FamilyTreeDNA Family Finder results

In order to determine more about my ancestry and genealogy, I ordered several DNA tests last year. The first was an autosomal DNA test from Ancestry.com. The purpose of this test was to find potential relatives by comparing a large portion of my DNA fingerprint to others who have also provided their DNA to the same project.

The results haven’t been very encouraging. Although the Ancestry.com DNA database seems to be growing very quickly, and I receive a list of new potential every week, since July last year the best match I’ve found so far is a potential third cousin with a confidence level of 98%. As far as I can tell, this does not mean there is a 98% chance of this individual being my third cousin. I don’t know what these numbers really mean, and as I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m part of a community — Ashkenazic Jews — whose DNA tests are more likely to present false matches.

And that’s why I have hundreds of potential matches with Ancestry.com at a confidence level of 96% or higher, listed as potential fourth to sixth cousins. I have checked the families trees of every potential match at this confidence level, for those who make their family trees available to others in the community, and I have yet to find a single confirmed match. The results are a little disappointing, but that doesn’t mean some of these matches aren’t cousins. There are a few obstacles:

  • I have details going back only four or five generations for most of my ancestors.
  • Most of my potential DNA matches have even less information listed on their trees.
  • To confirm a fourth cousin you need to have a great great great grandparent in common, and I only have information about a few of mine.

That may be because many other testers have not provided enough information about their trees, or that my ancestors may have siblings I have not yet discovered, but the results are a little disappointing.

One potential DNA match is a neighbor’s family from my childhood, and we may have found a link based on what might be my second great grandmother’s maiden name, but I have several conflicting records, and there are some other location discrepancies. It might be interesting to find out the girl next door was my third cousin once removed, but this is a long way from being a verifiable fact.

Close match DNA comparison, FamilyTreeDNA Family Finder
Close match DNA comparison, FamilyTreeDNA Family Finder
Late in the year, I ordered a similar test from FamilyTreeDNA, which this particular company is branding as “Family Finder.” Because the two companies have different sets of users, in theory, I could find different potential cousins by submitting my DNA to FamilyTreeDNA. Although FamilyTreeDNA supposedly corrects their matching results to take the problem with Ashkenazic DNA into account, my results, provided at the beginning of 2013, identify 230 potential distant relatives and two close relatives — second or third cousins. For the most part, FamilyTreeDNA does not link family trees to DNA, so I can’t peruse potential cousins’ families for matches. Emails to the two potential close relatives have not yet been answered.

What is the point of all this? Why spend so much money for DNA tests to discover cousins? At this point, the discovery of new blood relatives is unlikely to change much in my life. It seems to be for the sake of curiosity only. And with what seems to be such poor results so far, I’m not sure whether there’s a point in continuing to browse through strangers’ family trees looking for a possible connection. At the same time, I haven’t exhausted all resources yet. I have very little information about my ancestors who lived in Russia and Romania.

Sources from Lithuania, England, and Germany have been helpful, but these come from records that are already available online. To go further into my ancestry, I’ll need to find records on the ground in Eastern Europe. Perhaps a potential relative’s family tree provides some clues, like a brother or sister of one of my ancestors I haven’t confirmed yet. The chances seem low, however.

The Landes immigration to Canada

In the last month, Ancestry.com has made available to the public lists of passengers departing from United Kingdom’s shores between 1890 and 1960. The information was available to the public previously, but only through The National Archives in Surrey, England, and not online in any format. The records are now fully indexed.

My first search of this database revealed great results. I immediately found departure documentation of my second great grandparents, Moses Landes and Bertha (Brauna) Yeruslavitz Landes, on the ship S.S. Vancouver. The couple, born in Romania, traveled from Liverpool to Montréal, and later settled in New York City.

Moses, Bertha, and Sam Landes, and Edith Yeruslavitz
Moses, Bertha, and Sam Landes, and Edith Yeruslavitz

The record shows that Moses and Bertha traveled with two companions. The first looks like it may be Sam Landes, though this document indicates the traveler is female, with an unreadable age (indexed as 22). The second is Edith Yeruslavitz, a housekeeper, age 58. Could this be Bertha’s mother? Or perhaps her aunt? Or (or and) maybe the mother of Martin Landes’s wife Pearl Yeruslavitz Landes. She is listed as married, so my assumption is that she married into the Yeruslavitz family, and is thus unlikely to be Bertha’s sister.

The departure date on the record is incorrectly listed on Ancestry.com as 30 April 1900; it’s actually 30 August 1900. With this information, I was able to browse the Library and Archives Canada collection of immigration records, and I found the corresponding arrival records on 9 September 1900.

Moses Landes's arrival in Canada
Moses Landes’s arrival in Canada
The scan isn’t at a very high resolution, but the only illegible piece of information is the street address of the Landes family’s destination. This record, when compared to the United Kingdom departure list, provides a different age for the companion Sam Landes, listed here as a farmer rather than a servant; Edith Yeruslavitz is listed as a servant rather than a housekeeper. The group’s destination is Moses Landes’s son, living on a street I can’t read.

I’d like to tie Sam Landes and Edith Yeruslavitz into the family, but I don’t know exactly where they fit yet. I have found a Samuel Landes in New York, and although records for this Samuel Landes indicate he was also born in Romania, his birth year is not the same as what is listed in either of these documents and his date of immigration would have been prior to this travel in 1900.

Finding immigration records further back for Moses and Bertha might prove to be impossible. If they traveled on foot from Romania to England, there’s unlikely to be any kind of documentation, available online or not, of their travels.