betwixt my two
Sons Henry and Adam Close. And if there is any thing
made on the place than is necessary for the support
of the family, it is to be put to use for my son Henry
Close and my son Adam Close shall have one years
Schooling and a half And to my oldes son Peter Close
I do give that part of the place and the two fields that
is Cleard on it to make what improvements he sees
proper where he now lives until his mother’s Death
at which time my three sons shall make an equal
Divide of all the land that is at their mother’s Death
the Divide is to be made if the can so agree and if the
cannot agree to Divid the land then it shall be put
to public sale and Divide the money shear and shear
alike equal and each one of them after so Dividing sha
ll pay to my Daughter Elizabeth thirty three Dollars
and thirty three cents so that she Receive on hundred
Dollars to be paid at three several[?] times my son peter
Close shall pay his qota [quota?] of thirty three Dollars and thir
ty three cents on month after the old woman[?] Death
and in ten months after that Henry Close shall pay
his qota [quota?] of thirty three Dollars and thirty three cents
[page 2]
and one year after that Adam Close shall pay his qota [quota?]
of thirty three Dollars and thirty three cents and if
either of the boys should Die under age with a [?]
[?] heir his part of the estate both Real and person
al shall be equally Divided betwixt the two surviv
eing boys and I Do appoint my loving wife Catharine
Close and my good friends Matthew Reighley and John
Smith my executors to see this my last will and
Testament Duly executed agreeable to the Real interest
and meaning and I Do make void and of none effect
all former wills in witness where of I have set my
hand and in presence of these undersigned witnesses
Do declare this to be my last will and testament
made and signed this twentyseventh day of June
in the year of our Lord Anna Dom 1810
            Peter [his x mark] Close
and in presents of
and by the reques of
the testator Do sign
our names as witnesses
to the above being            Wm [?] [signature]
the last wills and              Matthew Longwill [signature]
testament of peter
Close of Armagh
township Mifflin
county and state
of pennsylvania

Color Clustering: Top 25 Fourth Cousins

For more on Color Clustering & DNA, please visit my new website at:  For another look at how Color Clustering works...