In Anticipation of Ancestry’s Better Mousetrap

Knowing that Ancestry’s leaner, meaner, better mousetrap is forthcoming shortly, I decided to take a final look at the old mousetrap at Ancestry and collect some information so that I can reliably compare said old mousetrap with the new and improved version.

On November 17, 2014, I had 262 pages of matches, at 50 matches per page, for approximately 13,100 matches. Clearly, I’m never going to contact all of those, or even most of those.

My matches break down as follows:

  • 1 second cousin who doesn’t reply to messages. Their tree is visible, but I don’t see a common ancestor.
  • 10 third cousins, of whom 2 are known cousins prior to DNA testing. Three others have no family tree. Other than my known cousins, I can only find one genealogy connection, thanks to a shakey leaf.
  • 243 fourth cousins
  • 12,846 distant cousins, few of which have any connecting genealogy information to me

Let’s take a look at how this breaks down.



My third cousin match (that I didn’t previously know) has a shakey leaf that shows the following common ancestors. You might notice that even though we are predicted as third cousins with a range of 3rd to 4th and a confidence rating of 98%, we are actually 5th cousins.  That’s the nature of random DNA recombination in each generation.


That cousin and I match through Daniel Miller and Elizabeth Ulrich.

Actually, that’s not true – but it’s so easy to say and infer. In truth, we don’t know HOW we match, but we do have a DNA match and we do have a shared genealogy paper-trail ancestor in Daniel Miller and Elizabeth Ulrich.  So, we MAY have a genetic match through these ancestors – or it might be through another line – known or unknown.  But there is no way to tell for sure – at least not today at Ancestry.

Case in point…just very recently, when dealing with this exact same Miller line, I discovered that I did match one of my cousins at Family Tree DNA on the Miller line, but that we also have a second unknown genetic link on the X chromosome that could not have come from that Miller couple.

The problem with the matches at Ancestry is that they are suggestive and not in any way conclusive. Why?  Because there is no chromosome browser or other tool to show that these people match on the same chromosomes.  That would be step 1.  A tool to see that those two people match another descendant on the same segment would be step two in truly identifying and confirming a common genetic ancestor.  But neither of these steps exist at Ancestry today.  Many people either don’t know or don’t understand that, or flat out don’t care – because they are meeting paper trail cousins.

If meeting paper trail cousins is your goal – then you can do a bang up job of that at Ancestry!  In fact, I could meet 13,100 new cousins today. Just don’t assume that because you match them on DNA and on paper that the paper trail IS the genetic trail, because it might well not be.  Never assume.

When looking at my Miller match’s tree, I notice that they have not only the incorrect, or at least unsubstantiated Rochette surname for Daniel’s mother, but they have also added another surname…out of thin air apparently – Maugens. Groan.  Another incorrect tree – and this single ancestor is incorrect in two distinct ways.


I checked to see what sources they noted, and they gave the “Family Data Collection of Individual Records” as a source for every record. I’m sorry, but someone else’s hearsay isn’t a record source.  However, I’ll leave source records to the experts and move on with genetic genealogy.  However, word to the wise…. with Ancestry’s new and better mousetrap, accurate trees become exponentially more important.

Yes, I have seen a beta version mousetrap preview.

Today, I have 243 fourth cousins, 10 of which have shakey leaf hints, meaning that we do show a common paper-trail ancestor:

  1. Spklegirl- Francois LaFaille (also show Brown as a shared surname)
  2. Dbreeding63 – Fairwix Claxton and Agnes Muncy
  3. H.C. – Jacob Lentz and Frederica Moselman
  4. Alyssa- Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy – no response to messages (last logged in May 12, 2014 – not a good sign)
  5. Nanbowjack – private tree
  6. L.W. – private tree
  7. P.B. – private tree
  8. 1_cmarse – private tree
  9. MDgenealogy20 – private tree
  10. Susanharmon – private tree

Six of my 10 fourth cousin shakey leaf people have private trees, more than half.

Of the entire group of 254 matches of 2nd – 4th cousins, 44 have private trees.

Of those 254, another 52 don’t have trees uploaded. This is like cutting your nose off to spite your face.  It’s easy to create an abbreviated tree, if nothing else, if you don’t want to upload your full tree from your genealogy software.  That gives Ancestry’s software something to work with – a way to look for pedigree matches.  No tree, no shakey leaf hints.  Include at least 7 generations, if you have them.

So, of those 254 matches, I know that I’ll positively lose 96 due to private trees and no trees. Truthfully, I’m absolutely fine with that.  Those matches are of absolutely no use to me.  My efforts to communicate with Ancestry matches have been relatively unsuccessful, to the point that I’ve wondered if there is a glitch with my mail and their system – until a cousin sent me a test message to see if it was working.  So, I’m glad to be rid of unproductive no tree matches that simply clutter up the works.  I don’t want to see private tree teasers that I want and can’t have.

It will be interesting to see how many of my shakey leaves, if any, I’ll lose. Maybe I’ll acquire some new ones!!!  I can always hope.

Shakey Leaves


Speaking of shakey leaves, by utilizing the shakey leaf hint filter ability, I can see only my shakey leaf hint matches, eliminating the rest. This is what I normally do, right after I see if I have any new close matches.

In my distant cousin matches, I have 36 additional shakey leaves, as follows, arranged by ancestor matches:

Ctkatherine – Fairwick Claxton and Agnes Muncy

Rodneybranch1 – James Lee Claxton and Sarah “Sary” Cook

Petwin73 – John Hill and Catherine Mitchell

Greatpyr616 – Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann
Marsha Bolton – Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann
Ctlynch01 – Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann
C.L.M. – Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann
Tjfhorn1 – Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann

Dblrich – Honore Lore and Marie Lafaille

Rkoelpin – Francois Lafaille

William Lowe94 – Joseph Preston Bolton (share 8 surnames plus Combs – Herrell family is the same)

E.J.H. – John Francis Vannoy and Susannah Anderson
Rheainhatton – Francis Vannoy and Catherine Anderson
Viero111777 – John Francis Vannoy and Susannah Anderson
Maggiejames113 – John Francis Vannoy and Susannah Anderson

J.M. – John Vanoy

RWECIII – Jotham Brown
Raymond Brown – Jotham Brown
Tgbils917 – Jotham Brown
Skyrider3277 – Jotham Brown
Browndavid239 – Jotham Brown

R.G. – John R. Estes and Nancy Ann Moore
Chuck2810 – John R. Estes and Nancy Ann Moore (multiple ancestral line in this tree)

Lodikid – Andrew McKee

C.A.W. – Daniel Miller and Elizabeth Ulrich

Ostate4454 – John Campbell and Jane “Jenny” Dobkins (wrong parents for John)

A.F.B. – Nicholas Speaks and Sarah Faires

Razzanozoo1 – Lois McNiel

M.S. – private tree
Christine414 – private tree
DDicksson – private tree
FruitofVine – private tree
Lisa36ang – private tree
J.M.F. – private tree
1_perry22 – private tree
Jcarolynbh – private tree

DNA Testing Goals

I realized this week when I received an e-mail from someone requesting assistance that goals and expectations surrounding DNA testing vary widely in the genetic genealogy community. This person said, “I thought when I took a DNA test that all of my brick walls would just melt away.”

Clearly, that’s not the case.

I think with the increasing popularity of DNA testing that a wider range of people take the tests, and often without really understanding DNA testing, the various kinds of tests, or what DNA results can or might do for them.

DNA testing is a toolkit, and which tool, under what circumstances, is best for the job varies based on your goals. It’s like picking the right sized socket wrench.


Let me be very specific about my personal goals.

I want to learn everything I can about my ancestors. I am not interested in inferring a genetic match when said match can be proven.

1. I want to know the haplogroup of every single ancestor in my tree – both male and female. Why? Because Y and mitochondrial DNA testing is the only direct line information I can obtain on those ancestors, and it stretches back far beyond any prayer of written records or surnames. It tells me their ethnicity and often, where they came from – sometimes in general terms and sometimes in much more specific terms.

2. I want to map my ancestor’s DNA on my chromosomes. In other words, I want to know that my DNA on chromosome 1, section 1-10,000 came from the Ferverda line on my mother’s side and from John Y. Estes and Rutha Dodson on my father’s side. This opens the door to do things like Ancestor Reconstruction as well as to identify where those other 12,846 people without shakey leaves fall on my tree, based on WHERE they match me.

While I am interested in meeting my cousins, especially cousins who are actively researching our common ancestral line, I’m not interested in meeting endless cousins who are just copy/pasting data from tree to tree. Rhetorically speaking, what the heck would I do with 13,000 new cousins.  I can barely remember the names of the ones I have!

For me, the end goal is not meeting cousins, specifically, although I do enjoy many of the cousins I meet through genealogy. Some of my very closest friends are my genealogy cousins.  But this isn’t a genealogy singles bar and I’m not interested in doing DNA speed dating, so to speak.

3. My goal is to discover every shred I can about my ancestors and to break down brick walls utilizing DNA.  See number 2, above.

To match my cousins whom I already know is great confirmation that I’m really a family member, but it does little more except provide the foundation for chromosome mapping utilizing chromosome browser tools. I need tools to find those missing wives lines, and to add to the tree – maybe to discover who someone’s parents actually were.  Those are the kinds of genetic genealogy dreams I have.  That’s my idea of a better mousetrap.

Ancestry’s New Mousetrap

During our meeting in October and follow-up conference call, Ancestry indicated that their new processing methods would result in many fewer matches, but much higher quality matches, based on their new phasing routines and new features. I welcome both of those improvements.

I wrote about the Ancestry visit here.  Judy Russell wrote about it here, and Blaine Bettinger wrote about it as well.  Anna Swayne, who leads the effort in genetic genealogy education at Ancestry wrote about the upcoming DNA release and referenced information provided by Ken Chahine, the AncestryDNA general manager.  So, now that you know what to expect, it will be interesting to see the real McCoy…er…I mean the new and better mousetrap.

The close and shakey leaf matches I’ve discussed above are the only ones I really care much about – because they are the only ones that are actually useful to me under the current circumstances. I would love to find a way to make the balance of my 12,846 matches useful.  That would be an exceptional mousetrap.

It will be interesting to see how many of these shakey leaf matches I lose, what, as a consumer and Ancestry subscriber I will gain, and how the new mousetrap will help genealogists break down brick walls.

In the end, that’s really the measure of usefulness of any genetic genealogy mousetrap.

Family Tree DNA Announces *Free Autosomal Transfer from 23andMe and Ancestry

dna ballOne of the major announcements this past week at the Family Tree DNA administrator’s conference was that Family Tree DNA will now be accepting, and encouraging, free data transfers from both 23andMe (V3 chip only) and

*For free, you will be able to see your top 20 matches, but if you want to contact those matches or unlock the rest of the Family Finder functionality and tools at Family Tree DNA, you’ll need to pay $39 or recruit 4 additional people to upload their files, whether they pay to join or not.  Compared to retesting at $99 or the previous transfer price of $69, this is a great value.

Yesterday, I received this notification from Family Tree DNA that was sent to all project administrators.

As Senior Director of Product Michael Gugel shared at the recent conference, for the first time ever, people that have taken an AncestryDNA™ or 23andMe© (V3) test can transfer into the FTDNA databases for free by visiting and following the instructions to upload their raw data file.

Within an hour or two, we provide a preview of what’s waiting if they transfer by showing the top 20 matches along with an estimate of the total number of matches in the FTDNA database.

Full functionality can be unlocked by either paying $39 or recruiting four other people to upload, thus unlocking the rest of the matches.

Here are some important points to know:

  • We only accept the 23andMe V3 chip that was used on tests sold between November 2010 and approximately November 2013. There are a couple of ways to find out what chip was used for your test other than simply the timeframe. One is size; v3 chip files are about 7.83 MB where V2 and V4 chips are smaller. If you’re tech savvy, you can unzip the file and check chromosomes: Chromosome 1 for v3 starts at 82154 (rs4477212) where v4 starts at 734462 (rs12564807)and v2 starts with position 742429 (rs3094315).
  • We do not have any plans to accept V2 or V4 chips. if you try to upload the wrong chip version, the system will tell you that the file doesn’t have sufficient data. Since neither chip contains enough of the SNPs included in Family Finder, we would have to impute too much data. Basically we’d have to make assumptions about the missing SNPs that we’re just not willing to make at this point.

Blaine Bettinger at The Genetic Genealogist wrote detailed instructions about how to do the transfer and what to expect, so take a look.

At the $39 price, or recruit 4 and it’s entirely free, this transfer becomes the best autosomal vendor value available today. I know that people are already taking advantage of this offer, because I’m seeing new people join my projects and their item purchased indicates “free transfer.”

Spending the $39 (or recruiting 4 additional participants) allows you to unlock and access the following Family Finder features:

  • Full data base matching
  • Ability to contact matches directly via e-mail
  • Ability to join projects that accept autosomal participants
  • Ability to see matches by and within projects
  • Searching for matches by surname
  • Searching for matches by ancestral surname
  • Ability to view your matches family trees
  • Ability to upload your GEDCOM file or create your family tree to facilitate surname matching
  • Utilizing the “In Common With” tool to see who you and your matches both match
  • Utilizing the Matrix to see if your matches also match each other, suggesting a common ancestor
  • Seeing results on the Chromosome browser
  • myOrigins ethnicity information

The more kits in the data base, the more matches, so don’t wait.  You can’t lose by doing the free transfer and seeing what matches might be waiting for you.

Tenth Annual Family Tree DNA Conference Day 3

The internet in the hotel hasn’t gotten any faster, so I’ll just be providing highlights and today’s new announcements.  More info, plus pictures, when I get home.

Sunday always begins with the ISOGG meeting hosted by Director, Katherine Borges.

This year’s meeting was especially touching, because Max Blankfeld and Bennett Greenspan, founders of Family Tree DNA, received plaques for their 10 years of investment and dedication and as a thank you for hosting the conferences for administrators.


Much of today’s agenda was focused on research, technical updates and new products and features.

This next year, Family Tree DNA’s focus is on three initiatives:

  1. Customer service and feedback
  2. Features – listen to citizen scientists and group administrators
  3. New products and features to make genetic genealogy better for genealogists

Family Tree DNA is actively soliciting your feedback and has set up a special address for suggestions.  This takes you to a google docs file where you enter your name, e-mail and 1000 characters maximum.

Free Ancestry and 23andMe Uploads

In order to attract more uploads, which will, of course, give us more matches, Family Tree DNA is announcing free uploads from Ancestry and 23andMe, the v3 chip only, but with a string attached.  The transferee can do the actual transfer for free, but they will only see their top 20 matches, only an initial and a last name, and will not be able to communicate with them unless they decide to pay $39 to join, or perhaps stated more accurately, to active all of the features of a paid transfer.  However, in lieu of the $39 fee, you can also recruit 4 other people to upload their data, whether or not they actually pay the fee or not.

Search Feature

One of the reasons Family Tree DNA implemented the new trees was so that they could implement new search functionality.  Soon, one will be able to search all public trees.  I think this will benefit the community immensely, because it will allow people to see if people from their family lines are present in the data base, which will, hopefully, encourage testing.

Facilitating Communication


A new social media function called myGroups is being implemented to facilitate contact within groups.  Today, projects and outside mailing lists and groups don’t fully overlap.

The example shown correlated to about 25% of a project group that was subscribed to an outside Yahoo group for discussion.  MyGroups is designed to facilitate discussions that include all project members.

Furthermore, Ancestry’s My Family product became obsolete on September 30th, leaving many people with no place to discuss family lines and groups and share pictures and documents.   The new myGroups is designed to replace some of that functionality within the context of a project.  A project could be defined as an ancestral couple, for example or a surname project, or a haplogroup project.  Of course, the discussions would be quite different for each type of myGroup.  They are ready to launch this in an alpha state and if someone is excited about this and wants to volunteer, and can deal with a few bugs…then please drop Family Tree DNA a note.

News in the Field

We had many wonderful presentations, but my personal favorite was by Michael Hammer.


I can’t begin to do this topic justice without a real keyboard and a decent internet connection so I can upload lots of pictures.  We now have 18 fully genome sequenced ancient DNA samples, which is, admittedly, just a smattering.  However, if they are representative of the hunter-gatherer (Paleolithic) and early farmer (Neolithic) populations, then what we thought we knew about Y haplogroup R, J and others has just been turned upside down.  And then, there is the teaser, like what is haplogroup C doing in Spain???

Oh, and want to know how much of your European DNA is ancestrally neolithic, hunter-gatherer, ancient northern european or later from the metallic age?  That’s one of the features Family Tree DNA was asked about and I believe they said that was something they could probably do. I’m not positive if that means they will implement that feature, but I do know they’ll evaluate how difficult and accurate this would be to implement.

Join me in a few days, after I get home, when I promise, I’ll do Michael’s presentation justice.  I’m so excited about ancient DNA and the secrets it’s unlocking!!!

Fun times ahead!

Ancestry Destroys Irreplaceable DNA Database


In spite of petitions and letters and pleas, from their customers, from the genealogy community and from the leaders in genetic genealogy, Ancestry did exactly what they said they would do – they deleted the Y and mtDNA data bases and in effect, destroyed the contents – tens of thousands of irreplaceable records, gone, forever.

In other words, they burned the courthouse of the County DNA.

Worse yet, several years ago, in 2007, Ancestry had acquired the DNA results of the customers of Relative Genetics and incorporated them into their Y and mtDNA database.   So the results of testing at two companies from the earliest days of genetic genealogy are gone – poof – up in smoke – not available for comparison or searching – the lynchpin of genetic genealogy.

It’s simply beyond me how a company that makes their living from rare historic records, like the census, for example, could be the one lighting the torch on something so valuable as a searchable database containing irreplaceable genetic data.  Many of the early testers are deceased now but through their DNA tests that identified their lineage, their legacy could live on and benefit all genealogists.  Some of those people were the end of their line.

I still can’t believe Ancestry did this.  It’s unfathomable.  Unthinkable.  Unbelievable.

But they did.

I won’t even begin on the topics of responsibility, stewardship and ethics.  It’s pointless.

Ancestry announced their intention to do so in early June, giving people in essence three months to retrieve their data or search the data base.  A few days later, Ancestry suffered a denial of service attack which broke the search function of the data base.  They never repaired that function, so, in essence, other than retrieving your own results, the data base had been non-functional since mid-June.  They extended the deadline to the end of September, but that mattered little since the data base wasn’t operational.

Today, October 1, I checked to see if the data base was in fact, gone, and it is.  We had held out hope to the very end that Ancestry could be persuaded to reconsider, or sell, or combine their results with the Sorenson data base they also maintain (as a function of their Sorenson purchase contract) – something – anything to salvage the resource – but no dice.

Ancestry did do one thing however.  If you tested your Y or mtDNA or hand entered results previously, you can still download or print your own data.  Any matching or other capabilities are gone and in their place, an ad, of course, for their autosomal DNA test….

ancestry download y2


WDYTYA – How DNA Might Have Been Used – Cynthia Nixon

I do love these Who Do You Think Your Are (WDYTYA) and similar shows, because like most everyone, I love a good mystery, especially a true story – and a good genealogy mystery tops them all.

And, of course, you never know what tidbit might be lurking for your own situation.

We had a hiatus of several months since last season, so I remembered what I liked and forgot what I didn’t.  As a long-time genealogist, I find myself talking to the TV – saying things like, “You can’t assume that,” and other similar comments to rather gargantuan leaps of faith.

I have to remind myself that it IS, after all, a TV show, and a lot of research (I hope and pray) is done behind the scenes but not shown to the audience.  After all,, marketing king of easy-peasy “just enter your ancestor’s name” and it will all just be here waiting for you is sponsoring this series….so it has to look quite simple and doable for the viewing audience.  I mean, who wants to know that there could be two people in the census with the same name, in the same county….yes…really.

But my real frustration last season came with the knowledge that in many cases, DNA could have been reasonably and successfully used, and wasn’t.  So, this season, I’d like to talk about how DNA might have been used.

Ancestry provides a recap of the Cynthia Nixon episode as does TLC, and it really was a good one with lots of cliffhangers, of course.  For future episodes, GeneaBloggers published a WDYTYA bingo card.  What fun!

This episode begins as a professional genealogist puts together Cynthia’s first several generations via the census and presents her with a scroll of that information.  If you’re playing WDYTYA Bingo, I think you get two points for this.  The rest of the show focuses on Cynthia’s 3X great grandmother, Martha Curnutt.

Marriage records on show a Martha Curnutt marrying Noah Casto on 15 August 1839 in Missouri. But no Martha and Noah Casto appear in the 1850 census. There’s only Martha, Mary (10), Noah (7), and Sarah (6)—all under the name Curnutt. A quick count shows Noah could have served in the Civil War. And a search of military records yields pay dirt: Noah’s mother Martha applied for a pension in 1881.

That pension record shows that Noah, the father, died in 1842, and further research shows that in 1843, Martha was indicted for murder and then found guilty of manslaughter for killing her husband, Noah Casto, with an ax “between the eyes” while he slept, after he threatened her life.  If you’d like to read a discussion about murder vs. manslaughter, Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist, who watched the show with a group of genealogists, wrote a wonderful article about manslaughter and murder and this case.  Be sure to read the comments too.

Cynthia discovered that Martha had apparently been severely abused, based on a newspaper article.  At that time, there was no protection nor recourse for abused women.

More awful still is an unnamed informant’s account that the victim “had been in the habit of treating his wife in a manner too brutal and shocking to think of.” Cynthia is devastated to learn her 3x great-grandmother endured such horrible treatment.

But Martha fared little better in prison. Convicted of manslaughter, she was the only female inmate, was abused by people she was hired out to work for, was subjected to inhumane conditions, and in the fall of 1844 gave birth to a daughter (Sarah) fathered by someone associated with the prison. It was most likely the scandal that would accompany the story of her treatment in a state facility that led to her pardon in 1845.

An article written by a former inmate details Martha’s treatment, including the fact that she was originally allowed to work for the warden at his home, but his wife, Mrs. Brown, abused her so terribly that she ran away, was returned to prison and kept in her cell being given nothing for days, which I presume means no food or water.  That was followed by the fact that “in the fall” she delivered a child.  Knowing the dates of the trial in 1843 and that the child was born in the fall of 1844, it became evident that the child was not her deceased husband’s child, and was conceived in prison.

When Martha was in labor, Mrs. Brown would not help her, nor allow anyone else to do so.  Finally, one (male) inmate was allowed to “attend her,” but nothing, not even clothing or heat in her cell was provided for the baby.  Obviously, the warden’s wife was hoping the child would die, but Sarah didn’t, nor did Martha.  The next month, Martha was pardoned by the governor over the signatures of a long list of politicians and very influential men.  Obviously, since the mother and child didn’t die, there was a scandal brewing.

So, the question is, and certainly the scandal revolves around the identity of the Sarah’s father, the child born in prison in the fall of 1844.

We know Sarah lived at least until the 1850 census, and assuming she lived to marry and have children of her own, let’s talk about DNA options.

If Sarah were a male and had male descendants to the current generation, this would be a relatively easy case to solve….but she is a female and carries no Y chromosome, which would have been passed from the father to a male child, so we can’t test that.

Therefore, our other testing alternative would be to test the autosomal DNA of a descendant of Sarah and see if any portion of the her autosomal DNA matches with descendants of the warden’s family.  This assumes, of course, that Martha was not otherwise related to Warden Brown.

If in fact, Sarah’s descendants do match the DNA of the warden’s descendants, that would be highly suggestive that Warden Brown was Sarah’s father, especially if the amount of shared DNA would be the right percentage to be about 4 generations removed, or roughly third cousins who could be expected to share about 1% of the DNA of their common ancestor.

Not all third cousins will share DNA, or not in large enough segments to be above the matching threshold of the DNA testing companies, but many will, and all we would need would be enough and proof that the DNA in question is indeed descended from the same Brown family.

Here’s my own third cousin match at Ancestry.  He and I tested intentionally, knowing we are cousins, to map our DNA to specific ancestors (at Family Tree DNA) and to see if we match other cousins (at Ancestry.)

ancestry third cousins

Of course, Sarah is not Cynthia’s direct ancestor, the older daughter, Mary is – so finding out who Sarah’s father was does not further Cynthia’s own genealogy.  Plus, testing Cynthia’s DNA would not have been beneficial other than to have a basis for comparison on Martha’s side.  But testing a descendant of Sarah would certainly have answered a burning question about Martha’s time spent in prison – and might very likely have answered the question about why Mrs. Brown obviously hated Martha enough to try to kill her in various inhumane ways; by withholding assistance while Martha was in childbirth, not to mention essentials like food and heat.

Had Sarah’s descendants taken the DNA test, especially if they had entered the warden’s name as a potential ancestor in their tree, they might well have discovered that they had “shakey leaf” hints that connected them with other people who descend from Warden Brown’s family.  If they were lucky, an actual descendant of Warden Brown himself would have tested and they would match.  In fact, maybe the producers could have found a direct descendant of Warden Brown who was interested in revealing the truth, whatever it was.

However, without a chromosome browser or any other type of comparison tools, they would be unable to prove that the match to that individual was indeed Brown family DNA – and they would have simply have to infer, allow you to believe, that the genetic match was the same as the shakey leaf match.  You can see, above, that Ancestry skates on this issue by saying “it looks like you have a shared ancestor.”  Indeed it does, but that doesn’t mean the shaky leaf ancestor is the one that you share genetically.  However, given the other leaps of faith in the series, I doubt that this “little detail” would have deterred the storyline much.  And indeed, it would have been very interesting.

In order to prove the genetic connection, one could have the people who tested, and matched on the Brown line, download their results to and compare their actual DNA segments there.  They could also transfer their DNA to Family Tree DNA who does have comparison tools.  Of course, that opens the door to DISPROVING the shakey leaf “tree” match as well as proving it, and it’s certainly not in the same spirit or as easy as just accepting, on faith, the “shakey leaf” hint as fact.  DNA Genealogy wrote a nice summary of vs GedMatch here and why those “shakey leaf” first impressions are sometimes not correct.

Am I the only one who thinks Warden Brown is the most likely candidate to be Sarah’s father?????  Whoever the father was, he was certainly important enough to warrant a pardon for Martha.  That is the one good thing in the landslide of evil that haunted Martha Curnutt.  I hope the rest of her life was much easier.

Salvaging Every Scrap of DNA Info from Ancestry

OK, it’s a given, like it or not – is discontinuing their Y and mtDNA data bases on September 5th, 2014.  Let’s take every opportunity between now and then to scrape every scrap of information off of that plate before it’s so unceremoniously tossed away like so much trash.

I would suggest that you take every single family surname and enter it as a query at Ancestry.  If you already have known surname matches, then you should easily be able to eliminate those matches, by haplogroup, who assuredly aren’t yours.  For example, if there were 4 Estes males listed at Ancestry, 2 of which match my Estes line haplogroup, and 2 that do not, then the 2 that don’t I can disregard.

So let’s look at some examples.

In this demonstration case, there are no individuals who have tested by this surname at either Family Tree DNA or Sorenson, at, so I’m flying blind, hoping to find anyone by that surname who has tested.

The surname is Bonnevie, an Acadian ancestor.

If you’re a registered Ancestry member, go to your DNA page and select Y.  If you’re not an Ancestry member, click on this link and it should take you there.

At the top of the page, under Ancestry logo on the right, click on Groups.  You’ll see two choices – Search for Groups – which is not what you want to do since groups are no longer functional.  Enter the surname into the “Search for Individual” field.

salvage 1

In this case, Bonnevie returned no results.  Be sure to try variants.

salvage 2

I’m going on to my next surname, Vannoy.

salvage 3

Vannoy in fact returned one result.  In this case, this individual entered their results manually from another lab, which is likely, but not necessarily, Family Tree DNA.  You can tell by the “*” beside the “64 markers” under the Test category.  Because they did not test at Ancestry, there is no need to send them a message asking them if they would be interested in transferring their DNA.  If you aren’t familiar with this person through other testing or research, you might well want to contact them.  To initiate contact, click on the envelop on the far left hand side of the entry.

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Complete this form and keep your fingers crossed.  I haven’t had a lot of luck with replies from people at Ancestry who have DNA tested, but you should at least try. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Crumley is another one of my surnames. In this entry, I can tell, based on the haplogroup, that they are probably a member of my Crumley line.  They tested at Ancestry (no “*”).  I can click on “View profile” to see if they have appended a tree.  They have not, so I can’t see their Crumley ancestors.

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I can, however, contact them and see if they will enter a discussion about genealogy, if they will transfer their results to Family Tree DNA, or retest, or minimally, if they will enter their results in YSearch.  Here’s the verbiage I’ve been sending.

Hi Val,

Ancestry is planning to discontinue the Y DNA data base on September 5th.  We have a Crumley surname project at Family Tree DNA with several members.  We’d love to invite you to join us.  You can transfer your DNA results or retest.  Please contact me and I’ll be glad to explain your options.  From your haplogroup, it looks like you descend from the James Crumley/Catherine Gilkey line out of England and Virginia.  I’d love to exchange genealogy info with you as well.  Please e-mail me at

Roberta Estes

Another approach I can take IF I have the DNA markers of the surname line is to go in and modify my own results, if they were manually entered, to reflect that surname profile.  To do this, go to your DNA page and the click on “View Results” for the Paternal lineage.

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You will then see this page which will allow you to edit your results.  Enter the results for the lineage you are seeking.  When finished, click on “See Matches.”

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It sometimes takes from a few minutes to a few hours to update the data base and receive matches.  If you still don’t have matches in a day, 24 hours, then you actually don’t have any matches – but do give it 24 hours.

Then, on to your next surname.

It’s sad that Ancestry’s Y and mtDNA data base resources are being discontinued, but I hope that you’ll take the time to scavenge every scrap, while you still can.  If this is the only place where that person or family ever tested, you’ll never have another opportunity.  It will be gone, forever.

10 Things to Do With Your DNAPrint, renamed AncestrybyDNA, Test


Please note, AncestrybyDNA is NOT the same as the AncestryDNA test sold by  Both CeCe Moore and David Dowell have written about this in their respective blogs.

Back in 2002 (no, that is not a typo,) a new product called DNAPrint was introduced by a company then called DNAPrint Genomics.  It provided you, in percentages, your percentages of 4 ethnic groups: Indo-European, East-Asian, Native American and African.  Family Tree DNA remarketed this test for just over a year but ceased when they realized there were issues.

It was the first of its kind of test ever to be offered commercially, and version 2.0 utilized a whopping 71 ancestrally informative markers, according to the user’s guide delivered with the product.  The next version of the test, 2.5, titled AncestrybyDNA included 175 markers, and a third version, which I don’t believe was ever released, was to include just over 300 markers.

In 2002, this was a baby step in a brand new world.  We, as a community, were thrilled to be able to obtain this type of information.  And of course, we believed it was accurate, or relatively so.  However, the questions and ensuing debate started almost immediately and became very heated.

The company’s representatives indicated that East-Asian and Native American could be combined for those without a “Chinese grandpa” and that would have given me a whopping 25% Native American.  Even then, before pedigree analysis, I thought this was a little high.  My East Asian was shown as 15%, Native American at 10% and Indo-European at 75%.  For reference, my real Native results are probably in the 1-3% range.  Keep in mind that we were all babes in the woods, kind of stumbling around, learning, in 2002 and 2003.

Interestingly enough, I found the answer recently, quite by accident, to one of the burning questions about Native American ancestry that was asked repeatedly of Tony Frudakis during that timeframe, then a corporate officer of DNAPrint, and left unanswered.  In Carolyn Abraham’s book, The Juggler’s Children, which is a wonderful read, on page 55, the answer to the forever-hanging question was answered:

“When I finally reached Frudakis, that’s how he explained the confusion over our Native ancestry result – semantics.  The Florida company had pegged its markers as being Native American to appeal to the American market, he told me.  But it was accurate to consider them Central Asian markers, he said, that had been carried to different regions by those who migrated from that part of the globe long ago – into the Americas, into East Asia, South Asia and even southern Europe – finding their way into today’s Greeks, Italians and Turks.  ‘We may do ourselves a favour and change the name of this ancestry [component] in the test,’ he said, since apparently I wasn’t the only one baffled by it.”

So, now we know, straight from the horses mouth, via Carolyn.

Of course, since that time, many advances have occurred in this field.  Today, Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, and the Genographic Project utilize chip based technology and utilize over half a million markers to achieve ethnicity predictions.  If DNAPrint, renamed AncestybyDNA was the first baby step, today we are teenagers – trying to refine our identity.  Today’s tests, although not totally accurate, are, by far, more accurate than this first baby step.  Give us another dozen years in this industry, and they’ll be spot on!

For 2003, when I ordered mine, DNAPrint was an adventure – it was exciting – it was a first step – and we learned a lot.  Unfortunately, DNAPrint under the name AncestrybyDNA is still being sold today, currently owned by the DNA Diagnostics Center.  If you are even thinking about ordering this product, take a look first at the Yelp reviews and the Better Business Bureau complaints.

I don’t regret spending the money in 2003.  Spending money on this outdated test today would be another story entirely – a total waste.  The results are entirely irrelevant today in light of the newer and more refined technology.  Unfortunately, seldom a week goes by that I don’t receive an e-mail from someone who bought this test and are quite confused and unhappy.  The test has been marketed and remarketed by a number of companies over the years.

So, here are some suggestions about what might be appropriate to do with your DNAPrint or AncestybyDNA results if you don’t want to just throw them away:

  1. Line the bottom of the birdcage.
  2. Use to light the BBQ grill or camp fire.
  3. Use under boots in the hallway in the winter.
  4. Shred, then use as confetti.
  5. Cut into strips and use as bookmarks.
  6. Use as scratch paper.
  7. Use in the garden between rows to minimize weeds.
  8. Make into a paper airplane.
  9. Roll, along with other excess paper, into logs for the fireplace.
  10. Frame, and display along with your other antiques.

Yes, it’s really that old and outdated!