Crawling Through a Thick Web

After my recent webinar, How Three Types of DNA and Genealogy Uncovered the Long-Lost Father, a family member basically asked, “Your father’s paternal grandfather, Albert Kennedy, and Albert’s sisters, Martha and Adaline, had all married three full Ealy siblings, Martha, Bob Jr., and Paul Ealy, respectively, so how were you able to tell that a DNA match is related via Milford / Melford Atkins, the newly-found father of Albert, Martha, and Adaline Kennedy?” That was a great question. I definitely had to maneuver through a thick web of multiple connections. Here’s how.

My father’s great-grandparents, Robert “Big Bob” Ealy and Jane Parrott Ealy of Leake County, Mississippi, had at least 12 children. So, Martha, Bob Jr., and Paul Ealy had many more siblings. Fortunately, over 100 descendants of Big Bob and Jane took the AncestryDNA test, including my father. That was monumental. To add, Big Bob had additional children, and his wife, Jane Parrott, was not their mother. Numerous descendants of those children also DNA-tested. Therefore, when I click on “Shared Matches” with a DNA match, and the shared matches are all Ealy cousins who descend from Martha, Bob Jr., and Paul Ealy only, then that’s a good indication that the connection may actually be on the Kennedy or Atkins side.

For example, the cousin below was found to be a great-great-granddaughter of Harriet Atkins of Calcasieu Parish (Sugartown), Louisiana. Harriet was a proposed / likely sister to Melford Atkins, my father’s great-grandfather. This makes the cousin below to be my father’s third cousin once removed who shares 71 cM (86 cM unweighted) with him. When I clicked on “Shared Matches,” twenty-one (21) Ealy cousins – descendants of Big Bob and Jane Ealy – were mutual DNA matches to this Atkins cousin. These “Shared Matches” share 20 cM or more since that’s the current standard from Of those 21 cousins, 5 descend from Martha Ealy (Albert Kennedy), 11 descend from Bob Ealy, Jr. (Martha Kennedy), and 5 descend from Paul Ealy (Adaline Kennedy). These 21 Ealy cousins also descend from Melford Atkins.

On the flip side, here’s another example. The known cousin below is my father’s double second cousin once removed who shares 265 cM with him. She’s a great-granddaughter of Bob Ealy, Jr. and Martha “Mattie” Kennedy. Therefore, she and my father both descend from Big Bob & Jane Ealy and Melford Atkins & Lucy Kennedy. Of course, when I clicked “Shared Matches,” numerous Ealy cousins are mutual matches. However, the numerous shared matches include at least four descendants of Harriet Atkins. If I had not known this cousin personally, I would have still deduced that she was also related via Melford Atkins, too.

If your ancestors were in the same small community for several generations, chances are good that you will encounter relatives who are related more than one way. And there are even cousins who married cousins. It’s probably more common than we realize. Although we may find siblings who married people from the same family, procreating numerous double cousins, it makes for a greater genealogical and genetic challenge. But don’t give up!

6 thoughts on “Crawling Through a Thick Web

  1. Aqueelah Barrie

    Dear Melvin,
    Thank you for your presentation and for this explanation. I am also researching my family in Mississippi (Newton County).
    We have hit a brick wall similar to yours. We are looking for the parents of my 3rd great grandparents (both sets). Thus far, we have their names and believe they were from GA. The trail runs dry in 1880. We believe the family was in Newton County/Neshoba County in 1870 but haven’t been able to find them in the census records.
    We are now trying to dig into the DNA matches on Ancestry (my mother took the test and we have a handful of known cousins who took the test) to try to trace the family. Do you have any advice on how we can investigate using the DNA, espcecially when relatives are reluctant to submit their DNA?
    I’m looking forward to your next presentation in April!

    Thank you!

    Aqueelah Barrie


    1. Treat cases like these as a continuous project. Answers won’t be uncovered overnight. Follow any and all clues that DNA may uncover. This particular case took me several years to figure out. Try first name searches only when you can’t people. Maybe they changed their surname after 1870? Do a search among your DNA matches with just Newton County, Mississippi in the search engine. You might find other relatives that may provide a clue in their family trees. Sometimes, it will be frustratingly challenging, but don’t give up. Put it away and relook later. You may find something you didn’t notice at first. Hope this helps. Much success to you!


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