Stunned by a full uncle match

While I waited for results to come in from two targeted DNA tests of relatives of some sort to my brother, I continued building his research tree in Ancestry and connecting each record I found, from vital records to photos. (If you just want the story, and not the how-to, scroll down to the paragraph that starts with three asterisks.)

Children of George Jenkins & Nora Culley, plus two spouses of their son, Owen

This screenshot shows the “Unknown Son Jenkins” I added temporarily to my brother’s research tree, and the other known children of George Jenkins and Nora Culley, plus first and second spouse of their son who survived to adulthood, and her parents up on the top line with the older generation.

Some researchers for adoptees like to build mirror trees that copy information almost exactly from a relatively close match’s tree into a new tree they create and set to private. Many focus on the direct line. The adoptee’s (or seeker’s) DNA results can be attached to any person in a tree like this, and after a day or so Ancestry will recalibrate and hopefully give you shared ancestor hints or shaky leaves that indicate you’re hot on the trail.

Another way to build a tree when seeking correct biological parentage is to make a “quick and dirty” tree. You don’t enter all the details, you just build the direct lines without taking the time to attach all documents and add all siblings and spouses and children of all siblings, etc. You can also attach DNA to this kind of tree. You’re the only one who knows what kind of tree it is, although you can name it whatever you want.

Personally, I like to build research trees, finding the records for each person myself, with minimal help from looking at DNA match’s public trees for clues.

Tip: Never attach an Ancestry family tree as a “source.” Use it as clues, only. There are too many errors in many trees for these to be relied on as the last word.

I can’t help myself from entering in all the collateral lines (spouses, siblings, cousins) as I come across them, and attaching all documents after vetting them and searching for more records, besides the hints given by Ancestry. I find a lot of important background information on families and individuals by searching deep. Building out your tree will pay off later on when Ancestry gives you more Shared Ancestor hints for your DNA matches, doing the work for you of figuring out your relationship to your match. Verify it, of course, but Shared Ancestor Hints are often accurate as long as your tree and their tree are accurate.

At a class at i4GG 2016, it was discussed that Ancestry often gives better hints if you keep your format for data in trees consistent so it might more readily match up with data in other people’s trees. 

  • I put the given names and then follow with nickname, if any, in quotation marks.
  • For dates, I do not put leading zeroes for 1 – 9, I use a three letter abbreviation for months and I put four numerals for the year.
  • For birth and death locations, I spell out the city and county, if known, spell out the state and use an acronym of USA, or other country, full name of country.


  • Joseph James “Jimmy” Smith
  • 7 Apr 1914
  • Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA

If you have no records of town or city for birth or death, but just the county, I put the word county to be clear it is not the city:


  • Los Angeles County, California, USA

Often, when you find a marriage record or burial record and attach it, the default enters the full month and United States of America, instead of USA. In this case, I usually don’t take the time to change the format.

For my brother’s Ancestry tree to attach him to probable great-grandparents by name, but with unknown people in between while connecting the dots, I had to give these people a new imaginary son and a new imaginary daughter (just a temporary measure) in each generation (assuming they had a child of each gender), and take a guess on which gender would be carrying the line down. If their only known children were all male or all female, then I usually stick to that gender for this temporary line.

Relationships can be edited at any time by clicking “ Edit and then “Edit relationships.” When you edit a relationship, for example, to delete a mother and/or father, the branch still stays in your tree, just not attached to the main tree. To find someone in the unattached branch, just type part of their name in the “Find in tree” search field.

I kept checking my brother’s match lists every day on Ancestry, on GEDmatch and on FamilyTreeDNA, in case any new high matches came in while we were waiting for results. I also did surname searches in GEDmatch by using Control F for Find and then entering the potential surnames that might be unusual enough that a lot of hits would warrant a closer look at it.

From your Ancestry DNA Matches list, you can use the Search button to search by Surname. Use caution in getting excited about a name that comes up in Search for a lot of your matches. Sometimes the surname is relatively common and a lot of people will have it in their tree, and it doesn’t mean it is a direct line of yours.

***I was sitting in my family room on the couch with my husband about 10:30 pm one weeknight, half watching a movie with him, but really more focused on my laptop and working on genealogy, when Ancestry emailed that the DNA results were available. These were the results for the man in Texas who I was expecting from my research so far would come in as one of these relationships to my brother:  First cousin once removed (1C1R), First cousin twice removed (1C2R), or possible half-uncle.

Since I ordered his test from Ancestry and was the manager for the test, and the man and his wife don’t use computers very much, the results were coming to me first and then I would share all information with the tester.

Of course, I couldn’t get back to Ancestry fast enough to see the results of the number of centiMorgans of DNA he and my brother shared, which would lead me to the relationship options.

Their centiMorgans (cM) number was 1,680 cM! I sat there stunned. I couldn’t even believe that it was true for a few hours because it was not what I had expected. It meant this man could only be my brother’s birth mom’s full brother, and thus a full uncle to my brother! It meant I didn’t have to continue to search for the other side (whether mom or dad) of my brother’s birth mom’s line, because her full brother had the same mom and same dad, of course. It was a “Bingo” targeted test, but because I wasn’t expecting that result, I had to wrap my head around it for almost 24 hours. I had to dive back into the research tree, and into my brother’s other DNA matches to verify that the surnames from this uncle’s father’s line and the uncle’s mother’s line were both at least minimally present in my brother’s DNA matches.

My brother’s uncle!

Now I knew my brother’s birth mom’s mother’s maiden name, and her full name and her father’s name, and so I went back to the Texas Birth records on to poke around. The maiden name was McCollum, and so I chose June 1933, the month and year of the birth, and started scrolling through looking for anything like Mc….  It took a little while, but I finally found it.

Birth record of my brother’s birth mom

There were a couple of reasons I hadn’t found it the first time I tried: 1) Her maiden name was misspelled McCullum instead of McCollum. Remember, spelling was often phonetic and not standardized in early censuses, or on vital records. 2) Laurel/Delois’s actual birth date was June 9, 1933, not June 11, 1933, as she had celebrated and as it was listed on her delayed birth certificate from Texas. Someone changed her birth date after she was adopted, for whatever reason. Also, her mother’s middle name was misspelled Sijvesta, instead of Sylvester.

So now we knew that Laurel, my brother’s birth mom, was named Delois by Geneva before she was placed by adoption. Since no father is listed, it is probable Geneva and Owen were not yet married. Their children and grandchildren don’t know their marriage date.

My brother’s birth mom’s new pedigree chart

My brother and his birth sisters went from 0 ancestors of their mother to having about 250 people on their maternal side in the family tree I reverse-engineered for them. Many of the people in their direct line have DNA matches that seem to support the tree, and they all have documented paper trails to them. Very few of the descendants of the people in this tree have taken DNA tests, though. The Beaver line for Geneva McCollum is “validated” by at least one DNA match. A male who still carries the Beaver name tested and he is my brother’s Second cousin twice removed (2C2R).

Here’s the summary of what seems to have happened. Owen Jenkins worked in the cotton mills as a supervisor. He married a Ruth Williams and had a daughter, Melba Joyce the end of 1930. They had a baby boy in 1932. By 1935, Melba Joyce was living in Boles Orphan Home in Quinlan, Texas, on her own although both parents were living. She was still at the orphanage on the 1940 census.

Around 1932 or 1933, Owen and Ruth split up. Owen met a 19-year-old, Geneva McCollum, an only child who worked as a spinner in the cotton mills (occupation on the 1930 census). Geneva and Owen had a baby girl in June 1933. That baby girl was placed for adoption and ended up as my brother’s birth mom in the 1960s in California.

Owen and Geneva then married, had a son in 1934, my brother’s “new” uncle who had tested for me, and they had a daughter named Pearl in 1936, who passed away a few years ago. On the April 1, 1940 census in Dallas, Texas, Owen and Geneva are listed with those two children. By the April 19, 1940 census in Hunt County, Texas, Geneva was living back at her parents with just her son, and her parents ended up raising their grandson.

Pearl, my brother’s full aunt he didn’t get a chance to meet

I was told by the uncle that his younger full sister Pearl stayed with Owen, their father, and was raised by him and/or his parents. Owen remarried later on and had five more children.

My brother’s uncle and aunt

And Owen and Ruth’s baby boy born in 1932 that I was afraid was placed outside the family for adoption, or also in an orphanage, as I could not find any records for him besides his birth certificate? While working on this blog post tonight, I “found” him in someone’s tree! He stayed with Ruth, Owen’s first wife, and was raised by his stepdad. His surname was changed before the 1940 census, so he was possibly adopted by his stepfather. Although he passed away in 1996, he had three children, and they are my brother’s half cousins!

Tomorrow, I will reach out and see what else I can find out about him from the person who has him in their tree.

And now that I knew where my brother’s birth mom fit in this family, I could predict how the other targeted test would turn out. I’ll cover that briefly in my next post. Thanks for following along! 

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