DNA and Documenting Your Family Tree

Like you, I am receiving more and more emails from cousins who are reaching out to see just how we’re related, based on a DNA match of centimorgans.

Last Sunday, I received an email from one such cousin stating that the results of a DNA test that we both took showed that we shared 41 centimorgans of DNA – and based on this result, the testing company “predicted” that our relationship would be 4th cousins.

In his email he mentioned his grandfather’s name, George Kemp Horton. I instantly recognized that person and agreed that yes, we are related.

But, in looking at my records, I had no information that George had ever married. Great – this cousin’s email would mean that I could extend and document our family tree.

To find information about George K. Horton, I did a search in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives and turned up multiple articles about him – and, importantly, about his wife and family.

For example, I found this obituary for George’s wife. While it does not give me her first name, it does tell me that she was buried in Forest Hill cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri.

An obituary for Marietta Horton, Kansas City Star newspaper article 21 September 1920
Source: GenealogyBank, Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Missouri), 21 September 1920, page 14

Here is another obituary for her that gives additional information.

An obituary for Marietta Horton, Kansas City Star newspaper article 19 September 1920
Source: GenealogyBank, Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Missouri), 19 September 1920, page 3

Excellent. I now know that she was 44 years old when she died, and they had at least four children: Edward, Sherman, Robert and Francis Horton.

But I still didn’t have her first name.

Since I knew that she was buried in the Forest Hill cemetery in Kansas City, I then searched the free website Find-a-Grave, looking for everyone surnamed Horton who has been buried in that cemetery. There are 23 Horton’s buried there.

Photo: a screenshot from Find-a-Grave showing Hortons buried in Forest Hill cemetery in Kansas City
Source: Find-a-Grave

Of those nearly two dozen Horton’s, there is only one who had died in 1920, Marietta J. Horton – and look, just a few lines above her is listed George K. Horton, and they share the same tombstone. This is her.

Armed with her name and the names of four of their children, I was able to quickly locate them in the U.S. Census, and found additional articles about each member of the family in the old newspapers in GenealogyBank.

With the family tree now connected, I can verify that my correspondent is indeed my cousin. We are 3rd cousins – not 4th cousins as the testing company had “predicted.”

DNA is an essential tool for today’s genealogists.

Because my 3rd cousin and I both took DNA tests, we were matched by the testing company. Then, with newspaper articles, census records and other sources, I was able to accurately and more completely document our family history, adding multiple additional relatives and connections.

It’s a great day for genealogy!

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