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