AutoSegment Triangulation Cluster Tool at GEDmatch

Today, I’m reviewing the exciting new AutoSegment Triangulation Cluster Tool at GEDmatch. I love it because this automated tool can be as easy or complex as you want.

It’s easy because you just select your options, run it, and presto, you receive all kinds of useful results. It’s only complex if you want to understand the details of what’s really happening beneath the hood, or you have a complex problem to unravel. The great news is that this one tool does both.

I’ve taken a deep dive with this article so that you can use AutoSegment either way.

Evert-Jan “EJ” Blom, creator of Genetic Affairs has partnered with GEDmatch to provide AutoSegment for GEDmatch users. He has also taken the time to be sure I’ve presented things correctly in this article. Thanks, EJ!

My recommendation is to read this article by itself first to understand the possibilities and think about how you can utilize these results. Then, at GEDmatch, select the AutoSegment Report option and see what treasures await!

Genetic Affairs

Genetic Affairs offers a wide variety of clustering tools that help genealogists break down their brick walls by showing us, visually, how our matches match us and each other. I’ve written several articles about Genetic Affairs’ tools and how to use them, here.

Every DNA segment that we have originated someplace. First, from one of our parents, then from one of our 4 grandparents, and so forth, on up our tree. The further back in time we go, the smaller the segments from those more distant ancestors become, until we have none for a specific ancestor, or at least none over the matching threshold.

The keyword in that sentence is segment, because we can assign or attribute DNA segments to ancestors. When we find that we match someone else on that same segment inherited from the same parent, assuming the match is identical by descent and not identical by chance, we then know that somehow, we shared a common ancestor. Either an ancestor we’ve already identified, or one that remains a mystery.

Those segments can and will reveal ancestors and tell us how we are related to our matches.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that not every vendor provides segment information. For example, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, and MyHeritage all do, but Ancestry does not.

For Ancestry testers, and people wishing to share segment information with Ancestry testers, all is not lost.

Everyone can download a copy of their raw DNA data file and upload those files to vendors who accept uploads, including FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, and of course GEDmatch.

GEDmatch

GEDmatch does not offer DNA testing services, specializing instead in being the common matching denominator and providing advanced tools. GEDmatch recently received a facelift. If you don’t recognize the image above, you probably haven’t signed in to GEDmatch recently, so take a look. The AutoSegment tool is only available on the new version, not the Classic version.

Ancestry customers, as well as people testing elsewhere, can download their DNA files from the testing vendor and upload the files to GEDmatch, availing themselves of both the free and Tier 1 subscription tools.

I’ve written easy step-by-step download/upload instructions for each vendor, here.

At GEDmatch, matching plus a dozen tools are free, but the Tier 1 plan for $10 per month provides users with another 14 advanced tools, including AutoSegment.

To get started, click on the AutoSegment option.

AutoSegment at GEDmatch

You’ll see the GEDmatch AutoSegment selection menu.

You can easily run as many AutoSegment reports as you want, so I suggest starting with the default values to get the lay of the land. Then experiment with different options.

At GEDmatch, AutoSegment utilizes your top 3000 matches. What a huge, HUGE timesaver.

Just a couple of notes about options.

  • My go-to number of SNPs is 500 (or larger,) and I’m always somewhat wary of matches below that level because there is an increased likelihood of identical by chance segments when the required number of segment matching locations is smaller.
  • GEDmatch has to equalize DNA files produced by different vendors, including no-calls where certain areas don’t read. Therefore, there are blank spaces in some files where there is data in other vendors’ files. The “Prevent Hard Breaks” option allows GEDmatch to “heal” those files by allowing longer stretches of “missing” DNA to be considered a match if the DNA on both sides of that blank space matches.
  • “Remove Segments in Known Pile-Up Regions” is an option that instructs GEDmatch NOT to show segments in parts of the human genome that are known to have pile-up regions. I generally don’t select this option, because I want to see those matches and determine for myself if they are valid. We’ll look at a few comparative examples in the Pileup section of this article.

Fortunately, you can experiment with each of these settings one by one to see how they affect your matching. Even if you don’t normally subscribe to GEDmatch, you can subscribe for only one month to experiment with this and other Tier 1 tools.

Your AutoSegment results will be delivered via a download link.

Save and Extract

All Genetic Affairs cluster files are delivered in a zipped file.

You MUST DO TWO THINGS, or these files won’t work correctly.

  1. Save the zip file to your computer.
  2. Extract the files from the zip file. If you’re on a PC, right-click on the zip file and EXTRACT ALL. This extracts the files from the zipped file to be used individually.

If you click on a feature and receive an error message, it’s probably because you either didn’t save the file to your computer or didn’t extract the files.

The file name is very long, so if you try to add the file to a folder that is also buried a few levels deep on your system, you may encounter problems when extracting your file. Putting the file on your desktop so you can access it easily while working is a good idea.

Now, let’s get to the good stuff.

Your AutoSegment Cluster File

Click on the largest HTML file in the list of your extracted files. The HTML file uses the files in the clusters and matches folders, so you don’t need to open those individually.

It’s fun to watch your clusters fly into place. I love this part.

If your file is too large and your system is experiencing difficulty or your browser locks, just click on the smaller AutoSegment HTML file, at the bottom of the list, which is the same information minus the pretty cluster.

Word to the wise – don’t get excited and skip over the three explanatory sections just below your cluster. Yes, I did that and had to go back and read to make sense of what I was seeing.

At the bottom of this explanatory section is a report about Pileup Regions that I’ll discuss at the end of this article.

Excel

As a third viewing option, you can also open the AutoSegment Excel file to view the results in an excel grid.

You’ll notice a second sheet at the bottom of this spreadsheet page that says AutoSegment-segment-clusters. If you click on that tab, you’ll see that your clusters are arranged in chromosome and cluster order, in the same format as long-time genetic genealogist Jim Bartlett uses in his very helpful blog, segment-ology.

You’ll probably see a message at the top of the spreadsheet asking if you want to enable editing. In order for the start and end locations to calculate, you must enable editing. If the start and end locations are zeroes, look for the editing question.

Notice that the colors on this sheet are coordinated with the clusters on the first sheet.

EJ uses yellow rows as cluster dividers. The “Seg” column in the yellow row indicates the number of people in this cluster group, meaning before the next yellow divider row. “Chr” is the chromosome. “Segment TG” is the triangulation group number and “Side” is Jim Bartlett’s segment tracking calculation number.

Of course, the Centimorgans column is the cM size, and the number of matching SNPs is provided.

You can read about how Jim Bartlett tracks his segment clusters, here, which includes discussions of the columns and how they are used.

Looking at each person in the cluster groups by chromosome, *WS matches me and *Cou, the other person in the cluster beginning and ending at the start and end location on chromosome 1. In the match row (as compared with the yellow dividing row,) Column F, “Seg,” tells you the number of segments where *WA matches me, the tester.

A “*” before the match name at GEDmatch means a pseudonym or alias is being used.

In order to be included in the AutoSegment report, a match must triangulate with you and at least one other person on (at least) one of those segments. However, in the individual match reports, shown below, all matching segments are provided – including ones NOT in segment clusters.

Individual DNA Matches

In the HTML file, click on *WA.

You’ll see the three segments where *WA matches you, or me in this case. *WA triangulates with you and at least one other person on at least one of these segments or *WA would not be included in the GEDmatch AutoSegment report.

However, *WA may only triangulate on one segment and simply match you on the other two – or *WA may triangulate on more than one segment. You’ll have to look at the other sections of this report to make that determination.

Also, remember that this report only includes your top 3000 matches.

AutoSegment

All Genetic Affairs tools begin with an AutoCluster which is a grouping of people who all match you and some of whom match each other in each colored cluster.

AutoSegment at GEDmatch begins with an AutoCluster as well, but with one VERY IMPORTANT difference.

AutoSegment clusters at GEDmatch represent triangulation of three people, you and two other people, in AT LEAST ONE LOCATION. Please note that you and they may also match in other locations where three people don’t triangulate.

By matching versus triangulation, I’m referring to the little individual cells which show the intersection of two of your matches to each other.

Regular AutoCluster reports, meaning NOT AutoSegment clusters at GEDmatch, include overlapping segment matches between people, even if they aren’t on the same chromosome and/or don’t overlap entirely. A colored cell in AutoSegment at GEDmatch means triangulation, while a colored cell in other types of AutoCluser reports means match, but not necessarily triangulation.

Match information certainly IS useful genealogically, but those two matching people in that cell:

  • Could be matching on unrelated chromosomes.
  • Could be matching due to different ancestors.
  • Could be matching each other due to an ancestor you don’t have.
  • May or may not triangulate.

Two people who have a colored cell intersection in an AutoSegment Cluster at GEDmatch are different because these cells don’t represent JUST a match, they represent a TRIANGULATED match.

Triangulation tightens up these matches by assuring that all three people, you and the two other people in that cell, match each other on a sufficient overlapping segment (10 cM in this case) on the same chromosome which increases the probability that you do in fact share a common ancestor.

I wrote about the concept of triangulation in my article about triangulation at GEDmatch, but AutoSegment offers a HUGE shortcut where much of the work is done for you. If you’re not familiar with triangulation, it’s still a good idea to read that article, along with A Triangulation Checklist Born From the Question; “Why NOT use Close Relatives for Triangulation?”

Let’s take a look at my AutoSegment report from GEDmatch.

AutoSegment Clusters at GEDmatch

A total of 195 matches are clustered into a total of 32 colored clusters. I’m only showing a portion of the clusters, above.

I’ve blurred the names of my matches in my AutoSegment AutoCluster, of course, but each cell represents the intersection of two people who both match and triangulate with me and each other. If the two people match and triangulate with each other and others in the same cluster, they are colored the same as their cluster matches.

For example, all 18 of the people in the orange cluster match me and each other on one (or more) chromosome segments. They all triangulate with me and at least one other person, or they would not appear in a colored cell in this report. They triangulate with me and every other person with whom they have a colored cell.

If you mouse over a colored cell, you can see the identity of those two people at that intersection and who else they match in common. Please note that me plus the two people in any cell do triangulate. However, me plus two people in a different cell in the same cluster may triangulate on a different segment. Everyone matches in an intricate grid, but different segments on different chromosomes may be involved.

You can see in this example that my cousin, Deb matches Laurene and both Deb and Laurene match these other people on a significant amount of DNA in that same cluster.

What happens when people match others within a cluster, but also match people in other colored clusters too?

Multiple Cluster Matches = Grey Cells

The grey cells indicate people who match in multiple clusters, showing the match intersection outside their major or “home” cluster. When you see a grey cell, think “AND.” That person matches everyone in the colored cell to the left of that grey cell, AND anyone in a colored cell below grey cells too. Any of your matches could match you and any number of other people in other cells/clusters as well. It’s your lucky day!

Deb’s matches are all shown in row 4. She and I both match all of the orange cluster people as well as several others in other clusters, indicated by grey cells.

I’m showing Deb’s grey cell that indicates that she also matches people in cluster #5, the large brown cluster. When I mouse over that grey cell, it shows that Deb (orange cluster) and Daniel (brown cluster) both match a significant number of people in both clusters. That means these clusters are somehow connected.

Looking at the bigger picture, without mousing over any particular cell, you can see that a nontrivial number of people match between the first several clusters. Each of these people match strongly within their primary-colored cluster, but also match in at least one additional cluster. Some people will match people in multiple clusters, which is a HUGE benefit when trying to identify the source ancestor of a specific segment.

Let’s look at a few examples. Remember, all of these people match you, so the grid shows how they also match with each other.

#1 – In the orange cluster, the top 5 rows, meaning the first 5 people on the left side list match other orange cluster members, but they ALSO match people in the brown cluster, below. A grey cell is placed in the column of the person they also match in the brown cluster.

#2 – The two grey cells bracketed in the second example match someone in the small red cluster above, but one person also matches someone in the small purple cluster and the other person matches someone in the brown cluster.

#3 – The third example shows one person who matches a number of people in the brown cluster in addition to every person in the magenta cluster below.

#4 – This long, bracketed group shows several people who match everyone in the orange cluster, some of whom also match people in the green cluster, the red cluster, the brown cluster, and the magenta cluster. Clearly, these clusters are somehow related to each other.

Always look at the two names involved in an individual cell and work from there.

The goal, of course, is to identify and associate these clusters with ancestors, or more specifically, ancestral couples, pushing back in time, as we identify the common ancestors of individuals in the cluster.

For example, the largest orange cluster represents my paternal grandparents. The smaller clusters that have shared members with the large orange cluster represent ancestors in that lineage.

Identifying the MRCA, or most recent common ancestor with our matches in any cluster tells us where those common segments of DNA originated.

Chromosome Segments from Clusters

As you scroll down below your cluster, you’ll notice a section that describes how you can utilize these results at DNAPainter.

While GEDmatch can’t automatically determine which of your matches are maternal and paternal, you can import them, by colored cluster, to DNAPainter where you can identify clusters to ancestors and paint them on your maternal and paternal chromosomes. I’ve written about how to use DNAPainter here.

Let’s scroll to the next section in your AutoSegment file.

Chromosome Segment Statistics

The next section of your file shows “Chromosome segment statistics per AutoSegment cluster.”

I need to take a minute here to describe the difference between:

  1. Colored clusters on your AutoCluster diagram, shown below, and
  2. Chromosome segment clusters or groups within each colored AutoSegment cluster

Remember, colored clusters are people, and you can match different people on different, sometimes multiple, chromosomes. Two people whose intersecting cell is colored triangulate on SOME segment but may also match on other segments that don’t triangulate with each other and you.

According to my “Chromosome segment statistics” report, my large orange AutoSegment cluster #1, above, includes:

  • 67 segments from all my matches
  • On five chromosomes (3, 5, 7, 10, 17)
  • That cluster into 8 separate chromosome segment clusters or groups within the orange cluster #1

This is much easier to visualize, so let’s take a look.

Chromosome Segment Clusters

Click on any cluster # in your report, above, to see the chromosome painting for that cluster. I’m clicking on my AutoSegment cluster #1 on the “Chromosome segment statistics” report that will reveal all of the segments in orange cluster #1 painted on my chromosomes.

The brightly colored painted segments show the triangulated segment locations on each chromosome. You can easily see the 8 different segment clusters in cluster #1.

Interestingly, three separate groups or chromosome clusters occur on chromosome 5. We’ll see in a few minutes that the segments in the third cluster on chromosome 5 overlaps with part of cluster #5. (Don’t confuse cluster number shown with a # and chromosome number. They are just coincidentally both 5 in this case.)

The next tool helps me visualize each of these segment clusters individually. Just scroll down.

You can mouse over the segment to view additional information, but I prefer the next tool because I can easily see how the DNA of the people who are included in this segment overlap with each other.

This view shows the individual chromosome clusters, or groups, contained entirely within the orange cluster #1. (Please note that you can adjust the column widths side to side by positioning the cursor at the edge of the column header and dragging.)

Fortunately, I recognize one of these matches, Deb, and I know exactly how she and I are related, and which ancestor we share – my great-grandparents.

Because these segments are triangulated, I know immediately that every one of these people share that segment with Deb and me because they inherited that segment of DNA from some common ancestor shared by me and Deb both.

To be very clear, these people may not share our exact same ancestor. They may share an ancestor upstream from Deb and my common ancestor. Regardless, these people, Deb, and I all share a segment I can assign at this point to my great-grandparents because it either came from them for everyone, or from an upstream ancestor who contributed it to one of my great-grandparents, who contributed it to me and Deb both.

Segment Clusters Entirely Linked

Clusters #2 and #3 are small and have common matches with people in cluster #1 as indicated by the grey cells, so let’s take a look.

I’m clicking on AutoSegment green cluster #2 which only has two cluster members.

I can see that the common triangulated segment between these two people and me occurs on chromosome 3.

This segment on chromosome 3 is entirely contained in green cluster #2, meaning no members of other clusters triangulate on this segment with me and these two people.

This can be a bit confusing, so let’s take it logically step by step.

Remember that the two people who triangulate in green cluster #2 also match people in orange cluster #1? However, the people from orange cluster #1 are NOT shown as members of green cluster #2.

This could mean that although the two people in the green cluster #2 match a couple of people in the orange cluster, they did not match the others, or they did not triangulate. This can be because of the minimum segment overlap threshold that is imposed.

So although there is a link between the people in the clusters, it is NOT sufficient for the green people to be included in the orange cluster and since the two matches triangulate on another segment, they become a separate green cluster.

In reality, you don’t need to understand exactly why members do or don’t fall into the clusters they do, you just need to understand generally how clustering and triangulation works. In essence, trust the tool if people are NOT included in multiple clusters. Click on each person individually to see which chromosomes they match you on, even if they don’t triangulate with others on all of those segments. At this point, I often run one-to-one matches, or other matching tools, to see exactly how people match me and each other.

However, if they ARE included in multiple partly linked clusters, that can be a HUGE bonus.

Let’s look at red cluster #3.

Segment Clusters Partly Linked

You can see that Mark, one of the members of red cluster #3 shares two triangulated segments, one on chromosome 4, and one on chromosome 10.

Mark and Glenn are members of cluster #3, but Glenn is not a member of the segment cluster/group on chromosome 4, only Iona and Mark.

Scrolling down, I can view additional information about the cluster members and the two segments that are held within red cluster #3.

Unlike green cluster #2 whose segment cluster/group is entirely confined to green cluster #2, red cluster #3 has NO segments entirely confined to members of red cluster #3.

Cluster #3 has two members, Mark and Glen. Mark and Glen, along with Val who is a member of orange cluster #1 triangulate on chromosome 10. Remember, I said that chromosome 10 would be important in a minute when we were discussing orange cluster #1. Now you know why.

This segment of chromosome 10 triangulates in both orange cluster #1 AND red cluster #3.

However, Mark, who is a red cluster #3 member also triangulates with Iona and me on a segment of chromosome 4. This segment also appears in AutoSegment brown cluster #4 on chromosome 4.

Now, the great news is that I know my earliest known ancestors with Iona, which means that I can assign this segment to my paternal great-great-grandparents.

If I can identify a common ancestor with some of these other people, I may be able to push segments back further in time to an earlier ancestral couple.

Identifying Common Ancestors

Of course, review each cluster’s members to see if you recognize any of your cousins.

If you don’t know anyone, how do you identify a common ancestor? You can email the person, of course, but GEDmatch also facilitates uploading GEDCOM files which are trees.

In your primary AutoSegment file, keep scrolling to see who has trees.

AutoSegment Cluster Information

If you continue to scroll down in your original HTML file, you’ll see AutoSegment Cluster Information.

For each cluster, all members are listed. It’s easy to see which people have uploaded trees. You can click to view and can hopefully identify an ancestor or at least a surname.

Click on “tree” to view your match’s entry, then on Pedigree to see their tree.

If your matches don’t have a tree, I suggest emailing and sharing what you do know. For example, I can tell my matches in cluster #1 that I know this line descends from Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy, their birth and death dates and location, and encourage my match to view my tree which I have uploaded to GEDmatch.

If you happen to have a lot of matches with trees, you can create a tag group and run the AutoTree analysis on this tag group to identify common ancestors automatically. AutoTree is an amazing tool that identifies common ancestors in the trees of your matches, even if they aren’t in your tree. I wrote about AutoTree, here.

Pileup Regions

Whether you select “Remove Segments in Known Pileup Regions” or not when you select the options to run AutoSegment, you’ll receive a report that you can access by a link in the Explanation of AutoSegment Analysis section. The link is buried at the bottom of those paragraphs that I said not to skip, and many people don’t even see it. I didn’t at first, but it’s most certainly worth reviewing.

What Are Pileup Regions?

First, let’s talk about what pileup regions are, and why we observe them.

Some regions of the human genome are known to be more similar than others, for various reasons.

In these regions, people are more likely to match other people simply because we’re human – not specifically because we share a common ancestor.

EJ utilizes a list of pileup regions, based on the Li et al 2014 paper.

You may match other people on these fairly small segments because humans, generally, are more similar in these regions.

Many of those segments are too small to be considered a match by themselves, although if you happen to match on an adjacent segment, the pileup region could extend your match to appear to be more significant than it is.

If you select the “remove pileup segments” option, and you overlap any pileup region with 4.00 cM or larger, the entire matching segment that includes that region will be removed from the report no matter how large the matching segment is in total.

Here’s an example where the pileup region of 5.04 cM is right in the middle of a matching segment to someone. This entire 15.04 cM segment will be removed.

If those end segments are both 10 cM each instead of 5 cM, the segment will still be removed.

However, if the segment overlap with the pileup region is 3.99 cM or smaller, none of the resulting segment will be removed, so long as the entire segment is over the matching threshold in the first place. In the example above, if the AutoSegment threshold was 7 or 8 cM, the entire segment would be retained. If the matching threshold was 9 or greater, the segment would not have been included because of the threshold.

Of course, eight regions in the pileup chart are large enough to match without any additional adjacent segments if the match threshold is 7 cM and the overlap is exact. If the match threshold is 10 cM, only two pileup regions will possibly match by themselves. However, because those two regions are so large, we are more likely to see multiple matches in those regions.

Having a match in a pileup region does NOT invalidate that match. I have many matches in pileup regions that are perfectly valid, often extending beyond that region and attributable to an identified common ancestor.

You may also have pileup regions, in the regions shown in the chart and elsewhere, because of other genealogical reasons, including:

  • Endogamy, where your ancestors descend from a small, intermarried population, either through all or some of your ancestors. The Jewish population is probably the most well-known example of large-scale endogamy over a very long time period.
  • Pedigree collapse, where you descend from the same ancestors in multiple ways in a genealogical timeframe. Endogamy can reach far back in time. With pedigree collapse, you know who your ancestors are and how you descend, but with endogamy, you don’t.
  • Because you descend from an over-represented or over-tested group, such as the Acadians who settled in Nova Scotia in the early 1600s, intermarried and remained relatively isolated until 1755 when they were expelled. Their numerous descendants have settled in many locations. Acadian descendants often have a huge number of Acadian matches.
  • Some combination of all three of the above reasons. Acadians are a combination of both endogamy and pedigree collapse and many of their descendants have tested.

In my case, I have proportionally more Acadian matches than I have other matches, especially given that my Dutch and some of my German lines have few matches because they are recent immigrants with few descendants in the US. This dichotomy makes the proportional difference even more evident and glaring.

I want to stress here that pileup regions are not necessarily bad. In fact, they may provide huge clues to why you match a particular group of people.

Pileup Regions and Genealogy

In 2016, when Ancestry removed matches that involved personal pileup regions, segments that they felt were “too-matchy,” many of my lost matches were either Acadian or Mennonite/Brethren. Both groups are endogamous and experience pedigree collapse.

Over time, as I’ve worked with my DNA matches, painting my segments at DNAPainter, which marks pileup regions, I’ve come to realize that I don’t have more matches on segments spanning standard pileup regions indicated in the Li paper, nor are those matches unreliable.

An unreliable match might be signaled by people who match on that segment but descend from different unrelated common ancestors to me. Each segment tracks to one maternal and one paternal ancestral source, so if we find individuals matching on the same segment who claim descent from different ancestral lines on the same side, that’s a flag that something’s wrong. (That “something” could also be genealogy or descending from multiple ancestors.)

Therefore, after analyzing my own matching patterns, I don’t select the option to remove pileup segments and I don’t discount them. However, this may not be the right selection for everyone. Just remember, you can run the report as many times as your want, so nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Regardless of whether you select the remove pileup segments option or not, the report contents are very interesting.

Pileup Regions in the Report

Let’s take a look at Pileups in the AutoSegment report.

  • If I don’t select the option of removing pileup region segments, I receive a report that shows all of my segments.
  • If I do select the option to remove pileup region segments, here’s what my report says.

Based on the “remove pileup region segments” option selected, all segments should be removed in the pileup regions documented in the Li article if the match overlap is 4.00 cM or larger.

I want to be very clear here. The match itself is NOT removed UNLESS the pileup segment that IS removed causes the person not to be a match anymore. If that person still matches and triangulates on another segment over your selected AutoSegment threshold, those segments will still show.

I was curious about which of my chromosomes have the most matches. That’s exactly what the Pileup Report tells us.

According to the Pileup Report, my chromosome with the highest number of people matching is chromosome 5. The Y (vertical) axis shows the number of people that match on that segment, and the X axis across the bottom shows the match location on the chromosome.

You’ll recall that chromosome 5 was the chromosome from large orange AutoSegment cluster #1 with three distinct segment matches, so this makes perfect sense.

Sure enough, when I view my DNAPainter results, that first pileup region from about location 5-45 are Brethren matches (from my maternal grandfather) and the one from about 48-95 are Acadian matches (from my maternal grandmother.) This too makes sense.

Please note that chromosome 5 has no general pileup regions annotated in the Li table, so no segments would have been removed.

Let’s look at another example where some segments would be removed.

Based on the chromosome table from the Li paper, chromosome 15 has nearly back-to-back pileup regions from about 20-30 with almost 20 cM of DNA combined.

Let’s see what my Pileup Segment Removal Report for chromosome 15 shows.

No segment matches in this region are reported because I selected remove pileup regions.

The only way to tell how many segment matches were removed in this region is to run the report and NOT select the remove pileup segments option. I did that as a basis for comparison.

You can see that about three segments were removed and apparently one of those segments extended further than the other two. It’s also interesting that even though this is designated as a pileup region, I had fewer matches in this region than on other portions of the chromosome.

If I want to see who those segments belong to, I can just view my chromosome 15 results in the AutoSegment-segment-clusters tab in the spreadsheet view which is arranged neatly in chromosome order.

The only way to tell if matches in pileup regions are genealogically valid and relevant is to work with each match or group of matches and determine if they make sense. Does the match extend beyond the pileup region start and end edge? If so, how much? Can you identify a common ancestor or ancestral line, and if so, do the people who triangulate in that segment cluster makes sense?

Of course, my genealogy and therefore my experience will be different than other people’s. Anyone who descends primarily from an endogamous population may be very grateful for the “remove pileups” option. One size does NOT fit all. Fortunately, we have options.

You can run these reports as many times as you want, so you may want to run identical reports and compare a report that removes segments that occur in pileup regions with one that does not.

What’s Next?

For AutoSegment at GEDmatch to work most optimally, you’ll need to do three things:

  • If you don’t have one already, upload a raw DNA file from one of the testing vendors. Instructions here.
  • Upload a GEDCOM file. This allows you to more successfully run tools like AutoTree because your ancestors are present, and it helps other people too. Perhaps they will identify your common ancestor and contact you. You can always email your matches and suggest that they view your GEDCOM file to look for common ancestors or explain what you found using AutoTree. Anyone who has taken the time to learn about GEDmatch and upload a file might well be interested enough to make the effort to upload their GEDCOM file.
  • Convince relatives to upload their DNA files too or offer to upload for them. In my case, triangulating with my cousins is invaluable in identifying which ancestors are represented by each cluster.

If you have not yet uploaded a GEDCOM file to GEDmatch, now’s a great time while you’re thinking about it. You can see how useful AutoClusters and AutoSegment are, so give yourself every advantage in identifying common matches.

If you have a tree at Ancestry, you can easily download a copy and upload to GEDmatch. I wrote step-by-step instructions, here. Of course, you can upload any GEDCOM file from another source including your own desktop computer software.

You never know, using AutoSegment and AutoTree, you may just find common ancestors BETWEEN your matches that you aren’t aware of that might, just might, help you break down YOUR brick walls and find previously unknown ancestors.

AutoSegment tells you THAT you triangulate and exactly where. Now it’s up to you to figure out why.

Give AutoSegment at GEDmatch a try.

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DNA Beginnings: Matching at Ancestry and What It Means

This is the fourth in the series of “DNA Beginnings” articles. Previous articles you might enjoy include:

Why Is Matching Important?

For genealogists, DNA matching to other people is the key to verifying your ancestors, beginning with your parents and continuing up your tree. You can also meet new cousins who may have information, including photos, that you don’t.

Each of the four major vendors has benefits that the others don’t have. As we review matches at each vendor, we’ll discuss the plusses and minuses of each one and how to use their unique features to benefit your genealogy quest.

Let’s start with Ancestry.

Ancestry

The highest total number of people have tested their DNA with Ancestry, although I’m not certain that holds true for testers outside the US.

This means that you are likely to find at least some close matches at Ancestry. Every vendor has people in their database that no other vendor has though. I recommend testing at the 4 major vendors, including FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, and 23andMe.

At Ancestry, Where Are My Matches?

You’ll find the list of people who match you under the “DNA”, then “DNA Matches” tabs at Ancestry.

Ancestry packs a lot of information into your match pages. Let’s take a look at what that means to you as a genealogist and how you can make it work for you.

Clcik to enlarge images

I’ll be discussing each one of these areas, below, so refer back. Let’s start with the basic page arrangement.

  • Features at the top apply to managing and working with all of your matches
  • Features under each match apply to that match only.

Pretty straightforward.

I’ll begin at the top and review each item, but first, let’s talk about testing your parents.

Test Your Parents

First, if you have either or both parents available to test, by all means, test both parents and not just at Ancestry. This is sage advice for all vendors.

Be aware that if one or both of your parents are not your biological parents, DNA testing will reveal that fact.

When your parent tests, matches that Ancestry can automatically attribute to that parent’s side of your family based on matching you and your parent, both, are noted as such.

While this is useful, especially since maternally and paternally assigned matches are your closest matches, Ancestry only automatically assigns about as many matches as fall into your close matches category. Someplace between half and 1% of your total matches. I sort of deflated like a balloon when I made that discovery. 

It’s still definitely worth testing your parents, though, because you will be able to view your matches to see if they match you and a parent both. Even if Ancestry doesn’t assign them maternally or paternally, you can certainly derive clues from who you match in common – and you can assign matches yourself.

We will talk about exactly how to do this in a bit!

Now, back to the function bar.

The Function Bar

The function bar beneath the ad promoting parental testing is your driver’s seat.

Click to enlarge images

You’ll find a variety of filters and functions like searching and sorting your matches. In other words, these are the actions you can take. Let’s start with the filters, on the left.

  • Unviewed – The “Unviewed” filter widget displays only matches you have not yet viewed. Unviewed matches are annotated with a blue dot. Because your matches are displayed in highest to lowest order, you’ll see your closest unviewed match first. I use this filter a lot because it means I don’t have to scroll through the matches I’ve already viewed and analyzed.

I have a “one initial touch” policy. When I initially view a match, I step through all the functions I can utilize to identify how that person is (potentially) related to me and I make notes.

The rest of these filters and functions are important steps in that analysis process.

Please notice that you can combine filters.

I’ve clicked both the “Unviewed” and the “Common Ancestors” filters, meaning BOTH of these filters are simultaneously functioning. If you just want one filter, be sure to “Reset Filters” before clicking a second filter button.

  • Common Ancestors – That infamous little green leaf. In this case, when viewing DNA matches, that green leaf is very important because it indicates that Ancestry has found a (potential) common ancestor between you and your match.

Clicking on the little green leaf shows you the most recent common ancestor(s) that Ancestry believes you share with that match based on:

  1. The fact that your DNA does match
  2. And that you have common ancestors either in your tree
  3. Or ancestors that can be linked to both of you through other people’s trees

Notice Ancestry’s careful wording about these potential ancestors. Megan “could be” my 5th cousin once removed. “Could be.” Ancestry isn’t using weasel words here, but trying to convey the fact that people’s genealogy, Megan’s, mine or other peoples’ can be wrong.

In other words, Ancestry has found a potential link between me and Megan, but it may not be valid. These connections use trees to suggest common ancestors and some trees are not reliable. It’s up to me (and you) to confirm that suggested ancestral path.

Clicking on “View Relationship” takes me to the Ancestry tool known as ThruLines which shows me how Megan and I may be related.

I have Stephen Miller in my tree, but not his son John J. Miller as indicated by the hashed boxes.

I can click on the Evaluate button to see what type of evidence and which trees Ancestry used to assign John J. Miller as the son of Stephen Miller. In other words, I can accumulate my own evidence to validate, verify, or refute the connection to Daniel Miller for me and Megan.

I wrote about ThruLines here and here.

  • Messaged – The “Messaged” filter button shows matches I’ve sent messages to through Ancestry’s messaging feature.

You can track your messages in the little envelope button by your name at upper right.

  • Notes – The “Notes” filter shows your matches and the notes you’ve made about that match. I use notes extensively so I don’t replow the same field.

In my case, I took a second test at Ancestry several years ago when they introduced a new chip to compare to the results of my original test. I noted that this is my V2 test in this example.

Normally my notes are genealogy-related, especially in cases where I’ve discovered more than one set of common ancestors through multiple lines. I record hints here, such as which of my closest relatives this person also matches. I also record our common ancestor when I identify who that is or even who it might be.

You can create a note by clicking on the match, then on “Add Note” near the top.

  • Trees – The “Trees” filter provides the ability to view matches who have only specific tree statuses.

Perhaps you only want to view only people with public, linked trees. Why are public, linked trees important?

Public trees can be seen and searched by your matches. Private trees cannot be seen by matches.

A public, linked tree means that your match has linked their DNA test to their own profile card in a public tree. The linking process tells Ancestry who “they are” in their tree and allows Ancestry to begin searching from that person up their tree to see if they can identify common ancestors with their matches. In other words, linking allows Ancestry’s tools to work for you and allows other people to view your position in your tree so that can see how you might share ancestors.

Some people don’t understand the linking process, so I normally take a look at unlinked trees too, especially if the person only has one tree.

Be sure your DNA test is linked to your tree by clicking on the little down arrow by your user name in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, then, click on “Your Profile,” then click on the settings gear beneath your name.

Then click on DNA:

You’ll see the tests that you own, so click on the little right arrow (>) to work with a specific test.

Finally, you’ll see the name on the test, the profile it’s connected to, and the name of the tree.

Not accurate or what you want? You can change it!

Ok, back to working with filters. Next, Shared DNA.

  • “Shared DNA” allows you to view only specific relationships of matches.

I use this tab mostly to see how many matches I have.

  • The “Groups” filter categorizes matches by the colored dot groups you establish. Matches can be assigned to single or multiple groups.

The good news is that you have 24 colored dot buttons that represent groups to work with. The bad news is that you have only 24 that you can assign.

Generally, I assign colored dots, and therefore matches, to a couple, not an individual. In some cases, especially with two marriages, I have assigned match buttons to a single ancestor. Of course, that means that one couple uses 2 colored buttons☹

After you’ve created your groups, you can assign a match to a group, or multiple groups, by clicking on your match.

“Add to group” is located right beside “Add note,” so I do both at the same time for each match.

I have one group called “Ancestor Identified” which is reserved for all ancestors who don’t have colored group dots assigned. I can tell which ancestor by reading the notes I’ve entered.

To view every match in a particular group, click on that group, then “apply” at the bottom.

The matches displayed will only be the 17 matches that I’ve assigned to the blue dot group – all descended from Antoine Lore (and his wife).

However, looking at who I match in common with these 17 people can lead me to more people descended from Antoine, his wife, or their ancestors.

  • Search – The “Search” function at far right allows you to search your matches in multiple ways, but not by the most important aspect of genealogy.

  1. You can search by the match’s name; first, last or Ancestry user name.
  2. You can search by surname in your matches’ trees. I sure hope you don’t have Jones.
  3. You can search by birth location in matches’ trees.
  4. You CANNOT search by ancestor. Say what???

Seriously.

Come on Ancestry…don’t make this intentionally difficult.

  • “Sort” allows you to sort your match list either by relationship (the default) or by date. I’d trade this for search by ancestor in a New York Minute.

We are finished with the filters and functions for managing your entire list, so let’s see what we can do with each individual match.

Match Information

We’ve already learned a lot about our matches just by using different filters, but there’s a lot more available.

You’ll need to click on various areas of the match to view specific or additional information.

Click on the predicted relationship, like 5th-8th cousin, to view how closely Ancestry,  thinks you are related based on the amount of DNA you share. If you click on the relationship, Ancestry displays the various relationship possibilities and how likely each one is.

Looks like there’s a bit of a disconnect, because while Ancestry predicts this relationship with 17 shared cM of DNA at 5th-8th cousin, their chart shows that variations of 3rd or 4th cousin are more likely. This is a great example of why you should always click on the predicted relationship and check for yourself.

Conversely, if you’re related to a match through multiple lines, or through one set of ancestors more than once, Ancestry may predict that you are related more closely than you actually are – because you may carry more of that ancestor’s DNA. Ancestry, nor any other vendor, has any way of knowing why you carry that amount of ancestral DNA.

Ancestry also shows you a little more information about how much DNA you share, and how many segments. Unfortunately, Ancestry does not provide a chromosome browser, so there isn’t any more you can do, at Ancestry, with this information – although you can certainly transfer your DNA to MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, or GedMatch (a third-party tool) who all provide chromosome browsers.

Ancestry shows you the number of cMs, or centiMorgans of DNA you share. Think about a centiMorgan as a length measure, for practical purposes. Each vendor has their own matching threshold and a matching piece of DNA with another person must be larger than that bar. Ancestry’s minimum cM threshold is 8 cM, the highest of all the vendors.

This means that any match lower than 8 cM is not considered a match at Ancestry, but that same person might appear on your match list at another vendor whose match threshold is lower.

Ancestry also removes some of your matching DNA before considering matches. In areas where your DNA is “too matchy,” Ancestry removes some segments because they feel that DNA may be “older” and not genealogically relevant.

There’s a great deal of debate about this practice, and strong feelings abound. Some people feel this is justified because it helps reduce the large number of matches, especially for people who descend from highly endogamous populations.

Other people who have one endogamous line among many others find that many or most of their matches from that population were removed by Ancestry when they did one of their two purges. That’s what happened to my Acadian and many of my African American matches.

Regardless, Ancestry tells you for each match if they removed DNA segments using their Timber algorithm, and if so, how many.

Clearly, when viewing this match, 1 cM of removed DNA isn’t going to make much if any difference unless that 1cM was the difference between being a match and not matching. You can read Ancestry’s paper about how their matching works beneath the hood, here.

There are only two real differences that DNA removal makes at Ancestry:

  • Whether you match or not, meaning you’re either over or under that 8 cM bar.
  • Shared matches under 20 cM won’t show, so if you have 22 cM of shared DNA with someone and Ancestry removes 3, you won’t show as a shared match to people you match in common. And people you match in common, if they have less than 20 cM shared DNA won’t show to you either.

Since Ancestry doesn’t provide their customers with advanced tools to compare segments of DNA with their matches, other than the two circumstances above, the removal of some DNA doesn’t really matter.

That might be more than you wanted to know! However, if you find some matches confusing, especially if you know two people are both matching you and each other, but they don’t show as a shared match, this just might be why. We’ll talk about shared matches in a minute.

Do Your Recognize Your Matches?

Ancestry provides a way for you to assign relationships.

If you click on “Learn more,” you’ll view the match page that shows their tree, common ancestors with you, if identified, and more.

If you click “Yes,” you’ll be prompted for how you match.

Ancestry will ask if you know the specific relationship based on the probabilities of that relationship being accurate.

After you confirm, that individual will be assigned to that parental side of your family, or both, based on your selection.

Shared Matches

Shared matches are a way of viewing who you and one of your matches both match.

In other words, if you recognize other people you both match, that’s a HUGE clue as to how you and your match are related. However, it’s not an absolute, because you could match two people through entirely different lines, and they could match each other through another line not related to you. However, shared matching does provide hints, especially if your match matches several relatives you can identify who descend from the same ancestor or ancestral couple.

This match only has initials and a private unlinked tree. That means they aren’t linked to the proper place in their tree, and their tree is private so I can’t view it to evaluate for hints.

How can I possibly figure out how we are related?

Click on the match.

Clicking on Shared Matches shows me the people that T. F. and I both match.

Notice that T. F. and I match my 5 top matches on my mother’s side. Clearly, T. F. and I share common ancestors on my mother’s side.

Furthermore, based on my notes and the amount of DNA we share, our common ancestor is probably my great-grandparents.

This match was easy to unravel, but not all are. Lets’s look at a different shared match list.

In this example, all 4 people have unlinked trees. The smallest shared match is 20 cM –  because Ancestry doesn’t show smaller shared matches below 20 cM. Of course, there are probably a lot of smaller shared matches, but I can’t see them. In essence, this limits viewing your shared matches to the 4th-6th cousin range or closer.

Just be aware that you’re not seeing all of your shared matches, so don’t assume you are.

Summary

By reviewing each match at Ancestry using a methodical step-by-step approach, there’s a great deal of information to be gleaned.

Let’s summarize briefly:

  • Your matches listed first on your match list are your closest, and likely to be the most useful to you in terms of identifying maternal and paternal sides of your family for other matches.
  • Test either or both parents if possible
  • Link yourself and the DNA kits you manage to their proper place in your tree so that Ancestry can provide you with parental sides for your matches if your parents have tested. Ancestry uses linked trees for ThruLines tii.
  • Manually assign “sides” to matches if your parents aren’t available to test.
  • Use the filters or combinations. Don’t forget to reset.
  • Click on “Common Ancestors” to view potential common ancestors – matches exhibiting those green leaves. This is Ancestry’s strength.
  • From Common Ancestors, check ThruLines to view matches linked to a common ancestor.
  • Don’t neglect unlinked trees.
  • Assign dot colors to ancestral couples or a way that makes sense to you.
  • Assign matches by colored dot group.
  • Make notes that will help you remember details about the match and what you have and have not done with or learned about that match.
  • Search by location or surname or a combination of both.
  • Assign relationships, when known. At least assign maternally or paternally, or both if the match is related through both sides of your family. Hint – your full siblings, their children, and your children are related to both sides – your mother’s and father’s sides, both.
  • Click on your match’s profile to view additional information, including common ancestors and their tree. Scroll down to view common surnames, locations and ancestors from both people (you and your match) found in those locations.
  • View shared matches to see who else you and your match are both related to. Your shared matches may well hold the key to how you and an unknown match are related. Don’t forget that Ancestry only displays shared matches of 20 cM or larger.
  • If you’d like to utilize a chromosome browser for additional insights and to confirm specific common ancestors by shared segments of DNA, download a copy of your raw DNA data file and upload, free, to both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage, here. They both provide chromosome browsers and advanced tools.

You can find step-by-step instructions for downloading from Ancestry and uploading elsewhere, here.

Join Me for More!

I’ll be publishing similar articles about working with matches at FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and 23andMe soon.

If you haven’t tested at all of these vendors and would like to, just click on these links for more information or to order tests:

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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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

  • com – Lots of wonderful genealogy research books

Genealogy Research

Paint Your Way Up Your Tree with MyHeritage, AutoClusters and DNAPainter – Free Webtember Webinar

Legacy Family Tree Webinars is sponsoring a free Webtember genealogy conference for everyone. Last week, 7 speakers presented, including my session, titled “Paint Your Way Up Your Tree with MyHeritage and DNAPainter.”

You can watch all 7 sessions free, here, for the full month of September – um – I mean Webtember😊. By the way, they have closed captions too.

You can download the syllabus with a paid membership and watch any of the 1500+ videos anytime. Click here to join and be sure to enter the coupon code, webtember, to receive a 15% discount!

Webtember Webinars

On the main Webtember page, you can sign up to view the sessions live each week for free.

Recorded sessions will be available later in the day on Fridays all month. You can read about Webtember, here.

Last Friday, we had people from 52 countries in attendance, including a few new cousins I didn’t know I had. How fun is that!!!

What can you learn from my session?

Paint Your Way Up Your Tree with MyHeritage and DNAPainter

We are so fortunate to have wonderful vendors and outstanding third-party tools. My session focused on how to turn your AutoCluster at MyHeritage into a beautifully painted chromosome map at DNAPainter.

While your genetic artwork is beautiful, that’s not the point. AutoClusters are a shortcut to identifying groups of people who match you and each other and therefore share a common ancestor.

I’ve developed a technique to utilize your close matches at MyHeritage, and your clusters, together, to identify ancestral groups at DNAPainter.

Each AutoCluster file contains about 100 of your matches in colorful groups.

This technique works for both beginners who have never done chromosome painting before, as well as people who paint regularly.

I’ve broken this technique down into easy step-by-step instructions for both novices and experienced DNAPainting artisans.

At the end, I show an example of how I leapfrogged from 3 to 7 generations back in time using these tools. I was able to identify segments that descended from Philip Jacob Miller and his wife Magdalena whose surname is unknown.

I know that segment either had to descend to all of us from either Philip Jacob or Magdalena. If it descended through him, then I should be able to find matches on that same segment from Philip’s brother’s descendants too. If that segment doesn’t descend from Philip, then I won’t match any of his relatives (except his children’s descendants) on that segment.

If that segment descends from Magdalena, maybe I can figure out her parent’s names by evaluating the trees of people who match me and these other people. In other words, I need to look for people who triangulate, on this or other common segments between this group of matches and share common ancestors in their trees. Fortunately, MyHeritage offers triangulation.

I’m oh-so-close, just oh-so-close to revealing Magdalena’s surname.

Do you have mysteries you’d like to solve?

Maybe painting your way up your tree using the AutoCluster Tool at MyHeritage, combined with DNAPainter and triangulation will help you break through your brick walls.

If you haven’t yet tested at MyHeritage or uploaded your results from another vendor to MyHeritage, you can purchase a test here or I’ve provided easy instructions for uploading your results from another vendor, here. If you’re ready to upload, click here 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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

Free Webinar: 10 Ways to Find Your Native American Ancestor Using Y, Mitochondrial and Autosomal DNA

I recorded 10 Ways to Find Your Native American Ancestor Using Y, Mitochondrial and Autosomal DNA for Legacy Family Tree Webinars.

Webinars are free for the first week. After that, you’ll need a subscription.

If you subscribe to Legacy Family Tree, here, you’ll also receive the downloadable 24-page syllabus and you can watch any of the 1500+ webinars available at Legacy Family Tree Webinars anytime.

In 10 Ways to Find Your Native American Ancestor Using Y, Mitochondrial and Autosomal DNA, I covered the following features and how to use them for your genealogy:

  • Ethnicity – why it works and why it sometimes doesn’t
  • Ethnicity – how it works
  • Your Chromosomes – Mom and Dad
  • Ethnicity at AncestryDNA, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage DNA
  • Genetic Communities at AncestryDNA
  • Genetic Groups at MyHeritage DNA
  • Painted ethnicity segments at 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA
  • Painting ethnicity segments at DNAPainter – and why you want to
  • Shared ethnicity segments with your matches at AncestryDNA, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage DNA
  • Downloading matches and segment files
  • Techniques to pinpoint Native Ancestors in your tree
  • Y DNA, Native ancestors and haplogroups
  • Mitochondrial DNA, Native ancestors and haplogroups
  • Creating a plan to find your Native ancestor
  • Strategies for finding test candidates
  • Your Ancestor DNA Pedigree Chart
  • Success!!!

If you haven’t yet tested at or uploaded your DNA to both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage, you can find upload/download instructions, here, so that you can take advantage of the unique tools at all vendors.

Hope you enjoy the webinar and find those elusive ancestors!

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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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

FamilyTreeDNA’s Chromosome Painting Just Arrived!!!

FamilyTreeDNA’s long-anticipated chromosome painting for ethnicity results just arrived!

Videos and a White Paper!

Along with the release, Family TreeDNA has also provided several resources.

Dr. Paul Maier, Population Geneticist at FamilyTreeDNA created a three-part video series that explains MyOrigins V3 and the science behind the results – in normal language that air-breathing humans can understand. These are absolutely wonderful and only about 10 minutes each, so be sure to watch – in order!

MyOrigins 3.0 white paper that explains the science in more detail is here! If nothing else, at least skim and look at the pictures. It’s actually an amazing document.

Your Painted Results

To view your results, sign on to your account and click on Chromosome Painting!

Click on any image to enlarge

There it is – your beautiful new painted chromosomes with your Continental or Super Population results painted on your chromosomes!

Look, there are my AmerIndian segments, in pink.

What Can I Do?

You can download your segment file too – in the upper right-hand corner.

You can also download your segment match file found under the chromosome browser tab and sort your segments to see who matches you on these segments. I provided instructions, here.

Of course, you’ll see both sides, meaning paternal and maternal matches, so it will be necessary to determine on which “side” your segments of interest originate, and who matches you on that side of your tree.

We will discuss these strategies and how to implement them in future articles.

A little birdie tells me that DNAPainter will have an import soon so you can upload your chromosome painting file to integrate with your match painting.

Right now, just viewing and appreciating your chromosome art that represents our ancestors is amazing. Did you find any surprises? Who else wants to print and frame this?

If you don’t have results at FamilyTreeDNA, you can upload DNA results from the other three major testing companies and pay a $19 unlock to receive your very own chromosome painting. Upload/Download instructions are found here.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

Announcing DNA Beginnings – A New Series

Welcome to DNA Beginnings. This exciting, upcoming series will be focused on the new DNA tester who may also be a novice genealogist and is unsure of quite what to do.

People ask, “Where do I even start?”

If this is you, welcome!

Which Vendors Will Be Covered?

This series will consist of one article for each of the four main DNA vendors:

Topics

Each article will cover two primary topics:

  • Matches
  • In-common-with or shared matches between you and other people

Along with:

  • Why each match type is important.
  • What matches and shared matches can tell you
  • How to make use of that information

More Information

For those who are ready – at the end of each article, I’ll include links with instructions for using more advanced tools at each vendor.

Get Ready!

While you’re waiting, you can upload your DNA data file from some vendors to other vendors, for free! That way you’ll have matches to work with, in multiple places. You’ll match different people at each vendor who are related to you in different ways. You never know where the match you need will be found – so fish in multiple ponds.

If you’ve tested at any vendor, you can download your raw DNA file. Downloading your raw DNA data file doesn’t affect your DNA file or matches at the vendor where you tested. The file you’re downloading is just a copy of the raw DNA file.

Just don’t delete the DNA test at the original vendor. That’s an entirely separate function, so don’t worry.

Uploading your raw DNA file to another vendor, for free, saves the cost of retesting, even if you do have to pay a small fee to utilize that vendor’s advanced tools.

Which Vendors Accept Upload Files?

Which vendors accept raw DNA data file uploads from other vendors? The chart below shows the vendors where you’ve tested on the left side, and the vendors you want to transfer to across the top.

To read this, people who have tested at FamilyTreeDNA (from the left column) can upload their raw DNA file to MyHeritage, but not to 23andMe or Ancestry. Note the asterisks. For example, people who tested at MyHeritage can upload their DNA file to FamilyTreeDNA, but only if they tested after May 7, 2019.

From to >>>>> FamilyTreeDNA MyHeritage 23andMe* Ancestry*
FamilyTreeDNA N/A Yes No No
MyHeritage Yes** N/A No No
23andMe*** V3, V4, V5 V3, V4, V5 N/A No
Ancestry V1, V2 V1, V2 No N/A

* Neither 23andMe nor Ancestry accept any DNA file uploads from any vendors. To receive matches at these two vendors, you must test there.

** FamilyTreeDNA accepts MyHeritage DNA tests taken after May 7, 2019.

*** Vendors do not accept the early 23andMe V2 file type used before December 2010.

None of these vendors accept files from LivingDNA who uses an incompatible DNA testing chip, although LivingDNA accepts upload files from other vendors.

Step-By-Step Instructions for Transferring Your Raw DNA Files

I wrote articles about how to download your raw DNA file from each vendor and how to upload your DNA file to vendors who accept DNA uploads in lieu of testing at their site.

You’ll save money by transferring your DNA file instead of testing at each vendor.

Transfer your file now and get ready to have fun with our DNA Beginnings articles!

Share and Subscribe – It’s Free

Feel free to share these articles with your friends and organizations. Anyone can subscribe to DNAexplained (this blog) for free and receive weekly articles in their inbox by entering their email and clicking on the little grey “Follow” button on the upper right-hand side of the blog on a computer or tablet screen. Hint – if you received this article in your email – you’re already subscribed so you don’t need to do anything. If you’re not subscribed already, just filling the info and click on “Follow.”

Every genealogist and genetic genealogist starts someplace and DNA Beginnings is a wonderful opportunity. The first article in the series will be arriving later this week!

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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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

Join Me for Free Webinars in August and “Webtember”

Legacy Family Webinars provides free webinars every month. Check out the upcoming schedule, here.

You can register for free and watch live. If you’d like access to the ever-growing Webinar Library, you can subscribe, here, and watch any webinar, anytime.

I’m presenting a free webinar in both August and September.

10 Ways to Find Your Native American Ancestor Using Y, Mitochondrial and Autosomal DNA

On Friday, August 27th at 2 PM Eastern, I’ll be presenting “10 Ways to Find Your Native American Ancestor Using Y, Mitochondrial and Autosomal DNA.” You can register for free, here.

If you’re trying to figure out if you have a Native ancestor or you’d like to confirm those family legends, this webinar is for you.

Webtember Free Month-Long Genealogy Conference

Legacy Tree Webinars is sponsoring a free month-long virtual conference every Friday featuring 7 or 8 speakers each week. There are so many sessions I can’t wait to see.

Here’s the conference pdf listing all of the speakers and schedule.

On September 3rd at 11 AM, I’ll be presenting Paint Your Way Up Your Tree with MyHeritage and DNAPainter.

I love combining these two wonderful tools to easily discover which ancestors contributed my DNA segments. Once you know who contributed each segment, you also know how (through which line) you’re related to the other people you match (and who match each other) on that same segment. This is going to be so much fun!

Everyone can watch the Webtember presentations for free through the end of September.

I hope you’ll join us.

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Robert Vernon Estes: Still Missing, But Not Forgotten – 52 Ancestors #339

Today was an incredible day – one I’ve been working towards and looking forward to for more than a year. One that Robert Vernon Estes earned more than 70 years ago.

Robert was a POW, captured in Korea on November 30, 1950.

Bobby is still MIA since he was never officially reported as either captured or known dead through official channels and his body was never returned.

He was declared dead, however, in 1954 after a fellow POW after release reported that Robert had died sometime around January 31, 1951.

This military photo in the Monticello paper is the only known photo of Bobby and we wouldn’t have that were it not for an incredibly tenacious volunteer at the White County Historical Society. I can’t thank her enough.

Our family has dispersed to the wind. Bobby is my father’s brother’s child. Bobby’s parents divorced as did my parents. I knew Bobby had died in the military, but had no details. Bobby’s father was involved in some type of accident that caused brain damage.

Bobby’s mother died before he was declared dead. I don’t know what happened to his step-father. Bobby’s brother went his own way and a generation or two later, the family had scattered to the winds.

Bobby died at 19, never married and had no children.

Seventy years later, I am Bobby’s closest remaining family member and as such, was the Gold Star Family representative at today’s memorial service. I think officially Gold Star family members are limited to immediate family – but my invitation addressed me as a Gold Star family member and I filled in for others now deceased.

I’m honored to represent Bobby, the first cousin I never knew, but who I’m named after.

I have written about Robert Vernon Estes twice.

Indiana War Memorial Foundation

The Indiana War Memorial Foundation had planned to honor Indiana’s Korean War MIAs in 2020, but had to postpone the event until this summer.

Today dawned hot and humid – a typical Indiana summer day with the exception of the high level smoke that made the atmosphere hazy in addition to hot and humid. The one blessing is that there was at least a hint of a breeze.

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument

The Soldier and Sailors Monument, dedicated in 1902 sits dead center in the middle of Indianapolis, dead center in the middle of Indiana.

alexeatswhales, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Bricks, many engraved with the names of veterans, pave the circular street and sidewalks surround the towering monument.

As I turned the corner to hunt for a parking garage, the monument loomed above the city in front of me. You can’t miss it.

The streets were blocked today and families, having traveled from from all over the country were instructed to arrive early.

The ceremony would begin at 10.

I noticed the man on the motorcycle and thought to myself that he must be awfully hot.

After parking and walking the couple blocks to the circle, I discovered why the bike was present.

Rolling Thunder

Rolling Thunder is an advocacy group of bikers who are veterans founded in 1995. Their membership is committed to accounting for all POW and MIA soldiers from all wars.

You may remember Rolling Thunder to the Wall in Washington DC in 2010 and the blessing of the bikes.

The last Washington DC ride took place in 2019, but the local and state chapters are still extremely active in their support and advocacy.

I walked straight up to these men and thanked them for both their service and for joining us today. One veteran reminded me of my brother, and it was all I could do to keep my voice from cracking and try not to stare.

We will see these guys a bit later:)

Signing In

As each family signed in, we noted the name of our soldier and our relationship. I was one of the early arrivals and noticed both “sister” and “daughter.” Siblings were still alive, but all of the parents, born about 1910 or earlier, would be gone now. Every single one of them passed away without closure about what happened to their son.

Bobby’s mother died before he was declared dead, but not before she received a small box with a few of his belongings. I hope they brought her at least some level of comfort.

Today, in Indy, bricks laid in honor of our family members who never came home would be unveiled to honor their service and sacrifice.

Family Packets

Not to say that it was hot or anything, but in the packets provided for each family were the quintessential “funeral fans.” Now I don’t suppose everyone called them funeral fans. They were always stuck in the back of pews with the hymnals at church when I was growing up.

Everyone at funerals always nervously fanned, AND, often funeral homes bought the fans – for advertising of course. Jesus praying was always on one side and the funeral home’s name was always on the other.

A lovely brochure was also included in the packet with the scheduled events of the day.

Of course, honoring these brave men was the purpose of today’s somber event.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Before I go any further, I need to thank a number of anonymous people. I took many of these photos and videos, but not all. Our families had been assembled by virtue of common tragedy which provided us with an immediate bond. We talked, thanked the veterans and men in uniform present, shared photos, messaged back and forth, air-dropped and asked random people to please take our pictures in front of something or with other family members. By the time the ceremony actually began, we were on a first name basis and sharing stories.

In fact, perhaps the most amazing thing of all is what happened afterwards. You’re not going to believe this. But let’s get through the ceremony first.

Settling In

As people began to get settled, I stepped back far enough to get a photo of the tent that had (thankfully) been set up for the families in front of the Memorial. I had to stand back a LONG way. It’s HUGE!

As I kept backing up further to get this shot, I realized there was something going on in the street behind me.

Firetrucks and the Flag

Clearly security was a consideration for an event like this, and the streets were blocked off. The circle itself and the block leading to the circle.

I heard some commotion and turned around.

What are they doing?

Oh, look, it’s one of those huge flags.

I was excited to get to witness this. Look at the one guy literally “holding the bag.”

I remembered that my phone has video capability. Forgive the amateur behind the camera here – I had to flip it sideways at the end. It was quite an endeavor to keep the flag from touching the ground.

The flag was unfurled with a little help from one of the Rolling Thunder guys. Notice the firefighter with the now-empty bag. I wonder how they get the flag back in that bag.

I have to say, the flag being raised with synchronized ladders is an amazing sight and makes you feel really small and awestruck.

The flag was raised high above the street. I would love to have gone up to the observation tower in the Memorial and taken a look, but that building (ironically) wasn’t open, and besides, I didn’t want to miss anything outside.

I scoped out my seat near the end of the first row. People were milling around, but beginning to take their seats.

Preparations were taking place on the stage area and Rolling Thunder veterans were everyplace.

I happened to look back at the tent and saw the flag. You couldn’t miss the flag!

I was making my way to my seat at far left, above, and then I spotted “trouble.” The good kind of trouble:)

Trouble

You’ve all been my readership family long enough by now to know that I cannot go anyplace without some adventure finding me or me getting in some kind of trouble. When trouble fails to find me, that’s how I’ll know I’m dead.

You may recall, my brother-who-was-not-my-brother was a long haul trucker, a biker and a wounded Vietnam Marine.

Trust me, if you’re ever in real trouble someplace, find one of these guys.

Standing near my seat was another group of Rolling Thunder guys. I swear, they were the security detail. I mean, who’s going to mess with anyone with legions of these guys around. No sane person, that’s for sure!

I thanked these men for their service AND what they do today. The voice of remembrance when it’s all too easy to forget.

We talked about the MIA and POW men still unaccounted for and I told them that even though Bobby is officially MIA, we know he’s deceased, of course. Everyone shook their head in agreement. One of the men asked me his name. Then I explained it is my name too, I’m named for Robert. And I kept Estes too. Then I told them about Dave.

Not a dry eye in the place. A bit of shoe shuffling, allergies and hugging.

Let’s just say we bonded. Notice my special friend to my left who is modeling my bag. These guys were so doggone much fun to visit with and explained more about what Rolling Thunder does, how they participate, and their commitment. Trust me, no one rides bikes, wears leather and hangs out in the intense mid-summer heat if they aren’t either related or committed.

Before sitting down, I decided to grab one picture of the families and the flag from the memorial steps.

The Ceremony Begins

I had a great seat with a wonderful view of the Memorial itself. All those years I lived in Indiana and I never really paid attention. I’m not sure I had ever seen the Memorial other than from a distance.

The Indiana National Guard’s 38th Infantry Brass Quintet, in full dress uniform, was located to the right.

I can only imagine how miserable they must have been. You would never have known it from their lovely music.

The dignitaries begin delivering remarks.

The flags are ceremonially escorted into the stage area by a color guard – you’ve guessed it. Rolling Thunder again.

Remember that I mentioned there was, blessedly, a breeze?

The most shocking thing happened a minute or two later.

The breeze blew the American flag right over, onto the ground with a resounding thud. An audible gasp emanated from the crowd. Everyone knows that the flag is never supposed to touch the ground. When I was younger I thought a flag had to be destroyed if it touched the ground. I wondered what would happen, not eventually to the flag, but in this instance. In the middle of a ceremony honoring a special class of our veterans.

Two men from Rolling Thunder walked up behind the dignitaries, picked up the flags and proceeded to stand for the duration of the ceremony holding the flags upright. What a beautiful picture.

The National Anthem was sung, acapella, by Staff Sergeant Ronald Walker, also in full dress uniform. This man is both brave and amazing!

Unveiling the Bricks

Next, the bricks were unveiled. I had been unaware that the blue tarp was actually covering the bricks.

I don’t have to tell you who did the unveiling do I?

I was pleased to see that the bricks for the Korean POW/MIAs had been placed together, not scattered around the plaza.

My neighbor had a better view than I did and kindly shared his video with me.

The unveiling of the bricks was followed by the wreath laying.

The wreath laying is a respectful tradition associated with either funerals or memorial services.

The Roll Call

I didn’t know about the concept of Roll Call before. Now I’ll never be able to unhear it.

The name of the soldier still missing is read. A veteran, in this case, a Rolling Thunder member, steps forward and says, “Still missing, Sir,” then steps back.

This was repeated 195 times as the names were read in alphabetical order.

Simple.

Somber.

Gut-wrenching.

Each family member in attendance had been given a sign with their soldier’s photo, if one was available, and asked to stand and hold the photo facing the crowd when it was their turn.

The veteran sitting next to me knew the name of my soldier and filmed this, then gifted it to me.

I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am.

I was saddened to notice how many men did not have representative family members present.

As the Roll Call finished, and the Rolling Thunder men exited, a bagpiper played Amazing Grace. One of two songs I can never get through dry-eyed.

Followed, of course, by the next song I cannot get through dry-eyed.

The flags or colors were retired in the same way they had been presented initially.

After the Ceremony

Robert Vernon Estes and his 194 comrades never received a funeral. Their families never had closure. Regardless of what happened to those men in Korea, it’s clear that they are not still living today.

It was sad that we needed to have this service, but it was beautiful and somber and cathartic. It may not be closure for the immediate family, but it’s at least recognition that these men have not been forgotten.

After the ceremony, there was a palpable sense of gratitude and relief. The camaraderie of sharing this experience with others was so meaningful and important. I’m struggling to find the right words to convey the mixture of sad and glad and relief still mixed with prayers that one day, at least some of these men’s remains will be returned for burial. A real funeral, with taps, and the 21 gun salute, and everything else that they deserve. Not an empty hole of nothingness.

I’m so filled with gratitude for the many people who made this possible.

Some, but not all of the volunteers who made this lovely ceremony possible for the veterans and the Gold Star families. Thank you so very much.

The beautiful wreath standing by the bricks.

The only other wreath-laying ceremony I have ever attended was when the DAR set the stone for my Revolutionary War ancestor on another beastly hot summer day.

The Rest of the Story

I attended the ceremony alone. The people sitting in the row behind me seemed friendly enough. As we waited for the ceremony to begin, we chatted pleasantly about our respective family members that we were honoring.

They did not know much about the history of the unit in which their family member had fought. I was trying to explain about obtaining records from NARA, and declassified unit records – in essence what I had done for Robert Estes.

I had noticed that someone representing the Indiana senator’s office was sitting two seats from me. I turned around and told the man behind me that he needed to talk to the person from the senator’s office and ask for liaison assistance.

After they spoke, our group began talking again, and I told him I think that the unit his family member served in fought with the unit Robert served in.

Their family was fortunate to have several people in attendance, while I’m the only one left in my generation in my line. By this time, it was noon and miserably hot – on the north side of 90. The committee had provided rollups and ice cold water while the families visited afterwards, but everyone was ready for something more.

They invited me along to eat with them. I hesitated, not wanting to be a third wheel and hoping they didn’t feel obligated to invite me. They said, “hey, you’re family,” and you know, it felt like family. We decided we would just all be family, at least for today. I was so grateful for the invitation and felt like we had a common bond. Maybe it was the emotion of the day – I can’t explain it.

We managed to find the absolute worst Italian restaurant I’ve ever eaten in – but the companionship was wonderful and we had a room in the back to ourselves.

After we finished, I mentioned that I had to go back to the memorial because somehow I had forgotten to find Bobby’s brick and take a picture – and I wanted a picture of me with the brick too.

They said they had to walk back that way anyway, so we went together.

The stage area was clear and everyone was gone, of course.  Only a few flowers remained. But those bricks are permanent and will still be there long after we are gone!

I was so very pleased to be present for the one thing of permanence that will remain of Bobby.

I wanted to photograph the rest of the bricks, together.

That’s When It Happened!

Look.

Robert Minniear is the other family’s MIA soldier. He went missing on November 30, 1950,

So did Bobby.

Both men’s families were from the same part of Indiana.

We just stared at each other dumbstruck with the realization of our discovery. Our family members indeed had gone missing the same day. Likely in the same battle in Korea. Spoiler alert – I came back to my hotel and did indeed verify that the two units were fighting together on that day.

Did our family members know each other? Before, or after they were captured, or both? Were they held as POWs together, or was their Robert killed during either the fighting itself or the horrific conditions immediately after?

Can the information I’ve found about Bobby’s unit help their family gain closure?

What are the chances that this would happen? That we would all attend this ceremony, sit together, strike up a friendly conversation, feel a bond, go to lunch, discover our common roots in the same town, then the revelation of the same MIA date? Did I mention that one of these men is also named Robert, born the same year I was and named for his Robert too?

I’d swear, if I didn’t know better, that the Robert’s were sort of nudging us.

As Mike, my new family member was reading the dates on the rest of the bricks, he noticed several other men who were MIA that same day and remain so:

  • Gene Ruby – PFC USMC
  • Everett W. Leffler – CPL US Army
  • Robert L. White – SGT US Army
  • Robert Lee White – CPL US Army (I hope these two men aren’t closely related – that poor family.)
  • Donald K. Mitchell – CPL US Army
  • James Mishler – PFC US Army

Maybe, just maybe, this story isn’t quite over just yet. Maybe information about one of our soldiers is information about all of our soldiers…

Maybe there’s a chapter yet to be written.

What’s the Difference Between Pedigree Collapse and Endogamy?

There has been recent discussion and confusion about the difference between pedigree collapse and endogamy.

Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences and what it means to genealogists.

Pedigree Collapse

Pedigree collapse occurs when the same person/people appear in your tree multiple times as ancestors.

In this example, you can see that John Smith and Mary Johnson appear twice, which of course means the ancestors further back in time in those lines all appear at least twice too.

Genetically speaking, our tester, Tester Smith, could be expected to inherit more of the DNA of John Smith and Mary Johnson because they are receiving an infusion of their DNA from both sides of their tree.

Each parent provides 50% of their respective DNA to each child, but contribute different pieces of their DNA to different children.

Each grandparent normally contributes approximately 25% to each grandchild, although it may be slightly more or less. Each great-grandparent contributes about 12.5% to each great-grandchild.

However, since John Smith appears twice in Tester Smith’s tree as a great-grandparent, John Smith would be expected to contribute approximately 12.5% of his DNA times 2 to Tester Smith. This means that approximately 25% of Tester Smith’s DNA descends from John Smith. The same is true for John Smith’s wife, Mary Johnson.

Let’s look at how this affects our chromosomes and matching.

Chromosome Perspective with No Pedigree Collapse

First, let’s look at a situation where there’s no pedigree collapse. Chromosome 22 has about 72 cM of DNA that is being compared for genealogy, so let’s use that chromosome for our example, with chromosome 22 being representative of all other chromosomes (except the X chromosome.)

If each grandparent contributes one fourth of each person’s DNA, then our tester’s mother would have received approximately 25% of her DNA from her 4 grandparents, respectively, or 18 cM from each grandparent.

For purposes of these examples, I’m going to use the 25% average amount of DNA inherited for each grandparent, but you can read more specifics here and here, if you’re interested.

In this example with no pedigree collapse, you can see that our tester received 9 cM or 12.5% of each of their great-grandparents’ DNA. The great-grandparents’ DNA combined in the grandparents and then Tester’s parents such that Tester received 18 cM or 25% of their DNA from each grandparent and 9 cM or 12.5% from each great-grandparent.

Note that Tester Smith received one 9 cM piece of each color of his 8 grandparents’ colored DNA. It’s easy to visualize inheritance this way.

Chromosome Perspective with Pedigree Collapse

Our second example shows pedigree collapse with John Smith and Mary Johnson being present as great-grandparents twice.

Note that Tester Smith inherited a segment of John Smith’s red DNA from their mother and one from their father. Tester also inherited one segment of Mary Johnson’s yellow DNA from each parent.

In this situation, the red DNA segment inherited by Tester Smith’s father from John Smith and the red DNA segment inherited from Tester’s mother from John Smith could potentially be:

  • The same DNA segment contributed by John Smith to both of his children, George Smith and Fred Smith, meaning those segments will match entirely.
  • Partially the same DNA segments meaning that some of John Smith’s DNA that Tester Smith inherited from his parents will match each other and some won’t.
  • Entirely different DNA segments meaning that although the DNA was inherited from John Smith in both cases, his children, George Smith and Fred Smith inherited different pieces of John Smith’s DNA. That DNA was passed through George Smith and Fred Smith’s children to Tester Smith. Even though both segments inherited by Tester descended from John Smith originally, they don’t match because they were different segments to begin with.

Tester Smith will inherit approximately half of the DNA from John Smith that his parents received, so their red segments of DNA could be exactly the same, partially the same, or completely different.

Since I am showing the red segments in different positions on the chromosomes, we’ll presume that the positions shown indicate chromosome location (addresses.) Since the red DNA is not in the same location on the mother’s and father’s chromosomes, the DNA from John Smith inherited by Tester from his parents are different segments.

Tester will have inherited 18 cM total from John Smith and 18 cM total from Mary Johnson (using averages). In this illustration, the red and yellow segments, respectively are two separate 9 cM segments. If by chance those two red (or yellow) segments had been inherited in adjacent locations, they would match as one 18 cM segment – even though they were really two separate segments inherited through two different parents. The phenomenon where segments from common ancestors joining each other again in descendants causes relationship predictions to be closer than the actual relationships.

Said another way, even though Tester Smith inherited 25% of John Smith’s DNA, John Smith is still a great-grandparent, albeit twice, not a grandparent even though vendors would predict someone with 25% shared DNA as a grandparent.

Of course, each generation further back in the tree means that the amount of DNA inherited from each ancestor is cut in half, so the effects of pedigree collapse become less pronounced the further back in time the collapse occurs.

Looking at our example, if John Smith and Mary Johnson were duplicated in Tester’s tree another generation further removed, Tester would inherit 6.25% times two from John Smith, or a total of 12.5% of his DNA, and the same from Mary Johnson. Another generation back in time, 6.25% total. Eventually, many of those segments will disappear entirely due to loss during recombination, so distant pedigree collapse is not necessarily discernable in this way.

To summarize, pedigree collapse occurs in a genealogical timeframe, meaning that you could at least potentially identify the ancestors who are duplicated in your tree. If you know where in your tree the duplication occurs, you can calculate the expected amount of DNA that you will inherit (assuming an exact 50% inheritance/recombination rate in each generation) from each of those ancestors.

Endogamy

Endogamy is different. Instead of one person or a pair of ancestors who are duplicated, testers will have no immediate ancestors who are the same in their tree, but they will have many historical ancestors who are identical.

Endogamy most often occurs in closed communities where out-marriage is either highly discouraged or impossible. Common examples include Jewish populations, especially in Europe with the Ashkenazi, Native Americans, Finnish people, Acadians, Amish, Mennonite and Brethren communities. Of course, there are many more.

These communities often married only within their own community for many generations. Each community member shares the DNA of many common ancestors from long ago.

In this example, the DNA from distant common ancestors is handed down to the parents from the grandparents, but the ancestral segments are shown in small pieces. I used 4.5 cM as the segment size, but endogamous samples have many small, fragmented segments below that threshold.

“Small” segments for purposes of this discussion are those below the 6 cM minimum vendor matching/viewing threshold of FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and 23andMe. Ancestry’s minimum match threshold is 8 cM. The take-away here is that none of those individual 4.5 cM segments would match between testers at any of those vendors because they are below all vendor’s thresholds.

The red arrows point to small segments where the mother and father both inherited small pieces of the same identical DNA from the same distant ancestors. Our tester will receive the pink and red DNA segment from both parents, because there is nothing else in that location for them to inherit.

The green arrows show examples of identical by chance matches where the yellow and red DNA, respectively, is not handed down from one parent. Instead, the two yellow and two red segments abut and are joined to form one 9 cM segment where two individual 4.5 cM segments converge – one inherited from the mother and one from the father.

This, of course, is the definition of identical by chance (IBC) where the DNA from two parents just happens to align in such a way that the tester matches another person. However, in ADDITION to being IBC, those two smaller segments just happened to be from common earlier ancestors in an endogamous population. Because endogamous populations have a limited amount of available DNA, it’s much more common to have small segments that match in descendants – and sometimes recombine to match in larger segments too.

In this case, the DNA of unknown distant ancestors just happened to be handed down and aligned adjacent to each other.

Our tester will match to anyone else who just happens to have inherited those two small ancestral DNA segments in the same location from that same population. When the original number of ancestors is limited, so are the number of DNA segments available for inheritance, and it’s very common for random ancestral segments to align in this way. Think of each ancestor’s tiny DNA segments salting a bowl of soup. You’re going to get some in every spoonful.

If those two adjacent 4.5 yellow segments are passed down together to the next generation, they add up to 9 cM, so will be considered a match to another person who inherited those same two adjacent 4.5 cM segments from that yellow ancestor – even though that unknown yellow ancestor could have lived ages ago – long before the possibility of genealogical matches. When no new DNA is introduced into populations, the only DNA available to be passed to the next generation is the ancestral DNA that has been salting the same pot of soup for generations.

This is exactly why we see the following situations in highly endogamous populations:

  • Many matches at lower cM levels due to identical by change recombination
  • Many small segments in common below vendor match thresholds
  • Significantly more smaller segment matches than non-endogamous individuals due to the historical ancestral DNA being passed and recombined from descendant to descendant.

A fully endogamous individual from the Ashkenazi population often has 4 or 5 times as many matches, or more, than non-endogamous individuals.

Conversely, some fully endogamous individuals from populations that have not tested many people will have very few matches, but may not be able to identify their genealogical relationship with any of their matches.

Segments Compared

In the article Concepts – Endogamy and DNA Segments, I provided several real-life examples of how endogamy affects DNA matches.

FamilyTreeDNA’s most recent matching update, among other things, has:

  • Removed the segments below 6 cM from the DNA match totals
  • Developed a new technique to determine and remove many identical by chance (IBC) matches
  • Fully imputed all transfer kits from other vendors (yay!,) meaning that early transfers who did not previously have distant matches now do
  • Recalculated everyone’s matches based on all of the above
  • Developed an improved relationship prediction algorithm
  • Re-predicted everyone’s relationships

While these changes benefit everyone, they provide huge benefits to people with high numbers of matches due to endogamy.

In this chart from the earlier article, you can see individuals predicted to the same relationship level, with segments as small as 1 cM showing, although matching never occurred at this level:

  • Non-endogamous matches at left
  • Jewish matches in the center
  • Native American matches at right.

The chromosomes of the Jewish and Native people look polka dotted by comparison to the non-endogamous people. All of their matching segments are shorter then the non-endogamous group at the same predicted level, because all of the small segments were included in the relationship prediction calculations.

The removal of segments below 6 cM at FamilyTreeDNA improves accuracy and relationship predictions for everyone. A white paper will be available soon describing their new techniques.

Population Genetics

While endogamous matches are frustrating for genealogists due to both the high number of matches and the difficulty identifying common pedigree ancestors, endogamous matches are very useful in another way.

Looking at our endogamous example again, let’s say our tester is entirely Jewish, with no admixture.

Our tester has a child with a partner who is entirely Asian, with no admixture. The DNA of these two populations does not fit the same genetic pattern.

In this example, the Asian person’s DNA is chartreuse green (for simplicity.) The Jewish DNA in the child has been divided in half, losing all of the army green, bright blue, and light blue segments, along with part of the tan, grey and yellow segments. Notice that the child still has two yellow segments and two red ones.

Population geneticists look for distinct patterns among populations of people who have lived exclusively together, in close proximity, or mixed often for tell-tale genetic signals where high frequencies of certain DNA patterns, or colors here, appear. Think of an island like Australia or New Zealand where there were no new populations available.

Those telltale small DNA segments, below matching thresholds, signal membership in or a genetic affiliation with that population. Of course, not all populations are quite as distinctive as the Jewish or Aussie/NZ populations. Some populations have not been isolated as long or more admixture has taken place. Think about Europe and those fluid borders.

Still, the signal of the founding populations is present for several generations, and sometimes longer if the testers ancestors were from the same population or region of the world and those identifying segments have been preserved during genetic recombination.

This individual’s ethnicity or populations would likely be predicted at or near 50% Jewish and 50% Asian. Those populations have been separated for tens of thousands of years and are relatively easy, genetically, to tell apart.

However, ascertaining between France and Germany is another matter altogether.

Real Life Examples

In the “picture is worth a thousand words” category, let’s take a look at some visuals.

Genetic Affairs has developed autocluster technology which I’ve written about several times. In the introductory article AutoClustering by Genetic Affairs, I provided examples of “normal” non-endogamous autoclusters.

A non-endogamous individual where other people from their family lines have tested would show several separate clusters. Individuals included in the same colored cluster match each other. Those clusters represent different ancestors or ancestral couples. For the most part, the people in individual clusters don’t match other clusters, although some will as the smaller clusters tend to represent generations further back in time. The people who match two clusters are shown by grey cells.

On the other hand, people who descend from an entirely endogamous population pretty much have one large interrelated square, not neatly arranged descending colored blocks.

My mother’s great-grandfather is Acadian, a highly endogamous population. She has no known pedigree collapse outside of the Acadian population. However, the Acadian population has substantial pedigree collapse meaning that most of her matches would have substantial pedigree collapse. All Acadians share the same founding ancestors from the early 1600s.

As researchers, we are fortunate to have meticulous Catholic church and tax records maintained by the Acadians. Other genealogists aren’t nearly as fortunate and therefore can’t necessarily differentiate between endogamy and pedigree collapse or a combination of both.

Mother would have inherited about 12.5% of her DNA from Antoine (Anthony Lord) Lore.

Mom’s orange Acadian cluster at upper left is oversized, much larger than her next cluster, and you can see that many orange-cluster people are related to each other. Mom has more Acadian matches than would normally account for 12.5% of her matches at the threshold used to generate the autocluster. These proportionally oversized autoclusters are the hallmark of endogamy.

One generation further downstream, my Acadian cluster, which accounts for 6.25% of my DNA is still my largest cluster, shown below, NOT clusters from my four grandparents as might be expected.

However, my Acadian cluster isn’t nearly as large as my mother’s, illustrating just how much was lost through recombination in one generation.

My friend and professional Dutch genealogist, Yvette Hoitink was gracious enough to provide an example of endogamy from an individual whose ancestors were from Winterswijk, a small village in the Netherlands.

Graphic courtesy of Yvette Hoitink

Yvette tells us that in Winterswijk, people were serfs, some until 1795, and were required to pay a fine if they married a serf belonging to a different landlord.

Now, in addition to being a small village, we understand why so many people were related to each other, and why the other clusters are so tiny. Do note that many of the people in the red cluster also match people in the other colored clusters too, as identified by the grey cells. Truly, everyone does seem to be related to (at least) some of this person’s other ancestors.

Courtesy Yvette Hoitink

Just so you don’t think all Dutch people are endogamous, Yvette also provided this autocluster of an individual from Friesland where people weren’t serfs during that timeframe.

Regional differences and population history, both on a large or small scale, really do make a HUGE difference.

Pedigree Collapse, Endogamy and Their Cousin, Population Genetics

I hope you have a better idea how pedigree collapse is different than endogamy and why endogamy is useful in population genetics.

  • Pedigree collapse means you have the same ancestor(s) present in your tree, but other than those lines, it does NOT mean that everyone in your tree is related to each other.
  • When everyone within a group is related somehow to everyone else, that’s endogamy.
  • Of course, like many things in life, these “states of being” are not exclusive and entirely separate. You can have pedigree collapse without endogamy, but long-term community pedigree collapse within a group of people, such as the Acadians, defines endogamy.
  • When endogamy is present, literally everyone is somehow related to everyone else, one way or another – especially distantly.
  • You can have endogamy without any known recent ancestors.
  • You can also have both pedigree collapse and endogamy, together, like my Acadian family line. If you do, I’m sorry😊!

With pedigree collapse, you have duplicate ancestors but you know who they are.

With endogamy, you’ll have a huge distant family, but it’s difficult or sometimes impossible to determine which ancestors, even if you DO know who they are, contributed specific DNA segments. Lots of matches with smaller matching DNA segments are prevalent and likely result from distant population-based matches.

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Thank you so much.

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FamilyTreeDNA Relaunch – New Feature Overview

The brand-new FamilyTreeDNA website is live!

I’m very pleased with the investment that FamilyTreeDNA has made in their genealogy platform and tools. This isn’t just a redesign, it’s more of a relaunch.

I spoke with Dr. Lior Rauchberger, CEO of myDNA, the parent company of FamilyTreeDNA briefly yesterday. He’s excited too and said:

“The new features and enhancements we are releasing in July are the first round of updates in our exciting product roadmap. FamilyTreeDNA will continue to invest heavily in the advancement of genetic genealogy.”

In other words, this is just the beginning.

In case you were wondering, all those features everyone asked for – Lior listened.

Lior said earlier in 2021 that he was going to do exactly this and he’s proven true to his word, with this release coming just half a year after he took the helm. Obviously, he hit the ground running.

A few months ago, Lior said that his initial FamilyTreeDNA focus was going to be on infrastructure, stability, and focusing on the customer experience. In other words, creating a foundation to build on.

The new features, improvements, and changes are massive and certainly welcome.

I’ll be covering the new features in a series of articles, but in this introductory article, I’m providing an overview so you can use it as a guide to understand and navigate this new release.

Change is Challenging

I need to say something here.

Change is hard. In fact, change is the most difficult challenge for humans. We want improvements, yet we hate it when the furniture is rearranged in our “room.” However, we can’t have one without the other.

So, take a deep breath, and let’s view this as a great new adventure. These changes and tools will provide us with a new foundation and new clues. Think of this as finding long-lost documents in an archive about your ancestors. If someone told me that there is a potential for discovering the surname of one of my elusive female ancestors in an undiscovered chest in a remote library, trust me, I’d be all over it – regardless of where it was or how much effort I had to expend to get there. In this case, I can sit right here in front of my computer and dig for treasure.

We just need to learn to navigate the new landscape in a virtual room. What a gift!

Let’s start with the first thing you’ll see – the main page when you sign in.

Redesigned Main Page

The FamilyTreeDNA main page has changed. To begin with, the text is darker and the font is larger across the entire platform. OMG, thank you!!!

The main page has been flipped left to right, with results on the left now. Projects, surveys, and other information, along with haplogroup badges are on the right. Have you answered any surveys? I don’t think I even noticed them before. (My bad!)

Click any image to enlarge.

The top tabs have changed too. The words myTree and myProjects are now gone, and descriptive tabs have replaced those. The only “my” thing remaining is myOrigins. This change surprises me with myDNA being the owner.

The Results & Tools tab at the top shows the product dropdowns.

The most popular tabs are shown individually under each product, with additional features being grouped under “See More.”

Every product now has a “See More” link where less frequently used widgets will be found, including the raw data downloads. This is the Y DNA “See More” dropdown by way of example.

You can see the green Updated badge on the Family Finder Matches tab. I don’t know if that badge will always appear when customers have new matches, or if it’s signaling that all customers have updated Family Finder Matches now.

We’ll talk about matches in the Family Finder section.

The Family Finder “See More” tab includes the Matrix, ancientOrigins, and the raw data file download.

The mitochondrial DNA section, titled Maternal Line Ancestry, mtDNA Results and Tools includes several widgets grouped under the “See More” tab.

Additional Tests and Tools

The Additional Tests and Tools area includes a link to your Family Tree (please do upload or create one,) Public Haplotrees, and Advanced Matches.

Public haplotrees are free-to-the-public Y and mitochondrial DNA trees that include locations. They are also easily available to FamilyTreeDNA customers here.

Please note that you access both types of trees from one location after clicking the Public Haplotrees page. The tree defaults to Y-DNA, but just click on mtDNA to view mitochondrial haplogroups and locations. Both trees are great resources because they show the location flags of the earliest known ancestors of the testers within each haplogroup.

Advanced Matches used to be available from the menu within each test type, but since advanced matching includes all three types of tests, it’s now located under the Additional Tests and Tools banner. Don’t forget about Advanced Matches – it’s really quite useful to determine if someone matches you on multiple types of tests and/or within specific projects.

Hey, look – I found a tooltip. Just mouse over the text and tabs on various pages to see where tooltips have been added.

Help and Help Center

The new Help Center is debuting in this release. The former Learning Center is transitioning to the Help Center with new, updated content.

Here’s an example of the new easy-to-navigate format. There’s a search function too.

Each individual page, test type, and section on your personal home page has a “Helpful Information” button.

On the main page, at the top right, you’ll see a new Help button.

Did you see that Submit Feedback link?

If you click on the Help Center, you’ll be greeted with context-sensitive help.

I clicked through from the dashboard, so that’s what I’m seeing. However, other available topics are shown at left.

I clicked on both of the links shown and the content has been updated with the new layout and features. No wonder they launched a new Help Center!

Account Settings

Account settings are still found in the same place, and those pages don’t appear to have changed. However, please keep in mind that some settings make take up to 24 hours to take effect.

Family Finder Rematching

Before we look at what has changed on your Family Finder pages, let’s talk about what happened behind the scenes.

FamilyTreeDNA has been offering the Family Finder test for 11 years, one of two very early companies to enter that marketspace. We’ve learned so much since then, not only about DNA itself, but about genetic genealogy, matching, triangulation, population genetics, how to use these tools, and more.

In order to make improvements, FamilyTreeDNA changing the match criteria which necessitated rematching everyone to everyone else.

If you have a technology background of any type, you’ll immediately realize that this is a massive, expensive undertaking requiring vast computational resources. Not only that, but the rematching has to be done in tandem with new kits coming in, coordinated for all customers, and rolled out at once. Based on new matches and features, the user interface needed to be changed too, at the same time.

Sounds like a huge headache, right?

Why would a company ever decide to undertake that, especially when there is no revenue for doing so? The answer is to make functionality and accuracy better for their customers. Think of this as a new bedrock foundation for the future.

FamilyTreeDNA has made computational changes and implemented several features that require rematching:

  • Improved matching accuracy, in particular for people in highly endogamous populations. People in this category have thousands of matches that occur simply because they share multiple distant ancestors from within the same population. That combination of multiple common ancestors makes their current match relationships appear to be closer in time than they are. In order to change matching algorithms, FamilyTreeDNA had to rewrite their matching software and then run matching all over to enable everyone to receive new, updated match results.
  • FamilyTreeDNA has removed segments below 6 cM following sustained feedback from the genealogical community.
  • X matching has changed as well and no longer includes anyone as an X match below 6 cM.
  • Family Matching, meaning paternal, maternal and both “bucketing” uses triangulation behind the scenes. That code also had to be updated.
  • Older transfer kits used to receive only closer matches because imputation was not in place when the original transfer/upload took place. All older kits have been imputed now and matched with the entire database, which is part of why you may have more matches.
  • Relationship range calculations have changed, based on the removal of microsegments, new matching methodology and rematching results.
  • FamilyTreeDNA moved to hg37, known as Build 37 of the human genome. In layman’s terms, as scientists learn about our DNA, the human map of DNA changes and shifts slightly. The boundary lines change somewhat. Versions are standardized so all researchers can use the same base map or yardstick. In some cases, early genetic genealogy implementers are penalized because they will eventually have to rematch their entire database when they upgrade to a new build version, while vendors who came to the party later won’t have to bear that internal expense.

As you can see, almost every aspect of matching has changed, so everyone was rematched against the entire database. You’ll see new results. Some matches may be gone, especially distant matches or if you’re a member of an endogamous population.

You’ll likely have new matches due to older transfer kits being imputed to full compatibility. Your matches should be more accurate too, which makes everyone happy.

I understand a white paper is being written that will provide more information about the new matching algorithms.

Ok, now let’s check out the new Family Finder Matches page.

Family Finder Matches

FamilyTreeDNA didn’t just rearrange the furniture – there’s a LOT of new content.

First, a note. You’ll see “Family Finder” in some places, and “Autosomal DNA” in other places. That’s one and the same at FamilyTreeDNA. The Family Finder test is their autosomal test, named separately because they also have Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA tests.

When you click on Family Finder matches for the first time, you will assuredly notice one thing and will probably notice a second.

First, you’ll see a little tour that explains how to use the various new tools.

Secondly, you will probably see the “Generating Matches” notice for a few seconds to a few minutes while your match list is generated, especially if the site is busy because lots of people are signing on. I saw this message for maybe a minute or two before my match list filled.

This should be a slight delay, but with so many people signing in right now, my second kit took longer. If you receive a message that says you have no matches, just refresh your page. If you had matches before, you DO have matches now.

While working with the new interface this morning, I’ve found that refreshing the screen is the key to solving issues.

My kits that have a few thousand matches loaded Family Matching (bucketing) immediately, but this (Jewish) kit that has around 30,000 matches received this informational message instead. FamilyTreeDNA has removed the little spinning icon. If you mouse over the information, you’ll see the following message:

This isn’t a time estimate. Everyone receives the same message. The message didn’t even last long enough for me to get a screenshot on the first kit that received this message. The results completed within a minute or so. The Family Matching buckets will load as soon as the parental matching is ready.

These delays should only happen the first time, or if someone has a lot of matches that they haven’t yet viewed. Once you’ve signed in, your matches are cached, a technique that improves performance, so the loading should be speedy, or at least speedier, during the second and subsequent visits.

Of course, right now, all customers have an updated match list, so there’s something new for everyone.

Getting Help

Want to see that tutorial again?

Click on that little Help box in the upper right-hand corner. You can view the Tutorial, look at Quick References that explain what’s on this page, visit the Help Center or Submit Feedback.

Two Family Finder Matches Views – Detail and Table

The first thing you’ll notice is that there are two views – Detail View and Table View. The default is Detail View.

Take a minute to get used to the new page.

Detail View – Filter Matches by Match Type

I was pleased to see new filter buttons, located in several places on the page.

The Matches filter at left allows you to display only specific relationship levels, including X-Matches which can be important in narrowing matches to a specific subset of ancestors.

You can display only matches that fall within certain relationship ranges. Note the new “Remote Relative” that was previously called speculative.

Parental Matching and Filtering by Test Type or Trees

All of your matches are displayed by default, of course, but you can click on Paternal, Maternal or Both, like before to view only matches in those buckets. In order for the Family Matching bucketing feature to be enabled, you must attach known relatives’ DNA matches to their proper place in your tree.

Please note that I needed to refresh the page a couple of times to get my parental matches to load the first time. I refreshed a couple of times to be sure that all of my bucketed matches loaded. This should be a first-time loading blip.

There’s a new filter button to the right of the bucketing tabs.

You can now filter by who has trees and who has taken which kinds of tests.

You can apply multiple filters at the same time to further narrow your matches.

Important – Clearing Filters

It’s easy to forget you have a filter enabled. This section is important, in part because Clear Filter is difficult to find.

The clear filter button does NOT appear until you’ve selected a filter. However, after applying that filter, to clear it and RESET THE MATCHES to unfiltered, you need to click on the “Clear Filter” button which is located at the top of the filter selections, and then click “Apply” at the bottom of the menu. I looked for “clear filter” forever before finding it here.

You’re welcome😊

Enhanced Search

Thank goodness, the search functionality has been enhanced and simplified too. Full name search works, both here and on the Y DNA search page.

If you type in a surname without selecting any search filters, you’ll receive a list of anyone with that word in their name, or in their list of ancestral surnames. This does NOT include surnames in their tree if they have not added those surnames to their list of ancestral surnames.

Notice that your number of total matches and bucketed people will change based on the results of this search and any filters you have applied.

I entered Estes in the search box, with no filters. You can see that I have a total of 46 matches that contain Estes in one way or another, and how they are bucketed.

Estes is my birth surname. I noticed that three people with Estes in their information are bucketed maternally. This is the perfect example of why you can’t assume a genetic relationship based on only a surname. Those three people’s DNA matches me on my mother’s side. And yes, I confirmed that they matched my mother too on that same segment or segments.

Search Filters

You can also filter by haplogroup. This is very specific. If you select mitochondrial haplogroup J, you will only receive Family Finder matches that have haplogroup J, NOT J1 or J1c or J plus anything.

If you’re looking for your own haplogroup, you’ll need to type your full haplogroup in the search box and select mtDNA Haplogroup in the search filter dropdown.

Resetting Search Results

To dismiss search results, click on the little X. It’s easy to forget that you have initiated a search, so I need to remember to dismiss searches after I’m finished with each one.

Export Matches

The “Export CSV” button either downloads your entire match list, or the list of filtered matches currently selected. This is not your segment information, but a list of matches and related information such as which side they are bucketed on, if any, notes you’ve made, and more.

Your segment information is available for download on the chromosome browser.

Sort By

The Sort By button facilitates sorting your matches versus filtering your matches. Filters ONLY display the items requested, while sorts display all of the items requested, sorting them in a particular manner.

You can sort in any number of ways. The default is Relationship Range followed by Shared DNA.

Your Matches – Detail View

A lot has changed, but after you get used to the new interface, it makes more sense and there are a lot more options available which means increased flexibility. Remember, you can click to enlarge any of these images.

To begin with, you can see the haplogroups of your matches if they have taken a Y or mitochondrial DNA test. If you match someone, you’ll see a little check in the haplogroup box. I’m not clear whether this means you’re a haplogroup match or that person is on your match list.

To select people to compare in the chromosome browser, you simply check the little square box to the left of their photo and the chromosome browser box pops up at the bottom of the page. We’ll review the chromosome browser in a minute.

The new Relationship Range prediction is displayed, based on new calculations with segments below 6 cM removed. The linked relationship is displayed below the range.

A linked relationship occurs when you link that person to their proper place in your tree. If you have no linked relationship, you’ll see a link to “assign relationship” which takes you to your tree to link this person if you know how you are related.

The segments below 6 cM are gone from the Shared DNA total and X matches are only shown if they are 6 cM or above.

In Common With and Not In Common With

In Common With and Not In Common With is the little two-person icon at the right.

Just click on the little person icon, then select “In Common With” to view your shared matches between you, that match, and other people. The person you are viewing matches in common with is highlighted at the top of the page, with your common matches below.

You can stack filters now. In this example, I selected my cousin, Don, to see our common matches. I added the search filter of the surname Ferverda, my mother’s maiden name. She is deceased and I manage her kit. You can see that my cousin Don and I have 5 total common matches – four maternal and one both, meaning one person matches me on both my maternal and paternal lines.

It’s great news that now Cousin Don pops up in the chromosome browser box at the bottom, enabling easy confusion-free chromosome segment comparisons directly from the In Common With match page. I love this!!!.

All I have to do now is click on other people and then on Compare Relationship which pushes these matches through to the chromosome browser. This is SOOOO convenient.

You’ll see a new tree icon at right on each match. A dark tree means there’s content and a light tree means this person does not have a tree. Remember, you can filter by trees with content using the filter button beside “Both”.

Your notes are shown at far right. Any person with a note is dark grey and no note is white.

If you’re looking for the email contact information, click on your match’s name to view their placard which also includes more detailed ancestral surname information.

Family Finder – Table View

The table view is very similar to the Detail View. The layout is a bit different with more matches visible in the same space.

This view has lots of tooltips on the column heading bar! Tooltips are great for everyone, but especially for people just beginning to find their way in the genetic genealogy world.

I’ll have to experiment a bit to figure out which view I prefer. I’d like to be able to set my own default for whichever view I want as my default. In fact, I think I’ll submit that in the “Submit Feedback” link. For every suggestion, I’m going to find something really positive to say. This was an immense overhaul.

Chromosome Browser

Let’s look at the chromosome Browser.

You can arrive at the Chromosome Browser by selecting people on your match page, or by selecting the Chromosome Browser under the Results and Tools link.

Everything is pretty much the same on the chromosome browser, except the default view is now 6 cM and the smaller segments are gone. You can also choose to view only segments above 10 cM.

If you have people selected in the chromosome browser and click on Download Segments in the upper right-hand corner, it downloads the segments of only the people currently selected.

You can “Clear All” and then click on Download All Segments which downloads your entire segment file. To download all segments, you need to have no people selected for comparison.

The contents of this file are greatly reduced as it now contains only the segments 6 cM and above.

Family Tree

No, the family tree has not changed, and yes, it needs to, desperately. Trust me, the management team is aware and I suspect one of the improvements, hopefully sooner than later, will be an improved tree experience.

Y DNA

The Y DNA page has received an update too, adding both a Detail View and a Table View with the same basic functionality as the Family Finder matching above. If you are reading this article for Y DNA only, please read the Family Finder section to understand the new layout and features.

Like previously, the match comparison begins at the 111 marker level.

However, there’s a BIG difference. If there are no matches at this level, YOU NEED TO CLICK THE NEXT TAB. You can easily see that this person has matches at the 67 level and below, but the system no longer “counts down” through the various levels until it either finds a level with a match or reaches 12 markers.

If you’re used to the old interface, it’s easy to think you’re at the final destination of 12 markers with no matches when you’re still at 111.

Y DNA Detail View

The Y-DNA Detail and Table views features are the same as Family Finder and are described in that section.

The new format is quite different. One improvement is that the Paternal Country of Origin is now displayed, along with a flag. How cool is that!

The Paternal Earliest Known Ancestor and Match Date are at far right. Note that match dates have been reset to the rerun date. At this point, FamilyTreeDNA is evaluating the possibility of restoring the original match date. Regardless, you’ll be able to filter for match dates when new matches arrive.

Please check to be sure you have your Country of Origin, Earliest Known Ancestor, and mapped location completed and up to date.

Earliest Known Ancestor

If you haven’t completed your Earliest Known Ancestor (EKA) information, now’s the perfect time. It’s easy, so let’s do it before you forget.

Click on the Account Settings gear beneath your name in the right-hand upper corner. Click on Genealogy, then on Earliest Known Ancestors and complete the information in the red boxes.

  • Direct paternal line means your father’s father’s father’s line – as far up through all fathers as you can reach. This is your Y DNA lineage, but females should complete this information on general principles.
  • Direct maternal line means your mother’s mother’s mother’s line – as far up through all mothers that you can reach. This is your mitochondrial DNA lineage, so relevant for both males and females.

Completing all of the information, including the location, will help you and your matches as well when using the Matches Map.

Be sure to click Save when you’re finished.

Y DNA Filters

Y DNA has more filter options than autosomal.

The Y DNA filter, located to the right of the 12 Markers tab allows testers to filter by:

  • Genetic distance, meaning how many mutations difference between you and your matches
  • Groups meaning group projects that the tester has joined
  • Tree status
  • Match date
  • Level of test taken

If none of your matches have taken the 111 marker test or you don’t match anyone at that level, that test won’t show up on your list.

Y DNA Table View

As with Family Finder, the Table View is more condensed and additional features are available on the right side of each match. For details, please review the Family Finder section.

If you’re looking for the old Y DNA TiP report, it’s now at the far right of each match.

The actual calculator hasn’t changed yet. I know people were hoping for the new Y DNA aging in this release, but that’s yet to follow.

Other Pages

Other pages like the Big Y and Mitochondrial DNA did not receive new features or functionality in this release, but do sport new user-friendly tooltips.

I lost track, but I counted over 100 tooltips added across the platform, and this is just the beginning.

There are probably more new features and functionality that I haven’t stumbled across just yet.

And yes, we are going to find a few bugs. That’s inevitable with something this large. Please report anything you find to FamilyTreeDNA.

Oh wait – I almost forgot…

New Videos

I understand that there are in the ballpark of 50 new videos that are being added to the new Help Center, either today or very shortly.

When I find out more, I’ll write an article about what videos are available and where to find them. People learn in various ways. Videos are often requested and will be a popular addition. I considered making videos, but that’s almost impossible for anyone besides the vendor because the names on screens either need to be “fake” or the screen needs to be blurred.

So hurray – very glad to hear these are imminent!

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for new developments. As Lior said, FamilyTreeDNA is investing heavily in genetic genealogy and there’s more to come.

My Mom used to say that the “proof is in the pudding.” I’d say the myDNA/FamilyTreeDNA leadership team has passed this initial test with flying colors.

Of course, there’s more to do, but I’m definitely grateful for this lovely pudding. Thank you – thank you!

I can’t wait to get started and see what new gems await.

Take a Look!

Sign in and take a look for yourself.

Do you have more matches?

Are your matches more accurate?

How about predicted relationships?

How has this new release affected you?

What do you like the best?

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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

Books

Genealogy Research