Free Webinar: Revealing Your Mother’s Ancestors & Where They Came From

I want to personally invite everyone to “save the date” for the free presentation I’ve created for the RootsTech DNA Basics Learning Center.

Those of you who have attended RootsTech in person in Salt Lake City over the past couple of years may have noticed the DNA Center sponsored by FamilySearch that provides non-vendor-specific DNA education for everyone.

You probably remember their DNA beans explaining the concept of random autosomal inheritance.

That tidy little package is “you.” The genealogical goal, of course, is to work backwards and figure out who, in your tree, those jellybean colors represent.

This year we won’t be gathering together in Salt Lake City, so it will be a bring-your-own-jellybeans event. However, the DNA Learning Center will be available virtually – which is actually a great benefit.

I know, I want to see everyone too – but in this case, the sessions are recorded and will be available for everyone worldwide so we can educate far more people than on the show floor.

Revealing Your Mother’s Ancestors & Where They Came From

In addition to my regular session, which I’ll write about as soon as the schedule is finalized, I volunteered to create a basic presentation for the DNA Learning Center. DNA is critically important to genealogy and I want everyone to enjoy that benefit.

As everyone knows, maternal ancestors are often challenging for a variety of reasons. Because surnames change with marriage, at least in most western cultures, females’ birth surnames are more prone to be missing. Fortunately, DNA has provided genealogists with two different tools to help overcome those challenges.

Mitochondrial DNA is focused only on your direct matrilineal (your mother’s mother’s mother’s) line, and autosomal DNA can be inherited from any ancestor. However, there are tools and techniques that allow us to hone autosomal results and use them selectively.

I’ll be covering inheritance and how to utilize both autosomal and mitochondrial DNA, including haplogroups, for your genealogy. Both separately, and together.

We’ll discuss how a cousin and I collaborated, using both types of DNA in addition to traditional genealogical records to break through one of those “no surname” brick walls six generations in the past. That breakthrough then revealed several MORE generations, like dominoes falling in quick succession.

Those pesky ancestors had moved from Long Island to New Jersey to Virginia leaving no backward trail. Cleary, not your normal migration pattern. This mystery absolutely could NOT have been solved without mitochondrial DNA pointing the way.

When and Where?

The where is easy – on your computer or device, of course.

Currently, this free session is scheduled to air twice, so mark your calendar:

  • February 25 – 3 PM EST – captioned in English
  • February 27 – 1 PM EST – captioned in Spanish

FamilySearch is providing volunteers to answer questions entered into the online chat during all of the DNA Learning Center sessions, including mine. I plan to “be there” to answer questions too, as will several other volunteers. Some volunteers will speak Spanish on the 27th. Unfortunately, I don’t speak Spanish, so I’ll be restricted to answering questions in English.

When the entire 3-day DNA Learning Center schedule is finalized, I’ll post and give a huge shout-out to the other volunteer speakers too.

While we wait for Rootstech to arrive, you still have time to order mitochondrial or autosomal DNA tests, below.

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Thank you so much.

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Genetic Genealogy at 20 Years: Where Have We Been, Where Are We Going and What’s Important?

Not only have we put 2020 in the rear-view mirror, thankfully, we’re at the 20-year, two-decade milestone. The point at which genetics was first added to the toolbox of genealogists.

It seems both like yesterday and forever ago. And yes, I’ve been here the whole time,  as a spectator, researcher, and active participant.

Let’s put this in perspective. On New Year’s Eve, right at midnight, in 2005, I was able to score kit number 50,000 at Family Tree DNA. I remember this because it seemed like such a bizarre thing to be doing at midnight on New Year’s Eve. But hey, we genealogists are what we are.

I knew that momentous kit number which seemed just HUGE at the time was on the threshold of being sold, because I had inadvertently purchased kit 49,997 a few minutes earlier.

Somehow kit 50,000 seemed like such a huge milestone, a landmark – so I quickly bought kits, 49,998, 49,999, and then…would I get it…YES…kit 50,000. Score!

That meant that in the 5 years FamilyTreeDNA had been in business, they had sold on an average of 10,000 kits per year, or 27 kits a day. Today, that’s a rounding error. Then it was momentous!

In reality, the sales were ramping up quickly, because very few kits were sold in 2000, and roughly 20,000 kits had been sold in 2005 alone. I know this because I purchased kit 28,429 during the holiday sale a year earlier.

Of course, I had no idea who I’d test with that momentous New Year’s Eve Y DNA kit, but I assuredly would find someone. A few months later, I embarked on a road trip to visit an elderly family member with that kit in tow. Thank goodness I did, and they agreed and swabbed on the spot, because they are gone today and with them, the story of the Y line and autosomal DNA of their branch.

In the past two decades, almost an entire generation has slipped away, and with them, an entire genealogical library held in their DNA.

Today, more than 40 million people have tested with the four major DNA testing companies, although we don’t know exactly how many.

Lots of people have had more time to focus on genealogy in 2020, so let’s take a look at what’s important? What’s going on and what matters beyond this month or year?

How has this industry changed in the last two decades, and where it is going?

Reflection

This seems like a good point to reflect a bit.

Professor Dan Bradley reflecting on early genetic research techniques in his lab at the Smurfit Institute of Genetics at Trinity College in Dublin. Photo by Roberta Estes

In the beginning – twenty years ago, there were two companies who stuck their toes in the consumer DNA testing water – Oxford Ancestors and Family Tree DNA. About the same time, Sorenson Genomics and GeneTree were also entering that space, although Sorenson was a nonprofit. Today, of those, only FamilyTreeDNA remains, having adapted with the changing times – adding more products, testing, and sophistication.

Bryan Sykes who founded Oxford Ancestors announced in 2018 that he was retiring to live abroad and subsequently passed away in 2020. The website still exists, but the company has announced that they have ceased sales and the database will remain open until Sept 30, 2021.

James Sorenson died in 2008 and the assets of Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, including the Sorenson database, were sold to Ancestry in 2012. Eventually, Ancestry removed the public database in 2015.

Ancestry dabbled in Y and mtDNA for a while, too, destroying that database in 2014.

Other companies, too many to remember or mention, have come and gone as well. Some of the various company names have been recycled or purchased, but aren’t the same companies today.

In the DNA space, it was keep up, change, die or be sold. Of course, there was the small matter of being able to sell enough DNA kits to make enough money to stay in business at all. DNA processing equipment and a lab are expensive. Not just the equipment, but also the expertise.

The Next Wave

As time moved forward, new players entered the landscape, comprising the “Big 4” testing companies that constitute the ponds where genealogists fish today.

23andMe was the first to introduce autosomal DNA testing and matching. Their goal and focus was always medical genetics, but they recognized the potential in genealogists before anyone else, and we flocked to purchase tests.

Ancestry settled on autosomal only and relies on the size of their database, a large body of genealogy subscribers, and a widespread “feel-good” marketing campaign to sell DNA kits as the gateway to “discover who you are.”

FamilyTreeDNA did and still does offer all 3 kinds of tests. Over the years, they have enhanced both the Y DNA and mitochondrial product offerings significantly and are still known as “the science company.” They are the only company to offer the full range of Y DNA tests, including their flagship Big Y-700, full sequence mitochondrial testing along with matching for both products. Their autosomal product is called Family Finder.

MyHeritage entered the DNA testing space a few years after the others as the dark horse that few expected to be successful – but they fooled everyone. They have acquired companies and partnered along the way which allowed them to add customers (Promethease) and tools (such as AutoCluster by Genetic Affairs), boosting their number of users. Of course, MyHeritage also offers users a records research subscription service that you can try for free.

In summary:

One of the wonderful things that happened was that some vendors began to accept compatible raw DNA autosomal data transfer files from other vendors. Today, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, and GEDmatch DO accept transfer files, while Ancestry and 23andMe do not.

The transfers and matching are free, but there are either minimal unlock or subscription plans for advanced features.

There are other testing companies, some with niche markets and others not so reputable. For this article, I’m focusing on the primary DNA testing companies that are useful for genealogy and mainstream companion third-party tools that complement and enhance those services.

The Single Biggest Change

As I look back, the single biggest change is that genetic genealogy evolved from the pariah of genealogy where DNA discussion was banned from the (now defunct) Rootsweb lists and summarily deleted for the first few years after introduction. I know, that’s hard to believe today.

Why, you ask?

Reasons varied from “just because” to “DNA is cheating” and then morphed into “because DNA might do terrible things like, maybe, suggest that a person really wasn’t related to an ancestor in a lineage society.”

Bottom line – fear and misunderstanding. Change is exceedingly difficult for humans, and DNA definitely moved the genealogy cheese.

From that awkward beginning, genetic genealogy organically became a “thing,” a specific application of genealogy. There was paper-trail traditional genealogy and then the genetic aspect. Today, for almost everyone, genealogy is “just another tool” in the genealogist’s toolbox, although it does require focused learning, just like any other tool.

DNA isn’t separate anymore, but is now an integral part of the genealogical whole. Having said that, DNA can’t solve all problems or answer all questions, but neither can traditional paper-trail genealogy. Together, each makes the other stronger and solves mysteries that neither can resolve alone.

Synergy.

I fully believe that we have still only scratched the surface of what’s possible.

Inheritance

As we talk about the various types of DNA testing and tools, here’s a quick graphic to remind you of how the different types of DNA are inherited.

  • Y DNA is inherited paternally for males only and informs us of the direct patrilineal (surname) line.
  • Mitochondrial DNA is inherited by everyone from their mothers and informs us of the mother’s matrilineal (mother’s mother’s mother’s) line.
  • Autosomal DNA can be inherited from potentially any ancestor in random but somewhat predictable amounts through both parents. The further back in time, the less identifiable DNA you’ll inherit from any specific ancestor. I wrote about that, here.

What’s Hot and What’s Not

Where should we be focused today and where is this industry going? What tools and articles popped up in 2020 to help further our genealogy addiction? I already published the most popular articles of 2020, here.

This industry started two decades ago with testing a few Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA markers, and we were utterly thrilled at the time. Both tests have advanced significantly and the prices have dropped like a stone. My first mitochondrial DNA test that tested only 400 locations cost more than $800 – back then.

Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA are still critically important to genetic genealogy. Both play unique roles and provide information that cannot be obtained through autosomal DNA testing. Today, relative to Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA, the biggest challenge, ironically, is educating newer genealogists about their potential who have never heard about anything other than autosomal, often ethnicity, testing.

We have to educate in order to overcome the cacophony of “don’t bother because you don’t get as many matches.”

That’s like saying “don’t use the right size wrench because the last one didn’t fit and it’s a bother to reach into the toolbox.” Not to mention that if everyone tested, there would be a lot more matches, but I digress.

If you don’t use the right tool, and all of the tools at your disposal, you’re not going to get the best result possible.

The genealogical proof standard, the gold standard for genealogy research, calls for “a reasonably exhaustive search,” and if you haven’t at least considered if or how Y
DNA
and mitochondrial DNA along with autosomal testing can or might help, then your search is not yet exhaustive.

I attempt to obtain the Y and mitochondrial DNA of every ancestral line. In the article, Search Techniques for Y and Mitochondrial DNA Test Candidates, I described several methodologies to find appropriate testing candidates.

Y DNA – 20 Years and Still Critically Important

Y DNA tracks the Y chromosome for males via the patrilineal (surname) line, providing matching and historical migration information.

We started 20 years ago testing 10 STR markers. Today, we begin at 37 markers, can upgrade to 67 or 111, but the preferred test is the Big Y which provides results for 700+ STR markers plus results from the entire gold standard region of the Y chromosome in order to provide the most refined results. This allows genealogists to use STR markers and SNP results together for various aspects of genealogy.

I created a Y DNA resource page, here, in order to provide a repository for Y DNA information and updates in one place. I would encourage anyone who can to order or upgrade to the Big Y-700 test which provides critical lineage information in addition to and beyond traditional STR testing. Additionally, the Big Y-700 test helps build the Y DNA haplotree which is growing by leaps and bounds.

More new SNPs are found and named EVERY SINGLE DAY today at FamilyTreeDNA than were named in the first several years combined. The 2006 SNP tree listed a grand total of 459 SNPs that defined the Y DNA tree at that time, according to the ISOGG Y DNA SNP tree. Goran Rundfeldt, head of R&D at FamilyTreeDNA posted this today:

2020 was an awful year in so many ways, but it was an unprecedented year for human paternal phylogenetic tree reconstruction. The FTDNA Haplotree or Great Tree of Mankind now includes:

37,534 branches with 12,696 added since 2019 – 51% growth!
defined by
349,097 SNPs with 131,820 added since 2019 – 61% growth!

In just one year, 207,536 SNPs were discovered and assigned FT SNP names. These SNPs will help define new branches and refine existing ones in the future.

The tree is constructed based on high coverage chromosome Y sequences from:
– More than 52,500 Big Y results
– Almost 4,000 NGS results from present-day anonymous men that participated in academic studies

Plus an additional 3,000 ancient DNA results from archaeological remains, of mixed quality and Y chromosome coverage at FamilyTreeDNA.

Wow, just wow.

These three new articles in 2020 will get you started on your Y DNA journey!

Mitochondrial DNA – Matrilineal Line of Humankind is Being Rewritten

The original Oxford Ancestor’s mitochondrial DNA test tested 400 locations. The original Family Tree DNA test tested around 1000 locations. Today, the full sequence mitochondrial DNA test is standard, testing the entire 16,569 locations of the mitochondria.

Mitochondrial DNA tracks your mother’s direct maternal, or matrilineal line. I’ve created a mitochondrial DNA resource page, here that includes easy step-by-step instructions for after you receive your results.

New articles in 2020 included the introduction of The Million Mito Project. 2021 should see the first results – including a paper currently in the works.

The Million Mito Project is rewriting the haplotree of womankind. The current haplotree has expanded substantially since the first handful of haplogroups thanks to thousands upon thousands of testers, but there is so much more information that can be extracted today.

Y and Mitochondrial Resources

If you don’t know of someone in your family to test for Y DNA or mitochondrial DNA for a specific ancestral line, you can always turn to the Y DNA projects at Family Tree DNA by searching here.

The search provides you with a list of projects available for a specific surname along with how many customers with that surname have tested. Looking at the individual Y DNA projects will show the earliest known ancestor of the surname line.

Another resource, WikiTree lists people who have tested for the Y DNA, mitochondrial DNA and autosomal DNA lines of specific ancestors.

Click on images to enlarge

On the left side, my maternal great-grandmother’s profile card, and on the right, my paternal great-great-grandfather. You can see that someone has tested for the mitochondrial DNA of Nora (OK, so it’s me) and the Y DNA of John Estes (definitely not me.)

MitoYDNA, a nonprofit volunteer organization created a comparison tool to replace Ysearch and Mitosearch when they bit the dust thanks to GDPR.

MitoYDNA accepts uploads from different sources and allows uploaders to not only match to each other, but to view the STR values for Y DNA and the mutation locations for the HVR1 and HVR2 regions of mitochondrial DNA. Mags Gaulden, one of the founders, explains in her article, What sets mitoYDNA apart from other DNA Databases?.

If you’ve tested at nonstandard companies, not realizing that they didn’t provide matching, or if you’ve tested at a company like Sorenson, Ancestry, and now Oxford Ancestors that is going out of business, uploading your results to mitoYDNA is a way to preserve your investment. PS – I still recommend testing at FamilyTreeDNA in order to receive detailed results and compare in their large database.

CentiMorgans – The Word of Two Decades

The world of autosomal DNA turns on the centimorgan (cM) measure. What is a centimorgan, exactly? I wrote about that unit of measure in the article Concepts – CentiMorgans, SNPs and Pickin’ Crab.

Fortunately, new tools and techniques make using cMs much easier. The Shared cM Project was updated this year, and the results incorporated into a wonderfully easy tool used to determine potential relationships at DNAPainter based on the number of shared centiMorgans.

Match quality and potential relationships are determined by the number of shared cMs, and the chromosome browser is the best tool to use for those comparisons.

Chromosome Browser – Genetics Tool to View Chromosome Matches

Chromosome browsers allow testers to view their matching cMs of DNA with other testers positioned on their own chromosomes.

My two cousins’ DNA where they match me on chromosomes 1-4, is shown above in blue and red at Family Tree DNA. It’s important to know where you match cousins, because if you match multiple cousins on the same segment, from the same side of your family (maternal or paternal), that’s suggestive of a common ancestor, with a few caveats.

Some people feel that a chromosome browser is an advanced tool, but I think it’s simply standard fare – kind of like driving a car. You need to learn how to drive initially, but after that, you don’t even think about it – you just get in and go. Here’s help learning how to drive that chromosome browser.

Triangulation – Science Plus Group DNA Matching Confirms Genealogy

The next logical step after learning to use a chromosome browser is triangulation. If fact, you’re seeing triangulation above, but don’t even realize it.

The purpose of genetic genealogy is to gather evidence to “prove” ancestral connections to either people or specific ancestors. In autosomal DNA, triangulation occurs when:

  • You match at least two other people (not close relatives)
  • On the same reasonably sized segment of DNA (generally 7 cM or greater)
  • And you can assign that segment to a common ancestor

The same two cousins are shown above, with triangulated segments bracketed at MyHeritage. I’ve identified the common ancestor with those cousins that those matching DNA segments descend from.

MyHeritage’s triangulation tool confirms by bracketing that these cousins also match each other on the same segment, which is the definition of triangulation.

I’ve written a lot about triangulation recently.

If you’d prefer a video, I recorded a “Top Tips” Facebook LIVE with MyHeritage.

Why is Ancestry missing from this list of triangulation articles? Ancestry does not offer a chromosome browser or segment information. Therefore, you can’t triangulate at Ancestry. You can, however, transfer your Ancestry DNA raw data file to either FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, or GEDmatch, all three of which offer triangulation.

Step by step download/upload transfer instructions are found in this article:

Clustering Matches and Correlating Trees

Based on what we’ve seen over the past few years, we can no longer depend on the major vendors to provide all of the tools that genealogists want and need.

Of course, I would encourage you to stay with mainstream products being used by a significant number of community power users. As with anything, there is always someone out there that’s less than honorable.

2020 saw a lot of innovation and new tools introduced. Maybe that’s one good thing resulting from people being cooped up at home.

Third-party tools are making a huge difference in the world of genetic genealogy. My favorites are Genetic Affairs, their AutoCluster tool shown above, DNAPainter and DNAGedcom.

These articles should get you started with clustering.

If you like video resources, here’s a MyHeritage Facebook LIVE that I recorded about how to use AutoClusters:

I created a compiled resource article for your convenience, here:

I have not tried a newer tool, YourDNAFamily, that focuses only on 23andMe results although the creator has been a member of the genetic genealogy community for a long time.

Painting DNA Makes Chromosome Browsers and Triangulation Easy

DNAPainter takes the next step, providing a repository for all of your painted segments. In other words, DNAPainter is both a solution and a methodology for mass triangulation across all of your chromosomes.

Here’s a small group of people who match me on the same maternal segment of chromosome 1, including those two cousins in the chromosome browser and triangulation sections, above. We know that this segment descends from Philip Jacob Miller and his wife because we’ve been able to identify that couple as the most distant ancestor intersection in all of our trees.

It’s very helpful that DNAPainter has added the functionality of painting all of the maternal and paternal bucketed matches from Family Tree DNA.

All you need to do is to link your known matches to your tree in the proper place at FamilyTreeDNA, then they do the rest by using those DNA matches to indicate which of the rest of your matches are maternal and paternal. Instructions, here. You can then export the file and use it at DNAPainter to paint all of those matches on the correct maternal or paternal chromosomes.

Here’s an article providing all of the DNAPainter Instructions and Resources.

DNA Matches Plus Trees Enhance Genealogy

Of course, utilizing DNA matching plus finding common ancestors in trees is one of the primary purposes of genetic genealogy – right?

Vendors have linked the steps of matching DNA with matching ancestors in trees.

Genetic Affairs take this a step further. If you don’t have an ancestor in your tree, but your matches have common ancestors with each other, Genetic Affairs assembles those trees to provide you with those hints. Of course, that common ancestor might not be relevant to your genealogy, but it just might be too!

click to enlarge

This tree does not include me, but two of my matches descend from a common ancestor and that common ancestor between them might be a clue as to why I match both of them.

Ethnicity Continues to be Popular – But Is No Shortcut to Genealogy

Ethnicity is always popular. People want to “do their DNA” and find out where they come from. I understand. I really do. Who doesn’t just want an answer?

Of course, it’s not that simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s not disappointing to people who test for that purpose with high expectations. Hopefully, ethnicity will pique their curiosity and encourage engagement.

All four major vendors rolled out updated ethnicity results or related tools in 2020.

The future for ethnicity, I believe, will be held in integrated tools that allow us to use ethnicity results for genealogy, including being able to paint our ethnicity on our chromosomes as well as perform segment matching by ethnicity.

For example, if I carry an African segment on chromosome 1 from my father, and I match one person from my mother’s side and one from my father’s side on that same segment – one or the other of those people should also have that segment identified as African. That information would inform me as to which match is paternal and which is maternal

Not only that, this feature would help immensely tracking ancestors back in time and identifying their origins.

Will we ever get there? I don’t know. I’m not sure ethnicity is or can be accurate enough. We’ll see.

Transition to Digital and Online

Sometimes the future drags us kicking and screaming from the present.

With the imposed isolation of 2020, conferences quickly moved to an online presence. The genealogy community has all pulled together to make this work. The joke is that 2020’s most used phrase is “can you hear me?” I can vouch for that.

Of course while the year 2020 is over, the problem isn’t and is extending at least through the first half of 2021 and possibly longer. Conferences are planned months, up to a year, in advance and they can’t turn on a dime, so don’t even begin to expect in-person conferences until either late in 2021 or more likely, 2022 if all goes well this year.

I expect the future will eventually return to in-person conferences, but not entirely.

Finding ways to be more inclusive allows people who don’t want to or can’t travel or join in-person to participate.

I’ve recorded several sessions this year, mostly for 2021. Trust me, these could be a comedy, mostly of errors😊

I participated in four MyHeritage Facebook LIVE sessions in 2020 along with some other amazing speakers. This is what “live” events look like today!

Screenshot courtesy MyHeritage

A few days ago, I asked MyHeritage for a list of their LIVE sessions in 2020 and was shocked to learn that there were more than 90 in English, all free, and you can watch them anytime. Here’s the MyHeritage list.

By the way, every single one of the speakers is a volunteer, so say a big thank you to the speakers who make this possible, and to MyHeritage for the resources to make this free for everyone. If you’ve ever tried to coordinate anything like this, it’s anything but easy.

Additonally, I’ve created two Webinars this year for Legacy Family Tree Webinars.

Geoff Rasmussen put together the list of their top webinars for 2020, and I was pleased to see that I made the top 10! I’m sure there are MANY MORE you’d be interested in watching. Personally, I’m going to watch #6 yet today! Also, #9 and #22. You can always watch new webinars for free for a few days, and you can subscribe to watch all webinars, here.

The 2021 list of webinar speakers has been announced here, and while I’m not allowed to talk about something really fun that’s upcoming, let’s just say you definitely have something to look forward to in the springtime!

Also, don’t forget to register for RootsTech Connect which is entirely online and completely free, February 25-27, here.

Thank you to Penny Walters for creating this lovely graphic.

There are literally hundreds of speakers providing sessions in many languages for viewers around the world. I’ve heard the stats, but we can’t share them yet. Let me just say that you will be SHOCKED at the magnitude and reach of this conference. I’m talking dumbstruck!

During one of our zoom calls, one of the organizers says it feels like we’re constructing the plane as we’re flying, and I can confirm his observation – but we are getting it done – together! All hands on deck.

I’ll be presenting an advanced session about triangulation as well as a mini-session in the FamilySearch DNA Resource Center about finding your mother’s ancestors. I’ll share more information as it’s released and I can.

Companies and Owners Come & Go

You probably didn’t even notice some of these 2020 changes. Aside from the death of Bryan Sykes (RIP Bryan,) the big news and the even bigger unknown is the acquisition of Ancestry by Blackstone. Recently the CEO, Margo Georgiadis announced that she was stepping down. The Ancestry Board of Directors has announced an external search for a new CEO. All I can say is that very high on the priority list should be someone who IS a genealogist and who understands how DNA applies to genealogy.

Other changes included:

In the future, as genealogy and DNA testing becomes ever more popular and even more of a commodity, company sales and acquisitions will become more commonplace.

Some Companies Reduced Services and Cut Staff

I understand this too, but it’s painful. The layoffs occurred before Covid, so they didn’t result from Covid-related sales reductions. Let’s hope we see renewed investment after the Covid mess is over.

In a move that may or may not be related to an attempt to cut costs, Ancestry removed 6 and 7 cM matches from their users, freeing up processing resources, hardware, and storage requirements and thereby reducing costs.

I’m not going to beat this dead horse, because Ancestry is clearly not going to move on this issue, nor on that of the much-requested chromosome browser.

Later in the year, 23andMe also removed matches and other features, although, to their credit, they have restored at least part of this functionality and have provided ethnicity updates to V3 and V4 kits which wasn’t initially planned.

It’s also worth noting that early in 2020, 23andMe laid off 100 people as sales declined. Since that time, 23andMe has increasingly pushed consumers to pay to retest on their V5 chip.

About the same time, Ancestry also cut their workforce by about 6%, or about 100 people, also citing a slowdown in the consumer testing market. Ancestry also added a health product.

I’m not sure if we’ve reached market saturation or are simply seeing a leveling off. I wrote about that in DNA Testing Sales Decline: Reason and Reasons.

Of course, the pandemic economy where many people are either unemployed or insecure about their future isn’t helping.

The various companies need some product diversity to survive downturns. 23andMe is focused on medical research with partners who pay 23andMe for the DNA data of customers who opt-in, as does Ancestry.

Both Ancestry and MyHeritage provide subscription services for genealogy records.

FamilyTreeDNA is part of a larger company, GenebyGene whose genetics labs do processing for other companies and medical facilities.

A huge thank you to both MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA for NOT reducing services to customers in 2020.

Scientific Research Still Critical & Pushes Frontiers

Now that DNA testing has become a commodity, it’s easy to lose track of the fact that DNA testing is still a scientific endeavor that requires research to continue to move forward.

I’m still passionate about research after 20 years – maybe even more so now because there’s so much promise.

Research bleeds over into the consumer marketplace where products are improved and new features created allowing us to better track and understand our ancestors through their DNA that we and our family members inherit.

Here are a few of the research articles I published in 2020. You might notice a theme here – ancient DNA. What we can learn now due to new processing techniques is absolutely amazing. Labs can share files and information, providing the ability to “reprocess” the data, not the DNA itself, as more information and expertise becomes available.

Of course, in addition to this research, the Million Mito Project team is hard at work rewriting the tree of womankind.

If you’d like to participate, all you need to do is to either purchase a full sequence mitochondrial DNA kit at FamilyTreeDNA, or upgrade to the full sequence if you tested at a lower level previously.

Predictions

Predictions are risky business, but let me give it a shot.

Looking back a year, Covid wasn’t on the radar.

Looking back 5 years, neither Genetic Affairs nor DNAPainter were yet on the scene. DNAAdoption had just been formed in 2014 and DNAGedcom which was born out of DNAAdoption didn’t yet exist.

In other words, the most popular tools today didn’t exist yet.

GEDmatch, founded in 2010 by genealogists for genealogists was 5 years old, but was sold in December 2019 to Verogen.

We were begging Ancestry for a chromosome browser, and while we’ve pretty much given up beating them, because the horse is dead and they can sell DNA kits through ads focused elsewhere, that doesn’t mean genealogists still don’t need/want chromosome and segment based tools. Why, you’d think that Ancestry really doesn’t want us to break through those brick walls. That would be very bizarre, because every brick wall that falls reveals two more ancestors that need to be researched and spurs a frantic flurry of midnight searching. If you’re laughing right now, you know exactly what I mean!

Of course, if Ancestry provided a chromosome browser, it would cost development money for no additional revenue and their customer service reps would have to be able to support it. So from Ancestry’s perspective, there’s no good reason to provide us with that tool when they can sell kits without it. (Sigh.)

I’m not surprised by the management shift at Ancestry, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see several big players go public in the next decade, if not the next five years.

As companies increase in value, the number of private individuals who could afford to purchase the company decreases quickly, leaving private corporations as the only potential buyers, or becoming publicly held. Sometimes, that’s a good thing because investment dollars are infused into new product development.

What we desperately need, and I predict will happen one way or another is a marriage of individual tools and functions that exist separately today, with a dash of innovation. We need tools that will move beyond confirming existing ancestors – and will be able to identify ancestors through our DNA – out beyond each and every brick wall.

If a tester’s DNA matches to multiple people in a group descended from a particular previously unknown couple, and the timing and geography fits as well, that provides genealogical researchers with the hint they need to begin excavating the traditional records, looking for a connection.

In fact, this is exactly what happened with mitochondrial DNA – twice now. A match and a great deal of digging by one extremely persistent cousin resulting in identifying potential parents for a brick-wall ancestor. Autosomal DNA then confirmed that my DNA matched with 59 other individuals who descend from that couple through multiple children.

BUT, we couldn’t confirm those ancestors using autosomal DNA UNTIL WE HAD THE NAMES of the couple. DNA has the potential to reveal those names!

I wrote about that in Mitochondrial DNA Bulldozes Brick Wall and will be discussing it further in my RootsTech presentation.

The Challenge

We have most of the individual technology pieces today to get this done. Of course, the combined technological solution would require significant computing resources and processing power – just at the same time that vendors are desperately trying to pare costs to a minimum.

Some vendors simply aren’t interested, as I’ve already noted.

However, the winner, other than us genealogists, of course, will be the vendor who can either devise solutions or partner with others to create the right mix of tools that will combine matching, triangulation, and trees of your matches to each other, even if you don’t’ share a common ancestor.

We need to follow the DNA past the current end of the branch of our tree.

Each triangulated segment has an individual history that will lead not just to known ancestors, but to their unknown ancestors as well. We have reached critical mass in terms of how many people have tested – and more success would encourage more and more people to test.

There is a genetic path over every single brick wall in our genealogy.

Yes, I know that’s a bold statement. It’s not future Jetson’s flying-cars stuff. It’s doable – but it’s a matter of commitment, investment money, and finding a way to recoup that investment.

I don’t think it’s possible for the one-time purchase of a $39-$99 DNA test, especially when it’s not a loss-leader for something else like a records or data subscription (MyHeritage and Ancestry) or a medical research partnership (Ancestry and 23andMe.)

We’re performing these analysis processes manually and piecemeal today. It’s extremely inefficient and labor-intensive – which is why it often fails. People give up. And the process is painful, even when it does succeed.

This process has also been made increasingly difficult when some vendors block tools that help genealogists by downloading match and ancestral tree information. Before Ancestry closed access, I was creating theories based on common ancestors in my matches trees that weren’t in mine – then testing those theories both genetically (clusters, AutoTrees and ThruLines) and also by digging into traditional records to search for the genetic connection.

For example, I’m desperate to identify the parents of my James Lee Clarkson/Claxton, so I sorted my spreadsheet by surname and began evaluating everyone who had a Clarkson/Claxton in their tree in the 1700s in Virginia or North Carolina. But I can’t do that anymore now, either with a third-party tool or directly at Ancestry. Twenty million DNA kits sold for a minimum of $79 equals more than 1.5 billion dollars. Obviously, the issue here is not a lack of funds.

Including Y and mitochondrial DNA resources in our genetic toolbox not only confirms accuracy but also provides additional hints and clues.

Sometimes we start with Y DNA or mitochondrial DNA, and wind up using autosomal and sometimes the reverse. These are not competing products. It’s not either/or – it’s *and*.

Personally, I don’t expect the vendors to provide this game-changing complex functionality for free. I would be glad to pay for a subscription for top-of-the-line innovation and tools. In what other industry do consumers expect to pay for an item once and receive constant life-long innovations and upgrades? That doesn’t happen with software, phones nor with automobiles. I want vendors to be profitable so that they can invest in new tools that leverage the power of computing for genealogists to solve currently unsolvable problems.

Every single end-of-line ancestor in your tree represents a brick wall you need to overcome.

If you compare the cost of books, library visits, courthouse trips, and other research endeavors that often produce exactly nothing, these types of genetic tools would be both a godsend and an incredible value.

That’s it.

That’s the challenge, a gauntlet of sorts.

Who’s going to pick it up?

I can’t answer that question, but I can say that 23andMe can’t do this without supporting extensive trees, and Ancestry has shown absolutely no inclination to support segment data. You can’t achieve this goal without segment information or without trees.

Among the current players, that leaves two DNA testing companies and a few top-notch third parties as candidates – although – as the past has proven, the future is uncertain, fluid, and everchanging.

It will be interesting to see what I’m writing at the end of 2025, or maybe even at the end of 2021.

Stay tuned.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Books

Most Popular Articles of 2020

We all know that 2020 was a year like no other, right? So, what were we reading this year as we spent more time at home?

According to my blog stats, these are the ten most popular articles of 2020.

2020 Rank Blog Article Name Publication Date/Comment
1 Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages Jan 11, 2017
2 Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA December 18, 2012
3 Ancestry to Remove DNA Matches Soon – Preservation Strategies with Detailed Instructions Now obsolete article – July 16, 2020
4 Ancestral DNA Percentages – How Much of Them is in You? June 27, 2017
5 Full or Half Siblings? April 3, 2019
6 442 Ancient Viking Skeletons Hold DNA Surprises – Does Your Y or Mitochondrial DNA Match? September 18, 2020
7 Migration Pedigree Chart March 25, 2016
8 DNA Inherited from Grandparents and Great-Grandparents January 14, 2020
9 Optimizing Your Tree at Ancestry for More Hints and DNA ThruLines February 22, 2020
10 Phylogenetic Tree of Novel Coronavirus (hCoV-19) Covid-19 March 12, 2020

Half of these articles were published this year, and half are older.

One article is now obsolete. The Ancestry purge has already happened, so there’s nothing to be done now.

Let’s take a look at the rest and what messages might be held in these popular selections.

Ethnicity

I’m not the least bit surprised by ethnicity being the most popular topic, nor that Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages is the most popular article. Not only is ethnicity a perennially favorite, but all four major vendors introduced something new this year.

By the way, my perennial caveat still applies – ethnicity is only an estimate😊

While Genetic Groups isn’t actually ethnicity, per se, it’s a layer on top of ethnicity that provides you with locations where your ancestors might have been from and migrated to, based on genetic clusters. Clusters are defined by the locations of ancestors of other people within that genetic cluster.

There’s actually good news at 23andMe. Since this article was published in October, 23andMe has indeed updated the V3 and V4 kits with new ethnicity updates. 23andMe had originally stated they weren’t going to do that, clearly in the hope that people would pay to retest by purchasing the V5 Health + Ancestry test. I’m so glad to see their reversal.

Viewing the older V2 kits, the “updated” date at the bottom of their Ancestry Composition page says they were updated on December 9th or 10th, but I don’t see a difference and they don’t have the “updated” icon like the V3 and V4 kits do.

23andMe made another reversal too and also restored the original matches. They had reduced the number of matches to 1500 for non-Health+Ancestry testers who don’t also subscribe. If you wanted between 1500 and 5000 matches, you had to retest and subscribe for $29 per year. (It’s worth noting that I have over 5000 matches at all of the other vendors.)

To date, 23andMe has restored previous matches and also restored some but not all of the search functionality that they had removed.

What isn’t clear is whether 23andMe will continue to add to this number of matches until the tester reaches the earlier limit of 2000, or whether they have simply restored the previous matches, but the match total will not increase unless you have a subscription.

Consumer feedback works – so thanks to everyone who provided feedback to 23andMe.

Native American Ancestry

The article, Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA, written 8 years ago, only 5 months after launching this blog, has been in the top 10 every year since I’ve been counting.

I created a Native American reference and resource page too, which you can find here.

I’ll also be publishing some new articles after the first of the year which I promise you’ll find VERY INTERESTING. Something to look forward to.

Understanding Autosomal DNA

2020 has seen more people delving into genealogy + DNA testing which means they need to understand both the results and the concepts underlying their results.

Whooohooo – more people in the pool. Jump on in – the water’s fine!

The articles Ancestral DNA Percentages – How Much of Them is in You? and DNA Inherited from Grandparents and Great-Grandparents both explain how DNA is passed from your ancestors to you.

These are great basic articles if you’re looking to help someone new, and so is First Steps When Your DNA Results are Ready – Sticking Your Toe in the Genealogy Water.

I always look forward to the end of January because there will be lots of matches from holiday gifts being posted. Feel free to forward any of these articles to your new matches. It’s always fun helping new people because you just never know when they might be able to help you.

Surprises

With more and more people testing, more and more people are receiving “surprises” in their results. Need to figure out the difference between full and half-siblings? Then Full or Half Siblings? is the article for you.

Trying to discern other relationships? My favorite tool is the Shared cM Project tool at DNAPainter, here.

Vikings

Who doesn’t want to know if they are related to the ancient Vikings??? You can make that discovery in the article, 442 Ancient Viking Skeletons Hold DNA Surprises – Does Your Y or Mitochondrial DNA Match?. Not only is this just plain fun, but I snuck in a little education too.

Of course, you’ll need to have your Y DNA or mitochondrial DNA results, which you can easily order, here. If you’re unsure and would like to read a short article about the different kinds of DNA and how they can help you, 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy is perfect.

Do you think your DNA isn’t Viking because your ancestors aren’t from Scandinavia? Guess again!

Those Vikings didn’t stay home, and they didn’t restrict their escapades to the British Isles either.

This drawing depicts Viking ships besieging Paris in the year 845. Vikings voyaged into Russia and as far as the Mediterranean.

Have a child studying at home? This might be an interesting topic!

Migration Pedigree Chart

Another just plain fun idea is the Migration Pedigree Chart.

I created this migration pedigree chart in a spreadsheet, but you can also create a pedigree chart in genealogy software with whatever “names” you want. This will also help you figure out the estimated percentages of ethnicity you might reasonably expect.

Another idea for helping kids learn at home and they might accidentally learn about figuring percentages in the process.

ThruLines

ThruLines is the Ancestry tool that assists DNA testers with trees connect the dots to common ancestors with their matches. There are ways to optimize your tree to improve your connections, both in terms of accuracy and the number of Thrulines that form.

Optimizing Your Tree at Ancestry for More Hints and DNA ThruLines provides step by step instructions, which reminds me – I need to write a similar article for MyHeritage’s Theories of Family Relativity. I keep meaning to…

Covid

You know, it wouldn’t be 2020 if I didn’t HAVE to mention that word.

I’m glad to know that people were and hopefully still are educating themselves about Covid. Phylogenetic Tree of Novel Coronavirus (hCoV-19) Covid-19 reflected early information about the novel virus and our first efforts to sequence the DNA. Of course, as expected, just like any other organism, mutations have occurred since then.

Goodness knows, we are all tired of Covid and the resulting safety protocols. Keep on keeping on. We need you on the other side.

Stay home, mask up when you must leave, stay away from other people outside your family that you live with, wash your hands, and get vaccinated as soon as you can.

And until we can all see each other in person again, hopefully, sooner than later, keep on doing genealogy.

Locked in the Library

Be careful what you ask for.

Remember that dream where you’re locked in a library? Remember saying you don’t have enough time for genealogy?

Well, now you are and now you do.

The library is your desk with your computer or maybe your laptop on a picnic table in the yard.

DNA results, matches, and research tools are the books and you’re officially locked in for at least a few more weeks. Free articles like these are your guide.

Hmmm, pandemic isolation doesn’t sound so bad now, does it??

We’ll just rename it “genealogy library lock-in.”

Happy New Year!

What can you discover?

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Books

DNA Tidbit #5: What’s Your Goal?

You probably see this all the time on social media:

“I just got my DNA results. Now what?”

No further information is given.

The answer is, “What is your goal?”

Why did they test and what are they hoping to learn?

DNA Tidbit Challenge: Define goals for answering genealogy questions, allowing you to focus your efforts.

Your DNA testing goal depends on a number of factors including:

  • What test you took, meaning Y DNA, mitochondrial or autosomal.
  • Where you tested and the tools they offer.
  • What you’re hoping to achieve. In other words, why did you test in the first place?

For a short article about the difference between Y, mitochondrial, and autosomal DNA, please click here.

For more seasoned genealogists, we may have taken all the tests and answered many questions already, but still, our research needs to be guided by goals.

I regularly check my matches. I still think I may have had a half-sibling that is yet to be located. After I confirm that no, I don’t have any new close matches, I then look at the rest, making notes where appropriate.

Recently, late one night, I thought to myself, “why am I doing this?” Endlessly scrolling through new matches and randomly seeing if I can figure out where they fit or which ancestor we share.

But why?

Originally, I had two broad goals.

  • I wanted to find Y line males in each line and other males from the same supposed line to confirm that indeed the ancestral line is what the paper trail had identified.
  • To confirm that I am indeed descended from the ancestral lines I think I am, meaning no NPEs. As a genealogist, the only thing I’d hate worse than discovering that I’ve been researching the wrong line for all these years is to keep doing so.

Given that I’ve confirmed my connection to ancestors on most lines back several generations now, what are my goals?

Broad and Deep

I’ve realized over the years that goals are both broad and deep.

Broad goals are as I described above, in essence, spanning the entire tree.

My broad goals have changed a bit over time. I’ve located and tested descendants of many Y lines, but I’m still working on a few. I’ve confirmed most of my lineage back several generations by matching the DNA from other children of the same ancestor and using tools like triangulation and DNAPainter to confirm the segment is actually from the ancestral couple I think it is.

I’ve added the goal of breaking down brick walls.

This means that I need to look deep instead of broad.

Deep means that I need to focus on and formulate a plan for each line.

Looking Deep

I’ve identified three specific deep goals and put together a plan with action steps to achieve those goals.

  • Deep Goal #1 – Collecting and Using Y and Mitochondrial DNA

I like to “collect” the Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA results/haplogroups of my ancestors for different reasons. First, I’ve discovered surprises in where their DNA originated. For both Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA, you can identify their continent of origin as well as confirm ancestors or break down brick walls for that one specific line through matches and other tools at Family Tree DNA.

Looking at my tree, my closest ancestor whose Y DNA or mtDNA I don’t have is my great-grandmother, Evaline Miller (1857-1939) who had 4 daughters who all had daughters. You wouldn’t think it would be this difficult to find someone who descends to current through all daughters.

How do I go about achieving this goal? What are some alternatives?

  • Track and ask family members, if possible.
  • Find descendants using MyHeritage, Ancestry and Geneanet (especially in Europe) trees. Bonus – they may also have photos or information that I don’t, especially since this isn’t a distant ancestor.

click to enlarge

Ancestry’s ThruLines shows your matches by ancestor, so long as the connection can be made through trees. Unfortunately, in this case, no one descends correctly for mitochondrial DNA, meaning through all females to the current generation which can be male. BUT, they might have an aunt or uncle who does, so it’s certainly worth making a contact attempt.

  • I can also use WikiTree to see if someone has already tested in her line. Unfortunately, no.

However, I don’t know the profile manager so maybe I should click and see how we might be related. You never know and the answer is no if you don’t ask😊

Deep Goal #2 – Confirming a Specific Ancestor

I want to confirm that a specific ancestor is my ancestor, or as close as I can get.

What do I mean by that?

In the first couple of close generations, using autosomal DNA, we can confirm ancestral lines and parentage. We can confirm our parents and our grandparents, but further back in that, we have to use a combination of our tree and other tools to confirm our paper genealogy.

For example, as we move further back in time, we can’t confirm that one particular son was the father as opposed to his brother. In closer generations, autosomal DNA might help, but not beyond the first couple of generations. Second cousins always match autosomally, but beyond that, not so much.

Using Y DNA, if we can find a suitable candidate, I can confirm that my Estes ancestor actually does descend through the Estes line indicated by my paper trail.

I need to find someone in my line either to test or who has already tested, of course.

click to enlarge

If they do test and share their match information with me, and others from that same line have tested, I can see their earliest known ancestors on their Y DNA match page.

If someone from that line has already tested and has joined a surname project, you can see their results on the public project page if they have authorized public project display.

click to enlarge

This is also one way of determining whether or not your line has already tested, especially if you have no Y DNA matches to the expected surname and ancestor. If others have tested from that ancestor, and you don’t match them, there’s a mystery to be unraveled.

To see if projects exist for your surnames, you can click here and scroll down to the search box, below.

Please note that if someone else in your family takes the Y DNA test, that doesn’t guarantee that you descend from that ancestor too unless that person is a reasonably close relative and you match them autosomally in the expected way.

Confirmation of a specific ancestor requires two things without Y DNA testing:

  • Sharing autosomal matches, and preferably triangulated segments, with others who descend from that ancestor (or ancestral couple) through another child.
  • Eliminating other common ancestors.

Of course, Ancestry’s ThruLines are useful for this purpose as are MyHeritage’s Theories of Family Relativity, but that only works if people have linked their DNA results to a tree.

My favorite tool for ancestor confirmation is DNAPainter where you can paint your segments from FamilyTreeDNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage and GEDmatch, either individually or in bulk. You can’t use Ancestry DNA information for this purpose, but you can transfer your Ancestry DNA file to those other vendors (except 23andMe) for free, and search for matches without retesting. (Step-by-step transfer instructions are found here.)

Here’s an example of a group of my matches from various companies painted on one of my chromosomes at DNAPainter. You can read all about how to use DNAPainter, here.

I identify every match that I can and paint those segments to that ancestor. Ancestors are identified by color that I’ve assigned.

In this case, I have identified several people who descend from ancestors through my paternal grandmother’s side going back four generations. We have a total of 12 descendants of the couple Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann (burgundy), even though initially I can only identify some people back to either my grandparents (mustard color) or my grandmother’s parents (grey) or her grandparents (blue). The fact that several people descend from Henry and Nancy, through multiple children, confirms this segment back to that couple. Of course, we don’t know which person of that couple until we find people matching from upstream ancestors.

What about that purple person? I don’t know how they match to me – meaning through which ancestor based on genealogy. However, I know for sure at least part of that matching segment, the burgundy portion, is through Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann, or their ancestors.

Deep Goal #3 – Breaking Down a Brick Wall

Of course, the nature of your brick wall may vary, but I’ll use the example of not being able to find the parents of an ancestral couple.

In the above example, I mentioned that each segment goes back to a couple. Clearly, in the next generation, that segment either comes from either the father or mother, or parts from both perhaps. In this case, that oldest burgundy segment originated with either Henry Bolton or Nancy Mann.

In other words, in the next generation upstream, that segment can be assigned to another couple.

Even if we don’t know who that couple is, it’s still their DNA and other people may have inherited that very same segment.

What we need to know is if the people who share that segment with us and each other also have people in their trees in common with each other that we don’t have in our trees.

Does that make sense? I’m looking for commonality between other testers in their trees that might allow me to connect back another generation.

That common couple in their trees may be the key to unlocking the next generation.

Caveat – please note that people they have in common that we don’t may also be wives of their ancestors downstream of our common ancestor. Just keep that in mind.

Let’s shift away from that Bolton example and look at another way to identify clusters of people and common ancestors.

In order to identify clusters of people who match me and each other, I utilize Genetic Affairs autocluster, or the AutoCluster features incorporated into MyHeritage or the Tier 1 “Clusters” option at GEDmatch.

Based on the ancestors of people in this red cluster that I CAN identify, I know it’s a Crumley cluster. The wife of my William Crumley (1767/8 – 1837/40) has never been identified. I looked at the trees of the people in this cluster that I don’t know and can’t identify a common ancestor, and I discovered at least two people have a Babb family in their tree.

Babb was a near neighbor to William Crumley’s family, but I’ve also noticed that Babb married into this line downstream another 3 generations in Iowa. These families migrated from Frederick County, VA to Greene County, TN and on, together – so I’ll need to be very careful. However, I can’t help but wonder if my William’s wife was a Babb.

I need to see if any of my other matches have Babb as a common name. Now, I can search for Babb at any of the testing vendors to see what, if anything, I can discover.

Genetic Affairs has a combined AutoCluster and AutoTree/AutoPedigree function that compares and combines the trees of cluster members for you, here.

Goals Summary

Now, it’s your turn.

  • What are your genealogy goals that DNA can assist with?
  • Are those goals broad or deep?
  • What kind of DNA test can answer or help answer those questions?
  • What tools and research techniques fit the quandary at hand?

I suggest that you look at each ancestor, and in particular each end-of-line ancestor thinking about where you can focus to obtain answers and reveal new ancestors.

Happy ancestor hunting!

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Books

Holiday DNA Sales Have Started Early

Wow – the sales started early this year! I understand that Black Friday has morphed into the month of November. I’m good with that!

I’m not really surprised because many people are spending more time at home and let’s face it, genealogy is a great at-home activity. I’m glad the sales are starting earlier and running longer because it encourages more people to become engaged.

Genealogy can even help you produce holiday gifts for others in a myriad of ways. Not just purchasing DNA kits for yourself and family members but creating stories or giving them a book you’ve created with photos of grandma and grandpa’s life, perchance.

Of course, DNA is a HUGE part of genealogy. Even if you’re not going to be able to see Uncle Joe this Thanksgiving, you can certainly have a fun Zoom session and document him swabbing or spitting for his DNA test! Make memories, one way or another

Let’s see what the vendors are offering. Then, be sure to read to the end for a surprise.

FamilyTreeDNA – Early Bird Holiday Sale

click to enlarge

FamilyTreeDNA has more products to offer than any of the other vendors with autosomal, Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA tests, each offering something unique.

Y DNA focuses only on your direct patrilineal (surname) line if you are a male. Mitochondrial DNA follows your matrilineal (mother’s mother’s mother’s) line for both sexes. The Family Finder autosomal test traces all ancestral lines. You can read a quick article about these different tests and how they work in this article:

The Family Finder test uses matches to known family members like parents, aunts, uncles and cousins to assign other matches who match both you and your family member to either maternal or paternal sides of your tree.

You can also use Genetic Affairs AutoCluster, AutoTree and AutoPedigree tools at FamilyTreeDNA to get even more mileage out of your DNA tests.

If you were an early tester with Y and mitochondrial DNA, you can upgrade now to a more robust test to receive more granular results.

click to enlarge

Have you noticed the ancient DNA articles I’ve been writing recently?

Your most refined haplogroup revealed only in the Big Y-700 or mitochondrial mtFull Sequence test allows you to compare your haplogroup with ancient samples most effectively. I promise you, there will be more articles upcoming! These are just pure joy, connecting back in time.

The FamilyTreeDNA sale ends November 24th. Please click here to order or upgrade.

MyHeritage

MyHeritageDNA includes lots of features that other vendors don’t have, such as integrated AutoClusters and Theories of Family Relativity (TOFR) which connects you and your matches through a network of common records and trees. TOFR is surprisingly accurate, either pointing the way to or identifying common ancestors.

I wrote about how to use these and other included tools to unravel your genealogy in this recent article, with a free companion webinar:

Additionally, MyHeritage has a strong focus in Europe that includes lots of European testers – perfect for people whose ancestors are emigrants from another country.

MyHeritageDNA is on sale now for $49, a $30 savings, plus free shipping if you purchase two or more kits. Please click here to order.

This sale ends November 25th.

Ancestry

Best known for their large database, AncestryDNA offers ThruLines which takes advantage of their database size to suggest common ancestors for you and your matches based on multiple trees. I wrote about ThruLines in this article:

The AncestryDNA test is on sale now for $59, a $40 savings, with free US shipping. Please click here to order.

Sale ends November 23rd.

23andMe

23andMe is best known in the genealogy community for the accuracy of their Ancestry Composition, known as ethnicity results, which they paint on your chromosomes.

23andMe also creates a “genetic tree” between you and your closest matches based on who does and who does not match each other, and how they match each other. I wrote about genetic trees and subsequently, how they solved one mystery in these two articles.

While the genetic tree technology isn’t perfected yet, it’s certainly the direction of the future and can provide insight into how you and others are related and where to look for them in your actual genealogy tree.

The 23andMe Ancestry only test is available for a 10% reduction in price at $88.95. Please click here to order.

Of course, 23andMe also offers a health product that includes the ancestry product.

The 23andMe Health + Ancestry test is available for $99, a saving of 50%. Please click here to order.

These sale prices end November 26th.

Surprise!!!

I have an early holiday gift for you too.

Beginning later this week, I’m publishing the first article in a new interactive series aptly named…drum roll…“DNA Tidbits.”

Indeed, there is fruit-of-the-vine to be harvested and that’s exactly what we are going to do – in small steps! Tidbits.

Just like everything else on this blog, it’s completely free of course and we are going to have lots of FUN!

Let me give you a hint – you’ll probably want to have test results at all of these companies because the Tidbits will be bouncing around a bit – so if you need to buy something, please click on the links below.

Thank you and I can’t wait to get started!

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Books

Utilizing MyHeritage AutoClusters to Analyze your DNA Matches

AutoClusters are so much fun and can provide tons of information. I’m going to step through how to analyze your cluster matches easily and productively in conjunction with the MyHeritage tools, but first, a little light housekeeping.

First, please note that this article was presented as a webinar for MyHeritage as part of the MyHeritageDNA Facebook LIVE series. You can watch it anytime, free, at the permanent link, here, courtesy of MyHeritage and me. However, everyone learns differently, and some people do better with written instructions. You can follow the step-by-step instructions in this article.

Second, AutoClusters are a built-in advanced DNA tool at MyHeritage for customers who either:

I would encourage the subscription because many of the MyHeritage tools function best with a large tree. While MyHeritage does offer free trees of up to 250 people, to take full advantage of your DNA test plus tools, you’ll want a larger tree. Subscription features and pricing can be found here and you can try a free trial subscription here.

Third, if you’d like to transfer your DNA file from another vendor, I wrote step-by-step instructions, here.

Fourth, MyHeritage is having a $49 Halloween DNA sale, here, with free shipping if you purchase 2 kits.

And last, Genetic Affairs, the author of AutoClusters, provides additional functionality on their own website for use with FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe. Customers at Genetic Affairs cannot access MyHeritage data from the Genetic Affairs website since MyHeritage contracts with Genetic Affairs to provide AutoClusters directly to MyHeritage customers at no additional charge. I only mention this because the functionality described in this article and in the companion webinar discusses the functionality by using a combination of AutoClusters and the unique tools available only at MyHeritage.

Ok, housekeeping complete – on to AutoClusters!

Get yourself a cup of coffee or tea. We’re taking a deep dive here, beginning to end, but keep in mind that you don’t have to do everything that’s possible initially, or ever. It’s OK to take baby steps. Just know that AutoClusters can be a superpower to breaking down brick walls. Not only that, AutoClusters are simply FUN!

Let’s start with a basic question.

What is an AutoCluster and Why Do I Care?

An AutoCluster is an artful bouquet of hints, arranged by family group in a puzzle format.

AutoCluster technology, a form of genetic networks, is a way to display your matches who match you and who also match each other in a meaningful, colored-coded group. Each group, or cluster, shares a common ancestral line, somehow. That “how” discovery, or better stated, “which ancestor” discovery is up to you – but clusters provide huge hints!

We’re genealogists, right – we live for hints. Let’s take a look at how this works.

I would suggest reading through this article the first time, then working through the steps as you read it a second time with your own AutoCluster. Don’t worry, I’ll show you how to request one.

This example of my own AutoCluster report, which I’ll be using throughout this article, shows three different clusters.

Everyone within a cluster matches you, but not everyone matches each other. Each cluster is represented by colored cells, each of which represent the intersection of two people who match each other. In the third yellow cluster, everyone matches each other except for two people who don’t match each other.

Grey cells fall into both of the two clusters they are between. For example, the grey cells to the right of the red cluster in the red box match people in both the first red and second tan cluster.

What this means is that once you’ve identified the genesis of each cluster, you know that people who are grey members of both clusters descend from both lines which could represent the two people in an ancestor couple. In my tree, my maternal great-grandfather Joseph Bolton married Margaret Claxton/Clarkson, and I expect the grey people descend from this couple or from both lines individually. One way or another, they match people from both clusters.

The grey people are an additional hint – so don’t neglect them. In fact, some of these grey squares can be even more important that people within clusters because they span two clusters.

Ok, so how do I generate an AutoCluster at MyHeritage?

Requesting an AutoCluster

You’ll find the AutoCluster featured under the DNA menu, under DNA Tools.

Click “Explore.”

If you manage multiple kits, be sure to select the right kit for the right person.

In my case, I have a transfer kit, then I tested at MyHeritage for the health product, so I have two kits. A MyHeritage kit shows with the MH prefix, while a transfer kit shows a different prefix.

The matches and AutoClusters are slightly different between the two kits because the tests are run on different DNA chips.

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After selecting the correct kit, just click on the purple “Generate” button. Note that if your parents have tested, generating an AutoCluster for one or both of them will help you immensely with your own AutoCluster. If both of your parents have tested, you may want to work only with their AutoCluster reports, and not your own. They will have people in their clusters that you don’t because you didn’t inherit that particular piece of DNA from your parents.

Next, you’ll see a message informing you that your AutoCluster is being generated and will be sent to the email registered to your account.

Queue up Jeopardy countdown thinking music

Just a few minutes later, my AutoCluster arrived in my email box. (Note – check your spam folder.)

If you request multiple AutoClusters for different tests or accounts at the same time, take care not to mix them up. Voice of experience here…

You’ll receive 3 items in zip file. I save my files to my computer.

  • Readme file
  • HTML (with the colored circle)
  • Spreadsheet which is a different format of the html file

I don’t know how well the HTML file and the spreadsheet will display on non-computer devices, although I know the HTML file does display on an iPad. I generally work from my computer.

The HTML File

Just click on the HTML file to display your AutoClusters. You’ll get to enjoy seeing them “flying into place,” assembling into clusters. I told you these were fun!

You can play around a bit with options, but “cluster” is the default view and the only one we’re covering in this article.

Each colored cluster is a group of interrelated matches.

I have a total of 18 clusters.

Scroll towards the bottom to view the parameters used to generate the clusters.

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These parameters are not adjustable and have been optimized by MyHeritage to perform well for all customers, including testers with significant endogamy, such as people with Jewish heritage. At the system-generated threshold, I have 100 qualifying matches. Note that the system optimizes the thresholds individually for each person, and your thresholds might be slightly different than mine.

  • Min threshold 40 cM (often this level of match is in the 5C or more distant range)
  • Max threshold 350 cM (closer than 350 would probably be 1C or closer)
  • Shared DNA match minimum threshold 15 cM (overlap of matching DNA)

You’re probably wondering – where are the highest matches such as parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, etc.?

Close family members would be in many clusters. Placing one person into more than two clusters is simply not technically possible due to the constraints of a two-dimensional grid medium, so close family matches are excluded from clusters as to not be confusing. You can still use close family members in shared matching. In fact, they are extremely useful and we will discuss that shortly.

Fly your cursor over the cluster to view the cluster members and their match status to each other. In the grid, each person who matches another has a colored cell. In this example, my cursor is pointing to the cell where “cro” matches Bonnie. Names are obscured for privacy.

Scroll on down below the cluster box to view additional information about each member of the cluster. Many people don’t realize there’s more because they are excited about viewing their clusters and miss this important information about the cluster members beneath the grid.

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Your notes are critically important and you can search by notes. When I identify how someone is related to me, or even clues, I record that information in the notes. I SHOULD have recorded “TOFR” for the matches who have Theories of Family Relativity, and I have gone back and done that now. We’ll talk about TOFRs in a minute.

You may be able to identify the common line or ancestral couple based on the matches alone. Note that these matches may not all be from the same generation. For example, I have some matches in this group who descend from various Claxton ancestors, spanning at least 4 generations. That commonality is how I know the cluster is “Claxton/Clarkson” and not from one of their wives – at least to the most distant generation where I’m stuck.

Matches can span many generations in a “line” and probably involve multiple DNA segments, especially in larger clusters.

Click on “Tree” to view the tree of your match.

Click on “Name” to review their DNA match with you.

Note that your match may match you on more than one line and possibly on both parents’ sides. Inclusion in this cluster simply tells you they match on this line and does not eliminate any other lines.

Now, let’s begin our cluster analysis and drill down.

Select the Best Match

I always begin my analysis with what I think is the “best” match in a cluster.

  • Best could be the largest tree.
  • Best could be the largest match.
  • Best could be the largest number of ICW (in common with) cluster matches.
  • Best is any match with a TOFR (Theory of Family Relativity)

I make notes for all TOFR matches, after verifying, of course, indicating the common ancestors. I also note “TOFR” so I know, when looking at clusters, why I assigned that specific ancestor. When you have a TOFR, MyHeritage has already done the heavy lifting for you.

I note matches’ inclusion in a cluster to remind me to check those clustered matches first. When a match is in a cluster, AutoCluster has done the heavy lifting for you.

The key to success is to utilize multiple tools, together.

Like what?

The Success Triumvirate

Successfully identifying clusters, ancestors and how each person matches you is accomplished through a combination of three primary tools. I call this the “Success Triumvirate” because the three are quite interwoven.

We are going to use all three of these tools, together, so let’s talk about them individually briefly.

Theories of Family Relativity (TOFR)

TOFRs are super hints – theories about which common ancestors your matches share with you.

I wrote about Theories of Family Relativity complete with step-by-step instructions:

TOFRs connect you to your DNA matches by identifying a potential ancestor through a succession of trees and documents from different sources. You can do a number of things to help TOFRs, (and yourself), along.

  • TOFR formation requires a tree, so create one at MyHeritage, using their free TreeBuilder on your computer, or upload a tree that you’ve already created elsewhere.
  • TOFR does best if you complete the tree through grandchildren of each ancestor, at least, if possible, for each generation. Think of each person as a hand reaching out to latch on to the same person in another person’s tree. The more hands, the better your odds of success.
  • Include birth/death date and location, or as much as you know.
  • Accept Smart Matches where appropriate.
  • Make notes. Notes keep you from retracing your own steps.

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A TOFR connection as offered by MyHeritage may not be exactly accurate, but the common ancestor may be accurately identified anyway. For example, in the above TOFR, Margaret Claxton did not marry William Luke Monday, her sister did. The TOFR isn’t exactly correct, but the common ancestors are easily identified. I can take it from this point – no problem.

Always check to see if multiple TOFR paths exist because important hints may be hidden in those links. Think of yourself as a sleuth😊

Let’s take a look at one cousin in this Claxton cluster, Bonnie. What can we learn, and how? Let’s review Bonnie’s DNA match to me.

Reviewing Bonnie’s DNA Match

Clicking on “Review DNA Match” with Bonnie shows me a host of information divided into sections, beginning with a TOFR.

Bonnie Has a TOFR – Hot Diggity!

The first thing we see is that Bonnie does have a TOFR with the tester (me), so we can identify a potential common ancestor.

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Not only that, but Bonnie has a fairly robust tree of 4043 people, so she must be interested in genealogy at some level.

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Not only that, but there are two separate potential “paths” that connect me and Bonnie at a potential common ancestor. One may be more accurate than the other. Be sure to check all paths.

I can click on the little green dots that bridge trees by connecting what the system believes to be the same ancestor to view and evaluate that information.

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Clicking on this green dot would display the match criteria from both trees.

In this case, the weighted match was 76%. The information for Margaret herself was mostly the same, but her husband(s) and children were different due to the inaccuracy of showing her married to her brother-in-law.

Evaluate all TOFRs, links, trees and hints for accuracy. They aren’t gospel.

Another great source of hints is Smart Matches. You may, and probably will, have Smart Matches with people’s trees who are not DNA matches to you. Smart Matches are not necessarily connected to DNA matches specifically, but they do help TOFR form accurately.

Bonnie Has Smart Matches!

MyHeritage generates Smart Matches WITHOUT factoring in genetic matching. Smart Matches occur when enough common factors exist between a person in your tree and a person in another tree whether you are a DNA match with that person or not.

If you have Smart Matches with a DNA match, they will be listed when you review your DNA match with that person.

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To determine whether or not this Smart Match could be relevant to your DNA autocluster, be sure to notice whether this is a direct ancestor of both people. To be relevant to DNA, the Smart Match must be for a direct ancestor or at least lead to a direct ancestor.

Next, click “Review Smart Match.”

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The first thing you’re going to see is “Confirm Match,” and as a genealogist, that stopped me dead in my tracks.

That’s skull-and-crossbones frightening. I don’t know what “confirm match” means or does? Does it mean that all of their information will automatically be copied to my tree if I click that button? I certainly DON’T WANT THAT!!!

I may not want the “Improved Info” either. That information may not actually be improved. What do I do?

For a long time, I did nothing because I didn’t want to mess something up – but doing nothing isn’t the right answer either – because confirming Smart Matches helps TOFRs for everyone.

I wish MyHeritage provided a bit more information here, because “Confirm Match” doesn’t import any information into your tree automatically. You have the opportunity to review everything first.

There are two questions at this point you need to ask and answer independently:

  1. Is this the same person?
  2. If so, do I want any of this data to be imported to my tree?

If it IS the same person, go ahead and confirm – you’ll get to review each new or “improved” item at that point.

If it’s NOT the same person, scroll to the bottom of the page and reject the match.

In this example, Nicholas Speak is the same person, so I’ve clicked on “Confirm Match” which then allows me to review each piece of information that is different, individually. If I want to import that information into my tree, I click on the little arrow to bring the information into my tree, replacing mine. If I do nothing, no information is copied to my tree. It’s that simple. If I make a mistake, I can always edit my own information.

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Bonnie Has Shared Ancestral Surnames!

Another hint for DNA matches is “Shared Ancestral Surnames.” If you can’t figure out how you are related, take a look at these. Of course, Smith is extremely common, but groups of shared surnames are a huge hint, especially if you also have shared locations.

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You may discover more than one line that connects you to this tester – which sometimes makes things a little more complicated! That’s when location can become a life-saver.

Bonnie Has Shared Ancestral Places!

Shared ancestral places can be very useful, even if you can’t identify common surnames, especially in cases where surnames may not be useful. Unknown parent events and adoptions have always occurred, and a specific location may go a long way in terms of identifying the ancestors of both parties that may be related.

Purple pins with numbers mean you BOTH have ancestors from that location. Bonnie and I share 65 ancestors from one place. I definitely need to evaluate that location!

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Clicking on Tennessee shows the pins in that location. Clicking on a specific pin displays the ancestors from that location.

Note that the purple “65” pin location revealed this common ancestor whose surname is spelled differently in our trees. This surname transitioned back and forth, so there I no “right” or “wrong” way to spell it. However, a different spelling may keep the person from being recognized as the same individual by computer software.

Now, let’s review Bonnie’s shared DNA match information.

Bonnie’s Shared DNA Matches

We know that each of the people in the first cluster match the tester, me, and all but 3 (yellow stars) of the people who match me in the first cluster also match Bonnie

However, don’t think for one minute that there are only 8 people who match me and Bonnie both. There are only 8 who match us both AND are included in the cluster. These are judged to be out “best” common matches.

Looking at my DNA match with Bonnie, I see that there are 162 total shared matches.

The balance, other than the 8 in the cluster, did not meet all of the match threshold ranges to be included in the cluster. In other words, shared matches not in the cluster were either less than 40 cM or more than 350 cM, or the shared piece of the matching segment was less than 15 cM. In other words, the matches in the cluster are the strongest shared matches, other than close relatives, but they certainly aren’t the only shared matches.

I match Bonnie on two segments, one on chromosome 13 and one on chromosome 16.

Just because someone matches me and Bonnie, both, doesn’t necessarily mean the match is on the same segment. For example, they could match me on chromosome 10 and Bonnie on chromosome 1, while Bonnie and I match each other on chromosomes 13 and 16.

However, there’s certainly a good chance that someone matches us both on the same segment(s).

Reviewing the cluster matches between me and Bonnie, we discover the following information regarding these two specific segments on chromosome 13 and 16, only.

Shared Match with Bonnie Triangulation Chromosome & Location
Sharon Yes Chr 16 only
Renee Yes Chr 16 only
Wilma Yes Chr 16 only
John Yes Chr 16 only
Celeste Yes Chr 16 only
Shirley No Neither
Carolyn Yes Chr 16 only
Ray No Neither

Six people match me and Bonnie both on chromosome 16, none match me and Bonnie both on chromosome 13, so that means that both Shirley and Ray match both of us on a completely different chromosome segment.

Now, of course, the question becomes if those 6 people match Bonnie and me on the same or at least an overlapping portion of chromosome 16.

Triangulation

Triangulation, which I wrote about here, occurs when the tester matches two or more people on the same reasonably sized segment of DNA, and they also match each other on that same segment. The “matching each other” part is important, because it verifies the match is from the same side, Mom or Dad, and from a common ancestor, not identical by chance (IBC).

I wrote about identical by chance here, but in essence, IBC means that a piece of your Mom’s DNA and a piece of your Dad’s DNA accidentally combined in you to look like a match with someone else, but it’s a false positive. You do technically “match” that other person, but it’s because of chance recombination, not because you share DNA from a common ancestor on one side of your family or the other.

The matching to other known family members on that segment is the clue to eliminating IBC matches from comparisons. Each of your valid matches will match one of your parents, or the other. If your match doesn’t also match one or the other parent, it’s not a valid match.

This is known as parental phasing and is why it’s extremely important to have both or one of your parents test, if possible.

If the tester’s parents have tested, each of your cluster matches will match to one parent or the other in addition to the people in the cluster.

Bonnie Has Triangulated Matches!

At MyHeritage, when you review shared matches, you can see if your match triangulates with you by the presence of a little purple triangulate icon.

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Looking at my shared match list with Bonnie, I see Wilma has a purple icon, indicating triangulation between Wilma, Bonnie and me. Woohooo!

Clicking on the purple triangulate icon shows me the common triangulated segment(s).

In this case, Bonnie, Wilma and I only triangulate on one segment, on chromosome 16. Do the other cluster members also triangulate with Bonnie, Wilma and me on this segment? The ones who have a triangulation icon should since I’ve already determined that they only match me on chromosome 16 in common with Bonnie. Let’s see.

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I added the other people in the match cluster to see who else triangulates on any portion of chromosome 16. Just type the names from the cluster into the DNA match name box below the profile cards in the chromosome browser to add each person to the view.

Only the triangulated portion for all people compared is bracketed. That’s so important to remember. In the example above, all people match me and each other on the bracketed portion of chromosome 16.

In this example, two of the people compared do NOT triangulate on this segment, so no bracket is drawn. This might lead you to think that the three people whose DNA matches the tester on the same segment don’t also match each other – but you can’t assume.

If you remove the two people not matching on the segment from the chromosome browser, the other three now show the triangulation bracket.

Triangulated segments provide evidence that a specific segment descends from a common ancestor. The challenge, of course, is to identify the ancestors who contributed that segment generationally through time.

I wrote about triangulation at MyHeritage in the article Triangulation in Action at MyHeritage.

Downloads

You can only compare a maximum of 7 people at a time in the chromosome browser, but you can download your entire match list in a spreadsheet and work from there. I do that often.

There are three different downloads that provide different information and serve a different purpose.

Chromosome Browser Match Download

Scroll down to the bottom of the chromosome browser page to download the matching segments (to you) of the people shown on the browser at that time.

You can download the segments for the current matches showing in the chromosome browser by clicking on advanced options on that page.

Click on “Download shared DNA info.”

This download will happen immediately to your system. I use this technique when chromosome painting matches identified to a particular ancestor at DNAPainter. I also note for each match when I’ve painted their matching segments so I don’t waste time doing it twice.

The second and third download options are found on your DNA Match page.

Export Full Match List and Shared DNA Segments

By moving to your main DNA match page, you can download:

  • Your DNA match list which downloads information about each of your matches
  • Your matching DNA segments for all matches

By clicking on the three dots, you will see the two download/export options. Those two files hold different information.

The “entire DNA matches list” provides information ABOUT your matches, such as:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Country
  • Contact link
  • DNA manager
  • Status (new)
  • Estimated relationship
  • Total cMs
  • Percent shared DNA
  • Number of shared segments
  • Largest segment
  • Link to review DNA match
  • Has tree (yes/no)
  • Number of people in tree
  • Tree manager
  • Contract tree link
  • Number of smart matches
  • Shared ancestral surnames
  • All ancestral surnames
  • Notes

This is important, and I use this file a lot because it provides all of the information in one place and I don’t have to click on each match to evaluate. Plus, I can search and sort to my heart’s content.

Option two, the entire “shared segment DNA info” match list will show all matches, including maternal, paternal and IBC. It’s up to you to figure out which are which, but we have lots of tools and hints.

Your shared segment spreadsheet provides information about the shared DNA, only.

Let’s start by looking at Bonnie again.

Bonnie and Chromosome 16 on the Spreadsheet

Here are my two segment matches with Bonnie in the spreadsheet.

The MyHeritage tools, combined, provide you with the ability to sort your matches meaningfully into genealogically relevant clusters and identify ancestors. I’m going to utilize that information with the downloaded spreadsheet segment information.

Let’s take a look at that matching segment with Bonnie on chromosome 16.

In the shared DNA segment spreadsheet, I filtered for chromosome 16, sorted in lowest to highest order (end location, then start) and looked for matches that fall between these two locations.

In reference to the match with Bonnie, look for any match between 79914629 and 87713399.

I am showing only a partial list below. The actual number of matches to be on this segment of chromosome 16 is about three times as large as this graphic.

After downloading the spreadsheet, I added a Triangulation Group column and a comments column, at right.

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I’ve colored the cluster members yellow who match on chromosome 16 to Bonnie AND me in the cluster.

People who match me on chromosome 16 and are NOT in the cluster fall into one of the following categories:

  • Also match to me and Bonnie, but outside of the cluster threshold. You can see that there are a lot of matches below 40 cM, which immediately eliminates them from the cluster.
  • Match me and Bonnie, but on an overlapping piece of DNA not large enough to be included in a cluster – in other words, the overlap of the three people is less than 15 cM..
  • Match to me, but not Bonnie which means that either they are a match from the other parent’s side, or identical by chance.

Discerning which category each match falls into requires looking at each match and evaluating individually.

You can look at each spreadsheet row, individually, below, if you wish, but what I’d like for you to do is to focus on the groups that I created as I analyzed each match on the segment of chromosome 16 where I match Bonnie.

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  • Green row is Bonnie, our baseline person whose match is why I’m analyzing this particular segment.
  • Bright yellow shows the 6 AutoCluster triangulated chromosome 16 cluster members.
  • Lighter yellow rows are also matches and triangulations on the same segment with me and Bonnie, but not included in the AutoCluster
  • Pink indicates matches on Mom’s side on this same chromosome segment. Mom is in the database, so this is easy to discern.
  • Grey is IBC (darker) or likely IBC (lighter) meaning they don’t match either parent’s side entirely.
  • Bright red is a breakthrough!

You’ll notice that the “best” matches, meaning the ones in the cluster, are clustered together on the spreadsheet too.

The second group of matches, below, begins to have more IBC and matches to Mom’s side. A third group, which I’m not including here, is almost entirely Mom’s side.

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When I finished analyzing the matches on this segment of chromosome 16 from the AutoCluster, I had:

  • Bonnie (green) + 6 Claxton matches (bright yellow) reflecting the first cluster triangulation with Bonnie and me
  • 93 total people that matched me on some portion of chromosome 16 that I match in common with Bonnie. However, on this spreadsheet, matches to me on this segment include some matches who will not match Bonnie.
  • People not matching me and Bonnie both on this segment will include both matches on Mom’s side (pink), and IBC (grey).
  • A breakthrough (bright red) identifying this segment as Claxton, as opposed to Sarah Cook’s, James Claxton’s wife, which means that I can focus on other people with trees with common ancestors who match on that segment on Dad’s side. Someplace in those trees is the information that will someday identify James Claxton’s parents/ancestors.
  • Identified 28 (light yellow) paternal matches through this segment assigned to Claxton that match me and Bonnie, both.
  • Identified 30 (pink) Mom segments, some of which are Acadian and some of which are German. On Mom’s side, two different portions of chromosome 16 recombined from two different ancestors and I can tell where that dividing line occurs by using visual phasing and triangulation at DNAPainter.
  • Identified 26 (grey) IBC segments which are false positive (or likely false positive) matches and should be disregarded.
  • Made notes on each of those matches at MyHeritage.
  • Painted each valid segment at DNAPainter.

About That BreakThrough…

Why is this breakthrough important, and what does it tell me?

Bonnie is descended from the same Claxton line as I am, meaning she is a proven descendant of James Lee Claxton born about 1775 and his wife, Sarah Cook through their son, Fairwick/Fairwix Claxton. We don’t know where James Claxton was born, but likely in either VA or NC. He first appeared on the tax list in Russell County, VA, with no other Claxton males, not long before he married Sarah in 1799.

Bonnie and I match Jim on that same segment.

Jim’s ancestor was Solomon Claxton, born in 1801 in NC. In other words, Jim does NOT share James Claxton as a common ancestor. This means that Jim and Bonnie and I share DNA from a common Claxton ancestor. That segment of chromosome 16 cannot be from the Cook side, because Jim does not descend from the James Claxton/Sarah Cook line.

Therefore, other people who triangulate on that segment, who don’t show trees with Claxton ancestors, and have matching trees to each other will one day hold the key to our common ancestors who contributed that segment to all of us on chromosome 16.

That means I need to take the time to evaluate every one of their trees looking for their common ancestors with each other. It’s likely that common ancestor could be mine as well, or lead to mine.

Just One!!!

Remember, all of the discoveries above were made from analyzing just one chromosome segment match from the Bonnie row in the first AutoCluster. Just one!

Autoclusters intentionally only utilize your “best” non-close family member matches. This allows you to see the genetic relationships between multiple people, even without trees.

You then use the trees, TOFR, surnames, locations, Smart Matches, shared matches, triangulation, and previous research to identify the ancestral connection.

Just scanning this AutoCluster report, I can immediately discern that people share matches between groups of clusters. For example, clusters 1, 2, and 4 share members – for starters. That tells me that these clusters are related to each other. In fact, that’s exactly correct as shown after analysis when I was able to assign each cluster to either an ancestor or ancestral couple.

I discovered a HUGE amount of information researching just one common segment with one match, including a breakthrough which may, one day, if not today, lead to the identification of James Claxton’s parents.

Just think how much more there is left to discover! I need to review the match to Bonnie on chromosome 13 and the other 99 people in my AutoCluster, utilizing the same tools and techniques.

I can hardly wait to get started!

Clusters are Genetic Super-Powers

Clusters are your super-power matches. Take full advantage of them.

  • Every cluster tells a story.
  • If you can identify the common ancestors with one or two people, and it’s the same line, you’ve probably identified the genetic “cluster.”
  • Every match tells a story.
  • You may triangulate on multiple segments with different people.
  • Every individual segment tells a story
  • Each segment stands alone, meaning one segment can descend from the mother of the couple, and another segment from the father. Don’t assume that each shared segment descends from the same ancestor.
  • Don’t assume that if you match one person on two segments, that they both necessarily descend from the same line or couple. It’s possible that you are related on another, known or unknown, line.
  • Every segment match has an individual genealogical history that can lead to different ancestors, meaning that the genetic line is the same, but the ancestors may be different. You may match one person who descends from the son of another match, for example.
  • Each triangulated segment descended from common ancestors who contributed that segment to all triangulation group members.
  • The history of brick walls is held in unidentified matches to segments.

An example is worth 1000 words.

Walking Back In Time

Based on multiple triangulated matches to various people, the triangulated segment on chromosome 16 belongs to the following ancestors:

Generation Ancestor Via Match to…
1 Dad Assigned to Dad’s side via triangulated matches to known relatives
2 Ollie Bolton Culley, Stacey
3 Margaret Clarkson Fred, John
4 Samuel Claxton Wilma
5 Fairwick Claxton Joy, Eugene, Billy, I.B., Bonnie
6 James Claxton, Sarah Cook Brent, Delilah
7 Unknown Claxton parents Jim (NC), Kelsey (TN)

As you can see, based on the genealogy of my matches, I’ve walked the segment on chromosome 16 back in time 7 generations.

How do I get to generation 8?

Clusters are Genetic Super-Powers

Now I need to search the trees of matches on this same segment, but without identified common ancestors to me, looking for common lineages in their trees with each other.

This Claxton segment descended from some unknown ancestor(s) upstream of James Claxton. The key to the identity of those ancestors is held in their DNA segments and matches.

What I’m looking for are common ancestors of those chromosome 16 matches to each other. For example, if James Claxton’s father was named John Claxton and his mother was Jane Doe, finding several people with trees connecting to the Doe family would be especially relevant. Those are the more deeply hidden clues.

I need to do the exact same thing, following the same process, with each segment of every cluster match!

The solution to brick walls is held in unidentified matches to triangulated segments which point the way – like invisible “this way” arrows through that door from our ancestors.

AutoClusters are the genetic superpower!

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Is Adam Greulich’s Daughter the Mother of Johann Michael Kirsch? – 52 Ancestors #311

Not that this is confusing or anything. Just sayin’…😊

So, who was Johann Michael Kirsch‘s mother, and was she Adam Greulich’s daughter? I thought this was all settled, but come to find out, it’s not! Maybe I should have named this article, “Who Tipped Over My Apple Cart?” All it takes is one new piece of evidence to bring everything into question.

Hot on the Miniscule Breadcrumb Trail

Let’s follow this trail of tiny breadcrumbs and see where we emerge. We’ll start with the evidence we know, positively, to frame the quandary.

  • We know that Johann Georg “Jerg” Kirsch was married in 1650 in Durkheim to Margretha Koch.
  • We know that in 1660, Jerg was mentioned in a feudal letter as a co-lessee of the Josten estate in Fussgoenheim.
  • Based on that information, it’s presumed that Jerg and his family moved back to Fussgoenheim, from Durkheim about 1660.
  • We also know that about 1684, probably until after 1695, the family had to take shelter again in Durkheim. In fact, Jerg’s son, Johann Wilhelm Kirsch married in 1695 in Durkheim.
  • We know that by 1701, Johann Adam Kirsch, Jerg’s son is the mayor of the northern half of Fussgoenheim.

These records are all proven with documented evidence.

My deceased cousin, Walter Schnebel who lived in Fussgoenheim and descended from the Kirsch family included a reference about Adam Kirsch’s testimony in 1717 before the village council as they attempted to record information. The old records had been lost, and the only way to recover anything was to record what the oldest few people in the village knew. Adam’s brother, Wilhelm Kirsch was the “court man” who recorded the testimony.

Records, history, and customs had disappeared and faded away because of the need to seek refuge outside the village from about 1618 to after 1648 during the 30 Years’ War and from about 1684 to about 1698 during subsequent French aggressions that again burned and totally destroyed the quaint town and surrounding fields of Fussgoenheim.

Published village history revealed part of the Kirsch story, but unfortunately, it referred to an earlier book, Ortsgeschichte von Fußgönheim, written in 1925 by Ernst Merk that was only available in two locations in the US. One is the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints Family History Library in Salt Lake City, stored offsite, and not available online. This tells me that this old book has not been scanned – and the library is not open during the present Covid situation. For now, this option is off the table.

The second location is the library in Buffalo, NY.

I called my local library, although they do not participate in interlibrary loan outside of Michigan. I’ve never, not once, had any success obtaining any book through this library. Out-of-state libraries, generally, will only work with a local library, not individual out-of-state patrons to loan books. Talk about caught between a rock and a hard place.

Fortunately, a nice young man in the local library called the interlibrary loan librarian in Buffalo and explained the situation. He couldn’t actually “help” me in the traditional way, but he did by explaining to her what I needed and asked if I could call her directly. She indicated that I could, and I did.

I offered to pay, I explained about genealogy, and pretty much – I begged.

She told me that she could NOT scan this entire historical book for me (rats!), but she WOULD scan the cover, the table of contents, the first page in the section where Adam was mentioned, and the page plus next page that was referenced in the earlier work. Bless that woman! Beggars can’t be choosers!

I feel like I’m chasing a magic pink unicorn squirrel down a rabbit hole.

How did I get here anyway?

Walter’s Record

Walter’s exact verbiage, in German, about Adam Kirsch is as follows:

(?) N.N. Greulich (* um 1680 † vor 1706, T.v. Adam Greulich); seit ca. 1677 in Fgh. (OG Merk, siehe Weistuhm 1717 Vern. 1717)

Using Deepl translator, this translated to:

(?) N.N. Greulich (* about 1680 † before 1706, T.v. Adam Greulich); since about 1677 in Fgh. (OG Merk, see Weistuhm 1717 Vern. 1717)

This means that Adam was married to a Greulich female who was born about 1680 and died before 1706, the daughter of Adam Greulich, and that Adam Kirsch had lived in Fussgoenheim since about 1677.

I’m still not sure exactly what the Weistuhm 1717 and Vern. 1717 means, or how to access whatever those records are. Note – I’ve discovered that weistuhm means wisdom and in this context, conveyed in 1717.

Then, Walter shows all of Adam Kirsch’s children as being born to his wife, Anna Maria Koob, including Johann Michael Kirsch who was born about 1700.

Wait?

What?

Anna Maria Koob

The only reason we know about Anna Maria Koob is because she died on March 18, 1734, and was buried in Fussgoenheim. Her burial was recorded in church records indicating that she was buried on March 21st, age 54 years, which tells us that she was born in either 1679 or 1680, depending on when her actual birthday occurred. That record also tells us that she was the wife of Adam Kirsch.

This means that Anna Maria Koob would likely have married no earlier than 1700, and likely between 1700 and 1705.

Church records don’t begin in Fussgoenheim until 1726, but through death and other records Walter shows Johann Adam Kirsch’s children being born as follows:

  • Johann Michael Kirsch (eventually the Mayor) born about 1700 and died before 1759.
  • Johann Wilhelm Kirsch born in 1706, married in 1727.
  • Johann Jacob Kirsch born about 1710
  • Maria Catharina Kirsch born about 1715 and died in 1778.
  • Johann Peter Kirsch born in 1716 and died before 1760.

Johann Michael Kirsch is my ancestor, which means, of course, he’s the child of Adam Kirsch I’m most interested in.

Michael is Adam’s oldest known child.

If Adam had two wives, meaning that Anna Maria Koob was not his first wife, Michael Kirsch was the most likely of any of those children to descend from Adam’s first spouse – if any do. It would be very unusual for a couple to have no children, assuming the wife didn’t die in childbirth and also assuming that those children survived.

  1. Walter indicated in his spreadsheet that Adam’s first wife was deceased by 1706, but he gave no indication as to why he recorded that information.
  2. Walter also indicated, in Johann Michael Kirsch’s spreadsheet row that he was born about 1700 and that his mother was Anna Maria Koob.

Even more confounding – where did Walter find the information about Anna Maria Koob being Michael’s mother?

Both of those things can’t be true. One has to be false. Michael could not have been married to Ms. Greulich at the same time as Anna Maria Koob was the mother of the child born before Ms. Greulich died. Not only that, but Anna Maria Koob would have been barely old enough to marry by 1699/1700.

I’m so confused!!!

But now you understand why I felt that book was beg-worthy. It’s my last possible source.

The Long-Awaited Book

I waited, and waited, and waited, and waited.

I didn’t want to be “that person,” but 4 weeks later, I finally called to see if the library had been able to send the scans.

They had sent them, the next day, directly from their scanner which does not provide feedback regarding bounced email messages, etc. My e-mail provider didn’t recognize some strange email address consisting of all numbers, apparently, decided it was not legitimate, and bounced the email. I’ve been having issues with my email provider. Genealogy is difficult enough with email interfering!

Therefore, the library was done and I was waiting. I would have waited forever.

Thankfully, my friendly librarian found that file again.

So, the very first question I have is how a foot is connected to Fussgoenheim? As it turns out, fuss=foot in German, so this is a “canting arm,” meaning that it’s a sort of medieval play on words – or play on the town’s coat of arms. One mystery solved!

Next, the table of contents.

The following page reveals some of the early history of Fussgoenheim. We don’t know where the Kirsch family lived before the 30 Years’ War, but we do know that Jerg Kirsch’s wife, Margretha Koch’s family did indeed come from Fussgoenheim.

Maybe I can convince the Family History Library to scan this booklet when they open again. Maybe I can even go there myself and scan the book. Maybe I can find a portable OCR scanner. One way or another, I really, REALLY, want to read this entire history. I do have a newer 2 volume set of Fussgoenheim history, published in 1993 and 2001, but there is no index. I wonder if the local library in Fussgoenheim has an index, perhaps. Hmmm….

Adam is first mentioned on page 153 of the Merk book.

The portion involving Adam Kirsch’s testimony begins in item 5 and continues on to page 154.

Adam’s testimony is delivered in quotes, so this is literally what he said. His words, preserved 313 years later. If I could find the actual original document, the handwriting is probably that of his brother, Wilhelm, who is also my ancestor. In a way, it’s like being in the room with them, just for a moment.

Challenges

However, we have three challenges.

First, this page was scanned as an image, not text or copyable to be pasted into a translator. That means, of course, that I needed to retype this.

Second, this script is just awful. I struggled mightily to just read the letters, especially since I don’t speak German, so I can’t figure anything out based on known words.

Third, according to Christoph, a native German-speaker, the words Adam spoke were somewhat medieval and archaic – the German spoken in 1717, of course. It literally doesn’t translate well to today’s meaning, and we can’t discern any nuances.

The best we can do is to type it and combine the translation with Christoph’s interpretation.

Thankfully, my friend Tom typed it too, and between us all, I think we have the important gist of this passage, beginning with item 5.

Here’s Tom’s German version:

Hatte die gemeinde im oberen und niederen dorf die villige fronfreiheit and stunde hierbeivon undenklichen Jahren her in ruhigem besiss und genuss dergeftalten, oass hierinnen weder den dorfherrfchaften (damals Lothringen und Leiningen) noch der Liebsherrschaft (damals Kurpsalz) nichts zukommen mag. Adam Kirsch sagte zu diesem Punkt: “Sei wahr und wusste er in den vierzig Jahren, da er hier hauslich wohnte, oasf niemalen den Dorfherrschaften gesront worden, solches auch von seinen Dorfahren gehort; erinnert sich doch, als der hr. Graf Joh. Kahimir von Leiningen, Kammerprasident, auf Spener in vorigen Zeiten gezogen und er durch diefen Ort Fussgoenheim gezogen, die Untertanen ersucht worden waren diefelben Bagages nach ged. Spener zu fuhren, oass auch gemeldte Untertanen zum schuldigsten Respekt gegen der gnadigen Mitherrschaft folches eingegangen, doch aber dieses Angefinen bei dem loblichen Oberamt Neustadt durch Ad. Gruelich, Feinem Schwagervater fel. Anbringen lassen, welcher dann zuruckgebracht, dass diefes begehrten Zumutens wegen Gnad oder Freiheit obhanden fei. Es ware aber nachgehends diefem Schultheissen wieder acht Malter Habern in dessen Scheuer gestellt gewesen, welche aber die Gemeinda nicht wegfuhren wollen nach ?Spener, fodern der Schultheiss batte solche selbsten nach Spener fuhren mussen; ja als deffen, fuhr zuruckgekommen, aren sieben asen im Keller gehangen, welche der Schultheiss ebenmassig durch seine Leut (bat) fortschafen mussen und der Gemeind diesertwegen keine Fron aufburden dorfen.”

Und Jakob Antes bekundet: “Wenn er auch einen lieblichen Eid ablegen sollte, wisse er nicht, dass jemalen gefrant oder mur ein Pferd bis nor nas Dorf gegeben habe, desgleiden auch von feinem alten Nater, der fleichwohlen 88 Jajre alt geworden, niemalen gehort, dass sie gefront. Doch lieferte jesco ein jedes Dorf (das Ober – und das Unterdorf) fein Beethkorn der 14 Malter der gnadigen herrschaft der 4 Stunden weit, so sonsten porthero durch die Pachtgeber auf ihr Rathhaus…

Next, the translation using both Deepl and Google translate.

Adam’s Testimony

If the community in the upper and lower village had complete freedom from the civil liberty, and if it had been in quiet possession and enjoyment from time immemorial, it would have been able to ensure that neither the village lordships (then Lorraine and Leiningen) nor the body rule (then the Electoral Palatinate) would have nothing to do with it.

Adam Kirsch said on this point: “Be true and if he knew in the forty years since he lived here at home that no indulgence was ever given to the village rulers, and that he had heard such things from his ancestors; for he remembers when Count Johann Kasimir of Leiningen, chamber president, moved to Speyer in former times and he passed through this village of Fußgonheim, the subjects would have been asked to follow the same bagages to ged. Speyer, that even registered subjects had received such a request to show the same bagages to ged. Speyer, that they too had shown the most due respect for the gracious co-signership [co-rulership?], but that this request had been made to the commendable Oberamt Neustadt by Ad. Greulich, by his father-in-law himself, who then returned that this coveted unreasonableness was in custody because of grace or freedom.

Alternate last sentence translation: …but this turning to the laudable Oberamt Neustadt through Ad. Greulich, had blessed his father-in-law affixed, who then brought back that this coveted impertinence was incumbent on account of grace or freedom.

But it would have been placed after this sheriff against eight times in his barn, but which do not want to lead the congregation away to Speyer, but the sheriff would have had to lead such of his own to Speyer; yes, when he went back, there would have been a great number of hares hung in the cellar, which the sheriff (had to) remove evenly by his people, and for this reason the congregation must not burden any front.

Alternate translation: But afterwards it would have been put against eight Maltern in his barn against this mayor, who, however, did not want to lead the community away to Speyer, but the mayor himself would have had to lead them to Speyer; Yes, when he came back, there would have been bunnies hanging in the cellar, which the mayor had to carry away with his people and which the community could not burden the community with.

And Jacob Antes testifies: Even if he were to make a bodily oath, he did not know that someone had indulged himself or only gave a pure horse to the village, nor did he ever hear from his old father, who, though he was 88 years old, that she indulged herself. But each village (the upper and the lower village) delivered its grain of beets [beethkorn] to the 14 maltsters of the gracious dominion of the 4 hours far, otherwise the tenants to their town hall…

Father-in-Law

Of course, for me, the important sections are twofold:

First, Adam tells us that he has lived in Fussgoenheim for 40 years.

What we don’t know is whether that means that Adam was born in Fussgoenheim, or elsewhere.

We don’t know if that means Adam is currently age 40, so born in 1677.

We don’t know if it means that Adam was born someplace earlier and has simply lived in Fussgoenheim for a total of 40 years.

We do know that Adam’s parents were married in 1650, so Adam was born sometime after that and before 1678.

We also know that Adam didn’t live in Fussgoenheim for this entire time, because this entire area evacuated again in 1684 for more than a decade.

We know Adam was Mayor in 1701, but we don’t know when he became Mayor.

When Adam was mayor in 1701, if he was born in 1677, he would only have been 24 years of age. Part of me is doubtful, but I also know that the surrounding village histories tell us that very few people returned to the villages in the countryside to rebuild. So it’s possible that there were only a few people to choose from. His father, Jerg, the Josten estate leaseholder, was dead so perhaps Adam was the choice to become mayor. He was the youngest son, not the eldest. Maybe at that time, he was the only Kirsch son who had returned, although we know that eventually, more brothers lived in Fussgoenheim.

Does Adam mean he lived in Fussgoenheim for a total of 40 years? If we know the Kirsch family returned by about 1697 or no later than 1701, and had left in 1684, then Adam might have been born between 1661 and 1664, not in 1677. That’s certainly possible too and would get us to a total of 40 years actually living in Fussgoenheim.

The men testifying were referred to as “elder men,” the definition of which was not provided. I’m not sure a man of age 40 would qualify as either elder or elderly. AGe 60 might have been elderly at that time, and having been Mayor, he would have been considered a “village elder,” regardless. Given his father’s position and with his mother’s family having been from Fussgoenheim a century earlier, that alone might have been enough. He would have heard about the village customs through his parents and perhaps grandparents, providing him with perspective into the past.

Second, Adam Kirsch says very specifically that Adam Greulich is his father-in-law. Christoph indicated that Adam Greulich is deceased in 1717.

So Adam Greulich’s daughter, at some point, was indeed Adam Kirsch’s wife and may have been Michael Kirsch’s mother.

There is no marriage record in Durkheim for Adam and either wife, which could mean he married in Fussgoenheim before 1726, or elsewhere, or simply that the record no longer exists.

The fact that there is no marriage record for Adam Kirsch and his second wife, Anna Maria Koob suggests that marriage occurred before 1726 when the Fussgoenheim church records began, However, we also know that those existing records are incomplete.

What we do know positively is that in 1734, when Anna Maria died, Adam was still alive and she was married to Adam at that time.

What I Don’t Know

What I don’t know is whether there is documentation providing information that any of Adam’s children were born to Anna Maria Koob, although Walter attributed Adam’s children to Anna Maria.

It’s possible that some of Adam’s grandchildren, if born before 1734 when Anna Maria died could have been baptized with their grandmother, Anna Maria Koob, standing up at their baptism. If this occurred, that might explain why Walter would have assigned Johann Wilhelm Kirsch born in or around 1706 as the child of Anna Maria Koob.

I have only found one child that is even a possibility. Johann Wilhelm’s brother, Mayor Michael Kirsch and his wife served as Godparents to their child born in 1732. If other grandchildren were born and baptized before that time, it occurred in a neighbor village.

I don’t know if Walter simply noted Adam Kirsch’s testimony, but accidentally assigned Anna Maria Koob as the mother of all his children. Or perhaps he found that passage after he assigned her as the parent to Mayor Michael Kirsch who was born about 1700 and simply forgot to remove Anna Maria as Michael’s mother.

Walter seemed to be a meticulous genealogist with decades of experience reading original records, which is why I was so surprised to see him record conflicting information for Adam’s first wife and Johann Michael Kirsch’s mother.

For that matter, I would absolutely love to know why Walter assigned Anna Maria Koob as the mother of any of Johann Adam’s children and where he obtained that “died before 1706” information. To me, this would suggest he discovered something indicating that Anna Maria Koob was the mother of Johann Wilhelm Kirsch born in 1706.

(?) N.N. Greulich (* about 1680 † before 1706, T.v. Adam Greulich); since about 1677 in Fgh. (OG Merk, see Weistuhm 1717 Vern. 1717)

Walter might have entered Anna Maria Koob as Michael’s mother by accident or a copy error. But Walter would never have written that Adam Gruelich’s daughter’s death occurred before 1706 if he hadn’t found something, someplace.

But what was it that Walter found, and where?

I don’t know.

Will DNA Help?

I checked church records in the database at Ancestry for Fussgoenheim and for any Greulich in the Pfalz in the right timeframes. Nothing. I can’t locate the family or even a candidate.

Unfortunately, Y DNA won’t help because I don’t carry the Y DNA of this line. Neither will mitochondrial, so we’re left with autosomal DNA.

Johann Adam Kirsch is my 7th great-grandfather. His wife, whichever one is my ancestor, would be as well. That means that she’s 9 generations back in time.

Carrying some autosomal DNA wouldn’t be unheard of at that distance, but I’d need to be able to identify someone else from the Greulich family.

Fortunately, I do have my mother’s autosomal DNA at both Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage. She’s a generation closer so more likely to match.

I checked for matches to the Greulich surname at both vendors. Of course, descendants might spell that name differently today. Three people had Gruelich in their tree at Family Tree DNA, but neither the trees nor the common segment track to that line. There is no match for Greulich at MyHeritage.

Searching for Koob won’t help, because Mom and I descend from Koob through at least one other line.

My Mom’s DNA is not at Ancestry, but I did search for the Greulich surname there in my own DNA match list. Three people have Greulich in their tree, but one definitely matches on a much closer, different line.

The shared matches with the other two suggest that we match through the same “other” line. Without a chromosome browser, there’s no way to discern more.

The End of the Line

I’m at the end of the line, up against that brick wall. Either way – whether Adam’s wife who gave birth to Michael Kirsch was Ms. Greulich or Anna Maria Koob. He was unquestionably married to both women.

Fortunately, we know the name of the father of Ms. Greulich. Based on what Adam Kirsch said in 1717, Adam Gruelich came “back” from Neustadt which suggests he lived in Fussgoenheim, even though there are no Greulich in the church records after they began in 1726. Perhaps the rest of his family was lost in the wars or eventually settled elsewhere. If his daughter who married Adam Kirsch was born about 1680, Adam Greulich would have probably been born before 1655 and maybe as early as 1630.

If Michael’s mother is Anna Maria Koob, we can’t identify her father either. There is a Johann Nicholas (Hans Nickel) Kob who is Mayor of the lower part of Fussgoenheim in 1701, the same year that Adam Kirsch is Mayor of the upper part of the village.

We have identified three of Hans Nickel’s children. Anna Maria could be another daughter.

The Koob family has lived in and near Fussgoenheim since the beginning of recorded history. In 1480, Debalt Kalbe was Mayor. Kalbe could be the phonetic pronunciation of Koob. In 1528, Lorenz Kob was Mayor. We also find the Koob family in Durkheim during the 30 Years’ War, living in nearby villages and eventually, leasing the Munchoff estate just south of neighboring Schaurnheim.

There are several Koob men in the region in 1485 when a tax was collected to raise money to fight the Turks. The Koob family is found early in at least three nearby villages, within walking distance, plus Fussgoenheim, of course.

If Walter is correct and Ms. Greulich died before 1706, Michael Kirsch probably only remembered his mother vaguely, if at all.

If she passed away while Michael was young, regardless of which woman was Michael’s biological mother, Anna Maria Koob would have raised him. She would have kissed his boo-boos and comforted him, taken him to church, watched proudly as he married and celebrated the birth of his first 5 children – her grandchildren one way or another.

If Michael’s mother died when he was older, and Anna Maria Koob didn’t raise him from childhood, she likely knew him his entire life. She may have even been related to his mother – a very common occurrence in small villages. If Anna Maria Koob wasn’t Michael’s birth mother, she was still his step-mother, probably having married Adam Kirsch sometime before the church records began in 1726.

Anna Maria Koob passed on when Michael was about 34 years old, before Adam who would join both wives within just a few years.

Michael would have sat with his father, perhaps with his hand resting on his leg or around his shoulders for comfort, in the church pew while the minister preached one last sermon that March day in 1734. Was Anna Maria’s death unexpected? She wasn’t elderly – only 54, with at least three children still at home. Michael was the oldest.

After the service, they would have carried Anna Maria’s casket out the side door, directly into the churchyard where Michael and Adam, along with the rest of the family, stood over her coffin – someplace near the graves of his maternal grandparents.

Michael would have said a somber goodbye over the grave of his mother, or perhaps both of his mothers, as the nesting spring birds sang them off to Heaven together.

Perhaps he watched them take flight.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Join Me For “How to Use AutoClusters to Analyze Your DNA Matches,” Live and Free

Please accept this invitation to join me this Wednesday, October 21, at 2 PM EST, for the MyHeritage Facebook LIVE event, “How to Use AutoClusters to Analyze Your DNA Matches,” presented by yours truly! Please note that if you can’t join us for the live presentation, it will be available to view later. I’ll post a link when it becomes available – after the live session.

The live webinar is free, courtesy of MyHeritage, and me.

You can read about this event and other free October seminars in the MyHeritage blog article, here.

To view the session, simply click on the MyHeritage Facebook page, at this link, near that time and the session will appear as a posting. I can’t give you the link in advance because until the live session is occurring, there isn’t a link to post.

We will be covering how to use the AutoCluster feature that’s included for all MyHeritage DNA users, incorporating cluster information with other MyHeritage DNA tools such as Theories of Family Relativity, Smart Matches, Ancestral Surnames, Shared Matches, Locations and Triangulation to solve genealogical puzzles.

I even made a discovery when creating this workshop and I’ll share how that happened and why it’s important.

You have surprises waiting for you too. AutoCluster opens doors and breaks down brick walls.

It’s Not Too Late!

If you haven’t DNA tested at MyHeritage, you can purchase a test, here.

However, if you’ve already tested elsewhere, it’s much quicker and less expensive to upload your DNA file for free, here, and pay the $29 unlock fee to access the advanced tools, including AutoCluster. Step-by-step transfer instructions for all vendors are found, here.

Instead of paying the $29 unlock fee, you can subscribe to the MyHeritage genealogy research package and that will gain you access to the advanced DNA tools as well. You can sign up for a trial subscription for free, here.

See you on Wednesday!!!

_____________________________________________________________

Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

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

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

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

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

First, we need to understand the difference between:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The results in a raw data file look like this:

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

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

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

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

Match File

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

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

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

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

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

Deleting Results and Closing Accounts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every Vendor is Different

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Research Permission

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

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

Extra Steps

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

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

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Search Techniques for Y and Mitochondrial DNA Test Candidates

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

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

You First

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

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

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

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

Different Kinds of DNA Serve Different Genealogical Purposes

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

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

Y and Mito Pedigree.png

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

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

personal pedigree

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

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

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

The Specifics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Then click on upgrades.

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I wrote about Y DNA in these recent articles:

I have more Y DNA articles planned for the future.

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

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

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

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

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

Mitochondrial DNA includes haplogroups, matching and other genealogical tools.

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

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

ymt mt upgrade

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

ymt add ons upgrades.png

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

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

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

FamilyTreeDNA’s Family Finder

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

MyHeritage

Ancestry

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

23andMe

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

Reaching Out to Find Testers

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

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

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

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

Finding Y DNA and Mitochondrial DNA Candidates at FamilyTreeDNA

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

Y DNA

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

Search for Surnames and Projects at Family Tree DNA

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

ymt ferverda

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

ymt ferverda search.png

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

ymt results.png

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

ymt ferwerda

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

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

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

ymt admin.png

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

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

ymt project

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

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

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

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

ymt ferverda profile.png

Searching Family Finder

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

ymt ferverda tree

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

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

ymt search field.png

Utilize Genetic Affairs

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

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

ymt genetic affairs

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

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

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

Mitochondrial DNA

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

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

Family Finder Can Refine Y and mtDNA Information

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

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

ymt y matches.png

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

This same autosomal testing scenario works for mitochondrial DNA.

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

ymt advanced

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Finding Y and Mitochondrial DNA Candidates at MyHeritage

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

ymt tofr.png

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

ymt mh ferverda

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

ymt mh ferverda tree.png

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

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

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

ymt smartmatches

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

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

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

ymt mt speaks.png

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

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

ymt mh trees

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

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

ymt mh cluster.png

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

ymt cluster ss

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

Finding Y and Mitochondrial DNA Candidates at 23andMe

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

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

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

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

ymt23 tree.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ymt 23 hap

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

ymt 23 search.png

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

ymt relatives in common

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

ymt tree link.png

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

Finding Y and Mitochondrial DNA Candidates at Ancestry

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

Ancestry organizes their ThruLines by ancestor.

ymt thrulines

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

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

ymt dodson.png

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

Ymt ancestry thruline

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

Finding Y and Mitochondrial DNA Candidates in Trees in General

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

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

Finding Y and Mitochondrial DNA Candidates at WikiTree

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

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

ymt wiki.png

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

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

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

ymt wiki compare

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

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

ymt wiki relationship.png

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

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

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

ymt collaborate

Finding Y and Mitochondrial DNA Candidates at GedMatch

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

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

gedmatch mrca matches

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

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

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

ymt gedmatch.png

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

ymt gedmatch hap

Summary Chart

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

I’ve created a quick-reference chart.

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

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

Happy Hunting!

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