Hit a Genetic Genealogy Home Run Using Your Double-Sided Two-Faced Chromosomes While Avoiding Imposters

Do you want to hit a home run with your DNA test, but find yourself a mite bewildered?

Yep, those matches can be somewhat confusing – especially if you don’t understand what’s going on. Do you have a nagging feeling that you might be missing something?

I’m going to explain chromosome matching, and its big sister, triangulation, step by step to remove any confusion, to help you sort through your matches and avoid imposters.

This article is one of the most challenging I’ve ever written – in part because it’s a concept that I’m so familiar with but can be, and is, misinterpreted so easily. I see mistakes and confusion daily, which means that resulting conclusions stand a good chance of being wrong.

I’ve tried to simplify these concepts by giving you easy-to-use memory tools.

There are three key phrases to remember, as memory-joggers when you work through your matches using a chromosome browser: double-sided, two faces and imposter. While these are “cute,” they are also quite useful.

When you’re having a confusing moment, think back to these memory-jogging key words and walk yourself through your matches using these steps.

These three concepts are the foundation of understanding your matches, accurately, as they pertain to your genealogy. Please feel free to share, link or forward this article to your friends and especially your family members (including distant cousins) who work with genetic genealogy. 

Now, it’s time to enjoy your double-sided, two-faced chromosomes and avoid those imposters:)

Are you ready? Grab a nice cup of coffee or tea and learn how to hit home runs!

Double-Sided – Yes, Really

Your chromosomes really are double sided, and two-faced too – and that’s a good thing!

However, it’s initially confusing because when we view our matches in a chromosome browser, it looks like we only have one “bar” or chromosome and our matches from both our maternal and paternal sides are both shown on our one single bar.

How can this be? We all have two copies of chromosome 1, one from each parent.

Chromosome 1 match.png

This is my chromosome 1, with my match showing in blue when compared to my chromosome, in gray, as the background.

However, I don’t know if this blue person matches me on my mother’s or father’s chromosome 1, both of which I inherited. It could be either. Or neither – meaning the dreaded imposter – especially that small blue piece at left.

What you’re seeing above is in essence both “sides” of my chromosome number 1, blended together, in one bar. That’s what I mean by double-sided.

There’s no way to tell which side or match is maternal and which is paternal without additional information – and misunderstanding leads to misinterpreting results.

Let’s straighten this out and talk about what matches do and don’t mean – and why they can be perplexing. Oh, and how to discover those imposters!

Your Three Matches

Let’s say you have three matches.

At Family Tree DNA, the example chromosome browser I’m using, or at any vendor with a chromosome browser, you select your matches which are viewed against your chromosomes. Your chromosomes are always the background, meaning in this case, the grey background.

Chromosome 1-4.png

  • This is NOT three copies each of your chromosomes 1, 2, 3 and 4.
  • This is NOT displaying your maternal and paternal copies of each chromosome pictured.
  • We CANNOT tell anything from this image alone relative to maternal and paternal side matches.
  • This IS showing three individual people matching you on your chromosome 1 and the same three people matching you in the same order on every chromosome in the picture.

Let’s look at what this means and why we want to utilize a chromosome browser.

I selected three matches that I know are not all related through the same parent so I can demonstrate how confusing matches can be sorted out. Throughout this article, I’ve tried to explain each concept in at least two ways.

Please note that I’m using only chromsomes 1-4 as examples, not because they are any more, or less, important than the other chromosomes, but because showing all 22 would not add any benefit to the discussion. The X chromosome has a separate inheritance path and I wrote about that here.

Let’s start with a basic question.

Why Would I Want to Use a Chromosome Browser?

Genealogists view matches on chromosome browsers because:

  • We want to see where our matches match us on our chromosomes
  • We’d like to identify our common ancestor with our match
  • We want to assign a matching segment to a specific ancestor or ancestral line, which confirmed those ancestors as ours
  • When multiple people match us on the same location on the chromosome browser, that’s a hint telling us that we need to scrutinize those matches more closely to determine if those people match us on our maternal or paternal side which is the first step in assigning that segment to an ancestor

Once we accurately assign a segment to an ancestor, when anyone else matches us (and those other people) on that same segment, we know which ancestral line they match through – which is a great head start in terms of identifying our common ancestor with our new match.

That’s a genetic genealogy home run!

Home Runs 

There are four bases in a genetic genealogy home run.

  1. Determine whether you actually match someone on the same segment
  2. Which is the first step in determining that you match a group of people on the same segment
  3. And that you descend from a common ancestor
  4. The fourth step, or the home run, is to determine which ancestor you have in common, assigning that segment to that ancestor

If you can’t see segment information, you can’t use a chromosome browser and you can’t confirm the match on that segment, nor can you assign that segment to a particular ancestor, or ancestral couple.

The entire purpose of genealogy is to identify and confirm ancestors. Genetic genealogy confirms the paper trail and breaks down even more brick walls.

But before you can do that, you have to understand what matches mean and how to use them.

The first step is to understand that our chromosomes are double-sided and you can’ t see both of your chromosomes at once!

Double Sided – You Can’t See Both of Your Chromosomes at Once

The confusing part of the chromosome browser is that it can only “see” your two chromosomes blended as one. They are both there, but you just can’t see them separately.

Here’s the important concept:

You have 2 copies of chromosomes 1 through 22 – one copy that you received from your mother and one from your father, but you can’t “see” them separately.

When your DNA is sequenced, your DNA from your parents’ chromosomes emerges as if it has been through a blender. Your mother’s chromosome 1 and your father’s chromosome 1 are blended together. That means that without additional information, the vendor can’t tell which matches are from your father’s side and which are from your mother’s side – and neither can you.

All the vendor can tell is that someone matches you on the blended version of your parents. This isn’t a negative reflection on the vendors, it’s just how the science works.

Chromosome 1.png

Applying this to chromosome 1, above, means that each segment from each person, the blue person, the red person and the teal person might match you on either one of your chromosomes – the paternal chromosome or the maternal chromosome – but because the DNA of your mother and father are blended – there’s no way without additional information to sort your chromosome 1 into a maternal and paternal “side.”

Hence, you’re viewing “one” copy of your combined chromosomes above, but it’s actually “two-sided” with both maternal and paternal matches displayed in the chromosome browser.

Parent-Child Matches

Let’s explain this another way.

Chromosome parent.png

The example above shows one of my parents matching me. Don’t be deceived by the color blue which is selected randomly. It could be either parent. We don’t know.

You can see that I match my parent on the entire length of chromosome 1, but there is no way for me to tell if I’m looking at my mother’s match or my father’s match, because both of my parents (and my children) will match me on exactly the same locations (all of them) on my chromosome 1.

Chromosome parent child.png

In fact, here is a combination of my children and my parents matching me on my chromosome 1.

To sort out who is matching on paternal and maternal chromosomes, or the double sides, I need more information. Let’s look at how inheritance works.

Stay with me!

Inheritance Example

Let’s take a look at how inheritance works visually, using an example segment on chromosome 1.

Chromosome inheritance.png

In the example above:

  • The first column shows addresses 1-10 on chromosome 1. In this illustration, we are only looking at positions, chromosome locations or addresses 1-10, but real chromosomes have tens of thousands of addresses. Think of your chromosome as a street with the same house numbers on both sides. One side is Mom’s and one side is Dad’s, but you can’t tell which is which by looking at the house numbers because the house numbers are identical on both sides of the street.
  • The DNA pieces, or nucleotides (T, A, C or G,) that you received from your Mom are shown in the column labeled Mom #1, meaning we’re looking at your mother’s pink chromosome #1 at addresses 1-10. In our example she has all As that live on her side of the street at addresses 1-10.
  • The DNA pieces that you received from your Dad are shown in the blue column and are all Cs living on his side of the street in locations 1-10.

In other words, the values that live in the Mom and Dad locations on your chromosome streets are different. Two different faces.

However, all that the laboratory equipment can see is that there are two values at address 1, A and C, in no particular order. The lab can’t tell which nucleotide came from which parent or which side of the street they live on.

The DNA sequencer knows that it found two values at each address, meaning that there are two DNA strands, but the output is jumbled, as shown in the First and Second read columns. The machine knows that you have an A and C at the first address, and a C and A at the second address, but it can’t put the sequence of all As together and the sequence of all Cs together. What the sequencer sees is entirely unordered.

This happens because your maternal and paternal DNA is mixed together during the extraction process.

Chromosome actual

Click to enlarge image.

Looking at the portion of chromosome 1 where the blue and teal people both match you – your actual blended values are shown overlayed on that segment, above. We don’t know why the blue and the teal people are matching you. They could be matching because they have all As (maternal), all Cs (paternal) or some combination of As and Cs (a false positive match that is identical by chance.)

There are only two ways to reassemble your nucleotides (T, A, C, and G) in order and then to identify the sides as maternal and paternal – phasing and matching.

As you read this next section, it does NOT mean that you must have a parent for a chromosome browser to be useful – but it does mean you need to understand these concepts.

There are two types of phasing.

Parental Phasing

  • Parental Phasing is when your DNA is compared against that of one or both parents and sorted based on that comparison.

Chromosome inheritance actual.png

Parental phasing requires that at least one parent’s DNA is available, has been sequenced and is available for matching.

In our example, Dad’s first 10 locations (that you inherited) on chromosome 1 are shown, at left, with your two values shown as the first and second reads. One of your read values came from your father and the other one came from your mother. In this case, the Cs came from your father. (I’m using A and C as examples, but the values could just as easily be T or G or any combination.)

When parental phasing occurs, the DNA of one of your parents is compared to yours. In this case, your Dad gave you a C in locations 1-10.

Now, the vendor can look at your DNA and assign your DNA to one parent or the other. There can be some complicating factors, like if both your parents have the same nucleotides, but let’s keep our example simple.

In our example above, you can see that I’ve colored portions of the first and second strands blue to represent that the C value at that address can be assigned through parental phasing to your father.

Conversely, because your mother’s DNA is NOT available in our example, we can’t compare your DNA to hers, but all is not lost. Because we know which nucleotides came from your father, the remaining nucleotides had to come from your mother. Hence, the As remain after the Cs are assigned to your father and belong to your mother. These remaining nucleotides can logically be recombined into your mother’s DNA – because we’ve subtracted Dad’s DNA.

I’ve reassembled Mom, in pink, at right.

Statistical/Academic Phasing

  • A second type of phasing uses something referred to as statistical or academic phasing.

Statistical phasing is less successful because it uses statistical calculations based on reference populations. In other words, it uses a “most likely” scenario.

By studying reference populations, we know scientifically that, generally, for our example addresses 1-10, we either see all As or all Cs grouped together.

Based on this knowledge, the Cs can then logically be grouped together on one “side” and As grouped together on the other “side,” but we still have no way to know which side is maternal or paternal for you. We only know that normally, in a specific population, we see all As or all Cs. After assigning strings or groups of nucleotides together, the algorithm then attempts to see which groups are found together, thereby assigning genetic “sides.” Assigning the wrong groups to the wrong side sometimes happens using statistical phasing and is called strand swap.

Once the DNA is assigned to physical “sides” without a parent or matching, we still can’t identify which side is paternal and which is maternal for you.

Statistical or academic phasing isn’t always accurate, in part because of the differences found in various reference populations and resulting admixture. Sometimes segments don’t match well with any population. As more people test and more reference populations become available, statistical/academic phasing improves. 23andMe uses academic phasing for ethnicity, resulting in a strand swap error for me. Ancestry uses academic phasing before matching.

By comparison to statistical or academic phasing, parental phasing with either or both parents is highly accurate which is why we test our parents and grandparents whenever possible. Even if the vendor doesn’t use our parents’ results, we certainly can!

If someone matches you and your parent too, you know that match is from that parent’s side of your tree.

Matching

The second methodology to sort your DNA into maternal and paternal sides is matching, either with or without your parents.

Matching to multiple known relatives on specific segments assigns those segments of your DNA to the common ancestor of those individuals.

In other words, when I match my first cousin, and our genealogy indicates that we share grandparents – assuming we match on the appropriate amount of DNA for the expected relationship – that match goes a long way to confirming our common ancestor(s).

The closer the relationship, the more comfortable we can be with the confirmation. For example, if you match someone at a parental level, they must be either your biological mother, father or child.

While parent, sibling and close relationships are relatively obvious, more distant relationships are not and can occur though unknown or multiple ancestors. In those cases, we need multiple matches through different children of that ancestor to reasonably confirm ancestral descent.

Ok, but how do we do that? Let’s start with some basics that can be confusing.

What are we really seeing when we look at a chromosome browser?

The Grey/Opaque Background is Your Chromosome

It’s important to realize that you will see as many images of your chromosome(s) as people you have selected to match against.

This means that if you’ve selected 3 people to match against your chromosomes, then you’ll see three images of your chromosome 1, three images of your chromosome 2, three images of your chromosome 3, three images of your chromosome 4, and so forth.

Remember, chromosomes are double-sided, so you don’t know whether these are maternal or paternal matches (or imposters.)

In the illustration below, I’ve selected three people to match against my chromosomes in the chromosome browser. One person is shown as a blue match, one as a red match, and one as a teal match. Where these three people match me on each chromosome is shown by the colored segments on the three separate images.

Chromosome 1.png

My chromosome 1 is shown above. These images are simply three people matching to my chromosome 1, stacked on top of each other, like cordwood.

The first image is for the blue person. The second image is for the red person. The third image is for the teal person.

If I selected another person, they would be assigned a different color (by the system) and a fourth stacked image would occur.

These stacked images of your chromosomes are NOT inherently maternal or paternal.

In other words, the blue person could match me maternally and the red person paternally, or any combination of maternal and paternal. Colors are not relevant – in other words colors are system assigned randomly.

Notice that portions of the blue and teal matches overlap at some of the same locations/addresses, which is immediately visible when using a chromosome browser. These areas of common matching are of particular interest.

Let’s look closer at how chromosome browser matching works.

What about those colorful bars?

Chromosome Browser Matching

When you look at your chromosome browser matches, you may see colored bars on several chromosomes. In the display for each chromosome, the same color will always be shown in the same order. Most people, unless very close relatives, won’t match you on every chromosome.

Below, we’re looking at three individuals matching on my chromosomes 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Chromosome browser.png

The blue person will be shown in location A on every chromosome at the top. You can see that the blue person does not match me on chromosome 2 but does match me on chromosomes 1, 3 and 4.

The red person will always be shown in the second position, B, on each chromosome. The red person does not match me on chromosomes 2 or 4.

The aqua person will always be shown in position C on each chromosome. The aqua person matches me on at least a small segment of chromosomes 1-4.

When you close the browser and select different people to match, the colors will change and the stacking order perhaps, but each person selected will always be consistently displayed in the same position on all of your chromosomes each time you view.

The Same Address – Stacked Matches

In the example above, we can see that several locations show stacked segments in the same location on the browser.

Chromosome browser locations.png

This means that on chromosome 1, the blue and green person both match me on at least part of the same addresses – the areas that overlap fully. Remember, we don’t know if that means the maternal side or the paternal side of the street. Each match could match on the same or different sides.

Said another way, blue could be maternal and teal could be paternal (or vice versa,) or both could be maternal or paternal. One or the other or both could be imposters, although with large segments that’s very unlikely.

On chromosome 4, blue and teal both match me on two common locations, but the teal person extends beyond the length of the matching blue segments.

Chromosome 3 is different because all three people match me at the same address. Even though the red and teal matching segments are longer, the shared portion of the segment between all three people, the length of the blue segment, is significant.

The fact that the stacked matches are in the same places on the chromosomes, directly above/below each other, DOES NOT mean the matches also match each other.

The only way to know whether these matches are both on one side of my tree is whether or not they match each other. Do they look the same or different? One face or two? We can’t tell from this view alone.

We need to evaluate!

Two Faces – Matching Can be Deceptive!

What do these matches mean? Let’s ask and answer a few questions.

  • Does a stacked match mean that one of these people match on my mother’s side and one on my father’s side?

They might, but stacked matches don’t MEAN that.

If one match is maternal, and one is paternal, they still appear at the same location on your chromosome browser because Mom and Dad each have a side of the street, meaning a chromosome that you inherited.

Remember in our example that even though they have the same street address, Dad has blue Cs and Mom has pink As living at that location. In other words, their faces look different. So unless Mom and Dad have the same DNA on that entire segment of addresses, 1-10, Mom and Dad won’t match each other.

Therefore, my maternal and paternal matches won’t match each other either on that segment either, unless:

  1. They are related to me through both of my parents and on that specific location.
  2. My mother and father are related to each other and their DNA is the same on that segment.
  3. There is significant endogamy that causes my parents to share DNA segments from their more distant ancestors, even though they are not related in the past few generations.
  4. The segments are small (segments less than 7cM are false matches roughly 50% of the time) and therefore the match is simply identical by chance. I wrote about that here. The chart showing valid cM match percentages is shown here, but to summarize, 7-8 cMs are valid roughly 46% of the time, 8-9 cM roughly 66%, 9-10 cM roughly 91%, 10-11 cM roughly 95, but 100 is not reached until about 20 cM and I have seen a few exceptions above that, especially when imputation is involved.

Chromosome inheritance match.png

In this inheritance example, we see that pink Match #1 is from Mom’s side and matches the DNA I inherited from pink Mom. Blue Match #2 is from Dad’s side and matches the DNA I inherited from blue Dad. But as you can see, Match #1 and Match #2 do not match each other.

Therefore, the address is only half the story (double-sided.)

What lives at the address is the other half. Mom and Dad have two separate faces!

Chromosome actual overlay

Click to enlarge image

Looking at our example of what our DNA in parental order really looks like on chromosome 1, we see that the blue person actually matches on my maternal side with all As, and the teal person on the paternal side with all Cs.

  • Does a stacked match on the chromosome browser mean that two people match each other?

Sometimes it happens, but not necessarily, as shown in our example above. The blue and teal person would not match each other. Remember, addresses (the street is double-sided) but the nucleotides that live at that address tell the real story. Think two different looking faces, Mom’s and Dad’s, peering out those windows.

If stacked matches match each other too – then they match me on the same parental side. If they don’t match each other, don’t be deceived just because they live at the same address. Remember – Mom’s and Dad’s two faces look different.

For example, if both the blue and teal person match me maternally, with all As, they would also match each other. The addresses match and the values that live at the address match too. They look exactly the same – so they both match me on either my maternal or paternal side – but it’s up to me to figure out which is which using genealogy.

Chromosome actual maternal.png

Click to enlarge image

When my matches do match each other on this segment, plus match me of course, it’s called triangulation.

Triangulation – Think of 3

If my two matches match each other on this segment, in addition to me, it’s called triangulation which is genealogically significant, assuming:

  1. That the triangulated people are not closely related. Triangulation with two siblings, for example, isn’t terribly significant because the common ancestor is only their parents. Same situation with a child and a parent.
  2. The triangulated segments are not small. Triangulation, like matching, on small segments can happen by chance.
  3. Enough people triangulate on the same segment that descends from a common ancestor to confirm the validity of the common ancestor’s identity, also confirming that the match is identical by descent, not identical by chance.

Chromosome inheritance triangulation.png

The key to determining whether my two matches both match me on my maternal side (above) or paternal side is whether they also match each other.

If so, assuming all three of the conditions above are true, we triangulate.

Next, let’s look at a three-person match on the same segment and how to determine if they triangulate.

Three Way Matching and Identifying Imposters

Chromosome 3 in our example is slightly different, because all three people match me on at least a portion of that segment, meaning at the same address. The red and teal segments line up directly under the blue segment – so the portion that I can potentially match identically to all 3 people is the length of the blue segment. It’s easy to get excited, but don’t get excited quite yet.

Chromosome 3 way match.png

Given that three people match me on the same street address/location, one of the following three situations must be true:

  • Situation 1- All three people match each other in addition to me, on that same segment, which means that all three of them match me on either the maternal or paternal side. This confirms that we are related on the same side, but not how or which side.

Chromosome paternal.png

In order to determine which side, maternal or paternal, I need to look at their and my genealogy. The blue arrows in these examples mean that I’ve determined these matches to all be on my father’s side utilizing a combination of genealogy plus DNA matching. If your parent is alive, this part is easy. If not, you’ll need to utilize common matching and/or triangulation with known relatives.

  • Situation 2 – Of these three people, Cheryl, the blue bar on top, matches me but does not match the other two. Charlene and David, the red and teal, match each other, plus me, but not Cheryl.

Chromosome maternal paternal.png

This means that at least either my maternal or paternal side is represented, given that Charlene and David also match each other. Until I can look at the identity of who matches, or their genealogy, I can’t tell which person or people descend from which side.

In this case, I’ve determined that Cheryl, my first cousin, with the pink arrow matches me on Mom’s side and Charlene and David, with the blue arrows, match me on Dad’s side. So both my maternal and paternal sides are represented – my maternal side with the pink arrow as well as my father’s side with the blue arrows.

If Cheryl was a more distant match, I would need additional triangulated matches to family members to confirm her match as legitimate and not a false positive or identical by chance.

  • Situation 3 – Of the three people, all three match me at the same addresses, but none of the three people match each other. How is this even possible?

Chromosome identical by chance.png

This situation seems very counter-intuitive since I have only 2 chromosomes, one from Mom and one from Dad – 2 sidesof the street. It is confusing until you realize that one match (Cheryl and me, pink arrow) would be maternal, one would be paternal (Charlene and me, blue arrow) and the third (David and me, red arrows) would have DNA that bounces back and forth between my maternal and paternal sides, meaning the match with David is identical by chance (IBC.)

This means the third person, David, would match me, but not the people that are actually maternal and paternal matches. Let’s take a look at how this works

Chromosome maternal paternal IBC.png

The addresses are the same, but the values that live at the addresses are not in this third scenario.

Maternal pink Match #1 is Cheryl, paternal blue Match #2 is Charlene.

In this example, Match #3, David, matches me because he has pink and blue at the same addresses that Mom and Dad have pink and blue, but he doesn’t have all pink (Mom) nor all blue (Dad), so he does NOT match either Cheryl or Charlene. This means that he is not a valid genealogical match – but is instead what is known as a false positive – identical by chance, not by descent. In essence, a wily genetic imposter waiting to fool unwary genealogists!

In his case, David is literally “two-faced” with parts of both values that live in the maternal house and the paternal house at those addresses. He is a “two-faced imposter” because he has elements of both but isn’t either maternal or paternal.

This is the perfect example of why matching and triangulating to known and confirmed family members is critical.

All three people, Cheryl, Charlene and David match me (double sided chromosomes), but none of them match each other (two legitimate faces – one from each parent’s side plus one imposter that doesn’t match either the legitimate maternal or paternal relatives on that segment.)

Remember Three Things

  1. Double-Sided – Mom and Dad both have the same addresses on both sides of each chromosome street.
  2. Two Legitimate Faces – The DNA values, nucleotides, will have a unique pattern for both your Mom and Dad (unless they are endogamous or related) and therefore, there are two legitimate matching patterns on each chromsome – one for Mom and one for Dad. Two legitimate and different faces peering out of the houses on Mom’s side and Dad’s side of the street.
  3. Two-Faced Imposters – those identical by chance matches which zig-zag back and forth between Mom and Dad’s DNA at any given address (segment), don’t match confirmed maternal and paternal relatives on the same segment, and are confusing imposters.

Are you ready to hit your home run?

What’s Next?

Now that we understand how matching and triangulation works and why, let’s put this to work at the vendors. Join me for my article in a few days, Triangulation in Action at Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage, 23andMe and GedMatch.

We will step through how triangulation works at each vendor. You’ll have matches at each vendor that you don’ t have elsewhere. If you haven’t transferred your DNA file yet, you still have time with the step by step instructions below:

______________________________________________________________

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

First Steps When Your DNA Results are Ready – Sticking Your Toe in the Genealogy Water

First steps helix

Recently someone asked me what the first steps would be for a person who wasn’t terribly familiar with genealogy and had just received their DNA test results.

I wrote an article called DNA Results – First Glances at Ethnicity and Matching which was meant to show new folks what the various vendor interfaces look like. I was hoping this might whet their appetites for more, meaning that the tester might, just might, stick their toe into the genealogy waters😊

I’m hoping this article will help them get hooked! Maybe that’s you!

A Guide

This article can be read in one of two ways – as an overview, or, if you click the links, as a pretty thorough lesson. If you’re new, I strongly suggest reading it as an overview first, then a second time as a deeper dive. Use it as a guide to navigate your results as you get your feet wet.

I’ll be hotlinking to various articles I’ve written on lots of topics, so please take a look at details (eventually) by clicking on those links!

This article is meant as a guideline for what to do, and how to get started with your DNA matching results!

If you’re looking for ethnicity information, check out the First Glances article, plus here and here and here.

Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages provides you with guidelines for how to estimate your own ethnicity percentages based on your known genealogy and Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum explains how ethnicity testing is done.

OK, let’s get started. Fun awaits!

The Goal

The goal for using DNA matching in genealogy depends on your interests.

  1. To discover cousins and family members that you don’t know. Some people are interested in finding and meeting relatives who might have known their grandparents or great-grandparents in the hope of discovering new family information or photos they didn’t know existed previously. I’ve been gifted with my great-grandparent’s pictures, so this strategy definitely works!
  2. To confirm ancestors. This approach presumes that you’ve done at least a little genealogy, enough to construct at least a rudimentary tree. Ancestors are “confirmed” when you DNA match multiple other people who descend from the same ancestor through multiple children. I wrote an article, Ancestors: What Constitutes Proof?, discussing how much evidence is enough to actually confirm an ancestor. Confirmation is based on a combination of both genealogical records and DNA matching and it varies depending on the circumstances.
  3. Adoptees and people with unknown parents seeking to discover the identities of those people aren’t initially looking at their own family tree – because they don’t have one yet. The genealogy of others can help them figure out the identity of those mystery people. I wrote about that technique in the article, Identifying Unknown Parents and Individuals Using DNA Matching.

DNAAdoption for Everyone

Educational resources for adoptees and non-adoptees alike can be found at www.dnaadoption.org. DNAAdoption is not just for adoptees and provides first rate education for everyone. They also provide trained and mentored search angels for adoptees who understand the search process along with the intricacies of navigating the emotional minefield of adoption and unknown parent searches.

First Look” classes for each vendor are free for everyone at DNAAdoption and are self-paced, downloadable onto your computer as a pdf file. Intro to DNA, Applied Autosomal DNA and Y DNA Basics classes are nominally priced at between $29 and $49 and I strongly recommend these. DNAAdoption is entirely non-profit, so your class fee or contribution supports their work. Additional resources can be found here and their 12 adoptee search steps here.

Ok, now let’s look at your results.

Matches are the Key

Regardless of your goal, your DNA matches are the key to finding answers, whether you want to make contact with close relatives, prove your more distant ancestors or you’re involved in an adoptee or unknown parent search.

Your DNA matches that of other people because each of you inherited a piece of DNA, called a segment, where many locations are identical. The length of that DNA segment is measured in centiMorgans and those locations are called SNPs, or single nucleotide polymorphisms. You can read about the definition of a centimorgan and how they are used in the article Concepts – CentiMorgans, SNPs and Pickin’Crab.

While the scientific details are great, they aren’t important initially. What is important is to understand that the more closely you match someone, the more closely you are related to them. You share more DNA with close relatives than more distant relatives.

For example, I share exactly half of my mother’s DNA, but only about 25% of each of my grandparents’ DNA. As the relationships move further back in time, I share less and less DNA with other people who descend from those same ancestors.

Informational Tools

Every vendor’s match page looks different, as was illustrated in the First Glances article, but regardless, you are looking for four basic pieces of information:

  • Who you match
  • How much DNA you share with your match
  • Who else you and your match share that DNA with, which suggests that you all share a common ancestor
  • Family trees to reveal the common ancestor between people who match each other

Every vendor has different ways of displaying this information, and not all vendors provide everything. For example, 23andMe does not support trees, although they allow you to link to one elsewhere. Ancestry does not provide a tool called a chromosome browser which allows you to see if you and others match on the same segment of DNA. Ancestry only tells you THAT you match, not HOW you match.

Each vendor has their strengths and shortcomings. As genealogists, we simply need to understand how to utilize the information available.

I’ll be using examples from all 4 major vendors:

Your matches are the most important information and everything else is based on those matches.

Family Tree DNA

I have tested many family members from both sides of my family at Family Tree DNA using the Family Finder autosomal test which makes my matches there incredibly useful because I can see which family members, in addition to me, my matches match.

Family Tree DNA assigns matches to maternal and paternal sides in a unique way, even if your parents haven’t tested, so long as some close relatives have tested. Let’s take a look.

First Steps Family Tree DNA matches.png

Sign on to your account and click to see your matches.

At the top of your Family Finder matches page, you’ll see three groups of things, shown below.

First Steps Family Tree DNA bucketing

Click to enlarge

A row of tools at the top titled Chromosome Browser, In Common With and Not in Common With.

A second row of tabs that include All, Paternal, Maternal and Both. These are the maternal and paternal tabs I mentioned, meaning that I have a total of 4645 matches, 988 of which are from my paternal side and 847 of which are from my maternal side.

Family Tree DNA assigns people to these “buckets” based on matches with third cousins or closer if you have them attached in your tree. This is why it’s critical to have a tree and test close relatives, especially people from earlier generations like aunts, uncles, great-aunts/uncles and their children if they are no longer living.

If you have one or both parents that can test, that’s a wonderful boon because anyone who matches you and one of your parents is automatically bucketed, or phased (scientific term) to that parent’s side of the tree. However, at Family Tree DNA, it’s not required to have a parent test to have some matches assigned to maternal or paternal sides. You just need to test third cousins or closer and attach them to the proper place in your tree.

How does bucketing work?

Maternal or Paternal “Side” Assignment, aka Bucketing

If I match a maternal first cousin, Cheryl, for example, and we both match John Doe on the same segment, John Doe is automatically assigned to my maternal bucket with a little maternal icon placed beside the match.

First Steps Family Tree DNA match info

Click to enlarge

Every vendor provides an estimated or predicted relationship based on a combination of total centiMorgans and the longest contiguous matching segment. The actual “linked relationship” is calculated based on where this person resides in your tree.

The common surnames at far right are a very nice features, but not every tester provides that information. When the testers do include surnames at Family Tree DNA, common surnames are bolded. Other vendors have similar features.

People with trees are shown near their profile picture with a blue pedigree icon. Clicking on the pedigree icon will show you their ancestors. Your matches estimated relationship to you indicates how far back you should expect to share an ancestor.

For example, first cousins share grandparents. Second cousins share great-grandparents. In general, the further back in time your common ancestor, the less DNA you can be expected to share.

You can view relationship information in chart form in my article here or utilize DNAPainter tools, here, to see the various possibilities for the different match levels.

Clicking on the pedigree chart of your match will show you their tree. In my tree, I’ve connected my parents in their proper places, along with Cheryl and Don, mother’s first cousins. (Yes, they’ve given permission for me to utilize their results, so they aren’t always blurred in images.)

Cheryl and Don are my first cousins once removed, meaning my mother is their first cousin and I’m one generation further down the tree. I’m showing the amount of DNA that I share with each of them in red in the format of total DNA shared and longest unbroken segment, taken from the match list. So 382-53 means I share a total of 382 cM and 53 cM is the longest matching block.

First Steps Family Tree DNA tree.png

The Chromosome Browser

Utilizing the chromosome browser, I can see exactly where I match both Don and Cheryl. It’s obvious that I match them on at least some different pieces of my DNA, because the total and longest segment amounts are different.

The reason it’s important to test lots of close relatives is because even siblings inherit different pieces of DNA from their parents, and they don’t pass the same DNA to their offspring either – so in each generation the amount of shared DNA is probably reduced. I say probably because sometimes segments are passed entirely and sometimes not at all, which is how we “lose” our ancestors’ DNA over the generations.

Here’s a matching example utilizing a chromosome browser.

First Steps Family Tree DNA chromosome browser.png

I clicked the checkboxes to the left of both Cheryl and Don on the match page, then the Chromosome Browser button, and now you can see, above, on chromosomes 1-16 where I match Cheryl (blue) and Don (red.)

In this view, both Don and Cheryl are being compared to me, since I’m the one signed in to my account and viewing my DNA matches. Therefore, one of the bars at each chromosome represents Don’s DNA match to me and one represents Cheryl’s. Cheryl is the first person and Don is the second. Person match colors (red and blue) are assigned arbitrarily by the system.

My grandfather and Cheryl/Don’s father, Roscoe, were siblings.

You can see that on some segments, my grandfather and Roscoe inherited the same segment of DNA from their parents, because today, my mother gave me that exact same segment that I share with both Don and Cheryl. Those segments are exactly identical and shown in the black boxes.

The only way for us to share this DNA today is for us to have shared a common ancestor who gave it to two of their children who passed it on to their descendants who DNA tested today.

On other segments, in red boxes, I share part of the same segments of DNA with Cheryl and Don, but someone along the line didn’t inherit all of that segment. For example on chromosome 3, in the red box, you can see that I share more with Cheryl (blue) than Don (red.)

In other cases, I share with either Don or Cheryl, but Don and Cheryl didn’t inherit that same segment of DNA from their father, so I don’t share with both of them. Those are the areas where you see only blue or only red.

On chromosome 12, you can see where it looks like Don’s and Cheryl’s segments butt up against each other. The DNA was clearly divided there. Don received one piece and Cheryl got the other. That’s known as a crossover and you can read about crossovers here, if you’d like.

It’s important to be able to view segment information to be able to see how others match in order to identify which common ancestor that DNA came from.

In Common With

You can use the “In Common With” tool to see who you match in common with any match. My first 6 matches in common with Cheryl are shown below. Note that they are already all bucketed to my maternal side.

First Steps Family Tree DNA in common with

click to enlarge

You can click on up to 7 individuals in the check box at left to show them on the chromosome browser at once to see if they match you on common segments.

Each matching segment has its own history and may descend from a different ancestor in your common tree.

First Steps 7 match chromosome browser

click to enlarge

If combinations of people do match me on a common segment, because these matches are all on my maternal side, they are triangulated and we know they have to descend from a common ancestor, assuming the segment is large enough. You can read about the concept of triangulation here. Triangulation occurs when 3 or more people (who aren’t extremely closely related like parents or siblings) all match each other on the same reasonably sized segment of DNA.

If you want to download your matches and work through this process in a spreadsheet, that’s an option too.

Size Matters

Small segments can be identical by chance instead of identical by descent.

  • “Identical by chance” means that you accidentally match someone because your DNA on that segment has been combined from both parents and causes it to match another person, making the segment “looks like” it comes from a common ancestor, when it really doesn’t. When DNA is sequenced, both your mother and father’s strands are sequenced, meaning that there’s no way to determine which came from whom. Think of a street with Mom’s side and Dad’s side with identical addresses on the houses on both sides. I wrote about that here.
  • “Identical by descent” means that the DNA is identical because it actually descends from a common ancestor. I discussed that concept in the article, We Match, But Are We Related.

Generally, we only utilize 7cM (centiMorgan) segments and above because at that level, about half of the segments are identical by descent and about half are identical by chance, known as false positives. By the time we move above 15 cM, most, but not all, matches are legitimate. You can read about segment size and accuracy here.

Using “In Common With” and the Matrix

“In Common With” is about who shares DNA. You can select someone you match to see who else you BOTH match. Just because you match two other people doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s on the same segment of DNA. In fact, you could match one person from your mother’s side and the other person from your father’s side.

First Steps match matrix.png

In this example, you match Person B due to ancestor John Doe and Person C due to ancestor Susie Smith. However, Person B also matches person C, but due to ancestor William West that they share and you don’t.

This example shows you THAT they match, but not HOW they match.

The only way to assure that the matches between the three people above are due to the same ancestor is to look at the segments with a chromosome browser and compare all 3 people to each other. Finding 3 people who match on the same segment, from the same side of your tree means that (assuming a reasonably large segment) you share a common ancestor.

Family Tree DNA has a nice matrix function that allows you to see which of your matches also match each other.

First steps matrix link

click to enlarge

The important distinction between the matrix and the chromosome browser is that the chromosome browser shows you where your matches match you, but those matches could be from both sides of your tree, unless they are bucketed. The matrix shows you if your matches also match each other, which is a huge clue that they are probably from the same side of your tree.

First Steps Family Tree DNA matrix.png

A matrix match is a significant clue in terms of who descends from which ancestors. For example, I know, based on who Amy matches, and who she doesn’t match, that she descends from the Ferverda side and that Charles, Rex and Maxine descend from ancestors on the Miller side.

Looking in the chromosome browser, I can tell that Cheryl, Don, Amy and I match on some common segments.

Matching multiple people on the same segment that descends from a common ancestor is called triangulation.

Let’s take a look at the MyHeritage triangulation tool.

MyHeritage

Moving now to MyHeritage who provides us with an easy to use triangulation tool, we see the following when clicking on DNA matches on the DNA tab on the toolbar.

First Steps MyHeritage matches

click to enlarge

Cousin Cheryl is at MyHeritage too. By clicking on Review DNA Match, the purple button on the right, I can see who else I match in common with Cheryl, plus triangulation.

The list of people Cheryl and I both match is shown below, along with our relationships to each person.

First Steps MyHeritage triangulation

click to enlarge

I’ve selected 2 matches to illustrate.

The first match has a little purple icon to the right which means that Amy triangulates with me and Cheryl.

The second match, Rex, means that while we both match Rex, it’s not on the same segment. I know that without looking further because there is no triangulation button. We both match Rex, but Cheryl matches Rex on a different segment than I do.

Without additional genealogy work, using DNA alone, I can’t say whether or not Cheryl, Rex and I all share a common ancestor. As it turns out, we do. Rex is a known cousin who I tested. However, in an unknown situation, I would have to view the trees of those matches to make that determination.

Triangulation

Clicking on the purple triangulation icon for Amy shows me the segments that all 3 of us, me, Amy and Cheryl share in common as compared to me.

First Steps MyHeritage triangulation chromosome browser.png

Cheryl is red and Amy is yellow. The one segment bracketed with the rounded rectangle is the segment shared by all 3 of us.

Do we have a common ancestor? I know Cheryl and I do, but maybe I don’t know who Amy is. Let’s look at Amy’s tree which is also shown if I scroll down.

First Steps MyHeritage common ancestor.png

Amy didn’t have her tree built out far enough to show our common ancestor, but I immediately recognized the surname Ferveda found in her tree a couple of generations back. Darlene was the daughter of Donald Ferverda who was the son of Hiram Ferverda, my great-grandfather.

Hiram was the father of Cheryl’s father, Roscoe and my grandfather, John Ferverda.

First Steps Hiram Ferverda pedigree.png

Amy is my first cousin twice removed and that segment of DNA that I share with her is from either Hiram Ferverda or his wife Eva Miller.

Now, based on who else Amy matches, I can probably tell whether that segment descends from Hiram or Eva.

Viva triangulation!

Theory of Family Relativity

MyHeritage’s Theory of Family Relativity provides theories to people whose DNA matches regarding their common ancestor if MyHeritage can calculate how the 2 people are potentially related.

MyHeritage uses a combination of tools to make that connection, including:

  • DNA matches
  • Your tree
  • Your match’s tree
  • Other people’s trees at MyHeritage, FamilySearch and Geni if the common ancestor cannot be found in your tree compared against your DNA match’s MyHeritage
  • Documents in the MyHeritage data collection, such as census records, for example.

MyHeritage theory update

To view the Theories, click on the purple “View Theories” banner or “View theory” under the DNA match.

First Steps MyHeritage theory of relativity

click to enleage

The theory is displayed in summary format first.

MyHeritage view full theory

click to enlarge

You can click on the “View Full Theory” to see the detail and sources about how MyHeritage calculated various paths. I have up to 5 different theories that utilize separate resources.

MyHeritage review match

click to enlarge

A wonderful aspect of this feature is that MyHeritage shows you exactly the information they utilized and calculates a confidence factor as well.

All theories should be viewed as exactly that and should be evaluated critically for accuracy, taking into consideration sources and documentation.

I wrote about using Theories of Relativity, with instructions, here and here.

I love this tool and find the Theories mostly accurate.

AncestryDNA

Ancestry doesn’t offer a chromosome browser or triangulation but does offer a tree view for people that you match, so long as you have a subscription. In the past, a special “Light” subscription for DNA only was available for approximately $49 per year that provided access to the trees of your DNA matches and other DNA-related features. You could not order online and had to call support, sometimes asking for a supervisor in order to purchase that reduced-cost subscription. The “Light” subscription did not provide access to anything outside of DNA results, meaning documents, etc. I don’t know if this is still available.

After signing on, click on DNA matches on the DNA tab on the toolbar.

You’ll see the following match list.

First Steps Ancestry matches

click to enlarge

I’ve tested twice at Ancestry, the second time when they moved to their new chip, so I’m my own highest match. Click on any match name to view more.

First Steps Ancestry shared matches

click to enlarge

You’ll see information about common ancestors if you have some in your trees, plus the amount of shared DNA along with a link to Shared Matches.

I found one of the same cousins at Ancestry whose match we were viewing at MyHeritage, so let’s see what her match to me at Ancestry looks like.

Below are my shared matches with that cousin. The notes to the right are mine, not provided by Ancestry. I make extensive use of the notes fields provided by the vendors.

First Steps Ancestry shared matches with cousin

click to enlarge

On your match list, you can click on any match, then on Shared Matches to see who you both match in common. While Ancestry provides no chromosome browser, you can see the amount of DNA that you share and trees, if any exist.

Let’s look at a tree comparison when a common ancestor can be detected in a tree within the past 7 generations.

First Steps Ancestry view ThruLines.png

What’s missing of course is that I can’t see how we match because there’s no chromosome browser, nor can I see if my matches match each other.

Stitched Trees

What I can see, if I click on “View ThruLines” above or ThruLines on the DNA Summary page on the main DNA tab is all of the people I match who Ancestry THINKS we descend from a common ancestor. This ancestor information isn’t always taken from either person’s tree.

For example, if my match hadn’t included Hiram Ferverda in her tree, Ancestry would use other people’s trees to “stitch them together” such that the tester is shown to be descended from a common ancestor with me. Sometimes these stitched trees are accurate and sometimes they are not, although they have improved since they were first released. I wrote about ThruLines here.

First Steps Ancestry ThruLines tree

click to enlarge

In closer generations, especially if you are looking to connect with cousins, tree matching is a very valuable tool. In the graphic above, you can see all of the cousins who descend from Hiram Ferverda who have tested and DNA match to me. These DNA matches to me either descend from Hiram according to their trees, or Ancestry believes they descend from Hiram based on other people’s trees.

With more distant ancestors, other people’s trees are increasingly likely to be copied with no sources, so take them with a very large grain of salt (perchance the entire salt lick.) I use ThruLines as hints, not gospel, especially the further back in time the common ancestor. I wish they reached back another couple of generations. They are great hints and they end with the 7th generation where my brick walls tend to begin!

23andMe

I haven’t mentioned 23andMe yet in this article. Genealogists do test there, especially adoptees who need to fish in every pond.

23andMe is often the 4th choice of the major 4 vendors for genealogy due to the following challenges:

  • No tree support, other than allowing you to link to a tree at FamilySearch or elsewhere. This means no tree matching.
  • Less than 2000 matches, meaning that every person is limited to a maximum of 2000 matches, minus however many of those 2000 don’t opt-in for genealogical matching. Given that 23andMe’s focus is increasingly health, my number of matches continues to decrease and is currently just over 1500. The good news is that those 1500 are my highest, meaning closest matches. The bad news is the genealogy is not 23andMe’s focus.

If you are an adoptee, a die-hard genealogist or specifically interested in ethnicity, then test at 23andMe. Otherwise all three of the other vendors would be better choices.

However, like the other vendors, 23andMe does have some features that are unique.

Their ethnicity predictions are acknowledged to be excellent. Ethnicity at 23andMe is called Ancestry Composition, and you’ll see that immediately when you sign in to your account.

First Steps 23andMe DNA Relatives.png

Your matches at 23andMe are found under DNA Relatives.

First Steps 23andMe tools

click to enlarge

At left, you’ll find filters and the search box.

Mom’s and Dad’s side filter matches if you’ve tested your parents, but it’s not like the Family Tree DNA bucketing that provides maternal and paternal side bucketing by utilizing through third cousins if your parents aren’t available for testing.

Family names aren’t your family names, but the top family names that match to you. Guess what my highest name is? Smith.

However, Ancestor Birthplaces are quite useful because you can sort by country. For example, my mother’s grandfather Ferverda was born in the Netherlands.

First Steps 23andMe country.png

If I click on Netherlands, I can see my 5 matches with ancestors born in the Netherlands. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I match because of my match’s Dutch ancestors, but it does provide me with a place to look for a common ancestor and I can proceed by seeing who I match in common with those matches. Unfortunately, without trees we’re left to rely on ancestor birthplaces and family surnames, if my matches have entered that information.

One of my Dutch matches also matches my Ferverda cousin. Given that connection, and that the Ferverda family immigrated from Holland in 1868, that’s a starting point.

MyHeritage has a similar features and they are much more prevalent in Europe.

By clicking on my Ferverda cousin, I can view the DNA we share, who we match in common, our common ethnicity and more. I have the option of comparing multiple people in the chromosome browser by clicking on “View DNA Comparison” and then selecting who I wish to compare.

First Steps 23andMe view DNA Comparison.png

By scrolling down instead of clicking on View DNA Comparison, I can view where my Ferverda cousin matches me on my chromosomes, shown below.

First STeps 23andMe chromosome browser.png

23andMe identifies completely identical segments which would be painted in dark purple, the legend at bottom left.

Adoptees love this feature because it would immediately differentiate between half and full siblings. Full siblings share approximately 25% of the exact DNA on both their maternal and paternal strands of DNA, while half siblings only share the DNA from one parent – assuming their parents aren’t closely related. I share no completely identical DNA with my Ferverda cousin, so no segments are painted dark purple.

23andMe and Ancestry Maps Show Where Your Matches Live

Another reason that adoptees and people searching for birth parents or unknown relatives like 23andMe is because of the map function.

After clicking on DNA Relatives, click on the Map function at the top of the page which displays the following map.

First Steps 23andMe map

click to enlarge

This isn’t a map of where your matches ancestors lived, but is where your matches THEMSELVES live. Furthermore, you can zoom in, click on the button and it displays the name of the individual and the city where they live or whatever they entered in the location field.

First Steps 23andMe your location on map.png

I entered a location in my profile and confirmed that the location indeed displays on my match’s maps by signing on to another family member’s account. What I saw is the display above. I’d wager that most testers don’t realize that their home location and photo, if entered, is being displayed to their matches.

I think sharing my ancestors’ locations is a wonderful, helpful, idea, but there is absolutely no reason whatsoever for anyone to know where I live and I feel it’s stalker-creepy and a safety risk.

First Steps 23andMe questions.png

If you enter a location in this field in your profile, it displays on the map.

If you test with 23andMe and you don’t want your location to display on this map to your matches, don’t answer any question that asks you where you call home or anything similar. I never answer any questions at 23andMe. They are known for asking you the same question repeatedly, in multiple locations and ways, until you relent and answer.

Ancestry has a similar map feature and they’ve also begun to ask you questions that are unrelated to genealogy.

Ancestry Map Shows Where Your Matches Live

At Ancestry, when you click to see your DNA matches, look to the right at the map link.

First Steps Ancestry map link.png

By clicking on this link, you can see the locations that people have entered into their profile.

First Steps Ancestry match map.png

As you can see, above, I don’t have a location entered and I am prompted for one. Note that Ancestry does specifically say that this location will be shown to your matches.

You can click on the Ancestry Profile link here, or go to your Personal Profile by click the dropdown under your user name in the upper right hand corner of any page.

This is important because if you DON’T want your location to show, you need to be sure there is nothing entered in the location field.

First Steps Ancestry profile.png

Under your profile, click “Edit.”

First Steps Ancestry edit profile.png

After clicking edit, complete the information you wish to have public or remove the information you do not.

First Steps Ancestry location in profile.png

Sometimes Your Answer is a Little More Complicated

This is a First Steps article. Sometimes the answer you seek might be a little more complicated. That’s why there are specialists who deal with this all day, everyday.

What issues might be more complex?

If you’re just starting out, don’t worry about these things for now. Just know when you run into something more complex or that doesn’t make sense, I’m here and so are others. Here’s a link to my Help page.

Getting Started

What do you need to get started?

  • You need to take a DNA test, or more specifically, multiple DNA tests. You can test at Ancestry or 23andMe and transfer your results to both Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage, or you can test directly at all vendors.

Neither Ancestry nor 23andMe accept uploads, meaning other vendors tests, but both MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA accept most file versions. Instructions for how to download and upload your DNA results are found below, by vendor:

Both MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA charge a minimal fee to unlock their advanced features such as chromosome browsers and ethnicity if you upload transfer files, but it’s less costly in both cases than testing directly. However, if you want the MyHeritage DNA plus Health or the Family Tree DNA Y DNA or Mitochondrial DNA tests, you must test directly at those companies for those tests.

  • It’s not required, but it would be in your best interest to build as much of a tree at all three vendors as you can. Every little bit helps.

Your first tree-building step should be to record what your family knows about your grandparents and great-grandparents, aunts and uncles. Here’s what my first step attempt looked like. It’s cringe-worthy now, but everyone has to start someplace. Just do it!

You can build a tree at either Ancestry or MyHeritage and download your tree for uploading at the other vendors. Or, you can build the tree using genealogy software on your computer and upload to all 3 places. I maintain my primary tree on my computer using RootsMagic. There are many options. MyHeritage even provides free tree builder software.

Both Ancestry and MyHeritage offer research/data subscriptions that provide you with hints to historical documents that increase what you know about your ancestors. The MyHeritage subscription can be tried for free. I have full subscriptions to both Ancestry and MyHeritage because they both include documents in their collections that the other does not.

Please be aware that document suggestions are hints and each one needs to be evaluated in the context of what you know and what’s reasonable. For example, if your ancestor was born in 1750, they are not included in the 1900 census, nor do women have children at age 70. People do have exactly the same names. FindAGrave information is entered by humans and is not always accurate. Just sayin’…

Evaluate critically and skeptically.

Ok, Let’s Go!

When your DNA results are ready, sign on to each vendor, look at your matches and use this article to begin to feel your way around. It’s exciting and the promise is immense. Feel free to share the link to this article on social media or with anyone else who might need help.

You are the cumulative product of your ancestors. What better way to get to know them than through their DNA that’s shared between you and your cousins!

What can you discover today?

______________________________________________________________

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

2018 – The Year of the Segment

Looking in the rear view mirror, what a year! Some days it’s been hard to catch your breath things have been moving so fast.

What were the major happenings, how did they affect genetic genealogy and what’s coming in 2019?

The SNiPPY Award

First of all, I’m giving an award this year. The SNiPPY.

Yea, I know it’s kinda hokey, but it’s my way of saying a huge thank you to someone in this field who has made a remarkable contribution and that deserves special recognition.

Who will it be this year?

Drum roll…….

The 2018 SNiPPY goes to…

DNAPainter – The 2018 SNiPPY award goes to DNAPainter, without question. Applause, everyone, applause! And congratulations to Jonny Perl, pictured below at Rootstech!

Jonny Perl created this wonderful, visual tool that allows you to paint your matches with people on your chromosomes, assigning the match to specific ancestors.

I’ve written about how to use the tool  with different vendors results and have discovered many different ways to utilize the painted segments. The DNA Painter User Group is here on Facebook. I use DNAPainter EVERY SINGLE DAY to solve a wide variety of challenges.

What else has happened this year? A lot!

Ancient DNA – Academic research seldom reports on Y and mitochondrial DNA today and is firmly focused on sequencing ancient DNA. Ancient genome sequencing has only recently been developed to a state where at least some remains can be successfully sequenced, but it’s going great guns now. Take a look at Jennifer Raff’s article in Forbes that discusses ancient DNA findings in the Americas, Europe, Southeast Asia and perhaps most surprising, a first generation descendant of a Neanderthal and a Denisovan.

From Early human dispersals within the Americas by Moreno-Mayer et al, Science 07 Dec 2018

Inroads were made into deeper understanding of human migration in the Americas as well in the paper Early human dispersals within the Americas by Moreno-Mayer et al.

I look for 2019 and on into the future to hold many more revelations thanks to ancient DNA sequencing as well as using those sequences to assist in understanding the migration patterns of ancient people that eventually became us.

Barbara Rae-Venter and the Golden State Killer Case

Using techniques that adoptees use to identify their close relatives and eventually, their parents, Barbara Rae-Venter assisted law enforcement with identifying the man, Joseph DeAngelo, accused (not yet convicted) of being the Golden State Killer (GSK).

A very large congratulations to Barbara, a retired patent attorney who is also a genealogist. Nature recognized Ms. Rae-Venter as one of 2018’s 10 People Who Mattered in Science.

DNA in the News

DNA is also represented on the 2018 Nature list by Viviane Slon, a palaeogeneticist who discovered an ancient half Neanderthal, half Denisovan individual and sequenced their DNA and He JianKui, a Chinese scientist who claims to have created a gene-edited baby which has sparked widespread controversy. As of the end of the year, He Jiankui’s research activities have been suspended and he is reportedly sequestered in his apartment, under guard, although the details are far from clear.

In 2013, 23andMe patented the technology for designer babies and I removed my kit from their research program. I was concerned at the time that this technology knife could cut two ways, both for good, eliminating fatal disease-causing mutations and also for ethically questionable practices, such as eugenics. I was told at the time that my fears were unfounded, because that “couldn’t be done.” Well, 5 years later, here we are. I expect the debate about the ethics and eventual regulation of gene-editing will rage globally for years to come.

Elizabeth Warren’s DNA was also in the news when she took a DNA test in response to political challenges. I wrote about what those results meant scientifically, here. This topic became highly volatile and politicized, with everyone seeming to have a very strongly held opinion. Regardless of where you fall on that opinion spectrum (and no, please do not post political comments as they will not be approved), the topic is likely to surface again in 2019 due to the fact that Elizabeth Warren has just today announced her intention to run for President. The good news is that DNA testing will likely be discussed, sparking curiosity in some people, perhaps encouraging them to test. The bad news is that some of the discussion may be unpleasant at best, and incorrect click-bait at worst. We’ve already had a rather unpleasant sampling of this.

Law Enforcement and Genetic Genealogy

The Golden State Killer case sparked widespread controversy about using GedMatch and potentially other genetic genealogy data bases to assist in catching people who have committed violent crimes, such as rape and murder.

GedMatch, the database used for the GSK case has made it very clear in their terms and conditions that DNA matches may be used for both adoptees seeking their families and for other uses, such as law enforcement seeking matches to DNA sequenced during a criminal investigation. Since April 2018, more than 15 cold case investigations have been solved using the same technique and results at GedMatch. Initially some people removed their DNA from GedMatch, but it appears that the overwhelming sentiment, based on uploads, is that people either aren’t concerned or welcome the opportunity for their DNA matches to assist apprehending criminals.

Parabon Nanolabs in May established a genetic genealogy division headed by CeCe Moore who has worked in the adoptee community for the past several years. The division specializes in DNA testing forensic samples and then assisting law enforcement with the associated genetic genealogy.

Currently, GedMatch is the only vendor supporting the use of forensic sample matching. Neither 23anMe nor Ancestry allow uploaded data, and MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA’s terms of service currently preclude this type of use.

MyHeritage

Wow talk about coming onto the DNA world stage with a boom.

MyHeritage went from a somewhat wobbly DNA start about 2 years ago to rolling out a chromosome browser at the end of January and adding important features such as SmartMatching which matches your DNA and your family trees. Add triangulation to this mixture, along with record matching, and you’re got a #1 winning combination.

It was Gilad Japhet, the MyHeritage CEO who at Rootstech who christened 2018 “The Year of the Segment,” and I do believe he was right. Additionally, he announced that MyHeritage partnered with the adoption community by offering 15,000 free kits to adoptees.

In November, MyHeritage hosted MyHeritage LIVE, their first user conference in Oslo, Norway which focused on both their genealogical records offerings as well as DNA. This was a resounding success and I hope MyHeritage will continue to sponsor conferences and invest in DNA. You can test your DNA at MyHeritage or upload your results from other vendors (instructions here). You can follow my journey and the conference in Olso here, here, here, here and here.

GDPR

GDPR caused a lot of misery, and I’m glad the implementation is behind us, but the the ripples will be affecting everyone for years to come.

GDPR, the European Data Protection Regulation which went into effect on May 25,  2018 has been a mixed and confusing bag for genetic genealogy. I think the concept of users being in charge and understanding what is happened with their data, and in this case, their data plus their DNA, is absolutely sound. The requirements however, were created without any consideration to this industry – which is small by comparison to the Googles and Facebooks of the world. However, the Googles and Facebooks of the world along with many larger vendors seem to have skated, at least somewhat.

Other companies shut their doors or restricted their offerings in other ways, such as World Families Network and Oxford Ancestors. Vendors such as Ancestry and Family Tree DNA had to make unpopular changes in how their users interface with their software – in essence making genetic genealogy more difficult without any corresponding positive return. The potential fines, 20 million plus Euro for any company holding data for EU residents made it unwise to ignore the mandates.

In the genetic genealogy space, the shuttering of both YSearch and MitoSearch was heartbreaking, because that was the only location where you could actually compare Y STR and mitochondrial HVR1/2 results. Not everyone uploaded their results, and the sites had not been updated in a number of years, but the closure due to GDPR was still a community loss.

Today, mitoydna.org, a nonprofit comprised of genetic genealogists, is making strides in replacing that lost functionality, plus, hopefully more.

On to more positive events.

Family Tree DNA

In April, Family Tree DNA announced a new version of the Big Y test, the Big Y-500 in which at least 389 additional STR markers are included with the Big Y test, for free. If you’re lucky, you’ll receive between 389 and 439 new markers, depending on how many STR markers above 111 have quality reads. All customers are guaranteed a minimum of 500 STR markers in total. Matching was implemented in December.

These additional STR markers allow genealogists to assemble additional line marker mutations to more granularly identify specific male lineages. In other words, maybe I can finally figure out a line marker mutation that will differentiate my ancestor’s line from other sons of my founding ancestor😊

In June, Family Tree DNA announced that they had named more than 100,000 SNPs which means many haplogroup additions to the Y tree. Then, in September, Family Tree DNA published their Y haplotree, with locations, publicly for all to reference.

I was very pleased to see this development, because Family Tree DNA clearly has the largest Y database in the industry, by far, and now everyone can reap the benefits.

In October, Family Tree DNA published their mitochondrial tree publicly as well, with corresponding haplogroup locations. It’s nice that Family Tree DNA continues to be the science company.

You can test your Y DNA, mitochondrial or autosomal (Family Finder) at Family Tree DNA. They are the only vendor offering full Y and mitochondrial services complete with matching.

2018 Conferences

Of course, there are always the national conferences we’re familiar with, but more and more, online conferences are becoming available, as well as some sessions from the more traditional conferences.

I attended Rootstech in Salt Lake City in February (brrrr), which was lots of fun because I got to meet and visit with so many people including Mags Gaulden, above, who is a WikiTree volunteer and writes at Grandma’s Genes, but as a relatively expensive conference to attend, Rootstech was pretty miserable. Rootstech has reportedly made changes and I hope it’s much better for attendees in 2019. My attendance is very doubtful, although I vacillate back and forth.

On the other hand, the MyHeritage LIVE conference was amazing with both livestreamed and recorded sessions which are now available free here along with many others at Legacy Family Tree Webinars.

Family Tree University held a Virtual DNA Conference in June and those sessions, along with others, are available for subscribers to view.

The Virtual Genealogical Association was formed for those who find it difficult or impossible to participate in local associations. They too are focused on education via webinars.

Genetic Genealogy Ireland continues to provide their yearly conference sessions both livestreamed and recorded for free. These aren’t just for people with Irish genealogy. Everyone can benefit and I enjoy them immensely.

Bottom line, you can sit at home and educate yourself now. Technology is wonderful!

2019 Conferences

In 2019, I’ll be speaking at the National Genealogical Society Family History Conference, Journey of Discovery, in St. Charles, providing the Special Thursday Session titled “DNA: King Arthur’s Mighty Genetic Lightsaber” about how to use DNA to break through brick walls. I’ll also see attendees at Saturday lunch when I’ll be providing a fun session titled “Twists and Turns in the Genetic Road.” This is going to be a great conference with a wonderful lineup of speakers. Hope to see you there.

There may be more speaking engagements at conferences on my 2019 schedule, so stay tuned!

The Leeds Method

In September, Dana Leeds publicized The Leeds Method, another way of grouping your matches that clusters matches in a way that indicates your four grandparents.

I combine the Leeds method with DNAPainter. Great job Dana!

Genetic Affairs

In December, Genetic Affairs introduced an inexpensive subscription reporting and visual clustering methodology, but you can try it for free.

I love this grouping tool. I have already found connections I didn’t know existed previously. I suggest joining the Genetic Affairs User Group on Facebook.

DNAGedcom.com

I wrote an article in January about how to use the DNAGedcom.com client to download the trees of all of your matches and sort to find specific surnames or locations of their ancestors.

However, in December, DNAGedcom.com added another feature with their new DNAGedcom client just released that downloads your match information from all vendors, compiles it and then forms clusters. They have worked with Dana Leeds on this, so it’s a combination of the various methodologies discussed above. I have not worked with the new tool yet, as it has just been released, but Kitty Cooper has and writes about it here.  If you are interested in this approach, I would suggest joining the Facebook DNAGedcom User Group.

Rootsfinder

I have not had a chance to work with Rootsfinder beyond the very basics, but Rootsfinder provides genetic network displays for people that you match, as well as triangulated views. Genetic networks visualizations are great ways to discern patterns. The tool creates match or triangulation groups automatically for you.

Training videos are available at the website and you can join the Rootsfinder DNA Tools group at Facebook.

Chips and Imputation

Illumina, the chip maker that provides the DNA chips that most vendors use to test changed from the OmniExpress to the GSA chip during the past year. Older chips have been available, but won’t be forever.

The newer GSA chip is only partially compatible with the OmniExpress chip, providing limited overlap between the older and the new results. This has forced the vendors to use imputation to equalize the playing field between the chips, so to speak.

This has also caused a significant hardship for GedMatch who is now in the position of trying to match reasonably between many different chips that sometimes overlap minimally. GedMatch introduced Genesis as a sandbox beta version previously, but are now in the process of combining regular GedMatch and Genesis into one. Yes, there are problems and matching challenges. Patience is the key word as the various vendors and GedMatch adapt and improve their required migration to imputation.

DNA Central

In June Blaine Bettinger announced DNACentral, an online monthly or yearly subscription site as well as a monthly newsletter that covers news in the genetic genealogy industry.

Many educators in the industry have created seminars for DNACentral. I just finished recording “Getting the Most out of Y DNA” for Blaine.

Even though I work in this industry, I still subscribed – initially to show support for Blaine, thinking I might not get much out of the newsletter. I’m pleased to say that I was wrong. I enjoy the newsletter and will be watching sessions in the Course Library and the Monthly Webinars soon.

If you or someone you know is looking for “how to” videos for each vendor, DNACentral offers “Now What” courses for Ancestry, MyHeritage, 23andMe, Family Tree DNA and Living DNA in addition to topic specific sessions like the X chromosome, for example.

Social Media

2018 has seen a huge jump in social media usage which is both bad and good. The good news is that many new people are engaged. The bad news is that people often given faulty advice and for new people, it’s very difficult (nigh on impossible) to tell who is credible and who isn’t. I created a Help page for just this reason.

You can help with this issue by recommending subscribing to these three blogs, not just reading an article, to newbies or people seeking answers.

Always feel free to post links to my articles on any social media platform. Share, retweet, whatever it takes to get the words out!

The general genetic genealogy social media group I would recommend if I were to select only one would be Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques. It’s quite large but well-managed and remains positive.

I’m a member of many additional groups, several of which are vendor or interest specific.

Genetic Snakeoil

Now the bad news. Everyone had noticed the popularity of DNA testing – including shady characters.

Be careful, very VERY careful who you purchase products from and where you upload your DNA data.

If something is free, and you’re not within a well-known community, then YOU ARE THE PRODUCT. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If it sounds shady or questionable, it’s probably that and more, or less.

If reputable people and vendors tell you that no, they really can’t determine your Native American tribe, for example, no other vendor can either. Just yesterday, a cousin sent me a link to a “tribe” in Canada that will, “for $50, we find one of your aboriginal ancestors and the nation stamps it.” On their list of aboriginal people we find one of my ancestors who, based on mitochondrial DNA tests, is clearly NOT aboriginal. Snake oil comes in lots of flavors with snake oil salesmen looking to prey on other people’s desires.

When considering DNA testing or transfers, make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions, where your DNA is going, who is doing what with it, and your recourse. Yes, read every single word of those terms and conditions. For more about legalities, check out Judy Russell’s blog.

Recommended Vendors

All those DNA tests look yummy-good, but in terms of vendors, I heartily recommend staying within the known credible vendors, as follows (in alphabetical order).

For genetic genealogy for ethnicity AND matching:

  • 23andMe
  • Ancestry
  • Family Tree DNA
  • GedMatch (not a vendor because they don’t test DNA, but a reputable third party)
  • MyHeritage

You can read about Which DNA Test is Best here although I need to update this article to reflect the 2018 additions by MyHeritage.

Understand that both 23andMe and Ancestry will sell your DNA if you consent and if you consent, you will not know who is using your DNA, where, or for what purposes. Neither Family Tree DNA, GedMatch, MyHeritage, Genographic Project, Insitome, Promethease nor LivingDNA sell your DNA.

The next group of vendors offers ethnicity without matching:

  • Genographic Project by National Geographic Society
  • Insitome
  • LivingDNA (currently working on matching, but not released yet)

Health (as a consumer, meaning you receive the results)

Medical (as a contributor, meaning you are contributing your DNA for research)

  • 23andMe
  • Ancestry
  • DNA.Land (not a testing vendor, doesn’t test DNA)

There are a few other niche vendors known for specific things within the genetic genealogy community, many of whom are mentioned in this article, but other than known vendors, buyer beware. If you don’t see them listed or discussed on my blog, there’s probably a reason.

What’s Coming in 2019

Just like we couldn’t have foreseen much of what happened in 2018, we don’t have access to a 2019 crystal ball, but it looks like 2019 is taking off like a rocket. We do know about a few things to look for:

  • MyHeritage is waiting to see if envelope and stamp DNA extractions are successful so that they can be added to their database.
  • www.totheletterDNA.com is extracting (attempting to) and processing DNA from stamps and envelopes for several people in the community. Hopefully they will be successful.
  • LivingDNA has been working on matching since before I met with their representative in October of 2017 in Dublin. They are now in Beta testing for a few individuals, but they have also just changed their DNA processing chip – so how that will affect things and how soon they will have matching ready to roll out the door is unknown.
  • Ancestry did a 2018 ethnicity update, integrating ethnicity more tightly with Genetic Communities, offered genetic traits and made some minor improvements this year, along with adding one questionable feature – showing your matches the location where you live as recorded in your profile. (23andMe subsequently added the same feature.) Ancestry recently said that they are promising exciting new tools for 2019, but somehow I doubt that the chromosome browser that’s been on my Christmas list for years will be forthcoming. Fingers crossed for something new and really useful. In the mean time, we can download our DNA results and upload to MyHeritage, Family Tree DNA and GedMatch for segment matching, as well as utilize Ancestry’s internal matching tools. DNA+tree matching, those green leaf shared ancestor hints, is still their strongest feature.
  • The Family Tree DNA Conference for Project Administrators will be held March 22-24 in Houston this year, and I’m hopeful that they will have new tools and announcements at that event. I’m looking forward to seeing many old friends in Houston in March.

Here’s what I know for sure about 2019 – it’s going to be an amazing year. We as a community and also as individual genealogists will be making incredible discoveries and moving the ball forward. I can hardly wait to see what quandaries I’ve solved a year from now.

What mysteries do you want to unravel?

I’d like to offer a big thank you to everyone who made 2018 wonderful and a big toast to finding lots of new ancestors and breaking down those brick walls in 2019.

Happy New Year!!!

______________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some (but not all) 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

When DNA Leads You Astray

I’m currently going through what I refer to as “the great purge.”

This occurs when you can’t stand the accumulated piles and boxes of “stuff” and the file drawers are full, so you set about throwing away and giving away. (Yes, I know you just cringed. Me too.)

The great news is that I’ve run across so much old (as in decades old) genealogy from when I first began this journey. I used to make lists of questions and a research “to do” list. I was much more organized then, but there were also fewer “squirrel moments” available online to distract me with “look here, no, over here, no, wait….”

Most of those questions on my old genealogy research lists have (thankfully) since been answered, slowly, one tiny piece of evidence at a time. Believe me, that feeling is very rewarding and while on a daily basis we may not think we’re making much progress; in the big picture – we’re slaying that dragon!

However, genealogy is also fraught with landmines. If I had NOT found the documentation before the days of DNA testing, I could easily have been led astray.

“What?”, you ask, but “DNA doesn’t lie.” No, it doesn’t, but it will sure let you kid yourself about some things.

DNA is a joker and has no problem allowing you to fool yourself and by virtue of that, others as well.

Joke’s On Me

Decades ago, Aunt Margaret told me that her grandmother’s mother was “a Rosenbalm from up on the Lee County (VA) border.”

Now, at that time, I had absolutely NO reason to doubt what she said. After all, it’s her grandmother, Margaret Claxton/Clarkson who she knew personally, who didn’t pass away until my aunt was in her teens. Plenty close enough to know who Margaret Claxton’s mother was. Right?

DNA Astray Rosenbalm

Erroneous pedigree chart. Rebecca Rosenbalm is NOT the mother of Elizabeth Claxton/Clarkson.

I filled Rebecca Rosenbalm’s name into the appropriate space on my pedigree chart, was happy and smugly smiling like a Cheshire cat, right up until I accidentally discovered that the information was just plain wrong.

Uh oh….

Time Rolls On

As records became increasingly available, both in transcribed fashion and online, Hancock County, TN death certificates eventually could be obtained, one way or another. Being a dutiful genealogist, I collected all relevant documents for my ancestors, contentedly filing them in the “well that’s done” category – that is right up until Margaret Clarkson Bolton’s death certificate stopped me dead in my tracks.

margaret clarkson bolton death

Oops

Margaret’s mother wasn’t listed as Rebecca Rosenbalm, nor Rebecca anyone. She was listed as Betsy Speaks. Or was it Spears? In our family, Betsy is short for Elizabeth.

Who the heck was Elizabeth Speaks, or Spears. This was one fine monkey wrench!

A trip to Hancock County, Tennessee was in order.

I dug through dusty deed and court records, sifted through the archives in basements and the old jail building where I just KNEW my ancestors had inhabited cells at one time or another.

Yes, my ancestor’s records really were in jail!

Records revealed that the woman in question was Elizabeth Speaks, not Spears, although the Spears family did live in the area and had “married in” to many local families. Nothing is ever simple and our ancestors do have a perverse sense of humor.

Elizabeth Speak(s) was the daughter of Charles Speak, and the Speak family lived a few miles across the border into Lee County, Virginia. This high mountain land borders two states and three counties, so records are scattered among them – not to mention two fires in the Hancock County courthouse make research challenging.

Why?

I asked my Aunt Margaret who was still living at the time about this apparent discrepancy and she told me that the Rosenbalms “up in Rose Hill, Virginia” told her that her grandmother, Margaret Claxton/Clarkson was kin to them, so Margaret had assumed (there’s that word again) that Margaret Claxton’s mother was their Rebecca Rosenbalm.

Wrong!

The Kernel of Truth

Like so many family stories, there is a kernel of truth, surrounded by a multitude errors. Distilling the grain of truth is the challenge of course.

Margaret Claxton’s mother was Elizabeth (Betsy) Speak and her father was Charles Speak. Charles Speak’s sister, Rebecca married William Henderson Rosenbalm in 1854, had 4 children and died in February 1859. So there indeed was a woman named Rebecca (Speaks) Rosenbalm who had died young and wasn’t well known.

Rebecca’s sister Frances “Fanny” Speak also married that same William Henderson Rosenbalm in November 1859, a few months after Rebecca had died. Fannie also had 4 children, one of which was also named Rebecca Rosenbalm. Do you see a trend here?

So, indeed there were 7 living Rosenbalm children who were first cousins to Elizabeth Speak who married Samuel Claxton and lived a dozen miles away, over the mountains and across the Powell River. Now a dozen miles might not sound like much today, but in the mountains during horse and wagon days – 10 miles wasn’t trivial and required a multi-day commitment for a visit. In other words, the next generation of the family knew of their cousins but didn’t know them well.

The following generation included my Aunt Margaret who was told by those cousins that she was related to them through the Rosenbalm family. While, that was true for the Rosenbalm cousins, it was not true for Aunt Margaret who was related to the Rosenbalms through their common Speak ancestor.

Here’s what the family tree really looks like, only showing the lines under discussion.

DNA astray correct pedigree

You can see why Aunt Margaret might not know specifics. She was actually several generations removed from the common ancestor. She knew THAT they were related, but not HOW they were related and there were several Rebecca’s in several branches of the family.

Why Does This Matter?

You’ve probably guessed by now that someplace in here, there’s a moral to this story, so here it is!

You may have already surmised that I have autosomal DNA matches to cousins through the Rosenbalm/Speaks line.

DNA astray pedigree match

This is one example, but there are more, some being double cousins meaning two of Nicholas Speak’s 11 children’s descendants have intermarried. Life is a lot more complex in those hills and hollers than people think – and unraveling the relationships, both paper and genetic (which are sometimes two different things) is challenging.

DNA astray chromosome 10.png

I match this fourth cousin once removed (4C1R) on a healthy 18 cM segment on chromosome 10.

Wrong Conclusions

Now, think back to where I was originally in my research. I knew that Margaret Claxton/Clarkson was my aunt’s grandmother. I knew nothing at all about the Speak family and had never heard that surname.

Had I ONLY been looking to confirm the Rosenbalm connection, I certainly would have confirmed that I’m related to the Rosenbalm family descendants with this match. Except the conclusion that I descend from a Rosenbalm ancestor would have been WRONG. What we share are the Speak ancestors.

So really, the DNA didn’t lie, but unless I dissected what the DNA match was really telling me carefully and methodically with NO PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS, I would have “confirmed” erroneous information. Or, at least I would have thought that I confirmed it.

I would actually have been doing something worse meaning convincing myself of “facts” that weren’t accurate, which means I would have then been spreading around those cancerous bad trees. Guaranteed, I do NOT want to be that person.

Foolers

I can tell you here and now that I have found several matches that were foolers because I share multiple ancestors with a person that I match, even if those multiple ancestors aren’t known to either or both of us. Every single DNA segment has its own unique history. I match one individual on two segments, one segment through my mom and one segment through my dad. Fortunately, we’ve identified both ancestors now, but imaging my initial surprise and confusion, especially given that my parents don’t share any common ancestors, communities or locations.

We have to evaluate all of the evidence to confirm that the conclusion being drawn in accurate.

DNA astray painting

One of the sanity checks I use, in addition to triangulation, is to paint my matches with known ancestors on my chromosomes using DNAPainter. Here’s the match to my cousin, and it overlaps with other people who share the same ancestor couple. Several matches are obscured behind the black box. If I discover someone that I supposedly match from a different ancestor couple sharing this segment of my father’s DNA, that’s a red neon flashing sign that something is wrong and I need to figure out what and why.

Ignoring this problem and hoping it will go away doesn’t work. I’ve tried😊

Three possible things can be wrong:

  1. The segment is identical by chance, not by descent. With a segment of 18 cM, that’s extremely unlikely. Triangulation with other people on this same segment on the same parent’s side should eliminate most false matches over 7cM. The larger the match, the more likely it is NOT identical by chance, meaning that it IS identical by descent or genealogically relevant.
  2. The segment is accurately matched but the genealogy is confused – such as my Rosenbalm example. This can happen with multiple ancestors, or descent from the same family but through an unknown connection. Looking for other connections to this family and sorting through matches’ trees often provides hints that resolve this situation. In my case, I might have noticed that I matched other people who descended from Nicholas Speak, which would not have been the case had I descended through the Rosenbalm family.
  3. The third scenarios is that the genealogy is plain flat out wrong. Yea, I know this one hurts. Get the saw ready.

The Devil in the Details

Always evaluate your matches in light of what you don’t know, not in order to confirm what you think you know. Play the devil’s advocate – all the time. After all, the devil really is in the details.

______________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some (but not all) 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

Introducing The Triangulator

Goran Runfeldt, a fellow genetic genealogist, has developed a killer app. You’ve heard of “The Terminator?” Well, meet “The Triangulator.”

Goran developed the Family Finder Segment Triangulator tool to run, using a user script or browser extension, on the Family Tree DNA site, after you sign in to your personal page. So there is no downloading, no spreadsheets, nothing messy.

The Triangulator tool is still in beta, so while the documentation is rather sparse, the tool is extremely intuitive if you understand triangulation.

What is Triangulation?

If you don’t understand triangulation, what it is, how it differs from match groups, and why you would want to utilize triangulation, may I please suggest that you read the following articles before utilizing the tool.

Concepts – Why Genetic Genealogy and Triangulation?

Concepts – Match Groups and Triangulation

Triangulation for Autosomal DNA

In a nutshell, triangulation provides you with a tool to show that not only do person A and B match you, on the same segment, but that they also match each other.

This means that they are not matching you on the same segment number from opposite sides of your family, meaning one person matching you from your mother’s side, and one from your father’s side. If they match other, as well as you, that means that they both descend from the same side of your tree (assuming they are not both matching you identically by chance.)

Family Tree DNA shows you, utilizing the chromosome browser, that two people match you, and on the same segment, but they don’t (yet) inform you about triangulation, although they are working on a triangulation tool.

Chromosome Browser

In the following example, we have 5 known relatives to Barbara, whose background chromosome is black. As you can see, there are three possible triangulation points where at least two of the people match Barbara.

Just to be sure, I downloaded these matches to a spreadsheet to illustrate that these matches are not trivial in size – meaning based on their size, they certainly should be legitimate matches.

All three matching areas on this chromosome (grey, gold and blue) are large enough to be considered substantial, and when compared to the charts created by Philip Gammon in the Match-Maker-Breaker article, we see that there is almost no likelihood that these are false matches, or matches by chance. In that article, when phasing matches to parents, we demonstrated that 97% of the matches of 12cM or more and/or SNP density of 2800 or more phase to one or the other parent, meaning they are legitimate matches. At 15cM, 100% of a child’s matches also match a parent, except for the X chromosome.

All of these cousins descend from Barbara’s paternal side, from the same family line, so the chances are pretty good that they do all triangulate, but let’s see.

Installing the Triangulator

First, you’ll need to install the triangulator.

My choice is to utilize the tool in Chrome, as I had difficulties with Internet Explorer compatibility. Chrome works just fine.

Goran has provided installation instructions for various browsers here.

If you’re installing this tool in Chrome, be sure to sign in to the Chrome web store while using Chrome to install the free app, or the store will ask you to download Chrome.

The installation is super easy – just one click, literally.

Triangulating

Ok, now the hardest part is over and we can get busy triangulating right away.

Sign in to your account at Family Tree DNA, using the browser where you just installed the tool.

Click on your Family Finder matches.

You’ll notice something new right away, a new icon that says “dnagen tools” at the top of your Family Finder matches. That’s the Triangulator.

On your match list, select the people you want to triangulate, just like you were selecting the people to compare in the chromosome browser.

Your comparison list will be built, like always, on the lower left hand side of your screen.

To triangulate, instead of clicking on the Chromosome Browser button, you’re going to click on the new dnagentools icon.

You’ll see a little dropdown box that says “Triangulator.”

Just click on “Triangulator.”

That’s it.

Processing…

You’ll see the progress bar as the tool calculates the relationships of the people you are triangulating to each other.

When the tool finishes, it switches to the Triangulated Segment tab, which is what everyone wants to see first, but you can always click on the Relationships tab to view the various relationships of the people you selected to each other.

All of the genetically estimated relationship of all of the people you’ve triangulated to every other person in the group are displayed.

Triangulated Segments

When the Triangulator is finished, you’ll see the “Triangulated Segments,” tab displayed, assuming some segments do triangulate, with a small image of the chromosome beneath each triangulated segment.  The area where the segments match to you is colored in orange and where the segments all triangulate is colored in red.

Additionally, the tool shows you the actual overlap range, the number of matching positions and the overlapping number of SNPs as well.

If you think you’ve died and gone to triangulation heaven, you have.

Downloadable Data

In order for you to easily transfer this information to your spreadsheets where you are triangulating your segments (you are, aren’t you???) and assigning segments to ancestors, Goran has provided a nifty tool for that too.

At the bottom, Goran has included downloads of:

  • All matching segments for these people
  • The triangulated segments for these people over the match threshold selected, which defaults to 5, same as the chromosome browser
  • The relationships of these people to each other

Yes, you can lower the threshold, but just remember that as you do, the chances of the segments being identical by chance increases.

The Answer to Our Problem – Triangulation is Critical

In case you’ve gotten all excited about triangulating and forgotten that we were in the middle of a story problem, let’s look at our answer.

If you recall, there were three candidate regions for triangulating between Barbara’s known cousins on chromosome 3.

However, the Triangulator only shows two triangulating segments, the first and third. That means that the second of these large segments does NOT triangulate. That means that one of these third cousins matches Barbara on that segment in one of these three ways:

  • By chance
  • Because the overlapping matching region is too small to be considered a match
  • One person matches from Barbara’s mother’s side and one from her father’s side – as unlikely as that seems with third cousins.

The most likely reason for non-triangulation is the third reason, given those large matching segment segment sizes.

While the first and third (grey and blue) segment match groups both triangulate, the middle (gold) region does not.

If you’re shocked, just remember that no matter how intuitive a match seems, and no matter how “sure” you are that two people from the same line of your family certainly must triangulate because they both match you on the same segment, without triangulation, you REALLY DON’T KNOW!

And you all know about assume, right? Been there, done that, got educated!

Triangulate removes the assume from the equation.

In this case, triangulation tells me that I need to look on Barbara’s mother’s side for a second common ancestor with either C. Lentz or W. Lentz.

Just so you know, I was suspicious of this result, but given that I have access directly to the kits of both C. and W. Lentz, because I tested them both, I verified that they don’t match each other on this segment, both at Family Tree DNA and at GedMatch.  So this is no mistake.

Support

This triangulation tool is a “goodness of heart” free application shared with the genetic genealogy community, and while Goran is willing to share, he doesn’t really want his inbox to be swamped. In the tool, he provides the following support information.

Goran follows the ISOGG Facebook group, so posting questions there will provide answers for you, and maybe for someone else following along too.

What if I Haven’t Tested at Family Tree DNA?

The Triangulator tool requires chromosome segment data, thankfully provided by Family Tree DNA. Therefore, this tool is not available for use with Ancestry data at Ancestry. You can, however, download your Ancestry DNA file to Family Tree DNA. Not everyone who tests at each vendor uploads to other places, so be sure to fish in all of the ponds, one way or another.

You can read about which vendors’ files are compatible to transfer to Family Tree DNA (and other places too) in the article Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?

The following chart shows transfer Files Accepted at Family Tree DNA.

Vendor Fully Compatible Version Partially Compatible Version Incompatible Version
Ancestry V1 – until May 2016 V2 – after May 2016 to present
23andMe V3 – until Nov. 2013 V4 – Nov. 2013 – Aug. 2017 V5 – Aug. 2017 to present
MyHeritage All

Keep in mind that the current V5 version of the 23andMe test is not compatible at all at Family Tree DNA. The 23andMe V4 version, in use between November of 2013 and August of 2017 is only partially compatible, as is the Ancestry V2 version in use since May 2016.

If you upload partially compatible versions, you’ll receive your closest (meaning largest) matches, generally about 20-25 % of your matches that you would receive if you tested on the Family Tree DNA platform.  However, you’ll be missing most of your matches, and you never know where that match you desperately need is hiding.

Note that this isn’t an artificial restriction imposed by Family Tree DNA, it’s a function of the other vendor’s chips only being partially compatible with the DNA processing chip used by Family Tree DNA.

If you want to see all of your matches and all of your segments, purchase the Family Finder test at Family Tree DNA.

Thank You

A really big thank you to Goran and the user interface developer, Jonas, for this wonderful tool.

______________________________________________________________

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

Glossary – DNA – Deoxyribonucleic Acid

What is DNA and why do I care?

Good questions. Let’s take a look at the answer in general, then why we use DNA for genealogy.

The Recipe for You

DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid, is the book of life for all organisms. In essence, it’s the recipe for you – and what makes you unique.

DNA is formed of strands that twist to form the familiar double helix pattern.

The two strands are joined together by one of 4 different nucleotides, one extending from each side to connect in the middle. The nucleotides are:

  • Cytosine – C
  • Guanine – G
  • Thymine – T
  • Adenine – A

The nucleotide names don’t really matter for genetic genealogy, but what does matter is that the sequence of these nucleotides when chained together is what encodes information on long structures called chromosomes. Each person carries 22 chromosomes, plus the 23rd chromosome pair which is gender specific.

Using DNA for Genetic Genealogy

There are four different kinds of DNA that genealogists use in different ways for obtaining ancestors’ information relevant to genetic genealogy. Thankfully, we have 4 different kinds of DNA available to us because of unique inheritance patterns for each kind of DNA – meaning we inherited different kinds of DNA from different ancestral paths. If one kind of DNA doesn’t work in a particular situation, chances are good that another type will.

Genetic genealogy makes use of 4 different types of DNA.

  • Y DNA – passed from males to male children, only (your father’s paternal line)
  • Mitochondrial DNA – passed from females to both genders of children, but only females pass it on (your mother’s matrilineal line)

Y and mitochondrial DNA inheritance paths are shown on a pedigree chart in the graphic below, with the blue boxes representing Y DNA and the red circles representing mitochondrial DNA inheritance.

In addition to Y and mitochondrial DNA, genetic genealogists also use two kinds of DNA that reflect inheritance from additional ancestral lines, in addition to the red and blue lines shown above – meaning the ancestral lines with no color.

  • Autosomal DNA – the 22 chromosomes that recombine during reproduction.
  • X Chromosome – always contributed by the mother, but only contributed by the father to female children – this is the 23rd chromosome pair which recombines with a unique inheritance pattern.  You can read more about that in the article, X Marks the Spot.

Receiving What Kind of DNA from Whom

While the Y and mitochondrial DNA have unique and very prescribed inheritance patterns as shown by the red arrows pointing to the blue Y chromosome below at far left, and the red mitochondrial circles at far right, the 22 autosomal chromosomes are contributed equally by each parent. In other words, for each chromosome, a child inherits half of each parent’s DNA. How the selection of which DNA is contributed to each child is unknown.

A child’s gender is determined by the parent’s contributions to the 23rd chromosome, not shown above. The following chart explains gender determination by the X and Y combinations of the 23rd chromosome.

Received from Mother Received from Father
Male child X Y
Female child X X

The Y chromosome is what makes males male.

No Y chromosome?  You’re a female.

However, this X chromosome inheritance pattern provides us with the ability to look at X matches for males and know immediately that they had to have come from his mother’s lineage – because males don’t inherit an X chromosome from their father.

Autosomal DNA and Genetic Genealogy

The 22 non-gender chromosomes recombine in each generation, with half of each chromosome being contributed by each parent, as shown in the illustrations above.

You can see that in the first generation, the child received one blue and one yellow, or one pink and one green, chromosome. In giving each child exactly half of their DNA, each parent contributes some amount of ancestral DNA from generations upstream, as you can see in the mother/father and son/daughter generations.

For example, each child receives, on average, 25% of each of their grandparent’s DNA – although they can receive somewhat more or less than 25%, depending on the random nature of recombination.

Therefore, genetic genealogy testing companies compare tester’s autosomal DNA with other testers and look for common segments contributed by common ancestors, resulting in autosomal matching.

When relatively large segments match between three or more relatives who are not immediate family, we can attribute that DNA to a common ancestor. Of course, the challenge, and the thrill, is to determine which common ancestor contributed that common DNA to our triangulated match group. It’s a great way to verify our research and to break down brick walls.

Let’s face it, you received ALL of your DNA from SOME combination of ancestors, and if you carry large enough pieces from any specific ancestor, we can, hopefully, identify the source of that DNA segment by looking at the genealogy of those we match on that segment.

It’s a great puzzle to unravel, and best of all, it’s the puzzle of you.

More Info

The great news is that you can utilize your Y DNA, mitochondrial DNA and autosomal DNA differently, to provide you with different kinds of information about different ancestors and genealogy lines.

If you’d like to read more about how the 4 Kinds of DNA can be used, please read the short article, 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy.

You can also enter any word or phrase into the search box in the upper right hand corner of this blog to find additional useful information about any topic.

If You Want to Test

If you’d like to learn more about the various kinds of DNA tests available, and which one or ones would be the best for you, please read the article, Which DNA Test is Best?

______________________________________________________________

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

Concepts – Segment Size, Legitimate and False Matches

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match!

One of the questions I often receive about autosomal DNA is, “What, EXACTLY, is a match?”  The answer at first glance seems evident, meaning when you and someone else are shown on each other’s match lists, but it really isn’t that simple.

What I’d like to discuss today is what actually constitutes a match – and the difference between legitimate or real matches and false matches, also called false positives.

Let’s look at a few definitions before we go any further.

Definitions

  • A Match – when you and another person are found on each other’s match lists at a testing vendor. You may match that person on one or more segments of DNA.
  • Matching Segment – when a particular segment of DNA on a particular chromosome matches to another person. You may have multiple segment matches with someone, if they are closely related, or only one segment match if they are more distantly related.
  • False Match – also known as a false positive match. This occurs when you match someone that is not identical by descent (IBD), but identical by chance (IBC), meaning that your DNA and theirs just happened to match, as a happenstance function of your mother and father’s DNA aligning in such a way that you match the other person, but neither your mother or father match that person on that segment.
  • Legitimate Match – meaning a match that is a result of the DNA that you inherited from one of your parents. This is the opposite of a false positive match.  Legitimate matches are identical by descent (IBD.)  Some IBD matches are considered to be identical by population, (IBP) because they are a result of a particular DNA segment being present in a significant portion of a given population from which you and your match both descend. Ideally, legitimate matches are not IBP and are instead indicative of a more recent genealogical ancestor that can (potentially) be identified.

You can read about Identical by Descent and Identical by Chance here.

  • Endogamy – an occurrence in which people intermarry repeatedly with others in a closed community, effectively passing the same DNA around and around in descendants without introducing different/new DNA from non-related individuals. People from endogamous communities, such as Jewish and Amish groups, will share more DNA and more small segments of DNA than people who are not from endogamous communities.  Fully endogamous individuals have about three times as many autosomal matches as non-endogamous individuals.
  • False Negative Match – a situation where someone doesn’t match that should. False negatives are very difficult to discern.  We most often see them when a match is hovering at a match threshold and by lowing the threshold slightly, the match is then exposed.  False negative segments can sometimes be detected when comparing DNA of close relatives and can be caused by read errors that break a segment in two, resulting in two segments that are too small to be reported individually as a match.  False negatives can also be caused by population phasing which strips out segments that are deemed to be “too matchy” by Ancestry’s Timber algorithm.
  • Parental or Family Phasing – utilizing the DNA of your parents or other close family members to determine which side of the family a match derives from. Actual phasing means to determine which parts of your DNA come from which parent by comparing your DNA to at least one, if not both parents.  The results of phasing are that we can identify matches to family groups such as the Phased Family Finder results at Family Tree DNA that designate matches as maternal or paternal based on phased results for you and family members, up to third cousins.
  • Population Based Phasing – In another context, phasing can refer to academic phasing where some DNA that is population based is removed from an individual’s results before matching to others. Ancestry does this with their Timber program, effectively segmenting results and sometimes removing valid IBD segments.  This is not the type of phasing that we will be referring to in this article and parental/family phasing should not be confused with population/academic phasing.

IBD and IBC Match Examples

It’s important to understand the definitions of Identical by Descent and Identical by Chance.

I’ve created some easy examples.

Let’s say that a match is defined as any 10 DNA locations in a row that match.  To keep this comparison simple, I’m only showing 10 locations.

In the examples below, you are the first person, on the left, and your DNA strands are showing.  You have a pink strand that you inherited from Mom and a blue strand inherited from Dad.  Mom’s 10 locations are all filled with A and Dad’s locations are all filled with T.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature doesn’t keep your Mom’s and Dad’s strands on one side or the other, so their DNA is mixed together in you.  In other words, you can’t tell which parts of your DNA are whose.  However, for our example, we’re keeping them separate because it’s easier to understand that way.

Legitimate Match – Identical by Descent from Mother

matches-ibd-mom

In the example above, Person B, your match, has all As.  They will match you and your mother, both, meaning the match between you and person B is identical by descent.  This means you match them because you inherited the matching DNA from your mother. The matching DNA is bordered in black.

Legitimate Match – Identical by Descent from Father

In this second example, Person C has all T’s and matches both you and your Dad, meaning the match is identical by descent from your father’s side.

matches-ibd-dad

You can clearly see that you can have two different people match you on the same exact segment location, but not match each other.  Person B and Person C both match you on the same location, but they very clearly do not match each other because Person B carries your mother’s DNA and Person C carries your father’s DNA.  These three people (you, Person B and Person C) do NOT triangulate, because B and C do not match each other.  The article, “Concepts – Match Groups and Triangulation” provides more details on triangulation.

Triangulation is how we prove that individuals descend from a common ancestor.

If Person B and Person C both descended from your mother’s side and matched you, then they would both carry all As in those locations, and they would match you, your mother and each other.  In this case, they would triangulate with you and your mother.

False Positive or Identical by Chance Match

This third example shows that Person D does technically match you, because they have all As and Ts, but they match you by zigzagging back and forth between your Mom’s and Dad’s DNA strands.  Of course, there is no way for you to know this without matching Person D against both of your parents to see if they match either parent.  If your match does not match either parent, the match is a false positive, meaning it is not a legitimate match.  The match is identical by chance (IBC.)

matches-ibc

One clue as to whether a match is IBC or IBD, even without your parents, is whether the person matches you and other close relatives on this same segment.  If not, then the match may be IBC. If the match also matches close relatives on this segment, then the match is very likely IBD.  Of course, the segment size matters too, which we’ll discuss momentarily.

If a person triangulates with 2 or more relatives who descend from the same ancestor, then the match is identical by descent, and not identical by chance.

False Negative Match

This last example shows a false negative.  The DNA of Person E had a read error at location 5, meaning that there are not 10 locations in a row that match.  This causes you and Person E to NOT be shown as a match, creating a false negative situation, because you actually do match if Person E hadn’t had the read error.

matches-false-negative

Of course, false negatives are by definition very hard to identify, because you can’t see them.

Comparisons to Your Parents

Legitimate matches will phase to your parents – meaning that you will match Person B on the same amount of a specific segment, or a smaller portion of that segment, as one of your parents.

False matches mean that you match the person, but neither of your parents matches that person, meaning that the segment in question is identical by chance, not by descent.

Comparing your matches to both of your parents is the easiest litmus paper test of whether your matches are legitimate or not.  Of course, the caveat is that you must have both of your parents available to fully phase your results.

Many of us don’t have both parents available to test, so let’s take a look at how often false positive matches really do occur.

False Positive Matches

How often do false matches really happen?

The answer to that question depends on the size of the segments you are comparing.

Very small segments, say at 1cM, are very likely to match randomly, because they are so small.  You can read more about SNPs and centiMorgans (cM) here.

As a rule of thumb, the larger the matching segment as measured in cM, with more SNPs in that segment:

  • The stronger the match is considered to be
  • The more likely the match is to be IBD and not IBC
  • The closer in time the common ancestor, facilitating the identification of said ancestor

Just in case we forget sometimes, identifying ancestors IS the purpose of genetic genealogy, although it seems like we sometimes get all geeked out by the science itself and process of matching!  (I can hear you thinking, “speak for yourself, Roberta.”)

It’s Just a Phase!!!

Let’s look at an example of phasing a child’s matches against those of their parents.

In our example, we have a non-endogamous female child (so they inherit an X chromosome from both parents) whose matches are being compared to her parents.

I’m utilizing files from Family Tree DNA. Ancestry does not provide segment data, so Ancestry files can’t be used.  At 23andMe, coordinating the security surrounding 3 individuals results and trying to make sure that the child and both parents all have access to the same individuals through sharing would be a nightmare, so the only vendor’s results you can reasonably utilize for phasing is Family Tree DNA.

You can download the matches for each person by chromosome segment by selecting the chromosome browser and the “Download All Matches to Excel (CSV Format)” at the top right above chromosome 1.

matches-chromosomr-browser

All segment matches 1cM and above will be downloaded into a CSV file, which I then save as an Excel spreadsheet.

I downloaded the files for both parents and the child. I deleted segments below 3cM.

About 75% of the rows in the files were segments below 3cM. In part, I deleted these segments due to the sheer size and the fact that the segment matching was a manual process.  In part, I did this because I already knew that segments below 3 cM weren’t terribly useful.

Rows Father Mother Child
Total 26,887 20,395 23,681
< 3 cM removed 20,461 15,025 17,784
Total Processed 6,426 5,370 5,897

Because I have the ability to phase these matches against both parents, I wanted to see how many of the matches in each category were indeed legitimate matches and how many were false positives, meaning identical by chance.

How does one go about doing that, exactly?

Downloading the Files

Let’s talk about how to make this process easy, at least as easy as possible.

Step one is downloading the chromosome browser matches for all 3 individuals, the child and both parents.

First, I downloaded the child’s chromosome browser match file and opened the spreadsheet.

Second, I downloaded the mother’s file, colored all of her rows pink, then appended the mother’s rows into the child’s spreadsheet.

Third, I did the same with the father’s file, coloring his rows blue.

After I had all three files in one spreadsheet, I sorted the columns by segment size and removed the segments below 3cM.

Next, I sorted the remaining items on the spreadsheet, in order, by column, as follows:

  • End
  • Start
  • Chromosome
  • Matchname

matches-both-parents

My resulting spreadsheet looked like this.  Sorting in the order prescribed provides you with the matches to each person in chromosome and segment order, facilitating easy (OK, relatively easy) visual comparison for matching segments.

I then colored all of the child’s NON-matching segments green so that I could see (and eventually filter the matchname column by) the green color indicating that they were NOT matches.  Do this only for the child, or the white (non-colored) rows.  The child’s matchname only gets colored green if there is no corresponding match to a parent for that same person on that same chromosome segment.

matches-child-some-parents

All of the child’s matches that DON’T have a corresponding parent match in pink or blue for that same person on that same segment will be colored green.  I’ve boxed the matches so you can see that they do match, and that they aren’t colored green.

In the above example, Donald and Gaff don’t match either parent, so they are all green.  Mess does match the father on some segments, so those segments are boxed, but the rest of Mess doesn’t match a parent, so is colored green.  Sarah doesn’t match any parent, so she is entirely green.

Yes, you do manually have to go through every row on this combined spreadsheet.

If you’re going to phase your matches against your parent or parents, you’ll want to know what to expect.  Just because you’ve seen one match does not mean you’ve seen them all.

What is a Match?

So, finally, the answer to the original question, “What is a Match?”  Yes, I know this was the long way around the block.

In the exercise above, we weren’t evaluating matches, we were just determining whether or not the child’s match also matched the parent on the same segment, but sometimes it’s not clear whether they do or do not match.

matches-child-mess

In the case of the second match with Mess on chromosome 11, above, the starting and ending locations, and the number of cM and segments are exactly the same, so it’s easy to determine that Mess matches both the child and the father on chromosome 11. All matches aren’t so straightforward.

Typical Match

matches-typical

This looks like your typical match for one person, in this case, Cecelia.  The child (white rows) matches Cecelia on three segments that don’t also match the child’s mother (pink rows.)  Those non-matching child’s rows are colored green in the match column.  The child matches Cecelia on two segments that also match the mother, on chromosome 20 and the X chromosome.  Those matching segments are boxed in black.

The segments in both of these matches have exact overlaps, meaning they start and end in exactly the same location, but that’s not always the case.

And for the record, matches that begin and/or end in the same location are NOT more likely to be legitimate matches than those that start and end in different locations.  Vendors use small buckets for matching, and if you fall into any part of the bucket, even if your match doesn’t entirely fill the bucket, the bucket is considered occupied.  So what you’re seeing are the “fuzzy” bucket boundaries.

(Over)Hanging Chad

matches-overhanging

In this case, Chad’s match overhangs on each end.  You can see that Chad’s match to the child begins at 52,722,923 before the mother’s match at 53,176,407.

At the end location, the child’s matching segment also extends beyond the mother’s, meaning the child matches Chad on a longer segment than the mother.  This means that the segment sections before 53,176,407 and after 61,495,890 are false negative matches, because Chad does not also match the child’s mother of these portions of the segment.

This segment still counts as a match though, because on the majority of the segment, Chad does match both the child and the mother.

Nested Match

matches-nested

This example shows a nested match, where the parent’s match to Randy begins before the child’s and ends after the child’s, meaning that the child’s matching DNA segment to Randy is entirely nested within the mother’s.  In other words, pieces got shaved off of both ends of this segment when the child was inheriting from her mother.

No Common Matches

matches-no-common

Sometimes, the child and the parent will both match the same person, but there are no common segments.  Don’t read more into this than what it is.  The child’s matches to Mary are false matches.  We have no way to judge the mother’s matches, except for segment size probability, which we’ll discuss shortly.

Look Ma, No Parents

matches-no-parents

In this case, the child matches Don on 5 segments, including a reasonably large segment on chromosome 9, but there are no matches between Don and either parent.  I went back and looked at this to be sure I hadn’t missed something.

This could, possibly, be an instance of an unseen a false negative, meaning perhaps there is a read issue in the parent’s file on chromosome 9, precluding a match.  However, in this case, since Family Tree DNA does report matches down to 1cM, it would have to be an awfully large read error for that to occur.  Family Tree DNA does have quality control standards in place and each file must pass the quality threshold to be put into the matching data base.  So, in this case, I doubt that the problem is a false negative.

Just because there are multiple IBC matches to Don doesn’t mean any of those are incorrect.  It’s just the way that the DNA is inherited and it’s why this type of a match is called identical by chance – the key word being chance.

Split Match

matches-split

This split match is very interesting.  If you look closely, you’ll notice that Diane matches Mom on the entire segment on chromosome 12, but the child’s match is broken into two.  However, the number of SNPs adds up to the same, and the number of cM is close.  This suggests that there is a read error in the child’s file forcing the child’s match to Diane into two pieces.

If the segments broken apart were smaller, under the match threshold, and there were no other higher matches on other segments, this match would not be shown and would fall into the False Negative category.  However, since that’s not the case, it’s a legitimate match and just falls into the “interesting” category.

The Deceptive Match

matches-surname

Don’t be fooled by seeing a family name in the match column and deciding it’s a legitimate match.  Harrold is a family surname and Mr. Harrold does not match either of the child’s parents, on any segment.  So not a legitimate match, no matter how much you want it to be!

Suspicious Match – Probably not Real

matches-suspicious

This technically is a match, because part of the DNA that Daryl matches between Mom and the child does overlap, from 111,236,840 to 113,275,838.  However, if you look at the entire match, you’ll notice that not a lot of that segment overlaps, and the number of cMs is already low in the child’s match.  There is no way to calculate the number of cMs and SNPs in the overlapping part of the segment, but suffice it to say that it’s smaller, and probably substantially smaller, than the 3.32 total match for the child.

It’s up to you whether you actually count this as a match or not.  I just hope this isn’t one of those matches you REALLY need.  However, in this case, the Mom’s match at 15.46 cM is 99% likely to be a legitimate match, so you really don’t need the child’s match at all!!!

So, Judge Judy, What’s the Verdict?

How did our parental phasing turn out?  What did we learn?  How many segments matched both the child and a parent, and how many were false matches?

In each cM Size category below, I’ve included the total number of child’s match rows found in that category, the number of parent/child matches, the percent of parent/child matches, the number of matches to the child that did NOT match the parent, and the percent of non-matches. A non-match means a false match.

So, what the verdict?

matches-parent-child-phased-segment-match-chart

It’s interesting to note that we just approach the 50% mark for phased matches in the 7-7.99 cM bracket.

The bracket just beneath that, 6-6.99 shows only a 30% parent/child match rate, as does 5-5.99.  At 3 cM and 4 cM few matches phase to the parents, but some do, and could potentially be useful in groups of people descended from a known common ancestor and in conjunction with larger matches on other segments. Certainly segments at 3 cM and 4 cM alone aren’t very reliable or useful, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t potentially be used in other contexts, nor are they always wrong. The smaller the segment, the less confidence we can have based on that segment alone, at least below 9-15cM.

Above the 50% match level, we quickly reach the 90th percentile in the 9-9.99 cM bracket, and above 10 cM, we’re virtually assured of a phased match, but not quite 100% of the time.

It isn’t until we reach the 16cM category that we actually reach the 100% bracket, and there is still an outlier found in the 18-18.99 cM group.

I went back and checked all of the 10 cM and over non-matches to verify that I had not made an error.  If I made errors, they were likely counting too many as NON-matches, and not the reverse, meaning I failed to visually identify matches.  However, with almost 6000 spreadsheet rows for the child, a few errors wouldn’t affect the totals significantly or even noticeably.

I hope that other people in non-endogamous populations will do the same type of double parent phasing and report on their results in the same type of format.  This experiment took about 2 days.

Furthermore, I would love to see this same type of experiment for endogamous families as well.

Summary

If you can phase your matches to either or both of your parents, absolutely, do.  This this exercise shows why, if you have only one parent to match against, you can’t just assume that anyone who doesn’t match you on your one parent’s side automatically matches you from the other parent. At least, not below about 15 cM.

Whether you can phase against your parent or not, this exercise should help you analyze your segment matches with an eye towards determining whether or not they are valid, and what different kinds of matches mean to your genealogy.

If nothing else, at least we can quantify the relatively likelihood, based on the size of the matching segment, in a non-endogamous population, a match would match a parent, if we had one to match against, meaning that they are a legitimate match.  Did you get all that?

In a nutshell, we can look at the Parent/Child Phased Match Chart produced by this exercise and say that our 8.5 cM match has about a 66% chance of being a legitimate match, and our 10.5 cM match has a 95% change of being a legitimate match.

You’re welcome.

Enjoy!!

______________________________________________________________

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

Nine Autosomal Tools at Family Tree DNA

The introduction of the Phased Family Finder Matches has added a new way to view autosomal DNA results at Family Tree DNA and a powerful new tool to the genealogists toolbox.

The Phased Family Finder Matches are the 9th tool provided for autosomal test results by Family Tree DNA. Did you know where were 9?

Each of the different methodologies provides us with information in a unique way to assist in our relentless search for cousins, ancestors and our quests to break down brick walls.

That’s the good news.

The not-so-good news is that sometimes options are confusing, so I’d like to review each tool for viewing autosomal match information, including:

  • When to use each tool
  • How to use each tool
  • What the results mean to you
  • The unique benefits of each tool
  • The cautions and things you need to know about each tool including what they are not

The tools are:

  1. Regular Matching
  2. ICW (In Common With)
  3. Not ICW (Not In Common With)
  4. The Matrix
  5. Chromosome Browser
  6. Phased Family Matching
  7. Combined Advanced Matching
  8. MyOrigins Matching
  9. Spreadsheet Matching

You Have Options

Family Tree DNA provides their clients with options, for which I am eternally grateful. I don’t want any company deciding for me which matches are and are not important based on population phasing (as opposed to parental phasing), and then removing matches they feel are unimportant. For people who are not fully endogamous, but have endogamous lines, matches to those lines, which are valid matches, tend to get stripped away when a company employs population based phasing – and once those matches are gone, there is no recovery unless your match happens to transfer their results to either Family Tree DNA or GedMatch.

The great news is that the latest new option, Phased Family Matching, is focused on making easy visual comparisons of high quality parental matches which is especially useful for those who don’t want to dig deeply.

There are good options for everyone at all ranges of expertise, from beginners to those who like to work with spreadsheets and extract every teensy bit of information.

So let’s take a look at all of your matching options at Family Tree DNA. If you’re not taking advantage of all of them, you’re missing out. Each option is unique and offers something the other options don’t offer.

In case you’re curious, I’ll be bouncing back and forth between my kit, my mother’s kit and another family member’s kit because, based on their matches utilizing the various tools, different kits illustrate different points better.

Also, please note that you can click on any image to see a larger version.

Selecting Options

FF9 options

Your selection options for Family Finder are available on both your Dashboard page under the Family Finder heading, right in the middle of the page, and the dropdown myFTDNA menu, on the upper left, also under Family Finder.

Ok, let’s get started. 

#1 – Regular Matching

By regular matching, I’m referring to the matches you see when you click on the “Matches” tab on your main screen under Family Finder or in the dropdown box.

FF9 regular matching

Everyone uses this tool, but not everyone knows about the finer points of various options provided.

There’s a lot of information here folks. Are you systematically using this information to its full advantage?

Your matches are displayed in the highest match first order. All of the information we utilize regularly (or should) is present, including:

  • Relationship Range
  • Match Date
  • Shared CentiMorgans
  • Longest (shared) Block
  • X-Match
  • Known Relationship
  • Ancestral Surnames (double click to see entire list)
  • Notes
  • E-mail envelope icon
  • Family Tree
  • Parental “side” icon

The Expansion “+” at the right side of each match, shown below, shows us:

  • Tests Taken
  • mtDNA haplogroup
  • Y haplogroup

Clicking on your match’s profile (their picture) provides additional information, if they have provided that information:

  • Most distant maternal ancestor
  • Most distant paternal ancestor
  • Additional information in the “about me” field, sometimes including a website link

On the match page, you can search for matches either by their full name, first name, last name or click on the “Advanced Search” to search for ancestral surname. These search boxes can be found at the top right.

FF9 advanced search

The Advanced Search feature, underneath the search boxes at right, also provides you with the option of combining search criteria, by opening two drop down boxes at the top left of the screen.

FF9 search combo

Let’s say I want to see all of my matches on the X chromosome. I make that selection and the only people displayed as matches are those whom I match on the X chromosome.

You can see that in this case, there are 280 matches. If I have any Phased Family Matches, then you will see how many X matches I have on those tabs too.

The first selection box works in combination with the second selection box.

FF9 search combo 2

Now, let’s say I want to sort in Longest Block Order. That section sorts and displays the people who match me on the X chromosome in Longest Block Order.

FF9 longest block

Prerequisites

  • Take the Family Finder test or transfer your results from either 23andMe (V3 only) or Ancestry (V1 only, currently.)
  • Match must be over the matching threshold of 9cM if shared cM are less than 20, or, the longest block must be at least 7.69 cM if the total shared cM is 20 or greater.

Power Features

  • The ability to customize your view by combining search, match and sort criteria.

Cautions

  • It’s easy to forget that you’re ONLY working with X matches, for example, once you sort, and not all of your matches. Note the Reset Filter button above your matches which clears all of the sort and search criteria. Always reset, just to be on the safe side, before you initiate another sort.

FF9 reset filter

  • Please note that the search boxes and logic are in the process of being redesigned, per a conversation Michael Davila, Director of Product Development, on 7-20-2016. Currently, if you search for the name “Donald,” for example, and then do an “in common with” match to someone on the Donald match list, you’ll only see those individuals who are in common with “Donald,” meaning anyone without “Donald” as one of their names won’t show as a match. The logic will be revised shortly so that you will see everyone “in common with,” not just “Donald.” Just be aware of this today and don’t do an ICW with someone you’ve searched for in the search box until this is revised.

#2 – In Common With (ICW)

You can select anyone from your match list to see who you match in common with them.

This is an important feature because it gives me a very good clue as to who else may match me on that same genealogical line.

For example, cousin Donald is related on the paternal line. I can select Donald by clicking the box to the left of his profile which highlights his row in yellow. I can then select what I want to do with Don’s match.

FF9 ICW

You will see that Don is selected in the match selection box on the lower left, and the options for what I can do with Don are above the matches. Those options are:

  • Chromosome Browser
  • In Common With
  • Not in Common With

Let’s select “In Common With.”

Now, the matches displayed will ONLY be those that I match in common with Don, meaning that Donald and I both match these people.

FF9 ICW matches

As you can see, I’m displaying my matches in common with Don in longest block order. You can click on any of the header columns to display in reverse order.

There are a total of 82 matches in common with Don and of those, 50 are paternally assigned. We’ll talk about how parental “side” assignments happen in a minute.

Prerequisites

  • None

Power Features

  • Can see at a glance which matches warrant further inspection and may (or may not) be from a common genealogical line.

Cautions

  • An ICW match does NOT mean that the matching individual IS from the same common line – only genealogical research can provide that information.
  • An ICW matches does NOT mean that these three people, you, your match and someone who matches both of you is triangulated – meaning matching on the same segment. Only individual matching with each other provides that information.
  • It’s easy to forget that you’re not working with your entire match list, but a subset. You can see that Donald’s name appears in the box at the upper left, along with the function you performed (ICW) and the display order if you’ve selected any options from the second box.

# 3 – Not In Common With

Now, let’s say I want to see all of my X matches that are not in common with my mother, who is in the data base, which of course suggests that they are either on my father’s side or identical by chance. My father is not in the data base, and given that he died in 1963, there is no chance of testing him.

Keep in mind though that because X matches aren’t displayed unless you have another qualifying autosomal segment, that they are more likely to be valid matches than if they were displayed without another matching segment that qualifies as a match.

For those who don’t know, X matches have a unique inheritance pattern which can yield great clues as to which side of your tree (if you’re a male), and which ancestors on various sides of your tree X matches MUST come from (males and females both.) I wrote about this here, along with some tools to help you work with X matches.

To utilize the “Not In Common With” feature, I would select my mother and then select the “Not In Common With” option, above the matches.

FF9 NICW

I would then sort the results to see the X matches by clicking on the top of the column for X-Match – or by any other column that I wanted to see.

FF9 NICW X

I have one very interesting not in common with match – and that’s with a Miller male that I would have assumed, based on the surname, was a match from my mother’s side. He’s obviously not, at least based on that X match. No assuming allowed!

Prerequisites

  • None

Power Features

  • Can see at a glance which matches warrant further inspection and may be from a common genealogical line – or are NOT in common with a particular person.

Cautions

  • Be sure to understand that “not in common with” means that you, the person you match and the list of people shown as a result of the “Not ICW” do not all match each other.  You DO match the person on your match list, but the list of “not in common with” matches are the people who DON’T match both of you.  Not in common with is the opposite of “in common with” where your match list does match you and the person you’re matching in common with.
  • The X and other chromosome matches may be inherited from different ancestors. Every matching segment needs to be analyzed separately.

#4 – The Matrix

Let’s say that I have a list of matches, perhaps a list of individuals that I found doing an ICW with my cousin, and I wonder if these people match each other. I can utilize the Matrix grid to see.

Going back to the ICW list with cousin Donald, let’s see if some of those people match each other on the Matrix.

Let’s pick 5 people.

I’m selecting Cheryl, Rex, Charles, Doug and Harold.

Margaret Lentz chart

I’m making these particular selections because I know that all of these people, except Harold, are related to my mother, Barbara, shown on the bottom row of the chart above.  This chart, borrowed from another article (William is not in this comparison), shows how Cheryl, Rex, Charles and Barbara who have all DNA tested are related to each other.  Some are related through the Miller line, some through the dual Lentz/Miller line, and some just from the Lentz line.  Doug is related through the Miller line only, and at least 4 generations upstream. Doug may also be related through multiple lines, but is not descended from the Lentz line.

The people I’ve selected for the matrix are not all related to each other, and they don’t all share one common ancestral line.

Harold is a wild card – I have no idea how he is related or who he is related to, so let’s see what we can determine.

FF9 Matrix choices

As you make selections on the Matrix page, up to 10 selections are added to the grid.

FF9 Matrix grid

You can see that Charles matches Cheryl and Harold.

You can see that Rex matches Charles and Cheryl and Harold.

You can see that Doug matches only Cheryl, but this isn’t surprising as the common line between Doug and the known cousins is at least 4 generations further back in time on the Miller line.

The known relationship are:

  • Don and Cheryl are siblings, descended from the Lentz/Miller.
  • Rex is a known cousin on the Miller/Lentz line
  • Charles is a known cousin on the Lentz line only
  • Doug is a known cousin on the Miller line only

Let me tell you what these matches indicate to me.

Given that Harold matches Rex and Charles and Cheryl, IF and that’s a very big IF, he descends from the same lines, then he would be related to both sides of this family, meaning both the Miller and Lentz lines.

  • He could be a downstream cousin after the Lentz and Miller lines married, meaning a descendant of Margaret Lentz and John David Miller, or other Miller/Lentz couples
  • He could be independently related to both lines upstream. They did intermarry.
  • He could be related to Charles or Rex through an entirely separate line that has nothing to do with Lentz or Miller.

So I have no exact answer, but this does tell me where to look. Maybe I could find additional known Lentz or Miller line descendants to add to the Matrix which would provide additional information.

Prerequisites

  • None

Power Features

  • Can see at a glance which matches match each other as well.

Cautions

  • Matrix matches do NOT mean that these individuals match on the same segments, it just means they do match on some segment. A matrix match is not triangulation.
  • Matrix matches can easily be from different lines to different ancestors. For example, Harold could match each one of three individuals that he matches on different ancestral lines that have nothing to do with their common Lentz or Miller line.

#5 – Chromosome Browser

I want to know if the 5 individuals that I selected to compare in the Matrix match me on any of the same segments.

I’m going back to my ICW list with cousin Donald.

I’ve selected my 5 individuals by clicking the box to the left of their profiles, and I’m going to select the chromosome browser.

FF9 chromosome browser choices

The chromosome browser shows you where these individuals match you.

Overlapping segments mean the people who overlap all match you on that segment, but overlapping segments do NOT mean they also match each other on these same segments.

Translated, this means they could be matching you on different sides of your family or are identical by chance. Remember, you have two sides to your chromosome, a Mom’s side and a Dad’s side, which are intermingled, and some people will match you by chance. You can read more about this here.

The chromosome browser shows you THAT they match you – it doesn’t tell you HOW they match you or if they match each other.

FF9 chromosome browser view2

The default view shows matches of 5cM or greater. You can select different thresholds at the top of the comparison list.

You’ll notice that all 5 of these people match me, but that only two of them match me on overlapping segments, on chromosome 3. Among those 5 people, only those who match me on the same segments have the opportunity to triangulate.

This gives you the opportunity to ask those two individuals if they also match each other on this same chromosome. In this case, I have access to both of those kits, and I can tell you that they do match each other on those segments, so they do triangulate mathematically. Since I know the common ancestor between myself, Cheryl and Rex, I can assign this segment to John David Miller and Margaret Lentz. That, of course, is the goal of autosomal matching – to identify the common ancestor of the individuals who match.

You also have the option to download the results of this chromosome browser match into a spreadsheet. That’s the left-most download option at the top of the chromosomes. We’ll talk about how to utilize spreadsheets last.

The middle option, “view in a table” shows you these results, one pair of individuals at a time, in a table.

This is me compared to Rex. You will have a separate table for each one of the individuals as compared to you. You switch between them at the bottom right.

FF9 chromosome browser table2

The last download option at the furthest right is for your entire list of matches and where they match you on your chromosomes.

Prerequisites

  • None

Power Features

  • Can visually see where individuals and multiple people match you on your chromosomes, and where they overlap which suggests they may triangulate.

Cautions

  • When two people match you on the same chromosome segment, this does not mean that they also match each other on that segment. Matching on overlapping segments is not triangulation, although it’s the first step to triangulation.
  • For triangulation, you will need to contact your matches to determine if they also match each other on the same segment where they both match you. You may also be able to deduce some family matching based on other known individuals from the same line that you also match on that same segment, if your match matches them on that segment too.
  • The chromosome browser is limited to 5 people at a time, compared to you. By utilizing spreadsheet matching, you can see all of your matches on a particular segment, together.

#6 – Phased Family Matching

Phased Family Matching is the newest tool introduced by Family Tree DNA. I wrote about it here. The icons assigned to matches make it easy to see at a glance which side of your family, maternal or paternal, or both, a match derives from.

ff9 parental iconPhased Family Matching allows you to link the DNA results of qualified relatives to your tree and by doing so, Family Tree DNA assigns matches to maternal or paternal buckets, or sometimes, both, as shown in the icon above.

This phased matching utilizes both parental phasing in addition to a slightly higher threshold to assure that the matches they assign to parental sides can be done so with confidence. In order to be assigned a maternal or paternal icon, your match must match you and your qualifying relative at 9cM or greater on at least one of the same segments over the matching threshold. This is different than an ICW match, which only tells you that you do match, not how you match or that it’s on the same segment.

Qualifying relatives, at this time, are parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and first cousins. Additional relatives are planned in the near future.

Icons are ONLY placed based on phased match results that meet the criteria.

These icons are important because they indicate which side of your family a match is from with a great deal of precision and confidence – beyond that of regular matching.

This is best illustrated by an example.

Phased FF2

In this example, this individual has their father and mother both in the system. You can see that their father’s side is assigned a blue icon and their mother’s side is assigned a pink (red) icon. This means they match this person on only one side of their family.  A purple icon with both a male and female image means that this person is related to you on both sides of your family.  Full siblings, when both parents are in the system to phase against, would receive both icons.

This sibling is showing as matching them on both sides of their family, because both parents are available for phasing.

If only one parent was available, the father, for example, then the sibling would only shows the paternal icon. The maternal icon is NOT added by inference. In Phased Family Matching, nothing is added by inference – only by exact allele by allele matching on the same segment – which is the definition of parentally phased matching.

These icons are ONLY added as a result of a high quality phased matches at or above the phased match threshold of 9cM.

You can read more about the Family Matching System in the Family Tree DNA Learning Center, here.

Prerequisites

  • You must have tested (or transferred a kit) for a qualifying relative. At this time qualifying relatives parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and first cousins.
  • You must have uploaded a GEDCOM file or created a tree.
  • You must link the DNA of qualifying kits to that person your tree. I provided instructions for how to do this in this article.
  • You must match at the normal matching threshold to be on the match list, AND then match at or above the Phased Family Match threshold in the way described to be assigned an icon.
  • You must match on at least one full segment at or above 9cM.

Power Features

  • Can visually see which side of your family an individual is related to. You can be confident this match is by descent because they are phased to your parent or qualifying family member.

Cautions

  • If someone does not have an icon assigned, it does NOT mean they are not related on that particular side of the family. It only means that the match is not strong enough to generate an icon.
  • If someone DOES match on a particular side of the family, you will still need to do additional matching and genealogy work to determine which ancestor they descend from.
  • If someone is assigned to one side of your family, it does NOT preclude the possibility that they have a smaller or weaker match to your other side of the family.
  • If you upload a new Gedcom file after linking DNA to people in your tree, you will overwrite your DNA links and will have to relink individuals.
  • Having an icon assigned indicates mathematical triangulation for the person who tested, their parents or close relative against whom they were phased and their match with the icon.  However, technically, it’s not triangulation in cases where very close relatives are involved.  For example, parents, aunts, uncles and siblings are too closely related to be considered the third leg of the triangulation stool.  First cousins, however, in my opinion, could be considered the third leg of the three needed for triangulation.  Of course when triangulation is involved, more than three is always better – the more the merrier and the more certain you can be that you have identified the correct ancestor, ancestral couple, or ancestral line to assign that particular triangulated segment to.

# 7 – Combined Advanced Matching

One of the comparison tools often missed by people is Combined Advanced Matching.

Combined matching is available through the “Tools and Apps” button, then select “Advanced Matching.”

Advanced Matching allows you to select various options in combination with each other.

For example, one of my favorites is to compare people within a project.

You can do this a number of ways.

In the case of my mother, I’ll select everyone she matches on the Family Finder test in the Miller-Brethren project. This is a very focused project with the goal of sorting the Miller families who were of the Brethren faith.

FF9 combined matching

You can see that she has several matches in that project.

You can select a variety of combinations, including any level of Y or mtDNA testing, Family Finder, X matching, projects and “last name begins with.”

One of the ways I utilize this feature often is within a surname project, for males in particular, I select one Y level of matching at a time, combined with Family Finder, “show only people I match on all tests” and then the project name. This is a quick way to determine whether someone matches someone on Family Finder that is also in a particular surname project. And when your surname is Smith, this tool is extremely valuable. This provides a least a hint as to the possible distance to a common ancestor between individuals.

Another favorite way to utilize this feature is for non-surname projects like the American Indian project. This is perfect for people who are hunting for others with Native roots that they match – and you can see their Y and mtDNA haplogroups as a bonus!

Prerequisites

  • Must have joined the particular project if you want to use the project match feature within that project.

Power Features

  • The ability to combine matching criteria across products.
  • The ability to match within projects.
  • The ability to specify partial surnames.

Cautions

  • If you match someone on both Family Finder and either Y or mtDNA haplogroups, this does NOT mean that your common Family Finder ancestor is on that haplogroup line. It might be a good place to begin looking. Check to see if you match on the Y or mtDNA products as well.
  • All matches have their haplogroup displayed, not just IF you also match that haplogroup, unless you’ve specified the Y or mtDNA options and then you would only see the people you match which would be in the same major haplogroup, although not always the same subgroup because not everyone tests at the same level.
  • Not all surname project administrators allow people who do not carry that surname in the present generation to join their projects.

# 8 – MyOrigins Matching

One tool missed by many is the MyOrigins matching by ethnicity. For many, especially if you have all European, for example, this tool isn’t terribly useful, but if you are of mixed heritage, this tool can be a wonderful source of information.

Your matches (who have authorized this type of matching) will be displayed, showing only if they match you on your major world categories.  Only your matching categories will show.  For example, if my match, Frances, also has African heritage and I do not, I won’t see Frances’s African percentage and vice versa.

FF9 myOrigins

In this example, the person who tested falls into the major categories of European and Middle Eastern. Their matches who fall into either of these same categories will be displayed in the Shared Origins box. You may not be terribly excited about this – unless you are mixed African, Asian, European and Native American – and you have “lost ancestors” you can’t find. In that case, you may be very excited to contact other matches with the same ethnic heritage.

When you first open your myOrigins page, you will be greeted with a choice to opt in (by clicking) or to opt out (by doing nothing) of allowing your ethnic matches to view the same ethnic groups you carry. Your matches will not be able to see your ethnic groups that they don’t have in common with you.

FF9 myorigins opt in

You can also access those options to view or change by clicking on Account Settings, Privacy and Sharing, and then you can view or change your selection under “My DNA Results.”

FF9 myorigins security

Prerequisites

  • Must authorize Shared Origins matching.

Power Features

  • The ability to discern who among your matches shares a particular ethnicity, and to what degree.

Cautions

  • Just because you share a particular ethnicity does NOT mean you match on the shared ethnic line. Your common ancestor with that person may be on an entirely unrelated line.

# 9 – Spreadsheet Matching

Family Tree DNA offers you the ability to download your entire list of matches, including the specific segments where your matches match you, to a spreadsheet.

This is the granddaddy of the tools and it’s a tool used by all serious genetic genealogists. It’s requires the most investment from you both in terms of understanding and work, but it also yields the most information.

The power of spreadsheet comparisons isn’t in the 5 people I pushed through to the chromosome browser, in and of themselves, but in the power of looking at the locations where all of your matches match you and known relatives on particular segments.

Utilizing the chromosome browser, we saw that chromosome 3 had an overlap match between Rex (green) and Cheryl (blue) as compared to my mother (background chromosome.)

FF9 chr 3

We see that same overlap between Cheryl and Rex when we download the match spreadsheet for those 5 people.

However, when we download all of my mother’s matches, we have a much more powerful view of that segment, below. The 2 segments we saw overlapping on the chromosome browser are shown in green. All of these people colored pink match my mother on some part of the 37cM segment she shares with Rex.

FF9 spreadsheet match

This small part of my master spreadsheet combines my own results, rows in white, with those of my mother, rows in pink.

In this case, I only match one of these individuals that mother also matches on the same segment – Rex. That’s fine. It just means that I didn’t receive the rest of that DNA from mother – meaning the portions of the segments that match Sam, Cheryl, Don, Christina and Sharon.

On the first two rows, I did receive part of that DNA from mother, 7.64 of the 37cMs that Rex matches to Mom at a threshold of 5cM.

We know that Cheryl, Don and Rex all share a common ancestor on mother’s father’s side three generations removed – meaning John David Miller and Margaret Lentz. By looking at Cheryl, Don and Rex’s matches as well, I know that several of her matches do triangulate with Cheryl, Don and/or Rex.

What I didn’t know was how Christina fit into the picture. She is a new match. Before the new Phased Family Matching, I would have had to go into each account, those of Rex, Cheryl and Don, all of which I manage, to be sure that Christina matched all of them individually in addition to Mom’s kit.

I don’t have to do that now, because I can utilize the phased Family Matching instead. The addition of the Family Matching tool has taken this from three additional steps, assuming I have access to all kits, which most people don’t, to one quick definitive step.

Cheryl and Don are both mother’s first cousins, so matches can be phased against them. I have linked both of them to mother’s kit so she how has several individuals who are phased to Don and Cheryl which generate paternal icons since Don and Cheryl are related to mother on her father’s side.

Now, instead of looking at all of the accounts individually, my first step is to see if Christina has a paternal icon, which, in this case, means she phased against either Don and/or Cheryl since those are the only two people linked to mother who qualify for phasing, today.

FF9 parental phased match

Look, Christina does have a paternal icon, so I can add “Dad” into the side column for Christine in the spreadsheet for mother’s matches AND I know Christina triangulates to Mom and either Cheryl or Don, which ever cousin she phased against.

FF9 Christina chr 3

I can see which cousin she phased against by looking at the chromosome browser and comparing mother against Cheryl, Don and Christina.  As it turns out, Christina, in green, above, phased against both Cheryl and Don whose results are in orange and blue.

It’s a great day in the neighborhood to be able to use these tools together.

Prerequisites

  • Must download matches spreadsheet through the chromosome browser, adding new matches to your spreadsheet as they occur.
  • Must have a familiarity with Excel or another spreadsheet.
  • Must learn about matching, match groups and triangulation.

Power Features

  • The ability to control the threshold you wish to work with. For matches over the match threshold, Family Tree DNA provides all segment matches to 1cM with a total of 500 SNPs.
  • The ability to see trends and groups together.
  • The ability to view kits from all of your matches for more powerful matching.
  • The ability to combine your results with those of a parent (or sibling if parents not available) to see joint matching where it occurs.

Cautions

  • There is a comparatively steep learning curve if you’re not familiar with using spreadsheets, but it’s well worth the effort if you are serious about proving ancestors through triangulation.

Summary

I’m extremely grateful for the full complement of tools available at Family Tree DNA.

They provide a range of solutions for users at all levels – people who just want to view their ethnicity or to utilize matches at the vendor site as well as those who want tools like a chromosome browser, projects, ICW, not ICW, the Matrix, ethnicity matching, combined advanced matching and chromosome browser downloads for those of us who want actual irrefutable proof.  No one has to use the more advanced tools, but they are there for those of us who want to utilize them.

I’m sorry, I’m not from Missouri, but I still want to see it for myself. I don’t want any vendor taking the “trust me” approach or doing me any favors by stripping out my data. I’m glad that Family Tree DNA gives us multiple options and doesn’t make one size fit all by using a large hammer and chisel.

The easier, more flexible and informative Family Tree DNA makes the tools, the easier it will be to convince people to test or download their data from other vendors. The more testers, the better our opportunity to find those elusive matches and through them, ancestors.

The Concepts Series

I’ve been writing a “Concepts” series of articles. Recent articles have been about how to utilize and work with autosomal matches on a spreadsheet.

You might want to read these Concepts articles if you’re serious about working with autosomal DNA.

Concepts – How Your Autosomal DNA Identifies Your Ancestors

Concepts – Identical by…Descent, State, Population and Chance

Concepts – CentiMorgans, SNPs and Pickin’ Crab

Concepts – Parental Phasing

Concepts – Downloading Autosomal Data from Family Tree DNA

Concepts – Managing Autosomal DNA Matches – Step 1 – Assigning Parental Sides

Please join me shortly for the next Concepts article – Step 2 – Who’s Related to Whom?

In the meantime:

  • Make full use of the autosomal tools available at Family Tree DNA.
  • Test additional relatives meaning parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, half-siblings, siblings, any cousin you can identify and talk into testing.
  • Take test kits to family reunions and holiday gatherings. No, I’m not kidding.
  • Don’t forget Y or mtDNA which can provide valuable tools to identify which line you might have in common, or to quickly eliminate some lines that you don’t have in common. Some cousins will carry valuable Y or mtDNA of your direct ancestral lines – and that DNA is full of valuable and unique information as well.
  • Link the DNA kits of those individuals you know to their place in your tree.
  • Transfer family kits from other vendors.

The more relatives you can identify and link in the system, the better your chances for meaningful matches, confirming ancestral relations, and solving puzzles.

Have fun!!!

______________________________________________________________

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

John David Miller (1812-1902), Never In His Wildest Dreams, 52 Ancestors #125

John David Miller was born April 6, 1812 in Montgomery County, Ohio to David Miller and Catharina Schaeffer.

Catharina, his mother, was a widow with two children when she married David Miller on December 13, 1805.

Between their marriage and Catharina’s death in about 1826, she bore 9 children. She died when John David was just 14 or so, a difficult age for a boy made even more difficult by his mother’s passing.

John David’s father married a woman named Elizabeth before leaving for Elkhart County, Indiana four years later, in 1830. Elizabeth died in 1838 in Elkhart County and John David’s father remarried again to Martha Drake in June of 1839, having 3 more children. We have this late marriage to thank for the long drawn out estate settlement which provides us with a great amount of information, including lists of David’s children and in some cases, grandchildren.

David’s son, John David Miller married Mary Baker on January 24, 1832 in Montgomery County when he was about 20.  They applied for the license 10 days earlier, with her father registering “no objection.”

John David Miller Mary Baker marriage

Oral history tells us that John David went to Elkhart County, then back to Montgomery County to marry his sweetheart and brought her back to Elkhart County. Some honeymoon, bouncing around in a wagon, but as a love-struck newlywed, who cares!

Their first child, Hester, was born on May 26, 1833, and her death certificate says she was born in Ohio, but the 1850 census says she was born in Indiana. It’s believed that by 1832, John David was in Elkhart County, Indiana.  The 1892 Elkhart County plat map, created when John David was still living, stated that he was born in 1812 and came to Jackson Township in 1832. It’s likely that John David Miller and possibly his bride joined the Cripe wagon train headed north during the winter of 1831/1832.

When the wagon train first arrived in Elkhart County, the extended family would have lived together initially, constructing a log cabin. The oral history tells us that they didn’t have time to construct a cabin that first winter, and they constructed a lean-to and covered the door with skins and fabric. That’s was probably the longest winter of their lives! Northern Indiana winters are miserable and bitterly cold. The Indians still lived there and helped the settlers survive.

The first several years, the family would have worked together to clear lands and farm what they could. Clearing and farming were full time jobs. John David and his bride likely lived with his father and family during this time.

In the 1840 census, we find the Brethren families grouped together. We know that David Miller owned land and was living on land where the Baintertown Cemetery is located today, his wife, Elizabeth, being the first (marked) burial in 1838.

In order, on the 1840 census, we find:

  • William S. Baker
  • Elias Baker
  • Samuel B. Miller
  • Adam Mock
  • Jacob Stutzman
  • John Miller
  • David Miller
  • Conrad Broombaugh

David Miller is shown age 30-40 and John Miller is shown age 20-30. John David would have been 28. His brother, David, would have been age 34.

Their father, David, was shown on a different page because his land was in a different township, although only a couple miles away.

The 1840 census shows John David with 4 children. We can fit known children into slots as follows:

  • Male age 5-10 (born 1830-1835) Samuel died before 1850
  • Male under 5 (born 1835-1840) David B. Miller born 1838
  • Male under 5 (born 1835-1840) John N. died before 1850
  • Female under 5 (born 1835-1840) Hester born 1833?

There is another female child who was born and died between census years, Catherine. If Catherine is the female under 5, then where was Hester who appears to be missing from the census?

The binding factor between these families listed together on the 1840 census is that they were Brethren. The reason they were attracted to Elkhart County was the availability of land grants. The land in Montgomery County was already taken. The relationship between the Miller, Mock and Stutzman families reaches back 4 generations to Johann Michael Mueller, the immigrant, in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Land

John David’s father, David, applied for and obtained several land grants. This particular grant below, applied for in 1832, would become the land of his sons John David Miller and David B. Miller when he sold it to them in 1841 for $100 each for half of the quarter section (80 acres) each.

JDM David Miller land grant

David, John David’s father, signed the receipt below.

JDM David Miller receipt

John David Miller may have applied for some land patents himself, and subsequently sold them, probably to raise funds. There are many John Miller’s in Elkhart County so differentiating them without middle initials is troublesome.

John David Miller and David B. Miller had very likely been clearing and working this land since 1832 when their father obtained it as a grant.

John cleared the land and built a log cabin which still stands under a portion of the house that remains today.  The cabin is the center section, shown below.

Margaret Lentz home

I always wondered why this house is turned sideways, then I looked closely at the plat maps and realized that the road, 142, that now runs east and west behind the house at one time curved and went in front of the house, so the house wasn’t sideways when it was built and it sat on the north side of the road.

JDM closeup of map section

Today, it sits on the south side of road 142. The current driveway was the original road.

JDM satellite 2

It makes me wonder, which came first, John David’s log cabin or the road, which was then likely no more than a wide path.

JDM farm

Turkey Creek runs along and through David’s land, shown below hidden behind the trees. This area is still relatively wet and densely forested.

Turkey Ck

Creeks in pioneer times were the lifeblood of the community, assuring fresh water for people and livestock in addition to being the early highways.  Land creekside went first – although the land along Turkey Creek is low and wet, even yet today.

This aerial view shows the very green Y intersection between Turkey Creek, the treed area on the left, and the Elkhart River, which runs on the east side of the map.  John David’s house is marked with a small grey pin at the intersection of 142 and 21.  You can see the extent of the forestation along the creek and river.

JDM aerial

Lots of floodplain probably meant that John David’s house and fields never flooded.

JDM turkey creek 3

This is Turkey Creek from the bridge on 142, today, above, looking at the portion on John David’s land.

JDM Turkey Creek 2

This part looking north is a little brighter and more cheerful.  Looking at this dense forest, you can understand why the pioneers had issues with malarial diseases.  There are backwaters and swamps green with algae less than a mile north.  Mosquito heaven.

JDM turkey looking at John's land

On the Turkey Creek bridge, looking at John David’s land on the left.

Oral history states that the Native people helped the family pick good land.  If that’s true, we are indebted to them.  It’s a decision that in time, they surely came to regret – not necessarily in terms of the Miller family personally – but in more general terms.  They not only became overrun by successive waves of settlers, they were forced off of their lands.

John David’s Father’s Death

John David’s father, David, died on December 1, 1851 without a will. At the time of his death, he had a wife and small children, after a 4th marriage to a younger widow woman 20 years his junior in 1839. Their last child was born in 1845, just 6 years before David’s death.

Clearly David’s death was unexpected, even though he was 70 years of age, or he probably would have executed a will given that he had children by at least 2 wives, 3 of which were minors.

John David Miller was not his father’s executor, thankfully. David’s estate was not to settle smoothly. Initially Adam Whitehead, husband of David’s eldest living sister, Susan, was the estate administrator.

Then something very un-Brethren-like happened. In 1855, all of David’s heirs, including John David Miller, sued Adam Whitehead and Susan. Brethren simply did not “take someone to law,” let alone a relative, and would try absolutely everything else to resolve a situation. This is the first lawsuit I know of being filed in America in the Miller lines. That’s pretty amazing, given that David’s heirs are 4 generations downstream from the original immigrant.

Court was a last resort – and often Brethren would let a wrong “stand” rather than taking an oppositional position, through law or otherwise.  Often, the church got involved to help straighten things out. Therefore this lawsuit is shocking to say the least – and apparently all of David’s heirs uniformly agreed, as they are all represented by the suit. That’s even more shocking and probably speaks to the gravity of the situation at hand.  The fact that the lawsuit wasn’t file until nearly 4 years after David’s death suggests this was a measure of last resort.

Based on the court document filed by the plaintiffs, Adam Whitehead had taken possession of all of David Miller’s lands by right of descent, which apparently meant because he was married to the eldest child (or at least eldest living child.)

This must have been a very difficult situation, because Adam taking possession of David’s lands would have excluded Martha Miller, David’s widow, and David’s three minor children from the proceeds of his estate or utilizing his land. While the older children wanted their share, I’m sure, the widow and her three minor children depended on that land and his estate to live.

The court agreed with the plaintiffs and ordered that Martha be awarded one third of David’s estate as her dower right and the rest to be divided evenly between his 12 children.

David’s son, Samuel, then became the executor. David’s estate settlement dragged on for 13 years, the last distribution made in 1864 when his final living child reached the age of majority.

John David signed three receipts during the long probate of his father’s estate, one each in 1854, 1855 and 1857 when he accepted a final $100 as his share of his father’s estate. His signatures are shown below.

JDM estate receipt

JDM 1855 estate receipt

JDM estate receipt 2

Never in his wildest dreams would David have expected the family to be split in this manner. This is the kind of rift that never heals. Estates, then and now, bring out the worst in people. 

Widower and Remarriage

John David Miller’s wife, Mary Baker, died on March 12, 1855, leaving John with a houseful of kids and no mother.  She was buried in the Baintertown Cemetery, on David Miller’s original land.  Her headstone was nearly unreadable when I visited several years ago.

Mary Baker Miller

A year later on March 30, 1856, John David married a Brethren widow, Margaret Lentz Whitehead, who also had 5 young children.

Margaret Lentz John David Miller marriage

Margaret was born Dec. 21, 1822 in Pennsylvania to Jacob Lentz and Johanna Fredericka Reuhle, both born in Germany. Margaret moved with her parents in the early 1830s to Montgomery County where she subsequently married Valentine Whitehead and joined the northward migration to Elkhart County where she had lived for nearly a decade before Valentine’s death in 1851.

When they married, John David Miller had 7 living children although Hester had just recently married the boy next door. Margaret had 5 children, What a busy household they must have had with 11 children.

Margaret Lentz blended family

John David Miller and Margaret had 4 more children, only 3 of whom survived; Evaline Louise (my great-grandmother, Ira J. (Rex Miller’s grandfather) and Perry Miller. The name of the child who died, probably in 1861, is unknown.

Church

About the time John David married Margaret, the Brethren built the Whitehead Church. It was the second Brethren church to be built in Indiana, and the only church in this vicinity. Prior to this, services were held in the homes and barns of members, with people traveling significant distances and sometimes staying overnight to attend.

Both John David and Margaret probably held church services at their homes when it was their turn – so they would have been well acquainted.

In the 1850s, land was donated by the Whitehead family for the church. The congregation would have had an old-fashioned “barn-raising” except in this case, it would have been a church raising. Margaret’s husband, Valentine, was buried across the road in 1851, so you can rest assured that Margaret and John David both participated in the building of the Whitehead church, later to be known as Maple Grove.

Of course, John David would have participated with the other men, constructing the building, and Margaret would have participated with the other women preparing food for the hungry crew.

In 2015, cousin Keith Lentz visited the now much more modern Maple Grove Church, the former Whitehead Church, attending services, and was kind enough to provide me with two pictures of the original church.

JDM whitehead church

The photo above is from a Brethren source, and the one below Keith took of a picture hanging inside the current church, in the old section. I suspect the top photo is older, based on the railings, but the building probably looked much like it did originally for a very long time.

JDM whitehead church 2

It does my heart good to know that John’s handiwork still remains in the present day church that retains the original posts, rafters and beams. The church members told Keith that the original building was raised in 1856, but the “History of the Church of the Brethren in Indiana” published in 1917 says the original building was built in 1851.

In these photos taken by Keith, you can see the original part of the building to the right of the main entrance today.

JDM Maple Grove

The Maple Grove church stands directly across from the Whitehead Cemetery.

JDM whitehead cem

Margaret Lentz Whitehead Miller wasn’t the only one with a tie to the Whitehead family or eventually to the Whitehead Cemetery. John David Miller’s sister, Susan, married Adam Whitehead in 1825 in Montgomery County. Adam Whitehead was one of the 9 Whitehead adult children who settled in Elkhart County with their father. Susan died in 1876 and is buried in the Whitehead Cemetery, across from the church.

When John David Miller died in 1902, he was a member of the Union Center church. He would have literally had to go past the Whitehead Church to attend Union Center which was located significantly further south. The Whitehead Church is 1.6 miles from John David’s farm and Union Center is a total of 7.7 miles distant.

JDM map to union

Something must have happened to cause that switch.

That something was very likely the ruckus that occurred after David Miller’s death, and the subsequent lawsuit. Making the situation even more awkward, in 1856, the year after the lawsuit was filed, John David married Margaret Lentz Whitehead, the widow of Valentine Whitehead.

The Millers may have been shunned in the Whitehead church for filing suit. Margaret may have been shunned for marrying John David Miller. One way or another, I’m sure it was uncomfortable for the Millers to attend the same church with the Whitehead clan during and probably after this time. Given that Susan is buried in the Whitehead Cemetery, it’s clear where her allegiance fell.

Union Center Church 1920

The Union Center Church was gracious enough to send me the photo of the church taken in 1920.  The indicated that their history says the church was build in 1866.

John David Miller’s switch to Union Center Brethren Church unquestionably occurred sometime before 1876 when John David’s daughter, Evaline married Hiram Ferverda. The Ferverda family lived south of the Union Center Church and were also Brethren. Evaline would have met Hiram at church functions. It would have been unlikely for her to meet him otherwise and have the ability to court, as the two families lived 10 miles or so apart. In essence, had it not been for that change of churches, my great-grandfather would not be my great-grandfather, and I would not be me today. You never know where those forks in the road will lead and how they will affect not only you but your children and descendants in perpetuity.

Union Center Brethren Church was organized in 1859 and had been meeting in homes since 1838 when it was administratively cut off from the Turkey Creek congregation which subsequently built the Whitehead Church. John David probably helped to build Union Center in 1859 too.

The book “History of the Church of the Brethren in Indiana” written in 1917 by Otto Winger tells us that:

In 1879 John R. Miller was called to the ministry at Union Center and was a cousin of Elder Alex. Miller, both of them being grandchildren of Elder John Miller, one of the first preachers of Elkhart County.

John Miller, the preacher, was called to the ministry in the Wolf Creek church in Montgomery County, Ohio. In 1835 he located on Elkhart Prairie, southeast of Goshen. He was an active colaborer of Elder Daniel Cripe, and did his share of the evangelistic work in those early days. He finally located in the Yellow Creek church, seven miles southwest of Goshen, where he died in 1856.

John Miller, the preacher, was the son of Daniel Miller and Elizabeth Ulrich. He married his first cousin, Ester Miller. John Miller, the preacher, was the Uncle of our John David Miller, being his father’s brother. John David Miller was likely named for his uncle John and his father David. John David’s father, David, died in 1851, John David’s wife died in 1855 and his uncle, John, died in 1856. In 1854, John David buried his daughter, Hester’s first child. Between deaths and the lawsuit, John David had a very rough few years.

The Lay of the Land

Cousin Keith did a significant amount of work on the Whitehead family and locating their land during his 2015 visit. He provided this map showing the approximate locations of the various homesteads.

Margaret Lentz Keith map

You’ll notice that Adam Whitehead and Susan Miller’s land was very close to that of John David Miller, shown on the composite map below. I can only imagine how awkward that became after the lawsuit.

Margaret Lentz Jackson Twp map

On this map, Valentine Whitehead’s land is the arrow at the bottom.  John David’s father’s land and the Baintertown Cemetery is the top arrow.  The arrow below that at 142 and 21 is John David’s home and the arrow below that on 46 is the Whitehead Church

On this 1874 plat map, you can see the exact location of John David’s land and his brother, David Baker Miller’s, as well. The Adam Whitehead land is the J. M. Whitehead land in 1874.  John M. Whitehead was the son of Adam Whitehead and Susan Miller.

Margaret Lentz 1874 Jackson Twp map

The colored legend on the 1874 map is:

  • Orange – David Miller’s lands (except his homeplace not shown on this map)
  • Green – David’s land sold to family members
  • Green dash – John David Miller and David B. Miller, David’s son’s lands

Messages in the Census

By 1850, we find the following families, in the census, in order:

  • Solomon Conrad
  • David B. Miller
  • Jacob Stutzman
  • Michael Haney
  • John D. Miller
  • Susannah Shively

Two of John David’s children/step-children would marry neighbors.

Jonas Shively is age 25, a carpenter and living with his widowed mother, right next to John David Miller. In 1851, Hester Miller married Jonas Shively, the boy next door. In 1860, John David’s second wife’s daughter, Lucinda Whitehead would marry Joseph Haney, son of Michael Haney. The Brethren generally did not marry outside their faith. If they did, one person or the other converted. There were no religiously “mixed” families at that time.

JDM 1850 census

The 1850 census shows us that two of the 4 children shown in 1840 have died. They are assuredly buried in the Miller, now Baintertown or Rodibaugh Cemetery, but their tiny graves are unmarked.

jdm 1860 census

The 1860 census goes hand in hand with the 1874 plat map and shows the following families, John’s neighbors, in order:

  • Michael Haney
  • Conrad Broombaugh
  • Solomon Conrad
  • John Banta
  • George Hanna?
  • David Rodibaugh
  • Daniel Shively
  • John D. Miller (with wife Margaret Lentz Whitehead)
  • David B. Miller
  • Adam Whitehead (with wife Susanna Miller) listed just below David B. Miller in the census schedule above

John David would bury his own child in 1861, likely in the Baintertown Cemetery in an unmarked grave, probably near his father and the 3 children he buried between 1832 and 1855.  If he and Margaret named this child, that information has not filtered down to us today.

John David’s daughter, Mary Ann Treesh’s daughter Chloe also was born and died in 1861, and is also likely buried at Baintertown.  Those babies are likely buried side by side near David Miller.

By the 1870 census, John David and Margaret were done having children. Their last child was born a few months before Margaret turned 40, in 1862, when John David was 49 years old. John David was a grandfather, several times over, before his last child was born. The span of years between his oldest child born in 1833 and youngest born in 1862 was 29 years. I can’t even imagine having young children in a household for more than 30 years straight – literally John David’s entire adult life.

Margaret Lentz 1870 census

As we look at the various census records, we see John David’s family shrink as they reach adulthood, marry and “set up housekeeping” on their own.

Margaret Lentz 1880 census

Ira was the last child to marry, in 1885.

By 1900, John David Miller and Margaret are living alone. It must have been quiet in that house, for the first time ever. Maybe too quiet, although I’m sure there were grandchildren in and out regularly, probably slamming screen doors.

Margaret Lentz 1900 census

This picture of John David and Margaret was probably taken between 1890 and 1900. John David looks to be in his 70s or 80s.

Margaret Lentz outside home2

John David Passes Over

I always view elderly ancestors as something of a miracle or akin to winning the lottery given that they lived in an age before modern medicine and in particular, before antibiotics. Living past childhood put you in the lucky half, and living to be elderly by any measure made you unique.

Unlike his father, John David did have a will, but he didn’t write his will until 1897, when he was 85 years old. Perhaps John was an optimist as well. People in earlier times didn’t write a will until they felt like they might need one, which is why so many people died intestate. They didn’t expect death to visit when it did.

John David Miller died on February 10, 1902.

John David Miller’s death certificate says that he was born in Pennsylvania in 1812, that he died in Jackson Twp, age 89, married, of senile gangrene, was buried in Baintertown and the funeral director was C.B. Stiver.

The informant was Perry Miller, John’s youngest child who was born in 1862, more than a decade after his grandfather, David, had died. Still, one would think he would have remembered his grandfather’s name, but he didn’t. Additionally, John David was born in Ohio, not Pennsylvania. Death certificates are often notoriously incorrect about anything to do with past history. People providing the information are very clearly stressed, if they ever knew the correct information.

JDM death cert

The Baintertown Cemetery is also known as the Rodibaugh Cemetery. David, his first wife Mary and second wife Margaret are buried on the North side of Co Rd 29 right off St Rd 15 in the community known as Baintertown. From 15, turn east at Co Rd 29, cross the RR tracks, then look on the left where the cemetery is obvious. The marker is at the end of the little cemetery road on the right.

JDM Baintertown map

On the map above from the Elkhart County Cemetery book, I have drawn the location of John David’s grave, near the north end of the cemetery, his father David’s grave to the right and his brother David B. Miller’s grave for reference. The Baintertown Cemetery is full of Millers and is located on the original David Miller land. Ironic that Perry couldn’t remember David’s name, but his parents are buried on David’s original land and within sight of David’s own marker.

JDM headstone

John David’s headstone cost $100

JDM headstone receipt

Apparently John David wasn’t buried in his own clothes, as a receipt submitted to the estate by the undertakers lists a casket for $95, a vault for $15 and a robe for $7.

John David had three different obituaries – a genealogists dream come true.

His first obituary appeared on February 10, 1902, a Monday, the day that he died, and reads as follows:

Aged Pioneer Dead

John B. Miller, Nearly 90 Years, Succumbed Today

John B. Miller, one of the oldest citizens of Jackson township who would have been 90 years old April 6th next, died at 2 o-clock this afternoon at his home 2.5 miles northwest of New Paris of senile gangrene, having been ill the past six months. For about seventy years he had resided on the farm where he died having entered the homestead originally from the government. He has since been one of the stalwart and highly esteemed citizens of his community. For many years he has been a prominent and influential member of the German Baptist church. He is survived by his aged wife and ten children. The children are; Aaron, David B of this county; Mrs. John Dubbs of Warsaw, Mrs Michael Tresch of Syracuse, Mrs. David B. Blough, east of Milford, D.W. Miller and Mrs. Jonas Shively of Goshen, Ira J. Miller, east of New Paris, Harry A Miller west of Waterford, and Mrs. Hiram Ferverda east of Leesburg. The funeral arrangements are not yet made.

A second obituary in the Goshen Democrat reads:

John B. Miller aged nearly 90 and one of the oldest residents of Jackson Twp. died yesterday afternoon at his home 2.5 miles NW of New Paris. He was a member of the German Baptist church and is survived by 10 children including DW Miller and Mrs. Jonas Shively of Goshen. The funeral will take place at his house Wednesday morning at 10 and interment at Baintertown Cemetery.

The third obituary is from the Brethren publication, Gospel Messenger:

Miller, Bro John D. died Feb. 10, 1902, in the Union Center congregation, Ind., aged 89 years, 10 months and 4 days. He was born in Montgomery County, Ohio, April 6, 1812, married to Mary Baker in 1831, moved to Elkhart County, Ind., took up a government claim which he still occupied at his death. To this union were born 10 children, seven yet living. His wife died May 11, 1855. He was married again to Margaret E. Whitehead March 29, 1857. There were born to this union four children, three of whom are yet living. He leaves a wife and ten children. He was a devoted brother nearly sixty-five years. Services by brethren M. E. Eisenhour and Henry Neff.

Senile gangrene is a form of gangrene occurring particularly in old people, and caused usually by insufficient blood supply due to degeneration of the walls of the smaller arteries. However, we know from a suit filed before John David’s death that he had dementia, by whatever medical diagnosis you call it, and it was apparently affecting his cognitive ability.

There are two things that strike me about these obituaries. First, the Brethren obituary says that he was a “devoted brother nearly 65 years,” putting the date at 1837 or so. However, we know that John David was raised Brethren, so I find this comment a bit strange. Perhaps they were referencing the “official” formation of the church in Elkhart County which occurred in 1838.

Secondly, John David’s funeral was at home, not at the church. However, looking at the map, it does seem futile to take him 7 or 8 miles south, only to bring him back past his house and another 2 or 3 miles northeast to the Baintertown cemetery – so this makes a lot of practical sense. However, in light of the rift in the family, with at least one of his siblings and the battle brewing between his own children, that funeral must have been “interesting” to say the least.  I wonder if everyone attended.

Again, never in his wildest dreams…

The Battle Begins

The battle over John David’s property began before he died.

John David Miller wrote his will in 1897, but in 1901, before his death, his son David B. Miller (by first wife Mary Baker) filed an injunction in court asking for a guardian to be provided for his father who, in his words, “had a substantial estate and could no longer manage his affairs.” I can only imagine what a ruckus this must have caused within the family. There had to be some event or situation arise to cause this level of concern. Given the suit after John David’s death, I suspect that the concern might have been a result of how close John David had become to his wife, Margaret’s great nephew, Edward E. Whitehead, the grandson of her first husband’s brother, Peter Whitehead. However, before the case was heard, John David Miller died.

His will was written as follows:

I, John D. Miller of Elkhart County Indiana, do make and publish this my last will and testament, hereby revoking all former wills by me at any time made.

Item 1 – I give and devise unto my wife the farm of 160 acres in Elkhart county on which we now live, together with all the personal property thereon, to her during her life, to use as maybe necessary for her support and comfortable maintenance and also all money I may have on hand at the time of my death except so much as maybe necessary for the payment of the expenses of my last sickness and burial.

Item 2 – After my wife’s death all of the property then remaining shall be sold and after payment of debts and expenses of the administration of the estate, the proceeds shall be divided into three equal parts. Out of one third part there shall be paid to my wife’s nephew Edward Whitehead $300 and the remainder thereof shall be divided equally between the three children of myself and my said wife, viz: Ira Miller, Louisa Fervedy and Perry Miller. The remaining 2/3 portion shall be divided into 10 parts of which one part shall be paid to each of my ten children, viz: Esther Shively, David Miller, Mary Ann Tresh, Aaron Miller, Jane Blough, Matilda Dubs, Washington Miller, Ira Miller, Louisa Fervedy and Perry Miller, or if either of these is dead the share of such ones shall be paid to his or her heirs at law.

Item 3 – I hereby nominate and appoint Alonzo Rodabaugh executor of this my will.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 29th day of April 1897.   Signed John D. Miller

Signed by John D. Miller as his last will and testament in our presence and signed by us in his presence and in the presence of each other. Margaret Ellen Gowing, Wilbur L Stonex. (recorded in will book page 67).

However, things don’t always work out as intended. By law, Margaret had the right to one third of his estate as her dower. She elected to take her one third as indicated by the following widow’s election.

Widow’s election recorded on page 111.

The undersigned widow of John D. Miller decd late of Elkhart County Indiana who died testate and whose last will and testament has been duly admitted to probate and record in the Elkhart Circuit Court hereby make election as such widow to hold and retain her right of dower in the personal estate of said decedent and to hold and retain her right to one third of the lands of which her husband died testate notwithstanding the terms of the said will, and she refuses to accept any devise or provision whatever made by said will in her favor, for, or in lieu of her said statutory right as widow in and to the personal property and real estate of said decedent.

Margaret (x her mark) E. Miller

Signed May 12, 1902

John David’s estate was controversial, to say the least, and eventually the bank was appointed the estate’s administrator, although Perry, John David’s youngest son, submitted paperwork for administration initially. Perry, however, was having issues of his own at home. His daughter Maud was suffering from tuberculosis which would claim her life the following year within days of his mother, Margaret’s death.

Perry, along with Margaret’s nephew, Edward E. Whitehead had done a great deal in the years before John’s death to help the elderly couple and had never been reimbursed for their efforts or expenses. They submitted receipts to the estate and those charges were disputed by the older set of children by Mary Baker. There was obviously a great deal of resentment between the two sets of children, if not before, from this point forward.

Finally, in the end, Washington Miller refused to contribute $10 of his portion of the estate for his father’s tombstone. Edward Whitehead, the nephew, paid Washington Miller’s share. That is surely the last, final insult one could inflict on a parent and an ugly legacy to leave behind. Edward Whitehead obviously cared a great deal for John David Miller.

JDM george refusal

The inventory for John David’s estate is as follows, and the widow took everything except the wheat, rye and corn against her 1/3 dower.  She needed household items to live.

Number Items Appraised Value
1 Jewell oak heating stove 4.00
1 Eight day clock .25
1 Sewing machine .05
4 Rocking chairs 1.50
1 Bedstead and spring 1.25
1 Old rag carpet 25 yards .50
1 Bureau 1.00
1 Stand .10
1 Bedstead .05
1 Bedspring and bedding 2.00
1 Rag carpet 15 yards .50
1 Ingrain carpet 15 yards .50
12 Winsor chairs 1.50
1 Dining table .25
1 Cupboard .50
1 Dough tray .25
1 Kitchen sinc .10
1 Hanging lamp .25
1 Pantry safe .50
1 Churn .05
1 Milch trough 1.25
15 Milch crocks .45
1 Lounge .05
1 110 lb lard 11.00
1 Cooking stove and furniture .50
1 Cross cut saw and brush cythe .05
1 Bucksaw .10
1 Log chain .05
1 Horse 3.00
1 Cow 30.00
1 Ladder and maul 1.25
1 Wheelbarrow and ax .75
1 Spring seat .25
30 Chickens 7.50
30 Acres growing wheat land lord ½ 150.00
32 Acres rye landlords 2/5 40.00
66 Bushels corn 38.34
1 Small looking glass .05
A few Old dishes, spoons, knives and forks 1.00
20 Bushels corn in crib 9.00
Total 309.69

Controversial estates are boons for the genealogist because so much is recorded.

For example, there is a statement in the estate packet that Aaron Miller owed the estate for several items that he “took” or “got” in 1896 and 1898, including a Hoosier Bell Corn Plow that was new in 1895 and he took in 1896, a set of double harnesses and a Champion self rake machine that he took in 1898. This suggests that John David was no longer farming for himself at this time. He would have been 84 in 1896. What is remarkable is that this also suggests he did farm until that time, because he reportedly bought the plow new in 1895.

However, Aaron’s story differed and he filed a petition that stated that the rake machine was very old, given to him by his father to cut 10 acres of clover on his place, has never been used since and is of no value.

Aaron continues to say that the harnesses he bought of his father and paid in full and that the corn plow was old, out of date, and not being in manufacture, cannot be repaired. He bought if of his father for $5. That differs quite a bit from the claim that the plow was new in 1895 and Aaron took it in 1896.

John David signed a receipt in 1899 stating that Edward Whitehead had provided services to John David and his wife that were of a value of $1000. That is a significant amount at that time.

JDM Whitehead receipt

Edward Whitehead filed this receipt signed by John David Miller in 1899 against his estate. I’m sure that was the intention when John signed the document given that his entire household inventory didn’t come to half that amount and he only had $30 “cash on hand” at his death. John David’s son, Ira, signed the receipt.

JDM Whitehead official doc

The executor would not honor this receipt based upon the complaints of Mary Baker’s children. Ira, Perry and Evaline, John David’s 3 youngest children, and his widow all signed a document stating that this receipt was itself valid and for valid work – even knowing that would reduce their share of the estate. Witnesses were subpoenaed and expenses incurred against the estate in order for the court to hear the testimony and determine that indeed, this was a valid charge against the estate. Unfortunately, we don’t have that testimony today, but I would love to have been a mouse in that courtroom.  I’m surprised this story didn’t filter down to my mother’s generation.  John David was her great-grandfather and mother knew Evaline, her grandmother, quite well.

In addition to the $1000 note, Edward Whitehead also submitted a list of expenses he incurred providing services beginning August 21, 1901 and continuing through April 5th 1902.

JDM Whitehead list

From this list and other receipts, we garner quite a bit of interesting information about John David’s life.

Their rooms were painted and wallpapered and they had screens in their windows. They had window shades, a pump inside and a water tank. Now that indeed WAS a luxury. I remember my grandmother, John David’s granddaughter, having the same arrangement some 55 or 60 years later.

The biggest difference between 1902 and 1960 was that my grandmother had a brand spanking new inside bathroom, and electricity. No more outhouse like John David would have had and no more sponge baths. Those outhouses were miserably cold in the winter and just as miserably hot and STINKY in the summer.

A very surprising entry was the gin and alcohol. Apparently, John David drank at least some, or perhaps this was considered medicinal. If it made him feel better, it was medicinal. There was little else they could do for him.

John David may not have had a buggy anymore, although there was one horse listed in his estate, but he had a buggy shed.

He also had a hair mattress, which would have been horsehair, considered a luxury and certainly a step up from a straw mattress. I wonder if this was purchased to attempt to make him more comfortable in his final days.

We know John David was ill for several months before his death, because the last entry is for care and nursing for just over 5 months before he died. His obituary also mentions that he had been ill for about 6 months. The last six months of his life were probably pretty miserable.

This receipt is for an additional $1104 against the estate.

At his death, according to estate paperwork, John David owned the north half of the SE quarter of section 5 and the west half of the SW quarter of section 5, both in township 35 north, range 6 East containing a total of 160 acres.

JDM quadrant

On the 1874 plat map above, the north half of the SE quarter is the top box shaded green, which was John David’s original land. The west half of the SW quarter is the land labeled C. Peffly. Obviously John David purchased this land sometime between 1874 and 1902.

JDM sale of land

John David’s total estate was valued at $4969.88 with the sale of his real estate counting for $4483.34 of the total according to the final account provided to the court in March of 1903.

Perry Miller also submitted a list of expenses beginning in 1884 which would have been when his father was 72.

JDM Perry Miller list

From these various sources, we know that John David had hogs and chickens and obviously, blackberries which had to be picked. He raised corn, wheat, rye, hay, potatoes and clover and heated with coal, probably in addition to wood. A bill was also submitted by Joseph Peffley for pruning grapes and fruit trees.

Perry had to obtain a judgement to collect these funds as well, according to the final estate distribution where Perry’s bill is listed as “on judgement.” Apparently Aaron B. Miller also had to obtain a judgment for 30.49. This was obviously a very difficult estate to settle with a great deal of contention.

Seven of John David’s children hired a separate attorney, Warren Berkey, to collect their portion of the estate: George Washington Miller, David B. Miller, Aaron B. Miller, Jane Blough, Hester Shively, Mary Ann Treesh and Matilda Dubbs. Her nickname, Tilda was lined through. This looks like the battle lines were drawn – the children of the first marriage vs the children of the second marriage, his widow Margaret and Edward Whitehead.  What a sad situation.

A different attorney, Lou Vail worked on the estate as the executor for Elkhart County Loan and Trust and submitted his bill. It’s from this document that we discover there were indeed 2 trials. We already knew that Edward Whitehead had to sue to have his receipts honored in Elkhart County. The second trial was Joseph B. Haney vs Miller in Kosciusko County.

JDM lawyer bill

Interestingly enough, according to court documents, in 1890 or 1891 John David gave each of his children “the sum of $1000 and at that said time settled in full with each of his said heirs and treated the husbands of each of his daughters as such heirs.”

That’s a lot of money – $10,000 in total.  For that time, John David was a wealthy man, but you would never have guessed.  He clearly lived very simply is a very Brethren manner.

There were several distributions to John David’s heirs. I am struck by how much better off everyone would have been to get along. Instead, John David’s older children contested the will which drove up the settlement costs, caused Margaret to petition the court for her one third share instead of leaving it in the estate to be divided by all heirs later which decreased older children’s share.  Contesting the will also incurred attorney bills that were paid out of the estate before their share, along with their own attorney who was paid out of their share before they saw a penny.  All in all, it turned out to be a very bad idea, on multiple levels

Here’s an example of the estate distribution according to John David’s will versus what happened, presuming he had an estate valued at $10,000.

JDM hypothetical settlement

Of course, George Washington Miller received $10 more than the rest of the heirs because he declined to contribute $10 for his father’s headstone. The actual distribution to the heirs looked to be significantly more than this, although I’m not quite sure where all the money came from. The estate is a bit disjoint and many documents don’t have dates so it’s impossible to reconcile.

John David would have been mortified that his will was not honored and that his son refused to pay $10 towards his marker.  That, probably more than anything, would have been hurtful.

Never in his wildest dreams….

John David Miller’s Children

John David Miller had 7 living children from his first marriage and 3 from his second. He also had 3 additional children from his first marriage and one from his second that did not survive. I was given the names of 3 children that “died young” for John David Miller, with no additional information. Those three children were John N. Miller, Catherine Miller and Samuel Miller. There are gaps in the surviving children’s births along with children in the 1840 census not found later that are suggestive of deaths.

There were no children born between 1833 and 1838, which suggests at least two deaths. There is also a gap between 1847 and 1851, suggestive of another child. Lastly, there were no children born after 1851 when Mary would have been 39 years old. She died in 1855, so it’s certainly possible that she lost a child in 1853 and perhaps died in childbirth in 1855.

Unfortunately, unless a Bible survives, there are no records of children who died before a census could at least record a brief existence on earth. Before the 1850 census, no names were recorded except for the head of household. All we know about those children who died between 1840 and 1850 is that they lived and their approximate age.

None of the graves of the Miller children who died have markers – assuming they are buried in the Baintertown Cemetery, which is the only location that makes sense – given that it was on David’s father’s land and that is where all of the early Millers are buried – including John David and both wives.

Elizabeth Miller, the wife of John David’s father, David, is the earliest marked grave, dating from 1838.  That marker wasn’t placed until David’s father died in 1851.  Elizabeth and David’s Miller’s graves are back towards the west side, and have a lot of “space” around them, suggesting unmarked graves.  I suspect this is where John David’s children are buried.

David Miller grouping

Unfortunately, this is all we can do to remember them.  Anonymous children in forgotten graves.

rje camera january 2004 021

This photo is of John David Miller with his second wife, Margaret Lentz Whitehead Miller and 5 of his children.

john david miller family

Most of what we know about John David Miller comes from documents.  We have very little information about him as a person.

Cousin Rex told me a story about John David Miller. A man from Ohio came and challenged him to a fight. The man said that he heard that John David was the best fighter in the county, and John said he reckoned that he was. They went out in the field and went to it and finally, the man from Ohio conceded that indeed, John David was the best fighter. I told Rex that didn’t seem very Brethren-like, and he agreed, but said that John David didn’t take any gaff off of anyone, that he was very spunky.

John David Miller’s children with Mary Baker

Hester (Esther) Ann Miller was born May 26, 1833, reportedly in Ohio and died on February 27, 1917 in Elkhart County of stomach cancer. She is buried in the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Goshen. The 1850 census says she was born in Indiana, so this document may be incorrect.

JDm Hester Miller Shively death cert

Hester married Jonas Shively June 4th 1852 and had 8 children, 5 of them living in 1900:

  • Thomas E. Shively (1854-1854)
  • Amanda Shively (1858-1934) married Benjamin Berryman who died in 1880. She never remarried.
  • Reuben Shively (1860-1929) married Vicie Homan, wife’s name Lillie on death certificate
  • Alonzo Shively (1862-1933) married Daisy Wrightsman
  • Lydia Shively (1864-1865)
  • Joseph Shively (1866-1928) married Emma Larir
  • Mary Ellen Shively (1872-? ) married Alvin J. Stutzman
  • One child unaccounted for

David B. Miller was born August 18, 1838 in Elkhart County and died Sept. 25, 1922 of a chronic kidney inflammation and bronchitis. He is buried at Baintertown.

JDM David B Miller death cert

David B. Miller married Susan Smith on October 21, 1858. They had 9 children, 8 living in 1900, all born in Elkhart County.

  • Aaron Miller (1859-?) married Amanda Mason
  • John Melvin Miller (1861-1936) married Katherine Werner
  • Samson Miller (1864-1937) married Mary Werner
  • Mary Ann Miller (1867-1957) married William Sinning
  • Milton Miller (1868-1943) married Alice Yoder
  • Matilda Miller (1870-1926) married Ulysses Grant and Dora Carrier
  • Lydia Miller (1872-1953) married Orrin Whitehead
  • Amanda Miller (1874-1922 ) married David Saunders
  • One child unaccounted for

The following photo is of David B. Miller, son of John David Miller, with his family.

JDM David Miller family

Above – back row left to right – Milt Miller, Aaron Miller, Matilda Miller Grant, Samuel Miller, John Miller. Front row – Lydia Miller Whitehead, the mother Susan Smith Miller, Maude Miller, father David B. (probably Baker) Miller, Mary Ann Miller Sinning.

Mary Ann Miller born May 1, 1841 in Elkhart County and died on Sept 5, 1916, of double pneumonia.

JDM Mary Ann Treesh death cert

Mary Ann is buried at Baintertown.

JDM Treesh stone

Mary Ann married Michael Treesh on Dec. 23, 1858 and had 7 children, 4 living according to the 1900 census:

  • Aaron Treesh (1859-1928) married Ida Wyland
  • Chloe Ann Treesh (1861-1861)
  • Amanda (1865-1952) married Milton Stiver, then in 1917 to Melvin. D. Neff
  • Reuben (1868-1897) married Winnie Traster
  • John Milton (1875-1940) wife was Chloe at his death
  • Levi I. (1882-after 1900)
  • Michael Guy Treesh (1886-1886)

Aaron B. Miller was born in March 1, 1843 and died on February 20, 1923 in Cook County, Illinois. He is buried in the Baintertown Cemetery.

JDM Aaron stone

He married Sarah Ellen Myers on September 4, 1864 and had 5 children, all living according to the 1900 census:

  • Charles I. Miller (1866-1947)
  • Clara E. Miller (1869-after 1880)
  • Ida Miller (1871-1906)
  • Alonzo A. Miller (1875-1903) unmarried
  • Emry (Emery J.) Miller (1878- ) married in 1907 in Kalamazoo, MI to Louise Lathrop

Matilda A., also known as Tilda and Tillie Miller was born in May 26, 1844 in Elkhart County and died on February 6, 1939 in Kosciusko, County of a stroke.

JDM Matilda Miller Dubbs death cert

Matilda is buried in the Salem Cemetery.

JDM Dubbs stone

Matilda married John Dubbs on February 14, 1861 in Elkhart County.

JDm Matilda Dubbs

Matilda had the following children:

  • William Benson Dubbs (1862-1944 ) married Sarah “Dessie” Lentz, sister of Moses Lentz.
  • Margaret Amana “Emma” Dubbs (1864-1947) married Moses F. Lentz
  • Chloe Dubbs (1866-1942) married Jacob B. Neff
  • Mary Dubbs (1870-1929) married William Oldfield Scott
  • Franklin Dubbs (1873-1931) married Leora Myra Messnard
  • Charles Augustus Dubbs (1876-1939) married Maude V. Beegle

Martha Jane Miller was born March 26, 1847 in Elkhart County and died March 2, 1935 in Kosciusko County of myocarditis with heart failure and bronchitis.

JDM Martha Jane Blough death cert

Martha Jane is buried in the Salem Cemetery in Kosciusko County.

She married David Blough September 17, 1866 and had 7 children, all living according to the 1900 census:

  • Noma “Neoma” Ellen Blough (1867-1954) married William Melvin Tom
  • Charley Blough (1869-after 1900)
  • Hattie D. Blough (1872-1954) married Chester Juntz
  • Jesse Calvin Blough (1874-1936) married Lena Gibson
  • Albert “Birt” Blough (1877-1905) married Ora ?
  • Lulu Blough (1879-1966) married Milo Maloy
  • Mary “May” M. Blough (1886-1969) married Homer Lewis but had the surname Jontz on her death certificate

JDM Martha Jane Blough

Martha Jane Miller Blough with her hand on John David’s shoulder.

George Washington Miller was born Feb. 20, 1851 and died on March 11, 1917, both in Elkhart County. He is buried in the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Goshen, Indiana, but I don’t find him listed in that cemetery, or anyplace in Elkhart County, on FindAGrave.

JDM George Washington Miller death cert

George Washington was not wearing a beard and my not have been Brethren.

JDM George Washington Miller

George Washington, who I believe was called “Wash,” married Lydia Miller on May 25, 1871 and they had 6 children, 5 living as of the 1900 census.

  • May Miller (1873-before 1900)
  • Eunice Miller (1874-1944) never married
  • Ada (1876-before 1900)
  • Gertrude (1880-1965) married Howard W. Neff
  • Myrtle (1884-1958) never married
  • One additional child died before 1900.

John David Miller’s Children with Margaret Lentz

Evaline Louise Miller was born March 29, 1857 in Elkhart County and died on December 20, 1939 in Leesburg, Kosciusko County of a kidney infection followed by heart failure.

Margaret Lentz Evaline Miller Ferverda death

Evaline is buried in the New Salem Cemetery in Milford, Kosciusko County, Indiana.

Hiram and Eva Ferverda stone

Evaline, or Evy as she was called, married Hiram B. Ferverda on March 10, 1876 in Goshen, Indiana and had the following children.

  • Ira Otto Ferverda (1877-1950) married Ada Pearl Frederickson
  • Edith Estella Ferverda (1879-1955) married Tom Dye
  • Irvin Guy Ferverda (1881-1933) married Jessie Hartman
  • John Whitney Ferverda (1882-1962) married Edith Barbara Lore
  • Elizabeth Gertrude Ferverda (1884-1966) married Louis Hartman
  • Chloe Evaline Ferverda (1886-1984) married Rolland V. Robinson
  • Ray Edward Ferverda (1891-1975) married Grace P. Driver
  • Roscoe H. Ferverda (1893-1978) married Effie Ringo and Ruby Mae Teeter.
  • George Miller Ferverda (1895-1970) married Lois Glant and Elizabeth Haas.
  • Donald D. Ferverda (1899-1937) married Agnes Ruple
  • Margaret Ferverda (1902-1984) married Chester H. Glant

Grandma Evaline Miller Ferverda

This photo was taken during WWI when Evaline had three sons serving in the military based on the three stars in the window. This was decidedly un-Brethren behavior, although Evaline was indeed Brethren. Mother remembered her wearing her white prayer bonnet.

Ira J. Miller was born July 26, 1859 in Elkhart County and died December 17, 1948 of heart disease. He is buried in the Baintertown Cemetery. Ira married Rebecca Jane Rodibaugh in 1885 according to the 1900 census and had 2 children, both living as of the 1900 census:

  • Orba O. Miller (1873-after 1900) age given as 16 in 1900 census
  • Everett E. Miller (1897-1991 ) married Mamie Smoker

Everett’s son, Rex, conveyed the story that Perry Miller died of an appendicitis at age 18. Perry did not die at 18, but given that Orba Miller disappears after the 1900 census, I’d bet Orba is the person who died at 18. Orba would have been Perry’s nephew and Rex’s father’s brother.

Rex tells us that Orba and Ira attended the Baintertown school, a one room schoolhouse, eventually abandoned and located on Rex’s land.  He fixed it up as a barn and still continued to utilize the building.

Margaret Lentz Ira Miller

Ira Miller and Rebecca Rodibaugh.

Perry A. Miller was born June 25, 1862 in Elkhart County, Indiana and died Dec. 22, 1906 of a twisted bowel that resulted in a bowel obstruction. This could well have been the genesis of Rex’s information that he died of appendicitis. Perry is buried in the Violett Cemetery.

Margaret Lentz Perry Miller stone

Perry was married to Mary Jane Lauer on October 2, 1881 and had 4 children, 3 living as of the 1900 census:

  • Maud Miller (1882-1905)
  • Purl A. Miller (1885-1960) married Adeline B. Schrock
  • Ottie Miller (1889-after 1900)
  • One child unaccounted for

Counting the Uncounted

The 1900 census provides us with two very useful pieces of information. Column 11 is titled “Mother of how many children” and column 12 is titled “Number of these children living.” I must say that census day was probably a sad day for most women, being reminded of the children who has passed before them. And yes, most women who had been married had lost children.  Those few who hadn’t had siblings and friends who lost children.  Losing up to half your children was the norm, not the exception.

For genealogists, this allows us to do two things.

First, on a personal level, it allows us to identify how many children our ancestors had that died. Often, they weren’t recorded and are entirely unknown to us today, even just 116 years distant.

Second, on a more global level, it allows us to get a picture of what was “typical” before the widespread advent of birth control and before the introduction of antibiotics, both of which have dramatically tipped the scales toward smaller families with most children surviving. What was common and expected at that time, to some extent, is now very unusual and a crisis when a child is lost.

John David’s children’s 1900 census entries are reflected below, allowing us to count the previously uncountable.

Name Total Children Living Children Deceased Children
Hester 8 5 3
David 9 8 1
Mary Ann 7 4 3
Aaron 5 5 0
Matilda* 9? 6 3?
Mary Jane 7 7 0
George W. 6 5 1
Evaline 11 11 0
Ira 2 2 0
Perry 4 3 1
Total 68 56 12

Some children passed not long after the 1900 census. At least two more died within the next 5 years.

*The 1900 census for Matilda was incorrect, as it lists only one child for her. She had one child left at home, but we know from census and other documents that she, did, indeed have six living children. Her deceased child count is based on “gaps” between children of approximately 4 years.

Very few of the graves of the deceased children are marked, probably speaking more to the economic conditions than to how the parents felt. They may have been marked with wooden crosses at the time they were buried. The general feeling was that, other than the parents, no one would need to find the grave.  The parents would never forget the location and didn’t need a marker to find the stone. After the parents were gone, no one would care, so no marker needed.

John David lost 4 of 14 children himself. Of his 10 surviving children, above, he had a total of 68 grandchildren, 56 of which were still living in 1900, as was he.

Conversely, this also means that John David buried 12 grandchildren, plus his own 4. His daughter, Hester (also recorded as Esther) married in 1852, so John David buried 12 grandchildren in 48 years, plus 4 children of his own. That’s approximately one death every 4 years, although death wasn’t always spaced out in convenient increments – as if death is ever convenient. For example, one of his children, Perry, lost a child and his mother, Margaret, within a month of each other and two of John David’s children lost children the same year they lost him. Death, then, was a more accepted part of life than it is today. I wonder if the sheer quantity made one a bit immune.

If these rough numbers are applicable to John David’s siblings as well, then John David was attending at least 2 funerals a year, if not more, for children…and that’s in addition to adults – and just for his immediate family without factoring in the rest of the church.

Going to the graveyard was a somber event far too familiar to our ancestors. When you look at the magnitude of the deaths within a community, even a relatively small community, it’s no wonder only adult burials were permanently marked, and only some of those. A child’s tombstone before 1900 was very, very rare.     

John David Miller’s Autosomal DNA

In the article about Margaret Lentz Whitehead Miller, we utilized two Lentz men for autosomal DNA comparison to find snippets of Margaret’s DNA in her descendants. Let’s do the same thing with John David Miller, utilizing individuals who descend only from the Miller line upstream of John David. Any DNA they share with descendants of John David Miller and Margaret Lentz must be Miller DNA and not Lentz DNA.

I did an experiment called “Just One Cousin” some time back to illustrate the magnitude of genetic genealogy information that one can indeed obtain from having “just one cousin” in the data base. However, in my case, that one cousin was actually two, Cheryl and her brother, Don, both descendants of John David Miller and Margaret Lentz Miller through daughter Evaline who married Hiram Ferverda.

In “Just One Cousin,” I was trying to find all of the people who match Cheryl, Don and my mother, so that could potentially include some folks who are also descended from Lentz ancestors. What we’ll do in this article is to limit the people we’re comparing against to those who are known to be Miller only descendants, who share a common paternal ancestor with John David Miller.

We will use the same 4 descendants of John David Miller and Margaret Lentz for our comparison group of descendants from our family line.

How is Everyone Related?

Rex Miller, our cousin, matches 4 other Miller men utilizing Y DNA who have also taken the Family Finder test. This Y DNA match confirms that indeed, these individuals do share a common Miller ancestor. These men also have their genealogy proven back to Michael Miller, the immigrant, so they are excellent candidates for autosomal comparison.

JDM DNA pedigree

The men in green will be compared to all 4 individuals in the bottom row of the pink box, descended from John David Miller, to determine which of their DNA came from John David Miller as opposed to Margaret Lentz. The common ancestor is Philip Jacob Miller and wife, Magdalena.

The two men in red, JM and RM can’t be utilized in this comparison, even though their Y DNA matches Rex.

Unfortunately, JM and RM don’t match any of the individuals in the pink box, so son Lodowich’s line is not represented.

Here is how the green and red Miller men are related to the testers in the pink box descended from John David Miller.

JDM relationship chart

The relationships are somewhat distant, more distant than the third cousin Lentz relationships in Margaret Lentz’s article, so not all of the Miller men match the individuals in the pink box.

Given that 4th cousins aren’t “supposed” to match, although they often do, why do both of these 4th cousins match almost everyone in the pink group? Note the yellow boxes in the pedigree chart above where one man in each line married a Miller cousin. That gives that generation a double dose of Miller DNA, which has obviously carried down to the present, giving RWM and HM more Miller DNA than they would have otherwise. Still everyone doesn’t match everyone.

RWM matches Cheryl, but not Don, who are siblings, which illustrates why it’s so important to test your siblings if your parents aren’t available.

At Family Tree DNA, I compared all 4 of our pink individuals to both RWM and HM. The chromosome browser below shows the matches of our 4 John David descendants to HM.

JDM chromosome browser

  • Rex = orange
  • Barbara = blue
  • Don = green
  • Cheryl = pink

I downloaded their matching segment data and after removing the segments under 3cM, we’re left with the matches, below.

JDM match chart

Sorting in chromosome order shows us 4 red/pink (so you can tell where they start and stop) match groups, above. Keep in mind that all of these segments are indeed Miller segments (or identical by chance), because we know the common ancestor and that there are no other known common ancestors.  Please note the word “known,” because it’s important.

The 4 groups colored red and pink are match groups where 3 individuals or more match on the same segment.  These are not (yet) triangulation groups and we can’t assume, although it’s tempting.  Assume will get you every time!

Some, chromosomes 4 (red) and 12, match on smaller segments, but look at the yellow rows. Those are very robust segments that very likely have been passed down from Philip Jacob Miller and Magdalena, our common ancestors.

I went back to the chromosome browser and confirmed that yes, indeed, these red segment match groups do triangulate, meaning all of the matching participants match each other on that same segment…except for the segment on chromosome 3 where RWM matches Rex.  Rats!  I never expected a match of this size to NOT triangulate, but I knew something was wrong when RWM only matched Rex and not Cheryl, Don or Barbara.  Hmmm….

JDM triangulation

The segments that do triangulate are marked with green, meaning all people in the group matches every other person in the group on at least part of that segment, so we are unquestionably looking at John David Miller’s DNA in our pink group of Miller descendants – Don, Cheryl, Rex and Barbara.

JDM chr 3

On chromosome 3, three of four of John David’s descendants match each other and HM on a significant sized segment. The graphic above is the relevant segment of chromosome 3.  The background is Barbara and you can see that she matches Don (orange), Cheryl (green) and HM (blue) but even at 1cM, there is no trace of matching to either Rex (yellow) or RWM (pink).  Don and Cheryl’s chromosome 3 matches Barbara and HM, but not RWM or Rex, so the Rex and RWM segment does not triangulate to the rest of the group.  The chart below shows matching on this segment of chromosome 3.

JDM chr 3 triang grid

How is it possible for Rex and RWM to match each other on the same segment as Barbara, Don, Cheryl and HM match each other, but for Rex and RWM not to match either Barbara, Don, Cheryl or HM?  I also verified that HM and RM don’t match each other on that segment either.

There are only two possible answers.  Either that segment is IBC, identical by chance which is very unlikely for a segment of 16cM, or Rex and RWM share another, previously unknown, common ancestor.  I don’t have much information on Rex’s mother’s line.  This also calls into question other matches between only Rex and RWM – meaning they might not be from the Miller line either.

Hmmm….so glad I didn’t just assume, even WITH those large juicy segments.  Sometimes the DNA tells us a story even without the associated genealogy – in this case, that Rex and RWM may have another common ancestor they are unaware of.

It’s amazing what cousins, match groups and triangulation can tell us about our ancestors!

Pretty cool, huh!

Summary

It’s absolutely amazing to me as I sit here using a computer in 2016, surfing the web, accessing DNA information on a server in Houston, TX, records information from a server in Salt Lake, periodically checking to see what my friends and cousins are up to on Facebook which is located someplace distant (I have no idea where) and checking my phone for messages, how dramatically different my world and John David Miller’s world are, in just a little over a hundred years. John David didn’t even have electricity.

We’re not talking “change” but an exponential technological revolution that John David couldn’t have ever imagined.

John David died in 1902, I was born a little over half a century later when most farms still didn’t have inside running water and utilized outhouses. I remember taking a bath as a young child in a cold metal tub sitting on my grandmother’s kitchen table on Saturday night with water warmed in a kettle on the stove so I would be clean for church on Sunday, and I remember the water pump built into the back porch.

I also remember a wasps building a nest under the “seat” (boards with strategically placed hole) in the outhouse – a story that repeatedly and regularly amused my brother until his dying day. I still hate wasps and swear that they chase me.

Another half century later, exactly on the 100th anniversary of John David’s death, we would be testing DNA of people to discover what story our ancestors had to tell. That’s clearly within the lifetime of one person – my mother, Barbara in the pink descendant group, participated in both ends of the spectrum, being born only 20 years after John David died in a home a few miles distant with no electricity or plumbing, and having, thankfully, tested her DNA before her passing.

It’s difficult to grasp, and John David Miller would be incredibly shocked that we can isolate some of his DNA today. Of course, people didn’t even know about DNA then.  DNA wasn’t discovered until 1953 – and it would take another quarter century to discover anything much useful about DNA. However, by the year 2000, we knew how to sequence DNA and how to utilize it for genealogy, thanks to Bennett Greenspan, although it was clearly an emerging infant science.

Antibiotics hadn’t been introduced when John David lived, and died. That wouldn’t happen for another two decades and would be a life-changer for many. In fact, one of John David’s grandchildren died of tuberculosis, some of his children died of kidney infections, pneumonia and one died of sepsis. The medical profession knew enough to diagnose the ailments, at least part of the time, but couldn’t do anything about them most of the time.

In a century we have moved from expecting a roughly 50% child mortality rate, with children dying so often than their graves weren’t even marked to a genetic moonshot. John David’s children were lucky and only cumulatively experienced an 18% childhood mortality rate.  John’s own rate was 28%, 4 of 14 died. Today, it’s nearly zero.

Although genetic genealogy is not about medicine, the public awareness and acceptance of DNA testing fostered by genetic genealogy has rapidly helped move a generation of consumers from skepticism to acceptance – and with that will come, probably in this next generation and certainly the next 50 years – the ability to “cure” genetic diseases. John David’s children’s and grandchildren’s death certificates are ripe with potentially genetically connected causes of death; epilepsy, dementia, lots of cardiac and kidney issues, strokes and multiple instances of stomach cancer.

A new day has dawned and come bursting forth, not only in terms of losing fewer children and finding ancestors through distant electronic connections, but in terms of being on the leading edge of a technology that is the space race of our generation. DNA is the frontier inside of us – gifted to us by our ancestors.

Every person who has participated in genetic genealogy testing has been a pioneer on that frontier, much as John David Miller was a pioneer along Turkey Creek on what was known as the Elkhart Prairie. What a wonderful legacy to leave – a family of pioneers – different centuries, different frontiers. Wouldn’t John David Miller be surprised what four his non-Brethren great-grandchildren have done – Barbara, Cheryl, Rex and Don, those 4 individuals in the pink box – and what their DNA can tell us about him.

Never, in his wildest dreams….

______________________________________________________________

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