Imputation Matching Comparison

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

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

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

Imputation is built upon two premises:

1 – that DNA locations are inherited together

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

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

I saw a blue ca_ on your head.

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

A less intuitive sentence might be:

I saw a blue ca_ yesterday.

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

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

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

Genetic Genealogy Matching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DNALand Match Locations

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

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

GedMatch Match

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Predicted vs Actual

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

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

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

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

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

The Common Ancestor

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

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

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

Imputation Matching Summary

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Tip – Making Your DNA Results More Clickable

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

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

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

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

Use a Profile Photo

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

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

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

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

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

Grow a Tree

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

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

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

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

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

(You can click to enlarge any image.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Share, Share, Share

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

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

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

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

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

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

Use Real Names

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

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

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

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

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

Contact Information

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

______________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which Ethnicity Test is Best?

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Africa
  • Europe
  • Asia
  • Native American
  • Jewish

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

What Does “Best” Mean?

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

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

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

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

Genealogy Compared to All Vendors’ Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Standard Disclosure

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concepts – Why Genetic Genealogy and Triangulation?

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

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

Why Genetic Genealogy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family Tree DNA’s chromosome browser is shown above.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

Additional Resources

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

DeMystifying Autosomal DNA Matching

Autosomal DNA Testing 101 – What Now?

Autosomal DNA Matching Confidence Spectrum

Concepts – Segment Size, Legitimate and False Matches

How Your Autosomal DNA Identifies Your Ancestors

Concepts – Identical by Descent, State, Population and Chance

Nine Autosomal Tools at Family Tree DNA

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

Just One Cousin

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

Which DNA Test is Best?

If you’re reading this article, congratulations. You’re a savvy shopper and you’re doing some research before purchasing a DNA test. You’ve come to the right place.

The most common question I receive is asking which test is best to purchase. There is no one single best answer for everyone – it depends on your testing goals and your pocketbook.

Testing Goals

People who want to have their DNA tested have a goal in mind and seek results to utilize for their particular purpose. Today, in the Direct to Consumer (DTC) DNA market space, people have varied interests that fall into the general categories of genealogy and medical/health.

I’ve approached the question of “which test is best” by providing information grouped into testing goal categories.  I’ve compared the different vendors and tests from the perspective of someone who is looking to test for those purposes – and I’ve created separate sections of this article for each interest..

We will be discussing testing for:

  • Ethnicity – Who Am I? – Breakdown by Various World Regions
  • Adoption – Finding Missing Parents or Close Family
  • Genealogy – Cousin Matching and Ancestor Search/Verification
  • Medical/Health

We will be reviewing the following test types:

  • Autosomal
  • Y DNA (males only)
  • Mitochondrial DNA

I have included summary charts for each section, plus an additional chart for:

  • Additional Vendor Considerations

If you are looking to select one test, or have limited funds, or are looking to prioritize certain types of tests, you’ll want to read about each vendor, each type of test, and each testing goal category.

Each category reports information about the vendors and their products from a different perspective – and only you can decide which of these perspectives and features are most important to you.

You might want to read this short article for a quick overview of the 4 kinds of DNA used for genetic genealogy and DTC testing and how they differ.

The Big 3

Today, there are three major players in the DNA testing market, not in any particular order:

Each of these companies offers autosomal tests, but each vendor offers features that are unique. Family Tree DNA and 23andMe offer additional tests as well.

In addition to the Big 3, there are a couple of new kids on the block that I will mention where appropriate. There are also niche players for the more advanced genetic genealogist or serious researcher, and this article does not address advanced research.

In a nutshell, if you are serious genealogist, you will want to take all of the following tests to maximize your tools for solving genealogical puzzles. There is no one single test that does everything.

  • Full mitochondrial sequence that informs you about your matrilineal line (only) at Family Tree DNA. This test currently costs $199.
  • Y DNA test (for males only) that informs you about your direct paternal (surname) line (only) at Family Tree DNA. This test begins at $169 for 37 markers.
  • Family Finder, an autosomal test that provides ethnicity estimates and cousin matching at Family Tree DNA. This test currently costs $89.
  • AncestryDNA, an autosomal test at Ancestry.com that provides ethnicity estimates and cousin matching. (Do not confuse this test with Ancestry by DNA, which is not the same test and does not provide the same features.) This test currently costs $99, plus the additional cost of a subscription for full feature access. You can test without a subscription, but nonsubscribers can’t access all of the test result features provided to Ancestry subscribers.
  • 23andMe Ancestry Service test, an autosomal test that provides ethnicity estimates and cousin matching. The genealogy version of this test costs $99, the medical+genealogy version costs $199.

A Word About Third Party Tools

A number of third party tools exist, such as GedMatch and DNAGedcom.com, and while these tools are quite useful after testing, these vendors don’t provide tests. In order to use these sites, you must first take an autosomal DNA test from a testing vendor. This article focuses on selecting your DNA testing vendor based on your testing goals.

Let’s get started!

Ethnicity

Many people are drawn to DNA testing through commercials that promise to ‘tell you who you are.” While the allure is exciting, the reality is somewhat different.

Each of the major three vendors provide an ethnicity estimate based on your autosomal DNA test, and each of the three vendors will provide you with a different result.

Yep, same person, different ethnicity breakdowns.

Hopefully, the outcomes will be very similar, but that’s certainly not always the case. However, many people take one test and believe those results wholeheartedly. Please don’t. You may want to read Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages to see how varied my own ethnicity reports are at various vendors as compared to my known genealogy.

The technology for understanding “ethnicity” from a genetic perspective is still very new. Your ethnicity estimate is based on reference populations from around the world – today. People and populations move, and have moved, for hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands of years. Written history only reaches back a fraction of that time, so the estimates provided to people today are not exact.

That isn’t to criticize any individual vendor. View each vendor’s results not as gospel, but as their opinion based on their reference populations and their internal proprietary algorithm of utilizing those reference populations to produce your ethnicity results.

To read more about how ethnicity testing works, and why your results may vary between vendors or not be what you expected, click here.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from testing, only to be sure consumers understand the context of what they will be receiving. Generally speaking, these results are accurate at the continental level, and less accurate within continents, such as European regional breakdowns.

All three testing companies provide additional features or tools, in addition to your ethnicity estimates, that are relevant to ethnicity or population groups.

Let’s look at each company separately.

Ethnicity – Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA’s ethnicity tool is called myOrigins and provides three features or tools in addition to the actual ethnicity estimate and associated ethnicity map.

Please note that throughout this article you can click on any image to enlarge.

On the myOrigins ethnicity map page, above, your ethnicity percentages and map are shown, along with two additional features.

The Shared Origins box to the left shows the matching ethnic components of people on your DNA match list. This is particularly useful if you are trying to discover, for example, where a particular minority admixture comes from in your lineage. You can select different match types, for example, immediate relatives or X chromosome matches, which have special inheritance qualities.

Clicking on the apricot (mitochondrial DNA) and green (Y DNA) pins in the lower right corner drops the pins in the locations on your map of the most distant ancestral Y and mitochondrial DNA locations of the individuals in the group you have selected in the Shared Origins match box. You may or may not match these individuals on the Y or mtDNA lines, but families tend to migrate in groups, so match hints of any kind are important.

A third unique feature provided by Family Tree DNA is Ancient Origins, a tool released with little fanfare in November 2016.

Ancient Origins shows the ancient source of your European DNA, based on genome sequencing of ancient DNA from the locations shown on the map.

Additionally, Family Tree DNA hosts an Ancient DNA project where they have facilitated the upload of the ancient genomes so that customers today can determine if they match these ancient individuals.

Kits included in the Ancient DNA project are shown in the chart below, along with their age and burial location. Some have matches today, and some of these samples are included on the Ancient Origins map.

Individual Approx. Age Burial Location Matches Ancient Origins Map
Clovis Anzick 12,500 Montana (US) Yes No
Linearbandkeramik 7,500 Stuttgart, Germany Yes Yes
Loschbour 8,000 Luxembourg Yes Yes
Palaeo-Eskimo 4,000 Greenland No No
Altai Neanderthal 50,000 Altai No No
Denisova 30,000 Siberia No No
Hinxton-4 2,000 Cambridgeshire, UK No No
BR2 3,200 Hungary Yes Yes
Ust’-Ishim 45,000 Siberia Yes No
NE1 7,500 Hungary Yes Yes

Ethnicity – Ancestry

In addition to your ethnicity estimate, Ancestry also provides a feature called Genetic Communities.

Your ethnicity estimate provides percentages of DNA found in regions shown on the map by fully colored shapes – green in Europe in the example above. Genetic Communities show how your DNA clusters with other people in specific regions of the world – shown with dotted clusters in the US in this example.

In my case, my ethnicity at Ancestry shows my European roots, illustrated by the green highlighted areas, and my two Genetic Communities are shown by yellow and red dotted regions in the United States.

My assigned Genetic Communities indicate that my DNA clusters with other people whose ancestors lived in two regions; The Lower Midwest and Virginia as well as the Alleghenies and Northeast Indiana.

Testers can then view their DNA matches within that community, as well as a group of surnames common within that community.

The Genetic Communities provided for me are accurate, but don’t expect all of your genealogical regions to be represented in Genetic Communities. For example, my DNA is 25% German, and I don’t have any German communities today, although ancestry will be adding new Genetic Communities as new clusters are formed.

You can read more about Genetic Communities here and here.

Ethnicity – 23andMe

In addition to ethnicity percentage estimates, called Ancestry Composition, 23andMe offers the ability to compare your Ancestry Composition against that of your parent to see which portions of your ethnicity you inherited from each parent, although there are problems with this tool incorrectly assigning parental segments.

Additionally, 23andMe paints your chromosome segments with your ethnic heritage, as shown below.

You can see that my yellow Native American segments appear on chromosomes 1 and 2.

In January 2017, 23andMe introduced their Ancestry Timeline, which I find to be extremely misleading and inaccurate. On my timeline, shown below, they estimate that my most recent British and Irish ancestor was found in my tree between 1900 and 1930 while in reality my most recent British/Irish individual found in my tree was born in England in 1759.

I do not view 23andMe’s Ancestry Timeline as a benefit to the genealogist, having found that it causes people to draw very misleading conclusions, even to the point of questioning their parentage based on the results. I wrote about their Ancestry Timeline here.

Ethnicity Summary

All three vendors provide both ethnicity percentage estimates and maps. All three vendors provide additional tools and features relevant to ethnicity. Vendors also provide matching to other people which may or may not be of interest to people who test only for ethnicity. “Who you are” only begins with ethnicity estimates.

DNA test costs are similar, although the Family Tree DNA test is less at $89. All three vendors have sales from time to time.

Ethnicity Vendor Summary Chart

Ethnicity testing is an autosomal DNA test and is available for both males and females.

Family Tree DNA Ancestry 23andMe
Ethnicity Test Included with $89 Family Finder test Included with $99 Ancestry DNA test Included with $99 Ancestry Service
Percentages and Maps Yes Yes Yes
Shared Ethnicity with Matches Yes No Yes
Additional Feature Y and mtDNA mapping of ethnicity matches Genetic Communities Ethnicity phasing against parent (has issues)
Additional Feature Ancient Origins Ethnicity mapping by chromosome
Additional Feature Ancient DNA Project Ancestry Timeline

 

Adoption and Parental Identity

DNA testing is extremely popular among adoptees and others in search of missing parents and grandparents.

The techniques used for adoption and parental search are somewhat different than those used for more traditional genealogy, although non-adoptees may wish to continue to read this section because many of the features that are important to adoptees are important to other testers as well.

Adoptees often utilize autosomal DNA somewhat differently than traditional genealogists by using a technique called mirror trees. In essence, the adoptee utilizes the trees posted online of their closest DNA matches to search for common family lines within those trees. The common family lines will eventually lead to the individuals within those common trees that are candidates to be the parents of the searcher.

Here’s a simplified hypothetical example of my tree and a first cousin adoptee match.

The adoptee matches me at a first cousin level, meaning that we share at least one common grandparent – but which one? Looking at other people the adoptee matches, or the adoptee and I both match, we find Edith Lore (or her ancestors) in the tree of multiple matches. Since Edith Lore is my grandmother, the adoptee is predicted to be my first cousin, and Edith Lore’s ancestors appear in the trees of our common matches – that tells us that Edith Lore is also the (probable) grandmother of the adoptee.

Looking at the possibilities for how Edith Lore can fit into the tree of me and the adoptee, as first cousins, we fine the following scenario.

Testing the known child of daughter Ferverda will then provide confirmation of this relationship if the known child proves to be a half sibling to the adoptee.

Therefore, close matches, the ability to contact matches and trees are very important to adoptees. I recommend that adoptees make contact with www.dnaadoption.com. The volunteers there specialize in adoptions and adoptees, provide search angels to help people and classes to teach adoptees how to utilize the techniques unique to adoption search such as building mirror trees.

For adoptees, the first rule is to test with all 3 major vendors plus MyHeritage. Family Tree DNA allows you to test with both 23andMe and Ancestry and subsequently transfer your results to Family Tree DNA, but I would strongly suggest adoptees test on the Family Tree DNA platform instead. Your match results from transferring to Family Tree DNA from other companies, except for MyHeritage, will be fewer and less reliable because both 23andMe and Ancestry utilize different chip technology.

For most genealogists, MyHeritage is not a player, as they have only recently entered the testing arena, have a very small data base, no tools and are having matching issues. I recently wrote about MyHeritage here. However, adoptees may want to test with MyHeritage, or upload your results to MyHeritage if you tested with Family Tree DNA, because your important puzzle-solving match just might have tested there and no place else. You can read about transfer kit compatibility and who accepts which vendors’ tests here.

Adoptees can benefit from ethnicity estimates at the continental level, meaning that regional (within continent) or minority ethnicity should be taken with a very large grain of salt. However, knowing that you have 25% Jewish heritage, for example, can be a very big clue to an adoptee’s search.

Another aspect of the adoptees search that can be relevant is the number of foreign testers. For many years, neither 23andMe, nor Ancestry tested substantially (or at all) outside the US. Family Tree DNA has always tested internationally and has a very strong Jewish data base component.

Not all vendors report X chromosome matches. The X chromosome is important to genetic genealogy, because it has a unique inheritance path. Men don’t inherit an X chromosome from their fathers. Therefore, if you match someone on the X chromosome, you know the relationship, for a male, must be from their mother’s side. For a female, the relationship must be from the mother or the father’s mother’s side. You can read more about X chromosome matching here.

Neither Ancestry nor MyHeritage have chromosome browsers which allow you to view the segments of DNA on which you match other individuals, which includes the X chromosome.

Adoptee Y and Mitochondrial Testing

In addition to autosomal DNA testing, adoptees will want to test their Y DNA (males only) and mitochondrial DNA.

These tests are different from autosomal DNA which tests the DNA you receive from all of your ancestors. Y and mitochondrial DNA focus on only one specific line, respectively. Y DNA is inherited by men from their fathers and the Y chromosome is passed from father to son from time immemorial. Therefore, testing the Y chromosome provides us with the ability to match to current people as well as to use the Y chromosome as a tool to look far back in time. Adoptees tend to be most interested in matching current people, at least initially.

Working with male adoptees, I have a found that about 30% of the time a male will match strongly to a particular surname, especially at higher marker levels. That isn’t always true, but adoptees will never know if they don’t test. An adoptee’s match list is shown at 111 markers, below.

Furthermore, utilizing the Y and mitochondrial DNA test in conjunction with autosomal DNA matching at Family Tree DNA helps narrows possible relatives. The Advanced Matching feature allows you to see who you match on both the Y (or mitochondrial) DNA lines AND the autosomal test, in combination.

Mitochondrial DNA tests the matrilineal line only, as women pass their mitochondrial DNA to all of their children, but only females pass it on. Family Tree DNA provides matching and advanced combination matching/searching for mitochondrial DNA as well as Y DNA. Both genders of children carry their mother’s mitochondrial DNA. Unfortunately, mitochondrial DNA is more difficult to work with because of the surname changes in each generation, but you cannot be descended from a woman, or her direct matrilineal ancestors if you don’t substantially match her mitochondrial DNA.

Some vendors state that you receive mitochondrial DNA with your autosomal results, which is only partly accurate. At 23andMe, you receive a haplogroup but no detailed results and no matching. 23andMe does not test the entire mitochondria and therefore cannot provide either advanced haplogroup placement nor Y or mitochondrial DNA matching between testers.

For additional details on the Y and Mitochondrial DNA tests themselves and what you receive, please see the Genealogy – Y and Mitochondrial DNA section.

Adoption Summary

Adoptees should test with all 4 vendors plus Y and mitochondrial DNA testing.

  • Ancestry – due to their extensive data base size and trees
  • Family Tree DNA – due to their advanced tools, chromosome browser, Y and mitochondrial DNA tests (Ancestry and 23andMe participants can transfer autosomal raw data files and see matches for free, but advanced tools require either an unlock fee or a test on the Family Tree DNA platform)
  • 23andMe – no trees and many people don’t participate in sharing genetic information
  • MyHeritage – new kid on the block, working through what is hoped are startup issues
  • All adoptees should take the full mitochondrial sequence test.
  • Male adoptees should take the 111 marker Y DNA test, although you can start with 37 or 67 markers and upgrade later.
  • Y and mitochondrial tests are only available at Family Tree DNA.

Adoptee Vendor Feature Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA Ancestry 23andMe MyHeritage
Autosomal DNA – Males and Females
Matching Yes Yes Yes Yes – problems
Relationship Estimates* Yes – May be too close Yes – May be too distant Yes – Matches may not be sharing Yes –  problematic
International Reach Very strong Not strong but growing Not strong Small but subscriber base is European focused
Trees Yes Yes No Yes
Tree Quantity 54% have trees, 46% no tree (of my first 100 matches) 56% have trees, 44% no tree or private (of my first 100 matches) No trees ~50% don’t have trees or are private (cannot discern private tree without clicking on every tree)
Data Base Size Large Largest Large – but not all opt in to matching Very small
My # of Matches on 4-23-2017 2,421 23,750 1,809 but only 1,114 are sharing 75
Subscription Required No No for partial, Yes for full functionality including access to matches’ trees, minimal subscription for $49 by calling Ancestry No No for partial, Yes for full functionality
Other Relevant Tools New Ancestor Discoveries
Autosomal DNA Issues Many testers don’t have trees Many testers don’t have trees Matching opt-in is problematic, no trees at all Matching issues, small data base size is problematic, many testers don’t have trees
Contact Methodology E-mail address provided to matches Internal message system – known delivery issues Internal message system Internal message system
X Chromosome Matching Yes No Yes No
Y-DNA – Males Only
Y DNA STR Test Yes- 37, 67, and 111 markers No No No
Y Haplogroup Yes as part of STR test plus additional testing available No Yes, basic level but no additional testing available, outdated haplogroups No
Y Matching Yes No No No
Advanced Matching Between Y and Autosomal Yes No No No
Mitochondrial DNA- Males and Females
Test Yes, partial and full sequence No No No
Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup Yes, included in test No Yes, basic but full haplogroup not available, haplogroup several versions behind No
Advanced Matching Between Mitochondrial and Autosomal Yes No No No

Genealogy – Cousin Matching and Ancestor Search/Verification

People who want to take a DNA test to find cousins, to learn more about their genealogy, to verify their genealogy research or to search for unknown ancestors and break down brick walls will be interested in various types of testing

Test Type Who Can Test
Y DNA – direct paternal line Males only
Mitochondrial DNA – direct matrilineal line Males and Females
Autosomal – all lines Males and Females

Let’s begin with autosomal DNA testing for genealogy which tests your DNA inherited from all ancestral lines.

Aside from ethnicity, autosomal DNA testing provides matches to other people who have tested. A combination of trees, meaning their genealogy, and their chromosome segments are used to identify (through trees) and verify (through DNA segments) common ancestor(s) and then to assign a particular DNA segment(s) to that ancestor or ancestral couple. This process, called triangulation, then allows you to assign specific segments to particular ancestors, through segment matching among multiple people. You then know that when another individual matches you and those other people on the same segment, that the DNA comes from that same lineage. Triangulation is the only autosomal methodology to confirm ancestors who are not close relatives, beyond the past 2-3 generations or so.

All three vendors provide matching, but the tools they include and their user interfaces are quite different. 

Genealogy – Autosomal –  Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA entered DNA testing years before any of the others, initially with Y and mitochondrial DNA testing.

Because of the diversity of their products, their website is somewhat busier, but they do a good job of providing areas on the tester’s personal landing page for each of the products and within each product, a link for each feature or function.

For example, the Family Finder test is Family Tree DNA’s autosomal test. Within that product, tools provided are:

  • Matching
  • Chromosome Browser
  • Linked Relationships
  • myOrigins
  • Ancient Origins
  • Matrix
  • Advanced Matching

Unique autosomal tools provided by Family Tree DNA are:

  • Linked Relationships that allows you to connect individuals that you match to their location in your tree, indicating the proper relationship. Phased Family Matching uses these relationships within your tree to indicate which side of your tree other matches originate from.
  • Phased Family Matching shows which side of your tree, maternal, paternal or both, someone descends from, based on phased DNA matching between you and linked relationship matches as distant as third cousins. This allows Family Tree DNA to tell you whether matches are paternal (blue icon), maternal (red icon) or both (purple icon) without a parent’s DNA. This is one of the best autosomal tools at Family Tree DNA, shown below.

  • In Common With and Not In Common With features allow you to sort your matches in common with another individual a number of ways, or matches not in common with that individual.
  • Filtered downloads provide the downloading of chromosome data for your filtered match list.
  • Stackable filters and searches – for example, you can select paternal matches and then search for a particular surname or ancestral surname within the paternal matches.
  • Common ethnicity matching through myOrigins allows you to see selected groups of individuals who match you and share common ethnicities.
  • Y and mtDNA locations of autosomal matches are provided on your ethnicity map through myOrigins.
  • Advanced matching tool includes Y, mtDNA and autosomal in various combinations. Also includes matches within projects where the tester is a member as well as by partial surname.
  • The matrix tool allows the tester to enter multiple people that they match in order to see if those individuals also match each other. The matrix tool is, in combination with the in-common-with tool and the chromosome browser is a form of pseudo triangulation, but does not indicate that the individuals match on the same segment.

  • Chromosome browser with the ability to select different segment match thresholds to display when comparing 5 or fewer individuals to your results.
  • Projects to join which provide group interaction and allow individuals to match only within the project, if desired.

To read more about how to utilize the various autosomal tools at Family Tree DNA, with examples, click here.

Genealogy – Autosomal – Ancestry

Ancestry only offers autosomal DNA testing to their customers, so their page is simple and straightforward.

Ancestry is the only testing vendor (other than MyHeritage who is not included in this section) to require a subscription for full functionality, although if you call the Ancestry support line, a minimal subscription is available for $49. You can see your matches without a subscription, but you cannot see your matches trees or utilize other functions, so you will not be able to tell how you connect to your matches. Many genealogists have Ancestry subscriptions, so this is minimally problematic for most people.

However, if you don’t realize you need a subscription initially, the required annual subscription raises the effective cost of the test quite substantially. If you let your subscription lapse, you no longer have access to all DNA features. The cost of testing with Ancestry is the cost of the test plus the cost of a subscription if you aren’t already a subscriber.

This chart, from the Ancestry support center, provides details on which features are included for free and which are only available with a subscription.

Unique tools provided by Ancestry include:

  • Shared Ancestor Hints (green leaves) which indicate a match with whom you share a common ancestor in your tree connected to your DNA, allowing you to display the path of you and your match to the common ancestor. In order to take advantage of this feature, testers must link their tree to their DNA test. Otherwise, Ancestry can’t do tree matching.  As far as I’m concerned, this is the single most useful DNA tool at Ancestry. Subscription required.

  • DNA Circles, example below, are created when several people whose DNA matches also share a common ancestor. Subscription required.

  • New Ancestor Discoveries (NADs), which are similar to Circles, but are formed when you match people descended from a common ancestor, but don’t have that ancestor in your tree. The majority of the time, these NADs are incorrect and are, when dissected and the source can be determined, found to be something like the spouse of a sibling of your ancestor. I do not view NADs as a benefit, more like a wild goose chase, but for some people these could be useful so long as the individual understands that these are NOT definitely ancestors and only hints for research. Subscription required.
  • Ancestry uses a proprietary algorithm called Timber to strip DNA from you and your matches that they consider to be “too matchy,” with the idea that those segments are identical by population, meaning likely to be found in large numbers within a population group – making them meaningless for genealogy. The problem is that Timber results in the removal of valid segments, especially in endogamous groups like Acadian families. This function is unique to Ancestry, but many genealogists (me included) don’t consider Timber a benefit.
  • Genetic Communities shows you groups of individuals with whom your DNA clusters. The trees of cluster members are then examined by Ancestry to determine connections from which Genetic Communities are formed. You can filter your DNA match results by Genetic Community.

Genealogy – Autosomal – 23and Me

Unfortunately, the 23andMe website is not straightforward or intuitive. They have spent the majority of the past two years transitioning to a “New Experience” which has resulted in additional confusion and complications when matching between people on multiple different platforms. You can take a spin through the New Experience by clicking here.

23andMe requires people to opt-in to sharing, even after they have selected to participate in Ancestry Services (genealogy) testing, have opted-in previously and chosen to view their DNA Relatives. Users on the “New Experience” can then either share chromosome data and results with each other individually, meaning on a one by one basis, or globally by a one-time opt-in to “open sharing” with matches. If a user does not opt-in to both DNA Relatives and open sharing, sharing requests must be made individually to each match, and they must opt-in to share with each individual user. This complexity and confusion results in an approximate sharing rate of between 50 and 60%. One individual who religiously works their matches by requesting sharing now has a share rate of about 80% of their matches in the data base who HAVE initially selected to participate in DNA Relatives. You can read more about the 23andMe experience at this link.

Various genetic genealogy reports and tools are scattered between the Reports and Tools tabs, and within those, buried in non-intuitive locations. If you are going to utilize 23andMe for matching and genealogy, in addition to the above link, I recommend Kitty Cooper’s blogs about the new DNA Relatives here and on triangulation here. Print the articles, and use them as a guide while navigating the 23andMe site.

Note that some screens (the Tools, DNA Relatives, then DNA tab) on the site do not display/work correctly utilizing Internet Explorer, but do with Edge or other browsers.

The one genealogy feature unique to 23andMe is:

  • Triangulation at 23andMe allows you to select a specific match to compare your DNA against. Several pieces of information will be displayed, the last of which, scrolling to the bottom, is a list of your common relatives with the person you selected.

In the example below, I’ve selected to see the matches I match in common with known family member, Stacy Den (surnames have been obscured for privacy reasons.)  Please note that the Roberta V4 Estes kit is a second test that I took for comparison purposes when the new V4 version of 23andMe was released.  Just ignore that match, because, of course I match myself as a twin.

If an individual does not match both you and your selected match, they will not appear on this list.

In the “relatives in common” section, each person is listed with a “shared DNA” column. For a person to be shown on this “in common” list, you obviously do share DNA with these individuals and they also share with your match, but the “shared DNA” column goes one step further. This column indicates whether or not you and your match both share a common DNA segment with the “in common” person.

I know this is confusing, so I’ve created this chart to illustrate what will appear in the “Shared DNA” column of the individuals showing on the list of matches, above, shared between me and Stacy Den.

Clicking on “Share to see” sends Sarah a sharing request for her to allow you to see her segment matches.

Let’s look at an example with “yes” in the Shared DNA column.

Clicking on the “Yes” in the Shared DNA column of Debbie takes us to the chromosome browser which shows both your selected match, Stacy in my case, and Debbie, the person whose “yes” you clicked.

All three people, meaning me, Stacy and Debbie share a common DNA segment, shown below on chromosome 17.

What 23andMe does NOT say is that these people. Stacy and Debbie, also match each other, in addition to matching me, which means all three of us triangulate.

Because I manage Stacy’s kit at 23andMe, I can check to see if Debbie is on Stacy’s match list, and indeed, Debbie is on Stacy’s match list and Stacy does match both Debbie and me on chromosome 17 in exactly the same location shown above, proving unquestionably that the three of us all match each other and therefore triangulate on this segment. In our case, it’s easy to identify our common relative whose DNA all 3 of us share.

Genealogy – Autosomal Summary

While all 3 vendors offer matching, their interfaces and tools vary widely.

I would suggest that Ancestry is the least sophisticated and has worked hard to make their tools easy for the novice working with genetic genealogy. Their green leaf DNA+Tree Matching is their best feature, easy to use and important for the novice and experienced genealogist alike.  Now, if they just had that chromosome browser so we could see how we match those people.

Ancestry’s Circles, while a nice feature, encourage testers to believe that their DNA or relationship is confirmed by finding themselves in a Circle, which is not the case.

Circles can be formed as the result of misinformation in numerous trees. For example, if I were to inaccurately list Smith as the surname for one of my ancestor’s wives, I would find myself in a Circle for Barbara Smith, when in fact, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that her surname is Smith. Yet, people think that Barbara Smith is confirmed due to a Circle having been formed and finding themselves in Barbara Smith’s Circle. Copying incorrect trees equals the formation of incorrect Circles.

It’s also possible that I’m matching people on multiple lines and my DNA match to the people in any given Circle is through another common ancestor entirely.

A serious genealogist will test minimally at Ancestry and at Family Tree DNA, who provides a chromosome browser and other tools necessary to confirm relationships and shared DNA segments.

Family Tree DNA is more sophisticated, so consequently more complex to use.  They provide matching plus numerous other tools. The website and matching is certainly friendly for the novice, but to benefit fully, some experience or additional education is beneficial, not unlike traditional genealogy research itself. This is true not just for Family Tree DNA, but GedMatch and 23andMe who all three utilize chromosome browsers.

The user will want to understand what a chromosome browser is indicating about matching DNA segments, so some level of education makes life a lot easier. Fortunately, understanding chromosome browser matching is not complex. You can read an article about Match Groups and Triangulation here. I also have an entire series of Concepts articles, Family Tree DNA offers a webinar library, their Learning Center and other educational resources are available as well.

Family Tree DNA is the only vendor to provide Phased Family Matches, meaning that by connecting known relatives who have DNA tested to your tree, Family Tree DNA can then identify additional matches as maternal, paternal or both. This, in combination with pseudo-phasing are very powerful matching tools.

23andMe is the least friendly of the three companies, with several genetic genealogy unfriendly restrictions relative to matching, opt-ins, match limits and such. They have experienced problem after problem for years relative to genetic genealogy, which has always been a second-class citizen compared to their medical research, and not a priority.

23andMe has chosen to implement a business model where their customers must opt-in to share segment information with other individuals, either one by one or by opting into open sharing. Based on my match list, roughly 60% of my actual DNA matches have opted in to sharing.

Their customer base includes fewer serious genealogists and their customers often are not interested in genealogy at all.

Having said that, 23andMe is the only one of the three that provides actual triangulated matches for users on the New Experience and who have opted into sharing.

If I were entering the genetic genealogy testing space today, I would test my autosomal DNA at Ancestry and at Family Tree DNA, but I would probably not test at 23andMe. I would test both my Y DNA (if a male) and mitochondrial at Family Tree DNA.

Thank you to Kitty Cooper for assistance with parent/child matching and triangulation at 23andMe.

Genealogy Autosomal Vendor Feature Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA Ancestry 23andMe
Matching Yes Yes Yes – each person has to opt in for open sharing or authorize sharing individually, many don’t
Estimated Relationships Yes Yes Yes
Chromosome Browser Yes No – Large Issue Yes
Chromosome Browser Threshold Adjustment Yes No Chromosome Browser No
X Chromosome Matching Yes No Yes
Trees Yes Yes – subscription required so see matches’ trees No
Ability to upload Gedcom file Yes Yes No
Ability to search trees Yes Yes No
Subscription in addition to DNA test price No No for partial, Yes for full functionality, minimal subscription for $49 by calling Ancestry No
DNA + Ancestor in Tree Matches No Yes – Leaf Hints – subscription required – Best Feature No
Phased Parental Side Matching Yes – Best Feature No No
Parent Match Indicator Yes No Yes
Sort or Group by Parent Match Yes Yes Yes
In Common With Tool Yes Yes Yes
Not In Common With Tool Yes No No
Triangulated Matches No – pseudo with ICW, browser and matrix No Yes – Best Feature
Common Surnames Yes Yes – subscription required No
Ability to Link DNA Matches on Tree Yes No No
Matrix to show match grid between multiple matches Yes No No
Match Filter Tools Yes Minimal Some
Advanced Matching Tool Yes No No
Multiple Test Matching Tool Yes No multiple tests No multiple tests
Ethnicity Matching Yes No Yes
Projects Yes No No
Maximum # of Matches Restricted No No Yes – 2000 unless you are communicating with the individuals, then they are not removed from your match list
All Customers Participate Yes Yes, unless they don’t have a subscription No – between 50-60% opt-in
Accepts Transfers from Other Testing Companies Yes No No
Free Features with Transfer Matching, ICW, Matrix, Advanced Matching No transfers No transfers
Transfer Features Requiring Unlock $ Chromosome Browser, Ethnicity, Ancient Origins, Linked Relationships, Parentally Phased Matches No Transfers No transfers
Archives DNA for Later Testing Yes, 25 years No, no additional tests available No, no additional tests available
Additional Tool DNA Circles – subscription required
Additional Tool New Ancestor Discoveries – subscription required
Y DNA Not included in autosomal test but is additional test, detailed results including matching No Haplogroup only
Mitochondrial DNA Not included in autosomal test but is additional test, detailed results including matching No Haplogroup only
Advanced Testing Available Yes No No
Website Intuitive Yes, given their many tools Yes, very simple No
Data Base Size Large Largest Large but many do not test for genealogy, only test for health
Strengths Many tools, multiple types of tests, phased matching without parent DNA + Tree matching, size of data base Triangulation
Challenges Website episodically times out No chromosome browser or advanced tools Sharing is difficult to understand and many don’t, website is far from intuitive

 

Genealogy – Y and Mitochondrial DNA

Two indispensable tools for genetic genealogy that are often overlooked are Y and mitochondrial DNA.

The inheritance path for Y DNA is shown by the blue squares and the inheritance path for mitochondrial DNA is shown by the red circles for the male and female siblings shown at the bottom of the chart.

Y-DNA Testing for Males

Y DNA is inherited by males only, from their father. The Y chromosome makes males male. Women instead inherit an X chromosome from their father, which makes them female. Because the Y chromosome is not admixed with the DNA of the mother, the same Y chromosome has been passed down through time immemorial.

Given that the Y chromosome follows the typical surname path, Y DNA testing is very useful for confirming surname lineage to an expected direct paternal ancestor. In other words, an Estes male today should match, with perhaps a few mutations, to other descendants of Abraham Estes who was born in 1647 in Kent, England and immigrated to the colony of Virginia.

Furthermore, that same Y chromosome can look far back in time, thousands of years, to tell us where that English group of Estes men originated, before the advent of surnames and before the migration to England from continental Europe. I wrote about the Estes Y DNA here, so you can see an example of how Y DNA testing can be used.

Y DNA testing for matching and haplogroup identification, which indicates where in the world your ancestors were living within the past few hundred to few thousand years, is only available from Family Tree DNA. Testing can be purchased for either 37, 67 or 111 markers, with the higher marker numbers providing more granularity and specificity in matching.

Family Tree DNA provides three types of Y DNA tests.

  • STR (short tandem repeat) testing is the traditional Y DNA testing for males to match to each other in a genealogically relevant timeframe. These tests can be ordered in panels of 37, 67 or 111 markers and lower levels can be upgraded to higher levels at a later date. An accurate base haplogroup prediction is made from STR markers.
  • SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) testing is a different type of testing that tests single locations for mutations in order to confirm and further refine haplogroups. Think of a haplogroup as a type of genetic clan, meaning that haplogroups are used to track migration of humans through time and geography, and are what is utilized to determine African, European, Asian or Native heritage in the direct paternal line. SNP tests are optional and can be ordered one at a time, in groups called panels for a particular haplogroup or a comprehensive research level Y DNA test called the Big Y can be ordered after STR testing.
  • The Big Y test is a research level test that scans the entire Y chromosome to determine the most refined haplogroup possible and to report any previously unknown mutations (SNPs) that may define further branches of the Y DNA tree. This is the technique used to expand the Y haplotree.

You can read more about haplogroups here and about the difference between STR markers and SNPs here, here and here.

Customers receive the following features and tools when they purchase a Y DNA test at Family Tree DNA or the Ancestry Services test at 23andMe. The 23andMe Y DNA information is included in their Ancestry Services test. The Family Tree DNA Y DNA information requires specific tests and is not included in the Family Finder test. You can click here to read about the difference in the technology between Y DNA testing at Family Tree DNA and at 23andMe. Ancestry is not included in this comparison because they provide no Y DNA related information.

Y DNA Vendor Feature Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA 23andMe
Varying levels of STR panel marker testing Yes, in panels of 37, 67 and 111 markers No
Test panel (STR) marker results Yes Not tested
Haplogroup assignment Yes – accurate estimate with STR panels, deeper testing available Yes –base haplogroup by scan – haplogroup designations are significantly out of date, no further testing available
SNP testing to further define haplogroup Yes – can purchase individual SNPs, by SNP panels or Big Y test No
Matching to other participants Yes No
Trees available for your matches Yes No
E-mail of matches provided Yes No
Calculator tool to estimate probability of generational distance between you and a match Yes No
Earliest known ancestor information Yes No
Projects Surname, haplogroup and geographic projects No
Ability to search Y matches Yes No Y matching
Ability to search matches within projects Yes No projects
Ability to search matches by partial surname Yes No
Haplotree and customer result location on tree Yes, detailed with every branch Yes, less detailed, subset
Terminal SNP used to determine haplogroup Yes Yes, small subset available
Haplogroup Map Migration map Heat map
Ancestral Origins – summary by ancestral location of others you match, by test level Yes No
Haplogroup Origins – match ancestral location summary by haplogroup, by test level Yes No
SNP map showing worldwide locations of any selected SNP Yes No
Matches map showing mapped locations of your matches most distant ancestor in the paternal line, by test panel Yes No
Big Y – full scan of Y chromosome for known and previously unknown mutations (SNPs) Yes No
Big Y matching Yes No
Big Y matching known SNPs Yes No
Big Y matching novel variants (unknown or yet unnamed SNPs) Yes No
Filter Big Y matches Yes No
Big Y results Yes No
Advanced matching for multiple test types Yes No
DNA is archived so additional tests or upgrades can be ordered at a later date Yes, 25 years No

Mitochondrial DNA Testing for Everyone

Mitochondrial DNA is contributed to both genders of children by mothers, but only the females pass it on. Like the Y chromosome, mitochondrial DNA is not admixed with the DNA of the other parent. Therefore, anyone can test for the mitochondrial DNA of their matrilineal line, meaning their mother’s mother’s mother’s lineage.

Matching can identify family lines as well as ancient lineage.

You receive the following features and tools when you purchase a mitochondrial DNA test from Family Tree DNA or the Ancestry Services test from 23andMe. The Family Tree DNA mitochondrial DNA information requires specific tests and is not included in the Family Finder test. The 23andMe mitochondrial information is provided with the Ancestry Services test. Ancestry is omitted from this comparison because they do not provide any mitochondrial information.

Mitochondrial DNA Vendor Feature Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA 23andMe
Varying levels of testing Yes, mtPlus and Full Sequence No
Test panel marker results Yes, in two formats, CRS and RSRS No
Rare mutations, missing and extra mutations, insertions and deletions reported Yes No
Haplogroup assignment Yes, most current version, Build 17 Yes, partial and out of date version
Matching to other participants Yes No
Trees of matches available to view Yes No
E-mail address provided to matches Yes No
Earliest known ancestor information Yes No
Projects Surname, haplogroup and geographic available No
Ability to search matches Yes No
Ability to search matches within project Yes No projects
Ability to search match by partial surname Yes No
Haplotree and customer location on tree No Yes
Mutations used to determine haplogroup provided Yes No
Haplogroup Map Migration map Heat map
Ancestral Origins – summary by ancestral location of others you match, by test level Yes No
Haplogroup Origins –match ancestral location summary by haplogroup Yes No
Matches map showing mapped locations of your matches most distant ancestor in the maternal line, by test level Yes No
Advanced matching for multiple test types Yes No
DNA is archived so additional tests or upgrades can be ordered at a later date Yes, 25 years No

 

Overall Genealogy Summary

Serious genealogists should test with at least two of the three major vendors, being Family Tree DNA and Ancestry, with 23andMe coming in as a distant third.

No genetic genealogy testing regimen is complete without Y and mitochondrial DNA for as many ancestral lines as you can find to test. You don’t know what you don’t know, and you’ll never know if you don’t test.

Unfortunately, many people, especially new testers, don’t know Y and mitochondrial DNA testing for genetic genealogy exists, or how it can help their genealogy research, which is extremely ironic since these were the first tests available, back in 2000.

You can read about finding Y and mitochondrial information for various family lines and ancestors and how to assemble a DNA Pedigree Chart here.

You can also take a look at my 52 Ancestors series, where I write about an ancestor every week. Each article includes some aspect of DNA testing and knowledge gained by a test or tests, DNA tool, or comparison. The DNA aspect of these articles focuses on how to use DNA as a tool to discover more about your ancestors.

 

Testing for Medical/Health or Traits

The DTC market also includes health and medical testing, although it’s not nearly as popular as genetic genealogy.

Health/medical testing is offered by 23andMe, who also offers autosomal DNA testing for genealogy.

Some people do want to know if they have genetic predispositions to medical conditions, and some do not. Some want to know if they have certain traits that aren’t genealogically relevant, but might be interesting – such as whether they carry the Warrior gene or if they have an alcohol flush reaction.

23andMe was the first company to dip their toes into the water of Direct to Consumer medical information, although they called it “health,” not medicine, at that time. Regardless of the terminology, information regarding Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, for example, were provided for customers. 23andMe attempted to take the raw data and provide the consumer with something approaching a middle of the road analysis, because sometimes the actual studies provide conflicting information that might not be readily understood by consumers.

The FDA took issue with 23andMe back in November of 2013 when they ordered 23andMe to discontinue the “health” aspect of their testing after 23andMe ignored several deadlines. In October 2015, 23andMe obtained permission to provide customers with some information, such as carrier status, for 36 genetic disorders.

Since that time, 23andMe has divided their product into two separate tests, with two separate prices. The genealogy only test called Ancestry Service can be purchased separately for $99, or the combined Health + Ancestry Service for $199.

If you are interested in seeing what the Health + Ancestry test provides, you can click here to view additional information.

However, there is a much easier and less expensive solution.

If you have taken the autosomal test from 23andMe, Ancestry or Family Tree DNA, you can download your raw data file from the vendor and upload to Promethease to obtain a much more in-depth report than is provided by 23andMe, and much less expensively – just $5.

I reviewed the Promethease service here. I found the Promethease reports to be very informative and I like the fact that they provide information, both positive and negative for each SNP (DNA location) reported. Promethease avoids FDA problems by not providing any interpretation or analysis, simply the data and references extracted from SNPedia for you to review.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that you should be sure you really want to know before you delve into medical testing. Some mutations are simply indications that you could develop a condition that you will never develop or that is not serious. Other mutations are not so benign. Promethease provides this candid page before you upload your data.

Different files from different vendors provide different results at Promethease, because those vendors test different SNP locations in your DNA. At the Promethease webpage, you can view examples.

Traits

Traits fall someplace between genealogy and health. When you take the Health + Ancestry test at 23andMe, you do receive information about various traits, as follows:

Of course, you’ll probably already know if you have several of these traits by just taking a look in the mirror, or in the case of male back hair, by asking your wife.

At Family Tree DNA, existing customers can order tests for Factoids (by clicking on the upgrade button), noted as curiosity tests for gene variants.

Family Tree DNA provides what I feel is a great summary and explanation of what the Factoids are testing on their order page:

“Factoids” are based on studies – some of which may be controversial – and results are not intended to diagnose disease or medical conditions, and do not serve the purpose of medical advice. They are offered exclusively for curiosity purposes, i.e. to see how your result compared with what the scientific papers say. Other genetic and environmental variables may also impact these same physiological characteristics. They are merely a conversational piece, or a “cocktail party” test, as we like to call it.”

Test Price Description
Alcohol Flush Reaction $19 A condition in which the body cannot break down ingested alcohol completely. Flushing, after consuming one or two alcoholic beverages, includes a range of symptoms: nausea, headaches, light-headedness, an increased pulse, occasional extreme drowsiness, and occasional skin swelling and itchiness. These unpleasant side effects often prevent further drinking that may lead to further inebriation, but the symptoms can lead to mistaken assumption that the people affected are more easily inebriated than others.
Avoidance of Errors $29 We are often angry at ourselves because we are unable to learn from certain experiences. Numerous times we have made the wrong decision and its consequences were unfavorable. But the cause does not lie only in our thinking. A mutation in a specific gene can also be responsible, because it can cause a smaller number of dopamine receptors. They are responsible for remembering our wrong choices, which in turn enables us to make better decisions when we encounter a similar situation.
Back Pain $39 Lumbar disc disease is the drying out of the spongy interior matrix of an intervertebral disc in the spine. Many physicians and patients use the term lumbar disc disease to encompass several different causes of back pain or sciatica. A study of Asian patients with lumbar disc disease showed that a mutation in the CILP gene increases the risk of back pain.
Bitter Taste Perception $29 There are several genes that are responsible for bitter taste perception – we test 3 of them. Different variations of this gene affect ability to detect bitter compounds. About 25% of people lack ability to detect these compounds due to gene mutations. Are you like them? Maybe you don’t like broccoli, because it tastes too bitter?
Caffeine Metabolism $19 According to the results of a case-control study reported in the March 8, 2006 issue of JAMA, coffee is the most widely consumed stimulant in the world, and caffeine consumption has been associated with increased risk for non-fatal myocardial infarction. Caffeine is primarily metabolized by the cytochrome P450 1A2 in the liver, accounting for 95% of metabolism. Carriers of the gene variant *1F allele are slow caffeine metabolizers, whereas individuals homozygous for the *1A/*1A genotype are rapid caffeine metabolizers.
Earwax Type $19 Whether your earwax is wet or dry is determined by a mutation in a single gene, which scientists have discovered. Wet earwax is believed to have uses in insect trapping, self-cleaning and prevention of dryness in the external auditory canal of the ear. It also produces an odor and causes sweating, which may play a role as a pheromone.
Freckling $19 Freckles can be found on anyone no matter what the background. However, having freckles is genetic and is related to the presence of the dominant melanocortin-1 receptor MC1R gene variant.
Longevity $49 Researchers at Harvard Medical School and UC Davis have discovered a few genes that extend lifespan, suggesting that the whole family of SIR2 genes is involved in controlling lifespan. The findings were reported July 28, 2005 in the advance online edition of Science.
Male Pattern Baldness $19 Researchers at McGill University, King’s College London and GlaxoSmithKline Inc. have identified two genetic variants in Caucasians that together produce an astounding sevenfold increase of the risk of male pattern baldness. Their results were published in the October 12, 2008 issue of the Journal of Nature Genetics.
Monoamine Oxidase A (Warrior Gene) $49.50 The Warrior Gene is a variant of the gene MAO-A on the X chromosome. Recent studies have linked the Warrior Gene to increased risk-taking and aggressive behavior. Whether in sports, business, or other activities, scientists found that individuals with the Warrior Gene variant were more likely to be combative than those with the normal MAO-A gene. However, human behavior is complex and influenced by many factors, including genetics and our environment. Individuals with the Warrior Gene are not necessarily more aggressive, but according to scientific studies, are more likely to be aggressive than those without the Warrior Gene variant. This test is available for both men and women, however, there is limited research about the Warrior Gene variant amongst females. Additional details about the Warrior Gene genetic variant of MAO-A can be found in Sabol et al, 1998.
Muscle Performance $29 A team of researchers, led by scientists at Dartmouth Medical School and Dartmouth College, have identified and tested a gene that dramatically alters both muscle metabolism and performance. The researchers say that this finding could someday lead to treatment of muscle diseases, including helping the elderly who suffer from muscle deterioration and improving muscle performance in endurance athletes.
Nicotine Dependence $19 In 2008, University of Virginia Health System researchers have identified a gene associated with nicotine dependence in both Europeans and African Americans.

Many people are interested in the Warrior Gene, which I wrote about here.

At Promethease, traits are simply included with the rest of the conditions known to be associated with certain SNPs, such as baldness, for example, but I haven’t done a comparison to see which traits are included.

 

Additional Vendor Information to Consider

Before making your final decision about which test or tests to purchase, there are a few additional factors you may want to consider.

As mentioned before, Ancestry requires a subscription in addition tot he cost of the DNA test for the DNA test to be fully functional.

One of the biggest issues, in my opinion, is that both 23andMe and Ancestry sell customer’s anonymized DNA information to unknown others. Every customer authorizes the sale of their information when they purchase or activate a kit – even though very few people actually take the time to read the Terms and Conditions, Privacy statements and Security documents, including any and all links. This means most people don’t realize they are authorizing the sale of their DNA.

At both 23andMe and Ancestry, you can ALSO opt in for additional non-anonymized research or sale of your DNA, which you can later opt out of. However, you cannot opt out of the lower level sale of your anonymized DNA without removing your results from the data base and asking for your sample to be destroyed. They do tell you this, but it’s very buried in the fine print at both companies. You can read more here.

Family Tree DNA does not sell your DNA or information.

All vendors can change their terms and conditions at any time. Consumers should always thoroughly read the terms and conditions including anything having to do with privacy for any product they purchase, but especially as it relates to DNA testing.

Family Tree DNA archives your DNA for later testing, which has proven extremely beneficial when a family member has passed away and a new test is subsequently introduced or the family wants to upgrade a current test.  Had my mother’s DNA not been archived at Family Tree DNA, I would not have Family Finder results for her today – something I thank Mother and Family Tree DNA for every single day.

Family Tree DNA also accepts transfer files from 23andMe, Ancestry and very shortly, MyHeritage – although some versions work better than others. For details on which companies accept which file versions, from which vendors, and why, please read Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?

If you tested on a compatible version of the 23andMe Test (V3 between December 2010 and November 2013) or the Ancestry V1 (before May 2016) you may want to transfer your raw data file to Family Tree DNA for free and pay only $19 for full functionality, as opposed to taking the Family Finder test. Family Tree DNA does accept later versions of files from 23andMe and Ancestry, but you will receive more matches if you test on the same chip platform that Family Tree DNA utilizes instead of doing a transfer.

Additional Vendor Considerations Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA Ancestry 23andMe
Subscription required in addition to cost of DNA test No Yes for full functionality, partial functionality is included without subscription, minimum subscription is $49 by calling Ancestry No
Customer Support Good and available Available, nice but often not knowledgeable about DNA Poor
Sells customer DNA information No Yes Yes
DNA raw data file available to download Yes Yes Yes
DNA matches file available to download including match info and chromosome match locations Yes No Yes
Customers genealogically focused Yes Yes Many No
Accepts DNA raw data transfer files from other companies Yes, most, see article for specifics No No
DNA archived for later testing Yes, 25 years No No
Beneficiary provision available Yes No No

 

Which Test is Best For You?

I hope you now know the answer as to which DNA test is best for you – or maybe it’s multiple tests for you and other family members too!

DNA testing holds so much promise for genealogy. I hesitate to call DNA testing a miracle tool, but it often is when there are no records. DNA testing works best in conjunction with traditional genealogical research.

There are a lot of tests and options.  The more tests you take, the more people you match. Some people test at multiple vendors or upload their DNA to third party sites like GedMatch, but most don’t. In order to make sure you reach those matches, which may be the match you desperately need, you’ll have to test at the vendor where they tested. Otherwise, they are lost to you. That means, of course, that eventually, if you’re a serious genealogist, you’ll be testing at all 3 vendors.  Don’t forget about Y and mitochondrial tests at Family Tree DNA.

Recruit family members to test and reach out to your matches.  The more you share and learn – the more is revealed about your ancestors. You are, after all, the unique individual that resulted from the combination of all of them!

Update: Vendor prices updated June 22, 2017.

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Charles Dodson (1649-1706), Forcible Entry, 52 Ancestors #157

We know approximately when Charles Dodson was born, but we don’t know where and we don’t know who his parents are. According to a deposition recorded in March 1699, Charles says he is about 50 years old, so born about 1649 or 1650…someplace. I think that someplace was England, because Charles Dodson was literate and could write his name. If Charles was born in Virginia in 1650, his family would have to have been wealthy to afford a private tutor to teach their children to read and write. Certainly, judging from Charles’ own children, that didn’t happen…and Charles was a large landowner. Yet his two eldest sons signed their names with a mark. Charles grew up someplace where he received at least some schooling.

A search of Find-My-Past which focused on English records shows three Charles Dodson/Dotsons born in 1644, 1645 and 1646, but none later through 1655. Of course, all parish registers aren’t online. Find-My-Past also shows four London apprenticeships for Charles Dodson between 1661 and 1672 – so the name Charles Dodson apparently wasn’t terribly rare.

We have quite a bit of information about our Charles Dodson as an adult, and clues about other things. And we have rumors to evaluate as well. Charles Dodson is a very interesting man.

If Charles arrived with his parents, they would likely have been found someplace near where Charles emerged as an adult. Perhaps Charles arrived as a young man alone, maybe as an indentured servant, or perhaps with a young wife.

Changing County Boundaries

When researching Charles Dodson, I wanted to be quite thorough, so I began with the earliest records in the part of Virginia where Charles Dodson was first found. In fact, I started with records early enough to find any other Dodson male in early Virginia as well.

Settlement in the Northern Neck of Virginia, shown above as the neck of land that today includes the counties of Westmoreland, Northumberland, Richmond and Lancaster, began about 1635 when the area was part of York County, one of the original counties formed in 1634. St. Mary’s and St. Charles Counties in Maryland are just across the Potomac River, on the north side of the neck.

In 1619, the area which is now York County was included in two of the four incorporations (or “citties”) of the proprietary Virginia Company of London which were known as Elizabeth Cittie and James Cittie.

In 1634, what became York County was formed as Charles River Shire, one of the eight original shires of Virginia.

During the English Civil War, Charles River County and the Charles River (also named for the King) were changed to York County and York River, respectively. The river, county, and town of Yorktown are believed to have been named for York, a city in Northern England.

York County land records and probate began in 1633.

In 1648, Northumberland County was formed from York and then in 1652 Lancaster was formed from Northumberland and York. Land records in Northumberland began in 1650 and probate in 1652.

Old Rappahannock County (not to be confused with the current Rappahannock County) was formed in 1656 from Lancaster County, VA. Land records begin in 1656 and probate in 1665. In 1692, old Rappahannock was dissolved and divided into Essex and Richmond Counties, on either side of the Rappahannock River.

This handy chart shows the early Virginia County formation and when surviving records exist for each county.

Old Rappahannock County was named for the Native Americans who inhabited the area, Rappahannock reportedly meaning “people of the alternating (i.e., tidal) stream.” The county’s origins lay in the first efforts by English immigrants to “seat” the land along the Rappahannock River in the 1640s. The primitive travel capabilities of the day and the county’s relatively large area contributed to the settlers’ hardship in travel to the county seat to transact business and became the primary reason for the county’s division by an Act of the Virginia General Assembly in 1691 to form the two smaller counties of Essex and Richmond.

According to the library of Virginia, old Rappahannock wills are with the Essex County wills, although they have been transcribed and published separately.

Richmond County was formed in 1692 from Old Rappahannock, with land records beginning in 1692 and probate in 1699, although many records are lost for unknown reasons.

The earliest mention of Charles Dodson is found in those records. Another Dodson, Gervais, found in Northumberland, Stafford and Westmoreland Counties had died by 1662, leaving a widow who remarried to Andrew Pettygrow. I found no connection between Gervais and Charles Dodson, no will or family information for Gervais, and no Gervais in the Charles Dodson descendants.

Northumberland County Oath

In 1652, all Tidewater Virginia residents that were not Native were required to take an oath of allegiance.

No Dodson, nor the allied families of Durham or Smoot are listed in the 1652 Northumberland County Oaths of Allegiance.

First Sighting

The first sighting of Charles Dodson is in the Old Rappahannock County deeds in 1679. Of course, then it wasn’t called Old Rappahannock County, just Rappahannock County and it’s abbreviated several ways within deeds. All documents included are from Old Rappahannock or Richmond County, depending on the date of the transaction, unless otherwise stated.

Deed Book Page 278 – July 10, 1679 between Peter Elmore of Rappae County, planter, and Charles Dodson, same, planter, and his heirs and assignes, as much plantable land as 3 tithables can tend in corn and tabb, with priviledge of leaving out for partuidge and further that said Dodson shall have the privilege of coopers and carpenters timber for the use of ye plantation for the term of 19 years from date hereof . (Further the said Elmore doth engage to furnish ye said Dodson with apple trees and peach trees suffichant to make an orchard both of apples and peaches) and further at the expiration of ye said terms the said Dodson is to leave a 30 foot dwelling house and a 50 foot tobacco house tennentable with all fencing in repairs that is at the expiration of the time. An further ye said Dodson to pay ye said Peter Elmore 50 pounds tobacco yearly during he said terme but if said Dodson chance to leave ye said plantation before the expiration of the said time that then ye said Peter Elmore shall have ye refusal before any other.

Signed Peter Elmore with mark and Charles Dodson. Witness William Smoote and Charles Wilson. Looks like it was registered July 7, 1680.

This deed puts Peter Elmore, Charles Dodson and William Smoot together quite early. It’s a rather unusual deed. It certainly suggests that Charles anticipated having either indentured servants or slaves if there was enough land for 3 people to work. This looks to be similar to a lease, for a period of 19 years, or until 1698.

In 1679, Charles would have been 29 or 30 years old, certainly too young to have boys old enough to be working on the plantation.

This was an investment for both men, because the trees provided by Elmore and planted by Dodson wouldn’t bear fruit for several years. Apple trees can produce in 3-6 years and pear in 2-4.

A 30 foot dwelling house certainly isn’t large by today’s standards. Many cabins in Appalachia were smaller, though, and yet they were referred to as “mansion houses.” It wasn’t unusual for a house to be 10 by 16 feet. A 30 foot dwelling house, by comparison, was large. It’s also worth noting that this would suggest that there was no house already existing on the land. This would tell us that Charles’ first home was probably one room width by 30 feet long, or maybe a fraction of that until he could afford to add on. It didn’t have to be 30 feet until 19 years later. Houses were often built in stages.

In the transaction between Peter Elmore and Charles Dodson, the tobacco house was referenced, 50 feet in length, ironically, larger than the house for the residents. The tobacco house would have been a special tobacco barn, constructed for the purpose of drying tobacco, an example shown below.

By code poet – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=407542

On many farms today, including the one I grew up on, the barns are still larger than the houses.

This arrangement was probably a good deal for both Peter Elmore and Charles Dodson – each man benefitting. Peter had someone working his land, planting valuable orchards, building houses and barns, and increasing the value of the land. Charles had access to a plantation large enough to support him and his family without having to actually purchase land. Sounds like a win-win situation, probably for a man with a willingness to work but no cash. Charles could have been an indentured servant himself, just finishing his indenture, which, among other possibilities would explain why he had no cash. But you have to hand it to Charles, he had a lot of spunk and was obviously willing to work hard!!!

The following year, Charles witnessed another transaction for Peter Elmore.

Deed Book Page 282 April 24, 1680 – Henry Dawson to Peter Elmore right in a bill of sale. Witnessed by William Dawson and Charles Dodson

Tobacco

Tobacco was the economic foundation of early Virginia as well as the currency. It was, however, a very labor intensive crop, but much prized in England, as this 1595 woodcut of the first known image of a man smoking tobacco shows. The bad news, for the English, is that tobacco could not successfully be grown there, necessitating importation.

Tobacco quickly depletes the land, requiring about 20 years for fields to lie fallow after a few years use, becoming known as “old fields” in regions where tobacco was farmed. According to Encyclopedia Virginia, a planter could plant tobacco for 3 years, then corn, with deeper roots, for 3 years, then nothing for 20 years. The field could then be used again, meaning that any given planter had to have enough land for it to be unused for tobacco for 23 of 26 years.

Each man, meaning planter, slave or indentured servant could work about 2 acres per year, although the work was backbreaking. That meant, in Charles Dodson’s case, to have 6 acres under production for tobacco at all times meant that he had to have a total of 54 acres, plus land for the house and other areas not farmable. Unfortunately, the 1679 transaction between Peter Elmore and Charles Dodson doesn’t say how much land is involved. Pesky details!

You can click to enlarge images.

The graph above shows a crop rotation example of keeping 6 acres of tobacco, enough for 3 men to tend, under production at all times.

Viewed another way, if a man had 54 acres of cultivable farmland, that means he could have 6 acres at any time under cultivation for tobacco and 6 for corn. Only being able to use one ninth of your land for your primary crop was a very land-intensive investment. Adding in the 3 years for corn production, you can still only use two ninths of your land at any one time.

Tobacco plants shown growing in the garden area of the Museum of Appalachia.

After the tobacco was started in trays, transplanted by hand, groomed, weeded and harvested, it had to be dried, graded and then packed into large wooden barrels or casks called hogsheads for shipping to England. The barrels would then be rolled down the roads from the plantations to the docks. Often in these areas, there would be roads called Rolling Roads, or Rowling Roads. Those were the roads utilized to transport the barrels to the ships – literally rolling them along their way. This means of course that the most desirable plantations were the closest to the river, also meaning that they might have docks where the ships could anchor, facilitating trading and commerce for the plantation owner. The bad news was that these areas tended to be swampy and the first to sustain damage when hurricanes and severe weather hit.

The cartouche on the lower right-hand corner of the Fry-Jefferson map of Virginia, below, drawn in 1751, shows tobacco hogsheads being inspected and shipped overseas.

A hogshead was about 3 feet across and had to hold at least 100 pounds of tobacco. The tobacco in the hogshead was graded, and if the tobacco was found to be substandard, the entire hogshead was burned. This was an incredible incentive for planters to produce and ship only the highest quality tobacco.

Son Thomas is Born

The North Farnham Parish register tells us that son Thomas Dodson was born to Charles and Ann Dodson on May 15, 1681. This suggests that Charles was married by at least by sometime in 1680, if Thomas was his first child. However, it’s probable that son Charles Jr. was the first child, or first male child, of Charles Dodson and Ann, pushing the marriage date back to between 1671 and 1676, depending on when Charles Jr. was born.

Thomas is the only child directly attributed to Charles and Ann in the North Farnham Parish church records, which are known to be incomplete. The rest of the records that tell us about Charles’s children are his will written in 1703 and various deeds over the years.

Briery Swamp

Charles witnessed many deeds for neighbors during his lifetime.

Deed Book Page 310 – May 30, 1681 John Harding to Jane Elmore, daughter of Peter Elmore one black cow yearling. Signed with mark. Witness Charles Dodson and Jane Ellmore (signed with mark)

Deed Book Page 330-331 Oct. 23, 1681 from William Fantleroy and wife Katherin to David Fowler 2000 pounds aranoco tobacco in cask 230 acres on the north side of Rappahannock River on the branch of the head of Farnham Neck known by the name of the Briery swamp being part of a greater tract formerly granted to Ambrose Clary pat dates Sept 26, 1667 bounded on corner of John Ingoes below the house and running along the line of said Ingoes land north to a Spanish oak on the line of the aforesaid then N to red oak at a little below the bridge of ye Briery Swamp near Edmund Rylie then NW cross the Briery swamp to a corner tree then NW to another marked read oak by Moartico Creek and then along the old line of William Fantleroy dividend west crossing Briery Swamp to ye place of first began. Signed 1681. Wit Thomas Wills, Charles Dodson. Reg Jan 4, 1681 (82).

This deed witnessed by Charles Dodson puts him in the neighborhood of Briery Swamp.

Briery Swamp is believed to be Marshy Swamp in Richmond County, today. Sadly, the early patents, grants and surveys that do still exist for the Northern Neck do not include drawings of the land, just metes and bounds which make them very difficult to locate on a map today.

The tobacco grown and smoked by Native Americans was too harsh for the English palate. Orinoco (aranoco) tobacco seeds were transported from the Orinoco Valley in Spain and when planted in the rich bottomland of the Northern Neck peninsula, produced a mild yet dark tobacco which quickly became the English favorite.

I took these photos of tobacco flowering in Virginia a few years ago, not realizing at the time how connected my family was to that crop.

Charles Dodson and William Smoot are associated throughout their lives.

Deed Book Page 144-146 I William Smote of Rappahannock County, planter, do stand indebted unto Richard Ellet in the sum of 2400 pounds tobacco and caske to containe the same with all court charges and costs of surveying to be paid at some convenient landing in the parish of Farnham have received a valuable consideration for the same which payment truly to be made I the said William Smothe doe bind ourselves unto the said Ellet. The condition of this obligation is such that is the abovesaid Ellet should loose any part of his land by my survey being land bought of the above said William Smoote that the said Smoot shall make restoration of as much land to the sd Ellet as shall be taken away from him. Provided the said Smooth hath left 200 acres other ways to the said Smoote to restore to the Ellet the abovementioned tobacco and caske to containe the same and for the performance hereof I the aid Smoote to me my heirs and as witness my hand and seal this November 5, 1684. Signed. Witness Charles Dodson, John Ingoe by mark

It looks like the neighbors, William Smoot, John Ingoe and Charles Dodson are all signing as witnesses. It’s always good to know who the neighbors are, because families marry, immigrate and migrate with people they know.

Charles Buys Land

In 1679, Charles transacted with Peter Elmore to improve Elmore’s land, but six and a half years later, Charles had saved enough money to purchase 100 acres of his own.

Deed Book 7, pg 281-283 This indenture made this nine and twentieth day of December in the yeare of our Lord 1685 Between William Thacker and Alice his Wife, Daughter and heire of William Mathews, late of the County of Rappa. in Virginia, Plantr., deced, of the one part and Charles Dodson of the sd County of Rappa., Plantr., of the other part Witnesseth that they the sd William Thacker and Alice his Wife for a valuable consideration to them paid have sold unto the sd Charles Dodson all that tract of land being in the Parish of Farnham in the sd County of Rappa: conteyning One hundred acres as by the survey and plat thereof may appear which said hundred acres is part and parcell of a Dividend of land conteyning Eleven hundred Forty and eight acres called or known by the name of Lilleys, lying and being in the County and Parish aforesaid formerly Pattented by the abovesd William Mathews as by the Pattent bearing date the Eighteenth day of November in the year of our Lord One thousand Six hundred Sixty and eight relation being had doth appeare, and the Deeds Pattents and whatsoever touching the same To have and to hold the sd One hundred acres of land with their appertinances unto the sd Charles Dodson his heires to the only proper use of sd Charles Dodson forever with all profitts in as large manner as expressed in the original Pattent of the whole Divident above specified and the sd William Thacker and Alice his Wife warrant the said land unto sd Charles Dodson against all persons from or under them and shall acknowledge these presents within three Courts next after the date hereof in Court to be holden for the County of Rappa: aforesd In Witness where of the sd William Thacker and Alice his Wife sett their hands and seales

Signed sealed and delivered in the presents of Richard Marshall, William Thacker his marke William Edmonds, Alice Thacker the marke of William Heard, Recognitr in Cur com Rappa. 3 die 9ber 1686 record xxiii die

Know all men by these presents that I William Thacker of the County of Lancaster in Virginia do constitute and appoint my true and well beloved friend, John Ford, to be my true and lawful! Attorney in my place to acknowledge unto Charles Dodson of the County of Rappa: one hundred acres of land in the aforesd. County and ratifying and allowing what my said Attorney shall act and doe in the same In Witness whereof I have put my hand and seale this first day of November 1686

Signed Sealed and delivered in the presents of us Henry Fulton, William Thacker his mark James Kille, Recordr. xxiii die 9hris 1686

This deed is a little more normal – an actual land sale. At Charles death, this is the land he is living on, referred to as “the new dwelling plantation with the 100 acres of land belonging to it” and bequeathed to son “Lambert” who is actually Lambeth.  Lambeth subsequently sells this land to his brother, Thomas, who leaves it to his son, Greenham, who, in 1746, sells it to Jeremiah Greenham (Richmond County Deed book 10-373.)  Tracking this deed forward from Jeremiah might help us locate this land today.

Deed Book May 1686 – Alexander and Elizabeth Newman to William Acers 200 acres part of a 600 acre dividend. Signed wit Thomas Carpenter and Charles Dodson.

Charles witnesses a transaction for neighbors in 1686, then buys 300 acres of additional land for himself in 1687.

Deed Book Page 386-387 – Oct 21, 1687 Samuel Travers and Frances his wife of Rappahannock to Charles Dodson of same, planter, for valuable consideration parcel in Farnham 300 acres by survey part of two dividents of land pat by Col. William Travers decd and commonly known as Traverses Quarter or Old Field and surveyed by one Edward Jonson as his platt dated Dec. 9, 1687. Dodson to pay all quitrents and services which shall become due. Signed by Samuel Travers and Frances his wife (mark) witness Raw. Travers, Elias Robinson (mark) Byran Mullican (mark).

Charles Dodson now owns 400 acres, plus the land under lease from Peter Elmore. Given our calculations, a planter must own 18 acres for one man to keep 2 acres under cultivation with tobacco at all times. Therefore, 400 acres would require about 22 men to work the land. Of course, some of that land would have been taken up by houses, barns and livestock. Other portions may have been too low to cultivate. Still, it was a lot more land than Charles Dodson and his family could work by themselves.

John Lincoln

Charles Dodson apparently had a close relationship or at least a relationship of some sort with John Lincoln. First, we find that John and Charles both assigned by the court to help mediate a dispute.

Court Order Book November 1, 1686 page 1 – ordered Charles Dodson and John Lincolne meet together at the house of Barth: Wood to state and audit ye accompts between Hugh Bell plt and ye said Wood deft and make report thereof to the next court and that the said Wood deliver to the said Wood all his working tooles that are in his custody.

Just a month or so later, John Lincoln dictates his will on Dec. 18, 1686, so his final illness must have come upon him unexpectedly.

Later, in an affidavit of witnesses to the making of the will, the comment was made that John Lincolne, the maker of the will, “would have no other but Charles Dodson as his executor although several insisted that he have his wife.”

And an affidavit by another witness, “John Lincoln…he did urge to have Charles Dodson to be his executor several times when his wife was named.”

Apparently Charles Dodson had other ideas, or there was something bothersome to him about the situation.

Court Order Book Jan. 5, 1686/87 – Charles Dodson in open court relinquished his right of executorship to the last will and testament of John Lincolne decd

Now, the subplots gets even more interesting, because less than 6 months later, which really wasn’t unusual for a remarriage in colonial Virginia, John Lincoln’s widow, Elizabeth, remarries to John Hill. Keep the name of John Hill in the back of your mind. You’ll meet him again in a few minutes.

Court Order Book, Page 22 May 4, 1687 This day John Hill as Marrying the Admistrx. of John Lincolne deced confest judgment to Henry Hartley for Sixteen hundred pounds tobb & caske according to Bill which this Court have ordered to be paid with cost of suit.

Court Order Book Page 160 April 3,1690 – Judgment is granted to William Colston against John HIll as Marrying Elizabeth, the Relict of John Lincolne, for five hundred & sixteen pounds of tobb: upon acct. of Clerkes fees, to be pd with cost of suit als exe.

In 1693, Chares Dodson is again involved with John Hill, this time as a witness to a deed where John Hill sells land on the Northumberland River that apparently shared a property line with the deceased John Lincoln.

Deed Book Page 198/201 Deed 21st day of 7ber 1693 John Hill and Elizabeth his wife planter and John Creele, both of Richmond Co planter, for valuable consideration 60 acres beginning at hickory path going to Bartholomew Woods and a path going to Walter Webb, corner tree of George Devenport and John Hill and along line, main branch of Northumberland River, line of John Linkhorne, 60 acres part of 800 acres patented by John Carpenter, Charles Carpenter and William West and part of it takenup John Hill relaction being thereunto had may more fully appears and the reversion and reversions, deeds, letters escrips touching or concerning the same. John and Elizabeth Hill by marks, Gilbert Croswell witness by mark, Mary Creele by mark and Charles Dodson signature.

Elizabeth Hill wife of John Hill gives power or attorney to John Rankin to acknowledge that she relinquished her dower in that parcel of land.

Unfortunately, I can’t find the Northumberland River on current maps.

It’s unclear whether there was one or two different John Hill’s living at this time. However, John Hill would marry the widow of Charles Dodson after his death. Given Charles Dodson’s close association with John Hill, I suspect that this is the John Hill that would be Charles’ wife’s second husband.

Charles As Estate Executor

Charles served as the executor of more than one estate. About the same time that John Lincoln died, so did Edward Johnson.

Will Book 29 January, 1686/7; Sworn to 27 February, 1686/7 & 2 March, 1686/7.  Edward Johnson of the County of Rappa & Parish of ffarnham. Very Sick of Body but of perfect mind & memory. I leave unto Wm Macanrico three Cowes & one heyfer & one yearling being upon the Plantacon of Ennis Macanrico & one Mare bigg with foale & one bed & what belongeth to it, and all other things that doth belong to me the above ad Cattle to be delivered in kinde when he Cometh to the Age of sixteen & the Mares to Run with encrease from the Day of the Date hereof and do make Charles Dodson my full Executr: to see this my Will fulfilled when my Debts is Satisfied & what is left to Return to Ennis Macanrico. Wit. Danll Everard, Alexander Duke, Peter Elmore

Court Order Book Jan 29, 1686/87 Edward Johnson will, Charles Dodson executor, Peter Elmore witness.

Apparently, all did not go smoothly.

Court Order Book Sept 6, 1687 Rees Evans vs Charles Dodson continued to next court.

Lancaster County Court 12th of October 1687 Whereas at the last Court helde for this County, upon the Peticon of Charles Dodson as Exer, of Edward Johnson (deced), it was then ordered that Agnis, the Wife of William Smith, formerly the Wife of Enis Meconico, late of the County (deced), should render up and deliver unto the said Charles Dodson qualified as aforesaid all that Estate of the said Johnson in her possession of what kinde soever both of goods chattells and Cattle for the use of William, the Sone of the said Meconico, to whome it was bequeathed as by the last Will and Testamt. of the said Johnson it doth appeare, a Probate threof accordingly was granted unto the said Dodson at a Court helde for the County of Rappahannock March the 3d. 1686 and hee haveing given sufficient security to this Court for the said Estate, for the use aforesaid, And the said Dodson complaineing to this Court that the said Agnis (in whose custodie the sd. Estate remaines) in contempt of the aforesd. Order doe therefore hereby order that the Sheriff of this County doe forthwith put the sd. Dodson in possession of all that Estate in her custodie bequeathed as aforesaid; And that the said Agnis bee sworne before the next justice truely to exhibitt the same. James Phillips, William Armes and Mr. John Wade or any two of them are ordered to apprize the said Estate and to bee sworne by the next Justice an Inventory thereof to bee exhibitted to the next Court

Charles in Court

Filing suit in colonial Virginia wasn’t so much a last resort as it seemed to be a way of life.

Court Order Book May 3 1688 order granted Francis Moore against Charles Dodson.

Court Order Book May 3 1688 Judgement granted to Nicholas Ward against Charles Dodson for 1000 pounds tobacco and caske upon obligation to be paid with cost of suit.

Charles Dodson served on a jury twice in 1688.

Going to court was as much entertainment as it was a necessity. Business was transacted and friendships cemented, and sometimes ended, I’m sure.

Sometimes men witnessed deeds of their family and neighbors. Other times, I think the witness was whoever happened to be at the pub, or at court the day the transaction happened to occur.

Deed Book Page 138-140 George Vinson to John Mills, James Gained and Charles Dodson (signature) witness.July 14, 1691

Deed Book Page 138-140 John Mills to William Richardson, John Hooper, Charles Dodson (signature) and Thomas Salsby witness Sept 12, 1692

In 1693, Charles purchases additional land.

Deed Book 2 Jan 1693/4 Samuel Travers and Frances his wife of Richmond Co to Charles Dodson, for 10000 lb tobo and cask, 500 acres, “being part of a patent granted to Mr Thomas Chitwood and George Haselock bearing Date 9th day of July 1662”. This land lying on the main branch of Totuskey Creek beginning white oak in the fork of the said branch…parcel of land sold by said Travers to Daniel Everett to head of another branch…crossing mouth of the same, adj land sold by said Travers to Dan’l Everett. Entry includes “either of our heirs in by from or under Col’n William Travers Father of me the said Samuel Travers”. Signed: Sam’l Travers, Fran Travers. Witness: Peter Hall, Gilbert Hornby (or Fornby), Mary x Wollard. Recorded 20 Jan 1693/4.

Order Book Page 108 Jan. 3, 1693/4 Ordered deed ack by Capt. Samuel Travers to Charles Dodson be recorded

This brings Charles’ land holdings to 900 acres plus the land he leases from Elmore. 900 acres would take 50 men to work the land, if all was farmable.

The Everett family is found adjoining the land of Charles’ grandson, George Dodson, when he sells his land in 1756 that he inherits from Charles’ son, Thomas. This same land would be owned by Dodson men for 3 generations.

Charles Junior Emerges in the Records

Charles Dodson Jr. is first found in conjunction with the 1693 transaction above, when Frances Travers signs power of attorney to John Taverner to relinquish her dower rights. Charles Dodson Jr. and Sr. both witness that transaction, suggesting that Charles Jr. is now age 21, but certainly no less than 16. Therefore Charles Dodson Jr. was likely born about 1672 or no later than 1677, pushing the marriage of Charles Dodson Sr. and Ann back to between 1671 and 1676.

Deed Book Jan. 2, 1693 Frances Travers assigns Power of Attorney to Mr. John Taverner to represent her in court to acknowledge “a certain parcell of land containing Fiver hundred acres sold by my Husband, Samuel Travers, unto Charles Dodson of this County by Deed and purpose. Charles Dodson Jr. signed with mark and Charles Dodson Sr. signed with signature. May 1, 1693

Another deed file the same day also shows Charles Jr. with his father and the Ann presumed to be his mother. Unfortunately, Charles Jr. also married an Anne whose surname is unknown, so it’s unclear whether the Ann below is Ann the mother or Anne the wife.

Deed Book Jan. 2, 1693 I Easter Mills of Richmond County in Virginia do constitute my truly & loving friend, Mr. Edward Read, of the abovesd County to be my lawfull Attorney for me as well in all respects as if myselfe were personally present to acknowledge a Deed made by my Husband, John Mills, & myself unto William Richardson of the abovesd. County of Richmond for One hundred Twenty & five acres of Land in the abovesd. County as Witness my hand and seale this first of May 1693 Easter Mills her marke

Being present Ann Dodson, Charles Dodson Junr., Charles Dodson Senr., Recorded: Cur Corn Richmond 17 die Maii 1693

Nancy, The Brown Cow

While Charles Dodson Jr. was old enough to witness transactions, his brother, Thomas was still a child. Thomas was born in May of 1681 according to the Farnham Church Parish records, making him about 12 when his father deeded him a brown cow named Nancy.

Deed Book Page 165 Charles Dodson convey to beloved son Thomas Dodson brown cow called by the name of Nancy marked with a crop and swallow forke on the left eare and a crop on the right eare together with all her female increase being in exchange with him my said son Thomas for one cow given him by his Godfather Peter Elmore. July 31, 1693 signed, wit William Ward and William Colston

This very interesting transaction tells us that Peter Elmore is Thomas’s godfather, but it does not say grandfather. Since a relationship was identified, if Peter Elmore was Thomas’s grandfather, it surely would have said grandfather, not godfather, since a grandfather is a blood relative and a godfather can be anyone, related or not. It does imply a close relationship between the families, but not necessarily a blood relationship.

This deed does cause me to wonder why the deed was filed at all. There was a cost associated with filing a deed, not to mention the aggravation. Why write this cow-swap up as a deed instead of just letting it be a barnyard transaction?

Clearly, there is something afoot or ahoof that we don’t and never will know.

Hurricane

The History of Northern Neck, Virginia tells us that The Royal Society of London reported that on October 29, 1693, “here happened a most violent storm in Virginia which stopped the course of ancient channels and made some where there never were any.”

Charles Dodson was probably very grateful that his land was not directly on the Rappahannock River.

Totuskey Creek and Ridge Road

These deeds put Charles’ neighbors on Totuskey Creek in proximity to Ridge Road.

Deed Book Page 29-31 May 20, 1694 William Richardson, planter, and Elizabeth wife to John Henly planter, for consideration 50 acres… Thomas Dusin line, part of dividend purchased of John Mills upon a main branch of Totuskey. Signed by marks, wit Ann Dodson signed with plus, Charles Dodson Jr signed with mark CD and Charles Dodson Sr signed.

Deed Book Page 29-31 May 20, 1694 Elizabeth Richardson POA to Thomas Dusin to ack Deed. Signed with mark, wit Ann Dodson by mark, Charles Dodson Jr by mark and Charles Dodson Sr.

Deed Book Page 32-35 June 1, 1694 William Norris and Elizabeth wife of Northumberland Co to Samuel Jones land purchased of Thomas Dusin 52 acres…line of John Ockley, divides land of William Richardson. Signed my mark, wit Henry Hartley, John Hill, John Hendley all signed with mark and Charles Dodson 94 (sic).

It’s interesting that Charles signed his name with the year.

Deed Book Page 32-35 June 1, 1694 Elizabeth Norris POA to Thomas Duzen to ack deed in court. Signed with mark, wit Henry Hartly, John Hill, signed with mark, and Charles Dodson.

Deed Book Page 35-37 June 1, 1694 Thomas Dusin and wife Susanna or Northumberland Co to William Norris paid and 2 hilling hoes to be paid yearly by the said Norris unto the said Duzen so long as he and his wife shall live and if either of them shall die then Norris shall pay but one hilling hoe and to give the said Dusin one falline axe…100 acres by estimation in Richmond Co on branches of Totuskey Creek adj land where said Dusin now lives. Beginning at red oak diving land of William Norris and Thomas Duzen up the branch to corner tree standing near line of William Mathews along Mathews line to the road then to another white oak by the road, then along a line of John Oakley formerly belonging to Thomas Madison then to a gum corner then across the Ridge Road, down line of William Richardson. Signed with marks, Henry Hartley witness, John Hill with mark, Charles Dodson 94 (sic)

I’ve never seen a hilling hoe as a form of monetary exchange before.

Deed Book Page 35-37 June 31, 1694 Power of atty Susan Duson of Richmond Co to appoint my trusty and well beloved friend William Richardson of same to be my attorney to acknowledge the above deed unto William Norris. Wit Henry Hartley, John Hirlly, Charles Dodson. Book 2, page 37

Deed Book Page 144-146 Thomas Dusin and wife Susanna 1600 pounds tobacco in case to Thomas Southerne tract 30 acres part of a patent granted to Thomas Dusin bearing date 21 7ber 1687 at the head of Totuskey branches beginning corner of Old Cone Path formerly belonging to Daniel Oneale along line divides the land of Mr. Spencer and above said Dewsins land, corner belonging to William Mathews, along line dividing land formerly belonging to John Henly and Dusin signed Feb. 26, 1694/5. Signed Wit William Norris, Elizabeth Norris by marks, Charles Dodson signed.,

Deed Book Susanna Dusin POA to William Norris to ack deed. Signed with mark. Wit Charles Dodson signed with mark, William Brokenbrough signed Feb 26, 1694/5

I wish I knew where the Old Cone Path was today.

Ridge Road (also known as 600) today runs from Richmond Road south to the intersection with History Land Highway in the southern part of the county.

Totuskey Creek, today is to the upper left, the spiderlike creeks.

However, we also know that Charles Dodson owned the land referred to as Rich Neck, north of Richmond Road (360), still along 600, probably still called Ridge Road at that time. 600 or Ridge Road dead ends on the north with Oldham Road.

Above, you can see the entire area from the village of Oldhams, past Rich Neck, crossing Richmond Road, on down 600 passing the spiderveins of feeder creeks of Totuskey Creek.

Matthew Ozgrippin and Forcible Entry

In 1695, Charles Dodson did something that sounds very un-Charles Dodson-like.

Court Order Book Page 82 – Aug. 9, 1695 Action brought by Charles Dodson against Matthew Osgrippin is dismissed the plt not appearing to prosecute.

Charles Dodson had some kind of a dispute with Matthew Ozgrippin or Ozgriffin. From the entry above, it looks and sounds like a “normal” suit in early Virginia, but it apparently escalated into something very different.

Court Order Cook Page 113 Jan. 1, 1695/6 Whereas it was represented to this court by a warrant from Capt. William Barber and verdict of a jury thereupon that a forcible entry was made upon Matthew Ozgrifin in his possession by Charles Dodson and for that the said warrant and declaration thereupon was by accident mislayed by the clerk and therefore said matter cannot come to trial. The court for prevention of any further force to be committed by the said Charles do order that the said Charles Dodson do give in bond with good and sufficient security for his good abarance towards the said Matthew Ozgrifin and said matter be returned next court.

And of course, as luck would have it, the papers were missing in a volatile case.

Court Order Book Page 121 March 4, 1695/6 Whereas a warrant and verdict of a jury together with other papers relating to a force committed by Charles Dodson and others upon the posession of Matthew Ozgrippen at last January court held for this county was conveyed away from the court table by Mr. Robert Brent amongst his books and other papers and the said Robert Brent being since dead and by reason of the badness of the weather and other accidents that the said clerk of court has not opportunity to procure them again and for that the said Charles Dodson hath not made his appearance at the said fort to answer the fact aforesaid…for prevention therefore of any other or further force to be committed the court ordered the sheriff do take the body of the said Charles Dodson into safe custody and him so to keep until he shall give bond with good security and sufficient security for his aberrance towards the said Matthew Ozgrippin and further ordered the clerk do use all effectual means for the recovery of the said papers.

And then the lawyer died.

And the weather was bad.

This is beginning to sound like a country and western song!!

Court Order Book Page 124 April 1, 1696 Warrant from under the hand of Capt. William Barber one of the majesties of the county granted unto Matthew Ozgrippin complaining that a forcible entry was made by Charles Dodson upon his possession, the sheriff was ordered to summon a good and lawful jury of the neighbourhood to make enquiry of the force committed, which said jury being impaneled and sworn returned with the following verdict, viz, “We of the jury find a forcible entry made by Charles Dodson and the verdict being returned to this court for judgment thereon, the court having fined the said Charles Dodson 1000 pounds of tobacco for the force committed as aforesaid.”

It appears that Charles did, indeed, commit forcible entry. From the previous statements, it sounds like he wasn’t alone.

Court Order Book Page 134 April 2, 1696 Nonsuit granted to Matthew Ozgrippen against Charles Dodson, he not appearing, to be paid with costs of suit.

Court Order Book Page 134 April 2, 1696 Nonsuit granted to Nicholas Liscomb against Charles Dodson, he not appearing to be paid with costs of suit.

Court Order Book Page 134 April 2, 1696 Order granted against sheriff to Nicholas Liscomb for the nonappearance of Charles Dodson according to declaration.

Next, Charles doesn’t show up for court.

Court Order Book Page 143 June 4, 1696 Reference is granted between Matthew Ozgrippin plt and Charles Dodson def till next court.

If you thought this was over, it wasn’t. By now, Charles is probably hopping mad…again!

Court Order Book Page 143 June 4, 1696 action of waste brought by Charles Dodson against Matthew Ozgripin is dismissed for that the plt hath not discharged the costs of a former nonsuit.

An action of waste addresses a change in the condition of a property brought about by the current tenant that damages or destroys the value of that property. Most likely, Matthew Ozgrippin was a tenant on one of Charles Dodson’s farms. It’s also possible that Charles has sublet the land he leased from Peter Elmore.

Court Order Book Page 144 June 4, 1696 Action of trespass brought by Charles Dodson against Matthew Ozgrippin is dismissed for that the plt hath not discharged the costs of a former nonsuit.

Now, Charles is in trouble with the court for not paying the costs of the original suit.

Trespass in this type of situation would probably be related to nonpayment of rent or fees, or perhaps that Matthew was utilizing ground not included in his lease.

Court Order Book Page 144 June 4, 1696 Attachment granted to Charles Dodson against the estate of Nicholas Liscumb according to declaration returnable.

Court Order Book Page 151 August 5, 1696 – Mr. Joshua David appeared attorney for Charles Dodson.

Charles hires an attorney.

And least we’re going to finally find out what happened.

Court Order Book Page 151 August 5, 1696 Matthew Ozgrippen brought his action of trespass upon battery in this court against John Rankin, John Magill and Charles Dodson and declared that he and the said Matthew being the peace of our sovereign lord the Kings Majesty at or near his own dwelling house situate near the head of Maraticco Creek in the county aforesaid in the month of December last past and year of 1695 and the said John Rankin, John Magill and Charles Dodson assisting and abetting the said complaintant with force and arms and contrary to the peace and did assault and beat with his fists striking him several and divers blows so that the said compl was forced to retiree to his house for the better security of his life being then in danger and that the said Rankin, Magill and Dodson the said compl with like force and arms pursiing did break open the door of the said house and then and there the compl his wife and children did beat and bruise with several and divers wounds and other outrageous and unlawful actions did trespasses the said deft did to him then and there do and commit and throwing water on his bulked tobacao destroying his corn and from his said house the complt expelling and putting out whereby the comply sayeth he is damnifying and damage hath sustained to the value of 40,000 pounds tobacco which he prayeth judgement with cost. And the said Charles Dodson one of the deft aforesaid in proper person comes into court and sayeth that he is not guilty in manner and form as in and by the said declaration it is set forth and declared for trial thereof. Jury summoned and brought verdict, “We the jury find for the plt and that the plt is damnifyed 1500 pounds of tobacco with verdict the court have confirmed and order that the said Charles Dodson pay unto the said Matthw Ozgrippin 1500 pounds tobacco together with costs of suit.”

Matthew asked for 40,000 pounds tobacco and the court awarded him 1,500 pounds. This sounds like the kind of lawsuit where everyone walks away unhappy.

The head of Moratico Creek could be either of the two branches near the red pin. Farnham Creek is the large creek above and to the left of the pin.

Court Order Book Page 153 August 5, 1696 Matthew Ozgrippin together with William Norris this day in court did ack themselves indebted to William Tayloe in the sum of 3000 pounds tobacco to be paid unto the said Tayloe in case the said Matthew shall not answer an appeal from an order of the court granted unto him by Charles Dodson.

Court Order Book Page 154 August 5, 1696 Attachment granted last court against estate of Nicholas Liscumb to Charles Dodson according to declaration in continued.

Court Order Book Page 154 August 5, 1696 Foreasmuch as the sheriff of the county made appear to the court that he lawfully summoned John Rankin an evidence in the suit depending between Matthew Ozgrippin plt and John Magill. John Rankin and Charles Dodson def at the suite of the said Charles and the said John not appearing the court have fined the said John Rankin according to act of assembly and order that the same be paid unto the said Charles Dodson alias execution.

Apparently, Matthew sued the other two men as well, although he eventually drops at least one, stating that the “matter is in the past now.”  Not so with Charles Dodson.

Court Order Book Page 155 August 5, 1696 – Foreasmuch as the sheriff of the county made appear to the court that he lawfully summoned John Magill an evidence in the suit depending between Matthew Ozgrippin plt and John Magill. John Rankin and Charles Dodson def at the suite of the said Charles and the said John not appearing the court have fined the said John MaGill according to act of assembly and order that the same be paid unto the said Charles alias execution.

Court Order Book Page 171 Oct. 7, 1696 Action brought by Charles Dodson against Nicholas Liscumb dismissed the plt not appearing to prosecute.

Charles doesn’t show up, again, even though he is the plaintiff.

Court Order Book Page 195 Nov. 5, 1696 Petition of William Colston clerk ord that said Colston be allowed and paid out of the fines leveyed upon Charles Dodson for his force committed up on the possession of Matthew Ozgrippin 180 pounds tobacco being fees arising due to him in the prosecution of said force.

Court Order Book Page 244 June 3, 1697 Order brought against Charles Dodson by Matthew Ozgrippin dismissed, plt not prosecuting.

And so, the drama is finally over in June of 1697, almost two years after it started in court in August 1695, and 18 months after Charles committed forcible entry and apparently assaulted Matthew Ozgrippen.

This behavior of Charles is so aberrant from anything else we’ve seen that it calls into question why. I have to wonder if the problem was so outrageous that Charles resorted to equally as outrageous behavior.

Charles was about 45 years old in 1695, no spring chicken by any means and not likely to be a young hothead, lacking maturity. This type of behavior calls into question things like one’s daughter’s integrity, but Ozgrippen was married with children.

The what is disclosed, but never why.

We will clearly never know the true backstory, other than knowing that Charles was extremely angry for some reason and the two men with him appear to share Charles’ anger or outrage.

The Elmore Lease

According to the July 10, 1679 Elmore lease, Charles Dodson’s lease on Elmore’s land expired in 19 years, which would have been July 10, 1698.

At this time, Charles was supposed to have built a house and barn, planted orchards and fenced the area.

We don’t hear any more about this land, but if Charles vacated in 1698 as stipulated, that might explain his reference in his 1702/03 will to his new house on his plantation.

I’m sure when he was a young man first leasing that land, he never anticipated that 19 years later, he would be in the twilight years of his life.

Back to Normal Lawsuits

For the next year and a half after the Ozgrippin drama ends, Charles Dodson keeps a low profile. He doesn’t sue anyone, doesn’t get sued by anyone, doesn’t sit on a jury, doesn’t witness deeds and doesn’t appear in any court records, but in late 1698, he appears again.

Court Order Book Page 355 Nov. 4, 1698 Attachment granted to Charles Dodson against estate of Thomas Yates.

Court Order Book Page 373 March 1, 1698/9 Action brought by Charles Dodson against Thomas Yates dismissed, the plt not appearing to prosecute.

Court Order Book Page 387 March 3, 1698/9 Action brought by Charles Dodson against William Cambell is dismissed, the plt not prosecuting.

I’m beginning to wonder about this trend of Charles not showing up in court after filing suit. It is one way to have a suit dismissed, but we don’t see evidence of Charles doing this earlier. Does make one wonder.

Specifically, I’m wondering if Charles, in his mid-late 40s has suffered small strokes or maybe what today would be known as a traumatic brain injury. Brain injuries are known to create changes in behavior and impulsiveness. Something like being thrown from a horse could cause that kind of injury. That fact that he is suddenly not interacting with others as someone who has previously been trusted and responsible, after having done so for many years, makes me wonder if his neighbors were all aware.

The Deposition and More Goodies

Richmond Co., VA Miscellaneous Records, 1699-1724 TLC Genealogy Page 4 – Deposition of Charles Dodson Sr. aged about 50 years that about last April 16 being on board the Doublin Merchant in company with John Macgill he did hear the said John Macgill agree with Mr. Francis Moore, Merchant of the said shop, for a man servant named John Conner who had 6 years to serve by indenture and that the said Dodson read the said indenture and further says not. Signed Charles Dodson Recorded March 6, 1699

I called the Richmond County clerk’s office on 4-17-2017 and they don’t know where to look for this document. I was hoping to obtain a copy because it carries the actual signature of Charles Dodson. The Library of Virginia Chancery Records Index shows Richmond County chancery documents beginning in 1748.

Here, we find Charles Dodson in the company of John MacGill once again. Thank goodness for this deposition, which tells us approximately when Charles was born.

The Dublin Merchant with Francis Moore as Captain was a well know merchant ship that traveled back and forth from England and Ireland, transporting tobacco from Virginia and in return, bringing indentured servants.

At least one of those indentured servants worked on Charles Dodson’s plantation.

Court Order Book Page 408 June 7, 1699 Thomas Lane, servant to Charles Dodson, being presented.

When an underage servant became indentured, they were often presented to the court in order to have their age adjudged. This served two purposes. First, the length of the indenture sometimes was dependent on the age of the servant and second, their “legal age” as determined by the court also determined when the “master” had to start paying tithes on the servant, which typically happened for a white male at age 16.

Charles Dodson still “owns” part of this man’s time when his estate is filed in 1706, so apparently this man’s indenture was longer than the traditional 7 years.

Court Order Book Page 473 Sept. 7, 1699 Nonsuit granted against Charles Dodson Sr. to James Lovett the said Dodson not appearing to prosecute and to be paid with cost of suit.

Charles Dodson didn’t show up, AGAIN, and just about the time I think that maybe something is REALLY wrong with him, he’s on a jury. Go figure!!!

Court Order Book Page 485 Oct. 5, 1699 Mr. Charles Dodson on Jury

Of course, conceivably the jury member could have been Charles Jr., but it’s unlikely given that he didn’t yet own land and it the record doesn’t say Jr.

Court Order Book Page 510 Nov. 2, 1699 Order granted against the sheriff to Charles Dodson for nonappearance of William Cambell according to declaration. Attachment hereon granted to sheriff.

Court Order Book Page 510 Nov. 2, 1699 Action brought by Charles Dodson against Mathew Ozgrippin is dismissed, plt not prosecuting.

Not Ozgrippin again…4 years later. I’d wager Ozgrippin is still Charles Dodson’s tenant, even after their altercation.

Court Order Book Page 511 Nov. 2, 1699 Action brought by Charles Dodson Sr. against William Norris is dismissed the plt not prosecuting.

Court Order Book Page 11 January 4, 1699/1700 Judgement granted to Charles Dodson assignee of John Bertrand against William Cambell for 531 pounds good tobacco in case upon bill to be paid with cost of suit.

Court Order Book Page 60 October 2, 1700 Ordered Mr. Charles Dodson Sr., Mr. Geo Davenport and Denis Commeron or any 2 of them some time between this and the next court to meet at the house of John Gill late decd (now of Henry Adcock) and inventory and appraise estate. Capt. John Tarply requested to administer oath.

Hmmm, I wonder if this is really John Gill or if it’s John McGill.

Court Order Book Page 68 Oct. 3, 1700 Order granted against the sheriff to William Norris, assignee of Charles Dodson for the non appearance of James Ritchins.

Court Order Book Page 82 – March 6, 1700/01 Judgement granted to William Norris assignee of Charles Dodson against James Kitchin for 450 pounds tobacco in caske upon bill to be paid with cost of suit.

Court Order Book Page 106 May 8, 1701 Order granted against sheriff to Capt. John Lancaster for the non-appearance of Charles Dodson, Sr.

Charles doesn’t show up for court again.

Court Order Book Page 128 Dec. 4, 1701 Action brought by Capt. John Lancaster against Charles Dodson Sr. is dismist ye plt not prosecuting.

Charles Writes His Will

Charles Dodson’s will was written on 11 January 1702/3 and probated on 6 February 1705/06 at North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, Colony of Virginia. It’s rather unusual that a will would be written two years before the individual died, but apparently something happened to Charles, caused him to be injured or ill and anticipate that he was going to die, but then he recovered for about 3 years.

In The name of God amen, I Charles Dodson being sick and weake of body but in sound and Good disposing memory praise be given to God for the same do make this my Last Will and Testament in manner and forme following that is to say first & principally I resigne my soul into the merciful hands of almighty God my Greator assuredly hoping through the merritts of my blessed Saviour to obtaine Remission of all my sins and my body I Committ to the Earth whence it was taken to be Decently buryed by the Discretion of my Executrix herein after named and as for the worldly Goods and Estate the Lord hath Lent me I dispose therof as followeth.

I Give bequeath to my son Charles Dodson the plantation formerly call Coll Travers quarter with a hundred and fifty acres of Land to him and to the male heires Lawfully begotten of his body and if the above Charles Dodson should dye without any male heirs that then the Land should Returne to the next heire of the Dodson.

Secondly. I give and bequeath to my son Thomas Dodson a plantation seated in a neck formerly called the Rich neck with a hundred and fifty acres of Land to him and the male heires Lawfully begotten of his owne body forever and if the above said Thomas Dodson should dye without any male that then the Land should return to the next heire of the Dodson.

Thirdly. I Give and bequeath to my son Bartho: Rich’d Dodson the plantation that Thomas Reeves liveth on knowne by the name of oake neck with one hundred and fifty acres of Land binding upon the Land formerly belonging to Daniele Everard from the head to the foot to him and the male heires Lawfully begotten of his owne body and if he should dye without male heires that then the Land to returne to the next heires.

Fourthly. I Give and bequeath to my son William Dodson the Plantation in hickory neck with one hundred and fifty acres of land to him and the male heires Lawfully begotten of his body and if no male heire appeare then to Returne to the next heire of the Dodson the said Land to bind upon brother Bartho Richd Dodson Land from the head to the foot

Fifthly. I Give and bequeath to my son John Dodson two hundred acres of Land it being part of hickory neck and of Indian Cabin neck binding upon his brother William Dodson to him and the male heires Lawfully begotten of his owne body and if the above said Wm Dodson should die without any male heire that then the Land Returne to the next of the Dodson

Sixthly. I Give and bequeath to my son Lambert Dodson my new Dwelling plantation with the hundred acres of Land belonging to it to him and the male heires Lawfully begotten of his body and if no male heire appears that then the Land to Returne to the next of the Dodson.

Seventhly. I Give and bequeath to my Deare and Loving Wife Anne Dodson and my daughters Anne Dodson and Elizabeth Dodson all my moveable Estate of what kind soever within and without to be Equally Divided betweene them.

Eighthly. My desire is that none of the Land out of the name might be sold Except one Brother selleth to another and if no male appeareth by none of my sons then my Daughters may Inheritt the Land.

Lastly. And all the Rest and Residue of my Estate Goods and Chattells not herein before bequeathed after my Debts and funrall Expenses discharged I do give and bequesth unto my Deare and Loving wife Anne Dodson whome I do make sole Exectrix of this my Last will and Testament Revoking all other wills by me heretofore made. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seale the 11th day of Jan. one thousand seven hundred two three. Charles Dodson Sen (Seal) Proved in Richmond County Court by the oath of Christopher Petty the 6th day of Febry. 1705 and by the oath of John Beckwith the 6th day of March following & Recorded.

signed Charles Dodson

Test J Sherlock CI Cur

Richmond County, Virginia – Wills

Charles will did not have any witnesses, which was rather unusual but perhaps suggested the will was made hurriedly, with the expectation that he might not live long.  The will was proven by Christopher Petty on February 6, 1705/06 and John Beckwith on March 6, 1705/06 even though they apparently did not witness the creation of signing of the will itself.

Charles Sells Land to Sons

Charles wrote his will on January 11th, but apparently 3 weeks or so later, he felt better and realizing that he was not going to die imminently, decided to deed the land he was leaving to both Charles and Thomas instead of waiting for nature to take its course. I would surely love to know what happened to Charles in January of 1702/03.

Deed Book Page 208-210 February 2, 1702 Charles Dodson of North Farnham Parish Richmond Co for natural love and fatherly affection that I have and bear towards my son Charles Dodson Jr of the same county and parish, and for divers other good causes and to the male heirs of his body lawfully begotten plantation and tract of land whereon he now lives in the same county and parish 150 acres formerly known by the name or called Travers’s Quarter it being the one half of the tract of land purchased by me of the said Capt. Samuel Travers containing 300 acres and bounded by a branch that runs up between the said plantation and track of land known or called by the name Rich Neck. Grant to Charles Dodson or to any of the heires male of me that the said Charles Dodson or to the lineally descend from him the said Charles Dodson Jr to the heires male that shall be next of kin by consanguinity so that the same and every part thereof may be and remain and endure in the tenure occupation and possession of the relacons and male issue of the Dodson forever. I do by these presents debar and forever make voyd any manner of sale lease mortgage or conveyance that my said son Charles Dodson Jr or his heires male as aforesaid or the heires male of any or either of them shallmake of any part or parcel of the premises to any person or persons whatsoever (expect it be one of his brothers to whom it shall and maybe lawfull for him to sell and convey the same in case he shall want such issue as it aforesaid) according to the provisions and limitation herein before mentioned and reserved, but to no other use intent of purposes whatsoever. Signed. Wit William Fitzherbert and William Noris by mark Ack Feb. 3, 1702 Book 3 page 104

Deed Book Page 210-212 February 2, 1702 Charles Dodson of North Garnham Parish Richmond Co for natural love and fatherly affection that I have and bear towards my son Thomas Dodson of the same county and parish, and for divers other good causes and to the male heirs of his body lawfully begotten plantation and tract of land whereon he now lives in the same county and parish 150 acres formerly known by the name or called Travers’s Quarter it being the one half of the tract of land purchased by me of the said Capt. Samuel Travers containing 300 acres and bounded by a branch that runs up between the said plantation and track of land known or called by the name Rich Neck that Charles Dodson Jr. now lives on. Grant to Charles Dodson or to any of the heires male of me that the said Charles Dodson or to the lineally descend from him the said Charles Dodson Jr to the heires male that shall be next of kin by consanguinity so that the same and every part thereof may be and remain and endure in the tenure occupation and possession of the relacons and male issue of the Dodson forever. I do by these presents debar and forever make voyd any manner of sale lease mortgage or conveyance that my said son Thomas Dodson or his heires male as aforesaid or the heires male of any or either of them shallmake of any part or parcel of the premises to any person or persons whatsoever (expect it be one of his brothers to whom it shall and maybe lawfull for him to sell and convey the same in case he shall want such issue as it aforesaid) according to the provisions and limitation herein before mentioned and reserved, but to no other use intent of purposes whatsoever. Signed. Wit William Fitzherbert and William Noris by mark Ack Feb. 3, 1703 Book 3 page 105

The area called Rich Neck, today is about 8000 feet across the bottom of the arc created by Marshy Swamp

One mile square by one mile is 640 acres. This area is roughly that size, which means Charles Dodson’s 300 acre property would have encompassed about half of area, if his property were inside the arc. We know it did not fit inside the arc exactly, because a branch separates the land of the two brothers, but we know this is the general area because of the Oldham Community, Oldham Road, the Lyells community and the Lyells Chapel Baptist Church just beneath Rich Neck.

Charles son, Thomas Dodson eventually sold the land to the Lyell family and Thomas’s daughter married an Oldham. So, we know that we’re looking at Charles Dodson’s land, we just don’t know exactly where the boundaries were located. Running the deeds forward in time to current or until a landmark is recognized, such as a church, could locate Charles’ land exactly.

Court Order Book Page 221 Feb 3 1702/3 Charles Dodson ack deed of gift of land to Thomas Dodson and ordered recorded.

Court Order Book Page 221 Feb 3 1702/3 Charles Dodson ack deed of gift of land to Charles Dodson and ordered recorded.

Charles was adamant that this land was forever to be Dodson land, but that determination made it particularly difficult for his sons to sell the land, to anyone, for any reason, except their brothers.

The Rest of Charles Land

We know that Charles Dodson owned at least 600 acres in total, based on the deeds we have found. Deeds equaling 300 acres are missing.

Charles’s will indicates that he owned 900 acres of land that he left to his sons, as follows:

  • 300 acres – Rich Neck, 150 each to Thomas and Charles Jr.
  • 150 acres – Oak Neck, to Bartholomew Richard
  • 150 acres – Hickory Neck, to William
  • 200 acres – Indian Cabin Neck, to John
  • 100 acres – new dwelling plantation, to Lambert

Other than Rich Neck, I’ve been unable to locate the other descriptions on a current map, today, but tracking the land forward in time through sales might be able to determine locations. We do know, generally, that Charles land fell in the following region along Totuskey Creek and its branches including Rich Neck.

At least one of these fields, or probably several, near Rich Neck belonged to Charles Dodson.

Interestingly, the land that eventually belonged to Charles Dodson, according to this map in the book “Richmond County, Virginia 1692-1992 A Tricentennial Portrait” by Robert R. Harper for the Richmond County Tricentennial Commission, was occupied by the Rappahannock Indians until between 1674 and 1676.

Charles Cheats the Grim Reaper

Just when you think the curtain is drawing on the last act, it isn’t, after all.

Court Order Book Page 332 June 7, 1704 Ordered Charles Dodson, William Smoote and George Devenport or any 2 of them appraise estate of James Gilbert. Sworn plus Mary Gilbert executrix.

Charles is apparently still trusted enough to be ordered to appraise an estate inventory and to serve on a jury.

Court Order Book Page 336 June 7, 1704 William Smoote and Charles Dodson on jury.

Court Order Book Page 344 Aug. 2, 1704 Will of Thomas Southerne and proved by oaths of Christopher Petty and Charles Dodson

Charles’s sons, now in their 20s, and neighbor Thomas Durham, somewhat a legendary bad boy, seem to be misbehaving together.

Court Order Book Page 18 December 6, 1704 Charles Dodson Jr and Thomas Dodson and Thomas Durham summoned to court for not going to church for two months together.

Court Order Book Page 34 February 7, 1704/05 Peter Elmore, Thomas Dodson, Charles Dodson Jr. and Thomas Durham summoned to court to answer presentment of grand jury against them for not going to church for 2 months together and not appearing, ordered they be fined according to law and pay same with costs.

Looks like they recruited Peter Elmore too.

Court Order Book Page 75 October 4, 1705 Will of Eve Smith presented to the court by son Abraham Goad with oaths of William Dodson, Charles Dodson Sr. and Anne Dodson.

Court Order Book Page 83 October 4, 1705 Action brought by William Lambert against Charles Dodson is dismissed, plt not prosecuting.

Charles Dodson’s Estate

Some time between October 4th 1705 and February 6th 1706, Charles Dodson died.

Court Order Book February 6, 1705/06 Will of Charles Dodson proved by oath of Christopher Petty

Court Order Book Page 137 March 6, 1705/06 Will of Charles Dodson proved by   oath of John Beckwith.

Charles’s wife remarried to John HIll before July 3.

Court Order Book Page 171 July 3, 1706 Upon petition of John Hill and Anne his wife, exec of the will of Charles Dodson decd ordered that John Rankin, William Smoote, John Mills and Richard Whtie or any 3 of them meet at the house of John Hill and inventory and appraise the estate of Charles Dodson. All sworn plus John Hill and Anne, his wife.

Charles Dodson estate inventory was filed with the court on Oct. 17, 1706, as follows:

  • Feather bed and bedstead and parcel of sheets and one blanket and one rugg – 0600
  • One flock bed and paire of blankets one sheet and rug and bolster and bedstead – 0500
  • One saw and six reep hooks and one paire of old pestells holsters and one old chest and one old bill book – 0200
  • Eight chairs – 0800
  • Two wooden chairs – 0100
  • One chest of drawers and table – 1000
  • Two chest – 0250
  • One small table couch – 0150
  • One warming pan two paire of tongs and one box iron – 0200
  • One pair hilliards – 0250
  • One super table cloth and 12 napkins – 0200
  • Four old napkins and one old table cloth – 0050
  • One feather bed curtains and valens one blankett one pair of sheets and two pillows – 1100
  • A parcel of old books – 0150
  • Ole looking glass and lantron? – 0050
  • One old flock bed 2 blankets rug bolster and pillows – 0400
  • 2 spinning wheels – 0150
  • 3 pots 3 pothooks and 3 pot hangers one spit and one iron pestell – 0450
  • 99 weight of pewter – 0950
  • One bellmettle pestle and mortar 0 0700
  • 7.5 pounds of brass – 0130
  • One servant man 3 years and 8 months to serve – 2200
  • One pare of small hilliards and two smoothing iron and two cutting knives and skewers – 0150
  • One mare and two horses – 2400
  • Parcel of old iron – 0100
  • Pair of cart wheels – 0060
  • Old crosscut saw – 0150
  • One saddle and pillow or pillion – 0120
  • 3 cows and 3 years old – 1800
  • One cow and calfe – 0500
  • 6 two yeare olde – 1200
  • One steere of 5 years old – 0500
  • 2 barren cows and heifer and one calfe – 1400
  • 3 old sheep – 0300
  • 3 lambs – 0200

Total 18780

Signed John Rankin, William Smoot and Richard R. White (his mark)

William Smoot was there in the beginning, and he was there in the end too.

I absolutely love estate inventories, because they tell us exactly what was in the household and on the farm when the man died. Inventories included everything owned by the couple, because the man was presumed to own all property except for the wife’s clothes and any land deeded to her, explicitly stating without the husband’s involvement, after their marriage. The wife was entitled to one third of the value of the estate unless he provided for more in his will. However, the actual value was established by the sale of the inventory items, not by the inventory itself.

Charles’ estate is remarkable in a few different ways. First, because there are no slaves – and this man owned 900 acres of land before he gave 300 acres to his oldest sons, leaving him with 600 acres. How did he farm this land? Perhaps he first had tenants, like Ozgrippin and then his sons began farming as soon as possible.

Second, there are no plows, axes, wagons or carriages. There is only one man’s saddle and no woman’s saddle. Perhaps Charles last 100 acres where his new house was built wasn’t an active plantation.

There were a total of 3 horses, and no oxen. Oxen worked the fields. Clearly, Charles Dodson was not farming. I suspect he leased land to others and accepted a percentage of the crops as payment. In the vernacular of the day, Charles had certainly achieved the American Dream.

Of the estates I’ve worked with in the Northern Neck families, this is the first one with any hint of opulence. The table cloth and 12 napkins would have certainly been for entertaining. There is also an old table cloth and a couch, which is certainly not a piece of furniture of necessity.

There were a total of 10 chairs, but only three beds, and only one was a feather bed. One of the beds had bed curtains,

By Allot rené – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19091796

I remember on a tour of a period home several years ago being told that bedcurtains were both for privacy and warmth.

Servants came and went in the bedchamber, and Charles Dodson had at least one servant, although we really don’t know if this man, Charles Lane, worked in the house or on the farm. I’m betting, on the farm, where labor translated into tobacco, the currency of early Virginia – except Charles estate didn’t include any tobacco. Perhaps it had not yet been planted for 1706.

One bed was a feather bed, considered a luxury, but the second and third were a flock beds. Flock was a bed filled with flocks or locks of coarse wool or pieces of cloth cut up finely, according to the dictionary. I found a wonderful article about beds and bedding here, including pictures.

A bedstead was considered to be the bed without the mattress, typically with slats or rope beneath the mattress, reaching from side to side of the bedstead.

A bolster was a stuffed cylinder of fabric that lay beneath the bottom sheet beneath the pillows at the top of the bed.

Blankets were woolen, but bed rugs, although none survive today, were decorative for on top of the blankets.

A warming pan typically means a pan to warm the bed, generally filled with rocks and heated in the fireplace.

However, there are no chamber pots listed.

A smoothing iron was a clothing iron, heated in the fireplace and then used to iron the clothes. Little did I realize I actually own a child’s replica smoothing iron, at least I think it’s a child’s replica.

Above, the base of one iron and a second, smaller iron that is about two and a half inches long, assembled. Below, the smaller iron comes apart into two pieces, the bottom for heating and the top for putting on the bottom so that, hopefully, the ironer’s hands won’t be burned.

This iron did not descend through my father’s family line, so it certainly isn’t Charles Dodson’s.

The spinning wheels certainly weren’t tools used by Charles, but the looking glass may have been a shared resource. Looking glasses were scarce and status symbols.

Charles had cattle and sheep, but no pigs.

There were no kettles or cooking utensils listed other than the 3 pots, although pothooks were accounted for. There were no plates, although the 99 pewter could include plates. Forks would not have been pewter.

There were also no candleholders or other utensils.

And lastly, there was no tobacco, which is what makes me think that Charles leased or rented his land – probably to his sons.

Do you ever ask yourself what you would want from an ancestor’s estate?

In this case, I think I would want the parcel of old books. That, I think, might be the key to understanding more about Charles. I did notice that there is no Bible, although he might have already passed that on. His son, Charles Jr., died 10 years later and there is no Bible in his inventory either.

More than I’d like to own any one thing, I think I’d just like to turn back time and visit Charles’ plantation. Heck, as long as I’m dreaming, I’d like to visit with Charles and Ann in their home and sit with the family at one of the dinners. Yep, that’s what I’d like.

I wonder how many generations back in time Charles knew, and what he knew about his ancestors. Clearly, he would have been able to tell us something about the family in England.

Ann Dodson Remarries

There is no marriage record for Ann Dodson, but by the time Charles estate was ordered to be inventoried in July of 1706, she had already remarried to John Hill. Quick marriages in colonial America were common and in the interest of all parties concerned. The Dodson and Hill families had known each other for years, and there are many documents that include both Charles Dodson and John Hill. Charles would probably have been very pleased, although it appears that not everyone was.

Court Order Book Page 267 April 3, 1707 Action brought by Thomas Dodson against John Hill marrying the Executrix of Charles Dodson, is dismist, Plt. not prosecuting.

Whatever the issue with Thomas, it was settled out of court.  I do wonder if he was upset about his mother remarrying or about something within the estate.  There does appear to be quite a bit missing.

Court Order Book Page 267 April 3 1707 Action brought by Catherine Gwyn executor of the last will and testament of John and Elizabeth, executors of the last will and testament of Charles Dodson, decd, is dismissed plt not prosecuting. (verified text of above in transcribed text)

Court Order Book Page 275 May 7 1707 John Hll and Anne his wife exec of Charles Dodson confest judgement to Katherine Gwyn exec of will of Majr David Gwyn for 8 pounds 19 shillings and 8 pence 3 farthings and 731 pounds of sweet sented tobacco due upon balance of accounts ordered to be paid with costs.

Court Order Book Page 281 May 8 1707 Imparlance granted in suite between John Harper plt and John Hill and Anne his wife exec of Charles Dodson decd, till next court.

Court Order Book Page 292 July 3 1707 John Harper against John Hill and Anne his wife exec of Charles Dodson decd, deft for 500 pounds of tobacco upon balance of accounts, def pleaded they owed nothing and plt asked time to next court.

Court Order Book Page 303 Sept 4 1707 Judgement granted to John Harper against John Hill and Anne his wife exec of Charles Dodson, decd, for 405 pounds tobacco due by account proved by oath of plt ordered paid with costs.

Court Order Book Page 323 Dec 4 1707 John Hll and Anne his wife exe of will of Charles Dodson decd against John Harper dismissed, plt not prosecuting.

Court Order Book Page 40 June 2 1709 Judgment granted to John Davis Sr. against John Hill and Anne, wife, exec of Charles Dodson decd for 136 pounds tobacco due by account ordered paid with costs.

There were quite a few people bringing suit to collect debts, which is quite unusual if the executrix agrees that the debt is valid.

Prices in Virginia

Charles Dodson died in early 1706, and his estate was valued in English pounds. However, the true money of the early Virginia economy was most often tobacco. People paid their debts with tobacco, paid for land with tobacco and paid court costs and taxes with tobacco.

In the court records, I discovered 1709 prices, regulated by the court, for various items, mostly alcohol, which was considered to be totally indispensable, and items like pasturage for your horse and a night’s lodging.

1709 prices county to entertain and sell at:

  • Gallon rum 10 s or 12 tob
  • Quart English beer 15 s of 15 tob
  • Quart of punch, one third rum and good sugar 12 s or 12 tob
  • Good dyet 12s or 12 tob
  • Pasturage or fodder 24 hours 03 s or 3 tob
  • Pottle of corn 3 s or 3 tob
  • Quart of Medera Wine 2 s 6 d or 3 tob
  • 1 night lodging 3 s or 3 tob
  • Small beer p gallon 7 s 1/2 or 7 /.2 tob

It’s interesting to compare items in Charles estate to see what that item could have purchased according to the 1709 prices, which were probably roughly the same as 1706 prices.

Son, Charles Dodson Dies

Ten years after Charles Dodson Sr., dies, his son, Charles Jr. dies as well, just two weeks after the birth of his daughter, Mary. It’s obviously a very sad day for the Dodson family. I believe, but am not positive, that Ann Dodson Hill is still living.

Charles Dodson Jr.’s wife, Anne, surname unknown, does not remarry, so we can tell the estates apart by the fact that Charles Sr.’s wife is now Ann Hill.

The year before Charles Jr. died, he absented himself from church. He certainly could have been ill. In 1715, Charles Jr. would have been in his early 40s.

Court Order Book Page 22 June 1, 1715 Charles Dodson to be summoned to answer the presentment of the grand jury against him for absenting himself from divine service at the church for a month past in the parish of Farnham.

Court Order Book Page 325 July 7, 1715 Charles Dodson being summoned to answer presentment of the grand jury against him for not going to church for one month, but not appearing when called, it is ordered that he be fined 50 pounds of tobacco and that he pay the same to the churchwardens of the Northfarnham Parish with costs.

Given the following land entry, it appears that the reason Charles wasn’t in church is that he was ill, gravely so.

Court Order Book Page 250 Charles Dodson, Farnham Parish, will July 8, 1715, probated May 2, 1716, son Charles all land between spring branch and the branch that parts by land from the land of Thomas Dodson, son Furtunatus all land below by spring branch. Wife Anne, ex: wife; wits Bartholomew R. Dodson, George Petty

Charles Jr.’s will was probated in May, 1716.

Will Book Page 468 May 1, 1716 Last will of Charles Dodson decd presented into court by Ann Dodson, his executrix, who made oath and proved by Bartholomew Richard Dodson, one of the witnesses.

Ann Dodson, Bartholomew Richard Dodson and William Hanks came into court and acknowledge their bond for the said Ann Dodson’s just and faithful administrator of the estate of Charles Dodson, decd.

Joshua Stone, Thomas Dew, William Stone and John Fenn or any 3 of them to appraise the estate of Charles Dodson. All sworn by oath and Ann Dodson.

Court Order Book Page 473 May 2, 1716 Judgement granted Mathew Davis against Ann Dodson executrix of Charles Dodson decd for 456 pounds tobacco due by bill which is ordered to be paid out of the estate, with costs.

Will Book Page 506 June 6, 1716 Appraisement of estate of Charles Dodson decd ordered recorded.

Will Book Page 268 and 269 – Pursuant to an order of the court dated the 2 day of May 1716…being sworn to inventory and appraise all and singularly effects of Charles Dodson as was ? to by executrix Ann Dodson:

  • 2 cows and calfs – 4.0.0
  • 2 barron cows – 3.10.0
  • 1 heifer and 3 yearlings – 3.0.0
  • 2 cow and calf – 2.0.0
  • 5 piggs 7 shotes and 2 old sows – 1?.5.0
  • 16 sheep – 3.15.0
  • 2 iron potts 60 – 0.10.0
  • 1 brass cottoll 2 – 0.0.8
  • 28 ? old putor – 0.7.0
  • 1 pr of floams? and a grato – 0.0.2
  • 6 bowls and 1 tray – 0.7?.2
  • 6 wooden trenchers 0.0.6
  • 2 spinning whells – 0.4.0
  • 2 wedges old pestill spit and pott rack – 0.4.0
  • 1 table 2 chests and a box – 0.7.0
  • 1 old cush? And runlotts – 0.3.0
  • 4 bottols a pail and pig on att – 0.3.6
  • 4 old hoes and 2 axes att – 0.1.0
  • 1 feather bed boosted and cord att – 0.17.6
  • 1 small flock ditto at – 0.5.0
  • 1 old chalf bed and 2 old blankets at – 0.2.0
  • 1 old chamberpot att – 0.0.1

Total inventory estate of 12.14.7

Inventory was taken by Joshua Stone, Thomas Dew and William Stone

The crops of tobacco that was growing at ye time of this document being ye first day of August amount to 129.6

The thing I find most surprising about Charles’ Jr. estate is that, compared to his father, he didn’t have a large estate at all, and he owned no slaves. Indentured servants were typically listed too, with the number of years they had yet to serve. Charles owned 150 acres of land and had owned that land since 1702. How was he farming without either slaves or indentured servants given the intensive labor requirements of tobacco?

Court Order Book Page 20 July 5, 1716 Case between William Gantleroy Gent and Ann Dodson executrix of estate of Charles Dodson, decd, deft, at deft motion an imparlance is granted her till next court.

Court Order Book Page 37 August 2, 1716 Judgement granted William Fantleroy gent against the estate of Charles Dodson in the hands of Ann Dodson, administratrix of Charles Dodson’s estate for 694 pounds tobacco said Fantleroy making oath in court that the same is justly due which is ordered to be paid with costs.

Court Order Book Page 43 August 2, 1716 William Barber action of debt against Ann Dodson, executrix of will of Charles Dodson, decd, for 900 pounds of good sound merchantable tobacco and caske due by bill is dismissed, the plt not prosecuting.

The next entry is quite interesting, given that John Hill is married to Charles Jr.’s mother.

Court Order Book Page 43 August 2, 1716 John Hill his action of case against Ann Dodson executrix of the will of Charles Dodson decd for 313 pounds tobacco due by account is dismissed, plt not prosecuting.

Given that there was no prosecution, it looks like they settled their differences out of court.

Court Order Book Page 71 October 4, 1716 William Barber his action of debt against Ann Dodson executrix of the will of Charles Dodson, decd, is dismist the plt not prosecuting.

Court Order Book Page 72 John Naylor action of debt against Ann Dodson executrix of will of Charles Dodson decd dismissed plt not prosecuting.

Court Order Book Page 93 Feb. 7, 1716/17 John Naylor action of debt against Ann Dodson executrix of will of Charles Dodson, decd, for 468 pounds of sweet scented tobacco upon balance of a bill is dismissed plt not prosecuting.

In March 1718/19, Ann Dodson dies too. This couple died relatively young. Their youngest child, Mary, wouldn’t turn 4 until in July of 1719.

Will Book Page 78 March 4, 1718/19 Will of Ann Dodson decd presented in court by Charles Dodson, her executor and proved by oath of Bartholomew Richard Dodson.

Motion of Charles Dodson executor of will of Ann Dodson decd his account against decd estate is admitted to record.

Will Book Page 107b – Account: March 31, 1719. An account of what tobacco I have paid for the estate of Ann Dodson, decd. To: funeral charges; burying of my sister, Mary Dodson; Thomas Reed, Mr. Newman Broockenbrough, Capt. Woodbridge, John Simson; Jeames Foushe: Total 1890. Per me – Charles Dodson. At the motion of Charles Dodson this account was AR at April 1, 1719 R. Court

Except Mary never turned 4. Instead, she died the same month as her mother.

The Sons Attempt to Sell

Charles Dodson Sr. intended to keep his land in the family, but in reality, he hobbled his son’s choices by allowing them to sell only to each other and not outside the family. Was this intentional, to keep them in Richmond County, or was this an unintended consequence of his good intentions?

Was there a son in particular that Charles worried might squander his fortune?

In 1720, the sons and their sons begin to attempt to dispose of the land inherited from Charles Dodson Sr. by “leasing” land for 3 natural lifetimes.

Deed Book Page 522-523 July 8 1720 John and Charles Dodson to Robert Matthews, all of North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, 4000 pounds tobacco for the term of 3 natural lifetimes and the longest liver of them a tract in Farnham Parish now in posession of Christopher Petty and ye land of Bartholomew Richard Dodson on branche of Totaskee containing 100 acres being half of 200 acres Charles Dodson father of aforesaid John and grandfather of Charles Dodson gave to John Dodson by his last will. Three natural lives to wit Robert Mathews, Sarah Mathewes and Joana Mathews and the longest liver of them paying every year the usual rent due and one ear of Indian corn yearly unto the aid John and Charles Dodson if demanded. Signed both by mark, Charles with C, wit Thomas Reeve and George Petty.

John and Charles Dodson bound unto Robert Mathews for 8000 pounds tobacco…obligation to perform and keep all ye convenants and agreements. Signed with markes wit Thomas Reeve and George Petty July 2, 1720

Deed Book Page 21 May 5-6 1734, Bartholomew Richard Dodson and wife Elizabeth of Weecomoce (Wicomico) Parish in Northumberland County to Thomas Dodson of North Farnham Parish in Richmond County for 4500 pounds tobacco, 150 acres lying between the Oke neck and Hickory Neck Branch in Richmond county which land (is part of 500 acres that) [part in parenthesis lines out in transcription] was formerly sold by Capt. Samuel Traverse to Charles Dodson, father to the said Bartholomew Richard Dodson. Land is bounded by Daniel Everit. Signed by him, her mark, Wit Thomas Legg, H Miskell, Jeremiah Greenham, Rec May 6 1734

DNA

DNA has become an important genealogical tool. The Dodson Y DNA Project at Family Tree DNA tells us that there are least three distinct Dodson lineages in the US today.

One group is haplogroup I from Talbot County, Maryland, whose ancestor died in 1745, and two other groups are haplogroup R. The largest group is the Charles Dodson descendants. There are also several “dangling Dodsons” with no matches today.

No Dodson males that match the genetic profile of Charles Dodson have yet taken the Big Y test, which would help establish deep ancestry, but two have taken some level of SNP testing and have tested R-P25 and R-L2.

Male haplogroups are shown on trees, similar to pedigree charts.

The haplotree looks a lot like a pedigree chart for a very good reason. Mutations happened just like children are born and are recorded the same way, as descendants of the “father” SNP in question.

The Dodson line is confirmed to be R-M269, the most common haplogroup in Europe with almost half the European men carrying this haplogroup. Let’s just say that our distant ancestors were very successful in terms of reproducing and colonization. SNP R-P25 is upstream, or a grandfather to R-M269, but R-L2 is not, being found several generations downstream

Haplogroup L2 is known to be historically Celtic, but it is widely scattered today as shown by this SNP map at Family Tree DNA.

Of course, we know that the Celts settled in the British Isles at one time, so we expect to find L2 in both continental Europe and across the channel, which we do.

Ancestry has a nice feature that allows you to look for clusters of surnames based on various census and other records, both in the US and England.

The Dodson surname distribution in Scotland in 1841 was very small, as shown above.

However, the Dodsons were much more widespread in England in 1891, with the most pronounced region being in the northern portion of the country, primarily Yorkshire and Lancashire and a small area surrounding London where the population is very concentrated.

The surname origin indicates that Dodson is a patrronymic form of Dodd, meaning Dodd’s son, of course.

From the above pages, you can view all immigration records for Dodsons.

This could be very useful, because if a Charles Dodson descendant matches one of the descendants of these people, whose immigration location is known, on a segment proven to be “Dodson,” that’s a huge hint as to the ancestral location of the family.

Unfortunately, these individuals would show up under “Dodson” matches at Ancestry, but not under Charles Dodson, because they don’t descend from him, so no leaf hints.

However, the surname search should work.

The possible Dodson link wouldn’t be any of the people with the green leaf hints indicating that we share a common ancestor in our trees, such as the first two matches shown below.  We would find descendants of these immigrants in the matches without green leaves, such as the third match, below.

Now, I’m certainly not saying that this IS the Dodson family, but there is a match.  Let’s see what that match has to say about their Dodson ancestor.

Lewes, Sussex, not where the majority of the Dodsons are from in England.

The only way to know for sure if this match is valid, and if the common DNA is from Dodson ancestors would be for the match to transfer either to Family Tree DNA or Gedmatch (or preferably both) where we can match and triangulate to other known Dodson descendants utilizing a chromosome browser to confirm the source of the DNA.

Where is the Charles Dodson Line From?

We don’t know. There are four ways to tell.

One way is to find the record of Charles birth in the existent records, and somehow prove that Charles in the church record is the Charles that is later found as an adult in the Northern Neck. Of course, it’s possible that Charles was not in fact born in England, which puts a fly in that ointment. The good news is that now we know that Charles was born within a year or so of 1649, which at least provides us with a reasonable birth range.

A second way is to have a Y DNA match to someone who knows that their Dodson came from a particular small village in England, and search the records in and near that location.

A third way would be to find someone descended from one of the Dodson immigrants from known locations, discover they have autosomal DNA tested (or test them), that there are no other common lines, and that a segment match to that person triangulates to other proven Dodson descendants.

A fourth way is to find a Dodson autosomal DNA match that is NOT descended from Charles, who knows their ancestral Dodson location in England and does not share any other lines.  If that person’s matching segments triangulate to known Charles Dodson line segments, that’s a good indication and could lead us to a Dodson male to Y DNA test to confirm.

Y DNA matching would be so much easier and absolutely indisputable evidence. We need Dodson men from England to Y DNA test!

Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?

Somehow, I missed the announcement that Family Tree DNA now accepts uploads from MyHeritage.

Other people may have missed a few announcements too, or don’t understand the options, so I’ve created a quick and easy reference that shows which testing vendors’ files can be uploaded to which other vendors.

Why Transfer?

Just so that everyone is on the same page, if you test your autosomal DNA at one vendor, Vendor A, some other vendors allow you to download your raw data file from Vendor A and transfer your results to their company, Vendor B.  The transfer to Vendor B is either free or lower cost than testing from scratch.  One site, GedMatch, is not a testing vendor, but is a contribution/subscription comparison site.

Vendor B then processes your DNA file that you imported from Vendor A, and your results are then included in the database of Vendor B, which means that you can obtain your matches to other people in Vendor B’s data base who tested there originally and others who have also transferred.  You can also avail yourself of any other tools that Vendor B provides to their customers.  Tools vary widely between companies.  For example, Family Tree DNA, GedMatch and 23andMe provide chromosome browsers, while Ancestry does not.  All 3 major vendors (Family Tree DNA, Ancestry and 23andMe) have developed unique offerings (of varying quality) to help their customers understand the messages that their unique DNA carries.

Ok, Who Loves Whom?

The vendors in the left column are the vendors performing the autosomal DNA tests. The vendor row (plus GedMatch) across the top indicates who accepts upload transfers from whom, and which file versions. Please consider the notes below the chart.

(Chart updated September 28, 2017)

Please note that on August 9, 2017, 23and Me began processing on the Illumina GSA chip which is not compatible with earlier versions.  As of late September 2017, only GedMatch accepts their upload and only in their Genesis sandbox area, not the normal production matching area.  This is due to the small overlap area with existing chips.  You can read more about the GSA chip and its ramifications here

  • Family Tree DNA accepts uploads from both other major vendors (Ancestry and 23andMe) but the versions that are compatible with the chip used by FTDNA will have more matches at Family Tree DNA. 23andMe V3, Ancestry V1 and MyHeritage results utilize the same chip and format as FTDNA. 23andMe V4 and Ancestry V2 utilize different formats utilizing only about half of the common locations. Family Tree DNA still allows free transfers and comparisons with other testers, but since there are only about half of the same DNA locations in common with the FTDNA chip, matches will be fewer. Additional functions can be unlocked for a one time $19 fee.
  • Neither Ancestry, 23andMe nor Genographic accept transfer data from any other vendors.
  • MyHeritage does accept transfers, although that option is not easy to find. I checked with a MyHeritage representative and they provided me with the following information:  “You can upload an autosomal DNA file from your profile page on MyHeritage. To access your profile page, login to your MyHeritage account, then click on your name which is displayed towards the top right corner of the screen. Click on “My profile”. On the profile page you’ll see a DNA tab, click on the tab and you’ll see a link to upload a file.”  MyHeritage has also indicated that they will be making ethnicity results available to individuals who transfer results into their system in May, 2017.
  • LivingDNA has just released an ethnicity product and does not have DNA matching capability to other testers.  Living DNA imputes DNA locations that they don’t test, but the initial download only includes the DNA locations actually tested.
  • WeGene’s website is in Chinese and they are not a significant player, but I did include them because GedMatch accepts their files. WeGene’s website indicates that they accept 23andme uploads, but I am unable to determine which version or versions. Given that their terms and conditions and privacy and security information are not in English, I would be extremely hesitant before engaging in business. I would not be comfortable in trusting on online translation for this type of document. SNPedia reports that WeGene has data quality issues.
  • GedMatch is not a testing vendor, so has no entry in the left column, but does provide tools and accepts all versions of files from each vendor that provides files, to date, with the exception of the Genographic Project.  GedMatch is free (contribution based) for many features, but does have more advanced functions available for a $10 monthly subscription. The GedMatch Genesis platform is a sandbox area for files from vendors that cannot be put into production today due to matching and compatibility issues.
  • The Genographic Project tested their participants at the Family Tree DNA lab until November 2016, when they moved to the Helix platform, which performs an exome test using a different chip.
  • The Ancestry V2 chip began processing in May 2016.
  • The 23andMe V3 chip began processing in December 2010. The 23andMe V4 chip began processing in November 2013. Their V5 chip August 9, 2017.

Incompatible Files

Please be aware that vendors that accept different versions of other vendors files can only work with the tested locations that are in the files generated by the testing vendors unless they use a technique called imputation.

For example, Family Tree DNA tests about 700,000 locations which are on the same chip as MyHeritage, 23andMe V3 and Ancestry V1. In the later 23andMe V4 test, the earlier 23andMe V2 and the Ancestry V2 tests, only a portion of the same locations are tested.  The 23andMe V4 and Ancestry V2 chips only test about half of the file locations of the vendors who utilize the Illumina OmniExpress chip, but not the same locations as each other since both the Ancestry V2 and 23andMe V4 chips are custom. 23andMe and Ancestry both changed their chips from the OmniExpress version and replaced genealogically relevant locations with medically relevant locations, creating a custom chip.

Update:  In August 2017, 23andMe introduced their V5 chip which has only about 20% overlap with previous chips.

I know this is confusing, so I’ve created the following chart for chip and test compatibility comparison.

(Chart updated Sept. 28, 2017)

You can easily see why the FTDNA, Ancestry V1, 23andMe V3 and MyHeritage tests are compatible with each other.  They all tested utilizing the same chip.  However, each vendor then applies their own unique matching and ethnicity algorithms to customer results, so your results will vary with each vendor, even when comparing ethnicity predictions or matching the same two individuals to each other.

Apples to Apples to Imputation

It’s difficult for vendors to compare apples to apples with non-compatible files.

I wrote about imputation in the article about MyHeritage, here and also more generally, here. In a nutshell, imputation is a technique used to infer the DNA for locations a vendor doesn’t test (or doesn’t receive in a transfer file from another vendor) based on the location’s neighboring DNA and DNA that is “normally” passed together as a packet.

However, the imputed regions of DNA are not your DNA, and therefore don’t carry your mutations, if any.

I created the following diagram when writing the MyHeritage article to explain the concept of imputation when comparing multiple vendors’ files showing locations tested, overlap and imputed regions. You can click to enlarge the graphic.

Family Tree DNA has chosen not to utilize imputation for transfer files and only compares the actual DNA locations tested and uploaded in vendor files, while MyHeritage has chosen to impute locations for incompatible files. Family Tree DNA produces fewer, but accurate matches for incompatible transfer files.  MyHeritage continues to have matching issues.

MyHeritage may be using imputation for all transfer files to equalize the files to a maximum location count for all vendor files. This is speculation on my part, but is speculation based on the differences in matches from known compatible file versions to known matches at the original vendor and then at MyHeritage.

I compared matches to the same person at MyHeritage, GedMatch, Ancestry and Family Tree DNA. It appears that imputed matches do not consistently compare reliably. I’m not convinced imputation can ever work reliably for genetic genealogy, because we need our own DNA and mutations. Regardless, imputation is in its infancy today and due to the Illumina GSA chip replacing the OmniExpress chip, imputation will be widely used within the industry shortly for backwards compatibility.

To date, two vendors are utilizing imputation. LivingDNA is using imputation with the GSA chip for ethnicity, and MyHeritage for DNA matching.

Summary

Your best results are going to be to test on the platform that the vendor offers, because the vendor’s match and ethnicity algorithms are optimized for their own file formats and DNA locations tested.

That means that if you are transferring an Ancestry V1 file, a 23andMe V3 file or a MyHeritage file, for example, to Family Tree DNA, your matches at Family Tree DNA will be the same as if you tested on the FTDNA platform.  You do not need to retest at Family Tree DNA.

However, if you are transferring an Ancestry V2 file or 23andMe V4 file, you will receive some matches, someplace between one quarter and half as compared to a test run on the vendor’s own chip. For people who can’t be tested again, that’s certainly better than nothing, and cross-chip matching generally picks up the strongest matches because they tend to match in multiple locations. For people who can retest, testing at Family Tree DNA would garner more matches and better ethnicity results for those with 23andMe V2 and V4 tests as well as Ancestry V2 tests.

For absolutely best results, swim in all of the major DNA testing pools, test as many relatives as possible, and test on the vendor’s Native chip to obtain the most matches.  After all, without sharing and matching, there is no genetic genealogy!

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