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How to calculate your most distant direct male and female ancestors...

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  • How to calculate your most distant direct male and female ancestors...

    I have come across at least a dozen people today who've either got a man listed as their most distant direct maternal ancestor, or they've got the wife of their most distant direct paternal ancestor listed as their most distant direct maternal ancestor. Both are incorrect, hence this post which, btw, is NOT meant to be snarky or offensive or chastising. Rather, I am hopeful that by sharing my understanding of how to figure direct paternal and maternal lines, others will be able to work more accurately with their ancestry. Now, I'm no genealogy pro, so if I'm way off base here, someone with more knowledge please give me a polite nudge and re-educate me.

    Most Distant Direct Paternal (Male) Ancestor: When you're figuring your most distant direct male ancestor, this can only be a person in your direct paternal line. In other words, this is your father's father's... father, however far back in a father-to-father line you can manage to go. This ancestor is NOT the husband of your most distant direct maternal ancestor! This ancestor should be in a straight male (Y-DNA) line from your birth father, without interruption - no women in the line at any point - only a direct male line going straight back through the fathers, starting with your birth father. This ancestor will always be MALE. Generally speaking... men, the surname should be the same as your own, or a variant of it, and women, the surname should be the same as your birth father's, or a variant of it... but obviously things like adoption, name change, and NPEs somewhere back in the line will alter that. Either way - same surname or not - the line should still always be the direct male line with no deviations. Even if you only know as far back as your father or grandfather, put them... and if you don't know, leave it blank!

    Most Distant Direct Maternal (Female) Ancestor: When you're figuring your most distant direct female ancestor, this can only be a person in your direct maternal line. In other words, this is your mother's mother's... mother, however far back in a mother-to-mother line you can manage to go. This ancestor is NOT the wife of your most distant direct paternal ancestor! This ancestor should be in a straight female (mtDNA) line from your birth mother - no men in the line at any point - only a direct female line going straight back through the mothers, starting with your own birth mother. This ancestor will always be FEMALE. Generally speaking, the surname will probably never be the same as your own. Even if you only know as far back as your mother or grandmother, put them... and if you don't know, leave it blank!

    Again, no snark/offense/chastising intended! I just want people to be able to work accurately with their lines - me included! - and I hope this is helpful. Have a great day!
    Last edited by KimmyNOLA; 15 February 2015, 10:10 AM.

  • #2
    Thank you, KimmyNOLA, for this reminder.

    FTDNA, in the Learning Center, defines Direct Maternal Line as (my bolding):
    The direct maternal line is the line that traces your mother, her mother, her mother’s mother, and so forth. With the exception of yourself if you are male, this line consists entirely of women.
    For those that viewing a picture might help, one place to see one is in a post on Roberta Estes' blog, which shows a chart with the Y and mtDNA ancestor lines as the first image of her article "4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy." It's part of section 2 on that page, "Mitochondrial DNA."

    As Roberta Estes says in another of her posts, in the section "Mitochondrial DNA Data Base," it would really help if there were "prompts" to help get these most distant maternal ancestors' names shown correctly:
    We need a centralized Mitochondrial DNA Data base where you can upload a Gedcom file or you can enter the direct mitochondrial DNA line via prompts. Why prompts? Because I can’t tell you how many people complete the oldest mitochondrial ancestor field with some man’s name. If you prompt them with words like “her mother” at each step of the way, we won’t wind up with the wrong ancestral line attached to the mtDNA.
    I hope FTDNA will consider doing that to help this situation. If they would at least put prominent instructions on the page to enter these maternal ancestors' names properly, with a chart to illustrate, it might really help people.

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    • #3
      Good advice. Of course along with the names it is always best to post a pedigree too, so matches can see spouses etc.

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