Several years ago, at a DNA conference, I found myself sitting next to Peter Roberts at lunch. We discovered common ground – how can you NOT discover common ground at a genetic genealogy conference? We’ve kept in touch ever since. One of the things we discussed is the daunting task of managing multiple “stories” about the same ancestor, and now, DNA information that relates to that ancestor. Or maybe, the DNA information doesn’t relate to that ancestor, but “should.” How do we handle all of these challenges, separately or together? Peter, an archivist by trade, has a special interest in organizing records, of course, and has been working on this topic. I asked him to share his recent experience with WikiTree, and he has been gracious enough to do so. Here’s what he had to say.
We know how personal computers changed the genealogy landscape by allowing us to build our own genealogy databases. The next step was the Internet which provided easier communication and convenient access to family history information. Then came DNA which allowed us to confirm if our genealogies were indeed correct. Now there is a new genetic genealogy tool, WikiTree, that puts it all together for free!
Peter Roberts originally tested in 2003 and has been not-so-patiently waiting since then for one collaborative online ancestral tree where we can all hang our results. First he tried uploading a large GEDCOM in WikiTree but faced the daunting task of trying to merge his records with so many of his ancestors among the 6.1 million already in WikiTree. He opted for a manual approach and focused on DNA tested lines for himself and cousins.
Fortunately, WikiTree has addressed and includes DNA testing. In Peter’s public profile under “DNA” WikiTree asked, “Has Peter taken a DNA test for genealogy?” Well yes! As many as he could afford. He clicked through to an “Add a New Test” page where he selected one of the Y-DNA test options from a drop down menu which generated entry fields for Haplogroup, Number of Markers, YSearch ID, and Kit Number. He did the same for his mtDNA and atDNA tests and entered his MitoSearch and GEDmatch IDs. And for good measure he added the ancestry and Y-DNA results for a distant paternal line cousin (whose test kit he manages) who he listed as “Anonymous Roberts” to protect the man’s privacy. For that easy work WikiTree awarded each test taker a handsome DNA Tested badge which can be displayed on the tester’s public profile.
Like magic (but it actually took about 24 hours) in the public profiles of Peter’s direct line ancestors, WikiTree automatically provided links to corresponding results in YSearch and MitoSearch. And cousin Anonymous was there also. Here’s the screen shot from WikiTree regarding DNA testing relevant to this ancestor, Bennie Roberts.
Now anyone can see Peter’s DNA test list and compare his results with those of his direct line cousins to determine if their DNA is a close enough match. If not, then the mis-matching DNA is pointing out a problem in that direct line.
Peter’s crotchety cousin Rufus refuses to DNA test and his WikiTree profile notes by default “…there are no known yDNA or mtDNA test-takers in the same direct paternal or maternal line.” It’s a reminder that perhaps someday Rufus’ son will do that honor.
The profile of Peter’s paternal grandfather, Bennie Roberts, http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Roberts-7102 illustrates many beneficial features. Under the DNA heading are the known Y-DNA testers in WikiTree who share his direct paternal line and the mtDNA tester who shares his direct maternal line. These names link to their public WikiTree profiles. Here is Peter’s page via the “person who DNA tested” link on his grandfather’s page. Please note that while WikiTree is “free,” there is no such thing as a “free lunch” so Ancestry ads are plastered all over every page in strategically placed locations. Peter has no control over this, and neither will you.
To the right of the tester’s name is the testing company and the type of test (Y-DNA or mtDNA). This links to a more descriptive Test Connections overview page. A key feature on these test connections pages is the earliest known direct line ancestor is highlighted and followed by a link to a descendant chart of carriers of the type of DNA tested (Y-DNA http://www.wikitree.com/treewidget/Roberts-7104/890 or mtDNA http://www.wikitree.com/treewidget/Unknown-205578/890). Unlike many other online genealogy databases, these charts have a web addresses (urls) which facilitates sharing.
Peter is now joyously (joyfully?) decorating his ancestral tree with haplogroup ornaments and haplotype garlands as well as project badges. His tree is growing in an aspen forest and there is something special about aspen forests.
Aside from the obvious “tree” challenges, in terms of results that might not match the expected line and are not part, genetically, of the aspen forest, there are also other challenges to be addressed. Over time, the naming of haplogroups has become confusing. This is because haplogroups are defined by SNPs that are given names like M-269. M-269 happens to define haplogroup R1b1a2, which used to be R1b1c.
Genealogists have tried to fit the SNPs into a tree-like structure, shown above (tree compliments of Family Tree DNA) because we understand trees and haplogroups are like trees (trunk, branches, leaves) – but the problem occurred when newly discovered branches needed to be inserted in-between already existing branches that already had names. Every downstream branch’s name shifted, for example, from R1b1c to R1b1a2, and confusion resulted. Today, we are moving away from haplogroup names like R1b1a2 and using only the SNP name, M269, which will never change. Of course, the problem with this is that the name doesn’t give you any idea of where the SNP falls on the tree, where the old nomenclature did – R1b1a2 was downstream from R1b1a which was downstream from R1b1, etc.
When entering information into WikiTree, Y chromosome (Y-DNA) haplogroups should be labeled with the first letter of the major haplogroup branch followed by a dash and the name of the final (downstream or most recent) SNP. For example: R-M269 which is the SNP for R1b1a2. Because separate labs have reported different labels over time for haplogroups and their subclades, and because there is no verification process for how haplogroups are entered in WikiTree, there will be inconsistencies in haplogroup labeling. So in the note field it is important to explain how you came up with that haplogroup (eg. Estimated haplogroup R-CTS241, aka R1b1a2a1a2c1 per ISOGG Y-DNA Haplogroup Tree, 17 Jul 2013). Also, remember to update your information at WikiTree if you take more DNA tests or upgrade.
The source and the date for the Mitochondrial (mtDNA) haplogroups should be entered as reported by the genetic genealogy testing lab, along with which lab did the testing. An example is: L3f. If you have additional knowledge of your more precise subclade (e.g. from full sequence results) then use the more precise haplogroup label.
Peter notes that more features are revealed once you are a registered WikiTree user.
For more information and guidelines see the help pages at
Thanks much to Peter Roberts for sharing with us. Think you might be related or have questions? You can contact Peter directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.