DNA & A Question of Paternity: Part 5 – Bringing together Autosomal & Y-DNA Results

Last week, I described using autosomal DNA matches, their relationships to each other, and their trees to start to construct a new family tree for someone (“Bob”) with uncertain paternity.

The most recent common ancestor (MRCA) for Bob and some of these matches appears to be a woman born about 115 years before Bob, who had at least two husbands and seven children (see Figure 1). I’m calling this woman Helen Black (all names have been changed).

Figure 1. Apparent husbands and children of Helen (Black) Bell McGonagall.

Helen’s sons were born approximately 80-90 years before Bob was born, so Bob’s father was quite likely at least a grandson of Helen’s, if not a more distant descendant. At least six of Helen’s seven children were reported to have had children of their own, giving Helen more than 40 grandchildren. I looked at all of the descendant branches, trying to find candidate males who might have been alive and of a reproductive age in the year before Bob was born. There were a lot.

Conveniently, Bob was born in the Midwest, while much of Helen Black’s family lived and died in the Southern United States. One branch of Helen Black’s descendants, however, had at least a couple of members who moved to the same Midwestern state where Bob was born (see Figure 2).

Figure 2.Two of Helen (Black) Bell McGonagall’s descendants were found to have moved from the South to the Midwestern state where Bob was born: Frank and Gerald Lovegood, shown in brown boxes. Patty McGonagall and Oscar Lovegood had other children, but evidence suggests that they did not move to the Midwest as their brothers did.

Helen’s daughter, Patty, married Oscar Lovegood, and they had several children, including two sons who moved to the state where Bob was born. Their son Frank appears to have died a few years before Bob was born, ruling him out, but this family had other possible candidates for Bob’s father, including: Gerald Lovegood, Frank Lovegood’s sons, and Gerald’s sons. 

This is great, but it’s still circumstantial. Helen Black had many descendants, many of whom could have theoretically been Bob’s father.

Enter Y-DNA results. Since I got these later than the autosomal results, I had a chance to analyze the autosomal results first, which I think was helpful. When the Y results did appear, there were seven matches with a genetic distance of 2 or 3 from a Y-37 test. Six of these seven matches had the same last name: Lovegood. Suddenly my hypothesis based on the paper trails for Helen Black’s descendants looked a lot better. 

None of the Y-DNA matches were very closely related to Bob (the closest likely had a common ancestor at least 10 generations back), but the results do strongly suggest a surname, which happens to match previous evidence. Note: as mentioned before, these names have been changed, so the last name was not actually “Lovegood”. While it was not incredibly rare, it was not on a recently published list of the 100 most common surnames in the United States.1

So, by combining autosomal DNA results and analysis, paper trail research, and Y-DNA evidence, I’ve found a likely paternal ancestor, a likely paternal surname, and members of the ancestor’s family – with the right surname – that could have been in the right place at the right time to have been Bob’s father. At this point, though, there was not a clear indication of which candidate is the right one.

As a next step, I used additional statistical tools to take a more thorough look at what I’d done so far and help guide my further research. Stay tuned…


All Posts in the Series:


1. Kimberly Powell, “Common US Surnames and Their Meanings,” ThoughtCo. (https://www.thoughtco.com/common-us-surnames-and-their-meanings-1422658: accessed 3 April 2019).

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