DNA & A Question of Paternity: Part 7 – Bringing the evidence together

For the past several weeks, I’ve been describing a project for which I used various types of analysis to attempt to clarify the uncertain paternal ancestry of someone I’m calling “Bob” (all names in these posts have been changed for privacy).

In this post, I’ll summarize the results of the analyses in the previous posts and where they left me.

After reviewing what was known about Bob’s family according to paper records, I looked at his autosomal DNA test results. There were no obvious clues from ethnicity estimates or close (immediate family) matches to indicate that Bob’s paper records did not represent his genetic ancestry. Looking at some of Bob’s closest matches (at about the second cousin level, given the amount of DNA shared):

  • there were matches whose ancestors overlap with ancestors on Bob’s mother’s side
  • there was a group of related matches who showed no apparent common ancestry with Bob’s mother or with Bob’s father, and whose ancestors were largely from a different part of the United States than those of both Bob’s legal parents

From this, I had evidence consistent with Bob’s mother being his biological mother, evidence suggesting his father may not have been his biological father, and DNA matches who could provide clues to the identity of Bob’s biological father.

Studying five of Bob’s closest DNA matches and their ancestors, the five all share DNA with each other, and they all appear to share one common ancestor (in the past few generations): Helen Black. This suggests that Bob may have also descended from Helen Black (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. A tree showing five of Bob’s DNA matches, labeled A through E, and their apparent common ancestor, Helen Black. 

Records for Helen Black and her descendants suggested that Helen had two husbands, at least seven children, and at least 40 grandchildren. Much of Helen Black’s family lived in the Southern United States, while Bob was born in the Midwest. Two of Helen’s grandsons, Frank and Gerald Lovegood (sons of Oscar and Patty (McGonagall) Lovegood, see Figure 2), moved to the same midwestern state where Bob was born. This does not prove anything on its own, but it does suggest that Frank and Gerald Lovegood and their families are worth a closer look. Additionally, results from Y-DNA testing strongly suggest that Bob’s paternal surname is Lovegood.  

Figure 2. A tree showing some of the descendants of Helen Black, with her two husbands Trevor Bell and Gene McGonagall. The highlighted grandsons, Frank and Gerald Lovegood, moved to the same Midwestern state where Bob was born, while much of the rest of Helen Black’s family lived and died in the Southern U.S.

Thoroughly testing possible locations for Bob in the Helen Black family tree with What Are The Odds? (WATO) suggested that Bob’s father was a descendant of Helen Black, most likely as a son or grandson of Oscar and Patty (McGonagall) Lovegood – see Figure 3

Figure 3. (Click to view larger) Summary of results from WATO testing. Many possibilities were tested for the placement of Bob in the family tree of Helen Black. Possibilities that were determined to be statistically possible are shown here in yellow or green (darker green colors and higher scores are more likely). For full explanation, see previous post.

So, the evidence analyzed so far suggests that Bob’s father may have been a man with the last name Lovegood who descended from Oscar and Patty (McGonagall) Lovegood – likely their son or grandson. Records found suggest four candidates. Oscar and Patty’s son Frank appears to have died a few years before Bob was born, ruling Frank out. Frank had two sons, though, Fred and Fergus, who could have been alive and of reproductive age at the time that Bob was born. Gerald was still alive, and he appears to have had one son, George, who could have been the right age (see Figure 4).

Figure 4. Male descendants of Oscar and Patty (McGonagall) Lovegood who appear to be the most likely candidates for Bob’s father (shown in dark text). Since Frank appears to have died a few years before Bob was born, he is not considered a likely candidate.

Taking a closer look at Fred, Fergus, Gerald and George, documentary evidence provided some additional clues about the likelihood of each of them as candidates.

  • Fred was likely about 28 when Bob was born. He moved to the Midwest (with his parents) when he was young. All evidence found for Fred so far places him in the Midwest after that, but there are large gaps in what has been found about Fred’s life. 
  • Fergus was likely about 26 when Bob was born. Like Fred, Fergus moved to the Midwest when he was young. Evidence suggests that at the time of Bob’s birth (and conception), he lived in California.
  • Gerald was likely about 44 when Bob was born. He was born in the Southern U.S. but moved to the Midwest well before Bob was born. There was some indication that Gerald lived, for a time, in California, but Gerald’s father’s obituary indicates that he lived in the right Midwestern state the year Bob was conceived.
  • George was likely about 20 when Bob was born. He moved to the Midwest when he was a child. Evidence suggests that at the time of Bob’s birth (and conception), he lived in California.

While I have found these four candidates alive, of the right ages, and in the right family to possibly have been Bob’s father, I cannot guarantee from the information I have that any of these four was Bob’s father. Fred and Gerald seem more likely than the other two – based on evidence about where they lived at various points in their lives. Just because a man lives in the right state or wrong state compared to where a child was born, that is hardly concrete evidence that he could or could not have been the child’s father.

More solid evidence could come from targeted DNA testing of these men or their close relatives to rule in or out the candidates. We have not reached out to any of Bob’s DNA matches or their families, though, and we are not planning contact at this point. Alternatively, if (when) closer relatives test and appear as DNA matches to Bob, these four candidates could be further evaluated.  

Next time: data from a new match enters the analysis. 

All Posts in the Series:

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