Native American & Minority Ancestors Identified Using DNAPainter Plus Ethnicity Segments

Ethnicity is always a ticklish subject. On one hand we say to be leery of ethnicity estimates, but on the other hand, we all want to know who our ancestors were and where they came from. Many people hope to prove or disprove specific theories or stories about distant ancestors.

Reasons to be cautious about ethnicity estimates include:

  • Within continents, like Europe, it’s very difficult to discern ethnicity at the “country” level because of thousands of years of migration across regions where borders exist today. Ethnicity estimates within Europe can be significantly different than known and proven genealogy.
  • “Countries,” in Europe, political constructs, are the same size as many states in the US – and differentiation between those populations is almost impossible to accurately discern. Think of trying to figure out the difference between the populations of Indiana and Illinois, for example. Yet we want to be able to tell the difference between ancestors that came from France and Germany, for example.

Ethnicity states over Europe

  • All small amounts of ethnicity, even at the continental level, under 2-5%, can be noise and might be incorrect. That’s particularly true of trace amounts, 1% or less. However, that’s not always the case – which is why companies provide those small percentages. When hunting ancestors in the distant past, that small amount of ethnicity may be the only clue we have as to where they reside at detectable levels in our genome.

Noise in this case is defined as:

  • A statistical anomaly
  • A chance combination of your DNA from both parents that matches a reference population
  • Issues with the reference population itself, specifically admixture
  • Perhaps combinations of the above

You can read about the challenges with ethnicity here and here.

On the Other Hand

Having restated the appropriate caveats, on the other hand, we can utilize legitimate segments of our DNA to identify where our ancestors came from – at the continental level.

I’m actually specifically referring to Native American admixture which is the example I’ll be using, but this process applies equally as well to other minority or continental level admixture as well. Minority, in this sense means minority ethnicity to you.

Native American ethnicity shows distinctly differently from African and European. Sometimes some segments of DNA that we inherit from Native American ancestors are reported as Asian, specifically Siberian, Northern or Eastern Asian.

Remember that the Native American people arrived as a small group via Beringia, a now flooded land bridge that once connected Siberia with Alaska.

beringia map

By Erika Tamm et al – Tamm E, Kivisild T, Reidla M, Metspalu M, Smith DG, et al. (2007) Beringian Standstill and Spread of Native American Founders. PLoS ONE 2(9): e829. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000829. Also available from PubMed Central., CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16975303

After that time, the Native American/First Nations peoples were isolated from Asia, for the most part, and entirely from Europe until European exploration resulted in the beginning of sustained European settlement, and admixture beginning in the late 1400s and 1500s in the Americas.

Family Inheritance

Testing multiple family members is extremely useful when working with your own personal minority heritage. This approach assumes that you’d like to identify your matches that share that genetic heritage because they share the same minority DNA that you do. Of course, that means you two share the same ancestor at some time in the past. Their genealogy, or your combined information, may hold the clue to identifying your ancestor.

In my family, my daughter has Native American segments that she inherited from me that I inherited from my mother.

Finding the same segment identified as Native American in several successive generations eliminates the possibility that the chance combination of DNA from your father and mother is “appearing” as Native, when it isn’t.

We can use segment information to our benefit, especially if we don’t know exactly who contributed that DNA – meaning which ancestor.

We need to find a way to utilize those Native or other minority segments genealogically.

23andMe

Today, the only DNA testing vendor that provides consumers with a segment identification of our ethnicity predictions is 23andMe.

If you have tested at 23andMe, sign in and click on Ancestry on the top tab, then select Ancestry Composition.

Minority ethnicity ancestry composition.png

Scroll down until you see your painted chromosomes.

Minority ethnicity chromosome painting.png

By clicking on the region at left that you want to see, the rest of the regions are greyed out and only that region is displayed on your chromosomes, at right.

Minority ethnicity Native.png

According to 23andMe, I have two Native segments, one each on chromosomes 1 and 2. They show these segments on opposite chromosomes, meaning one (the top for example) would be maternal or paternal, and the bottom one would be the opposite. But 23andMe apparently could not tell for sure because neither my mother nor father have tested there. This placement also turned out to be incorrect. The above image was my initial V3 test at 23andMe. My later V4 results were different.

Versions May Differ

Please note that your ethnicity predictions may be different based on which test you took which is dictated by when you took the test. The image above is my V3 test that was in use at 23andMe between 2010 and November 2013, and the image below is my V4 test in use between November 2013 and August 2017.

23andMe apparently does not correct original errors involving what is known as “strand swap” where the maternal and paternal segments are inverted during analysis. My V4 test results are shown below, where the strands are correctly portrayed.

Minority ethnicity Native V4.png

Note that both Native segments are now on the lower chromosome “side” of the pair and the position on the chromosome 1 segment has shifted visually.

Minority ethnicity sides.png

I have not tested at 23andMe on the current V5 GSA chip, in use since August 9, 2017, but perhaps I should. The results might be different yet, with the concept being that each version offers an improvement over earlier versions as science advances.

If your parents have tested, 23andMe makes adjustments to your ethnicity estimates accordingly.

Although my mother can’t test at 23andMe, I happen to already know that these Native segments descend from my mother based on genealogical and genetic analysis, combined. I’m going to walk you through the process.

I can utilize my genealogy to confirm or refute information shown by 23andMe. For example, if one of those segments comes from known ancestors who were living in Germany, it’s clearly not Native, and it’s noise of some type.

We’re going to utilize DNAPainter to determine which ancestors contributed your minority segments, but first you’ll need to download your ethnicity segments from 23andMe.

Downloading Ethnicity Segment Data

Downloading your ethnicity segments is NOT THE SAME as downloading your raw DNA results to transfer to another vendor. Those are two entirely different files and different procedures.

To download the locations of your ethnicity segments at 23andMe, scroll down below your painted ethnicity segments in your Ancestry Composition section to “View Scientific Details.”

MInority ethnicity scientific details.png

Click on View Scientific Details and scroll down to near the bottom and then click on “Download Raw Data.” I leave mine at the 50% confidence level.

Minority ethnicity download raw data.png

Save this spreadsheet to your computer in a known location.

In the spreadsheet, you’ll see columns that provide the name of the segment, the chromosome copy number (1 or 2) and the chromosome number with start and end locations.

Minority ethnicity download.png

You really don’t care about this information directly, but DNAPainter does and you’ll care a lot about what DNAPainter does for you.

DNAPainter

I wrote introductory articles about DNAPainter:

If you’re not familiar with DNAPainter, you might want to read these articles first and then come back to this point in this article.

Go ahead – I’ll wait!

Getting Started

If you don’t have a DNAPainter account, you’ll need to create one for free. Some features, such as having multiple profiles are subscription based, but the functionality you’ll need for one profile is free.

I’ve named this example profile “Ethnicity Demo.” You’ll see your name where mine says “Ethnicity Demo.”

Minority ethnicity DNAPainter.png

Click on “Import 23andme ancestry composition.”

You will copy and paste all the spreadsheet rows in the entire downloaded 23andMe ethnicity spreadsheet into the DNAPainter text box and make your selection, below. The great news is that if you discover that your assumption about copy 1 being maternal or paternal is incorrect, it’s easy to delete the ethnicity segments entirely and simply repaint later. Ditto if 23andMe changes your estimate over time, like they have mine.

Minority ethnicity DNAPainter sides.png

I happen to know that “copy 2” is maternal, so I’ve made that selection.

You can then see your ethnicity chromosome segments painted, and you can expand each one to see the detail. Click on “Save Segments.”

MInority ethnicity DNAPainter Native painting

Click to enlarge

In this example, you can see my Native segments, called by various names at different confidence levels at 23andMe, on chromosome 1.

Depending on the confidence level, these segments are called some mixture of:

  • East Asian & Native American
  • North Asian & Native American
  • Native American
  • Broadly East Asian & Native American

It’s exactly the same segment, so you don’t really care what it’s called. DNAPainter paints all of the different descriptions provided by 23andMe, at all confidence levels as you can see above.

The DNAPainter colors are different from 23andMe colors and are system-selected. You can’t assign the colors for ethnicity segments.

Now, I’m moving to my own profile that I paint with my ancestral segments. To date, I have 78% of my segments painted by identifying cousins with known common ancestors.

On chromosomes 1 and 2, copy 2, which I’ve determined to be my mother’s “side,” these segments track back to specific ancestors.

Minority ethnicity maternal side

Click to enlarge

Chromosome 1 segments, above, track back to the Lore family, descended from Antoine (Anthony) Lore (Lord) who married Rachel Hill. Antoine Lore was Acadian.

Minority ethnicity chromosome 1.png

Clicking on the green segment bar shows me the ancestors I assigned when I painted the match with my Lore family member whose name is blurred, but whose birth surname was Lore.

The Chromosome 2 segment, below, tracks back to the same family through a match to Fred.

Minority ethnicity chromosome 2.png

My common ancestors with Fred are Honore Lore and Marie Lafaille who are the parents of Antoine Lore.

Minority ethnicity common ancestor.png

There are additional matches on both chromosomes who also match on portions of the Native segments.

Now that I have a pointer in the ancestral direction that these Native American segments arrived from, what can traditional genealogy and other DNA information tell me?

Traditional Genealogy Research

The Acadian people were a mixture of English, French and Native American. The Acadians settled on the island of Nova Scotia in 1609 and lived there until being driven out by the English in 1755, roughly 6 or 7 generations later.

Minority ethnicity Acadian map.png

The Acadians intermarried with the Mi’kmaq people.

It had been reported by two very qualified genealogists that Philippe Mius, born in 1660, married two Native American women from the Mi’kmaq tribe given the name Marie.

The French were fond of giving the first name of Marie to Native women when they were baptized in the Catholic faith which was required before the French men were allowed to marry the Native women. There were many Native women named Marie who married European men.

Minority ethnicity Native mitochondrial tree

Click to enlarge

This Mius lineage is ancestral to Antoine Lore (Lord) as shown on my pedigree, above.

Mitochondrial DNA has revealed that descendants from one of Philippe Mius’s wives, Marie, carry haplogroup A2f1a.

However, mitochondrial tests of other descendants of “Marie,” his first wife, carry haplogroup X2a2, also Native American.

Confusion has historically existed over which Marie is the mother of my ancestor, Francoise.

Karen Theroit Reader, another professional genealogist, shows Francoise Mius as the last child born to the first Native wife before her death sometime after 1684 and before about 1687 when Philippe remarried.

However, relative to the source of Native American segments, whether Francoise descends from the first or second wife doesn’t matter in this instance because both are Native and are proven so by their mitochondrial DNA haplogroups.

Additionally, on Antoine’s mother’s side, we find a Doucet male, although there are two genetic male Doucet lines, one of European origin, haplogroup R-L21, and one, surprisingly, of Native origin, haplogroup C-P39. Both are proven by their respective haplogroups but confusion exists genealogically over who descends from which lineage.

On Antoine’s mother’s side, there are several unidentified lineages, any one or multiples of which could also be Native. As you can see, there are large gaps in my tree.

We do know that these Native segments arrived through Antoine Lore and his parents, Honore Lore and Marie LaFaille. We don’t know exactly who upstream contributed these segments – at least not yet. Painting additional matches attributable to specific ancestral couples will eventually narrow the candidates and allow me to walk these segments back in time to their rightful contributor.

Segments, Traditional Research and DNAPainter

These three tools together, when using continent-level segments in combination with painting the DNA segments of known cousins that match specific lineages create a triangulated ethnicity segment.

When that segment just happens to be genealogically important, this combination can point the researchers in the right direction knowing which lines to search for that minority ancestor.

If your cousins who match you on this segment have also tested with 23andMe, they should also be identified as Native on this same segment. This process does not apply to intracontinental segments, meaning within Europe, because the admixture is too great and the ethnicity predictions are much less reliable.

When identifying minority admixture at the continental level, adding Y and mitochondrial DNA testing to the mix in order to positively identify each individual ancestor’s Y and mitochondrial DNA is very important in both eliminating and confirming what autosomal DNA and genealogy records alone can’t do. The base haplogroup as assigned at 23andMe is a good start, but it’s not enough alone. Plus, we only carry one line of mitochondrial DNA and only males carry Y DNA, and only their direct paternal line.

We need Y and mitochondrial DNA matching at FamilyTreeDNA to verify the specific lineage. Additionally, we very well may need the Y and mitochondrial DNA information that we don’t directly carry – but other cousins do. You can read about Y and mitochondrial DNA testing, here.

I wrote about creating a personal DNA pedigree chart including your ancestors’ Y and mitochondrial DNA here. In order to find people descended from a specific ancestor who have DNA tested, I utilize:

  • WikiTree resources and trees
  • Geni trees
  • FamilySearch trees
  • FamilyTreeDNA autosomal matches with trees
  • AncestryDNA autosomal matches and their associated trees
  • Ancestry trees in general, meaning without knowing if they are related to a DNA match
  • MyHeritage autosomal matches and their trees
  • MyHeritage trees in general

At both MyHeritage and Ancestry, you can view the trees of your matches, but you can also search for ancestors in other people’s trees to see who might descend appropriately to provide a Y or mitochondrial DNA sample. You will probably need a subscription to maximize these efforts. My Heritage offers a free trial subscription here.

If you find people appropriately descended through WikiTree, Geni or FamilySearch, you’ll need to discuss DNA testing with them. They may have already tested someplace.

If you find people who have DNA tested through your DNA matches with trees at Ancestry and MyHeritage, you’ll need to offer a Y or mitochondrial DNA test to them if they haven’t already tested at FamilyTreeDNA.

FamilyTreeDNA is the only vendor who provides the Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA tests at the higher resolution level, beyond base haplogroups, required for matching and for a complete haplogroup designation.

If the person has taken the Family Finder autosomal test at FamilyTreeDNA, they may have already tested their Y DNA and mtDNA, or you can offer to upgrade their test.

Projects

Checking projects at FamilyTreeDNA can be particularly useful when trying to discover if anyone from a specific lineage has already tested. There are many, special interest projects such as the Acadian AmerIndian Ancestry project, the American Indian project, haplogroup projects, surname projects and more.

You can view projects alphabetically here or you can click here to scroll down to enter the surname or topic you are seeking.

Minority ethnicity project search.png

If the topic isn’t listed, check the alphabetic index under Geographical Projects.

23andMe Maternal and Paternal Sides

If possible, you’ll want to determine which “side” of your family your minority segments originate come from, unless they come from both. you’ll want to determine whether chromosome side one 1 or 2 is maternal, because the other one will be paternal.

23andMe doesn’t offer tree functionality in the same way as other vendors, so you won’t be able to identify people there descended from your ancestors without contacting each person or doing other sleuthing.

Recently, 23andMe added a link to FamilySearch that creates a list of your ancestors from their mega-shared tree for 7 generations, but there is no tree matching or search functionality. You can read about the FamilySearch connection functionality here.

So, how do you figure out which “side” is which?

Minority ethnicity minority segment.png

The chart above represents the portion of your chromosomes that contains your minority ancestry. Initially, you don’t know if the minority segment is your mother’s pink chromosome or your father’s blue chromosome. You have one chromosome from each parent with the exact same addresses or locations, so it’s impossible to tell which side is which without additional information. Either the pink or the blue segment is minority, but how can you tell?

In my case, the family oral history regarding Native American ancestry was from my father’s line, but the actual Native segments wound up being from my mother, not my father. Had I made an assumption, it would have been incorrect.

Fortunately, in our example, you have both a maternal and paternal aunt who have tested at 23andMe. You match both aunts on that exact same segment location – one from your father’s side, blue, and one from your mother’s side, pink.

You compare your match with your maternal aunt and verify that indeed, you do match her on that segment.

You’ll want to determine if 23andMe has flagged that segment as Native American for your maternal aunt too.

You can view your aunt’s Ancestry Composition by selecting your aunt from the “Your Connections” dropdown list above your own ethnicity chromosome painting.

Minority ethnicity relative connections.png

You can see on your aunt’s chromosomes that indeed, those locations on her chromosomes are Native as well.

Minority ethnicity relative minority segments.png

Now you’ve identified your minority segment as originating on your maternal side.

Minority ethnicity Native side.png

Let’s say you have another match, Match 1, on that same segment. You can easily tell which “side” Match 1 is from. Since you know that you match your maternal aunt on that minority segment, if Match 1 matches both you and your maternal aunt, then you know that’s the side the match is from – AND that person also shares that minority segment.

You can also view that person’s Ancestry Composition as well, but shared matching is more reliable,especially when dealing with small amounts of minority admixture.

Another person, Match 2, matches you on that same segment, but this time, the person matches you and your paternal aunt, so they don’t share your minority segment.

Minority ethnicity match side.png

Even if your paternal aunt had not tested, because Match 2 does not match you AND your maternal aunt, you know Match 2 doesn’t share your minority segment which you can confirm by checking their Ancestry Composition.

Download All of Your Matches

Rather than go through your matches one by one, it’s easiest to download your entire match list so you can see which people match you on those chromosome locations.

Minority ethnicity download aggregate data.png

You can click on “Download Aggregate Data” at 23andMe, at the bottom of your DNA Relatives match list to obtain all of your matches who are sharing with you. 23andMe limits your matches to 2000 or less, the actual number being your highest 2000 matches minus the people who aren’t sharing. I have 1465 matches showing and that number decreases regularly as new testers at 23andMe are focused on health and not genealogy, meaning lower matches get pushed off the list of 2000 match candidates.

You can quickly sort the spreadsheet to see who matches you on specific segments. Then, you can check each match in the system to see if that person matches you and another known relative on the minority segments or you can check their Ancestry Composition, or both.

If they share your minority segment, then you can check their tree link if they have one, included in the download, their Family Search information if included on their account, or reach out to them to see if you might share a known ancestor.

The key to making your ethnicity segment work for you is to identify ancestors and paint known matches.

Paint Those Matches

When searching for matches whose DNA you can attribute to specific ancestors, be sure to check at all 4 places that provide segment information that you can paint:

At GedMatch, you’ll find some people who have tested at the other various vendors, including Ancestry, but unfortunately not everyone uploads. Ancestry doesn’t provide segment information, so you won’t be able to paint those matches directly from Ancestry.

If your Ancestry matches transfer to GedMatch, FamilyTreeDNA or MyHeritage you can view your match and paint your common segments. At GedMatch, Ancestry kit numbers begin with an A. I use my Ancestry kit matches at GedMatch to attempt to figure out who that match is at Ancestry in order to attempt to figure out the common ancestor.

To Paint, You Must Test

Of course, in order to paint your matches that you find in various databases, you need to be in those data bases, meaning you either need to test there or transfer your DNA file.

Transfers

If you’d like to test your DNA at one vendor and download the file to transfer to another vendor, or GedMatch, that’s possible with both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage who both accept uploads.

You can transfer kits from Ancestry and 23andMe to both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage for free, although the chromosome browsers, advanced tools and ethnicity require an unlock fee (or alternatively a subscription at MyHeritage). Still, the free transfer and unlock for $19 at FamilyTreeDNA or $29 at MyHeritage is less than the cost of testing.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet.

DNA vendor transfer cheat sheet 2019

From time to time, as vendor file formats change, the ability to transfer is temporarily interrupted, but it costs nothing to try a transfer to either MyHeritage or FamilyTreeDNA, or better yet, both.

In each of these articles, I wrote about how to download your data from a specific vendor and how to upload from other vendors if they accept uploads.

Summary Steps

In order to use your minority ethnicity segments in your genealogy, you need to:

  1. Test at 23andMe
  2. Identify which parental side your minority ethnicity segments are from, if possible
  3. Download your ethnicity segments
  4. Establish a DNAPainter account
  5. Upload your ethnicity segments to DNAPainter
  6. Paint matches of people with whom you share known common ancestors utilizing segment information from 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and AncestryDNA matches who have uploaded to GedMatch
  7. If you have not tested at either MyHeritage or FamilyTreeDNA, upload your 23andMe file to either vendor for matching, along with GedMatch
  8. Focus on those minority segments to determine which ancestral line they descend through in order to identify the ancestor(s) who provided your minority admixture.

Have fun!

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

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23andMe Connects Up with FamilySearch

23andMe has always been primarily a DNA health company. You can purchase either a DNA for ancestry only kit or a DNA kit that includes both ancestry and health information. Their focus has always been on health, with genealogists providing both revenue and the possibility of genealogists opting-in to 23andMe’s health information data gathering initiative.

23andMe was the first company to offer commercial autosomal tests that included cousin matching, so genealogists flocked to test there in the early days.

Unfortunately, 23andMe didn’t mature to include or support trees which are the hallmark of genealogy.

Beginning in 2016 with Family Tree DNA’s Phased Family Matching and followed in 2019 by Ancestry’s ThruLines and MyHeritage’s Theories of Family Relativity, all major vendors except 23andMe have both tree functionality in terms of support as well as additional tree-based advanced features to assist genealogists.

Recently, 23andMe announced a liaison with FamilySearch, although it’s not a tree but a list of ancestors reaching back 7 generations.

The Family Search Connection

The e-mail I received from 23andMe said the following:

Dear 23andMe Beta Tester,

You’re invited to test our new beta feature! If you have a FamilySearch® Family Tree, you can now upload information about your ancestors to 23andMe and display it to your DNA Relatives and connections.

With this beta feature, it’s now easier for your DNA Relatives to view your family tree information and find shared ancestors. You can also use a new filter to find DNA Relatives who have uploaded their own family tree information.

Learn more about FamilySearch and start exploring.

Sincerely,

The 23andMe Team

23andMe does not share any of your personal information, including your genetic results, with FamilySearch.

FamilySearch International is a wholly owned nonprofit subsidiary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. FamilySearch is a registered 2019 trademark of Intellectual Reserve, Inc, and is used under license.

Yes, I am a beta tester, and you can be too.

About FamilySearch

I have used FamilySearch for years, but mostly for records.

Relative to trees, I find it quite confusing in terms of who can and cannot modify ancestor information and what happens to trees that non-church members upload as GEDCOM files.

FamilySearch is really one big shared world tree – meaning that everyone’s information is combined into one large “family.”

I’m not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I’m by no means an expert on how to use their software. Therefore, I don’t understand the inner workings of how (if) accuracy is determined,” who moderates disputes and their qualifications, and how changes are made. Furthermore, multiple questions about this topic have produced inconsistent answers.

It was my original understanding that one could never modify the main shared tree, but through this exercise, I’ve discovered that FamilySearch has made some significant changes and that is (apparently) no longer true.

This is great news, at least I think it is, unless several people wind up in a tug-of-war over a particular ancestor.

For this discussion, we are interested in the FamilySearch shared “big tree” and not in what happens with individual trees.

Ok, now that we’ve defined how FamilySearch works, at least in concept, let’s take a look at how to utilize the FamilySearch tree through 23andMe.

Enable Beta Testing

Sign into your account at 23andMe.

23andMe FamilySearch settings.png

Beside your name at the upper right hand side of your page, you’ll see a down arrow. Click on that arrow or on your name and a list of options, above, will appear.

Click on “Settings.”

Scroll down to preferences where you’ll see Beta Program.

23andMe beta.png

To join the Beta program, which is required for the FamilySearch functionality at this time, click on the magenta “Become a tester” button.

Next, you’ll need to connect your 23andMe profile to your tree, either at FamilySearch or another public tree.

Scroll back up to the “Personal Information” section, and look for the Enhanced Profile section, below.

23andMe enhanced profile.png

Click on “Edit enhanced profile.”

23andMe share a link.png

Then select “Share a link to your online family tree” and click there. You’ll see the information, below.

23andMe FamilySearch online tree.png

At this point you have two options. You can click to add the FamilySearch information which they refer to as a tree, or you can enter a link to another supported tree in the area below. As you can see, that’s what I chose to do. You can also do both.

Supported trees are:

23andme supported trees.png

I believe they’ve forgotten to mention Family Tree DNA who also provides a link to share a tree that you might have created or uploaded there.

However, for this exercise, we’re going to click on the “Add FamilySearch” link.

If you already have a FamilySearch account and have constructed a tree at FamilySearch, you’ll click on the blue box to be directed to sign in.

23andMe FamilySearch signin.png

Creating an Account and Building a Tree

If you haven’t built or uploaded a GEDCOM file to FamilySearch, you’ll be directed to build a tree which consists of adding enough people, beginning with you, until FamilySearch can discover someone already in their shared big tree. Your grandparents might be there, for example.

Once FamilySearch recognizes someone that you enter as being already in their tree, and you confirm that it’s the same person, FamilySearch simply adds your line to the existing big shared tree – whether those ancestors further back are right or wrong. That’s the ying and yang of shared trees.

I’m not a huge fan of shared trees, but FamilySearch has implemented a very nice hints system and allows you to make modifications, so even if you’re not thrilled either, don’t write this option off without an evaluation. They are working to make their tools more accommodating and less cast in stone.

Here’s what you see at FamilySearch.

23andMe FamilySearch getting started.png

Beneath this page, you’ll be stepped through creating an account.

If You Have an Account

In my case, I have an account and a tree, so I click on the large blue box that says “Add your FamilySearch tree” which takes me to the FamilySearch sign-in page.

After signing in, you’ll see something similar to the following:

23andMe FamilySearch ancestor list.png

Note that if you’ve made corrections or changes at FamilySearch, you can upload a new version of this information by clicking on the blue “upload your new tree” link above the ancestors.

Based on my tree, I’m showing 4 grandparents, 8, great-grandparents, and so forth based on the shared FamilySearch tree, which is not necessarily the same as the GEDCOM file I uploaded. Don’t assume that it is.

Clicking the down arrow displays the various people in that category.

I strongly suggest checking these lineages well before you leave the FamilySearch tree connected to your 23andMe account.

These ancestors are connected in your 23andMe account at this point. Remember, your tree is not your own – but a combination of your twig connected to and interwoven with the larger shared tree which has been built using other users’ trees and input.

Click on the down arrows to display the ancestors gathered from the FamilySearch tree on your behalf.

23andme FamilySearch ancestors.png

In my case, the first, second and third generations are pretty much fine, needing only minor tweeking, like birth locations added. The people themselves are accurate.

In the fourth generation, we have some issues that can be easily fixed, like a misspelled name and missing birth and death information.

23andMe FamilySearch checking for issues.png

By clicking on the specific ancestor, you can view that ancestor’s information, but to actually modify that information, you’ll need to sign into your account through the regular FamilySearch page, not the 23andMe interface. We’ll cover how to make FamilySearch modifications after we finish the instructions for how to connect the FamilySearch tree to your 23andMe account.

By scrolling down to the bottom, beneath your ancestors, you’ll notice two options.

23andMe FamilySearch options.png

You can either remove this list of ancestors from your tree, or go to DNA Relatives at 23andMe. If you don’t remove the list of ancestors, exactly what you saw, above, is what your matches will see too.

After you fix issues with the FamilySearch tree, you will need to reupload by reinitiating this process in your Enhanced Profile, because the link to 23andMe is not live. Changes are not automatically reflected.

If you leave the FamilySearch list at 23andMe, be aware that you can also link to another tree as well. You don’t have to pick one or the other.

My 23andMe Choice

After taking a look at the FamilySearch shared tree, I quickly decided that until I am able to devote some significant time working on the tree at FamilySearch, I’m entering the link to my Ancestry, MyHeritage or Family Tree DNA tree – all 3 of which I control entirely meaning that they are not mixed with or predicated upon anyone else’s trees.

In the FamilySearch tree, I can find and replace incorrect ancestors through the 3th great-grandparents level pretty easily, assuming they stay that way and no one “recorrects” them. There are fewer descendants, so fewer cooks in the kitchen, so to speak. The information is newer in time, and therefore more likely to be accurate.

What I can’t do very well though, is to resolve several issues at the 4th and 5th great-grandparent level in the FamilySearch tree. By resolve, I mean that I’m not going to make changes unless I’m sure of the information I’m entering.

My issues that I really don’t know how to resolve are:

  • One speculative couple with no documentation. It could be right, or wrong but I can’t readily tell without more research. I have never seen anything to suggest that the information is accurate and was surprised to see these people connected as parents – but I also can’t prove it wrong because I haven’t worked on the problem.
  • A very convoluted mess wherein one ancestral couple, Gideon Farris (Faires) and Sarah McSpadden, is shown with daughter Anne Farris marrying Charles Beckworth Speak. That’s incorrect because although we don’t know Charles’ wife’s name, he was married in Maryland and the Faires family was in Virginia at that time. However, their daughter Sarah Faires did marry Charles Speak’s son, Nicholas Speak. This tree “fix” would not be quick or easy, I’m afraid, as there’s a lot of unraveling to be done.
  • An incorrect set of parents. This I could resolve by removing the parents, but I’m hesitant to do so without additional research. At this point, it doesn’t matter, because unless I can fix the issues above, I don’t want this list showing to matches as my ancestors. That’s exactly how misinformation spreads.
  • Several speculative wives for multiple ancestors which have been circulating without documentation online for years, including some that have been disproven. Sigh.
  • My Dutch lines are a mess. I’m not sure if it’s incorrect information, or someone entirely unfamiliar with the Dutch language and records. In any case, one error leads to wrong parents in the next generation in several places – and yes – I’m sure because I’m working with Yvette Hoitink, a top-notch Dutch genealogist in the Netherlands and I have the original records.

Fixing Issues at FamilySearch

However, I would like to take advantage of the FamilySearch option as soon as I get my ancestors straightened out there, so let’s step through the process of fixing issues. You may become inspired to work on your ancestors at FamilySearch too. You’ll be helping others as well.

You might be asking why you might want to fix FamilySearch if you’re going to link to your own tree.

My personal goal is to, hopefully, leave this earth with my ancestors correctly recorded and connected – be it in my own tree or large public trees.

At FamilySearch, sign in and click on Family Tree.

FamilySearch tree.png

You’ll see your ancestors, with you as the home person after you’ve set up your account and connected yourself.

I have no idea where the photo of me came from, but I assure you that I’m replacing it! You may find photos of family members at FamilySearch that you didn’t know about.

By clicking on any person’s name, you open their profile and you can then see information items available for you to edit.

FamilySearch edit.png

For example, here’s my father, with Detail View enabled which shows sources of changes. Hmm, I wonder who Robert Lewis is. Who would be entering my father’s information?

I can click to send Robert a message, or I can click on the Edit box to make changes, or both.

I can scroll on down to view my father’s family information including spouses, children, parents and siblings. I have some work to do here, but at least I can now that FamilySearch has enabled editing.

You can do the same for each ancestor, including replacing one or both parents, or simply removing your ancestor as the child of the couple.

Be sure to read carefully while you’re getting to know the software. It’s easy to make editing mistakes and remove a mother from all the children, for example, instead of just from your ancestor.

Of course, you can always add her back, but slow and careful is always best.

Filter Results by FamilySearch Information

Back at 23andMe, you can filter your DNA Relatives matches by people who have uploaded FamilySearch results.

23andMe DNA Relatives.png

Look at the bottom of the list of filters on the left side of your matches.

23andMe FamilySearch filter.png

Checking the box shows only people with the FamilySearch connection, but you can see that none of my matches have done this, so my number is a big fat zero.

What you cannot see here is if your matches have linked to other trees or have entered their family surnames which can be quite useful too. I wish we could filter on those features.

Two More Quick Tips!

Whether or not you utilize the FamilySearch connection to 23andMe, please, PLEASE connect some tree to your 23andMe account.

Adding surnames and linking a tree benefits everyone, because 23andMe displays this information when you click on your matches.

Please add your family surnames under the Family Background section of your settings, shown below. No, this does NOT integrate with FamilySearch or any other tree – so you need to do it manually.

23andMe Family surnames.png

23andMe displays both you and your matches locations and surnames side-by-side along with tree links when you click on any match, shown below.

23andMe Family background.png

I didn’t recognize my cousin, Patricia’s surnames, nor her name because she only used an initial for a surname, but when I clicked on her Ancestry tree, I immediately recognized our common ancestors, my great-grandparents.

Identifying our common ancestors with matches makes tools like shared matches much more useful.

Shared matches with Patricia show other people who we both match, AND, at 23andMe, if we share a DNA segment in common, indicated by the “yes” below. Assuming those matches are not identical by chance, knowing that someone matches both me and Patricia suggests that we share a common ancestor. In fact, I share 98 relatives in common with Patricia.

23andMe Relatives in common shared DNA.png

The “Yes” under shared DNA means that Patricia and that person and I share some common segment of DNA, inherited from our common ancestor.

Furthermore, by utilizing the chromosome browser, we can confirm that we share the same triangulated segments of DNA with other descendants of that same couple, which further strengthens the connections, adding to the genealogical DNA evidence needed to confirm ancestors.

23andMe X matches.png

Wow, look, 4 of these people share a substantial piece of the X chromosome with me and Patricia (burgundy, on top). The X chromosome, has a unique inheritance path. This X match immediately narrows the potential ancestors.

23andMe X pedigree.png

I know that Curtis Lore didn’t receive an X chromosome from his father, because he received a Y chromosome which made him a male, so these people have to be related through Rachel Levina Hill or her ancestors. Rachel’s X chromosome descended from the pink or blue ancestors. Viewing matches’ trees (if they have them) might well indicate which of these ancestors provided Rachel’s, which is that segment of my X chromosome.

What a lucky break and how exciting to know I carry something tangible from these people!

You can’t do this without trees or family information and you can’t do it without a chromosome browser. In this case, 1+1=goldmine. So connect up one way or another and have fun!

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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 Services

Genealogy Research

Ancestor Birthdays Mean Presents for YOU!

I’ve been wanting to celebrate my ancestors’ birthdays for some time now, and I’ve finally figured out exactly how to accomplish this goal in a really fun way.

Being reminded once a year about their birthday and the anniversary of their death reminds me to work on their genealogy, and in particular, genetic genealogy. With more people testing every single day, meaning different people at every vendor, we need to check often with specific ancestors in mind. You never know who’s going to be the person who puts the chink in that brick wall.

With this in mind, I’ve put together a spreadsheet to track what I know about each ancestor. This makes it easy to schedule those dates in my calendar, with a reminder of course, and then to check my spreadsheet to see what information might have been previously missing that might be able to be found today.

It’s like a birthday present for them, but now for me. I am, after all, their heir, along with the rest of their descendants of course! If I’m lucky, I inherited part of their DNA, and if not, their DNA is still relevant to me.

Checking the List

Here’s my spreadsheet checklist for each ancestor:

  • Birth date
  • Birth place
  • Death date
  • Death place
  • Spouse
  • Y DNA haplogroup (if male)
  • Mitochondrial DNA haplogroup
  • Autosomal confirmed
  • Ancestry Circle

New information becomes digitized every year making new information available.

Additionally, some items may change. For example, if a base haplogroup was previous known, a deeper haplogroup might be available a year later if someone has taken a more detailed test or the haplogroup name might have been updated. Yes, that happens too.

I originally had a triangulation column on the spreadsheet too, but I pretty quickly discovered that column was subject to lots of questions about interpretation. Is the actual ancestor triangulated, or the line? I decided that “autosomal confirmed” would suffice to cover whatever I decide constitutes confirmation and a comment column could hold the description. For example, my grandparents are autosomal confirmed because I match (and triangulate) with cousins who are descended from ancestors upstream of my grandparents. If my grandparent wasn’t my grandparent, I wouldn’t be related to those people either. In particular, first cousins.

I also added an “Article Link” column to paste the link to that ancestor’s 52 Ancestors article so I can quickly check or maybe even provide this spreadsheet to a family member.

Here’s an example of what the first several entries of my Ancestor Birthday Spreadsheet look like.

Ancestor Birthday Presents for You

In order to remind myself to check on my ancestors’ status, on their birth and death days, I schedule reminders in my phone calendar. Every morning when I wake, I’m greeted by my ancestor – well – at least this much of them.

  • First, I check at Family Tree DNA for new matches, haplogroups and the presence of my family lines in surname projects.
  • Then it’s off to Ancestry to see if I have any new green leaf DNA or record hints, to add or update the circle for this particular ancestor, and to see if any of my matches would be a candidate for either Y or mitochondrial DNA testing, assuming they reply to messages and agree to test at Family Tree DNA. I keep a separate spreadsheet of each person that I’ve identified as a match with an identified ancestor. I know it’s extra work, but that spreadsheet is invaluable for determining if the ancestor is autosomal proven and if the match is a candidate for Y or mtDNA testing.
  • Then I get another cup of coffee and check at MyHeritage for new record matches for that ancestor, along with new DNA SmartMatches.
  • GedMatch and 23andMe aren’t as easy to check for matches specific to ancestors, but I still check both places to see if I can find matches that I can identify as descending from that ancestor.
  • While I’m at it, sometimes I run over to FamilySearch to see if there’s anything new over there, although they don’t deal with DNA. They do, however, have many traditional genealogical records. I may add another column to track if I’m waiting for something specific to be digitized – like court minutes, for example. FamilySearch has been on a digitization binge!
  • As I go along, I add any new discovery to my genealogy software and my Ancestor Birthday Spreadsheet as well.
  • Last, I paint new segment information from Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage, GedMatch or 23andMe at DNAPainter. My three articles about how I use DNAPainter are here, here and here.

I just love ancestor birthdays.

Any day that I get to find something new is a wonderful day indeed – fleshing out the lives, history and DNA of my ancestors. With this many places to look, there’s seldom a day that goes by that I don’t discover at least something in my ancestor scavenger hunt!

Ancestor birthday presents for me😊

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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 Services

Genealogy Research