Before we visit this feature, I need to stress that Communities are far from a complete picture of your heritage or where your ancestors came from, but various aspects of communities that do exist (for you) may hold some hints for your research.
Genetic Communities at Ancestry are assigned based on large-scale clusters of people who match each other and whose ancestors are found in regions with a specific type of history that can be considered communities.
DNA Tidbit Challenge
Sign on to your Ancestry account and click on DNA Story. For those of us who have already looked at ethnicity estimates (who hasn’t?), we generally click on DNA Matches or ThruLines and skip DNA Stories, but there may be hints buried in DNA Stories too.
Initially, you’ll see your ethnicity map with Communities at the right.
Your ethnicity regions are in solid white lines, and the Genetic Communities based on your DNA matches, their ancestors, and your ancestors are indicated by the white hashed lines.
In some cases, a community will be split between an overseas location and a settlement area in the US.
Note that both communities above have subregions as well, and if you mouse over these subregions, they are highlighted on the map.
That’s all you see if you don’t click further.
Click on Communities
With each community, you can either click on the right arrow or the actual community/subcommunity.
I have 10 possible ancestor stories in the first group and 8 in the second, although the 8 are a subset of the 10 which doesn’t make much sense, especially since Ancestry had a LOT more to choose from.
It’s interesting to note that more than 2 million Ancestry members are clustered in the Lower Midwest and Virginia Settlers community.
Keep in mind that while your ancestors may not be found in a specific subregion, their descendants may be. In my case, my ancestors definitely ARE found in the Cumberland Gap region, but are not in Missouri or Arkansas. However, their descendants settled there in droves, so I have lots of DNA matches from that diaspora region. Think, “next frontier.”
Using the Timeline
You’ll see a timeline bar, beginning with “Overview” for each community, plus a grey sliding bar all the way to the right.
If you slide the bar at the far right, you’ll see Featured Matches and Community History in the panel to the right of the map.
The timeline bar by year to the left, if you click on a year, skips some general information shown if you use the slider at far right.
In the panel, you’ll see possible ancestors identified through StoryScout. They are your ancestors from your tree, but the information they present about that ancestor may or MAY NOT actually be for your ancestor.
I wrote about StoryScouts here: StoryScouts in Ancestry’s New StoryScout: Be Cautious.
Again, beware, but don’t dismiss these out of hand, even if you’re an experienced long-time genealogist, because occasionally Ancestry might find a newly available record, one you didn’t know about previously or a tidbit that you overlooked.
For example, the 1930 census (and others) includes street names and house numbers. You can click through to view the census page and discover the house number even though only Sinclair Street was mentioned in StoryScout.
Next, you can go to Google maps street view, search for 123 Sinclair and “visit” where your great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother, both widows, lived – from the safety of your own home in the middle of a pandemic. How fun is that!
Each dot underneath that story represents a StoryScout story of a different ancestor. These are not my only StoryScout stories, the balance of which are available under the StoryScout tab.
Next, you’ll find three relatively close selected DNA matches.
The stories are not necessarily connected to maternal or paternal sides of my family, nor are the matches connected to the stories. Yes, I know, it’s confusing.
Those three matches are from my father’s side, but the stories are mostly from my mother’s tree. This isn’t a problem so long as you don’t assume a logical connection between information.
My mother’s side of the family was living in Indiana but came from Germany, the Netherlands, Pennsylvania, and Nova Scotia. My father’s side of the family is from the Cumberland Gap area of Tennessee via Virginia and North Carolina. These communities, especially where descendants went to live, overlap in terms of geography.
If you click on a green number on the map, you’ll see the stories of the “possible ancestors” connected with that location. A green pin with no number means only one person in that location
Keep Scrolling – There’s More
You can either continue to scroll towards the bottom or you can click a specific time on the map slider, like 1700, for example.
The map will then show you the immigration patterns from the regions where people who settled in those communities were living in the 1700s, below.
You’ll see some history of the region from that timeframe at right. The green pin locations are from your ancestral tree. The two in the pink and blue circles are people who just have a country location during that timeframe.
As you enlarge the map the large green numbers become smaller as the pins land in more specific locations.
Eventually, you’ll get to the smallest number of ancestors in a location, and when you click on that number, you’ll see the ancestor profiles from your TREE who are found in that location. This is NOT from StoryScout, but from your own tree so there is no new information to be found other than that particular ancestor has been grouped in that community.
As you continue to click on different years on the timeline, you can see the population expansion, along with ancestors who were located in those regions – their profiles shown in the panel at right. Note that Utah and Texas are not shown in the original Communities map, but this population has expanded into those regions on the timeline map.
Unfortunately, my maternal and paternal lines are mixed in these communities, even though their origins are very different. They both wound up in Indiana because that’s where the two disparate populations settled.
Therefore, I can’t really use Communities to sort through paternal and maternally connected ancestors or matches. We also can’t view or download a list of which of our ancestors are included in each community. We can’t see which of our matches have ancestors in any community either.
Probably the most interesting thing that I discovered wasn’t really a discovery, per see, at all – but a history tidbit that generated a question. The StoryScout for Barbara Drechsel, my great-great-grandmother who was age 70 in 1920, reminded me that was the first year that women could vote – exactly a century ago, of course.
The history mentioned that only one-third of women voted, compared to two-thirds of men. I wonder if Barbara voted. I wonder if the voting records for Aurora, Indiana where she lived at the time remain today. (I checked – Family Search shows nothing, but I’ll check with my friend at the historical society.)
I do know that Barbara’s granddaughter, Edith Lore Ferverda, not only voted, she worked at the polls and registered women to vote. Where did I discover that information? In the newspaper collection at MyHeritage.
While I didn’t break down any brick walls using the Communities at Ancestry, I did pick up a few tidbits that made me think and ask questions.
Every family’s story is different. Maybe you’ll notice something you didn’t see before or discover a nugget of history that might provide reasons why your ancestors might have emigrated.
Let me know what you find.
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