Imputation Matching Comparison

In a future article, I’ll be writing about the process of uploading files to DNA.Land and the user experience, but in this article, I want to discuss only one topic, and that’s the results of imputation as it affects matching for genetic genealogy. DNA.Land is one of three companies known positively to be using imputation (DNA.Land, MyHeritage and LivingDNA), and one of two that allows transfers and does matching for genealogy

This is the second in a series of three articles about imputation.

Imputation, discussed in the article, Concepts – Imputation, is the process whereby your DNA that is tested is then “expanded” by inferring results you don’t have, meaning locations that haven’t been tested, by using information from results you do have. Vendors have no choice in this matter, as Illumina, the chip maker of the DNA chip widely utilized in the genetic genealogy marketspace has obsoleted the prior chip and moved to a new chip with only about 20% overlap in the locations previously tested. Imputation is the methodology utilized to attempt to bridge the gap between the two chips for genetic genealogy matching and ethnicity predications.

Imputation is built upon two premises:

1 – that DNA locations are inherited together

2 – that people from common populations share a significant amount of the same DNA

An example of imputation that DNA.Land provides is the following sentence.

I saw a blue ca_ on your head.

There are several letters that are more likely that others to be found in the blank and some words would be more likely to be found in this sentence than others.

A less intuitive sentence might be:

I saw a blue ca_ yesterday.

DNA.Land doesn’t perform DNA testing, but instead takes a file that you upload from a testing vendor that has around 700,000 locations and imputes another 38.3 million variants, or locations, based on what other people carry in neighboring locations. These numbers are found in the SNPedia instructions for uploading DNA.Land information to their system for usage with Promethease.

I originally wrote about Promethease here, and I’ll be publishing an updated article shortly.

In this article, I want to see how imputation affects matching between people for genetic genealogy purposes.

Genetic Genealogy Matching

In order to be able to do an apples to apples comparison, I uploaded my Family Tree DNA autosomal file to DNA.Land.

DNA.Land then processed my file, imputed additional values, then showed me my matches to other people who have also uploaded and had additional locations imputed.

DNA.Land has just over 60,000 uploads in their data base today. Of those, I match 11 at a high confidence level and one at a speculative level.

My best match, meaning my closest match, Karen, just happened to have used her GedMatch kit number for her middle name. Smart lady!

Karen’s GedMatch number provided me with the opportunity to compare our actual match information at DNA.Land, then also at GedMatch, then compare the two different match results in order to see how much of our matching was “real” from portions of our tested kits that actually match, and what portion of our DNA matches as a result of the DNA.Land imputation.

At DNA.Land, your match information is presented with the following information:

  • Relationship degree – meaning estimated relationship
  • # shared segments – although many of these are extremely small
  • Total shared cM
  • Total recent shared length in cM
  • Longest recent shared segment in cM
  • Relationship likelihood graph
  • Shared segments plotted on chromosome display
  • Shared segments in a table

Please note that you can click on any graphic to enlarge.

DNA.Land provides what they believe to be an accurate estimate of recent and anciently shared SNA segments.

The match table is a dropdown underneath the chromosome graphic at far right:

For this experiment, I copied the information from the match table and dropped it into a spreadsheet.

DNALand Match Locations

My match information is shown at DNA.Land with Karen as follows:

Matching segments are identified by DNA.Land as either recent or ancient, which I find to be over-simplified at best and misleading or inaccurate at worst. I guess it depends on how you perceive recent and ancient. I think they are trying to convey the concept that larger segments tend to me more recent, and smaller segments tend to be older, but ancient in the genetics field often refers to DNA extracted from exhumed burials from thousands of years ago.  Furthermore, smaller segments can be descended from the same ancestor as larger segments.

GedMatch Match

Since Karen so kindly provided her GedMatch kit number, I signed in to GedMatch and did a one-to-one match with this same kit.

Since all of the segments are 3 cM and over at DNA.Land, I utilized a GedMatch threshold of 3 cM and dropped the SNP count to 100, since a SNP count of 300 gave me few matches. For this comparison, I wanted to see all my matches to Karen, no matter how few SNPs are involved, in an attempt to obtain results similar to DNA.Land. I normally would not drop either of these thresholds this low. My typical minimum is 5cM and 500 SNPs, and even if I drop to 3cM, I still maintain the 500 SNP threshold.

Let’s see how the data from GedMatch and DNA.Land compares.

In my spreadsheet, below, I pasted the segment match information from DNA.Land in the first 5 columns with a red header. Note that DNA.Land does not provide the number of shared SNPs.

At right, I pasted the match information from GedMatch, with a green header. We know that GedMatch has a history of accurately comparing segments, and we can do a cross platform comparison. I originally uploaded my FTDNA file to DNA.Land and Karen uploaded an Ancestry file. Those are the two files I compared at GedMatch, because the same actual matching locations are being compared at both vendors, DNA.Land (in addition to imputed regions) and GedMatch.

I then copied the matching segments from GedMatch (3cM, 100 SNPs threshold) and placed them in the middle columns in the same row where they matched corresponding DNA.Land segments. If any portion of the two vendors segments overlapped, I copied them as a match, although two are small and partial and one is almost negligible. As you can see, there are only 10 segments with any overlap at all in the center section. Please note that I am NOT suggesting these are valid or real matches.  At this point, it’s only a math/match exercise, not an analysis.

The match comparison column (yellow header) is where I commented on the match itself. In some cases, the lack of the number of SNPs at DNA.Land was detrimental to understanding which vendor was a higher match. Therefore, when possible, I marked the higher vendor in the Match Comparison column with the color of their corresponding header.

Analysis

Frankly, I was shocked at the lack of matching between GedMatch and DNA.Land. Trying to understand the discrepancy, I decided to look at the matches between Karen, who has been very helpful, and me at other vendors.

I then looked at our matches at Ancestry, 23andMe, MyHeritage and at Family Tree DNA.

The best comparison would be at Family Tree DNA where Karen loaded her Ancestry file.  Therefore, I’m comparing apples to apples, meaning equivalent to the comparison at GedMatch and DNA.Land (before imputation).

It’s impossible to tell much without a chromosome browser at Ancestry, especially after Timber processing which reduces matching DNA.

DNA.Land categorized my match to Karen as “high certainty.” My match with Karen appears to be a valid match based on the longest segment(s) of approximately 30cM on chromosome 8.

  • Of the 4 segments that DNA.Land identifies as “recent” matches, 2 are not reflected at all in the GedMatch or Family Tree DNA matching, suggesting that these regions were imputed entirely, and incorrectly.
  • Of the 4 segments that DNA.Land identifies as “recent” matches, the 2 on chromosome 8 are actually one segment that imputation apparently divided. According to DNA.LAND, imputation can increase the number of matching segments. I don’t think it should break existing segments, meaning segments actually tested, into multiple pieces. In any event, the two vendors do agree on this match, even though DNA.Land breaks the matching segment into two pieces where GedMatch and Family Tree DNA do not. I’m presuming (I hate that word) that this is the one segment that Ancestry calls as a match as well, because it’s the longest, but Ancestry’s Timber algorithm downgrades the match portion of that segment by removing 11cM (according to DNA.Land) from 29cM to 18cM or removes 13cM (according to both GedMatch and Family Tree DNA) from 31cM to 18cM. Both GedMatch and Family Tree DNA agree and appear to be accurate at 31cM.
  • Of the total 39 matching segments of any size, utilizing the 3cM threshold and 100 SNPs, which I set artificially very low, GedMatch only found 10 matching segments with any portion of the segment in common, meaning that at least 29 were entirely erroneous matches.
  • Resetting the GedMatch match threshold to 3 cM and 300 SNPS, a more reasonable SNP threshold for 3cM, GedMatch only reports 3 matching segments, one of which is chromosome 8 (undivided) which means at this threshold, 36 of the 39 matching DNA.Land segments are entirely erroneous. Setting the threshold to a more reasonable 5cM or 7cM and 500 SNPs would result in only the one match on chromosome 8.

  • If 29 of 39 segments (at 3cM 100 SNPs) are erroneously reported, that equates to 74.36% erroneous matches due to imputation alone, with out considering identical by chance (IBC) matches.
  • If 35 of 39 segments (at 3cM 300 SNPs) are erroneously reported, that equates to 89.74% percent erroneous matches, again without considering those that might be IBC.

Predicted vs Actual

One additional piece of information that I gathered during this process is the predicted relationship.

Vendor Total cM Total Segments Longest Segment Predicted Relationship
DNA.Land 162 to 3 cM 39 to 3 cM 17.3 & 12, split 3C
GedMatch 123 to 3 cM 27 to 3 cM 31.5 5.1 gen distant
Family Tree DNA 40 to 1 cM 12 to 1 cM 32 3-5C
MyHeritage No match No match No match No match
Ancestry 18.1 1 18.1 5-8C
23andMe 26 1 26 3-6C

Karen utilized her Ancestry file and I used my Family Tree DNA file for all of the above matching except at 23andMe and Ancestry where we are both tested on the vendors’ platform. Neither 23andMe nor Ancestry accept uploads. I included the 23andMe and Ancestry comparisons as additional reference points.

The lack of a match at MyHeritage, another company that implements imputation, is quite interesting. Karen and I, even with a significantly sized segment are not shown as a match at MyHeritage.

If imputation actually breaks some matching segments apart, like the chromosome 8 segment at DNA.Land, it’s possible that the resulting smaller individual segments simply didn’t exceed the MyHeritage matching threshold. It would appear that the MyHeritage matching threshold is probably 9cM, given that my smallest segment match of all my matches at MyHeritage is 9cM. Therefore, a 31 or 32 cM segment would have to be broken into 4 roughly equally sized pieces (32/4=8) for the match to Karen not to be detected because all segment pieces are under 9cM. MyHeritage has experienced unreliable matching since their rollout in mid 2016, so their issue may or may not be imputation related.

The Common Ancestor

At Family Tree DNA, Karen does not match my mother, so I can tell positively that she is related through my father’s line. She and I triangulate on our common segment with three other individuals who descend from Abraham Estes 1647-1720 .

Utilizing the chromosome browser, we do indeed match on chromosome 8 on a long segment, which is also our only match over 5cM at Family Tree DNA.

Based on our trees as well as the trees of our three triangulated Estes matches, Karen and I are most probably either 8th cousins, or 8th cousins once removed, assuming that is our only common line. I am 8th cousins with the other three triangulated matches on chromosome 8. Karen’s line has yet to be proven.

Imputation Matching Summary

I like the way that DNA.Land presents some of their features, but as for matching accuracy, you can view the match quality in various ways:

  1. DNA.Land did find the large match on chromosome 8. Of course, in terms of matching, that’s pretty difficult to miss at roughly 30cM, although MyHeritage managed. Imputation did split the large match into two, somehow, even though Karen and I match on that same segment as one segment at other vendors comparing the same files.
  2. Of the 39 DNA.Land total matches, other than the chromosome 8 match, two other matches are partial matches, according to GedMatch. Both are under 7cM.
  3. Of DNA.Land’s total 39 matches, 35 are entirely wrong, in addition to the two that are split, including two inaccurate imputed matches at over 5cM.
  4. At DNA.Land, I’m not so concerned about discerning between “real” and “false” small segment matches, as compared to both FTDNA and GedMatch, as I am about incorrectly imputed segments and matches. Whether small matches in general are false positives or legitimate can be debated, each smaller segment match based on its own merits. Truthfully, with larger segments to deal with, I tend to ignore smaller segments anyway, at least initially. However, imputation adds another layer of uncertainty on top of actual matching, especially, it appears, with smaller matches. Imputing entire segments of incorrect DNA concerns me.
  5. Having said that, I find it very concerning that MyHeritage who also utilizes imputation missed a significant match of over 30cM. I don’t know of a match of this size that has ever been proven to be a false match (through parental phasing), and in this case, we know which ancestor this segment descends from through independent verification utilizing multiple other matches. MyHeritage should have found that match, regardless of imputation, because that match is from portions of the two files that were both tested, not imputed.

Summary

To date, I’m not impressed with imputation matching relative to genetic genealogy at either DNA.Land or MyHeritage.

In one case, that of DNA.Land, imputation shows matches for segments that are not shown as matches at either Family Tree DNA or GedMatch who are comparing the same two testers’ files, but without imputation. Since DNA.Land did find the larger segment, and many of their smaller segments are simply wrong, I would suggest that perhaps they should only show larger segments. Of course, anyone who finds DNA.Land is probably an experienced genetic genealogist and probably already has files at both GedMatch and Family Tree DNA, so hopefully savvy enough to realize there are issues with DNA.Land’s matching.

In the second imputation case, that of MyHeritage, the match with Karen is missed entirely, although that may not be a function of imputation. It’s hard to determine.  MyHeritage is also comparing the same two files uploaded by Karen and I to the other vendors who found that match, both vendors who do and don’t utilize imputation.

Regardless of imputing additional locations, MyHeritage should have found the matching segment on chromosome 8 because that region does NOT need to be imputed. Their failure to do so may be a function of their matching routine and not of imputation itself. At this point, it’s impossible to discern the cause. We only know, based on matching at other vendors, that the non-match at MyHeritage is inaccurate.

Here’s what DNA.Land has to say about the imputed VCF file, which holds all of your imputed values, when you download the file. They pull no punches about imputation.

“Noisey and probabilistic.” Yes, I’d say they are right, and problematic as well, at least for genetic genealogists.

Extrapolating this even further, I find it more than a little frightening that my imputed data at DNA.Land will be utilized for medical research.

Quoting now from Promethease, a medical reference site that allows the consumer to upload their raw data files, providing consumers with a list of SNPs having either positive or negative research in academic literature:

DNA.land will take a person’s data as produced by such companies and impute additional variants based on population frequency statistics. To put this in concrete terms, a person uploading a typical 23andMe file of ~700,000 variants to DNA.land will get back an (imputed) file of ~39 million variants, all predicted to be present in the person. Promethease reports from such imputed files typically contain about 50% more information (i.e. 50% more genotypes) than the corresponding reports from raw (non-imputed) data.

Translated, this means that your imputed data provides twice as much “genetic information” as your actual tested data. The question remains, of course, how much of this imputed data is accurate.

That will be the topic of the third imputation article. Stay tuned.

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

Concepts – Imputation

Until recently, the word imputation wasn’t a part of the vocabulary of genetic genealogy, but earlier this year, it became a factor and will become even more important in coming months.

Illumina, the company that provides chips to companies that test autosomal DNA for genetic genealogy has obsoleted their OmniExpress chip previously in use, forcing companies to utilize their new Global Screening Array (GSA) chip when their current chip supply runs out.

Only about 20% of the DNA locations previously tested by genetic genealogy companies are tested on this new platform. Illumina has encouraged vendors to utilize the process called imputation to infer DNA results for their customers that are common in populations, but has not been directly tested in customer’s DNA, in order for vendors to achieve backwards compatibility with people previously tested on the OmniExpress chip. You can read the technical details of imputation in a document produced by Illumina here.

LivingDNA, who was developing and launching a new product during the transition time between chips was the first vendor out the gate with a GSA product. Illumina represented imputation to be “very accurate” to LivingDNA, which is consequently how they represented the results to a group of genetic genealogists on a conference call in early 2017. LivingDNA was the lucky company to have the opportunity to “work the bugs out” with Illumina – said with tongue firmly in cheek. LivingDNA provides a list of papers describing their methods here.

Another company, MyHeritage also uses imputation, for an entirely different reason. My Heritage uses imputation to “add” to the DNA results of people who upload results from different vendors. They are the first company to attempt DNA matching between people using imputation, and they initially had and continue to have matching issues. In their initial release blog in September 2016, they state that imputation matching “is accomplished with very high accuracy.” In their Q&A blog in November 2016, they state that “imputation may introduce errors so we are in the process of fine-tuning it.” They have made changes since matching was originally introduced, but they still struggle with matching accuracy, most recently discussed by Leah Larkin in her article, MyHeritage Matching.

DNA.LAND does not perform testing, but is a nonprofit in the health care industry who  utilizes imputation for health-related research – imputing approximately 38.3 million locations in addition to the 700,000 locations in customers’ uploaded files. In order to encourage people to upload their test results, DNA.LAND performs matching and ethnicity reporting. Like MyHeritage, their matching results are problematic. DNA.LAND explains about imputation and summarizes by stating that “any reported value should never be taken as-is without further careful analysis.” I will be publishing an article shortly about DNA.LAND.

23andMe, on August 9, 2017, released their V5 product utilizing the new GSA chip. They have not said how they are addressing the imputation challenge and backward compatibility. Several issues have been reported.

As you can see, the genetic genealogy landscape is changing and like it or not, imputation is a part of the new scenery.

What, Exactly, is Imputation?

Imputation is the process whereby your DNA is tested and then the results “expanded” by inferring results for additional locations, meaning locations that haven’t been tested, by using information from results you do have. In other words, the DNA is adjacent locations is predicted, or imputed, by their association with their traveling companions.  In DNA, traveling companions are often known to travel together, but not always.

Imputation is built upon two premises:

1 – that DNA locations are usually inherited together in groups in a process known as linkage disequilibrium.

2 – that people from common populations share a significant amount of the same DNA

An example that DNA.LAND provides is the following sentence.

I saw a blue ca_ on your head.

There are several letters that are more likely that others to be found in the blank and some words would be more likely to be found in this sentence than others.

A less intuitive sentence might be:

I saw a blue ca_ yesterday.

DNA.LAND also says very clearly that imputed values can be incorrect. They also state that the values inferred are the common values, not rare mutations, and imputed results are most accurate in Caucasian populations and least accurate in African populations whose DNA is the most variant of any continental group. They caution against using these results for medical diagnosis.

SNPedia (Promethease) cautions against using imputed results as well and suggests that files utilizing only tested results, without imputed results, are more accurate.

Why Imputation?

Looking at this Autosomal SNP Comparison Chart, provided by the ISOGG Wiki, you can see the difference in the number of actual common locations tested by the various vendors.

This means that companies that allow uploads from different vendors utilizing widely divergent chip results have to do something in order to successfully compare the disparate files against each other for matching. Using  23andMe as an example, even though they don’t allow uploads from other companies, they have to do something to accommodate matching between the new GSA V5 chip and their earlier V3 and V4 chips.

Imputation Example

Let’s take a look at how imputation is used to “equalize” files uploaded from various vendors that only contain marginal amounts of overlap.

I’m using MyHeritage as an example. Imputation, in this case, is utilized in an attempt to make marginally compatible files more compatible.

The files from the Ancestry V2 kit and the Family Tree DNA kit have only about 382,000 locations in common, meaning about 300,000 locations are not in common. In order to attempt to equalize these and other kits, MyHeritage attempts to use imputation to deduce the DNA that a tester would/should/might have in the missing segments, based on various statistical factors that include the tester’s population and existing DNA.

Please note that for purposes of concept illustration, I have shown all of the common locations, in blue, as contiguous. The common locations are not contiguous, but are scattered across the entire range that each vendor tests.

You can see that the number of imputed locations for matching between two people, shown in tan, is larger than the number of actual matching locations shown in blue. The amount of actual common data being compared is roughly 382,000 of 1,100,000 total locations, or 35%.

Stay tuned for an upcoming series of articles about imputation and results in various scenarios.

Quick Tip – Making Your DNA Results More Clickable

There are many motivations for DNA testing. Some people want to connect with relatives to share information. Just think, your match may have photos of your family that you’ve never seen!

If contacting and connecting with your relatives is your motivation, you’ll want your user profile to be the most click-friendly and attractive possible.

How do people decide which profiles to click on and which to bypass, especially now that so many people are testing and one can’t possibly contact them all?

I’m including several click-friendly factors here, but probably the number one decision criteria is your profile photo, or lack of one.

Use a Profile Photo

You want your photo to be inviting and friendly. Lack of a photo means a missed opportunity.

Have someone take a smiling photo of you, without anything distracting or polarizing in the photo, and post to your profile. Look friendly! Your photo needs to say, “Talk to me.  I won’t bite your head off.”

People like to look at photos and are more likely to spend time on results that have photos attached. Do you pause, look at photos of your matches to see if they look like you?  I do.

Don’t like any of your current photos?  Have someone take a new one.  My husband took the one above in the yard last month with his cell phone.

Still don’t like your picture? That’s OK, post a baby photo or something cute.

Grow a Tree

Not every vendor has the ability to upload trees. 23and me does not, but Family Tree DNA, Ancestry and MyHeritage do today.

The purpose of genetic genealogy is genealogy – and trees are inherent to the success of finding those common lines – regardless of whether or not you’ve tested for autosomal DNA, Y line DNA or mitochondrial DNA. Your matches are going to want to see your ancestor in the line relevant to them.

Furthermore, once you’ve created a tree, you can upload the same tree to any of the vendors where you have tested, except for 23andMe who has no tree capacity.

At Family Tree DNA, you can upload a GEDCOM file or create a tree from scratch.

Be sure to link your relatives who have tested to your tree too, so that your results show your phased Family Finder matches indicating which side of your tree certain matches come from. You can see the red, blue and purple icons indicating whether the matches are related maternally, paternally, or both, below. I have over 1000 matches assigned to parental sides simply by connecting my DNA matches to their proper place in my tree.

(You can click to enlarge any image.)

After you upload a GEDCOM file, Family Tree DNA then extracts your tree surnames and populates the surname feature so that when you have matches, you can see common surnames in your trees.

In the example above, the common surnames in our trees are bolded, at right, and float to the top of the list so they are easily viewable.

You can enter the surnames by hand, but if you don’t have a tree, or hand entered surnames, you don’t receive the bolded surname matches.

At Ancestry, your tree is compared to all of your matches’ trees and if you have a common ancestor in the tree within the past 9 generations, Ancestry flags your result with a green leaf signifying that there is a DNA tree hint.

Clicking on “View Match” shows you your match’s tree and yours side by side.

If you don’t upload or create a tree, you won’t be able to take advantage of this feature. Once you upload or create your tree, be SURE to link your DNA to you in your tree, or it’s the same as having no tree in terms of DNA benefits.

To link your DNA test to your tree at Ancestry, click on the DNA tab, then on Settings and scroll down about half way.

Share, Share, Share

Nothing turns matches off quite as fast as discovering that your tree is not public. It’s akin to saying that I want to see yours, but I’m not showing you mine.

I’m not referring here to keeping living people private, or even the first generation or two. That’s understandable. I’m referring to trees that are entirely private as evidenced by the little lock by the green leaf below.

I used to contact my private matches and ask, nicely, which ancestor we share in common. They can see my tree, and benefit from seeing my tree by knowing who the common ancestor is, and the path to that ancestor, but I can’t. Truthfully, I’ve stopped asking. I received very few replies.

I simply bypass these locked trees after looking to see who I match in common, to see if I can surmise who the common ancestor is by virtue of comparison to our matches in common.

Yes, I know many people feel strongly about private trees, but if you’re looking for contacts, private trees have a very chilling effect out the gate.

In order to benefit from having a tree, but not giving away the store either, I only have a direct line tree at Ancestry – meaning only my ancestors.  In some cases, I do have siblings for my ancestors, but not extended family lines.

Use Real Names

People have a more positive reaction to real names rather than names like RJEcatlover or RJE33724306219.

Your real name option may be gone if someone else has the same name, especially at Ancestry, but in that case, use something approaching your real name. Mine is RobertaEstes13 at Ancestry because there were obviously 12 subscribers by that name in front of me. So far, none are DNA matches.

At other places, I tend to use a middle initial to differentiate myself.

Females need to consider using their birth name and not a married name.  Not only is this in keeping with their names in the tree, it’s more relevant to the genealogy at hand.

Always record your ancestors in your tree by their birth name, not their married name.  I Many of my matches to the male only of a couple are a result of the fact that John Doe’s wife was records as Jane Doe, not Jane Smith, her birth name.

Contact Information

Different vendors handle contacts between testers in different ways. Regardless of the vendor’s methodology, you need to make yourself accessible if you want contacts, and respond to requests.

Family Tree DNA provides e-mail addresses to matches. This is the most direct method of contact,and my preference because there are less steps that can go wrong.  It does mean that you have to keep your e-mail address current.

Ancestry, 23andMe and MyHeritage require you to utilize their internal message system for communications. This adds a layer of communication that can go awry. For instance, if the e-mail sent by the vendor hits the spam filter, or never gets sent, or bounces, you, as the originator, have no way of knowing. Of course, you still need to keep your e-mail address current with the vendor, regardless.

Both 23andMe and Ancestry retain the messages sent and received, so you can check on their system to see if you have new or unread communications.

Having said that, both systems have had recent, ongoing or intermittent glitches – lost messages when 23andMe transitioned to the New Experience and reports of DNA messages not being recorded in your Ancestry mailbox, meaning messages initiated through the green as opposed to the tan button.

Additionally, Ancestry’s e-mail notification system is well known for not reliably delivering messages, especially through the DNA message links, so check your messages often. That’s the little grey envelope icon at the top right of your Ancestry signon page.

I keep track of my contacts through any vendor separately, so if there is a hiccup, it’s not the end of my documentation.

Oh, and if you’re sending a contact request, use proper English and punctuation (not text-eze), along with providing your name and the name of the person you match. Many people manage multiple kits, not that we’re DNA addicts or anything like that!

Summary

I hope these quick tips have helped you “decorate” and refine your profile in a useful way that encourages your matches to click and make contact. Those contacts may be the first step in breaking down those pesky brick walls. You just never know who has that piece of information that you need – or the photo of great-grandma!

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

The Day My Ancestors (and Chocolate) Tried to Kill Me

Yes, seriously.

I know it sounds like a tall tale, but it isn’t.  It’s a true story, I swear.  And less than a month old.

It was a trap.

A trap, I’m telling you – set by ancestors and baited with…chocolate.

If you’ve been reading my blog long, you’ll know that I’ve been involved in genealogical tourism since long before that term existed.

One of the things I dearly love to do is go back to where my ancestors lived, find their land, maybe their house, their church and understand their lives by immersion as best I can from the distance of time.

Earlier this month, I returned for my second trip to the Netherlands with Dutch genealogist, Yvette Hoitink.

Yvette replied to a comment I had made in an article on my blog about the hopelessness of my Dutch lines, back in August of 2012. Those lines were absolutely NOT hopeless, as I ‘ve come to discover through Yvette’s research, and I probably know more about these lines now than I do about many colonial lines. If you know how to work with Dutch records, know the language and history – the records in the Netherlands are fantastic. Of course, I can’t read the language, or the script, so Yvette is absolutely indispensable. Yes, I’ll share her. No, you can’t have her all to yourself😊 I’m permanently inked into her schedule.

Yvette had found absolutely amazing records, and items, and locations – enough to lure me back once again. And yes, you will hear about each and every one of these in my 52 Ancestors series, but today’s topic is, um, er, a bit different. It’s about a near death experience – literally.

The Island of Vlieland

On my second day in the Netherlands, we visited the island of Vlieland, about 30 miles off of the coast of the Netherlands in the North Sea.

Please note that you can click any image to enlarge.

You can see, on the map above, that Vlieland, outlined in red, is part of an island chain. Vlieland at one time used to be connected to its southern neighbor, Texel.

By zooming out, you can see evidence that this chain at one historic time connected to the part of Holland where Amsterdam is now located. Based on Amsterdam’s location, you can also see why any ship leaving Amsterdam for the new world had to slip between the islands of Texel and Vlieland.

Geography is so important, because in one of my ancestral lines, my ancestor died on the ship after leaving Amsterdam and was buried on the island of Texel. But I digress and will resume that story in the 52 Ancestor’s series. Take a moment to imagine how thrilled I was to be standing there, on Vlieland, looking at Texel – some 4000 miles from home.

Island Enchantment

I happen to have a penchant for islands, almost a primal magnetic draw. Always have, and maybe now I know why. I love the isolation and charm – and in this case, the fact that my ancestors lived on Vlieland back in the early 1600s. The closest port on the mainland was Harlingen, and sure enough, my ancestor married a merchant in Harlingen in 1665.  Seventy-seven years later, in 1742, her grandson had a daughter, whose birth Yvette found documented in the very most unusual birth record EVER – a silver inscribed birth spoon.

Just one picture – I can’t resist. Ok, maybe two.

Courtesy Yvette Hoitink

Yvette took this lovely photo of me looking dreamily at that birth spoon, as well as the photo below. The Fries Scheepvaart Museum where the spoon is housed was beyond helpful and had removed it from the case prior to our visit so I could hold it and “commune” up close and personal. I can’t even begin to describe this moment to you – connecting back in time to that lovely celebration. Perhaps Yvette’s photo describes it better than I ever could.

Courtesy Yvette Hoitink

Birth spoon of Geertje Gerrijts Heslinga, born 15 December 1742. Geertje’s great-grandmother, Janke Gerrits, was born and lived on the island of Vlieland, leaving the island to marry Teunis Foppes in Harlingen on March 18, 1665.  Photos and research courtesy Yvette Hoitink.

Island Life

If I have a bit of wanderlust in my soul, I’m blaming it on my ancestors. Mariners, people who lived on an island being swallowed by the sea – tell me those people didn’t have a “adventure” gene, if there is such a thing. They were clearly free spirits, in every sense of the word.

The island of Vlieland looks out into the expansive sea, a remote world of hope, opportunity and sometimes, death. Separated from the mainland in the horrible storm surge flood of December 14, 1287, on neither side of the island can you see the mainland, not even in the distance to the east. At night, the sky in the summer never darkens entirely. It’s on the same latitude with Newfoundland in Canada.

By Garli (talk) (Uploads) – Garli (talk) (Uploads), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40196314

Today, as then, accommodations exist for visitors. As ships arrived from near and far, Vlieland welcomed them. Ships and passengers had yet another day’s sailing to the mainland.

Only one village exists on the island, Oost-Vlieland (East Vlieland) as the little village of West Vlieland was swallowed by the sea in 1736. Today, a few mom and pop hotels dot the lovely, serene maritime landscape. Suffice it to say, Vlieland is off the beaten path, even in peak season. Let’s just say I couldn’t even find a touristy t-shirt saying Vlieland.

Life is different on Vlieland. This is the view from breakfast, across the deck.

The blanket? In case you get chilled from the ever-present sea breeze. Provided by the hotel restaurant, which is often filled with locals and not tourists.

In fact, there’s a stack of blankets on a chest near the restrooms just waiting for anyone who is chilly.

You can also find a bookcase with children’s games as well as board games and books for anyone to borrow or use while visiting.  The winters are probably very long on Vlieland.

The sparrow, eating my breakfast leftovers? People on Vlieland don’t worry about things like doors and screens, or birds. They exist in harmony with nature, including birds that come right in to eat with you. Yes, inside.

People in Holland are very laid back about things Americans are very up-tight about – and some vice-versa.  Cultures are so interesting.

I could barely wait to start the day, because we were going to walk down the very streets where my ancestor walked. Where she grew up.  Where her parents and sister lived as well.  I was going to walk in her footsteps.

The main street of town looks much like it did in the time my ancestor lived here. Even though we don’t (yet) know exactly which house they lived in, it was assuredly one of the houses in the village and likely still remains. We started at one end and walked to the other, past shops, houses, the town hall, the church and cemetery, of course.

In Europe, everyone walks or rides bicycles.  There just isn’t room for vehicles and many areas, especially historic regions, simply don’t allow them. No one feels inconvenienced or cares.

This house, built in 1662, was here when my ancestor, Janke, and her family walked this street.

Down the street, just a hair, we find the local bakery flying the white flag and seats in front for weary walkers, or excited eaters enjoying their delightful wares. Can you tell that I went inside?

Just take a look at their creative cookies. A joy to behold.

The entire bakery is full of wonderful delights.

Westers Bakery has the best, and I mean the very best, bar none, chocolate “thingy” in the world.

Thingy, you ask?

Well, I don’t know exactly what it is.

It’s kind of a cake brownie hybrid, dusted with more dark chocolate and maybe powdered sugar, that isn’t terribly sweet. Something like a brownie texturally, but not exactly. And it was nearly my doom.

This, you see, is where the trouble started. Well, actually in front of the bakery.

I initially bought one chocolate thingy, but one wasn’t enough, shared between the three of us, so I was going back for more. That’s when I fell into the trap.

See these things? They are called cobblestones and they are medieval torture devices with which our ancestors paved the streets, but today are used to lure unsuspecting descendants to their doom.

On my way hurrying back to the bakery, lured by the chocolate with which the trap had been cunningly set, I tripped on a cobblestone. Well, actually, it reached right up and grabbed the toe of my shoe, I’m sure. In any event, after a very undignified dance that I’m extremely grateful no one filmed, I decided that the best plan of attack, or descent, was to tuck and roll since it was obvious that I was going down.

My goal, at that moment, was temporarily distracted from chocolate to trying not to break any bones, hit my head or break my glasses.  Any one of which would have ruined the vacation entirely AND interfered with chocolate acquisition.

So, down I went, on the cobblestones. I hit pretty hard, since I had been nearly running as I tried to regain my balance. I found myself on the hard, uneven, cobblestones which were poking painfully into various body parts, taking a body part census one by one – “does it move? Is anything broken?,” to which, thankfully, the answer was “I can move it and it doesn’t seem to be broken.” But some parts hurt, a lot. Cobblestones are very unforgiving. Do not try this at home!

Then, of course, I had to attempt to regain my composure. It’s just so embarrassing to find yourself on the ground, stone cold sober.

As I lay there on the ground, still taking inventory of my various body parts, when my husband finally figured out I’d gone missing and came back to fetch me, I told him to go inside and buy that doggone chocolate, lest someone else purchase it and the bakery would run out! I mean, I didn’t sacrifice my dignity for nothing, after all!!!

Yes, I really did do that, and so did he. Here’s proof. He’s holding the white bag from the bakery.

My chocoholic friends will be proud.

I skinned my knee and I knew it would be bruised. I’ve been scuffed and bruised before. I used to be a mountain backpacker. I’ve even been sewed up by a guide on a raft on the Snake river using glacial melt riverwater as the only numbing agent available, plus a beer. So, I’m tough and I wasn’t going to let a little thing like a skinned knee put a damper on the trip.

So, I did what any person with Dutch mariner resolution running in their veins would have done. I got up, brushed myself off and kept on walking.

And because I’m either stubborn, or stupid, or both, here’s me about 5 minutes later having my photo taken with a goat statue in the street trying to pretend that nothing happened. Note the fact that I can’t bend the knee. I think the goat’s name was Lucifer and he was laughing at me, but I can’t be sure.

Guaranteed, I wasn’t smiling as much later, once reality (and swelling) set in.

Decisions

Yvette and I discussed options. There is no doctor on the island. The island folk, an extremely independent bunch, tell you that the doctor and the vet is one and the same person. I have no idea if they are kidding or not, but perseverance and time seemed like they would do the job and there was no need to displace Fido’s rabies shot with my knee non-emergency.

There is limited ferry service to the mainland, plus, we had a schedule and things to do.

The knee was painful, but didn’t seem to be “broken,” so there was no point disrupting our plans. I just limped and winced and carried on. That resilient, tenacious Dutch blood.

The River Cruise

As the days passed, the leg seemed to be getting worse, not better. I’ll spare you the pictures, but I began messaging with a person who works in medicine in the US. I was black and blue and swollen to my ankle and there was nothing I could do to get comfortable. I was tired because I couldn’t sleep well. Everything hurt.

By this time, Jim and I had embarked on a Viking River Cruise – and there is really no deviation from that schedule. The only option is to get left behind.

My medical resource in the states began to question whether I had a blood clot in the leg. Is there heat to the touch? Does it hurt? More questions. There was swelling and severe bruising, but no heat to the touch and no pain in just one place – it hurt everyplace. So, I thought the answer was no.

Things Turn Serious

My medical resource told me in no uncertain terms that the results of clots in the leg, if they break free, can be pulmonary embolisms, heart attacks and strokes – and are often fatal. Silent killers.

I’m not afraid of death, but I’m terrified of being disabled, an invalid, a stroke victim. I’ve seen that more times in my family than I care to recall.

However, it’s important to keep moving, so I walked up and down more cobblestone streets in small picturesque villages along the Rhine River. I even climbed rocks at a medieval castle. I kept moving, because I thought that’s what I should be doing.

I also got the opportunity to find three different pharmacies, in various countries that spoke little or no English.

Pharmacies in Europe only dispense drugs, not like general purpose stores here. And they aren’t open on weekends, evenings or holidays. Trying to find one on a walking tour of a medieval village during their “summer holiday” is a challenge, trust me.

Two days past the continental divide, in the wonderful medieval town of Passau, I found this lovely pharmacy, known there as an apotheke. And no, the pharmacist did not speak any English.

Even the pharmacy was located in a historic building, color coded on the outside as to the medieval function of the inhabitant, and complete with ceiling murals. You can see that this building had been an apothecary since at least 1589.

Insurance

My medical resource “encouraged me,” which is putting it mildly, to go have a doppler scan done of my leg for blood clots. I realized, about this time, that my insurance is not valid outside the US.

That is no anomaly – but the way much or most US insurance policies work.

Didn’t know that? Well, I never really thought about it either.

Just as an example, here’s Blue Cross’s web page about coverage outside of the US.

Notice that some policies cover emergency services, but what about admissions? And if your insurance policy doesn’t cover you, what does the local hospital do with you?

I just happen, by accident, to know that answer for the UK where their citizens and unfortunate visitors are all covered by socialized medicine, but outside of the UK, I have no idea. None, nada. And I wasn’t in the UK. By that time we were in Germany, Austria and Hungary.

You could easily go bankrupt with a hospital admission.

Not to mention the language barrier issue.

Believe me, I was in no hurry to discover the answer to any of these things first hand.

If you’re wondering about travel insurance, we did have a policy through Viking for that portion of our trip which covered cancellation for any reason.  For ocean-going ships, they agree to airlift you off of a boat, etc., a medical evacuation – but I had no clue about this type of problem on an inland river cruise.

Travel insurance also covers cancellation of a trip, but we were already on the trip when I discovered the magnitude of the problem.

In fact, by this time, we were within a week of leaving for home.  Surely I could just gut it out.

I was tired, tired of pain, tired of limping around, and tired of staying in my cabin with my leg elevated. I also contracted an upper respiratory infection, which normally would have been an annoyance, but when you’re already feeling crummy was sort of the last straw.

I was extremely glad to be coming home. Not exactly the way I had planned to spend or end the vacation of a lifetime visiting my ancestors’ homelands.

The Plane

Suffice it to say, I will never, ever, in my lifetime fly Air France again. As God is my witness.

I flew Delta from the US to the Netherlands and the Airbus had 6 seats across with one aisle. The same plane on the Air France trip back had 8 seats across with two aisles and people were packed in like sardines. Talk about one miserable flight. In addition, some piece of equipment was bolted to the floor in in my leg space, under the seat in front of me.

Did I mention that blood clots in the legs (DVTs or deep vein thrombosis) are nicknamed “economy class syndrome” and there is currently a lawsuit seeking to require the FAA to do something about “the incredible shrinking airline seat.” CNN Money reports that a group named:

Flyers Rights had said it’s concerned that small airline seats are actually a safety hazard, putting passengers at risk for conditions like deep vein thrombosis. That’s a potentially fatal condition that can cause blood clots in people’s legs.

Hmmm….you think???

The Clot

I arrived home late Saturday, and the leg was worse on Sunday. Not more painful, just more swelling, in the foot and ankle which had not been swollen before. By Monday morning, I was waiting on my doctor’s doorstep and later that morning, I was in the hospital. I spent a lovely day there, and yes indeed, I did have a clot in my leg.

Most of my life, I have never presented for diseases or health issues like anyone else. Sometimes unique is not a good thing, especially when your symptoms are different from the norm.

The location of the clot itself was not painful. The injury was in the front of my leg but the clot was in the back of the calf. The actual clot location was not red or swollen. But it was there, and life-threatening.

They told me, in absolutely no uncertain terms, as they started the blood thinners, that I was lucky to be alive and un-impaired – unless of course you consider my innate stubbornness as an impairment.

I learned that clots, once formed, take about 6 months to dissolve and reabsorb into your body – and the entire time you are a walking time bomb, hoping the clot doesn’t decide to break free and make a mad dash for someplace else in your body like a batter running for home plate.

I’m updating my will, just in case.

Who is at Risk?

Everyone is at risk for blood clots. Everyone needs to be able to clot so we don’t bleed to death from a hangnail.

If you sustain an injury, you are at risk for a clot leaving its source of origin, so be vigilant. Clots often form in legs, are known at DVTs (deep vein thrombosis), but not always. And people over 30 are at higher risk than younger people.

Risks include:

  • Sitting for extended periods, especially in cramped quarters
  • Crossing your legs
  • Wearing constrictive clothing from the waist down
  • Long car or plane trips
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Smoking
  • Surgery
  • Age
  • Immobility
  • Dehydration
  • Caffeine

More than 400,000 Americans develop DVTs each year. Of those, when clots break loose and lodge in the lungs, more than one third of the people die, and those deaths exceed the number who die from AIDS and breast cancer, combined.

Certainly not a trivial problem.

Please see this article by WedMD about preventing clots during travel.

Air travel, in particular, increases the risk of clots. According to the American Association of Hematology, your risk of developing a blood clot during air travel is increased by the following:

  • Use of oral contraceptives
  • Pregnancy
  • Cancer
  • Recent surgery
  • Older age
  • Obesity
  • History of previous blood clots
  • Restrictive seats
  • Genetic predisposition to blood clots

Yes, your genes play a part here too.

Let’s take a look.

About the Genetics

At one time, on the V3 version of their product, before the FDA issue in November 2013, 23andMe reported on susceptibility for DVTs. In the V3 report, three genes were tested. People who tested under the V3 version can find their information about DVTs in their archived health reports. I had no increased susceptibility in either of the three genetic locations tested.

23andMe no longer provides information as detailed in the current version, but they do provide something in the V4 version.

People who tested more recently under the V4 platform, since November 2013, receive the results from two locations associated with clotting.

You’ll find this under “Reports, “ then “Genetic Health Risks” then “Hereditary Thrombophilia” where only two genes are tested and reported to consumers.

23andMe follows this information by stating, more than once, that this test is limited, does NOT test for all possible variants and that the variants are most commonly found in people of European descent.

They also emphatically state that other factors, such as lifestyle and environment can influence blood clotting, and that even if you don’t have the variant, you can still potentially develop clots. I’m the perfect example of that.

Interestingly, they state that about 1 in 20 people of European descent carry one of these genetic variants.

One in 20 is a LOT of people.

I wanted to know more.

Next, I utilized Promethease.com to see if I carried any additional known high risk clotting variants. I uploaded my Genos Exome file, because that test offers the greatest coverage of all the autosomal tests I’ve taken. However, you can upload autosomal raw data from tests at Family Tree DNA, Ancestry and/or 23andMe. Yes, that “and” was supposed to be in there. You can upload multiple files for Promethease to combine in order to provide you with the most comprehensive report possible. The cost is $5 for one file or up to $10 for multiple or large files. Very inexpensive.

One note, I don’t recommend that you use the imputed dna.land file, because imputed DNA is not your DNA, but presumed additional DNA based on what most people carry in various locations – added to your test.

I’ll be writing once again about Promethease shortly, but the answer is, no, I don’t have any high or increased risk variants in the 6 locations that Promethease reports on relative to clotting.

While this is somewhat of a relief, please do understand that medical discoveries continue to be made every single day, and it’s likely that there are clotting variants yet to be discovered.

If you have questions about the medical or genetic aspect of blood clots, DVTs and risk, especially related to flying, talk to your doctor. My physician provided me with some advice, but every person’s advice from their physician will differ based on their own individual circumstances that include variables such as age, medication and other diagnoses.

While the lack of known genetic clotting risk removes one worrisome factor, that doesn’t mean the risk from clots is removed, nor does an increased risk mean that one of those pesky clots will attack you.

What’s Next?

I’m going to be fine. I’m too darned stubborn for anything else. Plus, I’m following doctor’s orders. Yes, really.

There’s nothing to motivate compliance like knowing the grim reaper is eyeing you with unholy desire.

I’m still planning to go to Dublin in October (assuming the doctor says I can go) – and I will NOT be flying Air France, guaranteed. Furthermore, I will be upgrading to business class where I can easily stand up every hour and move freely.

In deference to my seatmates, I’ll be attempting to reserve an aisle seat.

I will also be getting a prescription pair of support hose to help prevent clots. BTW – support hose are NOT just for woman. Men, no one will know that you are wearing them except for the TSA agent when you get the lucky strip search.

Considerations

Why am I sharing this with you? I don’t want you to find yourself in a similar situation, so I’m compiling a list of travel considerations that everyone should think about and prepare for when they are planning an adventure, especially out of the country and particularly in a location where the native language is not English.

  • Car Insurance – is likely not valid outside of the US, including our neighboring Canada and Mexico. Check before leaving and see what you need to do if taking your vehicle out of the country. If you’re renting a car, your auto insurance (probably) won’t cover that either, so take the extra insurance offered at the car rental location.
  • Understand what documentation you will need to return to the US – and what you can and cannot bring across the border in either direction.
  • Health Insurance – is yours valid out of the country, and for what, where and under what circumstances?
  • Health Insurance – what steps do you need to take if a problem arises, and is there a 24-hour international 800 number?
  • What kind of health care do the places where you will be traveling have?
  • What happens to travelers with health emergencies in the locations where you will be traveling?
  • What kind of arrangements does your tour operator provide? For example, cruises at sea have an on-board ship’s doctor. On my river cruise, there wasn’t even aspirin, Tylenol or motion sickness medication available on board.
  • What will you do if you need to communicate with someone in another language? Note that iPhones have language translation apps.
  • If you are on an organized tour, what will happen to you should you and a travel companion have to leave the tour? Will you be able to catch up, and how? What kind of assistance will the travel company or tour operator provide you to rejoin the tour again?
  • Consider trip insurance that provides you with the ability to cancel the trip. Understand the provisions, meaning under what circumstances, and when, you can cancel.
  • Understand the provisions of your trip insurance for unexpected happenings during the trip – what is covered and what is not.
  • I don’t know that trip insurance is available for privately arranged flights and hotel stays – meaning those not made through cruise agencies and tour operators. I do know that I’ve since discovered that my hotel reservations made through booking.com and for my airfare booked through the airlines three months in advance for October are both nonrefundable/nontransferrable – even two months in advance. Situations like this make travel arrangements something you need to think twice about, and balance the need for booking early to procure rooms or a seat on the flight, versus waiting and not risking the entire amount of the flight and hotel reservation if something goes wrong between now and then. Makes optional travel much less appealing, doesn’t it.
  • Does your travel companion, if you have one, know your health history, prescriptions you are taking and diagnoses? If not, carry a one page document with you which could be translated into another language – including the phone number and name of your primary care physician.
  • If you have a health issue, does your travel companion’s travel insurance cover them during the time that they are accompanying you? Does yours? They won’t be admitted to a hospital, but will have to be staying unexpectedly in a hotel, in a location where they aren’t the least bit familiar.
  • When you fly, get up and walk every hour on the hour. Yes, seriously. It doesn’t matter how much you irritate your seat mates. Do butt squeezes (on yourself, not your seatmate) and move your legs.
  • Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine within 24 hours of your flight. Do drink water during the trip. Wear compression hose, but not ones that bind at the top of the hose.
  • Notify your credit card companies that you will be traveling, when and where to avoid issues when charging.  This is good advice traveling within the US too.
  • Check here for more tips.

If you think there is any possibility that you have a health issue, especially a blood clot – don’t wait. I was insanely lucky. I thought I was OK, but I wasn’t. My leg did not get better within the time it should have, and the leg swelled below the knee area where the injury was sustained. Clots are silent killers – lurking stealthily until they strike with vicious, disabling and often fatal results.

The Last Word

There’s something else extremely unique about the island of Vlieland.

Poetry.

And tire tracks.

Actually, poetry in tire tracks. Inscribed in the actual tire tread.

Special tires have been created to reflect the poetry of island poet, Gerda Posthumus.

You can find this poetry along the deserted beaches, on the “other side” of the protective dune.

This photo shows the poetry on the deserted beach, and the island of Texel in the distance where my ancestor is buried.

What an utterly beautiful and jaw dropping discovery.

Who expects to discover poetry in tire tracks on a deserted beach on an island 30 miles out to sea?

How prescient, with Texel in the distance.

The poem?

According to Yvette, it says:

What makes the deepest impression

Will be touched by the water.

Let no man disturb.

The sea will have the last word.

Yes, indeed, the sea.

Just ask my ancestor, buried on Texel.

Or my ancestors buried on Vlieland, perhaps in the part of the island consumed by the sea, where the original Anabaptist Mennonite community was located.

The sea, reaching across time immemorial – touching them, then, in death.

Touching my ancestor, in life, as Janke Gerrits rode on the ship to her new life on the mainland as a bride preparing to marry in 1665.

Three generations later her great-granddaughter’s birth was commemorated with that lovely silver spoon. In another four generations, her descendants climbed aboard a ship, once again, still as Mennonites, sailing on to America to begin a new life in Indiana.

And then, three more generations later, there’s me, yet alive, thankfully, having returned to find those ancestors who “reached out” to me in their own special way. Was it, perhaps, Janke Gerrits who was born on Vlieland who tripped me up, saying, “Hey, look, it’s me. I’m here. Right HERE.This house. Whoa! Stop!”  Oops.

Wouldn’t it be something if that toe-grabbing ancestor trap baited with chocolate thingys was in front of her house?

Time, with the help of Yvette, will tell.

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Which Ethnicity Test is Best?

While this question is very straightforward, the answer is not.

I have tested with or uploaded my DNA file to the following vendors to obtain ethnicity results:

The links above provide product reviews of recently released or updated results.

Guess what? None of the vendors’ results are the same. Some aren’t even close to each other, let alone to my known and proven genealogy.

In the article, Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages, I explained how to calculate your expected ethnicity percentages from your genealogy. As each vendor has introduced ethnicity results, or updated previous results, I’ve added to a cumulative chart.

It bears repeating before we look at that chart that ethnicity testing is relatively accurate on a continental level, meaning:

  • Africa
  • Europe
  • Asia
  • Native American
  • Jewish

Intra-continent or sub-continent, meaning within continents, it’s extremely difficult to tease out differences between countries, like France, Germany and Switzerland. Looking at the size of these regions, and the movement of populations, we can certainly understand why. In many ways, it’s like trying to discern the difference between Indiana and Illinois.

What Does “Best” Mean?

While the question of which test is best seems like it would be easy to answer, it isn’t.

“Best” is a subjective term, and often, people interpret best to mean that the test reflects a portion of what they think they know about their ethnicity. Without a rather robust and proven tree, some testers have little subjective data on which to base their perceptions.  In fact, many people, encouraged by advertising, take these tests with the hope that the test will in fact provide them with the answer to the question, “Who am I?” or to confirm a specific ancestor or ancestral heritage rumor.

For example, people often test to find their Native American ancestry and are disappointed when the results don’t reveal Native ancestry. This can be because:

  • There is no Native ancestor.
  • The Native ancestor thought to be 100% was already highly admixed.
  • The Native ancestor is too far back in the tester’s tree and the ancestor’s DNA “washed out” in subsequent generations.
  • The testing company failed to pick up what might be arguably a trace amount.

Genealogy Compared to All Vendors’ Results

In some cases, discrepancies arise due to how the different companies group their results and what the groupings mean, as you can see in the table below comparing all vendors’ results to my known genealogy.

In the table below, I’ve highlighted in yellow the “best” company result by region, as compared to my known genealogy shown in the column titled “Genealogy %”.

British Isles – The British Isles is fairly easy to define, because they are islands, and the results for each vendor, other than The Genographic Project, are easy to group into that category as well. Family Tree DNA comes the closest to my known genealogy in this category, so would be the “best” in this category. However, every region, shown in pink, does not have the same “best” vendor.

Scandinavian – I have no actual Scandinavian heritage in my genealogy, but I’m betting I have a number of Vikings, or that my German/Dutch is closely related to the Scandinavians. So while LivingDNA is the lowest, meaning the closest to my zero, it’s very difficult to discern the “true” amount of Scandinavian heritage admixed into the other populations. It’s also possible that Scandinavian is not reflecting (entirely) the Vikings, but Dutch and German as a result of migrations of entire peoples. My German and Dutch ancestry cumulatively adds to 39%.

Eastern European – I don’t have any known Eastern European, but some of my German might fall into that category, historically. I simply don’t know, so I’m not ranking that group.

Northwestern Europe – For the balance of Northwestern Europe, 23andMe comes the closest with 43% of my 45.24% from my known genealogy.

Mediterranean and Southern European – For the Mediterranean, Greece, Italy and Southern Europe, I have no known genealogy there, and not even anyplace close, so I’m counting as accurate all three vendors who reported zero, being Living DNA, Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage.

Unknown – The next grouping is my unknown percentage. It’s very difficult to ascribe a right or wrong to this grouping, so I’ve put vendor results here that might fall into that unknown group. In my case, I suspect that some of the unknown is actually Native on my father’s side. I haven’t assigned accuracy in this section. It’s more of a catch all, for now.

Native and Asian – The next section is Native and Asian, which can in some circumstances can be attributed to Native ancestry. In this case, I know of about 1% proven Native heritage, as the Native on my mother’s line is proven utilizing both Y and mitochondrial DNA tests on descendants. I suspect there is more Native to be revealed, both on her side and because I can’t positively attribute some of my father’s lineage that is mixed race and reported to be Native, but is as yet unproven. By proof, I mean either Y DNA, mitochondrial DNA or concrete documentation.

I have counted any vendor who found a region above zero and smaller than my unknown percentage of 3.9% as accurate, those vendors being Family Tree DNA, Ancestry, 23andMe and MyHeritage.

Southwest Asia – I have no heritage from Southwest Asia, which typically means the Indian subcontinent. National Geographic reports this region, but their categories are much broader than the other companies, as reflected by the grey bands utilized to attempt to summarize the other vendor’s data in a way that can be compared to the Genographic Project information. While I’m pleased to contribute to the National Geographic Society through the Genographic Project, the results are the least connected to my known genealogy, although their results may represent deeper migratory ancestry.

Summary

As you can see, the best vendor is almost impossible to pinpoint and every person that tests at multiple vendors will likely have a different opinion of what is “best” and the reasons why. In some ways, best depends on what you are looking for and how much genealogy work you’ve already invested to be able to reliably evaluate the different vendor results. In my case, the best vendor, judged by the highest total percentage of “most accurate” categories would be Family Tree DNA.

While DNA testing for ethnicity really doesn’t provide the level of specificity that people hope to gain, testers can generally get a good view of their ancestry at the continental level. Vendors also provide updates as the reference groups and technology improves.  This is a learning experience for all involved!

I hope that seeing the differences between the various vendors will encourage people to test at multiple vendors, or transfer their results to additional vendors to gain “a second set of eyes” about their ethnicity. Several transfers are free. You can read about which vendors accept results from other vendors, in the article, Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?

I also hope that ethnicity results encourage people to pursue their genealogy to find their ancestors. Ethnicity results are fun, but they aren’t gospel, and shouldn’t be interpreted as “the answer.” Just enjoy your results and allow them to peak your curiosity to discover who your ancestors really were through genealogy research! There are bound to be some fun surprises just waiting to be discovered.

If you are interested in why your results may vary from what you expected, please read “Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum.”

If you’re interested in taking a DNA test, you might want to read “Which DNA Test is Best?” which discusses and compares what you need to know about each vendor and the different tests available in the genetic genealogy market today.

______________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

23andMe’s “Your DNA Family” Feature

A few days ago, I received a message from 23andMe that a new feature, “Your DNA Family” was ready to view. I decided to take a look. You’ll find this feature under the Reports, then Ancestry Reports tab.

The first part of the screen shows how many matchs of different types that I have. This report includes only people who have opted in to share through DNA Relatives.

I have tested on both the V3 chip and the V4 chip. I’m utilizing the V3 results for this article, but it is interesting to note that I have 1436 V4 chip results, as compared to 1440 V3 results, above. The number of matches is almost exactly the same. However, the numbers in the various categories below between the two tests (V3 vs V4) are sometimes significantly different, so these are clearly not (all) the same people who have agreed to share on both platforms.  You can read more about the V3 and V4 comparison here.

On the page above, the “learn more” link explains about degrees of cousinhood.

Scrolling down, the next section shows you a map of the location of your DNA Relatives.

The part I find the most interesting is that the places where I have the most relatives do not include the state where I was born or where my parents were born.  My mother’s family was from the Netherlands and Germany before immigrating to Indiana in the US, except for one grandfather who was Acadian. In the Midwest, Indiana is darker than the rest on the map, but I only have 25 relatives there. My father was born in Tennessee with only 15 matches. Of course, the fact that my matches live in those locations today does not mean our common ancestor is one of my Hoosier or Tennessee ancestors, but it’s a good place to start looking.

Conversely, I have 110 relatives that live in California and 65 in Texas. Texas was a destination location for the people of Appalachia, so that makes some sense. My great-grandfather died in Texas in 1895, having walked from Tennessee, twice.

From the looks of things, California was a destination location for everyone! I have more matches in California than any another state, by almost double. I have to wonder if the fact that 23andMe is a California company has something to do with how many Californians have tested.

“Click here” shows you the top 10 locations in a table.

It’s interesting to note that my proven 39% German and Dutch combined is no place to be seen. The Dutch and most of the Germans were immigrants in the mid-1800s – so there is no question about the accuracy of these immigrants. 23andMe did not test outside the US for a very long time, and when they did, the shipping cost almost as much as the test itself which discouraged international testers.

Scrolling down again, we see the Ancestry Composition breakdown of my DNA Relatives.

For a minute I was all excited, hoping that I could then click on one of the ancestral regions and see which of my matches include that region, but that’s not the case. Believe me, I tried clicking everyplace☹

Of course, just because someone that I match also has some amount of Native American or other common ancestry, that doesn’t mean that’s how we match, but it might well be a clue.

Scrolling down again, we see how our DNA Relatives compare to the rest of the 23andMe data base in a few categories.

For me, this falls into a time-waster category and causes me to ask myself, “why do I care?” I suspect this is included in the hope that people will find it interesting and will therefore answer these rather innocuous questions posed by 23andMe, along with more that are health related.

Summary

There certainly isn’t anything wrong with this information. It’s not misleading in any way like the last feature to be released, their Ancestry Timeline.

The DNA Family information is at best lukewarm and leaves me more than a tad disappointed.

I think at least two aspects have potential, but today, it’s like 23andMe showed us the teaser to the movie with no way to see the movie itself.

I would like to see which of my DNA Relatives fall into the following two categories:

  • Location – state and country
  • Ancestry Composition category

In other words, I want to know which of my matches are from Indiana, and which have Native American ancestry, for example. I’d like to know if there is an intersection between those or any two groups too.

I could find absolutely no way to utilize the Ancestry Composition categories, but I thought I had figured out how to detect at least some of the location matches.

Going to my the DNA Relatives page, I entered the word “Indiana” into the “Search keywords” and pressed enter, which returned 36 DNA Relatives. Granted, that’s not 25, as shown on the map, but it does return information based on something and that something might be useful.  I wish we knew where 23andMe is retrieving this data from so we know how to interpret what it means.

Next, I tried the keyword “Germany.” The search returned 76 results, but Germany was not among the locations where my DNA Relatives were shown to live – so the answer is that whatever is being shown utilizing the search keywords, it’s not the tester’s location so does not connect to the map location results.

The DNA Family Report earns a shrug and a “Meh.” Now, if testers could view which of their DNA Relatives matched them in those categories, I’d have to upgrade the shrug and meh to something a little more exciting. I sometimes look at where and how the vendors invest their development dollars and wonder what the heck they were thinking.

For genealogy, this new feature simply isn’t useful.

______________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

Concepts – Why Genetic Genealogy and Triangulation?

One of the questions often asked is why triangulation in genetic genealogy is so important.

Before I answer that, let’s take a look at why genealogists use autosomal DNA for genetic genealogy in the first place.

Why Genetic Genealogy?

Aside from ethnicity testing, genetic genealogists utilize autosomal DNA testing to further their genealogical research or confirm the research they have already performed. Genetic genealogy cannot stand alone on DNA evidence, but must include traditional genealogical research. DNA is simply another tool in the genealogist’s tool box – albeit a critical one.

There are three established primary vendors in this field, Family Tree DNA, Ancestry and 23andMe, plus a few newcomers. All three vendors offer autosomal DNA tests utilized by genetic genealogists in various ways. If you want to learn more about the differences between these vendors’ offerings, please read the article, “Which DNA Test is Best?”

In order to achieve genealogical goals, there are four criteria that need to be met. All are required to achieve triangulation which is the only way to confirm a genealogical ancestral match to a specific ancestor.

  • DNA Matching – The tester’s DNA matches that of other testers at the company where they tested, or at GedMatch. All three vendors provide matching information, along with GedMatch, a third-party tool utilized by genetic genealogists.

Family Tree DNA assigns matches to either maternal, paternal or both sides of the tester’s tree based on connecting the DNA of relatives, up through third cousins, who have tested to their appropriate location in the tester’s tree.

In the example above, you can see the individuals linked to my tree include my mother with her Family Finder test, plus her two first cousins, Donald and Cheryl Ferverda who have also tested.

  • Ancestor Matching – The testers identify a common ancestor or ancestral line based on their previous work, aka, genealogy and family trees.  In the example above, the common ancestors are the parents of the brothers, John and Roscoe Ferverda.  Identifying a common ancestor is an easy task with known close relatives, but becomes more challenging the more distant the common ancestor.

Of the vendors, 23andMe does not have a Gedcom upload or ability for testers to display trees and for the vendor to utilize to match surnames, although they can link to external trees. Ancestry provides “tree matching,” shown above, and Ancestry and Family Tree DNA, shown below, both provide surname matching.

  • Segment Matching – Utilizing chromosome browsers or downloaded match lists including segment information to identify actual DNA segments that match other testers.

Family Tree DNA’s chromosome browser is shown above.

Each individual tester will have two groups of matches on the same segment, one group from their mother’s side of the tree and one from their father’s side of the tree. Each tester carries DNA inherited from both parents on two different “sides” of each chromosome. You can read more about that in the article, One Chromosome, Two Sides, No Zipper – ICW and the Matrix.

Of the three vendors, Ancestry does not provide segment matching, a chromosome browser, nor any segment information, so testers cannot perform this step at Ancestry.

23andMe does provide this information, but each tester must individually “opt in” to data sharing, and many do not. If testers do not globally “opt in” they must authorize sharing individually for every match, so testers will not be able to see the chromosome segment information for many 23andMe matches. In my case, only about 60% are sharing.

Family Tree DNA provides a chromosome browser, the file download capability with segment information, and everyone authorizes sharing of information when they initially test – so there is no opt-in confusion.

Ancestry and 23andMe raw DNA data files can be transferred to both Family Tree DNA and GedMatch where chromosome browsers and other tools are available. For more information about transferring files, please read Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?

Triangulation – The process used to combine all three of the above steps in order to assign specific segments of the tester’s DNA to specific ancestors, by virtue of:

  • The tester’s DNA matching the DNA of other testers on a specific segment.
  • Identifying that the individuals who match the tester on that segment also match each other. This is part of the methodology employed to group the testers matches into two groups, the maternal and paternal groupings.
  • Identifying which ancestor contributed that segment to all of the people who match the tester and each other on that same segment.

In order for a group of matches to triangulate, they must match each other on the same segment of DNA and they must all share a common ancestor.

Triangulation is part DNA, meaning the inheritance, part technology, meaning the ability to show that all testers in a match group all match each other and on the same segment, and part genealogy, meaning the ability to identify the common ancestor of the group of individuals.

The following chart shows a portion of my match download file on chromosome 5 from Family Tree DNA.

As you can see, these matches all cover significant portions of the same segment on chromosome 5.

Without further investigation, we know that I match all of these people, but we don’t know what that information is telling us about my genealogy. We don’t know who matches each other, and we can’t tell which people are from my mother’s and father’s sides. We also don’t know who the common ancestor is or common ancestors are.

However, looking at the trees of the individuals involved, or contacting them for further information, and/or recognizing known cousins from a specific line all combine to contribute to the identification of our common ancestors.

Below is the same spreadsheet, now greatly enriched after my genealogy work is applied to the DNA matches in two additional columns.

I’ve colored my triangulated groups pink for my mother’s side and blue for my father’s side.

In this case, I also have access to my cousins’ DNA match results, so I can view their matches as well, looking for common matches on my match list.

One of the reasons genealogists always suggest testing older family members and as many cousins as possible is because triangulation becomes much easier with known cousins from particular lines to point the way to the common ancestor. In this case, one cousin, Joe, is from my mother’s side and one, Lou, is from my father’s side.

By looking at my matches’ genealogy, I’ve now been able to assign this particular segment on chromosome 5, on my mother’s side to ancestors Johann Michael Miller and his wife Susanna Berchtol. The same segment, on my father’s side is inherited from Charles Dodson and his wife, Ann, last name unknown.

In order to achieve triangulation, the common ancestor must be determined for the match group. Once triangulation is achieved, descent from the common ancestor is confirmed.

Unless you are dealing with very close known relatives, like the Ferverda first cousins, there is no other way to prove a genetic connection to a specific ancestor.

At Family Tree DNA, I can utilize the chromosome browser and the ICW and matrix tools to determine which of this group matches each other. At 23andMe, I can utilize their shared DNA matching tool. This information can then be recorded in my DNA spreadsheet, as illustrated above.

Triangulation cannot be achieved at Ancestry or utilizing their tools. Ancestry’s DNA Circles provide extended match groups, indicating who matches whom for a particular ancestor shown in a tester’s tree, but do not indicate that the matches are on the same segment. Circles do not guarantee that Circle members are matching on DNA from that ancestor, only that they do match and show a common ancestor in their tree.  The third triangulation step of segment matching is missing.  Ancestry does not provide segment information in any format, so Ancestry customers who want to triangulate can either retest elsewhere or download their data files to either Family Tree DNA or GedMatch for free.

Summary

Before the advent of genetic genealogy, genealogists had to take it on faith that the paper trail was accurate, and that there was no misattributed parentage – either through formal or informal adoption or hanky-panky.  That’s not the case anymore.

Today, DNA through triangulation can prove ancestry for groups of people to a common ancestor by identifying segments that have descended from that ancestor and are found in multiple descendants today.

Of course, the next step is to break down those remaining brick walls. For example, what is the birth name of Ann, wife of Charles Dodson, whose surname is unknown? Logically, the DNA descended from a couple, meaning Charles and Ann, contains DNA from both individuals. We don’t know if that segment on chromosome 5 is from Ann, Charles, or parts from both, BUT, if we begin to see a further breakdown to another, unknown family line among the Charles and Ann segments, that might be a clue.

One day, in the future, we’ll be able to identify our unknown family lines through DNA matches and other people’s triangulation. That indeed, is the Holy Grail.

Additional Resources

If you’d like to read more specific information about autosomal DNA matching and triangulation, be sure to read the links in the article, above. The following articles may be of interest as well:

DeMystifying Autosomal DNA Matching

Autosomal DNA Testing 101 – What Now?

Autosomal DNA Matching Confidence Spectrum

Concepts – Segment Size, Legitimate and False Matches

How Your Autosomal DNA Identifies Your Ancestors

Concepts – Identical by Descent, State, Population and Chance

Nine Autosomal Tools at Family Tree DNA

If you think you might come up short, because you have only one known cousin who has tested, well, think again.

Just One Cousin

Here’s wishing you lots of triangulated matches!!!