Ancestry Releases Updated Ethnicity Estimates – Hope You Still Have Your Kilt!

Ancestry has been rolling out their new DNA ethnicity results over the past couple of weeks. By now, pretty much all customers have updated results.

When you sign on and click on your DNA tab, you’ll see a message at the top that tells you whether you have new results or they are coming soon.

I wrote about how ethnicity results are calculated in the article, Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum. You might want to take a minute and read the article because it applies to methods generally and is not specific to any one vendor.

Ethnicity analysis is quite accurate at the continental level, plus Jewish, but less so within continents like Europe. Your results will vary from vendor to vendor and from update to update with the same vendor over time.

To be very clear, your DNA doesn’t change – and neither does your genealogy, obviously – but the evaluation methods used by various vendors change as more people test, reference populations grow, and the vendors improve their algorithms.

Of course, “improve” is subjective. Changes that “improve” one person’s results have the exact opposite effect on other people.

The Eye of the Beholder

Every time vendors release new population or ethnicity results, everyone runs to check. Then – queue up either “they finally got it right” or teeth gnashing! 😊

Everyone hopes for “better” results – but expectations vary widely and how people determine what “better” means to them is quite subjective.

So yes, the accuracy of the results is truly in the eye of the beholder and often related to how much genealogy they’ve actually done. Surprises in your genealogy can equal surprises in your ethnicity too.

Quantitative Analysis

First, let’s be very clear – you do NOT inherit exactly half of the DNA of each of your distant ancestors in each generation. So you might have NO DNA of an ancestor several generations back in time and multiple segments contributed by another ancestor in the same generation. I wrote about how inheritance actually works in the article, Concepts: Inheritance.

Obviously, if you don’t carry a specific ancestor’s DNA, you also don’t carry any genetic markers for any portion of their ethnic heritage either.

Measuring

The best you can do in terms of ancestral ethnicity percentage expectations is to methodically analyze your tree for the geographic and ethnic heritage of your ancestors.

I explained how I calculated realistic ethnicity estimate percentages in the article, Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages.

In summary, I made a spreadsheet of my 64 great-great-great-great-great-grandparents, each of which, if the DNA was divided in exactly half and passed to the next generation, would contribute 1.56% of my DNA.

Vendors can typically measure geographically-associated DNA less than 1%. At some point, however, the segments are simply too small to reliably identify and associate with a geographic location or population.

Over time, how different vendors refer to and label different parts of the world both vary and change.

Region Names and Ancestral Assignment

I created a spreadsheet where I track both my “expected” DNA based on my genealogy and the amount of reported DNA from that region by each vendor. As I added vendor results, I sometimes had to add categories since their categories aren’t exactly the same as mine. You’ll observe this in the following sections.

You might notice the “inferred” category. I wrote about this in the Calculating Ethnicity Percentages article, but the inferred locations stem from situations like an unknown wife of a man who is living in England or Germany. We can probably infer that they are from that same country.

In the US, an earlier era spouse’s ethnicity might be inferred from marrying a Scot’s-Irish person, living in a Scots-Irish community or being a member of a Scots-Irish church, for example. Chances are very high that a Scots-Irish man’s wife is also from the “British Isles” someplace.

When creating my spreadsheet, I was intentionally conservative in my genealogical estimates.

Ancestry Update in General

Are there any trends or themes in this most recent Ancestry update? As a matter of fact, yes.

Everybody’s Scottish it seems. I hope you didn’t trade your kilt in for that liederhosen a few years ago, because it looks like you just might need that kilt again.

In fact, Ancestry wrote a blog article about why so many people now have Scotland as an ethnicity location, or have a higher percentage if they already showed Scotland before. I had to laugh, because let me summarize the net-net of the Ancestry article for you, the British Isles is “all mixed up,” meaning highly admixed of course. That’s pretty much the definition of my genealogy!

Another theme is that many testers have Scandinavian origins again.

Back in 2012, Ancestry had a “Scandinavian problem,” and pretty much everyone was Scandinavian in that release, even if they had nary a drop of Scandinavian ancestry. And no, not every person has an unknown paternity event and if they did, the Scandinavians cannot possibly be responsible for all of them. The Viking prowess was remarkable, but not THAT remarkable.

Eight years later, Scandinavian is back.

So, how did Ancestry do on my percentages?

Well, I’m Not Scottish…

In the greatest of ironies, I now show no Scottish at all. My calculations show 5.46%, and it’s probably higher because I descend from Scots-Irish that I can’t place in a location.

I guess I need to turn in my Campbell tartan along with a few others.

I do, however, have Norway back again, but no Scandinavian genealogy.

This chart shows all of the Ancestry updates over time, including this latest, plus a range column for this update.

In addition to the 2020 percentage numbers, I’ve included the ranges shown by Ancestry in the far right column for the 2020 update.

Ranges

When viewing your own results, be sure to click on the right arrow for a population to view the range.

You’ll be able to view the range and additional information.

In this case, Ancestry is confident that I have at least 35% DNA from England & Northwest Europe, and perhaps as much as 41%.

You’ll note that my range for the questionable Scandinavia is 0-5. The only two ethnicities that have ranges that do not include zero are England & Northwestern Europe and Germanic Europe.

My Opinion

I know that I have Native American heritage and that it’s reflected in my ethnicity – or should be.

23andMe results, below, shows me the chromosome locations of Native American segments, and when I track those segments back in time, they track to the ancestors in the Acadian population known to have married Native American partners as reflected in church records. Those ancestors were proven as Native through Y and mitochondrial DNA of their descendants which you can view in the Acadian AmerIndian DNA Project, here.

I wrote about using ethnicity segments identified at 23andMe with DNAPainter to triangulate ancestors in the article, Native American and Minority Ancestors Identified Using DNAPainter Plus Ethnicity Segments.

For me personally, including my Native heritage in my ethnicity results is important. I can’t “do” anything much with that at Ancestry, other than view my match’s shared ethnicity. Since my Native heritage doesn’t show at Ancestry, I can’t use it at all genetically.

Why is this important? Looking at a match on my Acadian line and seeing that we share at least some Native heritage MIGHT, just MIGHT be a hint about a common ancestor. Of course, that’s just a clue, because we might both be native from different sources. If my Native ethnicity is missing at Ancestry, I can’t do that. It’s worth noting that in 2017, Ancestry did report my Native heritage and other vendors do as well.

23andMe provides detailed, downloadable, segment information that translates into useful genealogical information. FamilyTreeDNA has announced that they will be providing ethnicity segment information as well after their new myOrigins release.

The Big 4

How do the Big 4 vendors stack up relative to my genealogy and ethnicity?

And for Native American heritage?

I took the liberty of highlighting which vendor is the closest to my estimated genealogy percentages, but want to remind you that these percentages will only be exactly accurate if the DNA is passed exactly in half in each generation, which doesn’t happen. Therefore, my genealogy is an educated estimate as well. Still, the results shouldn’t be WAY off.

An appropriate sanity check would be that my genealogy analysis and the DNA ethnicity results are relatively close. Many people think they are a lot more of something because those are the family stories they heard – but when they do the analysis, they realize that they might expect a different mixture. For example, my aunt told me that my paternal grandmother’s Appalachian family line was German and Jewish – and they are neither. However, German and Jewish lived in my head for a long time and that was what I initially expected to find.

What’s Next?

Both MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA are slated to release new versions of their population genetics tools – so you’ll be seeing new estimates from both vendors “soon.” Both announced at RootsTech they would deliver new results later in the year, and while I don’t have a release date for either vendor – keep in mind that both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage have brought new labs online from scratch in record time in a humanitarian effort to fight Covid. This critically important work has assuredly interrupted their development schedules. You can read about that here and here.

Kudos to both vendors. Ethnicity can wait.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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Genealogy Research

Deleting DNA Results or Closing Your Account Does NOT Automatically = Destroying Your Original DNA Sample

First and foremost, I want to state unequivocally that I am NOT advocating closing your account at any of the testing vendor sites. That’s not the purpose of this article. In fact, I encourage everyone to use each tool to extract every drop of information possible.

The purpose is to educate and inform you that IF you close your account and/or delete your DNA RESULTS from your account, even if the vendor in question says that the action is irreversible and you will need to resubmit a new sample and purchase a new test if you change your mind, that does NOT necessarily mean that your physical DNA sample itself will be destroyed unless you take separate action to request sample destruction. It also does not automatically reverse any previously-granted research permissions.

Many people presume that if they delete their results and/or close their account, that automatically means that their original spit or swab sample is destroyed – and that’s not necessarily true.

First, we need to understand the difference between:

  • A DNA sample
  • A DNA raw data results file, also referred to as a download file
  • DNA matches or a match file

The Difference Between a DNA Sample, Results and Download Files, and Matches

There are three distinct parts of the DNA testing process that people often confuse. It’s important to understand these distinct pieces because you interact with them differently and vendors do as well. In other words, deleting your DNA results file, or closing your account does not necessarily mean that your original sample is destroyed unless you request (and confirm) that separately.

DNA Sample – The DNA sample itself is the swab or vial of spit that you submit to the vendor for processing. That sample is sent to a lab where DNA is extracted and processed on a specific DNA chip that produces a file with roughly 700,000 locations for autosomal tests.

After your DNA results are processed and the vendor knows that they do not need to rerun your sample, how or if your DNA sample is stored, and where, is a function of each specific vendor and their policies.

One vendor, Family Tree DNA archives your DNA sample vials for 25 years as a free benefit so that you (or your heirs should you pass away) can order additional products or upgrades. FamilyTreeDNA offers various levels of Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA testing along with autosomal (Family Finder) results – so there are several upgrade avenues.

This short article, 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy, explains the difference between various kinds of DNA tests.

It’s less obvious why a vendor who does not offer genealogical DNA products other than autosomal testing would retain a customer’s actual DNA sample. The other three vendors, while they don’t currently offer additional genealogy DNA products, do offer health upgrades and purchase options. They may be retaining samples so that their customers could potentially upgrade and they would have a sample on-hand to rerun, if necessary.

Both MyHeritage and 23andMe offer a combined ancestry/genealogy plus health product initially, or customers can purchase the health add-on later. FamilyTreeDNA offers a high-end comprehensive Exome health product for existing customers, the Tovana Genome Report, but it’s a different test altogether and requires a fresh DNA sample.

Furthermore, both Ancestry and 23andMe either conduct health/medical research internally and/or participate in research partnerships with outside entities and may be hoping that their customers will opt-in to research.

Regardless of the underlying reason why, keep in mind that your actual sample is likely being archived someplace, assuming there is any left after processing, unless you request that your sample be destroyed.

Refer to each vendor’s Terms and Conditions, their Privacy Policy along with any other linked documents to gain insight into how each vendor operates. Furthermore, one of those documents will provide instructions for how to request the destruction of your actual DNA sample, should you choose to do so.

All vendors change the contents of their Terms and Conditions along with other legal documents from time to time, so be sure to refer to the current version.

The DNA sample itself is NOT the same thing as the output from the processing, which is the DNA raw data results file.

DNA Raw Data Results File – The DNA results file contains only a small fraction of the three billion locations found in the human genome. Autosomal DNA tests include only about 700,000 (plus or minus) selected locations produced by the chip the vendor is utilizing. The output of the laboratory process is referred to as a raw data file or the DNA results file. People sometimes refer to this as the download file as well, because it’s the file you can download from each vendor.

The results in a raw data file look like this:

When you download and transfer your file from one vendor to another, the raw data file is what you are transferring. You can find instructions for downloading your data file from each vendor, here.

  • The DNA raw data or download file is NOT your actual DNA, which is what is extracted from the liquid in the vial.
  • The raw data or download file is NOT a list of your matches, which may or may not be a separate file available for downloading, depending on the vendor.

The raw data file only contains letters representing your two genotyped nucleotides (T, A, C or G) for the rsid (accession #) for each genetic address or position tested. Each genetic address contains two SNPs, or single nucleotide polymorphisms. You don’t need to understand the details, just that one nucleotide at that address is received from your mother and one from your father.

The example above shows my first 4 locations in my raw data file. You can see that I received an A from both parents at the first two locations, and a G from both parents and the second two locations.

Match File

The values in your DNA results file are compared to other people in the vendor’s database. If enough contiguous locations match, typically more than 500 matching SNPs, plus additional cM (centiMorgan) threshold match criteria, shown below, you are determined to be a match with that other person. You will each be placed on the other person’s match list, and the vendor will then provide additional processing based on the signature features they offer to their clients.

Of the four main vendors, three, Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage and 23andMe allow customers to download a match file in spreadsheet format that provides additional information about each match. Ancestry, unfortunately, does not.

You cannot upload your match file to other vendors – only your raw data file gets uploaded which the vendor then processes in the same way they would if you had tested at their company.

If someone on your match list wants to be included in the database at another vendor, they will either need to test at that vendor or transfer their file to that vendor. Every vendor has people in their database that the other vendors don’t have, so it behooves all genealogists to be in each of the four databases either by testing directly or uploading their raw data files as a transfer.

Of the four main vendors, FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage both accept transfers from other vendors and provide free matching, but 23andMe and Ancestry do not. Note that both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage do charge for advanced features, $19 and $29, respectively, but in both cases, it’s significantly less than the cost of a test.

Deleting Results and Closing Accounts

Again, I am NOT advocating that anyone should close accounts at any vendor. In fact, I would discourage DNA deletion. Some people delete their DNA or close their accounts when other options would better serve their purposes. However, if you decide to do so, you need to be aware of the following:

  • If you have a genealogical tree/records research account at Ancestry or MyHeritage, you can delete your DNA results but maintain your genealogy research account, if you desire. You will lose the benefits of having a DNA test at that vendor if you delete your DNA test.
  • At those two vendors, if you delete your DNA, that does not automatically affect the genealogy side of your account except for combined features like ThruLines at Ancestry and Theories of Family Relativity at MyHeritage.
  • If you DOWNLOAD your DNA file, that does NOT delete the file at the original testing vendor unless you do so separately. Downloading only means that you download a copy of the file. Your original raw data results file is still at the vendor, UNLESS YOU CHOOSE TO DELETE YOUR RESULTS. Do not delete your results file unless you want to lose your matches and no longer participate in DNA testing or DNA-related features at that vendor.
  • If you are planning to delete your DNA results at a particular vendor, download a raw data file first, and verify that the file works correctly by uploading the file to one of the vendors that accepts transfers. Save the raw data file permanently on your computer. This preserves at least some of your testing investment and allows you to utilize your DNA results file elsewhere.
  • If you delete your DNA results at any of the major vendors, you cannot restore the results file at that vendor without repurchasing and resubmitting a new DNA test. For vendors who accept transfers, you could potentially re-upload your file as a transfer, but you would need to pay for advanced features.
  • If you delete your DNA results at vendors who do NOT offer additional genealogical research services, meaning at 23andMe and Family Tree DNA, there is no reason to maintain an account at that vendor.

If you delete your results or close your account at any vendor, it DOES mean that:

  • The DNA result you’ve deleted along with corresponding matches and other features are permanently gone. You cannot change your mind. Delete=permanent.
  • At FamilyTreeDNA, you can delete one kind of DNA test without deleting all types of DNA tests for a particular individual. For example, you could delete a Y DNA result but not delete mitochondrial or the autosomal Family Finder test.
  • You will have to pay to retest should you change your mind.

If you delete your results or close the DNA portion of your account, it DOES NOT necessarily mean that:

  • Your DNA sample is destroyed.
  • You’ve revoked any permissions previously given for participation in research.

You will need to perform both of these tasks separately and independently of deleting your DNA file at a vendor and/or closing your account.

Every Vendor is Different

The process of requesting sample destruction and revoking research permissions is different at each vendor, with or without closing your account.

Every vendor’s terms and conditions are separate and different. Some vendors may automatically close your account if you request sample destruction, and others won’t. Some may automatically delete your sample if you close your account, but I know for certain that’s not uniformly true.

Terms and conditions, as well as standard procedures, change over time as well.

I’m not telling you which vendors operate in which ways, because this article will someday be dated and vendor policies change. I don’t want to take the chance of leading someone astray in the future.

Therefore, if you wish to have your sample destroyed and/or revoke any research permissions previously granted, I strongly suggest that you call the vendor’s customer support and convey specifically what you want, and why. The vendor may offer alternatives to achieve what you desire without deleting your sample and account.

To delete your sample and/or account, you may need to provide your request in writing.

Request verification in writing that your sample has been destroyed and that any previously granted research authority/permission has been rescinded.

Research Permission

Please note that you can rescind previously granted research permission WITHOUT affecting your account in any other way. However, the reverse is not true – deleting your sample and closing your account does not automatically rescind previously-granted research permission.

You can only rescind permission for future research, not research already underway or completed that includes your DNA and corresponding answers to research questions.

Extra Steps

I hope you will continue to enjoy the results of your DNA tests for years to come. New features and benefits are added regularly, as are new matches – any one of which has the potential to break down that pesky brick wall. Equally as important, at least to me, is the legacy I’m leaving with my combined tree, DNA, and research work for future generations.

However, what’s right for me may not be right for you. If you make a different decision, be sure that you fully understand the different parts of DNA testing along with the various options and steps you may need to take to achieve your goal.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Ancestry’s New StoryScout: Be Cautious

This week, Ancestry did three things to users’ accounts:

  • Deleted 6-7.9 (inclusive) cM matches
  • Deleted message folders
  • Added a new feature, StoryScout

What is StoryScout?

StoryScout sniffs out various records and weaves them into a story, supposedly about YOUR ancestor. Some of these records are accurate and some aren’t. As genealogists we are used to hints, but not to unverified information portrayed as a “story” about our ancestor.

Seasoned genealogists understand the need to always be skeptical and require proof that any record actually refers to a specific person. Newer genealogists, perhaps not so much. I’ve already noticed several people thrilled that StoryScout is breaking down brick walls. While that certainly might be the case, StoryScout also might be storying about this – pardon the pun.

If you’re new and learning how to research, you can read about Genealogical Proof Standard, here.

Even more concerning is that there is a social media “share” button at the end of each story, encouraging the sharing of unvetted and unverified information in the form of heartwarming stories. I mean, who doesn’t want to learn that their ancestor fought in the Revolutionary War? Right?

Caution, Please

A HUGE DOSE OF CAUTION is advised, along with additional research and confirmation before accepting any StoryScout stories as factually about your own ancestor.

Ancestry indicates that they begin with the ancestors in your tree. I’ve been building my tree for 40 years now, and ironically, some of the stories that Ancestry has stitched together actually contradict the legitimate information and records in my tree. For example, the identical person can’t be in two places at the same time.

Conversely, the same name, especially a common name, does not mean they are the same ancestor.

storyscout tree.png

For purposes of reference, here are the first 4 generations of my tree, although StoryScout reaches back further in some cases.

Let’s take a look at how StoryScout works.

StoryScout Unrolled

storyscout menu

You’ll find StoryScout under the DNA menu, although it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with DNA. I wonder if StoryScout is on the DNA tab because this is a method that Ancestry is using to encourage DNA-testers to build trees. If so, I hope testers take the hint, but verify these stories first.

storyscout option.png

Since my ancestors are already in my tree and I didn’t need to add grandparents, I clicked on “take me to my stories.” Apparently, if you don’t have a tree, you can utilize these stories to build a tree. (I can’t tell you how much this terrifies me, especially for novices.)

storyscout new

click to enlarge

Ancestry displays the 4 individuals I’ve listed as my grandparents in my tree, and the stories they’ve assembled about their lineage, shown at the top.

I clicked on the first story about my grandfather, John Whitney Ferverda.

storyscout cover.png

Word of caution – many of the images are NOT your ancestors, but representative images.

storyscout hiram.png

For example, I saw this image and was immediately excited, because I initially thought that someone had found a previously unknown photo of my great-grandfather. Ancestry does say this, clearly, but it’s very easy to miss.

Each story has at least three pages, the cover page, above, the referenced record or information, and an invitation to share the story. Some stories include additional historical information about the record selection.

storyscout wwi

The second image for John Whitney Ferverda shows his draft registration. The background image is indeed HIS draft registration card, not a generic record, and clicking on the green search link shows his card in the collection.

storyscout history.png

Ancestry then provides additional historical information.

While the green search box on his draft registration image displays his record, the green search box below simply shows the historical photo, not related to my ancestor, and associated information about the photo. My ancestor is not in this photo which is absolutely fine, so long as people understand what they are seeing.

storyscout draft

The most disappointing aspect of this story is that this draft registration from 1918, along with a corresponding WWII draft registration, was already attached to my tree.

storyscout both.png

This “story,” while accurate, did not provide me with anything I didn’t already know.

Sharing – Beware

The last page on every one of these stories is this invitation to share with family members by copying and pasting a link.

storyscout share

This concerns me greatly, not because I’m opposed in any way to sharing accurate stories, but because many, many inaccurate stories will now be widely shared. It’s a method of advertising for Ancestry as well.

storyscout fb.png

If you copy and paste the link, this is what appears as a Facebook posting.

storyscout fb2

The problem, of course, is that this verbiage doesn’t say a *potential* story about your ancestor, and in this case, the verbiage would lead someone looking at the Facebook posting to immediately presume this photo IS the ancestor.

storyscout fb warning.png

If you click on the social media link, the person viewing the record will see this warning – but they could interpret this to mean literally that this may not be their relative. In other words, maybe they are a friend and not a relative of yours, or maybe they are related on your maternal side and this is a paternal side photo. What it doesn’t say is that this information may be incorrectly identified to the ancestor in question.

So, if my first cousin who does descend from this great-grandparent looks at the information, and the information is incorrectly attributed to our common ancestor – they are now believing the story to be true because, I, the family genealogist shared it.

Not to mention that a family member immediately thought this was a photo of our ancestor and was asking if I knew which of two farms this was taken on, and when.

Ironically, there’s a photo of my great-grandfather on my own tree that could have been used instead.

Grouping of Stories

After you’ve looked at each new story, they are grouped together by ancestral line. This group includes my grandfather, his parents and wife.

storyscout grouping

Generic Stories

Some stories are rather generic, and you’ll have one for every ancestor in a particular census.

storyscout 1900.png

For example, several of my ancestors listed in the 1900 census have a “Working in America” story. This is fine so long as Ancestry selects the correct ancestor in the census. That doesn’t always happen, and numerous people have reported multiple stories that scatter the same ancestor across the country when in fact incorrect records were selected.

storyscout 19th

Every one of my female ancestors living in 1920 received a story about being alive when the 19th Amendment was ratified. That’s actually quite interesting and while it’s not about my ancestor exercising her right to vote, it does provide historical context of the time and place in which she lived. As it turns out, I had written about Edith Barbara Lore on that exact subject.

The Goal

First and foremost, I’m looking for new, previously unknown, accurate information about my ancestors.

Secondarily, I want to make sure stories about my ancestor ARE actually about MY ancestor. Sharing accurate information is a wonderful way to interest other people in their ancestors, too, but some assurance needs to exist that information is accurate before being presented as a story. There also needs to be some methodology of flagging the information as incorrectly associated with this specific ancestor so Ancestry does not continue to propagate inaccurate information in the format of stories.

Having said that, leaf hints are wonderful, because they don’t infer any certainty.  Ancestry already provides genealogical record hints in the form of leaf hints on trees.

storyscout leaves.png

These record hints are attached to people on my tree, NOT woven into stories, and give me the opportunity to review the hint. I can attach the document to my tree if it’s accurate, and to dismiss or ignore the hint otherwise. This is a responsible research methodology.

These leafy tree hints do NOT encourage me to share them. It would be nice if stories were only harvested from confirmed leaf hints.

StoryScout does NOT allow people to dismiss the story as inaccurate, nor do the stories seem to coordinate with the records already saved to my tree for that ancestor. I don’t know this for a fact, but if I received this story about this ancestor, other people with the same ancestor would probably receive the identical story – and you know that someone is going to share without verifying first.

How accurate are these stories?

I created a chart as I reviewed each story.

Right, Wrong, and FrankenAncestors

I created the following summary of my 14 StoryScout stories:

Ancestor Relationship Story Accurate Yes/No Comments
John Whitney Ferverda Grandfather WWII Draft Yes Document previously attached in my tree
Edith Barbara Lore Grandmother Winning Right to Vote Yes, alive in 1920 Generic information
Barbara Drechsel gg-grandmother Winning Right to Vote Yes, alive in 1920 Generic information
Evaline Louise Miller Great-grandmother Winning Right to Vote Yes, alive in 1920 Generic information
Michael McDowell Gggg-grandfather Revolution Militiaman No, wrong person, wrong place Same name confusion, his correct Rev War information is already attached to my tree
Andrew McKee Gggg-grandfather Clues from Lost Censuses General, not about him Not for him, simply says people can obtain information from old census information
James Mann (they show Robert James Mann) Gggg-grandfather Clues from Lost Censuses No, wrong person, wrong place Showed him in SC in 1780 (there was no 1780 census) but he was in Virginia.
John R. Estes Ggg-grandfather Clues from Lost Censuses No, wrong person, wrong place States that John R. Estes was in the 1820 census in TN, but they selected the wrong John Estes. He was in VA.
Nancy Ann Moore Ggg-grandmother Clues from Lost Censuses No, wrong person, wrong place States that she was in the 1820 census in TN, but she was in Virginia at the time. Only head of household listed in 1820 census, and she was not.
Joseph B. Bolton Great-grandfather Working in America in 1900 Yes Census, previously attached to my tree
Lazarus Estes Great-grandfather Working in America in 1900 Yes Census previously attached to my tree
Jacob Kirsch Gg-grandfather Working in America in 1900 Partly Right person and place, but location recorded incorrectly and occupation was not “salovriest”
Lazarus Estes Ggg-grandfather Working as a postmaster Yes Document previously attached to my tree
William Moore Gggg-grandfather Fighting in the Continental Army Probably wrong, cannot verify Says he was a Lt., but no link or information to confirm. There are many William Moores who fought from VA, but none from Halifax County where he lived. There is no tree leaf record hint.

It’s this last “story” about William Moore that excited me the most. There was no link to a record nor Ancestry leaf hint. I signed on to Fold3.com and, unfortunately, found no Revolutionary War record there for my William Moore who had lived in Halifax County, Virginia. The fact that Ancestry portrayed my William Moore as a Revolutionary War soldier without any type of documentation is both upsetting and provides misinformation that will be propagated for years to come by unsuspecting people to whom this information is provided either by Ancestry, or shared. William Moore had many descendants whom, I presume, are also receiving this “story.”

How Did StoryScout Do?

Of 14 total stories:

  • 4 were accurate, although none provided information I didn’t already have
  • 1 is partly accurate, but information I already had
  • 4 are incorrect
  • 4 are generic, but interesting
  • 1, William Moore, is probably wrong, but since I don’t know what record Ancestry was referencing, I can’t verify or find a similar record

Here’s the bottom line – enjoy, and I hope you receive some useful hints that you can work with.

However, unless you confirm that this information is about YOUR ANCESTOR and is accurate, please, do NOT share. I know from unfortunate personal experience that information released into the wild can never actually be recalled and resurfaces again and again – the genealogical equivalent of whack-a-mole.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Search Techniques for Y and Mitochondrial DNA Test Candidates

I utilize DNA matches in various ways, some of which are a little unusual. In many cases, I mine autosomal DNA matches to search for people whose Y and mitochondrial DNA can provide descendants, including me and them, with additional insights into our common ancestors.

Y and mitochondrial DNA connects testers to their ancestors in ways that autosomal cannot. It’s a different type of DNA, not combined with the DNA of the other parent, so it’s not diluted and halved in each generation like autosomal DNA. Y and mitochondrial lines each descend from only one ancestral line, rich in historical information, with the ability to reach far back in time along with the ability to connect testers recently.

You First

The very first thing you can do to further your own research is to test yourself in three ways:

  • Autosomal DNA – Test at all 4 primary testing vendors, meaning FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, Ancestry and 23andMe. The reason for testing at (or transferring to) multiple vendors is because they each have a unique focus and tools. Perhaps more importantly, they each have different people in their databases. Each testing company has benefits. FamilyTreeDNA has people who tested as long as 20 years ago and are no longer available for testing. MyHeritage has many European testers and you’ll find matches there that you won’t find elsewhere if your ancestors came from Europe. Ancestry has the largest database, but fewer advanced tools.
  • Full Sequence Mitochondrial DNA Available at FamilyTreeDNA, this test allows focus solely on your matrilineal line, meaning your mother’s mother’s mother’s line directly without confusion introduced by DNA from other lines.
  • Y DNA – For males only, also available at FamilyTreeDNA, provides focus on the direct patrilineal, or surname, line.

Obviously, if you haven’t upgraded your own Y and mitochondrial DNA tests to the highest level possible, the first thing you can do is to test or upgrade to the highest level where you receive the most refined amount of information.

(There’s a sale at FamilyTreeDNA right now, lasting until August 31, 2020, so it’s a great time to upgrade or order Y and mitochondrial. Check it out here.)

Different Kinds of DNA Serve Different Genealogical Purposes

Let’s look, briefly at how the various types of DNA tests benefit genealogy. Autosomal tests that you and family members can take will help you find other family members to test for specific Y and mitochondrial DNA lines.

Remember that you can test family members in addition to yourself, so if you’re a female, you may want to recruit your father or an uncle or brother to represent your patrilineal line DNA. If you’d like to read a brief article about the different types of DNA and their benefits, 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy is a good resource.

Y and Mito Pedigree.png

In this image, you can see that if you’re a male you can test for both your Y (blue-square) and mitochondrial DNA (red-circle) ancestral lines. If you’re a female, you can test only your mitochondrial DNA because females don’t have a Y chromosome. Both males and females, of course, can test (green) autosomal DNA which reveals a different type of connection to all of your ancestral lines, but with autosomal, you have to figure out which people match you on which lines.

Y and mitochondrial DNA provides you with a different type of information about laser-focused specific lines that you can’t obtain through autosomal testing, and reaches back in time far beyond the curtain when surnames were adopted.

personal pedigree

You personally can only test for the red-circle mitochondrial DNA line, and perhaps the blue-square Y DNA line if you’re a male. Unless you find family members to test for the Y and mitochondrial DNA of your ancestors, you’re leaving valuable information unresearched. That means all those colored boxes and squares that aren’t blue or red.

I’ve solved MANY brick walls using both Y and mitochondrial DNA, often in conjunction with autosomal.

Let’s take a look at each type of DNA testing a little more in-depth, so that you understand how each one works and why they are important to genealogy.

The Specifics

Y DNA – Y DNA descends through the direct male paternal line and is inherited by men only. You match against other Y DNA testers, hopefully finding surname links.

The Big Y test and upgrade at FamilyTreeDNA provides testers with all 111 traditional STR markers, plus another 589+ STRs available only in the Big Y test, plus a scan of the balance of the rest of the Y chromosome that is useful for genealogy. SNP results are increasingly being used for genealogy, in addition to STRs.

SNPs group men into genetic lineages and STRs help with defining and refining the closest generations when matching to each other. Often, the benefits of these two tests overlap, which is why I recommend that males test to the Big Y-700 level which provides 700+ STR markers plus all SNPs with mutations that define ancestral lineages.

Y DNA haplogroups, derived from SNPs, reveal the geographic part of the world where the lineage originated, such as Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa, as well as a migration path across the continents based on where SNPs are and were historically found. Ancient DNA samples are being added to the database.

If you or a family member took an earlier Y DNA test, you can upgrade to the Big Y-700 today which provides you with matching for both the STR markers and separately, SNP markers, along with other genealogical tools.

You can order or upgrade your Y DNA here. Don’t forget family members accounts you may control. They may agree to have their kit upgraded too.

To upgrade, sign in to your account, and click on your desired upgrade level under Y DNA testing.

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Then click on upgrades.

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I wrote about Y DNA in these recent articles:

I have more Y DNA articles planned for the future.

You can search for additional articles by going to the main page of this blog and enter “Y DNA” into the search box for additional articles already published.

Many features such as the matches maps, haplogroup origins and ancestral origins pages are the same for Y DNA results as mitochondrial DNA results. You can view mitochondrial articles here.

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) – Mitochondrail DNA descends through the direct matrilineal line to both sexes of children. Everyone has mitochondrial DNA and it is inherited matrilineally by you from your mother, from her mother, from her mother, etc.

The FMS or full mitochondrial sequence DNA test tests the entire mitochondria that provides information about your direct matrilineal line. Family Tree DNA provides matching, which can sometimes lead to genealogical breakthroughs such as when I identified Lydia Brown, the mother of my Phoebe Crumley and then a couple years later, her mother, Phoebe Cole – via mitochondrial DNA. Those discoveries led us to her mother, Mary Mercy Kent, via genealogy records. All we needed was to punch our way through that initial brick wall – and mitochondrial DNA was our battering ram.

Additionally, you’ll receive a full haplogroup designation which allows you to look back in time before the advent of surnames and identifies the location where your ancestral line came from. For those seeking confirmation of Native American heritage, Y and mitochondrial DNA provides unquestionable proof and doesn’t wash out in time as autosomal DNA does.

Mitochondrial DNA includes haplogroups, matching and other genealogical tools.

You can order or upgrade you or a family member’s mitochondrial DNA here.

To upgrade, sign in to your account, and click on the desired upgrade level.

ymt mt upgrade

Then click on Upgrade if you’re upgrading or Add On if you’re ordering a new product for yourself.

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I wrote several mitochondrial DNA articles and compiled them into a summary article for your convenience.

Autosomal DNA – With autosomal DNA testing, you test once and there’s not an upgrade unless the vendor changes DNA testing platforms, which is rare. Each of the four vendors compares your DNA with all other people who’ve taken that test, or transferred from other companies. They match you with descendants from all of your ancestral lines. While the Y and mtDNA tests look back deeply in time as well as recently on one specific line, the autosomal tests are broad but not deep, spanning all ancestral lines, but limited to approximately 10 generations.

Each autosomal vendor has unique benefits and focus as well as shortcomings. I’ve listed the major points for each vendor relative to searching for Y and mitochondrial
DNA testing candidates. It’s important to understand the advantages of each vendor because it will help you understand the testers you are most likely to find in each database and may help focus your search.

FamilyTreeDNA’s Family Finder

  • Because FamilyTreeDNA archives customer’s DNA for 25 years, many people who tested Y or mitochondrial DNA 20 years ago and are now deceased upgraded to autosomal tests when they became available, or have been upgraded by family members since. These early testers often reach back another generation or so into the past to people born a century ago.
  • Advanced autosomal matching integrates with Y and mitochondrial DNA along with surname and other projects
  • Phased Family Matching provides the ability to link family members that match you to your tree which allows Family Tree DNA to group matches as paternal or maternal by utilizing matching segments to the same side of your family
  • Genetic Affairs, a third-party tool available for testers, builds common trees by reading the trees of your matches and comparing their trees with your own to identify common ancestors.
  • Genetic Affairs builds trees and pedigrees of your matches by searching for common ancestors in your MATCHES trees, even if you have no tree or don’t share those ancestors in your tree. This functionality includes Y and mitochondrial DNA if you have tested. This facilitates discovery of common ancestors of the people who you match, which may well lead you to ancestral discoveries as well.
  • Genetic Affairs offers clustering of your shared matches.
  • DNA file transfers are accepted from other vendors, free, with a $19 one time fee to unlock advanced tools.
  • Family Tree DNA has tested people worldwide, with a few location exceptions, since inception in the year 2000.
  • No direct triangulation, but Phased Family Matching provides maternal and paternal side triangulation when matches can be grouped into maternal and paternal sides.
  • Matches and segment match information are available for download.
  • The great thing about the advanced matching tool at Family Tree DNA is that it facilitates searching for people who match you on different kinds of tests, so it helps determine the potential closeness or distance of Y and mitochondrial relationships.

MyHeritage

Ancestry

  • Ancestry has the largest database, but did not begin testing until 2012 and did not test widely outside of the US/UK for some time. They now sell tests in 34 countries. Their testers are primarily focused in the US, Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, and diaspora, with some overlap into Europe.
  • Ancestry offers ThruLines, a tool that connects testers whose DNA matches with common ancestors in their trees.
  • Ancestry does not provide a chromosome browser, a tool provided by the other three primary testing companies, nor do they provide triangulation or matching segment location information necessary to confirm that you match on the same segment with other people.
  • Ancestry has issued cease and desist orders to third party tools that perform functions such as clustering, autotrees, autopedigrees or downloading of matches. Ancestry does not provide these types of features for their users.
  • Ancestry does not accept transfers, so if you want to be in Ancestry’s database, you must test with Ancestry.
  • No Y or mitochondrial DNA testing available.
  • Match list is not available for download.

23andMe

  • The primary focus of 23andMe has always been health testing, so many people who test at 23andMe are not interested in genealogy.
  • 23andMe tests are sold in about 50 countries, but not worldwide.
  • 23andMe provides a chromosome browser, triangulation, segment information and a beta genetically constructed tree for close matches.
  • 23andMe does NOT support a genealogical tree either uploaded or created on their site, making tree comparisons impossible.
  • Genetic Affairs AutoCluster works at 23andMe, but AutoTree and AutoPedigree do not because 23andMe does not support trees.
  • 23andMe does make match files available for downloading.
  • No Y or mitochondrial DNA full testing or matching, but basic haplogroups are provided.
  • 23andMe caps matches at 2000, less any matches that have opted out of matching. My matches currently number 1770.
  • 23andMe does not accept transfers from other vendors, so if you want to be in their database, you must test with 23andMe.

Reaching Out to Find Testers

Unfortunately, we only carry the mitochondrial DNA of our mother and only men carry the Y DNA of their father. That means if we want to obtain that DNA information about our other family lines, we have to find people who descend appropriately from the ancestor in question and test that person.

I’ll share with you how I search for people who descend from each ancestor. After finding that person, I explain the situation, why the different kinds of tests are important, and offer a testing scholarship for the Y or mtDNA test at Family Tree DNA if they have not already taken that test. If they’ve tested their autosomal DNA elsewhere. I also explain that they can transfer their autosomal DNA file for free too and will receive new matches.

Here’s an article with links to upload/download instructions for each testing company. Feel free to share.

Each DNA testing company has different features, but you can use all of the companies to find people descended in the appropriate way from each ancestor. It’s easier if you know how to utilize each vendor’s tools to optimize your chances of success. I’m going to step you through the search process with hints and tips for each vendor.

Finding Y DNA and Mitochondrial DNA Candidates at FamilyTreeDNA

Because FamilyTreeDNA tests for both Y and mitochondrial DNA and has for 20 years, you stand a better chance of finding a candidate there who may have already tested, so that’s where I always begin.

Y DNA

Let’s say, for example, that I need to find a male descendant of my Ferverda line in order to ask them to test for Y DNA. The person can be descended from either a close relative, if I know of one, or a more distant relative that I don’t know, but need to find through searching other ways.

Search for Surnames and Projects at Family Tree DNA

First, search the FamilyTreeDNA website for your goal surname among existing testers, and then the appropriate surname project to see if your line has already tested.

ymt ferverda

On the main page, here, scroll down to until you see the prompt, above, and enter the surname. Be sure to consider alternate spellings too.

ymt ferverda search.png

In this case, I see that there is a Ferverda surname project with 18 people, and scrolling on down, that 4 people with this specific surname have tested.

ymt results.png

However, searching for an alternate spelling, the way it’s spelled in the Netherlands, I find that another 10 people have tested.

ymt ferwerda

Of course, some may be females, but they probably know males by that surname.

First, I’m going to check the Ferverda DNA project to see if a Ferverda male from my line has tested, and if so, to what level.

Click on the project link in the search results to see the DNA Project.

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Note two things. First, the administrator’s name, as you may need this later. If you click on their name, their email address is displayed.

Second, click on DNA Results and select Y DNA if you’re presented with a choice. If the project has a public facing page, and most do, you’ll see something like the following information.

ymt project

Hey look, it’s my lucky day, given that both of these men descend from my ancestor. I happen to know that they have both taken the Big Y test, because I’m the project administrator, but you won’t know that. One way to get an idea is if they have less than the full 111 markers showing, they probably haven’t taken the Big Y, because a 111 upgrade is included in the Big Y test today.

You have three options at this point to contact one of these men:

  • See if the people are on your own autosomal DNA match list, or the match lists of kits from that family that you manage. If so, you can view their email address and contact them. If you haven’t yet tested autosomally, meaning the Family Finder test, at Family Tree DNA, you can transfer autosomal tests from elsewhere, for free, which means you will be viewing matches within hours or a couple days. Otherwise, you can order a Family Finder test, of course.
  • If the person with the Ferverda or Ferwerda surname is not on your Family Finder match list, reach out to the project administrator with a note to the person you want to contact and ask the administrator to forward your email to the project member.
  • If the administrator doesn’t answer, contact Family Tree DNA support and make the same request.

Checking Family Finder, one of those people is on my match list and I’m pretty sure it’s the right person, because when I click on his profile, not only does the haplogroup match the DNA project, but so does the ancestor.

ymt ferverda profile.png

Searching Family Finder

If there isn’t a DNA project match you can identify as your direct line ancestor, you can search your Family Finder matches for the surname to find a male with that surname. If your match has a tree, see if your ancestor or ancestral line is showing, then note whether they have taken a Y DNA test. They may have taken a Y test, but have not joined a project or not entered any “earliest known ancestor.” You can see which tests they’ve taken by looking at the little tabs above their profile on their tree, or on their profile card.

ymt ferverda tree

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Regardless, you’re now in touch with a potential contact.

Don’t dismiss females with that surname, or people who show that surname in their ancestral surname list. Women with the surname you’re looking for may have husbands, fathers, brothers or uncles who descend from the line you are seeking.

ymt search field.png

Utilize Genetic Affairs

My ace in the hole at FamilyTreeDNA is the Genetic Affairs AutoTree and AutoPedigree function.

Genetic Affairs is a third-party tool that you can use to assist with analysis of your matches at FamilyTreeDNA.

ymt genetic affairs

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At Genetic Affairs, selecting AutoTree generates trees where common ancestors of you and your matches, or your matches to each other, are displayed.

Your goal is to identify people descended from a common ancestor either directly paternally through all males for Y DNA or through all females to the current generation, which can be males, for mitochondrial DNA.

This article provides step-by-step instructions for the Genetic Affairs AutoTree and AutoPedigree functions.

Mitochondrial DNA

Mitochondrial DNA lineages are a bit more challenging because the surname changes every generation and DNA projects are unlikely to help.

The AutoTree/AutoPedigree report through Genetic Affairs serves the same purpose for mitochondrial DNA – building trees that intersect with a common ancestor. I generally drop the “minimum size of the largest DNA segment shared with the match” to 7 cM for this report. My goal running this report for this purpose isn’t to analyze autosomal DNA, but to find testing candidates based on how my matches descend from a specific ancestor, so I want to include as many matches as possible.

Family Finder Can Refine Y and mtDNA Information

In some cases, a Family Finder test can refine a potential relationship between two people who match on either Y DNA or mitochondrial. Additionally, you may want to encourage, or gift, specific matches with an upgrade to see if they continue to match you at higher testing levels.

Let’s say that two men match closely on a Y DNA test, but you’d like to know how far back the common ancestor lived.

ymt y matches.png

In this instance, you can see that the second match has taken a BIg Y and a Family Finder test, but the exact match (genetic distance of 0) has not. If the first individual cannot provide much genealogy, having them take a Family Finder test would help at least rule out a relationship through second cousins and would give you at least some idea how far back in time your common ancestor may have lived. If you do match on Family Finder, you receive an estimate of your relationship and can check the match level possibilities using the DNAPainter Shared cM Tool. If they upgrade to the Big Y-700 test, you may be able to differentiate your line from theirs, or confirm when and where a split occurred – or that there is no split.

This same autosomal testing scenario works for mitochondrial DNA.

For people who have taken both tests, Family Finder plus either Y or mitochondrial DNA, the Advanced Matching menu allows you to select combinations of tests and projects to query.

ymt advanced

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Finding Y and Mitochondrial DNA Candidates at MyHeritage

MyHeritage provides a wonderful tool called Theories of Family Relativity (TOFR) which finds common ancestors between you and your DNA matches, even if the ancestor is not in both trees, so long as a path exists between the two testers’ trees using other trees or research documents, such as census records. Of course, you’ll need to verify accuracy.

ymt tofr.png

At MyHeritage, select DNA Matches, then “Has Theory of Family Relativity.”

ymt mh ferverda

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You can see that I have 65 matches with a Theory of Family Relativity. Additionally, I can then search by surname.

ymt mh ferverda tree.png

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If I am looking for a Ferverda Y DNA candidate, I’ve found one thanks to this TOFR.

If you don’t find a tree where your match descends from your ancestor in the desired way, you can also widen the search by de-selecting Theories of Family Relativity and instead selecting SmartMatchs or shared surname combined with the name of your ancestor. There are many search and filter combinations available.

Let’s look at a mitochondrial DNA example where I’m searching for a descendant of Elizabeth Speaks who married Samuel Clarkson/Claxton.

ymt smartmatches

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In this case, I have one SmartMatch, which means that someone by the name of Elizabeth Speaks is found in my matches tree. I need to look to see if it’s the RIGHT Elizabeth Speaks and if my match descends through all females to the current generation. If so, I’ve found my mitochondrial DNA candidate and I can leave them a message.

You can also view SmartMatches (without a DNA match) from your own tree.

I can go to that person in my tree, click on their profile, and see how many SmartMatches I have. Clicking on 13 SmartMatches allows me to view those matches and I can click through to the connected trees.

ymt mt speaks.png

I can also click on “research this person” to discover more.

If you’re still not successful, don’t give up quite yet, because you can search in the records for trees that shows the person whom you seek. A SmartMatch is only created if the system thinks it’s the same person in both trees. Computers are far from perfect.

ymt mh trees

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Narrow the search as much as possible to make it easier to find the right individual, and then view the trees for descent in the proper manner.

Another wonderful tool at MyHeritage is the Genetic Affairs AutoCluster tool, built-in for MyHeritage users.

ymt mh cluster.png

The above cluster shows that one person carries the surname of Elizabeth’s husband. Viewing the accompanying spreadsheet for the AutoCluster run reveals that indeed, I’ve already identified a couple of matches as descendants of the desired ancestral couple. The spreadsheet shows links to their trees, my notes and more.

ymt cluster ss

Clusters show you where to look. Without the cluster, I had only identified two people as descendants of this ancestral couple. I found several more candidates to evaluate and two mitochondrial candidates are found in this cluster.

Finding Y and Mitochondrial DNA Candidates at 23andMe

23andMe is a little more tricky because they don’t support either uploaded or created user trees which makes finding descendants of a particular ancestor quite challenging.

However, 23andMe attempts to create a tree of your closer relatives genetically. which you can find under “DNA Relatives,” under the Ancestry tab, then “Family Tree” at the top.

I’ve added the names of my ancestors when I can figure out who the match is. Please note that this “created tree” is seldom exactly accurate, but there are often enough hints that you’ll be able to piece together at least some of the rest.

Here’s part of my “created” tree at 23andMe. I’m at far right.

ymt23 tree.png

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If you’re a genealogist, your eyes are going to glaze over about now, because the “people” aren’t in the correct locations – with maternal and paternal sides of the tree swapped. Also, please note, the locations in which they place people are estimates AND 23andMe does NOT take into account or provide for half-relationships.

That said, you can still obtain candidates for Y and mitochondrial DNA testing.

In this case, I’m searching for a mitochondrial DNA candidate for Evaline Miller, my grandfather’s mother or a Y DNA candidate for the Ferverda line.

I can tell by the surname of the male match, Ferverda, that he probably descends through a son, making him a Y DNA candidate.

Both Cheryl and Laura are possible mitochondrial DNA candidates for Evaline Miller, based on this tree, depending of course on how they actually do descend.

I can contact all of my matches, but in the event that they don’t answer, I’m not entirely out of luck. If I can determine EXACTLY how the match descends, and they descend appropriately for mitochondrial DNA, I can view the match to see at least a partial haplogroup. Since 23andMe only uses relatively close matches when constructing your tree, I’m relatively likely to recognize the names of the testers and may have them in my genealogy program.

By clicking on the Ferverda male, I can see that his Y haplogroup is I-Z58. That’s not nearly as refined as the Y DNA information at Family Tree DNA, but it’s something if I have nothing else and he doesn’t answer my query that would include the offer of a Y DNA test at Family Tree DNA.

ymt 23 hap

You can search at 23andMe by surname, but unless your match has entered their ancestral surnames and you recognize surnames that fit together, without a tree, unless your match answers your query, it’s very difficult to determine how you connect.

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You can also view “Relatives in Common,” hoping to recognize someone you know as a common match.

ymt relatives in common

Please note that 23andMe does allow testers to enter a link to a tree, but few do.

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It’s worth checking, and be sure to enter your own tree link location.

Finding Y and Mitochondrial DNA Candidates at Ancestry

Ancestry’s ThruLines provides an excellent tool to find both Y and mitochondrial DNA participants.

Ancestry organizes their ThruLines by ancestor.

ymt thrulines

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Select your desired Ancestor, someone whose DNA you seek. Clearly, Y DNA candidates are very easy because you simply choose any male ancestor in the correct line with the surname and look for a male match with the appropriate surname.

In this case, I’m selecting Martha Ruth Dodson, because I need her mitochondrial DNA.

ymt dodson.png

By clicking on her “card” I then see my matches assigned to her ThruLine.

Ymt ancestry thruline

Obviously, for mitochondrial DNA, I’m looking for someone descended through all females, so Martha’s daughter, Elizabeth Estes’s son Robert won’t work, but her daughter, Louisa Vannoy, at left is the perfect candidate. Thankfully, my cousin whom I match, at bottom left is descended through all females to the current generation, which can be male or female, so is a mitochondrial DNA candidate.

Finding Y and Mitochondrial DNA Candidates in Trees in General

I’ve utilized the combination of trees and DNA matches at FamilyTreeDNA through Genetic Affairs, Ancestry and MyHeritage, but you can also simply search for people who descend from the same ancestor based on their tree alone at the vendors who support trees as part of genealogical records. This includes both Ancestry and MyHeritage but also sites like Geneanet which is becoming increasingly popular, especially in Europe. (I have not worked extensively with Geneanet yet but plan to take it for a test drive soon.)

My reason for utilizing DNA matches+trees first is that the person has already been introduced to the concept that DNA can help with genealogy, and has obviously embraced DNA testing at least once. Not only that, with the assist of a Theory of Family Relativity, ThruLine or genetic Affairs automation tools, it’s much easier to find appropriate candidates.

Finding Y and Mitochondrial DNA Candidates at WikiTree

If you reach beyond DNA testing companies, WikiTree provides a valuable feature which allows people to specify that they descend from a particular ancestor, and if they have DNA tested, how they descend – including Y DNA, mitochondrial DNA and autosomal.

Here’s an example on the profile of John Y. Estes at WikiTree, one of my Estes ancestors.

ymt wiki.png

If someone descends appropriately for either Y or mitochondrial DNA line, and has taken that test, their information is listed.

In this case, there are two Y DNA testers and two autosomal, but no mitochondrial DNA which would have descended from John’s mother, of course.

You can click on the little green arrow icon to see how any DNA tested person descends from the ancestor whose profile you are accessing.

ymt wiki compare

Of course, the same surname for males is a good indication that the man in question is descended from that paternal line, but check to be sure, because some males took their mother’s surname for various reasons.

Here’s my line-of-descent from John Y. Estes. I can click on anyone else whose DNA information is listed as well to see how they descend from John. If they descend from John through all females, then they obviously descend from his wife though all females too which means they are a mitochondrial DNA candidate for her.

ymt wiki relationship.png

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Clicking on autosomal testers may reveal someone appropriately descended from the ancestor in question.

You can then click on any ancestor shown to view their profile, and any DNA tested descendants.

By clicking on name of the descendant whose DNA test you are interested in, you’ll be able to view their profile. Look for the Collaboration section where you can send them a private message that will be delivered by email from WikiTree.

ymt collaborate

Finding Y and Mitochondrial DNA Candidates at GedMatch

One final avenue to find Y and mitochondrial DNA candidates is through GedMatch, It’s probably the least useful option, though, because the major vendors all have some sort of tree function, except for 23andMe, and for some reason, many people have not uploaded GEDCOM files (trees) to GEDmatch.

Therefore, if you can find someone on GedMatch that tested elsewhere perhaps, such as LivingDNA who also provides a base haplogroup, or 23andMe, and they uploaded a GEDCOM file (tree) to GedMatch, you can utilize the GEDmatch “Find common ancestors” automated tree-matching functionality.

gedmatch mrca matches

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GEDmatch produces a list of your matches with common ancestors in their trees, allowing you to select the appropriate ancestor or lineage.

I wrote step-by-step instructions in the article, GEDmatch Introduces Automated Tree Matching.

Additionally, GEDmatch includes the Genetic Affairs AutoCluster tool in their Tier1 subscription offering,

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Gedmatch users who know their Y and mitochondrial haplogroup can enter that information in their profile and it will be reflected on the autosomal match list.

ymt gedmatch hap

Summary Chart

In summary, each testing vendor has a different focus and unique tools that can be used to search for Y and mitochondrial DNA candidates. Additionally, two other resources, WikiTree and GEDmatch, although not DNA testing vendors, can lead to discovering Y and mtDNA candidates as well.

I’ve created a quick-reference chart.

  Family Tree DNA MyHeritage Ancestry 23andMe Wikitree GEDmatch
Y DNA Test Yes No No No, partial haplogroup provided No test, listed by ancestor No, user entered
mtDNA Test Yes No No No, partial haplogroup provided No test, listed by ancestor No, user entered
DNA Projects Yes No No No Some Some
Strengths other than mentioned categories 20 year worldwide customer base, phased family matching European focus, SmartMatches, wide variety of filters Largest autosomal database Genetic tree beta DNA by ancestor May include users not found elsewhere who tested outside the major companies
Drawbacks No direct triangulation or tree matching No Genetic Affairs AutoTree or AutoPedigree Can’t download matches, no triangulation, clusters, AutoTree, or AutoPedigree No trees, 2000 match limit “One tree” may be incorrect Few trees, no AutoTree or AutoPedigree
Clustering Genetic Affairs Included in advanced tools No, prohibited Genetic Affairs N/A Included in Tier1
Genetic Affairs AutoTree & AutoPedigree Yes No No No, no tree support N/A No
Tree matching between users No, through Genetic Affairs Theories of Family Relativity ThruLines No Not directly MRCA common ancestors in Tier1

Now it’s your turn. Which Y and mitochondrial DNA lines can you find today?

Happy Hunting!

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6 & 7 cM Matches: Are 172 ThruLines All Wrong?

Are some 6-8 cM matches valid and valuable? If not, then are my 172 ThruLines that Ancestry created for me that include my 8 great-grandparents surnames at that level all wrong? Or the total of 552 ThruLines at 6 and 7 cMs all wrong?

We all know by now that about half of 6 and 7 cM matches will be identical by chance, meaning not valid, but that leaves about half that ARE valid. We need clues to be able to figure out IF these matches are valid, and the logical place to start is by utilizing three techniques.

  • First, if both of our parents have tested, does the person also match our parent, and if a chromosome browser is available, on the same segment.

If the answer is no, no need to go any further, this match is not valid. If yes, then we know if phases through one generation and we need to keep looking for evidence.

  • Second, the same litmus test, but with our closest known relatives that have tested. Does the match also match aunts, uncles, siblings, first cousins, or other known proven close relatives? Of course, if they match on the same segment, that’s family phasing and the beginning of triangulation and strongly, strongly suggests descent from the same common identified ancestor.

Note that Ancestry does NOT show you Shared Matches below 20 cM, so don’t assume those shared matches to family members don’t exist. Check your family members’ kits directly. Don’t rely only on Ancestry’s shared matches.

  • Third, surnames and trees that suggest common ancestral lines of DNA matches. That’s what Ancestry does for us with ThruLines. Let’s take a look at what I’ve found sorting and grouping my 6-8 cM matches at Ancestry.

There’s way more information than I expected to find.

Focus on Grouping

With Ancestry’s upcoming purge of all DNA customers’ 6 and 7 cM matches, inclusive, I’ve been very focused on grouping and saving those matches for future use. Otherwise, they will be gone forever, along with my genetic connection and any useful genealogical information.

I’ve written about the upcoming Ancestry purge here, here and here – including preservation strategies and how to communicate with Ancestry to share your feelings about this topic if you so choose. Note that this disproportionately affects people seeking unknown ancestors a few generations back in time.

Raise your hand if you have no unknown ancestors before 1870 or so…

Ancestry’s 6-8 cM Matches

I’ve been recording statistics as I’ve been grouping and working with results, and thought I’d share what I’ve found with you.

Ancestry tota.png

I have a total of 92,931 matches at Ancestry. This includes endogamous Acadian, Mennonite and Brethren lines, which produce lots of matches, but also multiple German and Dutch lines of relatively recent immigrants with almost no testers. So it probably evens out.

You’ll note that of my matches, 3,757 are estimated by Ancestry to be 4th cousin or closer, and Ancestry categorizes the rest of them as Distant matches, from 6-20 cM, although some of those wind up being closer than 4th cousins.

I have 27,926 6-cM matches, 16,846 7-cM matches and 11,428 8-cM matches. I was initially saving 8-cM matches because Ancestry was initially rounding 7.6 up to 8 and the only way to save all 7-cM matches was to save all 8-cM matches. Last week, Ancestry added decimal points so you don’t have to save 8-cM matches anymore, just all 6 and 7.

Without additional tools, all of those matches are overwhelming – but that’s exactly WHY we need technologies such as clustering, triangulation, ThruLines which Ancestry provides, a chromosome browser, family phasing, shared matches below 20 cM, and more.

You can certainly look at known genealogy and make inferences about common ancestors when you match someone genetically, and that’s very useful in and of itself.

However, you need more than just the fact that you match someone to confirm that you share a specific common ancestor biologically, not just on paper. Having said that, just having the breadcrumb of a DNA match to lead you to your cousins isn’t a bad thing in and of itself.

Of my total matches:

  • 18% are 7 cM
  • 30% are 6 cM
  • That’s a total of 48% of my matches that would have been lost later in August if I hadn’t grouped them.

Some people feel that matches at this level aren’t useful, but the line in the sand is very thin between a 7.99 cM deleted match and an 8.0 retained match where the former is lumped into the “not useful, so no big deal to lose” bucket and the other is just fine and potentially useful.

I get it, I really do, that everyone gets tired of explaining that NO, you can’t find one match and assume a valid connection, and yes, digging for evidence is work. There is no magic wand. Smaller or larger matches, they all need additional cumulative evidence to indicate that the match is valid, and how.

It’s time-consuming and frustrating educating people HOW to utilize all DNA matching appropriately. Those smaller matches take more effort to work with and require more evidence of legitimacy, but there are absolutely, assuredly many legitimate, useful, matches between 6-8 cM.

Furthermore, many of those matches reach back in time to those elusive ancestors we are seeking and can’t yet identify. We need more and better tools, not less data. Conversely, some 6-8 cM matches are as close as third or fourth cousins. I found 4 in one family and we’re sharing photos of our ancestors who were siblings, born in 1827 and 1829, respectively.

I’m not throwing half of my 6-8 cM coins away because some are gold and some are counterfeit.

If you are, I’ll take all of your coins and I’ll be happy to sort out the gold, thank you😊

Where’s the Gold?

Ancestry filter

You can search and sort in any number of ways at Ancestry. First, I checked to see how many of my 6 and 7 cM matches had common ancestors as identified by Ancestry via Thrulines.

6 cM 7 cM Total
Common Ancestors (ThruLines) 274 278 552

If I had not grouped these, I would have lost all 552 matches that Ancestry connected to common ancestors through ThruLines. Of course, each connection needs to be individually verified using traditional genealogical record searches. Keep in mind that ThruLines can only find matches where people connect in trees.

Without these 6 and 7 cM matches, any connecting genetic path or breadcrumbs to these people is gone.

Great-grandparents’ Surnames

Since I can filter by segment match size and surname, combined, at Ancestry, I decided to take a look at my 6-7 cM matches that would be purged had I not grouped them, and see what I can discover by surname utilizing the surnames of my great-grandparents.

That’s just 3 generations for me, meaning I could expect to carry more of the DNA of these ancestors than of ancestors further back in time.

I started with the “Match name” of Estes, meaning that the person who took the test has that name. Of course, some women could use their married surname, so this doesn’t mean that my match to that person is via that surname. It’s just a starting point, but probably a good hint.

I had 12 Estes surname matches in the 6-7 cM range. Of those:

  • 4 had no tree
  • 1 had a private tree
  • 1 had an unlinked tree
  • None had common identified ancestors meaning ThruLines
  • That leaves me with 7 candidates to work with directly, including the unlinked tree
  • Of those, I knew how 5 of their trees connect to the Estes line

Of course, I have the benefit of having worked with the Estes genealogy for decades along with the benefit of trees and other resources not at Ancestry. Connecting these lines took me about 15 minutes. In essence, I’ve turned them into virtual “ThruLines” by identifying the common ancestor, even if Ancestry didn’t.

I have not yet worked with the rest of my surname matches in the same way, but by preserving them by grouping, I can in the future.

I searched for both the “Match Name” and the “Surname in the Matches’ Trees,” separately. Some who carry the surname aren’t going to have trees and conversely, finding the surname in your matches’ trees is by no means an indication that that particular surname or ancestor is why you’re matching. However, it’s a great hint and a place to begin your research, including shared matches.

Be sure to check alternate spellings of surnames too.

Note that a surname that can also be part of a name returns all possible connections. For example if I’m searching for the Lore surname and the name of my match is Loreal Jones, it will still appear in the Match name list. The same applies to the name of the managing person.  However, scrolling through these is pretty easy.

So, what did I find?

Results!

I created this chart of what I discovered using the surnames of my great-grandparents along with common alternate spellings.

Surname Match Name Surname in Matches’ Trees Comments
Estes, Eastes 13 matches, no ThruLines 208 matches, 20 Thrulines
Bolton 6, no ThruLines 121, 14 Thrulines All 6 surname matches have trees and I can place some immediately.
Vannoy, Van Noy 2, no ThruLines 49, 10 ThruLines I can place 1 of the 2 surname matches and connect them to the Vannoy line. Their tree is unlinked and another is private. Checking the “include similar surnames box” resulted in 2355 results. Won’t do that again.
Ferverda, Fervida, Ferwerda 0 2, no ThruLines Confirmed a common ancestor in the Netherlands with one tester. An 1860s immigrant line.
Miller 175, 1 ThruLine 2248, 95 ThruLines Very common surname and Brethren. Shared matches, if over 20 cM which is Ancestry’s threshold would potentially be very helpful.
Clarkson, Claxton 2, no ThruLines 96, 22 ThruLines I need to break down a brick wall in this line. Also, maybe someone has a photo of my great-grandmother. I was able to provide a photo of someone else’s ancestors discovered as a 6 and 7 cM match to 4 family members.
Lore, Lord 112, no ThruLines 209, 10 ThruLines Acadian, endogamous. Lore is part of many other names.
Kirsch 0 18, 0 ThruLines 1850s German immigrant line. This was VERY helpful. I’ve already found previously unknown cousins and one line that I thought was defunct, isn’t.
Total 310, 1 ThruLine 2951, 171 ThruLines Total 3261 matches and 172 ThruLines

I’m not willing to throw these away.

Continue to Provide Feedback to Ancestry

I find the assertion that these smaller matches are neither accurate nor valuable simply mind-boggling. Clearly, as you can see above, these matches provide invaluable clues for us, as genealogists, to follow. Over time, I’ve proven many matches in this range (who have tested at or transferred to other vendors with a chromosome browser) to triangulate with several generations of family members using DNAPainter, so at least some matches are quite valid. And yes, we do have tools to accumulate evidence – the same exact tools we use for larger matches.

Imagine how much else is actually buried in those matches that could be distilled into useful information with technology tools.

I fully understand it’s in Ancestry’s best interest to delete these matches to free up processing resources, but I’m far from convinced that it’s in our best interest as avid genealogists.

I also realize that many if not most genealogists who aren’t as focused as many of you reading this article won’t notice or care, but that’s not the case for truly committed genealogists with years invested in this work. There’s valuable information there for those of us willing to commit our resources and invest our time to work on the matches.

The Proof is in the Pudding

The proof is in the results – those 3,261 surname matches that serve as immediate hints and 172 ThruLines that Ancestry themselves has assembled for us.

The more I work with these matches, the LESS convinced I am that they should be deleted. There is certainly chaff to be sifted and discarded, but Ancestry could take a more precise, surgical approach instead of a wholesale decapitation that will remove 48% of my matches and more for other people. I would certainly be more than happy to be part of a proactive discussion focusing on how to delete less useful matches or those we’ve determined to be invalid, but preserve the rest.

Of course, the easiest option would simply be for Ancestry to allow us to elect to retain current and elect to receive future 6-8 cM matches by checking a simple box and continue to provide those for those of us who care and are willing to work with them.

Yes, the remaining matches after the purge will indeed “be more accurate,” as Ancestry says, because fewer will be false, but many of the very matches you need to identify those elusive distant ancestors will almost assuredly be gone. The baby will have been thrown out with the bathwater.

It’s generally not any individual match itself, but groups or clusters of matches that point the way – shared matches and ThruLines. If half or more of the cluster we need is gone, with no way to connect the genetic dots, we may never discover the identity of those ancestors. That’s a shame, because it negates the very benefit of being in the largest autosomal database. In a way, both Ancestry and we as their clients are victims of their own success.

Perhaps Ancestry will yet reverse their decision and if not, perhaps Ancestry’s competitors will see an unfulfilled opportunity here. I’d be glad to be a part of those discussions as well.

Take a look. What valuable nuggets are hiding in your smaller matches? Be sure to group those matches to prevent their deletion.

Provide Feedback to Ancestry

There’s still time to provide your feedback to Ancestry if you don’t want to lose your 6-8 cM matches later this month. Ancestry needs to serve all of their genealogical customers who have taken DNA tests, not just the most convenient. I encourage Ancestry to develop useful tools as others have done instead of deleting the matches we need in order to unmask those unknown ancestors.

  • Email Ancestry support at ancestrysupport@ancestry.com although there have been reports from some that this email doesn’t work, so you may need to utilize another contact method.
  • You can initiate an online “chat” here.
  • Call ancestry support at 1-899-958-9124 although people have been reporting obtaining offshore call-centers and problems understanding representatives. You also may need to ask for a supervisor.
  • Ancestry corporate headquarters phone number on the website is listed as 801-705-7000.
  • You can’t post directly on Ancestry’s Facebook page, but you can comment on posts and you can message them.
  • Ancestry’s Twitter feed is here.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

August Hot News: Ancestry Match Tagging Script, DNA Sales, DNAPainter Newsletter & More

August news.png

This wasn’t exactly how I had in mind to convey these news items, but you know that saying, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans,”? Well, let’s just say it’s one of those weeks/months and years.

So, this article is going to be short and sweet, and I promise a more detailed article in a few days.

However, you need at least some of this info ASAP, so here it is in its rather unrefined raw state.

  • Ancestry Tagging Script
  • Ancestry Acquisition Update
  • Summer Sales
  • MyHeritage Sale
  • FamilyTreeDNA Sale
  • DNAPainter Free Newsletter
  • New Ancient Ancestor

Ancestry Tagging Script (to Save Your Sanity)

A very nice person, Roger Frøysaa, has written a free javascript to group your Ancestry matches. Of course, I’m referring to your 6-8 cM matches that are subject to the upcoming purge later in August.  I’m using Roger’s gracious gift, but struggling because the script keeps timing out, or Ancestry’s backend keeps timing out, etc.

You might need to be at least somewhat comfortable with computers for this to work and it doesn’t work on a tablet or iPad, but does work on a Mac.

I have the latest version of both Chrome and Edge browsers installed on a relatively new computer with lots of memory. For me, the script works best on Edge and in the middle of the night when Ancestry’s servers are less busy. Still, I can’t seem to get below my 6.2 cM matches without the script or Ancestry bombing. It doesn’t help any that my internet service has been flaky this week too.

The author recommends Firefox. (Update. I’ve installed Firefox and it’s running like a champ.)

Here are the instructions: https://docs.google.com/document/d/100BqYdjeVdwmHaT9gTL3miknxm7bKik4KwcHaoUX72I/edit?fbclid=IwAR04u0VQaaVeG-6pkif-ILYmLPQgHTtCf13A0lW4EMPTm0QwOb1hDb9o7L4

Print these out, read them thoroughly, and follow them step by step.

Here’s a link to the script on GitHub: https://github.com/lrf1/ancestry_scripts/blob/master/ancestry_dnsmatches_grouptagger_v2.js

Here’s a YouTube video about how to use the script: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnqGChJL0kw&fbclid=IwAR04iTVzcaKF8YJx2ewX_2rMEXQFaFaNIW5YfPQMlJYG6yfd1U6NvCN47Vc

Individual tweaking is required.

In my case, I have named the group where I want my 6-8 cM matches saved “1saved.” I selected that name because the 1 locates it near the top and I’ll know what’s there.

August ancestry 1saved

Following Roger’s instructions, 1saved should be row 3, but I had to enter row “2” in the script to get the matches to save to the group 1saved.

// MODIFY THE FOLLOWING LINES AS NEEDED

var groupTitle = “1saved“;

var groupRow = 2;

Regardless, the script works, and truthfully, all I really care about is that these matches are preserved.

My biggest problem occurs after the script bombs the first few times, and it will – you’ll need to restart it. Until the script manages to work its way to the location in the file, which is increasing further down in the scrolling, where it discovers matches to be tagged, I must re-enter and re-enter the script to reinitiate the searching.

This is by NO MEANS a complaint because I’m very grateful for this free tool. It’s just an observation that I hope will help you too. Having said that, I can’t tell you how many surnames like Bolton, my grandmother’s birth surname, Estes and Vannoy by various spellings, my great-grandmother’s surname I’ve seen scroll past as they are being tagged. There’s gold in those matches.

Furthermore, many people are reporting successes now that they’re actually looking at these smaller matches. If half of these are identical by chance, or false positives, that means half are NOT false and you need to use your analytical skills to figure out which is which.

Someone asked me earlier if I know anyone who will run the script or tag on behalf of someone else. I don’t, but you could ask on any number of Facebook groups, specifically the AncestryDNA Matching group or the ISOGG group.

If you’re NOT going to use the script, I recommend the following methodology to save at least some of your highest quality matches that are most likely to be relevant.

Select both “Common Ancestors” and “Shared DNA.” Enter the levels of shared DNA you want to view, meaning 6-6 or 6-7 or 7-7, which will display all of your matches where a potentially shared ancestor has been identified (ThruLine.)

August ancestry common plus 6.png

This won’t save anyplace near all of your 6-8 cM matches, but it will save the potentially most beneficial.

I wrote the article, Ancestry to Remove DNA Matches Soon – Preservation Strategies with Detailed Instructions, here, and Ancestry Match Purge Update here.

Note that Ancestry has stated they are delaying the purge until “late August,” but I’m seeing multiple people report that their 6-8 cM matches are already gone, so if you want to save them, one way or another, don’t delay.

Ancestry Acquisition Update

Ancestry’s announced acquisition by Blackstone Group, which I wrote about here, has raised questions about privacy. An article this week in Vice quotes both an Ancestry and Blackstone spokesperson on the topic who say that Blackstone will not have access to user data nor will it be shared with Blackstone’s portfolio companies.

Summer Sales Have Arrived

Late summer always ushers in summer DNA sales.

Right now, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, and Ancestry are having sales.

AncestryDNA is on sale for $59, here.

MyHeritage is on sale for $49, here and has a significant customer base in Europe where most of my ancestors originated.

Of course, FamilyTreeDNA has Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA in addition to autosomal plus 20 years’ worth of testers in their database.

Regardless of where you’ve tested, having family members in the same database makes your own test so much more valuable because many of your matches will match family members too. I’m in all of the databases, and several of my family members are as well.

Remember, you can transfer tests for free to both MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA from other vendors. Instructions for each company can be found here.

MyHeritage Sale

The MyHeritage DNA kit is on sale right now for $49 and free shipping with 2 or more.

August myheritage

Don’t forget that if you’ve tested elsewhere, you can transfer to MyHeritage for free and pay just $29 to unlock the advanced tools, such as Theories of Family Relativity, or subscribe to the full records package and the unlock is free.

Family Tree DNA Sale

Family Tree DNA offers their Family Finder autosomal test, but additionally, they offer Y and mitochondrial DNA testing and matching which provide insights you can’t obtain with autosomal DNA testing alone.

  • Y DNA is for males only and tests the direct paternal (surname) line.
  • Mitochondrial DNA is for both men and women and tests your direct matrilineal line – your mother, her mother, her mother, etc.

If you’ve already tested at a lower level, you can upgrade.

august ftdna 2

If you know what you want, go right ahead and order.

This is a wonderful time to order tests for family members who represent Y DNA and mitochondrial lines that you can’t test for yourself.

Early in the week, I’ll publish an article that shows how to locate people at each testing company who are appropriately descended from your ancestor whose Y DNA or mitochondrial DNA results you’d like to have.

This sale runs through the end of August, so you have time to search out and find people to ask if they’d be willing to test. Of course, if you already know people appropriately descended, by all means, ask them and get a kit on order. I generally offer a DNA testing scholarship so that the $$ factor is removed from my request. It makes it easier for them to say yes. If they agree, I add a Family Finder test too. I believe in striking while the iron is hot.

If you’d like to read about the different kinds of DNA testing, the article 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy is great to share with others as well.

Free DNAPainter Newsletter

I received an email this week from Jonny Perl at DNAPainter, one of my favorite tools, and he’s now offering a free monthly newsletter with tips on how to use DNAPainter. You can sign up here. I certainly did.

I’ve written extensively about DNAPainter, here.

New Ancient Mystery Ancestor

Guess what, you may have a new mystery ancestor. How cool is this??!!

LiveScience reported this week that scientists have detected traces of an earlier human ancestor in Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA. That ancient ancestor existed 200,000-300,000 years ago, in Africa, leaving and intermixing with the Neanderthals then living in the Middle East or elsewhere outside of Africa, but before the move to Europe.

You can read the PLOS article, here.

I don’t know about you, but I find this absolutely fascinating.

TTFN

Enough news for now, although I’ve probably forgotten something.

Order a DNA test, find an ancestor, subscribe to the DNAPainter newsletter, and enjoy summer, safely.

I’ll see you later this week with an article about how to search for family members, in particular Y and mitochondrial DNA carriers that represent your ancestral lines. You never know what critical information is waiting just to be discovered.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Identifying Unknown African American Lineages Using DNA

My article asking Ancestry to reconsider purging 6-8 cM matches due to the effects on African American genealogy raised questions about how one could identify a lineage for an African American (or anyone really) who has no knowledge of their tree beyond a certain point in time.

That’s actually a really good question, so let me explain by using examples from my own family that illustrate how the science and matching techniques work together.

African American DNA isn’t any different than other DNA. What is different is that African Americans have absolutely no records, no surname and no context before emancipation in the 1860s and the first census in 1870. Many, and especially new researchers, have no idea where to look and without records, DNA is their only way to make connections back in time.

Unfortunately, this is also the threshold in time where the DNA of ancestors prior to 1870 is now chopped into segments the size of 6-8 cM.

Accidental Discovery

This week, while I was working on evaluating my smaller segment matches at Ancestry, I noticed that one was to an African American man, based on his profile picture, with whom I shared 7 cM.

AA Frank.png

I clicked on the match and then on Shared Matches. Even though this match is only 7cM, Shared Matches of 20 cM or above will show. The only shared matches that won’t show are shared matches below 20 cM, because they are presumed to be further back in time than 4 generations. I do wish Ancestry would show all shared matches.

We had 12 shared matches, ranging from 20 to 57 cM. some that I had previously identified as descending from the same couple.

I thought I recognized two or three of these people as having tested at other vendors.

I reached out to my match, we’ll call him Frank. He said that his mother, aunt and another relative had all tested at Ancestry too. I told Frank that I didn’t see their names in our Shared Matches, when I realized that could be because I shared less than 20 cM with them.

Sure enough, when I searched for the surname of the testers in question, they are all 4 on my match list.

AA Frank's family

Based on who we match in common at Ancestry, I *thought* I knew which ancestral couple we share in common. We all only match on one segment, but I can’t tell if it’s the same segment of course without a chromosome brower. And I can’t tell if these people also match each other at Ancestry on a common segment, although I would certainly presume so since he told me that they are closely related.

I asked Frank to transfer their results to either FamilyTreeDNA or MyHeritage, the other two vendors that accept transfers, where we can obtain segment information. Frank and two of his relatives transferred from Ancestry to FamilyTreeDNA where I’ve tested many family members over the years.

When I can identify a common ancestor with a match at any vendor that provides segment information, I paint those segments at DNAPainter.

Indeed, I did match Frank and his family members on the same segment, as do many of my cousins who are confirmed to have descended from a common ancestor.

The graphic below from DNAPainter shows all of my matches to this segment from all vendors identified to the purple couple.

AA Frank paint.png

I went to DNAPainter and painted these three smaller segment matches from Frank and his relatives, assigning them to the same ancestral couple. As you can see, they fit right in.

Can you tell which three of the people above are these three new cousins that I matched initially on 7 and 8 cM at Ancestry? No, of course not, because this is the exact same segment where I match all of my other cousins who are all assigned to the purple couple.

Given that these matches shown in purple are all descended from a specific line, my three newly-found cousins match them and must be related to that line in some way.

This match isn’t identical by chance, because their segment phases within their family, through Frank’s mother and another close relative.

We all share the same DNA, it’s phased in Frank’s family through three generations, so the conclusion must be that we share a common ancestor. This is an example of classic triangulation with many proof points.

Frank and his relatives then searched for the surname in question and found more people in their match lists from this same couple. They just didn’t know where to look before, but now they do.

If we accept that shared DNA between all of the purple people who are identified as descendants of the same ancestors share that ancestral couple’s lineage because they share the same DNA segments, and because they all match each other, then we must also accept that our three new cousins share the same genealogical line, because they share the same DNA as the previously proven cousins.

Now, of course, we need to work on geography and proximity, meaning figuring out exactly how our new cousins might descend from this line. We can also work on identifying matches to the wives lines’, if the wives are known, which may help place the most recent common ancestor. It’s also possible that we match because of an ancestor upstream of the purple couple.

In this case, there is no male in our match list that is descended from the appropriate surname line, so Y DNA testing is not an option. They are currently looking to see if they can find a qualifying male to test.

However, in another case, from some months back, we were able to identify an appropriately descended male.

The Smith Case

In this case, Smith is the fictitious biological surname. The tester, we’ll call him Joe, was an African American male who didn’t know who his family was before emancipation.

Joe and I initially discovered several random, mostly relatively small, common autosomal DNA matches that are part of an identified triangulation group. This was enough to identify the family in general and provide us with a working theory about who might have been his ancestor, but we needed more information.

Eventually, Joe found a male that descended from his ancestor who we’ll call Harold, a male emancipated when slavery ended. That man Y DNA tested, and indeed, his Y DNA matches my Smith family paternal line exactly.

Several of my proven Smith ancestor’s known relatives’ autosomal DNA matches the DNA of Harold’s family. Joe asked several family members from various children of Harold to test, and they too match various Smith descendants on many of the exact same segments of DNA.

AA Smith paint

I don’t match all of Joe’s relatives, but I do match some. On this common smaller segment of 7.7 cM, Joe’s family is painted in green and purple. My oldest progenitor, the Smith Father is painted in blue. Descendant generation matches are painted in other colors. However, since I now know that the blue portion is progenitor Smith, all of these segments can be tracked back to him on that side of the family – along with the segments carried by Joes family members who descend from multiple children of his progenitor. In reality, we now know that all these segments are actually blue – because it’s the exact same DNA.

That’s not all. There’s more evidence.

My Smith ancestor owned a female slave, and there were only two males of the right age that could have impregnated the mother of Harold who was emancipated. His mother had died before emancipation. The male child, Harold, listed as a mulatto was found in the 1870 census living in the household of the widow of father Smith. Did she, or did she not know that Harold was either her deceased husband’s son or her grandson?

In this Smith case, we have several pieces of evidence:

  • Some paper-trail records including the census and Harold’s death certificate listing his mother carrying the Smith surname. However, it was not uncommon for slaves to be identified by their master’s surnames as an identifier of ownership, not of marriage or descent. Harold’s father was listed as unknown, also not uncommon.
  • Geography – we know where both families lived which was both remote and mountainous.
  • Opportunity – two Smith males of an age to father a child, the Smith father and son, and no other Smith males.
  • Y DNA exact match of Harold’s descendant to the Smith family males at 111 markers.
  • Autosomal DNA evidence on a triangulated segment in an identified triangulation group to me, shown above, and other triangulated segments to other Smith family members.
  • Triangulated DNA in my family of people that descend from father Smith
  • Triangulated segments of DNA in Joe’s family that descend from multiple children, tracking those segments back to Harold, eliminating the possibility that they are identical by chance in the current generation

The smaller segment DNA evidence led us here. How much evidence do we need to draw at least a preliminary conclusion that Joe is a cousin? And, given that Joe’s family’s DNA matches the Smith family DNA exactly, and in descendants of multiple children in both lines, what other possible explanation is there? Add to that the Y DNA evidence.

Can I tell Joe whether Harold’s father was the Smith father or the Smith son? If Joe and his family autosomally match the ancestors of the Smith widow, then Joe’s ancestor is (probably) the child of the Smith son. So far, they don’t, so it’s most likely that the Smith father is our common ancestor, not the Smith son.

Joe then added Harold as a child of my Smith ancestor on Ancestry, using Harold’s biological surname, Smith, in an attempt to cause a ThruLine to form. Of course, had Joe used a different surname, one that Harold adopted at emancipation, assuming it was different from Smith, the ThruLine would not have formed. Another challenge for African American researchers or anyone whose biological surname is not the same as their surname used.

When I checked my ThruLines this week, I found three people descended from our common ancestor, Joe plus two more family members that I didn’t know had tested at Ancestry.

AA Smith match.png

These matches are now safely “saved” and won’t disappear when the purge occurs in early August, but the two 6 cM matches would clearly have disappeared otherwise and the 8 cM segment at Ancestry was a 7.7 segment at the other testing company, so it would likely have disappeared too. Ancestry rounds.

Joe’s segment match to me was the key to being able to reconnect our families initially. Without this critical clue, we would never have been able to reunite our family. Yes, we are a family. We’ve met and had a reunion. We’ve shared meals. I am watching his beautiful children grown up. And we would never have found each other without DNA.

All thanks to those segments between 6 and 8 cM that some opine aren’t real and aren’t relevant.

Some matches aren’t relevant which is why we need more evidence than one match, but some are very valid and therein lies the gold.

pexels-photo-1371168

Those matches are the gateway to research – clues to be evaluated just like any other clue. All evidence must be evaluated, genetic or otherwise.

We don’t discard census records out of hand because they might not be our ancestor without evaluating the evidence presented. DNA matches that stand a 50% chance of being accurate (at 7 cMs) and not false positive shouldn’t be categorically dismissed either.

A starving person doesn’t discard a basket of produce because only half of it is edible. Yet, that’s what’s about to happen.

African American Testing

African Americans who test have a blank slate, with no surnames, to work with before emancipation. Segment matches, and often segments between 6 and 8 cM because the passage of time has whittled them to this size, are the clues that allow African American researchers to begin reassembling their ancestral family.

In many cases, genealogists more fortunate don’t need smaller segment matches to piece together our family puzzles, but those working with little or no information on any line before 1870 need every clue they can get. The rest of us can simply ignore what we don’t want – but they can’t recover something taken from them.

Had it not been for that 8 cM match with Joe (actually 7.7 at the other vendor), I wouldn’t have found those cousins, and I wouldn’t have been able to figure out the line through which we are related. Without my work with known family, it’s very unlikely that Joe and his family would have been able to figure this out with no context. For them, it was a needle in the haystack. For me, I had already identified those ancestors and assigned relevant DNA segments to those ancestors. For me, there were records outside of DNA and DNA only confirmed my genealogy. For them, DNA is all they have – just a genetic  prayer.

These are just two examples of how DNA connections reassemble families for African Americans specifically and other researchers whose more distant family members are unknown.

Please Share

Feel free to share your experiences in the comments.

Please also share this and my original article with your genealogy friends and organizations. This topic is not welcome in some places. We don’t have long, so it’s up to you to spread the word.

Plea to Ancestry – Rethink Match Purge Due to Deleterious Effect on African American Genealogists

I’m still hopeful that Ancestry will reconsider. It benefits them, and us, to do so.

Ancestry’s email is ancestrysupport@ancestry.com and phone is 1-800-958-9124.

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Plea to Ancestry – Rethink Match Purge Due to Deleterious Effect on African American Genealogists

I know this article is not going to be popular with some people and probably not with Ancestry, but this is something I absolutely must say. Those of us in the position of influencers with a public voice bear responsibility for doing such.

Let me also add that if you are of European heritage and you think this topic doesn’t apply to you – if you have any unidentified ancestors – it does. Don’t discount and skip over. Please read. Our voices need to be heard in unison.

Ancestry Lewis.jpg

The Bottom Line

Here’s the bottom line. Ancestry’s planned purge of smaller segments, 6-8 cM, is the exact place that African Americans (and mixed Native Americans too) find their ancestral connections. This community has few other options.

I’m sure, given the Ancestry blog post by Margo Georgiadis, Ancestry’s President and CEO on June 3rd that this detrimental effect is not understood nor intentional.

Ancestry Margo

Margo goes on to say, “At Ancestry, our products seek to democratize access to everyone’s family story and to bring people together.”

Yet, this planned match purge at the beginning of August does exactly the opposite. The outpouring of anguish from African American researchers has been palpable as they’ve described repeatedly how they use these segments to identify their genetic ancestors.

Additionally, my own experiences with discovering several African American cousins over the past few days as I’ve been working to preserve these smaller segment matches has been pronounced. I can even tell them which family they connect through. A gift them simply cannot receive in any other way – other than genetic connections

These two factors, combined, the community outcry and my own recent experiences are what have led me to write this article. In other words, I simply can’t NOT write it.

I trust and have faith that Ancestry will rethink their decision and utilize this opportunity for good and take positive action. Accordingly, I’ve provided suggestions for how Ancestry can make changes that will allow people on both sides of this equation, meaning those who want to keep those smaller segment matches and those glad to be rid of them, to benefit – and how to do this before it’s too late.

I don’t know if Ancestry has African American genealogists who are both passionate and active, or mixed-race genealogists, on their management decision-making team or in their influencer group, but they should.

I don’t think Ancestry realizes the impact of what they are doing. African American research is different. Here’s why.

African American History and Genetic Genealogy

Slavery ended in the US in the 1860s. Formerly enslaved persons who had no agency and control over their own lives or bodies then adopted surnames.

We find them in the 1870 census carrying a surname of unknown origin. Some adopted their former owner’s surname, some adopted others. Generally today, their descendants don’t know why or how their surnames came to be.

Almost all descendants of freed slaves are admixed today, a combination of African, European and sometimes Native Americans who were enslaved alongside Africans.

Closer DNA matches reflect known and unknown family in the 3 or 4 generations since 1870, generally falling in the 2nd to 4th cousin range, depending on the ages of the people at the time of emancipation and also the distance between births in subsequent generations.

Ancestry freed ancestors.png

The three red generations are the potential testers today. The cM values, the amount of potential matching DNA at those relationship levels are taken from DNAPainter, here, which is an interactive representation of Blaine Bettinger’s Shared cM Project.

Assuming we’re not dealing with an adoption or unknown parent situation, most people either know or can fairly easily piece together their family through first or second cousins.

You can see that it’s not until we get to the third and fourth cousin level that genealogists potentially encounter small segment matches. However, at that level, the average match is still significantly above the Ancestry purge threshold of 6-8 cM. In other words, we might lose some of those matches, but the closer the match, the higher the probability that we will match them (at all) and that we will match them above the purge threshold.

Looking again at the DNAPainter charts, we see that it’s not until we move further out in terms of relationships that the average drops to those lower ranges.

Ancestry DNAPainter

Here’s the challenge – relationships that occurred before the time of emancipation are only going to be reflected in relationships more distant than fourth cousins – and that is the exact range where smaller segment matches can and do come into play most often.

The more distant the relationship, the smaller the average amount of shared DNA, which means the more likely you are ONLY to be able to identify the relationship through repeated matching of other people who share that same ancestor.

Let me give you an example. If you match repeatedly to a group of people who descend from Thomas Dodson in colonial Virginia, through multiple children, especially on the same segment, you need to focus on the Dodson family in your research. If you’re a male and your Y DNA matches the Dodson line closely, that’s a huge hint. This holds for any researcher, especially for females without surnames, but it applies to all ancestral lines for African American researchers.

If an African American researcher is trying to identify their genetic ancestors, that likely includes ancestors of European origin. Yes, this is an uncomfortable topic, but it’s the unvarnished truth.

Full stop.

How Can African Americans Identify European Ancestors?

While enslaved people did not have surnames from the beginning of their history on these shores until emancipation, European families did. Male lines carried the same surname generation to generation, and female surnames changes in a predictable pattern, allowing genealogists to track them backward in time (hopefully.)

Given that African American researchers are literally “flying blind,” attempting to identify people with whom to reconnect, with no knowledge of which families or surnames, they must be able to use both DNA matches and the combined ancestral trees of their matches in order to make meaningful connections.

For more information on how this is accomplished, please read the articles here and here.

Tool or Method How it Works Available at Ancestry?
Y DNA for males Identifies the direct paternal line by surnames and also the haplogroup provides information as to the ancestral source such as European, African, Asian or Native American. No, only available at FamilyTreeDNA.
Mitochondrial DNA Identifies the direct matrilineal line. The haplogroup shows the ancestral source such as European, Native American, Asian or African. You can read about the different kinds of DNA, here. No, only available at FamilyTreeDNA
Clustering Identifies people all matching the tester and also matching to each other. No, available through Genetic Affairs and DNAGedcom before Ancestry issued a cease and desist letter to them in June.
Genetic Trees Tools to combine the trees of your matches to each other to identify common ancestors of your matches. You do not need a known tree for this to work. No, available at Genetic Affairs before Ancestry issued a cease and desist letter to them.
Downloading Match Information Including the direct ancestors for your matches. No, Ancestry does not allow this, and tools like Pedigree Thief and DNAGedcom that did provide this functionality were served with cease-and-desist orders.
Painting Segments Painting segments at DNAPainter allows the tester to identify the ancestral source of their segments. Multiple matches to people with the same ancestor indicates descent from that line. This is how I identify which line my matches are related to me through – and how I can tell my African American cousins how they are related and which family they descend from. No. Ancestry does not provide segment location information, so painting is not possible with Ancestry matches unless both people transfer to companies that provide matching segment information and a chromosome browser (MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA)
ThruLines at Ancestry Matches your tree to same ancestor in other people’s trees. ThruLines is available to all testers, but the tester MUST have a tree and some connection to an ancestor in their tree before this works. Potential ancestors are sometimes suggested predicated on people already in the tester’s tree connected to ancestors in their matches trees. For ThruLines to work, a connection must be in someone’s tree so a connection can be made. There are no tree links for pre-emancipation owned families. Those connections must be made by DNA.
DNA Matching Matching shows who you match genetically. Testers must validate that the match is identical by descent and not identical by chance by identifying the segment’s ancestry and confirming through either a parental match or matching to multiple cousins descending from the same ancestor at that same location. Segments of 7 cM have about a 50-50 chance of being legitimate and not false matches. Of course, that means that 50% are valid and tools can be utilized to determine which matches are and are not valid. All matches are hints, one way or another. You can read more, here. Ancestry performs matching, but does not provide segment information. Testers can, however, look for multiple matches with the same ancestors in their trees. Automated tools such as Genetic Affairs cannot be used, so this needs to be done one match at a time. The removal of smaller segment matches will remove many false matches, but will also remove many valid matches and with them, the possibility of using those matches to identify genetic ancestors several generations ago, before 1870.
Shared Matching Shows tester the people who match in common with them and another match. Ancestry only shows shared matches of “fourth cousins and closer,” meaning only 20 cM and above. This immediately eliminates many if not most relevant shared matches from before emancipation – along with any possibility of recovering that information.

The Perfect, or Imperfect, Storm

As you can see from the chart above, African American genealogists are caught in the perfect, or imperfect, storm. Many tools are not available at Ancestry at all, and some that were have been served with cease-and-desist letters.

The segments this community most desperately needs to make family connections are the very ones most in jeopardy of being removed. They need the ability to look at those matches, not just alone, but in conjunction with people they match in clusters, plus trees of those clustered matches to identify their common ancestors.

Ancestry has the largest database but provides very few tools to benefit people who are searching for unknown ancestors, especially before 1850 – meaning people who don’t have surnames to work with.

Of course, this doesn’t just apply to African American researchers, but any genealogist who is searching for women whose surnames they don’t know. This also applies to people with unknown parentage that occurred a few generations back in time.

However, the difference is that African American genealogists don’t have ANY surnames to begin with. They literally hit their brick wall at 1870 and need automated tools to breach those walls. Removing their smaller segment matches literally removes the only tool they have to work with – the small scraps and tidbits available to them.

Yes, false matches will be removed, but all of their valid matches in that range will be removed too – nullifying any possibility of discovery.

A Plan Forward

You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m no longer invited to the Ancestry group calls. I’m fine with that because I’m not in any way constrained by embargoes or expectations. I only mention this for those of you who wonder why I’m saying this now, publicly, and why I didn’t say it earlier, privately, to Ancestry. I would have, had the opportunity arisen.

That said, I want to focus on finding a way forward.

Some options are clearly off the table. I’m sure Ancestry is not going to add Y or mitochondrial DNA testing, since they did that once and destroyed that database, along with the Sorenson database later. I’m equally as sure that they are not going to provide segment location information or a chromosome browser. I know that horse is dead, but still, chromosome browser…

My goal is to identify some changes Ancestry can make quickly that will result in a win-win for all researchers. It goes without saying that if researchers are happy, they buy more kits, and eventually, Ancestry will be happier too.

Right now, there are a lot, LOT, of unhappy researchers, but not everyone. So what can we do to make everyone happier?

Immediate Solutions

  • Remove the cease and desist orders from the third-party tools like Genetic Affairs, DNAGedcom, Pedigree Thief and other third-party tools that researchers use for clustering, automated tree construction, downloading and managing matches.

This action could be implemented immediately and will provide HUGE benefits for the African American research community along with anyone who is searching for ancestors with no surnames. Who among us doesn’t have those?

  • Instead of purging small segment matches, implement a setting where people can define the threshold where they no longer see matches. The match would still appear to the other person. If I don’t want to see matches under 8 cM, I can select that level. If someone else wants to see all matches to 6 cM, they simply do nothing and see everything.
  • Continue to provide new matches to the 6 cM level. In other words, don’t just preserve what’s there today, but continue to provide this match level to genealogists.
  • Add shared matches under 20 cM so that genealogists know they do form clusters with multiple matches.

Longer-Term Solutions

  • Partner with companies like Genetic Affairs and DNAgedcom, tools that provided not just match data, but automated solutions. These wouldn’t have been so popular if they weren’t so effective.
  • Implement some form of genetic networks, like clustering. Alternatively, form alliances with and embrace the tools that already exist.

The Message Customers Hear

By serving the third-parts tools that serious genealogists used daily with cease-and-desist orders, then deleting many of our matches that can be especially useful when combined with automated tools, the message to genealogists is that our needs aren’t important and aren’t being heard.

For African American genealogists, these tools and smaller matches are the breadcrumbs, the final breadcrumb trail when there is nothing else at all that has the potential to connect them with their ancestors and connect us all together.

Let me say this again – many African Americans have nothing else.

To remove these small matches, rays of hope, is nothing short of immeasurably cruel, and should I say it, just one more instance of institutionalized racism, perpetrated without thinking. One more example of things the African American community cannot have today because of what happened to them and their ancestors in their past.

Plea

I will close this plea to Ancestry with another quote from Margaret Georgiadis from Ancestry’s blog.

Ancestry Margo 2.png

Businesses don’t get to claim commitment when convenient and then act otherwise. I hope this article has helped Ancestry to see a different perspective that they had not previously understood. Everyone makes mistakes and has to learn, companies included.

Ancestry, this ball’s in your court.

Feedback to Ancestry

I encourage you to provide feedback to Ancestry, immediately, before it’s too late.

You can do this by any or all of the following methods:

Ancestry support

Ancestry BLM.png

Speak out on social media, in groups where you are a member, or anyplace else that you can. Let’s find a solution, quickly, before it’s too late in another 10 days or so.

As John Lewis said, #goodtrouble.

Make a difference.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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Ancestry to Remove DNA Matches Soon – Preservation Strategies with Detailed Instructions

Yesterday, Ancestry announced that they are going to remove smaller matches from their customer’s DNA match list around the first of August. I was not on this conference call myself. However, it’s a small community and others have reported consistent information.

I’m going to report what was said, then lay out a strategy for you to preserve your most useful smaller matches.

Update 7-18-2020: I have received clarification on several questions. I’m putting the updated information here:

Only segments below 8 will be deleted. However, Ancestry “rounds up,” so a segment between 7.5 and 7.99999(repeating) will be rounded up to 8. The only way to assure that you save all of the segments between 7.5 and 8 that you wish to preserve is to add all 8cM segments to groups or make notes, as described in the instructions. I’m referring to these segments as 6-8 cM segments.

ONLY segments to be salvaged will be ones in groups, with notes or matches whom you have messaged. Ancestry has confirmed that matches without these things, meaning matches in ThruLines or that you have placed in your tree will NOT BE PRESERVED unless they are grouped, have notes or you’ve messaged. 

The determining factor is total cM, not smallest cM. So total cM between 6 and 7.9999, which rounds up to 8 will be removed. Multiple 6 cM segments where the total is 12 will be fine, for example. Again, it’s the total cMs, so no math needed.

Also, in August, Ancestry is adding decimal points to the amount of cMs. After that occurs, you won’t need to save 8 cM matches to salvage 7 cM matches that have been rounded up. Focus on 6 and 7 cM first.  

7-26-2020 Update – Ancestry has posted that they have delayed the purge until the beginning of September, allowing another month to save 6-8 cM matches. They also confirmed that starred matches (in the groups) will also be saved. 

A Little Background

For a bit of history, this isn’t the first time that Ancestry has removed a large number of matches. In fact, they’ve done it twice previously, first with the introduction of their Timber algorithm resulting in a loss of over 50% of matches, an event nicknamed “Autosomalgeddon.” The screaming could be heard round the world.

In May of 2016, Ancestry revised their algorithm again which resulted in losses.

Then, as now, Ancestry told customers the matches that they lost would be mostly “false matches,” but in many cases, these matches proved to be accurate but from endogamous populations. For example, I lost most of my Acadian matches because Ancestry determined that they were simply a “pile-up region.” Those matches have proven to be valid and triangulate elsewhere.

In any case, there’s no point in crying over spilled milk.

However, the glass is about to be tipped over again so let’s figure out how to make the best of this situation and preserve as much as we can.

Why Now?

Recently, Ancestry announced that they have sold a total of 18 million DNA tests. That’s good news for testers, at least on the surface.

Ancestry overtaxed.png

If you’re a regular Ancestry user, you might have noticed that their response recently has been slow and buggy with regular timeouts. I see this notice regularly.

Last month, Ancestry’s lawyers sent cease-and-desist letters to every third party tool (that I know of) that their DNA customers can utilize in order to perform activities such as clusters, downloading a match list and downloading a list of direct line ancestors for your matches into a spreadsheet so that you can search for common surnames that might NOT already be in your tree. That, by the way, combined with triangulation, is the key to breaking down brick walls and pointing the way to previously unidentified ancestors – but I digress.

As you know, I’m a huge fan of both Genetic Affairs and DNAgedcom, both of whom provided tools to enhance and manage the huge list of matches at Ancestry – turning those individual matches into something infinitely more useful.

Ancestry 92K

No one can reasonably evaluate 92,000 matches or make use of most of them.

Ancestry match categories.png

You can see how many matches fall into each group. Unfortunately, by selecting the custom range, the list of matches is displayed, but the number of matches in that range is not displayed.

The answer is NOT to remove those smaller matches unilaterally, which is the approach that Ancestry is taking, but to utilize better tools to identify valid matches.

These third-party tools signed on to our account, with our permission, on our behalf, and utilized the power of computers to process data that would take us days, if it was possible at all with the huge number of matches that each person has now. This is, after all, the purpose of computers – right?!?

While I was certainly unhappy with the letters threatening the people who provide us with tools to utilize our own results – I was hopeful that it meant that Ancestry was going to provide something similar internally.

Now, retrospectively, I think that Ancestry is trying to find a way to manage their 18 million testers and their matches without adding infrastructure resources. They want to reduce the processing load and when the cease-and-desist letters didn’t have the desired effect on their servers, they looked for other methodologies.

Clearly, providing users with fewer matches means less to manage in a database which equates to freeing up resources.

Ancestry’s commentary is reportedly that this purge will remove “most false matches.” Of course, it will also remove all accurate matches at that level too – and yes, you can in many cases tell the difference.

False Matches

According to LostCousins and others who were on the call, Ancestry indicates that they will remove most if not all matches less than 8 cM. Today, the matching threshold after Timber and Ancestry’s academic (not parental or family) phasing algorithm is 6 cM. Their current algorithms are intended to remove most false matches.

An 8 cM match can be any of the following relationships, according to Ancestry:

Ancestry 8 cm percent

However, as genetic genealogists, we know that with unphased data, 7cM matches are equally as likely to be false matches, identical by chance, as they are to be genuine matches.

There are certainly better ways to assure valid matching other than a mass deletion, such as:

  • Clusters (like Genetic Affairs, DNAgedcom and others,) genetic networks that indicate that people in clusters are related to each other. These are like shared ancestors on steroids.
  • Phased Data (like FamilyTreeDNA’s Phased Family Matching) that phases your matches with known family members, assigning the match either maternally or paternally.
  • Triangulation (like at MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA and via third-party tools that received the cease-and-desist letters.)

As Ancestry did in 2016, they apparently will NOT delete matches that you’ve been using, as defined by when:

  • You’ve added a match to a colored dot or star match group.
  • You’ve entered a note for the match which of course indicates that you’re working with them.
  • You’ve sent a message to the match.

I would hope that any matches you’ve placed in your tree would be spared as well, but that criteria is not mentioned on any list I’ve seen. (Update – they are NOT spared and will be deleted.)

I’ve also seen nothing indicating that if you share a match with your parent, which is the definition of parental phasing, that those small matches will be spared either. However, “Shared Matches with Mother” or father is in the group list, so maybe. You could easily add a group for that to be sure everyone is in a group that might be at risk. (Update – shared matches with parents will be deleted.)

It was reported that Ancestry specifically stated that a match showing up in your ThruLines does NOT preserve them in your match list. (Have received confirmation that this is accurate.)

Why Preserve Matches?

You must surely be asking yourself why you need to go to the trouble to preserve these matches – especially if Ancestry seems to think otherwise. Keep in mind that once they are gone, you have no option to work with them, ever.

There are five primary reasons for preserving at least your best matches that are in jeopardy.

  1. Confirming Ancestors – You can confirm your descent from an ancestor you believe to be yours. Without triangulated segment information, which is not available at Ancestry, the best way to do this is by looking at whether you match the DNA of people who descend from multiple children from that same ancestor. If you only match people descended from one child, the same child as you, it’s certainly possible that you have all mis-identified the same person erroneously in your tree.
  2. Sharing Information – photos, etc. You never know who is going to have what gem of information. In the past two weeks, I’ve been blessed by a photo of a third-great-grandfather and a letter from his wife to her daughter. On another line, a photo of a watch case and on a Dutch line, a box with a photo of my ancestor’s sibling surfaced. Reach out to see what kind of information your matches might have. Yes, you may have to wade thought a lot of duds, but you just never know where that nugget will be found. They are out there.
  3. Potential Ancestor Suggestions – Seasoned genealogists may not need potential ancestor suggestions provided by Ancestry, but new researchers certainly do. Old-timers have already done a lot of the digging – but you never know when something useful will turn up. For every brick wall that falls, there are two new opportunities.
  4. Y and Mitochondrial DNA Candidates – Y and mitochondrial DNA holds information not otherwise available. I wrote a short description of the different kinds of DNA, here. I utilize ThruLines and searches to locate candidates for Y and mtDNA testing for all of my genealogy lines, asking if the person would consider those tests at FamilyTreeDNA. Ancestry doesn’t offer that type of testing. Generally, I offer a DNA testing scholarship. I figure a Y or mitochondrial DNA test is the same price as a reference book (or two) and the resulting information can only be obtained from people descended from those ancestors on a specific path. In other words, that type of DNA is much, MUCH rarer than reference books. As a quick review, Y DNA follows the direct paternal (surname) line in males only, and mitochondrial DNA is inherited by both sexes of children from their mother, but only females pass it on. You inherited your mtDNA directly from your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother on up the direct matrilineal line.
  5. DNA Transfers – Other vendors, meaning both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage offer unique and much more robust tools that utilize DNA segment information. You can transfer to either company and receive matching for free, paying only to unlock advanced features. GEDmatch, a third party tool doesn’t provide testing, but does provide additional analysis tools as well. Depending on where the majority of your family has tested or “gathered,” you can ask or encourage your Ancestry matches to transfer so that you can confirm that you share triangulated segments. You may be able to provide them with information about their genealogy that they don’t otherwise have access to at Ancestry. I wrote step-by-step transfer instructions, here, for each vendor.

Of course, if you no longer have the matches to work with – these benefits won’t be available to you. This is exactly why it’s critical to identify the most crucial smaller matches and preserve them now. Once Ancestry has removed them, they are gone forever unless they transfer to one of the other vendors.

Ok, so how can we identify and preserve the most important of these matches?

Preservation Strategies

This mass extinction event is supposed to occur about the first of August. When this happened in 2016, we were never given a date and time – just a general date range and one day it just happened.

Here are my recommendations for how to preserve matches that stand the best chance of being relevant, even if they are between 6 and 8 cM.

Please note that I recommend all of these approaches, not just one. Each one will catch people that the others don’t – which will preserve the most likely matches to be useful for you.

First, under DNA Matches, create a “holding group” so you can use that group to preserve matches.

Ancestry groups.png

You’ll use a group as a way to prevent the deletion of the match.

Ok, let’s get started.

Auto-Clusters and Third-Party Results

If you ever ran third party cluster tools on your Ancestry data (before the cease-and-desist orders), refer to those clusters now, looking for the size of the matches, focusing on any 8 cM or lower for the longest segment. It’s probably not happenstance that you match all those people and they also match each other.

I believe DNAgedcom is still functioning, so you may be able to obtain cluster information there. If you need assistance, check in with the DNAGedcom User Group on Facebook, here.

If you don’t have time to analyze each match now to determine which actual group the match belongs in, create one group at Ancestry that is simply a “Preservation Group” so that you can assign the person to the group in order that they won’t be deleted. Remember, the only matches in jeopardy are the ones from 6 to 8 cM inclusive.

ThruLines

Ancestry thrulines

ThruLines is the best tool that Ancestry provides in terms of doing the DNA-plus-tree-matching work for you. ThruLines searches for people whose DNA you match and who also have a common ancestor in your tree. Or at least someone who Ancestry thinks may be a common ancestor. It’s up to you to verify.

On your ThruLines page, click on any Ancestor appearing on that page. The fact that an ancestor appears on ThruLines means that there is at least you and one other person whose DNA matches and you share that common ancestor.

I’m going to click on Lazarus Estes, my great-grandfather, because I have several matches through him.

Ancestry list

By clicking on the List option, at the red arrow above, you will see the various matches by their line – meaning which child of Lazarus Estes.

Ancestry 9 cm

Unfortunately, Ancestry does NOT tell us the individual segment sizes. They tell us the total segment match (after removing anything they think is too matchy) and the total number of segments. You only need to be concerned about segments between 6 and 7.99 cM in size, but currently Ancestry rounds up so segments above 7.5 will show as 8 on your list. You will need to save those as well, or you will lose at least half of your 8 cM matches.

Moving down to the match in the red box, that person matches on 9 cM, so while they are not officially in jeopardy, I’m taking this opportunity to make sure they are assigned to the Lazarus Estes group. Ancestry didn’t say that they won’t delete any matches over 8 cM, so I’m being careful.

Ancestry profile

To access the area where you can add this person to a group and make a note, click on their profile picture.

Ancestry note

You’ll see your photo, plus theirs and the links to add this match to a group, or to add a note.

Ancestry predicted this match to be 5th-8th cousins, but they are my second cousin twice removed.

Ancestry group assign

Shared Matches

Shared Matches is not a preservation method, because Ancestry does NOT show any shared matches below 20 cM, unfortunately.

Ancestry shared match list

Common Ancestors

Ancestry common ancestors

Common Ancestors equates to ThruLines. Click on the Common Ancestors link to view all of your matches with whom a common ancestor can be identified in one list.

Ancestry common ancestors list

These matches will be presented in the largest to smallest match order, not by ancestor like ThruLines. This makes it easier to just keep scrolling and scrolling to the bottom of the match list where your most distant match that can be identified with a confirmed or potential common ancestor is listed.

If you managed to assign all of the matches to groups from your Thrulines, your smallest “common ancestor” matches should all be assigned to groups. Larger matches aren’t in jeopardy.

I have several pages of people who are in jeopardy. Am I ever glad that I checked.

Ancestry 6 cm

Use the Shared DNA filter as well to select only shared DNA matches of 6-8 cM in order to save these more rapidly.

It’s hard to believe that Ancestry is actually going to take these matches away from me, even though we share DNA, other matches and common ancestors.

Searching

Ancestry search

Searching for surnames or unique locations among your matches will provide you with additional hints as to possible relationships. Your connection may be to someone who doesn’t connect via a common ancestor, or the spelling might be slightly different. Matching a surname does not mean that’s how your DNA matches, but it’s a hint and can be especially powerful when combined with locations.

Ancestry multiple

You can combine search terms too. In this case, I combined my unusual Dutch surname of Ferwerda and the location of Leeuwarden and found two people. I confirmed one right away shares my line. I’m working on the second.

Ancestry search results

Both of these matches would have been lost, yet I share both DNA, confirmed ancestors and shared matches with at least one of these people.

Summary

It’s time to get busy. You probably have more matches than you think and you don’t have a lot of time between now and the end of July.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Download Your Ancestry Tree and Upload It Elsewhere for Added Benefit

Once you’ve created a tree at Ancestry, you can download or export that tree to upload it elsewhere, or for safekeeping at home.

Be aware that while the tree itself is downloaded, any documents you have attached through Ancestry are NOT downloaded along with the tree. To do that, you’ll need to sync your tree through RootsMagic or Family Tree Maker software on your home computer. That’s not the focus of this article.

This article provides step-by-step instructions on how to make a downloaded copy of your actual tree called a GEDCOM file. All vendors understand the GEDCOM file exchange format for family trees.

Uploading your tree elsewhere allows you to save time and enhances your experience at other vendors, such as Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage, and GEDmatch – all three of whom utilize your DNA test in addition to your tree in order to provide you with advanced tools and enhanced results.

These three vendors all use and provide segment information, in addition to trees, and matching is free if you transfer a DNA file. Transferring a DNA file and downloading a tree are two separate things.

To use DNA plus trees, there are two steps and I’ll cover both. First, let’s look at the benefits and the differences between those three vendors so you know what to expect.

Features Summary

Here’s a quick and very basic summary of the features and functions of each of the three companies that accept both GEDCOM and DNA file uploads and provide tree+DNA combination features.

  FamilyTreeDNA MyHeritage GEDmatch
Upload DNA File Yes Yes Yes
Free Matching Yes Yes Yes
Advanced Features $19 one-time unlock $29 one-time unlock $10 monthly subscription for Tier 1
Upload GEDCOM file* Yes Yes** Yes
Features Using GEDCOM File Phased Family Matching Theories of Family Relativity, Smart Matches, searches Comparison with matches’ trees
Genealogy Records Subscription Available No Yes No
DNA Testing in House Yes Yes No, upload only
Unique Features Assigning matches maternally and paternally, Y and mtDNA tests, archives your DNA Theories of Family Relativity, genealogical records, photo enhancement Ability to view your matches’ matches, advanced DNA tools

*There may be GEDCOM file size restrictions at some vendors.

**MyHeritage restricts free trees to 250 individuals, but you can add a records subscription to be able to work with a larger tree. You can read more, here. You can try a free subscription, here. I believe you can upload any size GEDCOM file without a subscription, but advanced functions such as record matches are restricted.

Unlike at the other vendors who focus exclusively on DNA, MyHeritage provides the resources to build and add branches to your tree, hence the restriction on how much is provided for free.

Both MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA also do their own DNA testing, so you don’t need to test at Ancestry. I wrote about testing and transfer strategies, here.

Regardless of where you test, you can download your tree from Ancestry and upload it to other sites.

I initially started out with only my direct ancestors in my tree, but you’ll want to include their children, minimally, in order to assist the vendors with tree comparisons, assuring that a person in two different trees is actually the same person, not just someone with the same or a similar name.

Downloading Your Ancestry Tree

After signing on to Ancestry, you’ll see the following at the upper left:

Download ancestry tree.png

Click on “Trees.”

Download Ancestry tree 2

You’ll see a list of all the trees you’ve created or that have been shared with you.

Click on the tree you want to download.

Download Ancestry tree settings.png

Next, you’ll see your tree displayed. Click on the down arrow to display options and click on “Tree Settings.”

Download Ancestry tree manage

You’ll see your tree settings, above. We’re focused ONLY on the area in the red box.

Downloading does NOT delete your tree. That is a different option.

Let’s look at a closeup of this section.

Do NOT Delete Your Tree

Delete means “throw away” permanently – you cannot retrieve the tree. Export means to make a copy, leaving the original intact on Ancestry.

Let’s look closer.

Download Ancestry export.png

People see the warning at the bottom, in the Delete tree section and they don’t realize that’s NOT referring to Export Tree.

See those little red arrows, above? They’re all pointing to minuscule tiny grey dividing lines between the Hint Preferences Section, the Manage Your Tree export function and the Delete your tree function.

The warning pertains to deleting your tree, not “Export tree.”

DO NOT DELETE YOUR TREE!!!

If you accidentally click on “Delete your tree,” you do get a confirmation step, shown below.

Download Ancestry delete

If you want to export or copy your tree for use elsewhere, do NOT press delete.

Download/Export Your Tree

To download your tree, click on the green Export tree button.

Download ancestry export 2.png

Export means to download a COPY of your tree, leaving the original on Ancestry.

Next, you’ll receive an “in process” message while your GEDCOM file is being created.

Download Ancestry generating

After you click on “Export tree,” you’ll receive this message.

Download Ancestry download.png

When finished, you’ll be able to click on “download tips” if you wish, then click on the green “Download your GEDCOM file.”

Save this file on your computer.

Uploading Your GEDCOM Elsewhere

Next, it’s time to upload your GEDCOM file to our three vendors. Please note that if you have previously uploaded a GEDCOM file to these vendors, you can replace that GEDCOM file, but that’s not always in your best interest.

We’ll look at GEDCOM replacement strategies and ramifications in each vendor’s section.

You’ll need to have an account set up with each vendor first.

Uploading to Family Tree DNA

At FamilyTreeDNA, the way to set up an account is to either order a DNA test, here, or transfer your autosomal DNA file from either 23andMe, Ancestry, or MyHeritage.

Transferring your DNA to FamilyTreeDNA

Transfer instructions for DNA from or to Family Tree DNA are found in the article, Family Tree DNA Step by Step Guide: How to Upload-Download DNA Files.

After you set up an account at Family Tree DNA, you can then upload your GEDCOM file.

Uploading Your GEDCOM File to FamilyTreeDNA

You can upload any GEDCOM file to FamilyTreeDNA.

Sign on to your account, then click on “myTREE” on the upper toolbar.

download ancestry ftdna

Click on “Tree Mgmt” at upper right.

Download ancestry ftdna gedcom.png

Next, you’ll see the “GEDCOM UPLOAD” beneath.

You can only upload one tree to Family Tree DNA. When you upload a new GEDCOM file, your current tree is deleted at the beginning of the process.

FamilyTreeDNA GEDCOM Replacement Strategy

You can replace a GEDCOM file with a newer, better one at FamilyTreeDNA, however, doing so means that any people you match who you’ve linked to their profiles in your original tree will need to be relinked.

Phased Family Matching where your matches are bucketed to maternal, paternal or both sides are created based on matches to people you’ve attached to their proper places in your tree.

If you have few or no matches attached to their profiles in your tree, then relinking won’t be a problem. If, like me, you’re taking full advantage of the ability to connect matches on your tree in order for your matches to be assigned maternally or paternally, then replacing your GEDCOM file would constitute a significant investment of time relinking.

The best plan for FamilyTreeDNA is to upload a robust tree initially with lines extended to current so that you can attach testers easily to their proper place in the tree.

If you didn’t do this initially, you’ll need to add the line to the tester from your common ancestor as you identify matches with common ancestors.

Uploading to MyHeritage

At MyHeritage, you can begin by ordering a DNA test, here, or transferring a DNA file from another vendor, here. You can also sign up to try a free genealogy subscription, here. From any of these three links, you’ll be prompted to set up an account.

Transferring Your DNA to MyHeritage

Instructions for transferring your DNA to MyHeritage can be found in the article, MyHeritage Step by Step Guide: How to Upload-Download DNA Files.

Uploading your GEDCOM File to MyHeritage

You can upload a GEDCOM file from any source to MyHeritage. After signing in to your account, you’ll see “Family tree” in the top task bar.

download ancestry myheritage

Click on Family tree and you’ll see “Import GEDCOM.”

Download Ancestry MyHeritage import.png

At MyHeritage you can have multiple GEDCOMs uploaded, but you’ll only be able to link your DNA test to your primary tree from which Theories of Family Relativity for you are generated.

MyHeritage GEDCOM Replacement Strategy

I have a full subscription to MyHeritage which allows an unlimited number in people of an unlimited number of trees. Smart Matches and other hints are generated for every person in every tree unless I disable that feature.

If I were to replace my primary GEDCOM file that is linked to my own DNA test, I would lose all of my Theories of Family Relativity which are only generated every few months. The next time Theories are run, I would receive new ones, but not before then.

Replacing an existing GEDCOM file at MyHeritage also means that you’ll lose links to any attached documents or photos that you’ve associated with that tree, additions of changed you’ve made, as well as Smart Matches to other people’s trees. You can, however, sync with MyHeritage’s own free desktop tree builder software.

Initially, a few years ago, I uploaded an ancestors-only tree to MyHeritage reaching back a few generations. Now I wish I had uploaded my entire GEDCOM file. I didn’t because I have unproven people and relationships in my computer file and I didn’t want to mislead anyone. However, Theories of Family Relativity uses descendants of your ancestors to connect across lines to other people. Having descendants of my ancestors in that tree wasn’t important at MyHeritage then, before that feature was introduced, but it is now.

Today, I’ve minimally added children and grandchildren of my ancestors, by hand. I use MyHeritage records and searches extensively, and I’d lose thousands of links if I replaced my primary GEDCOM file. Besides, when I review each person I add in the tree, it provides the opportunity of reviewing their information for accuracy and searching for new documents. I’ve discovered amazing things by using this one-at-a-time method for adding my ancestors’ children and descendants – including new information that led to a new ancestor just last week.

Uploading to GEDMatch

You’ll begin by setting up a free account at GEDmatch.

Download Ancestry gedmatch

GEDmatch isn’t a DNA testing site or a genealogy records site. It’s a DNA tools site that provides tools not found elsewhere. Sometimes matches found at Ancestry will download to GEDmatch but not elsewhere. Ancestry does not provide genealogically valuable segment information.

GEDmatch not only provides segment information and triangulation, as do FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage, but they also provide the ability for you to view the matches of your matches. This open-source approach is one of GEDmatch’s founding principles.

Uploading Your DNA to GEDmatch

After you sign in to GEDmatch, you’ll need to upload your DNA file from one of the vendors to GEDmatch. I strongly recommend using DNA files from the standard vendors, such as Ancestry, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage or even LivingDNA. Other vendors use different chips or test different DNA locations and matching is sometimes less reliable.

download ancestry gedmatch upload DNA.png

After signing on to Gedmatch, you’ll see “Upload your DNA files.” Click on the link there for further prompts.

After uploading your DNA file, you’ll want to upload your GEDCOM file so that your matches can see if you have a common ancestor in your trees.

Upload Your GEDCOM file to GEDmatch

Scrolling down the sidebar below the “Upload Your DNA” section, past the various applications, you’ll see the Family Trees section.

download ancestry gedmatch gedcom

You’ll see the GEDCOM upload section, as well as various comparison tools. Click on “Upload GEDCOM (Fast)” to begin.

GEDmatch GEDCOM Replacement Strategy

You can replace your GEDCOM file at GEDmatch at will. Since all information at GEDmatch is generated real-time, meaning when the request is submitted, nothing is “saved” nor pre-generated, so you won’t lose anything by replacing a GEDCOM file, at least not as of this writing.

However, you’ll need to delete your current GEDCOM file first. You can do that by scrolling to the bottom of your User Profile area where your kit number is listed. (Mine is obscured, below.) You’ll see your GEDCOM file information.

download ancestry gedmatch resources.png

Click to manage resources, including deleting a GEDCOM file.

Currently, at GEDmatch, my direct line ancestral tree is sufficient.

Summary

Regardless of where you maintain your primary family tree, download or export it as a GEDCOM file and upload it elsewhere. You’re only cheating yourself (and your matches) if you don’t take advantage of all available tools.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research