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An Updated Approach to My DNA Research

Yesterday I listened to a webinar at on how to make DNA network graphs. The presenter was Diana Elder who, together with her daughter Nicole Dyer, runs the Family Locket website and podcast (

I have used the cluster tool on the My Heritage site to create cluster graphs, but Diana took this analysis a step further. She pointed us to other online tools that can reveal relationships between clusters. The idea is to use this data to break down genealogical brick walls.

She suggested using DNA Gedcom ( to upload a match list from Ancestry and create a spreadsheet of matches and shared matches. Then import the spreadsheet to online tools such as Rootsfinder (, Node XL (, or Gephi ( Use these sites to create charts and graphs that will assist in identifying matches on specific lines. The targeted matches can then provide insight for the family line in question.

All this computer work seems daunting to me, but help is available. Diana’s daughter Nicole has created several blog posts on Family Locket explaining how to do it all. The Family Search website also has instructional videos. Some of the sites, such as Node XL, offer online tutorials.

After discussing these tools, Diana offered a case study from her own family research. She was not able to answer her own question, but the tools did enable her to disprove some hypotheses for the parentage of her ancestor.

If I get desperate, I may try to learn how to do this for some of my mystery ancestors:

  1. John Carter (abt. 1790-1841). Online trees do not agree on who his Tennessee parents might be.
  2. Daniel Sherman (abt. 1800-abt. 1863). This Kentucky man seemed to drop into that state from nowhere. I would love to know who his people were.
  3. Katherine Stillgenbauer/Stillabower (dates unknown but living in Indiana in 1865). She came from Germany. Who were her parents?
  4. John Davis Riddle (1821-1896). Reportedly born in Pennsylvania, he was in Ohio by the 1840s and then in Michigan by 1850. Who was his family?

Putting in the time and effort to learn how to do more advanced DNA analysis does not attract me. But if it would mean solving even one of these mysteries, it might be worth it.

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