Diggin' up Dead People

A Genealogy Blog

How many ancestors can I name?

I’d like to credit Cathy Meder-Dempsey’s post, “My Ancestor Score as of Valentine’s Day 2016” at her blog Opening Doors in Brick Walls as the inspiration for my finding my Ancestor Score.


The idea of “Ancestor Score” is to calculate how many ancestors of you can identify in each generation, starting with yourself, and, in many examples, ending at 10 generations back.  Ten generations back would be 7x great grandparents.  As you go back, the number of ancestors doubles with each generation, so you have 512 7x great-grandparents!  And how far back in time is that?  On average, there are 3-4 generations per century, so 10 generations is between about 250-330 years!

The calculation of the ancestor score is pretty straightforward- it is who you know divided by how many there are.  You can see the score per generation and a total score over all ten generations.  It was a humbling experience!

Generation Relationship Possible # Identified # Percentage
1 Me- Yup I know this one, LOL 1 1 100%
2 Parents 2 2 100%
3 Grandparents 4 4 100%
4 Great-Grandparents 8 8 100%
5 2x   Great-Grandparents 16 12 75%
6 3x   Great-Grandparents 32 20 62.5%
7 4x   Great-Grandparents 64 24 37.5%
8 5x   Great-Grandparents 128 14 10.9%
9 6x   Great-Grandparents 256 3 0.01%
10 7x   Great-Grandparents 512 0 0%
Total   1023 88 0.08%

I was doing really well up through my great grandparents!  Of these great grandparents I was able to name parents for all but 2, so even in generations 5 and then 6, things were solid.

It was looking at the later generations that put things in a different light.  I have tested DNA with the 3 major genetic genealogy companies: Family Tree DNA, Ancestry DNA and 23 and me.  My personal genealogy results have been less than enlightening.  I match a ton of people that I have no idea why we match.  Furthermore, most of these contacts seem to have no clue either!  In a quest to further figure things out I’ve also uploaded my results to GedMatch. It is all a bit overwhelming!  I wondered if my paper trail genealogy contained some huge errors!

My ancestor score chart put some perspective on the situation.  My first cousins match at generation 3, second at generation 4 and so on. Sixth cousins would match at generation 8- we share 5th great grandparents. So someone who matches me at 6th cousin and I have 128 possible common ancestors and I do not know even the names of 114 of these possibilities!  Many of my matches are at the 4th-6th cousin or more distant level.  So, I can see now why I’ve had so much difficulty with reconciling my DNA matches to my known ancestors.  Although I “knew” that the reason matches seemed to be perplexing was because I just hadn’t (and likely neither had the match) gone back far enough in our ancestry- seeing it visually in the chart made that reason much clearer for me!





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John P Hall

John was born March 25, 1839 in Montgomery county, New York, likely on the family farm.  The youngest child of John W and Maria (Duryea) Hall; he was the brother of my third great grandmother, Catherine (Hall) Serviss.  The children of John and Maria span some 27 years from about 1812-1839.  John P. was born about two years after his nephew, my 2nd great grandfather, Hiram Serviss.

John P Hall lived most of his life on the Hall family farm in Charleston/Glen.  He is first listed by name with his parents in the 1850 United States Census for Charleston, New York.  (Earlier US census records included on the head of household by name.  Subsequent household members were recorded by tick marks in columns of age range.)  In 1850, as a boy of 11 he is listed without occupation, and in 1855 he is listed as a child of 16. In 1860, he appears as a single man, alongside his parents with the occupation of farmer.  In June 1863, on the draft registration list, he describes himself as a 24 year old, single, white, farmer born in Charleston.  Although listed as subject to military duty, there does not appear to be any record that John P Hall served in either of the Union or Confederate armies.  The Enrollment Act of 1863 required that able bodied men between the ages of 20 and 45 be registered for potential service in the Union army.  Although exceptions were made, it appears that the exclusions would not apply to John P., therefore if he did not serve it was likely because he had furnished a substitute or had paid a $300. support fee in lieu of service.

John remained unmarried and with his parents on the farm.  When his father, John W Hall, died in 1874, John P. Hall took over the farm.  His mother remained with him until her death in 1878.  In 1875 the household consisted of John P, his mother Maria, Mary Teeple, Abram Fero and Danforth Hall.   John W. Hall’s will had left his estate to to Maria, for her exclusive use and benefit throughout her lifetime or until (if) she had remarried.  By his will, John W Hall had named his son, Francis, the executor of his estate.  At the probate of the will, Francis refused executorship and John P. was named executor of the estate.  Over the next several years, John P. paid the legacies due to his living sisters and the child of his deceased sister.  Through several transactions, he  bought out his siblings’ interest in the farm, leaving him sole owner.

John, a republican, was elected Charleston Town Supervisor February 11(?) 1880.  He remained on the farm and unmarried, later in 1880 his household enumerated on the census consisted of a housekeeper, Mary Teeple, and two servants, Hettie Holmes, and H Osterhout.  H Osterhout is likely  Hezekiah Osterhout and is extended family, through the wife of his nephew Danforth Hall (son of James Hall- eldest son of John W and Maria Hall).  Mary Teeple remains with John through the 1920 census, and Hezekiah is a farm laborer for John in 1892 and 1900.  In 1915, it only 76 year old John P Hall and 62 year old Mary Teeple enumerated at the farm, and later that year, in September, John P Hall listed the farm as available for lease or sale in the local newspaper, however, in 1920 he still owned and is enumerated on the farm.  The farm was sold in 1924 to a “party from Cranberry Creek”.

The next year John P Hall is enumerated in the home of Jay and Mary Hughes along with Della Nhare, a distant relation. John died just short of his 88th birthday on March 10, 1927 at the home of his niece, Georgianna Hall Olmsted.

Sources: (complete references upon request)

1850 United Stated Federal Census, Montgomery, New York

New York, State Census, 1855 Charleston, Montgomery, New York

1860 United States Federal Census, Montgomery, New York

U.S., Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010)  Record for John P Hall.

New York State Census, 1865, Charleston, ED 02, Montgomery, New York

1870 United States Federal Census, Montgomery, New York

1875 New York State Census, Montgomery, New York

Montgomery County, New York, “Will Book,”

1880 United States Federal Census, Montgomery, New York

1892 New York State Census, Montgomery, New York

1900 United States Federal Census, Montgomery, New York

1905 New York State Census, Montgomery, New York

1910 United States Federal Census, Montgomery, New York

1915 New York State Census, Montgomery, New York

1920 United States Federal Census, Montgomery, New York

Old Fulton New York Post Cards, The Amsterdam Evening Recorder, various dates

1925 New York State Census, Montgomery, New York

Town of Glen, Register of Deaths


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