Diane Gould Hall, blog author of Michigan Family Trails, has shared this blog as part of our ongoing “How I Solved It Series”.

This blog discusses how a DNA match leads to clues about husband’s 2nd great-grandparents. Further research discovers a previous marriage which documents in her own possession actually showed but she missed a few things. This is how it happened and what she learned about why she missed things.

I consider myself a novice when it comes to DNA.  Although I’ve taken many classes and seminars, I still have a lot to learn. I’m getting there……slowly.

One of the most Aha! moments I’ve had came when I was looking at my husband’s DNA on GedMatch.   This was the number one match on his One to Many list.


This match has a total cM of 75.6 with a 3.8 MRCA (most recent common ancestor).  That would mean the match is at about the 3rd cousin level, sharing 2nd great grandparents.  Other possibilities are 3rd cousin once removed or even 3rd cousin twice removed.  For any of those it would mean sharing 2nd great grandparents.

The exciting thing was that I noticed there is a Gedcom associated with this match.  That means I can go into the Gedcom and try to find those 2nd great grandparents and see if I can locate the match.  

NOTE: When I click on the GED link a screen comes up with “Individual Detail Display”  This gives me some information on the specific match, but not what I’m looking for.  So, I always click on “Pedigree.” 

This pedigree is pretty full, which is exciting.  I count back from the point person to the level of 2nd great grandparents.  I browse down that level in the pedigree chart to see if I recognize any names.  BINGO!  There is a surname I immediately recognize as being associated with my husband’s line, CUPPS.  And the location in Pennsylvania also fits.

I immediately go to my Legacy database and find the only Cupps entry I have, which happens to be the first wife of my husband’s 2nd GREAT GRANDFATHER.  Now that’s exciting as it is in line with what the shared DNA indicated.  

I didn’t even know that my husband’s 2nd great grandfather, William W. Bright (1835-1916) had a first wife until I received his Civil War pension file.  I only knew about his second wife, Mary Jane Flynn, which is whom I thought my husband descended from, based on dates and other records.  
Mmmmm……….could I be wrong?  I’m certainly anxious to find out.  

Was my husband’s great grandfather, Ellmer E. Bright the son of Mary Jane Flynn or Catherine Cupps?

I set out on a research mission to find out all I could about the CUPPS names listed in that Gedcom file that was a match to my husband’s DNA. 

The first thing I did was try to find the 2nd great grandparents listed on that Gedcom in GedMatch, Henry Cupps and Catherine Strauss.   I went over to Ancestry.com, where my husband’s DNA is located.  I immediately found a public tree with the same pedigree as the one on GedMatch.


There are Henry Cupps and Catherine Strauss and two of their children, Sarah and Catherine.  

That, of course, isn’t good enough for me, but it’s surely a strong indication.  

I located Henry Cupps and his wife Catherine in the 1850 census and guess who two of the children were……that’s right, Sarah and Catherine Cupps.  Further proof. 

Next, I began reviewing the dates of marriages for William W. Bright and his two wives and the dates of death of both women.

We all know that prior to about 1900 anything is possible.  You may or may not find records.  A strong indicator of when William’s first wife Catherine Cupps died is in his Civil War pension file. In his deposition, he states that she died “during the war.”  That puts her death between 1861 and 1865.  Also in the pension file is the date of the marriage of William to Catherine Cupps, 1853 in Sharpsburg, Allegheny, Pennsylvania.  Further reading in the pension file gives her death date of August 1862.  Also listed in that pension file are the names and years of birth of all of William’s children from both marriages, including Ellmer E. Bright (my husband’s direct line), who is said to have been born in 1861.  I had a year of birth for him of 1859.  Either way, he was born prior to Catherine Cupps death and prior to William marrying his second wife in Feb 1864.

I have more research to do to bring out all the details for this family.  


  • First of all, I didn’t look closely enough at the Civil War pension file.  I read though it a couple of times and caught, what I thought, were most of the details. 
  • I didn’t consider or look closely enough at the years of birth for all six children born to William W. Bright.   I don’t have a death certificate or register of death, but I do have an obituary and a probate record for Ellmer.  The obituary gives his age at death of 29 years and 5 months.  Given his date of death that would indicate he was born in November 1859.
  • This family was one of the very first I worked on back in 2003-2004.  Not an excuse, but certainly a reason for all of us to review ALL of our work.
  • I have officially changed my husband’s direct line and now have Catherine Cupps as his 2nd great grandmother instead of Mary Jane Flynn.  

This has been a LOT of fun and really points out the value of our DNA tests.  Not only that, but making sure your DNA is uploaded to every possible site.  
This match showed up as the first hit on GedMatch.
On Ancestry it is buried several pages down with the 4th – 6th cousin matches.

I have yet to check on MyHeritage and FtDNA where my husband’s test is also uploaded.

Have you had similar experiences?  Are you using your DNA matches to verify or disprove your paper trail?  

AMANUENSIS MONDAY – The Last Will & Testament of Ellmer E. Bright

SURNAME SATURDAY – Who Was Daisy Bright? (my husband’s grandmother) 

If you are connected with the families mentioned here, I would love to hear from you.

If you have a story idea or a blog that you’d like to share as part of this series, please let us know about it in the comments.

Diane Gould Hall
Diane has been researching her family history for over 13 years. She is a member of the DAR, the San Diego Genealogical Society, the North San Diego County Genealogical Society, the Aberdeen, Scotland Historical Society, and the New England Historical Genealogical Society. Her hobbies also include traveling, riding horses and reading. She's happily married and retired. Visit Diane's Website