Chromosome Mapping aka Ancestor Mapping

This article really should be called “Identifying Prodigal Great-Grandpa by Ancestor Mapping Your Chromosomes,” because that’s what we’re going to be doing.  It’s fun to map your ancestors to your chromosomes, but there is also a purpose and benefit to be derived.  So you can have guilt-free fun because you’re being productive too!  Oh, and yes, you can work on finding Prodigal Great-Grandpa.

I constantly receive questions similar to this:

“How can I find the identity of my mother’s mother’s father?  My great-grandmother went to her grave with this secret.  That’s one eighth of my ancestry.  What can I do?  How can I find out?”

The answer is that it’s not easy, but it is sometimes possible.  Note the word sometimes.  A good part of the definition of “sometimes” is how willing you are to do the requisite work and if you are lucky or not.  Luck favors those who work hard.  And let’s face it, you’ll never know if you don’t try.  I mean, Prodigal Great-Grandpa is not going to text you from the other side with his name and date of birth.

What we’re going to do is basically work through a process of elimination.  The term for what we are going to do is called chromosome mapping your ancestors or more simply, chromosome mapping or ancestor mapping. In essence, you are going to map your own chromosomes based on which ancestor contributed that part of your DNA.

I have simplified this process greatly in order to explain the concept in a way you can easily follow.  I’m going to use my own pedigree chart as an example.  We’ll pretend we don’t know the identity of Curtis Benjamin Lore.  And yes, for those of you wondering, all of these people are deceased.

Mapping pedigree chart

I realize that you are going to have more than the 32 autosomal matches shown on my example spreadsheet.  You’re also not going to be able to find common ancestry with many of your matches due to things like dead ends, incorrect ancestry, segments identical by state (IBS) or DNA that comes from older ancestors that is not recognizable today after name changes in many generations when descended through females.  There are lots of reasons why you might not be able to find genealogy matches.  It’s the other matches, the ones where you can decipher and determine your common ancestor that help a great deal, and that is where we’ll focus.  These are the ones that matter and the keys to identifying Prodigal Great-Grandpa.

In my example here, we live in a perfect world.  We are looking to map the DNA of my 8 great-grandparents in order to figure out the identity of mother’s mother’s father.  Of course, there is no Y-DNA to test in this instance, so we must rely on autosomal DNA.  Ok, so maybe it’s not such a perfect world.  In a perfect world, you’d be a male trying to find the identity of your father’s father’s father and you could test your own Y-DNA – but then we wouldn’t have a good story nor would we need autosomal DNA.  And most people aren’t that fortunate.

Three generations isn’t that far back – or four – if you count yourself as the first generation.  If you’re quite lucky, you can test one or both of your parents, and maybe even a grandparent or great-aunt or uncle.  Failing that, you should be able to find some cousins from your various lines to test.  This entire exercise will be much MUCH easier for you if you can test multiple people descended from each of the 4 couples involved because you’ll be able to tell which lines your matches do, and don’t, match based on which cousins they also match.  Take DNA test kits to family reunions!

Obviously, you won’t be able to test anyone directly descended from your unknown great-grandfather, except perhaps his children.  The more of his children you can test, either directly or through their children, if deceased, the better your chance of identifying your Prodigal Great-Grandfather because each child inherits some different DNA from their parents.  In my case, we’re going to presume that there are no other known children, other than my grandmother.  So how do we find Prodigal Great-Grandpa?

First, download all of your matches with corresponding segment data from your testing vendor, either 23andMe or Family Tree DNA, into a spreadsheet.  Ancestry does not allow you to do this, which is a significant drawback in terms of testing at Ancestry.  You can do this today at 23andMe and at Family Tree DNA most easily by utilizing www.dnagedcom.com download software.  You can also do this directly at Family Tree DNA on the Chromosome Browser page.

Your spreadsheet will look something like this, but without the colors.  That’s what you’ll be adding, along with the Common Ancestor column.

Mapping spreadsheet

Step 1 – Identify a common ancestor with those individuals you match on common DNA segments.  This is really two steps, the common ancestor part, and the common DNA segment part.  If these people are on your match list, we already know you have a common DNA segment over the vendor’s match threshold.  The presumption here is that if you have 3 people that match on the same segment from the same ancestor, that’s a confirmed “yes” that this particular DNA segment is descended from that ancestor.  You can also label these with only two confirmed descendants from the same ancestor, but I like to see three to be sure, especially if here is any doubt whatsoever that you’re dealing with the same ancestral family.  For example, if you are dealing with 2 people who carry the same surname from the same location, but you can’t quite find the common ancestor – you’ll need 3 matches to identify this segment.

In this case, I was able to test cousins so I know that on chromosome 1, Sue, Joe and John all match me on the same segment and they are all descended from Lazarus Estes.  I know this because one of them descends from Lazarus Estes and his wife, Elizabeth Vannoy, but the other two, Joe and John descend from an Estes upstream of Lazarus, let’s say, his father, John Y. Estes, through another child, which allows me to positively identify this segment as coming not just from the couple, Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy, but from Lazarus specifically.

I’ve colored this segment mustard to represent Lazarus and so that you can visually see the difference between the 8 ancestors we’re working with.

2.  Repeat the same process with your other matches, hopefully utilizing cousins, to identify DNA segments of your other ancestors.  I’m only showing a very small subset of all of my DNA on my spreadsheet, and all matches are the exact same 10,000 cM blocks and only on one chromosome, for illustration purposes, but as you work through your matches, you’ll be able to color more and more of your DNA and assign it to different ancestral couples.  Each of your chromosomes will have different colors as different parts of each chromosome come from different ancestors.

Kitty Cooper released a tool to utilize AFTER you do this hard grunt-work part that paints a pretty picture of your ancestors mapped on to your various chromosomes.  Here’s her example.  Notice that each chromosome has 2 sides, Mom’s and Dad’s inheritance side.  We’re going to use that to our advantage and it’s one facet of how we’re going to find Prodigal Great-Grandpa .

mapping kitty cooper

In my case (not this example), I have several segments that I can’t identify to a particular couple, but I can assign it to a group.  This is my Acadian group and is terribly admixed because of extensive intermarriage.  I also have a “Mennonite” segment labeled in the same way for the same reason.  So while I don’t know specifically who, I do know where and that helps a lot too.  But in our perfect world in our example, we don’t have any of that.

3. Now that I have most of my genome colored in and assigned to ancestors, except for Prodigal Great-Grandpa, I can see where all new matches fall.  Let’s say I get a new match on chromosome 1 in the segments between 10,000 and 20,000 and they also match Sue, Joe and John.  Even if the new match is an adoptee and has no genealogy, I can tell them which line they descend from.  And let me tell you, there is no greater gift.  This is exactly how we told new cousin Loujean she descended from the Younger line.

However, if someone matches me on this chromosome 1 segment but NOT Sue, Joe and John, since Sue,Joe, John and I all match on the entire segment from 10,000-20,000, then the new match has to be matching me on my other parent’s side (or is IBS – identical by state, a circumstantial match.)  Never forget that you have two “sides” to each chromosome – Mom’s and Dad’s (except for the X chromosome in males which we are not addressing here.)

4.  The only part of my match spreadsheet left uncolored, since this is a perfect world, would be the part that would probably come from my Prodigal Great-Grandfather.  So let’s look at chromosome 8 and map it.

What we don’t know, and have to determine, is whether or not some of these parts of chromosome 8 really belong to ancestors identified in color above.  However, remember that we are dealing with fairly close matches, only 3 generations, and in some cases, only 2 generations, depending on which cousins tested.  So let’s say you found several cousins to test because grandma had a large family.  Based on the test results of several of your aunts and uncles along with other people descended from great-grandma’s ancestral lines, you are able to map most of the DNA of your great-grandmother.  In this case, we mapped this segment of chromosome 8 to my three cousins, Derrell, Darrell and Daryl.  (Yes, I really do have those cousins.)

The result is that now I have 8 matches that do match me, and based on other cousin matches, do descend from Great-Grandma/Great-Grandpa but don’t match the Derrell trio indicating Great-Grandma’s line.  What this tells me is that the people who aren’t assigned, because they don’t match my cousins Derrell, Daryl and Darrel, or any other distant groups, must then be from Prodigal Great-Grandpa’s side or are “problem matches.”  Problem matches are those that are IBS (Identical by State) or have a technical issue and we’re not going to deal with that here, because this is a perfect world and we’re only concerned with people whose genealogy we have and that match each other.  By this definition, problem matches are automatically eliminated.  So let’s look at the 8 people above who don’t match me or the Derrell cousins on Great-Grandma’s/Great-Grandpa’s side, beginning with Bobbi and ending with Isabel.

5.  Now we turn to genealogy.  We know that these 8 people all share a common ancestral line with Prodigal Great-Grandpa, we just don’t know who that is.  Let’s say that of this group, we discover that Bobbi, Harold and Buster are all related to each other, and glory be, they all know who their common ancestor is, or at least the common ancestral line.  Let’s say that Bobbi and Buster are first cousins in the Lore line and that Harold matches them closely as well, but he is descended from a Lore ancestor further upstream from Bobbi and Buster.  Therefore, we can now say, positively, that Prodigal Great-Grandpa descended somehow from the Lore line.

We still don’t know how Sarah, Ronald, Garret, Nina and Isabel connect to Prodigal Great-Grandpa, and that’s OK.  We can simply leave them uncolored for now.  We can select a color for Bobbi, Harold and Buster and assign then to Prodigal Great-Grandpa who descends from the Lore line.

Mapping PGG Lore

6.  Now it’s time for that luck to kick in.  We don’t know that Prodigal Great-Grandpa carried the surname Lore.  His mother could have been a Lore, or any of his ancestors.  All we have is a common surname and a common ancestor between three people who all match me on the same segment.  So, let’s assemble a tree of our cousins to see if we can narrow the scope of maybe who and where and then let’s get busy with the census and other records.  Geography is important.  Begatting requires proximity and many times, we can find the begatter in the neighborhood.  Also, check your genealogy software data base for this surname.  You may find the surname in an allied line.  Remember, families married their neighbors and often intermarried as well.

Sure enough, look there, in our perfect world, we discover that Nora Kirsch is working in her parents inn named the Kirsch House on the Ohio River in 1880.  The Kirsch House was also a boarding house, and a restaurant and pub.  One of their boarders in 1880 was none other than Benjamin Lore.  Hmmm.  Surely makes you wonder.  Further research on Benjamin Lore shows that he was a wildcat oilfield well driller working in the county where Nora lived and became something of a local legend for discovering the “Blue Lick” water well.  Well, now we have a name, proximity and maybe an opportunity.

7.  Well, peachy, but what next?  Further research on Benjamin Lore shows that he was married in the census, but where was his wife?  In previous census records, we find Benjamin Lore in Warren County, PA with his parents.  In the Warren County records, we find that he married Mary Bills, and additional research shows in 1880 a Mary Lore with 2 children, but no husband.  Court records show they later divorced, with 4 children.  Find those children!!!  They are the key to confirming the identity of Benjamin Lore as Prodigal Great-Grandpa.  If Benjamin’s other children had children about the same time as grandmother, each line should have 3 generations between Benjamin and the current generation.  Benjamin’s great-grandchildren through his first wife would be half-second cousins to me which would be the same as second cousins once removed.  They of course would be a generation closer to my mother whose DNA I also happen to have.

ISOGG has a wonderful Autosomal DNA Statistics page, and here you can see that second cousins once removed would share about 1.5% of their DNA in what is hopefully a large enough segment to match some of the cousins that have already tested.   My mother’s generation, first cousins once removed would share approximately 6.25%.

Mapping cousin chart

Benjamin’s descendants through his first wife may not match all of my cousins, but they will, hopefully, match some of the descendants of Prodigal Great-Grandpa, confirming, as best we can, that Benjamin Lore was grandmother’s father.  The best litmus test of course is how closely they would match the closest generations, like mother or great-aunts/uncles, if they were living.

Full Disclosure Note:  I used my own ancestors for purposes of illustration, even though Curtis Benjamin Lore (shown at right) was not prodigal in quite the way I portrayed in this article, well, at least not from my family’s perspective.  However, he was no saint Lore, CBeither and he may well have other descendants looking for him in this exact situation.  Aside from what we do know, there is the rumor of an illegitimate son showing up on his widow’s doorstep looking for him, albeit, a little too late.  We know that Curtis Benjamin (known as C.B.) Lore did marry Nora Kirsch in Dearborn County, Indiana, in 1888.  These photos are their “wedding photos” but interestingly, there is no photo of them together.

We also know that Curtis Benjamin Lore married Mary Bills in Warren County, PA., had four Lore children, 3 males (Sid, John Curtis and Herbert Judson Lore) and one female (Maud who married a Hendrickson), none of whom we have never been able to find.  Also, Curtis Benjamin Lore was not divorced from Mary until, ahem, after he was married to Nora Kirsch when Mary filed for divorce on the grounds of desertion.Kirsch, Nora

Apparently, his marriage to Nora Kirsch (pictured at right) fell, literally, according to the secret family story, into the “shotgun” category, so one has to understand that his choice of marriage versus death was fairly defensible.  I’m sure Nora’s father, a crusty old Civil War veteran, had no idea that he was already married or Curtis Benjamin would have been on the business end of that shotgun and marriage would not have been a choice.

The family took great care that this “uncomfortable” shotgun marriage situation never be discovered, to the point of falsifying the marriage date in the family Bible and also by “adjusting” the birth of the child by a year, also recorded incorrectly in the family Bible.  Were it not for the fact that I checked the church records in Dearborn County, I would never have discovered the discrepancy.  A child cannot be baptized months before it is born.  I might note that it was only AFTER this discovery that my mother was forthcoming with the “family secret” about the shotgun wedding.  Birth certificates were not issued at that time and my grandmother’s delayed birth certificate was issued based on the falsified family Bible information.

Benjamin probably would not have been bothered by this revelation at all, given what we know about him, but I’m sure Nora’s parents rolled over in their grave once or twice when I made the discovery and now that I’m, ugh, discussing it, and publicly at that.

Rogues and handsome scoundrels.  They are colorful and interesting aren’t they and provide a great amount of spice for family stories.  Hopefully these tools will help you find yours!!!

23andMe Produces about 10% Response Rate for Genealogy

helix graphicI recommended a couple of days ago that everyone contact their matches at 23andMe and make sure, at least, that they have your e-mail in light of the current situation with the FDA deadline occurring about mid-month.  It looks like the genealogy data is safe for the time being, hopefully, but I didn’t know that when I started.

I wrote a nice message, including at least some genealogy information of course, and set out to do the same thing, and it has taken the better part of 4 days.  No, I’m not kidding.  I have 1030 matches.  Let me say, this was not fun.

The most frustrating part for me is that it really doesn’t have to be this difficult.  Think of it this way, all of this effort was just to get to the point where you start out with Family Tree DNA matches.

FTDNA FF Match

When you receive a match at Family Tree DNA, you can contact them without sending a request to match, and you already have their e-mail (the blue envelope box by the pink graphic, above,) and they already have yours.  So the effort expended this past 4 days, just in case 23andMe’s messaging system (i.e. entire website) disappears in light of 23andMe’s FDA issues was spent to get to common ground with Family Tree DNA.  Until I had 1030 people to contact, this difference didn’t seem terribly important, but believe me, it is, especially when those 1000 matches are whittled to one third that number by non-responses.  At Family Tree DNA, 1000 matches are 1000 matches, not 1000 maybes.  As you can see below, at 23andMe, many, many introduction requests go unanswered.  Those would be reflected in all of the blank spaces above “male” and “female” where a name shows after an introduction has been accepted, shown below.

23andMe Match

If you have already invited people to communicate with you at 23andMe, and they haven’t replied, you have to go through the extra steps of cancelling that first invitation and then re-inviting them.  Public Matches?  You have to invite them differently.  So let’s look at it this way, every invitation is a minimum of 5 clicks, that’s if you don’t have to look at anything else in the process, and 1030 people times 5 clicks is 5150 clicks and then another hundred or so that I have to be uninvited to be invited, so maybe another 500 clicks.  Public matches are another 5 clicks, so that’s another 1270 for a total of almost 7000 clicks.    Let’s just say this system was never designed with the genealogist in mind, or even with anyone nearby with any genealogical experience.  The more I use it, the more I dislike it.

There is, however, a good news aspect.  I did contact everyone – which I should have done before, and now they have my e-mail if they want it, now or in the future.  The bad news is that the response rate is just painfully low, which is why I got frustrated and stopped contacting people several months ago.

So let’s look at some raw data.

23andMe cuts off your matches at 1000, meaning your lowest matches fall off the list, unless you have outstanding invitations or communications.  In that case, those people who would otherwise fall off the list if they weren’t sharing or had some form of communications are preserved.  Hence, my 1030 matches instead of 1000.

Of those, 683 matches received first time new invitations, along with about 100 or so re-invitations and 254 Public Match invites.  I had last invited new matches in August.  It’s worth noting that I had not received any match invitations myself in this timeframe.

When someone receives an invitation, they can do one of 4 things.

  1. Ignore it and do nothing (this is what most do)
  2. Decline the invitation (they could simply opt out of genealogy matching instead)
  3. Accept the invitation for contact, but not share any DNA information
  4. Accept the invitation with DNA sharing

I only have 4 outright declines, but 14 people accepted the intro, but declined to share any DNA information.  Clearly their goals are not connecting through genealogy/genetics.

I currently have 365 people sharing in total.  Of those, 254 are public matches, meaning 111 others actually accepted a contact request and are sharing genomes, about 10%.

It appears that Public Matches are already sharing genomes with you, because there is no link to invite them to do so, but they aren’t.  You have to invite public matches in an entirely different, and not obvious, way.

To invite a Public Match to share, click on their name, in this case the name is “My Uncle.”.

23andMe my uncle

You will then see their profile page.  At the top, you’ll see one of two messages.  One is “Why can’t I invite this user to share genomes?” and the other is “Invite My Uncle to share genomes.”  If you get the invite message. click and invite.  If you get the “why can’t I” message, you’re dead in the water.  By the way, the answer to why can’t I is because either you’ve invited them before and the invitation is still outstanding, you’re already sharing (duh) or they have blocked all share requests.  Many Public Matches have blocked share requests.

23andMe my uncle 2

In total, between public matches and those who have opted to accept a share invitation, I can actually send a message to about 35% of my matches, but only hear from or share with less than one third of those, or about 10%..

Of those 365, I’ve actually received a reply message from 91 people, or about 25%.  I’m not counting another 10 people or so who are my close cousins, which would bring the total to just over 100.  I communicated with them before they tested.  In total, that also is about 10% of the total matches.

I sent a different, individual message to each of the people already sharing with me, depending on what we have previously discussed.

Of my 1030 matches, there are about 100 people, 10%, that actually communicated with me after hours and hours of inviting.   This includes all communications, from 2009 through today, not just new contacts.  This tells me that most people at 23andMe simply are not interested in genealogy and of those who are, most are just minimally interested..

Several people were very nice, but simply said that they didn’t know much about their family or were adopted.  I tried to help these folks as much as I could.

I have to laugh, several said they had to ask their mother, and a few more said they had to ask their grandmother.  My grandmothers were born in 1874 and 1888, respectively, but I digress…..

The 23and Me crowd is clearly not the normal genealogy crowd, but that’s exactly why we fish in different pools.  Maybe we can recruit some new genealogists!

I did have some genealogy success.  One woman has done genealogy for 54 years, and although we did not connect our family lines, working with her was a breath of fresh air.  I also ran into two seasoned genetic genealogists that are well known in the community who provided information on their family members.

I do have a half dozen positive connections where we were able to identify a common ancestor or a common line, and a few more that I think would be positive if we could nail down their genealogy, based on location.  In total, about 1% of the matches with a 2% potential with some added elbow grease.  My very endogamous Brethren, Mennonite and Acadian ancestors continue to haunt me by providing me with connections that are traceable to those groups, but not to individual ancestors.  That’s what happens when people intermarry for generations and just pass the same DNA around and around.  But even so, knowing that much is helpful.

So, is it worth 4 days of time to communicate with 90 people you’re related to, and to try to communicate with another 900+ that you’re related to but who aren’t interested in genealogy?  I guess that depends on your goals.  For me, yes, because if this opportunity disappears (meaning if the 23andMe database disappears,) I now have as much information, for the most part, that could be retrieved out of this resource at this time.  Hopefully it won’t disappear, but if it does, I’m ready, or as ready as I can get under the circumstances.  Having said that, 23andMe made the process much more difficult than it had to be and the actual success rate of 1-2% is terribly low for the amount of effort expended.

And maybe, just maybe, since I’m apparently a glutton for punishment, now that I’m finished with this,  I’ll go over to Family Tree DNA and send e-mails to the rest of my 490 matches there.  That might be useful.  At least I don’t have to send invitations first.

Or better yet, I could practice self-flagellation by going over to Ancestry where there is another message system and no genetic tools and try to contact my 5,950 cousins, only six of which are third cousins, none closer, and the rest of which are more distant.  Nah…..I think I’d rather clean the bathroom….

Determining Ethnicity Percentages

Recently, as a comment to one of my blog postings, someone asked how the testing companies can reach so far back in time and tell you about your ancestors.  Great question.

The tests that reliably reach the furthest back, of course, are the direct line Y-Line and mitochondrial DNA tests, but the commenter was really asking about the ethnicity predictions.  Those tests are known as BGA, or biogeographical ancestry tests, but most people just think of them or refer to them as the ethnicity tests.

Currently, Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and Ancestry.com all provide this function as a part of their autosomal product along with the Genographic 2.0 test.  In addition, third party tools available at www.gedmatch.com don’t provide testing, but allow you to expand what you can learn with their admixture tools if you upload your raw data files to their site.  I wrote about how to use these ethnicity tools in “The Autosomal Me” series.  I’ve also written about how accurate ethnicity predictions from testing companies are, or aren’t, here, here and here.

But today, I’d like to just briefly review the 3 steps in ethnicity prediction, and how those steps are accomplished.  It’s simple, really, in concept, but like everything else, the devil is in the details.devil

There are three fundamental steps.

  • Creation of the underlying population data base.
  • Individual DNA extraction.
  • Comparison to the underlying population data base.

Step 1:  Creation of the underlying population data base.

Don’t we wish this was as simple as it sounds.  It isn’t.  In fact, this step is the underpinnings of the accuracy of the ethnicity predictions.  The old GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) concept applies here.

How do researchers today obtain samples of what ancestral populations looked like, genetically?  Of course, the evident answer is through burials, but burials are not only few and far between, the DNA often does not amplify, or isn’t obtainable at all, and when it is, we really don’t have any way to know if we have a representative sample of the indigenous population (at that point in time) or a group of travelers passing through.  So, by and large, with few exceptions, ancient DNA isn’t a readily available option.

The second way to obtain this type of information is to sample current populations, preferably ones in isolated regions, not prone to in-movement, like small villages in mountain valleys, for example, that have been stable “forever.”  This is the approach the National Geographic Society takes and a good part of what the Genograpic Geno 2.0 project funding does.  Indigenous populations are in most cases our most reliable link to the past.  These resources, combined with what we know about population movement and history are very telling.  In fact, National Geographic included over 75,000 AIMs (Ancestrally Informative Markers) on the Geno 2.0 chip when it was released.

The third way to obtain this type of information is by inference.  Both Ancestry.com and 23andMe do some of this.  Ancestry released its V2 ethnicity updates this week, and as a part of that update, they included a white paper available to DNA participants.  In that paper, Ancestry discusses their process for utilizing contributed pedigree charts and states that, aside from immigrant locations, such as the United States and Canada, a common location for 4 grandparents is sufficient information to include that individuals DNA as “native” to that location.  Ancestry used 3000 samples in their new ethnicity predictions to cover 26 geographic locations.  That’s only 115 samples, on average, per location to represent all of that population.  That’s pretty slim pickins.  Their most highly represented area is Eastern Europe with 432 samples and the least represented is Mali with 16.  The regions they cover are shown below.

ancestry v2 8

Survey Monkey, a widely utilized web survey company, in their FAQ about Survey Size For Accuracy provides guidelines for obtaining a representative sample.  Take a look.  No matter which calculations you use relative to acceptable Margin of Error and Confidence Level, Ancestry’s sample size is extremely light.

23andMe states in their FAQ that their ethnicity prediction, called Ancestry Composition covers 22 reference populations and that they utilize public reference datasets in addition to their clients’ with known ancestry.

23andMe asks geographic ancestry questions of their customers in the “where are you from” survey, then incorporates the results of individuals with all 4 grandparents from a particular country.  One of the ways they utilize this data is to show you where on your chromosomes you match people whose 4 grandparents are from the same country.  In their tutorial, they do caution that just because a grandparent was born in a particular location doesn’t necessarily mean that they were originally from that location.  This is particularly true in the past few generations, since the industrial revolution.  However, it may still be a useful tool, when taken with the requisite grain of salt.

23andme 4 grandparents

The third way of creating the underlying population data base is to utilize academically published information or information otherwise available.  For example, the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP) information which represents 1050 individuals from 52 world populations is available for scrutiny.  Ancestry, in their paper, states that they utilized the HGDP data in addition to their own customer database as well as the Sorenson data, which they recently purchased.

Academically published articles are available as well.  Family Tree DNA utilizes 52 different populations in their reference data base.  They utilize published academic papers and the specific list is provided in their FAQ.

As you can see, there are different approaches and tools.  Depending on which of these tools are utilized, the underlying data base may look dramatically different, and the information held in the underlying data base will assuredly affect the results.

Step 2:  Your Individual DNA Extraction

This is actually the easy part – where you send your swab or spit off to the lab and have it processed.  All three of the main players utilize chip technology today.  For example, 23andMe focuses on and therefore utilizes medical SNPs, where Family Tree DNA actively avoids anything that reports medical information, and does not utilize those SNPs.

In Ancestry’s white paper, they provide an excellent graphic of how, at the molecular level, your DNA begins to provide information about the geographic location of your ancestors.  At each DNA location, or address, you have two alleles, one from each parent.  These alleles can have one of 4 values, or nucleotides, at each location, represented by the abbreviations T, A, C and G, short for Thymine, Adenine, Cytosine and Guanine.  Based on their values, and how frequently those values are found in comparison populations, we begin to fine correlations in geography, which takes us to the next step.

ancestry allele snps

Step 3:  Comparison to Underlying Population Data Base

Now that we have the two individual components in our recipe for ethnicity, a population reference set and your DNA results, we need to combine them.

After DNA extraction, your individual results are compared to the underlying data base.  Of course, the accuracy will depend on the quality, diversity, coverage and quantity of the underlying data base, and it will also depend on how many markers are being utilized or compared.

For example, Family Tree DNA utilizes about 295,000 out of 710,000 autosomal SNPs tested for ethnicity prediction.  Ancestry’s V1 product utilized about 30,000, but that has increased now to about 300,000 in the 2.0 version.

When comparing your alleles to the underlying data set one by one, patterns emerge, and it’s the patterns that are important.  To begin with, T, A, C and G are not absent entirely in any population, so looking at the results, it then becomes a statistics game.  This means that, as Ancestry’s graphic, above, shows, it becomes a matter of relativity (pardon the pun), and a matter of percentages.

For example, if the A allele above is shown is high frequencies in Eastern Europe, but in lower frequencies elsewhere, that’s good data, but may not by itself be relevant.  However if an entire segment of locations, like a street of DNA addresses, are found in high percentages in Eastern Europe, then that begins to be a pattern.  If you have several streets in the city of You that are from Eastern Europe, then that suggests strongly that some of your ancestors were from that region.

To show this in more detailed format, I’m shifting to the third party tool, GedMatch and one of their admixture tools.  I utilized this when writing the series, “The Autosomal Me” and in Part 2, “The Ancestor’s Speak,” I showed this example segment of DNA.

On the graph below, which is my chromosome painting of one a small part of one of my chromosomes on the top, and my mother’s showing the exact same segment on the bottom, the various types of ethnicity are colored, or painted.

The grid shows location, or address, 120 on the chromosome and each tick mark is another number, so 121, 122, etc.   It’s numbered so we can keep track of where we are on the chromosome.

You can readily see that both of us have a primary ethnicity of North European, shown by the teal.  This means that for this entire segment, the results are that our alleles are found in the highest frequencies in that region.

Gedmatch me mom

However, notice the South Asian, East Asian, Caucus, and North Amerindian. The important part to notice here, other than I didn’t inherit much of that segment at 123-127 from her, except for a small part of East Asian, is that these minority ethnicities tend to nest together.  Of course, this makes sense if you think about it.  Native Americans would carry Asian DNA, because that is where their ancestors lived.  By the same token, so would Germans and Polish people, given the history of invasion by the Mongols. Well, now, that’s kind of a monkey-wrench isn’t it???

This illustrates why the results may sometimes be confusing as well as how difficult it is to “identify” an ethnicity.  Furthermore, small segments such as this are often “not reported” by the testing companies because they fall under the “noise” threshold of between about 5 and 7cM, depending on the company, unless there are a lot of them and together they add up to be substantial.

In Summary

In an ideal world, we would have one resource that combines all of these tools.  Of course, these companies are “for profit,” except for National Geographic, and they are not going to be sharing their resources anytime soon.

I think it’s clear that the underlying data bases need to be expanded substantially.  The reliability of utilizing contributed pedigrees as representative of a population indigenous to an area is also questionable, especially pedigrees that only reach back two generations.

All of these tools are still in their infancy.  Both Ancestry and Family Tree DNA’s ethnicity tools are labeled as Beta.  There is useful information to be gleaned, but don’t take the results too seriously.  Look at them more as establishing a pattern.  If you want to take a deeper dive by utilizing your raw data and downloading it to GedMatch, you can certainly do so. The Autosomal Me series shows you how.

Just keep in mind that with ethnicity predictions, with all of the vendors, as is particularly evident when comparing results from multiple vendors, “your mileage may vary.”  Now you know why!

Ancestry’s Updated V2 Ethnicity Summary

Today when I signed onto Ancestry.com, I was greated with a message that my new Ethnicity Estimate Preview was ready for viewing.  Yippee!

Ancestry v2 1

Ancestry announced some time back that they were updating this function.  Release 1 was so poor that it should never have been released.  However, V2 is somewhat improved.  In any case, it’s different. Let’s take a look.

The graphic below shows my initial, V1 results, which bore very little resemblance to my ancestry.  My V1 results are shown below, and they are still shown on my page at Ancestry.  I was pleased so see that so I have a reference for comparison.

ancestry v2 2

Some years back, I did a pedigree analysis of my genealogy in an attempt to make sense of autosomal results from other companies.

The paper, “Revealing American Indian and Minority Heritage using Y-line, Mitochondrial, Autosomal and X Chromosomal Testing Data Combined with Pedigree Analysis” was published in the Fall 2010 issue of JoGG, Vol. 6 issue 1.

The pedigree analysis portion of this document begins about page 8.  My ancestral breakdown is as follows:

Geography Percent
Germany 23.8041
British Isles 22.6104
Holland 14.5511
European by DNA 6.8362
France 6.6113
Switzerland .7813
Native American .2933
Turkish .0031

This leaves about 25% unknown.  However, this looks nothing like the 80% British Isles and the 12% Scandinavian in Ancestry’s V1 product.

In an article titled, “Ethnicity Results, True or Not” I compared my pedigree information with the results from all the testing vendors, including Ancestry’s V1 information.  Needless to say, they didn’t fare very well.

The next screen you see talks about what’s new, but being very anxious to see the results, I bypassed that for the moment to see my new results shown below.

ancestry v2 3

My initial reaction was that I was very excited to see both my Native and African admixture shown.  I thought maybe Ancestry had actually hit a home run.  Then I looked down and saw the rest.  Uh, no home run I’m afraid.  Shucks.  Clicking on the little plus signs provide this view.

ancestry v2 4

I noticed the little box at the bottom that says “show all regions,” so I clicked there.  The only difference between that display and the one above is that the regions with zero displayed as well.

My updated V2 results show primarily Western European and Scandinavian.  I certainly won’t argue with the western European, although the percentage seems quite high, but there is absolutely NO indication that I have any Scandinavian heritage, let alone 10%, and my British Isles is dramatically reduced.

Here are the two results side by side, in percentages, with my commentary.

Location Ancestry V1 Ancestry V2 My Pedigree Comments
British Isles 80 Great Britain 4, Ireland 2 22 Great Britain includes Scotland
Scandinavia 12 10 0
Italy/Greece 0 2 Turkish <1
North Africa 0 <1 0
Native American 0 <1 <1
East Asian 0 <1 0 Probably Native American
Western Europe 0 79 51
Uncertain 8 0 25

I am not going to take issue with any of the small percentages.  I fully understand how difficult trace ethnicity is to decipher.  My concern here is with the “big chunks,” because if the big chunks aren’t correct, there is also no confidence in the small ones.

I’m left wondering about the following:

  • I went from 80% British Isles in V1, which we knew was incorrect, to 6% in V2, which is also incorrect.  I have at least 22% British Isles.
  • I went from being 0% Western European in V1 to 79% in V2, which is also incorrect.  Now granted, I do have 25% uncertain in my own pedigree, and given that I’m a cultural mixture, some of that certainly could be western European.  But all of it?  Given where my ancestor were found in colonial America, and when, it’s much more likely that the majority of the 25% that is uncertain in my pedigree chart would be British Isles.
  • Would you look at the V1 results and the V2 results, side by side, and believe for one minute they were describing the same person?  This is not a minor revision and there is very little consistency between the two – only 16%.  That means that 84% changed between the two versions.  And in that 16% is that pesky, unexplained Scandinavian, not found, by the way, by any other testing company.  Yes, I know about the Vikings, but still, 10 or 12%?  That’s equivalent to a great-grandparent, not trace amounts from centuries ago.

So V2 seems to be somewhat better, I think, but still no place close to what is known to be correct.  Based on the V2 results, which seem to have very little resemblance to the V1 results, I can’t help but wonder why Ancestry would have published such highly incorrect results for V1, and then adamantly defended those results, publishing videos, etc.  Doesn’t a corporation have some responsibility to their customers to provide correct information, and if they can’t, to be smart enough to know that and to not publish anything?  And if it’s the same technical team behind the scenes, how do we know that V2 isn’t equally as flawed, given that the results still don’t seem to jive with my known (and for the most part, DNA proven) pedigree chart?

One thing Ancestry has done that is an improvement is to provide additional information about their process for determining admixture and what has changed in the V2 version.  I went back and looked at the “What’s New” information that I skipped in my excitement to see my new results.  In that information, they provide the following bullets:

  • They increased the number of markers used for comparison from 30,000 to 300,000.
  • They increased the analysis passes from 1 to 40.  This is further explained in their white paper.
  • They broke Europe into 4 regions.
  • They broke West Africa into 6 regions.

ancestry v2 6

  • They updated the regions covered.  The V2 reference panel contains 3,000 samples that represent 26 distinct overlapping global regions (Table 3.1, below, from their white paper).  V1 covered 22 regions.

Region

# Samples

Great Britain 111
Ireland 138
Europe East 432
Iberian Peninsula 81
European Jewish 189
Europe North 232
Europe South 171
Europe West 166
Finnish/Northern Russian 59
Africa Southeastern Bantu 18
Africa North 26
Africa Southcentral Hunter Gatherers 35
Benin/Togo 60
Cameroon/Congo 115
Ivory/Ghana 99
Mali 16
Nigeria 67
Senegal 28
Native American 131
Asia Central 26
Asia East 394
Asia South 161
Melanesia 28
Polynesia 18
Caucasus 58
Near East 141
Total
  • Ancestry provided a white paper on their methods which explains how these ethnicity estimates are created.  This is very important and I applaud them for their transparency.  Unfortunately, you can’t see the white paper unless you are a subscriber and have taken their autosomal DNA test.  If you have, to see the white paper, click on the little question mark in the upper right hand corner of the ethnicity results page, then on the “whitepaper” icon.

ancestry v2 7

How Are Ethnicity Percentages Created?

Wanting to understand the process they are using, I moved to their educational maternal and Ethnicity Estimate white paper, which, unfortunately I can’t link to.  You must be a subscriber to see this document.

The first thing I discovered is that they utilized 3000 DNA samples as a reference data base, including the Humane Genome Diversity Project data utilized by all researchers in this field.

ancestry v2 8

From their white paper:

“In developing the AncestryDNA ethnicity estimation V2 reference panel, we begin with a candidate set of 4,245 individuals. First, we examine over 800 samples from 52 worldwide populations from a public project called the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP) (Cann et al. 2002; Cavalli-Sforza 2005). Second, we examine samples from a proprietary AncestryDNA reference collection as well as AncestryDNA samples from customers consenting to participate in research. To obtain candidate reference panel candidates from these two sets, family trees are first consulted, and a sample is included in the candidate set if all lineages trace back to the same geographic region. Although this was not possible for HGDP samples, this dataset was explicitly designed to sample a large set of populations representing a global picture of human genetic variation.

In total, our reference panel candidates include over 800 HGDP samples, over 1,500 samples from the proprietary AncestryDNA reference collection, and over 1,800 AncestryDNA customers who have explicitly consented to be included in the reference panel.”

I’m assuming that the proprietary reference collection they mention is the Sorenson data they purchased in July 2012.  The Sorenson data base was compiled from individual donors who contributed the DNA samples and pedigree charts but without any supporting documentation.

So in addition to the publicly available data, Ancestry has utilized both the Sorenson and their own data bases.  That makes sense.  It may also be the root of the problem.

There’s another quote from their paper:

“Fortunately, knowing where your grandparents are born is often a sufficient proxy for much deeper ancestry. In the recent past, it was much more difficult and thus less common for people to migrate large distances. Because of this, it is frequently the case that the birthplace of your grandparents represents a much more ancient ancestral origin for your DNA.”

They do say that this does not apply to people in America, for example.

However, how many of you have confidence in the Ancestry trees, or any trees submitted, for that matter, in public data bases.  Ancestry only allows you to attach “facts” found in their data base.  This means, for example, if you want to upload your Gedcom file that has pages and pages of documentation including wills, tax lists, and other primary sorts of documentation, you can’t.  Well, you can, but only if you copy it off into a word document and attach it separately to that person one page at a time.  In other words, Ancestry isn’t interested in any documentation or research that you’ve done elsewhere.  This also means that they have few tools themselves to determine whether your tree is accurate, especially once you get beyond the census years with family enumeration – meaning 1850 in the US.  What this means is that the only reliable references they have are their own data bases, excluding Rootsweb trees.  Ancestry owns Rootsweb too and Rootsweb has always allowed uploads of limited notes attached to people.  Some are exceedingly useful.

If Ancestry is utilizing large numbers of user submitted pedigree charts by which to calibrate or measure ethnicity, that could be a problem.

Let’s run a little experiment.  I am very familiar with the original records pertaining to Abraham Estes, born in 1647 in Nonington, Kent, England and who died in 1720 in King and Queen County, Virginia.  I have been a primary records researcher on this man for 25 years.  Not only are his records documented, but so are those of several preceding generations through church records in England.  In other words, we know what we know and what we don’t know.  We do NOT know his second wife’s surname, although there is a pervasive myth as to what it was, which is entirely unsubstantiated.

I entered his name/birth year into Ancestry’s search tool and I looked at the first 20 records show in their “Family Trees.”  I wanted to see how many displayed correct or incorrect information.  Ancestry displays these trees in order, based, apparently, on the number of source or attached records, implying records with more sources would be better to utilize.  That would generally be quite true.  Unfortunately, sources are often the IGI or Family Data Collection, which are also “unsourced,” creating a vicious cycle of undocumented rumors cited as sources.  Let’s take a look at what we have.

Record # Incorrect Info Listed Correct Info Listed Grandparents Info Present/Correct
1 First wife’s name entirely incorrect, but linked to correct original record.  Second wife’s surname entirely undocumented.  Multiple family crests listed but family was not armorial.  Children listed multiple times.  Son, Abraham’s records attached to father. Birth year and location. Death date and location. No
2 First wife entirely missing. Second wife’s surname entirely undocumented. Marriage date entirely undocumented.  Third, unknown spouse listed with the same children given to spouse 2 and 3. Birth year and location.    Death date and location. No
3 Abraham was given fictitious middle name.  Second wife’s surname entirely undocumented.  Most children missing and the two that are on the list are given fictitious middle names.  Marriage date for second wife is entirely undocumented. Birth year and location, first marriage, death date and   location. No
4 First wife’s surname missing.  Second wife’s surname entirely   undocumented.  Have land transaction attached to him 13 years after he died.  Incorrect childen. Birth date and location, first wife’s first name and date   of marriage, death date and location. No
5 Shows marriage for first and second wife on same   day/place.  First wife’s name entirely wrong.  Shows a second marriage date to second wife.  Second wife’s surname  entirely undocumented.  No burial   location known, but burial location given.  Incorrect children. Birth year and location. No

After these first 5 records, I became discouraged and did not type the balance of the 15 records.  Not one displayed only correct information, nor did any have the man’s parents and grandparents names and birth locations documented correctly.  So much for using family trees as sources.

If Ancestry is assuming that where your grandfather was born is representative of where your family was originally from, if you are from a non-immigrant location (i.e. not the US, not Canada, not Australia, etc.), that too might be a problem.  There has been a lot of movement in the British Isles, for example, since the industrial revolution, particularly in the 1800s.  Where Abraham’s grandfather was born in 1555 is probably relevant, but the grandfather of someone living today is much less predictive.

So, where does this leave us? 

Apparently Ancestry’s V1 was worse than we thought, given that my 80% majority ancestry turned into 6 and my 0% western Europe turned into 79%.  Neither of these are correct.

Ancestry’s V2 seems to be somewhat better, but raises the same types of questions about the results.

Ancestry’s white paper may indeed answer some of those questions, based on their use of contributed pedigree charts.  However, having said that, you would think that they could utilize families with a deep history of ancestry in a specific area, proven by various non-contributed (such as parish or will) records, in a non-urban environment.

Ironically, Ancestry did pick up on both my Native and African minority admixture, but they are still missing the boat on the majority factors, which calls the entire concoction into question.

So the net-net of all of this….it’s still not soup yet.  I’m disappointed and beginning to wonder if it ever will be.

Family Tree DNA Levels the Playing Field…Sort Of

Family-Tree-DNA logoToday, I received an e-mail from Max Blankfeld, one of the partners at Family Tree DNA.  He said that per their promise a month ago, if they obtained a minimum volume of orders during their July promotion, they would retain the $99 price on their autosomal DNA test, Family Finder.  Well, the $99 price is now permanent.  What this does is to level the playing field between the three autosomal DNA players, Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and Ancestry…..sort of.  All other things are not equal, even though the price now is.

1. Company - Family Tree DNA

Shipping cost for kits: $5 domestic, $7 international

Where kits are shipped: worldwide

2. Company - 23andMe

Shipping cost for kits: $10 US, $60 Canada and $75-$120 other international

Where kits are shipped: some international, US except NY and MD due to state laws regarding the medical/health aspects of the testing

3. Company - Ancestry.com

Shipping cost for kits:  $10

Where kits are shipped: US only

Caveat:  Ancestry does not have analysis tools that Family Tree DNA and 23andMe include.

Hmmmm….maybe the playing field isn’t so level after all!

Mitochondrial DNA Smartmatching – The Rest of the Story

Sometimes, a match is not a match.  I know, now I’ve gone and ruined your day…

One of the questions that everyone wants the answer to when looking at matches, regardless of what kind of DNA testing we’re talking about, is “how long ago?”  How long ago did I share a common ancestor with my match?  Seems like a pretty simple question doesn’t it?

The answer, especially with mitochondrial DNA is not terribly straightforward.  A perfect example of this fell into my lap this week, and I’m sharing it with you.

Mitochondrial DNA – A Short Primer

There are three regions that are tested in mitochondrial DNA testing for genealogy.  The HVR1 and HVR2 regions are tested at most testing companies, and at Family Tree DNA, the rest of the mitochondria, called the coding region, is tested as well with the mega or full mitochondrial sequence test.  This is the mitochondrial equivalent of Paul Harvey’s “the rest of the story,” and of course we all know that the real story is always in “the rest of the story” or he wouldn’t be telling us about it!

Many times, the rest of the story is critically important.  In mitochondrial DNA, it’s the only way to obtain your full haplogroup designation.  If you don’t want to just be haplogroup J or A or H, you can test the coding region by taking the full sequence test and find out that you’re J1c2 or A2 or H21, and discover the story that goes with that haplogroup.  Guaranteed, it’s a lot more specific than the one that goes with simple J, A or H.  Often it’s the difference between where your ancestor was 2000 years ago and 20,000 years ago – and they probably covered a lot of territory in 18,000 years!

Let’s take a quick look at mitochondrial DNA.

To begin with, the HVR1 and HVR2 regions are called HVR for a reason – it’s short for hypervariable.  And of course, that means they vary, or mutate, a lot more rapidly, as compared to the coding region of the mitochondrial DNA.

In layman’s terms, think of a clock.  No, not a digital clock, an old-fashioned alarm clock.

alarm clock

The entire mitochondrial DNA has 16,569 locations.  The HVR1 and HVR2 regions take up the space on the clock face from 5 till until 5 after the hour.   The rest is the coding region – the mitochondrial “rest of the story.”  The coding region mutates much slower than the two HVR regions.

Just to be sure we’re on the same page, let’s talk for just a minute about how mitochondrial haplogroup assignments work.  For a detailed discussion of haplogroup assignments and how they are done, see Bill Hurst’s discussion here.

Generally a base haplogroup can be reasonably assigned by HVR1 region testing, but not always.  Sometimes they change with full sequence testing – so what you think you know may not be the end result.

My full haplogroup is J1c2f.  My base haplogroup is J.  I’m on the first branch of J, J1.  On branch J1, I’m on the third stick, c, J1c.  On the third stick J1c, I’m on the second twig, J1c2.  On the second twig, J1c2, I’m leaf f, or J1c2f.  Each of these branches of haplogroup J is determined by a specific mutation that happened long ago and was then passed to all of that person’s offspring, between them and me today.  The question is always, how long ago?

Mutation Rates – How Long Ago is Long Ago?

While we have a tip calculator at Family Tree DNA for Y-line DNA to predict how long ago 2 Y-line matches shared a most recent common ancestor, we don’t have anything similar for mitochondrial DNA, partly because of the great variation in the mutation rates for the various regions of mitochondrial DNA.  Family Tree DNA does provide guidelines for the HVR1 region, but they are so broad as to be relatively useless genealogically.  For example, at the 50th percentile, you are likely to have a common ancestor with someone whom you match exactly on the HVR1 mutations in 52 generations, or about 1300 years ago, in the year 713.  Wait, I know just who that is in my family tree!

These estimates do not take into account the HVR2 or coding regions.

I did some research jointly with another researcher not long ago attempting to determine the mutation rate for those regions, and we found estimates that ranged from 500 years to several thousand years per mutation occurrence and it wasn’t always clear in the publications whether they were referring to the entire mitochondria or just certain portions.  And then there are those pesky hot-spots that for some reason mutate a whole lot faster than other locations.  We’re not even going there.  Suffice it to say there is a wide divergence in opinion among academics, so we probably won’t be seeing any type of mito-tip calculator anytime soon.

Enter SmartMatching

Family Tree DNA does their best to make our matches useful to us and to eliminate matches that we know aren’t genealogically relevant.

For example, this week, I was working on a client’s DNA Report.  Let’s call him Joe.  Joe is haplogroup J1c2.  I am haplogroup J1c2f.  J1c2f has one additional haplogroup defining mutation, in the coding region, that J1c2 does not have.

Joe and I did not show as matches at Family Tree DNA, even though our HVR1 and HVR2 regions are exact matches.  Now, for a minute, that gave me a bit of a start.  In fact, I didn’t even realize that we were exact matches until I was working with his results at MitoSearch and recognized my own User ID.

I had to think for a minute about why we would not be considered matches at Family Tree DNA, and I was just about ready to submit a bug report, when I realized the answer was my extended haplogroup.  This, by the way, is the picture-perfect example of why you need full sequence testing.

Family Tree DNA knows that we both tested at the full sequence level.  They know that with a different haplogroup, we don’t share a common ancestor in hundreds to thousands of years, so it doesn’t matter if we match exactly on the HVR1 and HVR2 levels, we DON’T match on a haplogroup defining mutation, which, in this case, happens to be in the coding region, found only with full sequence testing.  Even if we have only one mismatch at the full sequence level, if it’s a haplogroup defining marker, we are not considered matches.  Said a different way, if our only difference was location 9055 and 9055 was NOT a haplogroup defining mutation, we would have been considered a match on all three levels – exact matches at the HVR1 and HVR2 levels and a 1 mutation difference at the full sequence level.  So how a mutation is identified, whether it’s haplogroup defining or not, is critical.

In our case, I carry a mutation at marker 9055 in the coding region that defines haplogroup J1c2f.  Joe doesn’t have this mutation, so he is not J1c2f, just J1c2.  So we don’t match.

So – How Long Ago for Me and Joe?

Dr. Behar in his “Copernican Reassessment of the Mitochondrial DNA Tree,” which has become the virtual Bible of mtDNA, estimates that the J1c2f haplogroup defining mutation at location 9055 occurred about 2000 years ago, plus or minus another 3000 years, which means my ancestor who had that mutation could have lived as long ago as 5000 years.

The mutations that define haplogroup J1c2 occurred about 9800 years ago, plus or minus another 2000.  So we know that Joe and I share a common ancestor about 7,800 – 11,800 years ago and our lines diverged sometime between then and 2,000 – 5,000 years ago.  So, in round numbers our common ancestor lived between 2,000 and 9,800 years ago.  Not much chance of identifying that person!

The ability to eliminate “near-misses” where the HVR1+HVR2 matches but the people aren’t in the same haplogroup, which is extremely common in haplogroup H, is actually a very useful feature that Family Tree DNA nicknamed SmartMatching.  With over 1000 matches at the HVR1 level, more than 200 at the HVR1+HVR2 level and another 50+ at the full sequence level, Joe certainly didn’t need to have any “misleading” matches included that could have been eliminating by a logic process.

So while Joe and I match, technically, if you only look at the HVR1 and HVR2 levels, we don’t really match, and that’s not evident at MitoSearch or at Ancestry or anyplace else that does not take into consideration both full sequence AND haplogroup defining mutations.  Family Tree DNA is the only company that does this.  Ancestry does not test at the full sequence level, so you can’t even get a full haplogroup assignment there, which is another reason, aside from inaccurate matches, that Ancestry customers often retest at Family Tree DNA.

It’s interesting to think about the fact that 2 people can match exactly at the HVR1+HVR2 levels, but the distance of the relationship can be vastly different.  I also match my mother on the HVR1+HVR2 levels, exactly, and our common ancestor is her.  So the distance to a common ancestor with an exact HVR1+HVR2 match can be anyplace from one generation (Mom) to thousands of years (Joe), and there is no way to tell the difference without full sequence testing and in this case, SmartMatching.

And that, my friends, is the rest of the story!

AncestryDNA & 23andMe Transfers to Family Tree DNA $49

Family-Tree-DNA logoBig news, especially for AncestryDNA customers.

Beginning today, Family Tree DNA will accept AncestryDNA raw data files!!!  Secondly, any raw data file transfer, from either Ancestry or 23andMe is $49 for a limited time.  Family Tree DNA states that this is an introductory offer, but they don’t say how long this offer extends, so if you’re interested, do the transfer now.  If you have already taken the autosomal test at Family Tree DNA, called Family Finder, you don’t need to transfer autosomal data from any other company.

If you’ve taken both the 23andMe test and the Ancestry test, and want to know which one to transfer, Family Tree DNA says that there is no functional difference, so either is fine and they are equivalent.

You can see more information and transfer your data directly at this link:

Why would people want to do this?

One reason is that this allows you to swim in different pools where there are new genetic cousins to match and meet.

However, Family Tree DNA as compared to each company has some additional benefits.

First, as compared to 23andMe, people who test at Family Tree DNA are genealogists, and they tested for genealogy and not health traits, so they are more likely to reply to communications and they are more likely to know something about their family history.

Also, you don’t have to “invite” people at Family Tree DNA and wait for their acceptance to share.  Everyone is sharing there, unless they opt out.

Third, for people with whom you have a confirmed relationship, you can see who the two of you match “in common.”

As compared to Ancestry, there are lots of reasons to transfer your data

Family Tree DNA has a chromosome browser, entirely lacking at ancestry, that allows you to confirm your genetic match, not just a genealogy “shaking leaf” match.

Family Tree has a surname search option so that you can search for matches that share common surnames.

Family Tree provides you with e-mail addresses of your matches instead of forcing you to go through a messaging system.

Family Tree DNA allows you to download your matches and their chromosomal segment data to build spreadsheets to further work with and triangulate your data.

Family Tree DNA’s ethnicity percentages are much more realistic than Ancestry’s.

In other words, the tools that Ancestry lacks, which are all tools other than “tree matching,” Family Tree DNA has.  If you don’t understand why these are important, this article about why Ancestry needs a chromosome browser will help you understand that your tree matches may not be your genetic matches.

This is a great time to dive right into the Family Tree DNA autosomal pool.  The water is fine so come on in and invite your Ancestry friends.  Maybe you’ll find out exactly HOW you are related to them, and it may not be the line you think!

Navigating 23andMe for Genealogy

When I was young, there was a local woman who was extremely unhappy with her husband’s late night carousing.  He would come home “a bit tipsy” as well, and tried to sneak in unnoticed by leaving the lights off.  She was tired of it, so she got even, er, um, I mean, created a learning moment.

She rearranged all of the furniture and you had to walk through the living room to get to the bedroom.  About 3AM, she heard a huge crash.

Well, that’s what 23andMe did a few weeks ago.  I know they think they improved their website, but they didn’t.  And what they’ve done is cause a huge amount of work for those of us who assist others who have tested at 23andMe.  People can’t find the genealogy tools.  They both renamed them and relocated them and we didn’t even get any new features in the deal.  Where features were located wasn’t intuitive before, and they still aren’t, but now they are in different unintuitive places than they were before.  In other words, stumble, thump, crash – the lights are out and someone’s home.

So, as a matter of self-defense, I’m writing this blog about the basics of how to navigate the 23andMe site and how to utilize their genealogy tools.  It’s easy to miss opportunities if you don’t understand the nuances of their system, and they do have some great tools, by whatever name they call them.

We’re only interested in the genetic genealogy aspect, so we’re not discussing how to navigate the rest of their site.  Yes, there is more to the site than genealogy:)

The sign-on screen still looks the same.  After that, it’s all different.

First, remember that if you manage multiple kits, 23andMe decides which one is your default and you may not come up as “yourself.”  You can solve that by flying over your name in the upper right hand corner and then clicking on “switch profiles.”  I surely wish they would let you select and save your selection permanently.  You have to switch profiles every time you sign on.

Making Yourself Visible

The second thing you need to make sure of is that you ARE sharing, that people can see you.

Fly over the gear on the left hand side of the page at the top.  You’ll see the Settings option, click on that, then look through the options there, but specifically the “Privacy/Consent” tab.

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I’ve had people who could not figure out why they never received any invitations and their friends couldn’t find them, and it’s because their selections precluded sharing or did not allow people to search for them.

Here’s part of the Setting page, but you’ll want to review all of the information under your various settings tabs.

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The main page has several panel buttons across the top.  Not all are shown below.  The two we are going to be interested in are the “DNA Relatives” and the “Ancestry Composition.”

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If you want a quick overview of all of your genealogy information at 23andMe, you can click on the “My Ancestry Overview” button, but that’s not where the meat is – it’s  more like an appetizer.

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Here’s an example of the overview page.  Hint, the 4% Scandinavian showing is NOT your results, just the “cover page.”

Ancestry Composition – Ethnic Percentages

Click on Ancestry Composition.

You’ll see your own results in a circle chart.

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You can toggle the “standard” estimate to speculative or conservative in the drop down box at the upper right.  You can also change this circle to “chromosome view” which is really interesting.  The bar graph shows me that the two locations with identifiable Native American ancestry are found on my chromosomes 1 and 2.

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If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I took this information and ran with it.  Here’s the link to “The Autosomal Me” series.

If you’re interested in taking this further and trying to identify your lines that match up with different ethnic admixtures, take a look at the series, especially Part 4, “The Autosomal Me, Testing Company Results.”  You’ll need to utilize some special download techniques and tools found outside of 23andMe, such as www.dnagedcom.com and you’ll also be utilizing www.gedmatch.com as well.  What 23andMe provides you in this category is just the beginning.

Finding Matches

There are four ways to find and select people at 23andMe to invite to share their DNA with you.  23andMe is different than Family Tree DNA.  At Family Tree DNA, you are testing FOR genealogy, nothing else, so when you sign your authorization and consent for comparison, it speaks only to genealogy data, not medical data.  So everyone at Family Tree DNA is sharing unless they specifically elect not to.  23andMe also provides health information and many who tested for health traits are not interested in genealogy, so in order to share any information at 23andMe, you must invite them to share and they must agree.

Of course, 23andMe shows you a thumbnail of who you match, but there are several ways to refine and be selective about this process.

Searching for Specific People

If you know who you want to invite to match, enter their e-mail address, their name, their surname or their nickname at 23andMe in the main site search box.  If they have allowed searching and have tested at 23andMe, a link to request sharing will be shown, similar to the screen below.

Finding People with Common Surnames

First of all, to find people whose surnames include those in your family tree as well, in the general site search box, type in the surname you’re hunting for. Let’s hope it’s not Smith.

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The results of that search in all categories on the 23andMe site are shown, and you can click on any of the categories for more information.  In my case, I see that there are more than 100 people whose information includes Estes.  I can click on any of the links that say “invite so-and-so” to invite them to share with me.  I always customize the message.  Many people don’t reply to “generic” messages that don’t say why someone is asking to compare.

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Finding Genetic Matches

To see whose DNA you match, click on Family and Friends, then on DNA Relatives.

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The first person on your list, is you.  This is a good sanity check to be sure you’re comparing the right profile and not your cousins when you thought it was your own.

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Next you’ll see your closest matches.  These folks I’m most closely related to are my “Blessed Cousin Circle” who graciously provided their DNA so I could utilize it to figure how who matched whom.  Like a huge family puzzle, with no picture on the box cover.

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On down the list a ways are folks who I match but with whom I’m not yet sharing.  Geeze, guess I’d better try to fix that!

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Looking down the list, I see that few have included much information, which is sometimes an indication that they’re either not interested or don’t know a lot about their genealogy.  But look, there’s one with quite a bit of information near the bottom of the list.  Great.  But wait….oh no….I’ve already sent an invitation and never heard back.  That’s OK though, because I can send another message by clicking on “View” and then “Compose.”  Again, I always include a personal message.  Some people include links to their family trees in these messages as well.

Searching for Surnames within Genetic Matches

Let’s say I want to be more specific and I want to target people on my match list that have a specific surname.  I want to see who among my genetic matches also shares the Bolton surname in a genealogical line.

In the “search matches” box at the top of the list of names, I entered Bolton, my father’s mother’s maiden name.

The list returned is small.  The first person, Stacy, is my cousin and I know her genealogy quite well, so that surname match is expected.  But I don’t’ know the second person, Janet, and I need to investigate this further.

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Remember, this is a surname search of those who match genetically.  Even though Janet and I share a common surname and some DNA, our match may NOT be through the Bolton line.  In fact, it could be on my mother’s side instead.

So as a quick check, since I manage my Cousin Stacy’s DNA account, and she is related through my father, I’m going to see if she matches Janet too. If so, then that means the match is from my father’s line, and could well be the Bolton family.  This technique is called triangulation.

Stacy does not match Janet, so that means that more genealogy work is in order to see if the Henry Bolton (1759-1846) ancestral line is our common line. It could simply be that Stacy and Janet are too far removed from a common ancestor and Bolton is the correct genealogy line, but they don’t share a large enough segment of DNA to show up on each other’s lists.

The other potential issue is that either Stacy or Janet is over their 1000 match limit imposed by 23andMe, so they might actually match each other, but have fallen off the match list.  This is becoming a larger and larger issue.  I’m over that limit as are most people who have Jewish heritage and many who carry colonial American genealogy.  So far, 23andMe has declined to address this growing issue.  It makes drawing any conclusions from this type of triangulation impossible through a vendor-imposed handicap.

Composite Surnames

On the DNA Relatives Page, click on the surname link in the upper right hand corner.  What this shows you are the number of the various surnames on your list as compared to how rare they are in the general population.  This is your signal that something is up, so to speak, and it might be your lucky day.

My most “enriched” surname is Vannoy.  This means that it appears 7 times in my match list, including as one of my own historical surnames, and it’s quite rare otherwise, which is why the 98 on the enrichment bar and the fact that is it is my more prevalent rare surname.

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Looking down the list, this implies that maybe Henley is one of my family names that I’m not aware of.  Maybe I should contact the Henley matches and see if there is anything in common between them, genealogically, and if I have any dead ends where their ancestors are located.  Maybe I should see if their DNA and mine overlaps in any common location.  The easiest way to do that would be to use the downloaded spreadsheet via www.dnagedcom.com because then we can see everyone who matches those segments of DNA, including those who have tested at Family Tree DNA because I’ve downloaded that file into my spreadsheet as well.

You can click on the surname and your matches will be displayed, including ones you’re sharing with and ones you aren’t.  In this case, I clicked on McNeil and discovered my matches are all my cousins, so nothing new to be discovered here.

I did notice that not all my surnames are present.  For example, Estes is missing.  I’m not sure how 23andMe selects the names to include, and there is no “page help,” so I’m just glad for the ones that are present on the list.

Chromosome Comparison Tool

Ok, now that you’ve found matches and they are sharing with you, what’s next?  The next tool is the chromosome comparison tool, found under Family and Friends, then Family Traits.

This tool allows you to compare any two people on your list of matches, including the X chromosome which is inherited differently and can be a very important genealogy hint.

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Here’s  a comparison of me and my cousin, Cheryl.  Her father and my grandfather were brothers, so we share quite a bit of DNA.  And because I know where it comes from, genealogically, anyone who matches both of us on these segments shares our ancestry too.  No, you can’t do that “compare all” function at 23andMe, but your downloaded spreadsheet will handle that quite nicely.

Update:  Venice points out that Family Traits does one thing that Family Inheritance: Advanced doesn’t do – it identifies fully identical segments vs. half identical segments.  Most segments between genetic relatives are half identical, but (full) siblings will have a fair amount that’s fully identical.  Family Traits also shows the locations of the centromeres and other low-data zones.

Family Inheritance, Advanced

Under the Ancestry Tools tab, there is one more tool I want to discuss briefly.  Unfortunately, it’s not as useful as it could be because of the way it has been implemented.

This tool allows you to compare yourself with up to three other kits whom you match, except for public matches.  Unfortunately, I have several public matches and I’d love to be able to do this comparison.  For example, I’d like to compare myself to my cousin Stacy and Janet, but because Janet is a public match, she’s not available on my list:(

Update:  Kitty has found a way to allow for Public match comparisons.  “To offer to share with a public person you have to click on their name at the left to go to their profile and then click the words Invite (name) to share genomes located at the top right.”  Thank you Kitty!

Red Herring Matches

Let’s use Family Inheritance Advanced as an example of two people who match me on the same segment, but are from opposite sides of my family.  I know when we talk about this, people secretly say to themselves, “yea, but how often does that really happen, I mean, what are the chances.?”  Well, here’s the answer.  Better chances that winning the lottery, for sure, and I mean the scratch off tickets where you win a dollar!

My cousins Stacy and Cheryl are from Dad’s and Mom’s side of the family, respectively.  We know they don’t share common ancestry, but look, they both match me on four of the same segments.

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How is this possible, you ask.  Remember, I have two halves of each chromosome, one from Mom and one from Dad.  It just so happens that Cheryl and Stacy both match me on the same segment, but they are actually matching two different sides of my chromosome.

Now let’s prove this to the doubting Thomas’s out there.

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Here is the comparison of Cheryl and Stacy directly to each other.  They do have one small matching segment, 6 cM, so on the small side.  But they don’t match each other on any of the segments where I match both of them.

If they did match each other and me on the same locations, it would mean that we three have common ancestry.  This is another example of triangulation.

The fact that they match each other on one segment could also mean they have distant common ancestry, which could be from one of our common lines or a line that I don’t share with them, or it could mean they have an identical by state (IBS) segment, meaning they come from a common population someplace hundreds to thousands of years ago.

The real message here is that you can never, ever, assume.  We all know about assume, and if you do, it will.  In this case, assuming would have been easy if you didn’t have the big picture, because both of these family lines contain Millers from Ohio living in close proximity in the 1800s.  However these Miller lines have been proven not to be the same lines (via Yline testing) and therefore, any assumptions would have been incorrect, despite the suggestive location and in-common names. Furthermore, one Miller line married into my cousin Stacy’s line after our common ancestor, so is not blood related to me.  But conclusions are easy to jump to, especially for excited or inexperienced genetic genealogists.  It’s tempting even for those of us who are fairly seasoned now, but after you’ve been burned a few times, you do learn some modicum of restraint!

Downloading Your Raw Data

Downloading your raw data is not the same thing as using www.dnagedcom.com to download your chromosome start and stop locations for your matches.  Your raw data is just that, raw data.

It looks like this and it’s thousands and thousands of lines long. It’s your actual values at different DNA locations.  The rsid is the location on the reference human genome, followed by the chromosome number, the position address on that chromosome, and the nucleotide given to you by each of your parents.

# rsid  chromosome position    genotype

rs3094315    1        742429         AA

It’s doesn’t mean anything in this format, but after analyzing it using complex software, this information, combined, can tell you who you match, your ethnicity and more, of course.  You’ll want to do a couple of things with your raw data file.

First, use this link to download it.  They’ve hidden the link well on their site.  I can never find it, so I just keep this link handy.

https://www.23andme.com/you/download/

Consider uploading your raw data to www.gedmatch.com.  It’s a donation site (meaning free but donations accepted) created for genetic genealogists by genetic genealogists and it has a lot more tools than any of the testing companies alone.  Think of it as a genetic genealogy sandbox.  One of the benefits is that people from all 3 testing companies, 23andMe, Family Tree DNA and Ancestry.com can upload their data and compare to each other.  The down side is that many people don’t know about GedMatch and don’t utilize it.

Last, consider transferring your results to Family Tree DNA.  At Family Tree DNA, the people who test are interested in genealogy – they are genealogists or their family members.  You are much more likely to receive responses to inquiries and you don’t have to invite people and wait for acceptance.  Even when people don’t reply to your inquiries at Family Tree DNA, you can still utilize the comparison tools to compare up to any 5 of matches, seeing where they match you and each other.  I’ve utilized this tool numerous times, an example of which you can find in the Davenport article and the Autosomal Basics article.  To transfer your results to Family Tree DNA for $99, which is less than retesting, click on this link, then click on “Products.”

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Then scroll down to “Third Party” and the product you’re looking for is “Transfer Relative Finder” which used to be the name of the 23andMe products before they rearranged the furniture.nav 23andme 18

Happy swimming in the genetic genealogy pools. Let’s hope you meet some family there!

The Autosomal Me – The Holy Grail – Identifying Native Genealogy Lines

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Sangreal – the Holy Grail.  We are finally here, Part 9 and the final article in our series.  The entire purpose of The Autosomal Me series has been to use our DNA and the clues it holds to identify minority admixture, in this case, Native American, and by identifying those Native segments, and building chromosomal clusters, to identify the family lines that contributed that Native admixture.  Articles 1-8 in the series set the stage, explained the process and walked us through the preparatory steps.  In this last article, we apply all of the ingredients, fasten the lid, shake and see what we come up with.  Let’s take a minute and look at the steps that got us to this point.

Part 1 was “The Autosomal Me – Unraveling Minority Admixture” and Part 2 was “The Autosomal Me – The Ancestors Speak.”  Part 1 discussed the technique we are going to use to unravel minority ancestry, and why it works.  Part two gave an example of the power of fragmented chromosomal mapping and the beauty of the results.

Part 3, “The Autosomal Me – Who Am I?,” reviewed using our pedigree charts to gauge expected results and how autosomal results are put into population buckets.

Part 4, “The Autosomal Me – Testing Company Results,” shows what to expect from all of the major testing companies, past and present, along with Dr. Doug McDonald’s analysis.

In Part 5, “The Autosomal Me – Rooting Around in the Weeds Using Third Party Tools,” we looked at 5 different third party tools and what they can tell us about our minority admixture that is not reported by the major testing companies because the segments are too small and fragmented.

In Part 6, “The Autosomal Me – DNA Analysis – Splitting Up” we began the analysis part of the data we’ve been gathering.   We looked at how to determine whether minority admixture on specific chromosomes came from which parent.

Part 7, “The Autosomal Me – Start, Stop, Go – Identifying Native Chromosomal Segments” took a deeper dive and focused on the two chromosomes with proven Native heritage and began by comparing those chromosome segments using the 4 GedMatch admixture tools.

Part 8, “The Autosomal Me – Extracting Data Segments and Clustering,” we  extract all of the Native and Blended Asian segments in all 22 chromosomes, but only used chromosomes 1 and 2 for illustration purposes.  We then clustered the resulting data to look for trends, grouping clusters by either the Strong Native criteria or the Blended Asian criteria.

In this final segment, Part 9, we will be applying the chromosomal information we’ve gathered to our matches and determine which of our lines are the most likely to have Native Ancestry.  This, of course, has been the goal all along.  So, drum roll…..here we go.

In Part 8, we ended by entering the start and stop locations of both Strong Native and Blended Asian clusters into a table to facilitate easy data entry into the chromosome match spreadsheet downloaded from either 23andMe or Family Tree DNA.  If you downloaded it previously, you might want to download it again if you haven’t modified it, or download new matches since you last downloaded the spreadsheet and add them to the master copy.

My goal is to determine which matches and clusters indicate Native ancestry, and how to correlate those matches to lineage.  In other words, which family lines in my family were Native or carry Native heritage someplace.

The good news is that my mother’s line has proven Native heritage, so we can use her line as proof of concept.  My father’s family has so many unidentified wives, marginalized families and family secrets that the Native line could be almost any of them, or all of them!  Let’s see how that tree shakes out.

Finding Matches

So let’s look at a quick example of how this would work.  Let’s say I have a match, John, on chromosome 4 in an area where my mother has no Native admixture, but I do.  Therefore, since John does not match my mother, then the match came from my father and if we can identify other people who also match both John and I in that same region on that chromosome, they too have Native ancestry.  Let’s say that we all also share a common ancestor.  It stands to reason at that point, that the common ancestor between us indicates the Native line, because we all match on the Native segment and have the same ancestor.  Obviously, this would help immensely in identifying Native families and at least giving pointers in which direction to look.  This is a “best case’ example.  Some situations, especially where both parents contribute Native heritage to the same chromosome, won’t be this straightforward.

Based on our findings, the maximum range and minimum (least common denominator or “In Common” range is as follows for the strongest Native segments on chromosomes 1 and 2.

  Chromosome 1 Chromosome 2
Largest   Range 162,500,000   – 180,000,000 79,000,000   – 105,000,000
Smallest   Range 165,658,091   – 171,000,000 90,000,000   – 103,145,425

At GedMatch

At GedMatch, I used a comparison tool to see who matched me on chromosome 1.  Only 2 people outside of immediate family members matched, and both from Family Tree DNA.  Both matched me on the critical Native segments between about 165-180mg.  I was excited.  I went to Family Tree DNA and checked to see if these two people also matched my mother, which would confirm the Native connection, but neither did, indicating of course that these two people matched me on my father’s side.  That too is valuable information, but it didn’t help identify any common Native heritage with my mother on chromosome 1.  It did, however, eliminate them as possibilities which is valuable information as well.

DNAGedcom

I used a new tool, DNAGedcom, compliments of Rob Warthen who has created a website, DNA Tools, at www.dnagedcom.com.  This wonderful tool allows you to download all of your autosomal matches at Family Tree DNA and 23andMe along with their chromosomal segment matches.  Since my mother’s DNA has only been tested at Family Tree DNA, I’m limiting the download to those results for now, because what I need is to find the people who match both she and I on the critical segments of chromosome 1 or 2.

Working with the Download Spreadsheet

It was disappointing to discover that my mother and I had no common matches that fell into this range on chromosome 1, but chromosome 2 was another matter.  Please note that I have redacted match surnames for privacy.

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The spreadsheet above shows the comparison of my matches (pink) and Mother’s (white).  The Native segment of chromosome 2 where I match Mother is shaded mustard.  I shaded the chromosome segments that fell into the “common match” range in green.  Of those matches, there is only one person who matches both Mother and I, Emma.  The next step, of course, is to contact Emma and see if we can discover our common ancestor, because whoever it is, that is the Native line.  As you might imagine, I am chomping at the bit.

There are no segments of chromosome 2 that are unquestionably isolated to my father’s line.

Kicking it up a Notch

Are you wondering about now how something that started out looking so simple got so complex?  Well, I am too, you’re not alone.  But we’ve come this far, so let’s go that final leg in this journey.  My mom always used to say there was no point in doing something at all if you weren’t going to do it right.  Sigh….OK Mom.

The easiest way to facilitate a chromosome by chromosome comparison with all of your matches and your Strong Native and Blended Asian segments is to enter all of these segment groups into the match spreadsheet.  If you’re groaning and your eyes glaze over right after you do one big ole eye roll, I understand.

But let’s take a look at how this helps us.

On the excerpt from my spreadsheet below, for a segment of chromosome 5, I have labeled the people and how they match to me.  The ones labeled “Mom” in the last column are labeled that way because these people match both Mom and I.  The ones labeled “Dad” are labeled that way because I know that person is related on my father’s side.

Using the information from the tables created in Step 8, I entered the beginning and end of all matching segment clusters into my spreadsheet.  You can see these entries on lines 7, 8, 22, 23 and 24.  You then proceed to colorize your matches based on the entry for either Mom or Dad – in other words the blue row or the purple row, line 7, 22 or 24.  In this example, actually, line 5 Rex, based on the coloration, should have been half blue and half purple, but we’ll discuss his case in a minute.

The you can then sort either by match name or by chromosome to view data in both ways.  Let’s look at an example of how this works.

Legend:

  • White Rows:  Mother’s matches.  When Mother and I both match an individual, you’ll see the same matches for me in pink.  This double match indicates that the match is to Mother’s side and not Father’s side.
  • Pink Rows:  My matches.
  • Purple “Mom” labels in last column:  The individual matches both me and Mom.  This is a genetic match.
  • Teal “Dad” labels in last column: Genealogically proven to be from my father’s side.  This is a genealogical, not a genetic label, since I don’t have Dad’s DNA and can only infer these genetically when they don’t also match Mother.
  • Dark Pink Rows labeled “Me Amerind Only” are Strong Native or Blended Asian segments from Chromosome Table that I have entered.  My segments must come from one of my parents, so I’ve either colored them purple, if the match is someone who matches Mother and I both, or teal, if they don’t match both Mom and I, so by inference they come from my father’s line.
  • Dark Purple Rows labeled “Mom Amerind Only” are Mom’s segments from the Chromosome Table.
  • Dark Teal Rows labeled “Dad Amerind Only” are inferred segments belonging to my father based on the fact that Mother and I don’t share them.

Inferred Relationships

This is a good place to talk for just a minute about inferred relationships in this context.  Inference gets somewhat tenuous or weak.  The inferred matches on my father’s side began with the Native segments in the admix tools.  Some inferences are very strong, where Mother has no Native at all in that region.  For example, Mom has European and I have Native American.  No question, this had to come from my father.  But other cases are much less straightforward.

In many cases, categorization may be the issue.  Mom has West Asian for example and I have Siberian or Beringian.  Is this a categorization issue or is this a real genetic difference, meaning that my Siberian/Beringian is actually Native and came from my father’s side?

Other cases of confusion arise from segment misreads, etc.  I’ve actually intentionally included a situation like this below, so we can discuss it.  Like all things, some amount of common sense has to enter the picture, and known relationships will also weigh heavily in the equation.  How known family members match on other chromosome segments is important too.  Do you see a pattern or is this match a one-time occurrence?  Patterns are important.

Keep in mind that these entries only reflect STRONG Asian or Native signals, not all signals.  So even if Mother doesn’t have a strong signal, it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have ANY signal in that region.  In some cases, start and stop segments for Mom and Dad overlapped due to very long segments on some matches.  In this case, we have to rely on the fact that we do have Mother’s actual DNA and assume that if they aren’t also a match to Mother, that what we are seeing is actually Dad’s lines, although this may not in actuality always be true.  Why?  Because we are dealing with segments below the matching threshold limit at both Family Tree DNA and 23andMe, and both of my parents carry Native heritage.  We can also have crossed a transitional boundary where the DNA that is being matched switches from Mom’s side to Dad’s side.

Ugh, you say, now that’s getting messy.  Yes, it is, and it has complicated this process immensely.

The Nitty-Gritty Data Itself

step 9 table 2

Taking a look at this portion of chromosome 5, we have lots going on in this cluster.  Most segments will just be boring pink and white (meaning no Native), but this segment is very busy.  Mom and I match on a small segment from 52,000,000 to 53,000,000.  Indeed, this is a very short segment when compared to the entire chromosome, but it is strongly Native.  We both also match Rex, our known cousin.  I’ve noted him with yellow in the table. Please note that Mom’s white matches are never shaded.  I am focused on determining where my own segments originate, so coloring Mother’s too was only confusing.  Yes, I did try it.

You can see that Mother actually shares all or any part of her segment with only me and Rex.  This simplifies matters, actually.  However, also note that I carry a larger segment in this region than does Mother, so either we have a categorization issue, a misread, or my father also contributed.  So, a conundrum.  This very probably implies that my father also carried Native DNA in this region.

Let’s see what Rex’s DNA looks like on this same segment of chromosome 5, from 52-53 using Eurogenes.  In the graph below, my chromosome is the top bar, Rex’s the middle and the bottom bar shows common DNA with the black nonmatching.  Yellow is Native American, red is South Asian, putty is Siberian, lime green is Mediterranean, teal is North Europe, orange is Caucus.

Step 9 item 3

This same comparison is shown to Mother’s DNA (top row) below.

step 9 item 4

It’s interesting that while Mother doesn’t have a lot of yellow (Native), she does have it throughout the same segment where Rex’s occurs, from about 52 through 53.5.

Does this actually point to a Native ancestor in the common line between Rex, Mom and I, which is the Swiss/German Johann Michael Miller line which does include an unidentified wife stateside, or does this simply indicate a common ancient population long ago in Asia?  It’s hard to say and is deserving of more research.  I feel that it is most likely Native because of the actual yellow, Native segment. If this was an Asian/European artifact, it would be much less likely to carry the actual yellow segment.

Is Rex also genealogically related to my father?  As I’ve worked through this process with all of my chromosomes and matches, I’ve really come to question if one of my father’s dead ends is also an ancestral line of my mother’s.

The key to making sense of these results is clusters.

Clusters vs Singleton Outliers

The work we’ve already done, especially in Step 8, clusters the actual DNA matching segments.  We’ve now entered that information into the spreadsheet and colored the segments of those who match.  What’s next?

The key is to look for people with clusters.  Many matches will have one segment, of say, 10 that match, colored.  Unless this is part of a large chromosome cluster, it’s probably simply an outlier.  Part of a large chromosome cluster would be like the large Strong Native segments on chromosome 1 or 2, for example.  How do we tell if this is a valid match or just an outlier?

Sort the spreadsheet by match name.  Take a look at all of the segments.

The example we’ll use is that of my cousin, Rex.  If you recall, he matches both me and Mother, is a known first cousin twice removed to me, (genetically equal to a second cousin), and is descended from the Miller line.

In this example, I also colored Mother’s segments because I wanted to see which segments that I did not receive from her were also Native. You can see that there are many segments where we all match and several of those are Native.  These also match to other Miller descendants as well, so are strongly indicative of a Native connection someplace in our common line.

If we were only to see one Native segment, we would simply disregard this as an outlier situation.  But that’s not the case.  We see a cluster of matches on various segments, we match other cousins from the same line on these segments, and reverting back to the original comparison admixture tools verifies these matches are Native for Rex, Mom and me.

step 9 item 5

Hmmmm…..what is Dad’s blue segment color doing in there?  Remember I said that we are only dealing with strong match segments?  Well, Mom didn’t have a strong segment at that location and so we inferred that Dad did.  But we know positively that this match does come from Mother’s side.  I also mentioned that I’ve come to wonder if my Mom and Dad share a common line.  It’s the Miller line that’s in question.  One of Johann Michael Miller’s children, Lodowick, moved from Pennsylvania to Augusta County, Virginia in the 1700s and his line became Appalachian, winding up in many of the same counties as my father’s family.  I’m going to treat this as simply an anomaly for now, but it actually could be, in this case, an small indication that these lines might be related.  It also might be a weak “Mom” match, or irrelevant.  I see other “double entries” like this in other Miller cousins as well.

What is the pink row on chromosome 12?  When I grouped the Strong Native and Asian Clusters, sometimes I had a strong grouping, and Mom had some.  The way I determined Dad’s inferred share was to subtract what Mom had in those segments from mine.  In a few cases, Mom didn’t have enough segments to be considered a cluster but she had enough to prevent Dad from being considered a cluster either, so those are simply pink, me with no segment coloring for Mom or Dad.

Let’s say I carry Strong Native/Mixed Asian at the following 8 locations:

10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24

This meets the criteria for 8 of 15 ethno-geographic locations (in the admix tools) within a 2.5 cM distance of each other, so this cluster would be included in the Mixed Asian for me.  It could also be a Strong Native cluster if it was found in 3 of 4 individual tools.  Regardless of how, it has been included.

Let’s now say that Mom carries Native/Mixed Asian at 10, 12 and 14, but not elsewhere in this cluster.

Mom’s 3 does not qualify her for the 8/15 and it only leaves Dad with 5 inferred segments, which disqualifies him too.  So in this case, my cluster would be listed, but not attributable directly to either parent.

What this really says is that both of my parents carry some Native/Blended Asian on this segment and we have to use other tools to extrapolate anything further.  The logic steps are the same as for Dad’s blue segment.  We’re going to treat that as an outlier.  If I really need to know, I can go back to the actual admixture tools and see whether Mom or Dad really match me strongly on which segments and how we compare to Rex as well.  In this case, it’s obvious that this is a match to my Mother’s side, so I’m leaving well enough alone.

Let’s see what the matches reveal.

Matches

Referring back to the Nitty Gritty Data spreadsheet, Mom’s match to Phyllis on row 15 confirms an Acadian line.  This is the known line of Mother’s Native ancestry.  This makes sense and they match on Native segments on several other chromosomes as well.  In fact, many of my and Mother’s matches have Acadian ancestry.

My match to row 19, Joy, is a known cousin on my father’s side with common Campbell ancestry.  This line is short however, because our common ancestor, believed to be Charles Campbell died before 1825 in Hawkins County, TN.  He was probably born before 1750, given that his sons were born about 1770 and 1772.  Joy and I descend from those 2 sons.  Charles wife and parents are unknown, as is his wife.

My match to row 20, inferred through my father’s side, is to a Sizemore, a line with genetically proven Native ancestry.  Of course, this needs more research, but it may be a large hint.  I also match with several other people who carry Sizemore ancestors.  This line appears to have originated near the NC/VA border.

I wanted to mention rows 4 and 17.  Using our rules for the spreadsheet, if I match someone and they don’t also match Mother on this segment, I have inferred them to be through my father.  These are two instances that this is probably incorrect.  I do match these people through Mother, but Mother didn’t carry a strong signal on this segment, so it automatically became inferred to Dad.  Remember, I’m only recording the Strong Native or the Blended Asian segments, not all segments.  However, I left the inferred teal so that you can see what kinds of judgment calls you’ll have to make.  This also illustrates that while Mom’s genetic matches are solid, Dad’s inferred matches are less so and sometimes require interpretation.  The proper thing to do in this instance would be to refer back to the original admixture tools themselves for clarification.

Let’s see what that shows.

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Using HarrappaWorld, the most pronounced segment is at about 52.  Teal is American.  You can see that Mother has only a very small trace between 53 and 54, almost negligible.  Mother’s admixture at location 52 is two segments of purple, brown and cinnamon which translate to Southwest Asian (lt purple), Mediterranean (dk purple), Caucasian (brown) and Balock (cinnamon), from Pakistan.

Checking Dodecad shows pretty much the same thing, except Mother’s background there is South Asian, which could be the same thing as Caucus and Pakistan, just different categorizations.

In this case, it looks like the admixture is not a categorization issue, but likely did come from my father.  Each segment will really be a case by case call, with only the strongest segments across all tools being the most reliable.

It’s times like this that we have to remember that we have two halves of each chromosome and they carry vastly different information from each of our parents.  Determining which is which is not always easy.  If in doubt, disregard that segment.

Raw Numbers

So, what, really did I figure out after all of this?

First, let’s look at some numbers.

I was working with a total of 292 people who had at least one chromosomal segment that matched me with a Strong Native or Blended Asian segment.  Of those, 59 also matched Mom’s DNA.  Of those, 18 had segments that matched only Mom.  This means that some of them had segments that also matched my father.  Keep in mind, again, that we are only using “strong matches” which involves inferring Dad’s segments and that referring back to the original tools can always clarify the situation.  There seems to be some specific areas that are hotspots for Native ancestry where it appears that both of my parents passed Native ancestry to me.

Many of my and my mother’s 59 matches have Acadian ancestry which is not surprising as the Acadians intermarried heavily with the Native population as well as within their own ethnic group.

Several also have Miller Ancestry.  My Miller ancestor is Johann Michael Miller (1692-1771) who immigrated in the colonial period and settled on the Pennsylvania frontier.  His son, Philip Jacob Miller’s (1726-1799) wife was a woman named Magdalena whose last name has been rumored for years to be Rochette, but no trace of a Rochette family has ever been found in the county where they lived, region or Brethren church history…and it’s not for lack of looking.  Several matches point to Native Ancestry in this line.  This also begs the question of whether this is really Native or whether it is really the Asian heritage of the German people.  Further analysis, referring back to the admixture tools, suggests that this is actually Native. It’s also interesting that absolutely none of Mother’s other German or Dutch lines show this type of ancestry.

There is no suggestion of Native ancestry in any of her other lines.  Mother’s results are relatively clean.  Dad’s are anything but.

Dad’s Messy Matches

My father’s side of the family, however, is another story.

I have 233 matches that don’t also match my mother.  There can be some technical issues related to no-calls and such, but by and large, those would not represent many.  So we need to accept that most of my matches are from my Father’s side originating in colonial America.  This line is much “messier” than my mother’s, genealogically speaking.

Of those 233 matches, only 25 can be definitely assigned to my father.  By definitely assigned, I mean the people are my cousins or there is an absolutely solid genealogical match, not a distant match.  Why am I not counting distant matches in this total?  We all know by virtue of the AncestryDNA saga that just because we match family lines and DNA does NOT mean that the DNA match is the genealogical line we think it is.  If you would like to read all about this, please refer to the details in CeCe Moore’s blog where she discussed this phenomenon.  The relevant discussion begins just after the third photo in this article where she shows that 3 of 10 matches at Ancestry where they “identify” the common DNA ancestor are incorrect.  Of course, they never SAY that the common ancestor is the DNA match, but it’s surely inferred by the DNA match and the “leaf” connecting these 2 people to a common ancestor.  It’s only evident to someone who has tested at least one parent and is savvy enough to realize that the individual whose ancestor on Mom’s side that they have highlighted, isn’t a match to Mom too.  Oops.  Mega-oops!!!

However, because we are dealing in our project, on Dad’s side, with inferences, we’re treading on some of the same ground.  Also, because we are dealing with only “strong clustered” segments, not all Native or Asian segments and because it appears that my parents both have Native ancestry.  To make matters worse, they may both have Algonquian, Iroquoian or both.

I have also discovered during this process that several of my matches are actually related to both of my parents.  I told you this got complex.

Of the people who don’t match Mother, 32 of them have chromosomal matches only to my father, so those would be considered reliable matches, as would the closest ones of the 25 that can be identified genealogically as matching Dad.  Many of these 25 are cousins I specifically asked to test, and those people’s results have been indispensable in this process.

In fact, it’s through my close circle of cousins that we have been able to eliminate several lines as having Native ancestry, because it doesn’t’ show as strong and they don’t have it either.

Many of these lines group together when looking at a specific chromosome.  There is line after line and cousin after cousin with highlighted data.

Dad’s Native Ancestors

So what has this told me?  This information strongly suggests that the following lines on my father’s side carry Native heritage.  Note the word “carry.”  All we can say at this point is that it’s in the soup – and we can utilize current matches at our testing company and at GedMatch, genealogy research and future matches to further narrow the branches of the tree.  Many of these families are intermarried and I have tried to group them by marriage group.  Obviously, eventually, their descendants all intermarried because they are all my ancestors on my father’s side.  But multiple matches to other people who carry the Native markers but aren’t related to my other lines are what define these as lines carrying Native heritage someplace.

  • Campbell – Hawkins County, Tn around 1800, missing wife and parents, married into the Dodson family
  • Dodson – Hawkins County, Tn, Virginia – written record of Lazarus Dodson camping with the Cherokee – missing wife, married into the Campbell and Estes family
  • Claxton/Clarkson – Russell Co., Va, Claiborne and Hancock Co., Tn – In NC associated with the known Native Hatcher family.  Possibly a son-in-law.  Missing family entirely.
  • Cook – Russell Co., Va. – daughter married Claxton/Clarkson – missing wives
  • Harrold, Harrell, Herrell – Hancock Co., Tn., Wilkes Co., NC – missing wives
  • McDowell – Hancock Co. Tn, Wilkes Co., NC, Augusta Co., Va – married into the Harrell family, missing wife
  • McNeil, McNiel – Wilkes Co., NC – missing wives, married into the Vannoy family
  • Vannoy – Wilkes County – some wives unaccounted for pre-1800
  • Crumley – Greene County, Tn., Lee Co., Va. – oral history of Native wife, married into the Vannoy family
  • Brown – Greene County, Tn, Montgomery Co., Va – married into the Crumley family, missing wives

While this looks like a long list, the list of families that don’t have any Native ancestry represented is much longer and effectively serves to eliminate all of those lines.  While I don’t have “THE” answer, I certainly know where to focus my research.  Maybe there isn’t the one answer.  Maybe there are multiple answers, in multiple lines.

The Take Away

Is this complex?  Yes!  Is it a lot of work?  You bet it is!  Is everything cast in concrete?  Never!  You can see that by the differences we’ve found in data interpretation, not to mention issues like no-calls (areas that for some reason in the test don’t read) and cross overs where your inheritance switches from your mom’s side to your dad’s side.  Is there any other way to do this?  No, not if your minority admixture is down in that weedy area around 1%.

Is it worth it?  You’ll have to decide.  It guess it depends on how desperately you want to know.

Part of the reason this is difficult is because we are missing tools in critical locations.  It’s an intensively laborious manual process.  In essence, using various tools, one has to figure out the locations of the Native and Asian chromosome segments and then use that information to infer Native matches by a double match (genetic match at DNA company plus match with Strong Native/Blended Asian segment) with the right parent.  It becomes even more complex if neither parent is available for testing, but it is doable although I would think the reliability could drop dramatically.

Tidbits and Trivia

I’ve picked up a number of little interesting tidbits during this process.  These may or may not be helpful to you.  Just kind of file them away until needed:)

  • Matches at testing companies come and go….and sometimes just go.  At Family Tree DNA, I have some matches that must be trembling on the threshold that come and go periodically.  Now you see them, now you don’t.  I lost matches moving from the Affy chip to the Illumina chip and lost additional matches between Build 36 and 37.  Some reappeared, some haven’t.
  • The start and stop boundaries changed for some matches between build 36 and build 37.  I did not go back and readjust, as most of these, in the larger scheme of things, were minor.  Just understand that you are looking for  patterns here that indicate Native heritage, not exact measurements.  This process is a tool, and unfortunately, not a magic wand:)
  • The centromere locations change between builds.  If you have matches near or crossing the middle of the chromosome, called the centromere, there may be breaks in that region.  I enter the centromere start and stop locations in my spreadsheet so that if I notice something odd going on in that region, the centromere addresses are right there to alert me that I’m dealing with that “odd” region.  You can find the centromere addresses in the FAQ at Family Tree DNA for their current build.
  • At 23andMe, when you reach the magic 1000 matches threshold, you start losing matches and the matching criteria is elevated so that you can stay under 1000 matches.  For people with colonial American or Jewish heritage, in other words those with high numbers of matches, this is a problem.
  • Watch for matches that are related to both sides of your family.  If your family lived in colonial America, you’re going to have a lot of matches and many are probably related to each other in ways you aren’t aware of.
  • If your parents are related to each other, this process might simply be too complex and intertwined to provide enough granular data to be useful.
  • Endogamous groups are impossible to sort through as to where, meaning which ancestor, the DNA came from.  This is because the original group founders’ DNA is just getting passed around and around, with little or no new DNA being introduced.  The effect of this on downstream generations relative to genetic genealogy is that matches appear to be more closely related than they are because of the amount of matching DNA they carry.  For my Brethren and my Acadian groups of people, I just list them by the group name, since, as the saying goes, “if you’re related to one Acadian, you’re related to all Acadians.”
  • If you’re going to follow this procedure, save one spreadsheet copy with the Strong Native only and then a second one with both the Strong Native and Blended Asian.  I’m undecided truthfully whether the Mixed Asian adds enough resolution for the extra work it generates.
  • When in question, refer back to the original tools.  The answer will always be found there.
  • Unfortunately, tools change.  You may want to take screen shots.  During this process, FTDNA went from build 36 to 37, match thresholds changed, 23andMe introduced a new user interface (which I find much less intuitive) and GedMatch has made significant changes.  The net-net of this is when you decide to undertake this project, commit to it and do it, start to finish.  Doing this little by little makes you vulnerable to changes that may make your data incompatible midstream – and you may not even realize it.
  • This entire process is intensively manual.  My spreadsheet is over 5500 rows long.  I won’t be doing it again…although I will update my spreadsheet with new matches from time to time.  The hard work is already done.
  • This same technique applies to any minority ancestry, not just Native, although that’s what I’ve been hunting for and one of the most common inquiries I receive.
  • I am hopeful that in the not too distant future many of these steps and processes will be automated by the group of bright developers that contribute to GedMatch or via other tools like DNAGedcom. HINT – HINT!!!

I would like to follow this same process to identify the source of my African heritage, but I’m thinking I’ll wait for the tools to become automated.  The great irony is that it’s very likely in the same lines as my Native ancestors.

If You Want to Test

What does it take to do this for yourself using the tools we have today, as discussed?

If your parents are living, the best gift you can give yourself is to test them, now, while you still can.  My mother has been gone for several years, but her DNA archived at Family Tree DNA was still viable.  This is not always the case.  I was fortunate.  Her DNA is one of the best gifts she gave me.  Not just by inheritance, but by having hers tested.  I thank her every single day, for both!  I could not have written this article without her DNA results.  The gift that keeps on giving.

If you don’t have a parent to test, you can test several other family members who will provide some information, but clearly won’t carry the same amounts of common DNA with you as your parents.  These would include your aunts and uncles, your parents’ siblings and what I’ve referred to as your close cousin circle.  Attempt to test at least someone from each line.  Yes, it gets expensive, but as one of my cousins said, as she took her third or 4th DNA test.  “It’s only money.  This is about family.”

You can also test your own siblings as well to obtain more information that you can use to match up to your family lines. Remember, you only receive half of your parents DNA, and your siblings will received some DNA from your parents that you didn’t.

I don’t have any other siblings to test, but I have tested cousins from several lines which have proven invaluable when trying to discern the sources of certain segments. For example, one of these Native segments fell on a common segment with my cousin Joy.  Therefore, I know it’s from the Campbell line, and because I have the Campbell paternal Y-DNA which is European, I know immediately the Native admixture would have had to be from a wife.

Much of this puzzle is deductive, but we now have the tools, albeit manual, to do this type of work that was previously impossible.  I am somewhat disappointed that I can’t pinpoint the exact family lines, yet, but hopefully as more people test and more matches provide genealogical information, this will improve.

If you want to play in this arena, you need to test at either Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, or both.  Right now, the most cost effective way to achieve this is to purchase a $99 kit from 23andMe, test there, then download your results from 23andMe and upload them to Family Tree DNA for $99.  That way, you are fishing in both pools.  Be aware that less than half of the people who test at either company download results to GedMatch, so your primary match locations are with the testing companies.  GedMatch is auxiliary, but critical for this analysis.  And the newest tool, DNAGedcom is a Godsend.

Also note that transferring your result to Family Tree DNA is NOT the same thing as actually testing there.  Why does this matter?  If you want a future test at Family Tree DNA, who is the premiere genetic genealogy testing company, offering the most variety and “deepest” commercial tests, they archive your DNA for 25 years, but if you transfer results, they don’t have your DNA to archive, so no future products can be ordered.  All I can say is thank Heavens Mom’s DNA was there.

Ancestry.com doesn’t provide any tools such as the chromosome browser or even the basic information of matching segments.  All you get is a little leaf that says you’re related, but the questions of which segment or how are not answerable today at Ancestry and as CeCe’s experience proved, its unreliable.  It’s  possible that you share the same surnames and ancestor, but your genetic connection is not through that family line.  Without tools, there is no way to tell.  Ancestry released raw data files a few weeks ago and very recently, GedMatch has implemented the ability to upload them so that Ancestry participants can now utilize the additional tools at GedMatch.

Although this has been an extraordinarily long and detailed process, I can’t tell you how happy I am to have developed this new technique to add to my toolbox.  My Native and African ancestors have been most elusive.  There are no records, they didn’t write and probably didn’t even speak English, certainly not initially.  The only clues to their existence, prior to DNA, were scant references and family lore.  The only prayer of actually identifying them is though these small segments of our DNA – yep – down in the weeds.  Are there false starts perhaps, and challenges and maybe a few snakes down there?  Yes, for sure, but so is the DNA of your ancestors.

Happy gardening and rooting around in the weeds.  Just think of it as searching for the very best buried treasure!  It’s down there, just waiting to be found.  Keep digging!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and that it leads you to your own personal genealogical treasure trove!

treasure chest

Ancestry Needs Another Push – Chromosome Browser

ancestry push

It seems that the genetic genealogy community is constantly doing battle with Ancestry in regards to Ancestry’s mediocre and at times, outright faulty autosomal DNA product, AncestryDNA.  AncestryDNA, similar to Family Finder at Family Tree DNA and the 23andMe test, matches you against others who have taken the test for “relatedness” across all of your ancestral lines.  I wrote a primer about autosomal testing in an earlier article, another comparing the various company offerings and a third comparing the actual results.

While we were excited this week that Ancestry has finally lived up to their promise to provide our raw data files for download, albeit many months later,  they have made a decision apparently to NOT provide a chromosome browser, their logic being, according to genetic genealogists who spoke to Kenny Freestone, Ancestry’s product development manager this week at Rootstech, that their primary focus is to keep things simple for the newer users.  Just so you know, if you’re an Ancestry user, not only have they just called you “stupid” but they also insinuated that you are unable to learn and to be anything other than stupid.  Are you insulted?  I surely am.

Ok, let’s forget, for the moment, about the fact that Ancestry just insulted us and let’s look at why having a chromosome browser is important.

This is very simple.

Just because you have a paper genealogy match with someone, especially a distant DNA match, does NOT mean that is how you’re related to them. 

Ancestry does a good job of linking up people who match by connecting people in their trees.  But that doesn’t mean that connection is how they are genetically related.  Plus, we all know about the, ahem, “quality” of Ancestry trees.

ancestry push 1

Here’s an example.  This is a match to someone through my ancestor, James Claxton and his wife Sarah Cook.  However, what if I’m also related to this person through the Estes family too?  Or an unknown line?  Just because the paper connection is to James Claxton doesn’t mean the genetic connection is to him as well.  This person has over 11,000 people in his tree.  If we are from the same geography, it’s likely that we match on multiple lines.  What if we match on paper on two or three lines?  How do we know how we are genetically related – through which line or lines?

At Ancestry, you don’t – you can’t – because they want to “keep things simple.”   Let me translate – they would rather leave you with a vague “feel good” notion about who you are related to, even if it’s not true, than give you the tools to discover the truth.

We need a chromosome browser to let us see how and if the DNA we share with these people is really from the Clarkson/Claxton family or the Cook family, or if maybe it’s from another line that isn’t shown on the pedigree chart being displayed by Ancestry.

Let’s move to Family Tree DNA to see what a chromosome browser does for you.  At Family Tree DNA, three of my Vannoy cousins have tested.  By using the chromosome browser to look at their DNA compared to mine, we can identify some segments as “Vannoy” segments – meaning they unquestionably come from that line.  We do that by using triangulation. It’s easy.  Using 3 or more relatives from a particular line, if three or more match on a particular segment, you know that segment is from that family line.

ancestry push 2

I’ve selected three cousins to compare to my results, above, and their results will be displayed using these colors.  Below, you can see that on chromosome 15, all 4 of us match on a significant sized matching segment.  That means that this segment is definitely “Vannoy.”  How does this benefit us?

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Well, it benefits us in two ways.  Let’s say an adoptee, or someone who has hit a brick wall also matches us on this segment.  It tells us that they are also “Vannoy” or perhaps ancestors of Vannoys.  Ancestors of Vannoys?

ancestry push 4

Yes, Vannoy is of course made up of their ancestral names and lineages too, so in time, let’s say that a Hickerson matches this segment too.  Then we’ll know that this segment comes from Daniel Vannoy’s wife, Sarah Hickerson’s line.  Do you have any wives surnames in your lines that need to be identified?  This is one way to do it, but you can’t without a chromosome browser.  And you could be the one who is brickwalled with the answer just waiting…..if there was a chromosome browser.  Do you see why this is so important, especially given the number of people who have tested at Ancestry?

Pretty simple stuff, right?  Well, Ancestry doesn’t think so.  They think you’re not capable of understanding this.  Funny, both Family Tree DNA and 23andMe provide this capability and people use it and depend upon it daily.  If you don’t want to use it, you certainly don’t have to, but to deprive all of us of an absolutely critical component of genetic genealogy is unconscionable. It’s simply not acceptable.

What can we do about this?  CeCe Moore, Tim Janzen and Dave Dowell were at Rootstech this week where they spoke with Kenny Freestone, among others.  He’s says he does personally read the information submitted through the “Feedback” button.  That is apparently how Ancestry gauges what needs to be done and prioritizes items.  Of course, if most of their novice clients don’t know what they are missing, they won’t be able to ask for what they don’t know about.  They are living under the illusion that they ARE genetically connected to everyone whose tree shows, and through the common paper line, and that’s it.  They don’t know that Ancestry is intentionally leaving them in their “feel good” cocoon and intentionally withholding “the rest of the story” and with it, their ability to discover even more.

But we know better and we were all “new users” at one time.  Use the feedback button.

ancestry push 5

It’s at the top right of your DNA pages at Ancestry.  Send Kenny the message…..”Kenny, we need a chromosome browser.”

Pssst….pass it on.  Everyone needs to provide this feedback.  This is how we got the raw data released and it’s the only way we’ll ever convince Ancestry to implement a chromosome browser.  Facebook this posting, Tweet it, post it on groups and forums.  Get the word out.  Send Feedback!!!

ancestry push

Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist blogged about this today as well.