Analyzing DNA Auto-Clusters with Pedigree Collapse: Paternal Super Cluster A

I’ve been playing with a few of the newest DNA clustering tools this winter, hoping they could give insight to my paternal family. My father’s family has a high-degree of pedigree collapse, and his parents were likely first cousins, once removed (1C1R). Other branches of his family tree also intermarried often, resulting in DNA results that are challenging to interpret.

I ran Genetic Affairs’ auto-cluster tool on my father’s AncestryDNA test with range set to 50 – 250 cM. The tool returned 206 matches, ordered below by cluster. I have also identified “super clusters” and labeled these areas A-D:

Paternal “Super Clusters” as interpreted from results of Genetic Affairs Auto-Cluster Tool, run date of 3 Jan 2019

Genetic genealogist Dana Leeds has a series of blog posts about analyzing super clusters, so I’m taking a cue from her and breaking my analysis into these smaller, more manageable chunks. Today, let’s look at Paternal Super Cluster A.

Paternal Super Cluster A consists of clusters 1-5, as defined by Genetic Affairs.

Paternal Super Cluster A

Cluster 1 (Orange) = Johnston

  • 11 members
  • 53.9 – 233.4 cM
  • can place 7 of 11 cousins on tree
  • 3 descend from William Silas Johnston & Harriett Johnston, first cousins who married; their grandparents were Wiley Blount Johnston & Harriett
  • 1 descends from William Silas Johnston & Amarentha Smart
  • 1 descends from Harriett Johnston & Joshua Lawrence Horne
  • 1 descends from Wiley Blount Johnston & Harriett’s son Silas Johnston
  • 1 descends from two of Wiley Blount Johnston & Harriett’s sons: Nathaniel Johnston and John Johnston & wife Malinda McCauley
  • Conclusion: This cluster contains descendants of Wiley Blount Johnston and wife Harriett.

Cluster 2 (Green) = Unknown

  • 5 members
  • 56.1 – 97.7 cM
  • no trees available for any members

Cluster 3 (Red) = McCauley

  • 2 members
  • 57.5 – 59.8 cM
  • can place both cousins on tree
  • 1 member descends from John McCauley, Sr. and first wife
  • 1 member descends from John McCauley, Sr. & Mary Jackson
  • Conclusion: This cluster contains descendants of John McCauley, Sr.

Cluster 4 (Purple) = McKaskle/McCauley

  • 8 members
  • 52.1 – 95.2 cM
  • can place 3 of 8 cousins on tree
  • 3 descend from Daniel McKaskle & Charity “McCouley”
  • 1 has surname McKaskle in tree, but I cannot find MRCA
  • 1 has the surname McKaskle himself
  • Conclusion: This cluster contains McKaskle/McCauley descendants. See commentary below.

Cluster 5 (Brown) = McCauley

  • 2 members
  • 56 – 68.3 cM
  • can place both cousins on tree
  • 1 descends from John McCauley, Sr & Mary Jackson
  • 1 descends from John McCauley, Jr. & Mary Jane Wells
  • Conclusion: This cluster also contains John McCauley, Sr. descendants.

This analysis is already providing valuable information. I was aware of the Johnston/McCauley connection (I myself descend from John Johnston and Malinda McCauley) but the inclusion of McKaskles in this super cluster was surprising. Johnston and McCauley are surnames on my father’s paternal side; McKaskle is on his maternal. Or is it?

I do not have a marriage license for Daniel McKaskle and his wife Charity; therefore, her maiden name is unknown to me. But release of
U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 on Ancestry provided an interesting clue in 2015. Daniel and Charity’s son Jesse McKaskle completed a Social Security application, and his mother’s name is indexed as “Cherty R McCouley.” Could her maiden name be McCauley? A cursive A can easily be mistaken for an O. I need to get a copy of this SS-5 file! I should also begin a better search for McCauley probate records, hopefully finding some mention of Charity who married a McKaskle. She died sometime between 1880 – 1900, so court records are probably my best bet for finding a maiden name if a marriage license never surfaces.

It would also be helpful to make contact with members of Cluster 2. Only two had trees, and both were set to private. Their connection to the cluster may provide more helpful information.

Another look at the entire auto-cluster shows other concentrated areas where Paternal Super Cluster A shares matches with other clusters. I’ve labeled these areas A-C1, A-C2, and A-D:

Concentrated Areas of Shared Matches with Paternal Super Cluster A

I will explore these areas in a later post. My hypothesis is these areas will pinpoint matches key to understanding the pedigree collapse in my family. I previously thought the shared DNA was isolated to my Johnston, Smart, McKaskle, and McMurry lines, but I may need to add McCauleys to the mix.

Because Paternal Super Cluster A has about half its members as Johnston descendants and 4 of 5 clusters with a McCauley connection, I am now calling it the “Johnston/McCauley” cluster and concluding it contains DNA matches who descend from Wiley Blount Johnston and wife Harriett and John McCauley, Sr. Analysis of the other clusters will help me understand if McKaskles also should be included in the scope this cluster.

3 thoughts on “Analyzing DNA Auto-Clusters with Pedigree Collapse: Paternal Super Cluster A”

  1. Wow! This is fascinating!
    Im tryimg to get one of my male Johnston cousind yo yake a DNA TEST. Id like to learn more sboiy the J. Genetic makeup. Im teaching the conclusion thst zi may come down this summer, testing kit in hand, and after the hugs and kisses I’ll whip the vial out and order them to spit!
    Are u interested in looking at my results? Let me know- if u already have the 23andMe app loaded I’ll just pm you my user name and password. Let me know!

  2. Jessica, I got chills reading this. Thank you for giving it a try! It was my first time analyzing these clusters that thoroughly and I’m thrilled that it was so useful to you, too!

    I’m excited this is working on a family with such a high degree of pedigree collapse, too! I can’t wait for others to try this.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Cherty and Dannel were my great- great- great grandparents. Annie McKaskle Brimer was my great grandmother which was their grand daughter.

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