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How do I go about using genetic testing to support (or disprove) the identity of an individual before a name change?

My great-great-grandfather, Everett T Malcom, would just say, "It's me own business" whenever someone asked him about his parents, siblings, or personal history before he turned up in Utah in about 1888. What little information his only child, Glendora, was able to glean from him hasn't turned up any matches for the names he gave for parents and siblings. Glendora reports his parents' names as "John Malcom" and "Jane Stokes".

It's widely thought among my relatives that Everett must have changed his name when he moved west, for whatever reason, and cut off ties with his past life.

A likely candidate for his original identity is Mark Ellsworth Templin, son of John Wesley Templin and Jane Stokes of Goshen, Mahoning, Ohio. The strongest match here is that the maiden names of John Templin's two previous wives match the maiden names for John Malcom's two previous wives, as reported by Glendora. Additionally, several given names of siblings match, and the timeline and geography work out well (for details, please see discussion on Family Search Tree).

Could genetic testing be helpful in supporting (or disproving) the theory that Everett T Malcom and Mark Ellsworth Templin are one and the same? If so, what strategies would be most helpful? Everett T Malcom's closest living relative is a grandson (my great-uncle). Mark Ellsworth Templin's son, Charles, doesn't appear to have left any children, based on his wife's obituary. Should I contact descendants of Mark's siblings and ask them for their genetic info to compare with my great-uncle? What are the names of the tests for this that I should look for when shopping for a DNA company?

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Yes, that is the basic strategy. You can use any of the main 4 DNA testing sites. These are the ones you can upload to Gedmatch and get usable raw data for. 23andme, FTNDA, AncestryDNA, MyHeritage. You might want to choose based on who has the best sale in the next month or two.

You want an autosomal test. Of the above companies, only FTDNA offers anything different (well, just ignore the 23andme health+ancestry test; it's actually identical to the ancestry-only test in terms of the raw data you get back).

One more note: IF you have one man on each side who is descended from the paternal line only (never through a mother, only through a father, every generation), you can also do a Y-DNA test. Here, 23andme is reasonable to try as they do a very basic Y-DNA test. It's not anywhere near the test FTDNA offers but it's free if you buy the autosomal (they do autosomal, mtDNA, and Y-DNA all at the same time). Lack of a match here will rule out the family connection, if both testers are truly paternal descendants of each man (or each man's father). Followup at FTDNA if the Y-DNA matches.

You can also start with a low level FTDNA Y-DNA test for each. I'd do this in addition to the autosomal, though you can always start with Y-DNA if you prefer. Note that for FTDNA, you do not have to get the tester to do a second swab session if you decide to add on tests later.

With autosomal, lack of a match between anyone who is less than a 3rd cousin will pretty much rule out this family connection. In 3rd cousins and slightly over, it is a strong clue against a connection. But this is why testing more than one person from each family is important.

The presence of a match doesn't prove that person A is the same as person B, but given that there's no other explanation, it's a pretty decent bet.

  • Thanks! Unfortunately, the Y-DNA test is no good, because Everett's only child was a daughter. What about the X-DNA test: my great-uncle should share about half of his X chromosome with his mother's father's mother (Jane Stokes Malcom), so would it be easier to find a connection if we test one of Jane Stokes Templin's sons' daughters' sons? – Benjamin Allred Oct 29 '18 at 18:14
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    The X chromosome is included in every autosomal DNA test. Test anyone you can find who agrees to test. It will make no difference for gender if you are not doing mtDNA or Y-DNA. The X is not any more important than 1-22 are. – Cyn says make Monica whole Oct 29 '18 at 18:43

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