Proving a Family Legend with DNA and Genealogy

Today's post is about how DNA is helping to fill in a large gap on my family tree. My great grandfather Thomas Rhodes was born to his teenage mother out of wedlock. Family stories said that his father was a Sinclair, but there were no records, such as bastardy bonds, that I’ve found (so far) to support those legends.

Other clues support the possibility of a Sinclair relationship, such as Sinclair families living near Thomas’s grandfather’s home. My suspected 2nd great grandfather in this family is close in age to Thomas's mother. Also, there was a Mary Sinclair, my suspect’s sister, living in a relative’s household, which makes it clear that the families were familiar and possibly close.

A Y-DNA Test for the Male Line

Since Y-DNA follows the male line, I asked a male descendent of Thomas if he would test to help with solving this mystery. He agreed, and the results have been exciting. If you look at just our Y-dna match screen on the FTDNA website, the results clearly support the theory of a Sinclair surname.

the y-dna matches
The Y-DNA matches clearly support a Sinclair relationship

From there I wanted to find matches who were related to the suspected Sinclair family, so I needed to do some reverse genealogy to find sibling names and their descendents.

I contacted a few of the Y-DNA matches, but none were close relatives to this family.

The Autosomal Cousin Match

Next I examined some of the autosomal matches, filtered on the Sinclair name. It looks promising because the top match on this screen also indicated the right location, Henderson County, so I contacted them.

Amazingly, this person descended from a sister of my suspected 2nd great grandfather! The amount of match (48cM) fits with this person being a 3rd cousin, too.

the sinclair autosomal matches
The Sinclair Autosomal Matches

Here's how the relationship looks:

the sinclair autosomal cousin match
The Sinclair Autosomal Cousin Match

More DNA and Genealogy Work To Do

Even though these matches support my theory for the identity of my 2nd great grandfather, they aren’t yet enough to say it is proven. For example, I may have the wrong brother, so there may be more work to do.

Another thing I’ve done in search of clues is to join the Sinclair surname project, and I ordered an upgrade for my cousin's Y-DNA kit to take it from 37 to 67 markers, in case that will help find closer matches. On the other hand, it might just prove we have many Sinclair ancestors, but not give any direct evidence for who my 2nd great grandfather might be.

At this point I’ve exhausted my knowledge on the genetic genealogy subject. That means I need to learn more about using DNA and genealogy together if I want stronger proof than this, but I'm really happy with the progress so far.

As soon as I learn more, I’ll share it here.