Ancestry’s ThruLines Dissected: How to Use and Not Get Bit by the ‘Gators

Ancestry’s new tool, ThruLines has some good features and a lot of potential, but right now, there are a crop of ‘gators in the swimmin’ hole – just waiting for the unwary. Here’s help to safely navigate the waters and not get bit!

Gator

Let’s start with first things first.

Maybe it’s wishful thinking or a slip of the keyboard (or phone) but I see people referring to ThruLines as TrueLines, and that’s absolutely NOT true. ThruLines must be verified and proven, just like connections with trees must always be proven – especially when new ancestors are suggested.

ThruLines are not necessarily true lines.

Having said that, there’s lots to unpack here, so let’s get started looking at Ancestry’s latest discovery tool, ThruLines.

It took me a few days to wrap my head around this – meaning what ThruLines is attempting to do, with what information, and why. In other words:

  • How is ThruLines supposed to help us?
  • How can ThruLines actually help us?
  • What are the limitations and dangers?
  • How can we avoid the problems?

The difference in the answer depends on your goals. Let’s dissect ThruLines into pieces to see how it can help with genealogy, when and where – along with what to avoid. There are some useful features here alongside some very large neon-flashing danger signs right beside the ‘gator pond.

What is ThruLines?

Ancestry’s blog announcing ThruLines can be seen here.

ThruLines does two things:

  • ThruLines groups DNA matching descendants by ancestor. ThruLines shows you, by ancestor, which people match your DNA and claim to be descended from that same ancestor. Notice the words “claim to be.” As always, when other people’s trees are involved, there is a danger of conflated trees and other concerns. We’ll discuss that shortly.

Especially for more closely related relatives, this grouping of DNA matches by ancestor is a great feature because their trees and who they believe they are descended from are more likely to be accurate in the past 3 or 4 generations when the relationship with the ancestor is a result of direct knowledge as opposed to further back where the relationship to an ancestor is a result of genealogical research. This also means the relationship to your match is easier for you to confirm, if you don’t already have your match in your tree. These gathered matches allow you to add family members and cousins to your tree. You never know who might have photos or other information, so matching and discovering that you are connected makes it easy to reach out.

These match groupings use ancestors that you already have in your tree.

  • ThruLines provides “suggestions” for potential ancestors by extrapolating from other trees. These “suggestions” include replacing your researched ancestors with other ancestors from other people’s (often inaccurate) trees, many of whom are not DNA matches to you. This is Gatorland!

Ancestry has provided this product announcement but has not yet released a white paper about how ThruLines performs the following:

  • Utilizes DNA matches.
  • Utilizes trees, including how decisions are made about which trees to use and how to suggest potential ancestors.
  • How Ancestry determines when to ignore your existing ancestor in your tree in favor of a suggested replacement.
  • The weighting between DNA and tree evidence. In some cases, nonsensical ancestors are being suggested through people’s step-parent’s lines, or ancestors’ “other spouses” lines that the tester is not biologically connected to, so the Ancestry selection process cannot be solely based on DNA matching and in some cases, is clearly not based on DNA matching at all.

Hopefully, a white paper will be coming shortly.

Caveats

If you’re an experienced genealogist, I’m not worried about you. You already understand about ‘gators, meaning the caveats and concerns about the massive number of incorrect trees.

My primary concern is that ThruLines encourages people to believe that ancestors are being suggested because DNA has confirmed that a specific ancestor is theirs. In many cases, erroneous trees have propagated for years, and now all of those people are “wrong together” so their incorrect ancestor is being suggested as an ancestor for many more people. Worse yet, multiple wrong trees are being stitched together by Ancestry in ThruLines.

I wish Ancestry provided a visible warning someplace where users CAN’T MISS IT. MyHeritage does exactly that, even in the name of their similar feature, Theory of Family Relativity.

Buried in the Ancestry support document for ThruLines, I found this:

ThruLines accuracy

This should be a required clickthrough before anyone can use ThruLines.

Accessing ThruLines

Not everyone at Ancestry has ThruLines yet. Ancestry has been struggling the past few days and ThruLines have been coming and going. ThruLines is in beta and will be rolled out during the month of March.

For ThruLines to work, you must be sure:

  • Your tree is connected to your DNA.
  • Your tree is either public or a private searchable tree. Unsearchable trees won’t have ThruLines.
  • Your tree is at least 3 or 4 generations deep.
  • You only have one kit for any individual person connected to that person in the same tree. If you have multiple kits for the same person connected to one tree, only one kit will have ThruLines. If this is your situation, you can create a “twin” to yourself in your tree and attach the second kit to that person and both kits should get ThruLines. There aren’t many people like me who have tested twice with AncestryDNA, so this shouldn’t be a problem for most people.

You can have multiple kits attached to the same tree, but each kit must be connected to a different person in the tree

If you want to know if ThruLines is available on your account or you are having problems with ThruLines, I wrote about that in the article, “Ancestry’s Disappearing ThruLines – Now You See Them, Now You Don’t.”

Myths and Misconceptions

  • ThruLines is NOT telling you or confirming that a specific ancestor IS your ancestor.
  • ThruLines is NOT modifying or automatically doing anything to your tree. The ThruLines “trees” you are seeing are constructed for ThruLines.
  • You are NOT necessarily related to, nor have DNA matches with the people whose trees are used to suggest potential ancestors.

Warning

For individuals seeking unknown parents, if you see your name beneath a placard that shows a “private” individual in a hashed box above your name, this does NOT mean your parent has been discovered. This only means that Ancestry has “paired” you with a potential ancestor that happens, in your case, to be a parent based on some combination of name similarity (yours) and a person with a similar surname in someone else’s tree.

If you have a parent/child match, it will be the first match on your match list. Look there.

It’s heartbreaking to get excited only to learn that the ThruLines “potential parent” shown for you has nothing to do with genetics – so be prepared for this possibility and don’t get excited. Check your DNA match list.

Facts

  • According to Crista Cowan in her RootsTech video, ThruLines is a replacement for Circles. After working with both my ThruLines and Circles, it became obvious very quickly that Circles have not been updated for some time, probably months. If you have Circles or New Ancestor Discoveries (which have been dormant for the past couple years), please archive them so you don’t lose any information you might have. I wrote about how to do that here.
  • New Ancestor Discoveries were discontinued roughly two years ago, so you may not have any.
  • Shared Ancestor Hints (green leaves) is no longer working. Neither is Filter By Common ancestors. I sure hope they fix both of these (probably related) bugs.
  • Any ThruLine card in a dotted edge box is a POTENTIAL ANCESTOR and is very likely incorrect.ThruLines hashed line.png
  • Any ThruLine card in a solid line box when you mouse over the card is an ancestor currently found in your tree. It’s as correct as your tree.ThruLines solid line.png
  • Just because you have an ancestor in your tree does NOT mean that Ancestry will use that ancestor. Ancestry may provide another potential ancestor from someone else’s tree. Watch for the hashed lines and be cognizant of who is already in your tree, and why!
  • On the ThruLine trees, any person, meaning ancestor OR other person in a grey hashed line box is only a suggestion based on someone else’s tree or multiple trees.
  • ThruLines shows you which tree that ancestor was “suggested” from, allowing you to click through to that tree and view their documentation.
  • On the ThruLine trees, any person in a solid edge box is from your own tree, shown with red arrows below, while any suggested individual is shown with hashed edges, shown with green arrows.

Thrulines tree.png

  • The summary below the ancestor’s name may indicate that you’re related to XYZ ancestor in <some number> of ways, but review the people you match very closely because you may be related to them, but not through the ancestor or in the way shown.

ThruLines number of matches.png

  • If there was a second marriage, ThruLines may be attributing your relationship to the un-related spouse. The descendants shown may be from the “other” marriage and that person’s ancestors. If you’re thinking the unrelated spouse’s ancestors can’t be genetic, you’re right – at least not through that line. Be very careful. You’re in ‘gator territory.
  • Furthermore, Ancestry may be suggesting ancestors of the “step-spouse” or other tangential line as well. More ‘gators.
  • Just because you match 5 descendants of XYZ ancestor, that does not mean any of these people match each other. In fact, you may match some of these people through another line entirely.
  • You can still click through to view the DNA comparison feature at Ancestry. However, since the Shared Ancestor Hints (green leaves) is not working at all, you will not be able to see the side-by-side tree comparison feature☹

ThruLines common ancestors.png

  • Using Shared Matches on the comparison page, you may be able to determine if some of these individuals do in fact match each other which helps to increase the likelihood of common ancestry in a specific line.

ThruLines shared matches 1.png

  • ThruLines does not replace Shared Ancestor Hints (green leaves) although ThruLines organizes the Shared Ancestor Hints by ancestor. Currently Shared Ancestor Hints is not working and says you have no matches with shared ancestors which is clearly incorrect if you previously had any Shared Ancestor Hints.
  • ThruLines may “add” projected ancestors to matches whose trees don’t reach far enough back in time, but who connect with another tree who connects with your tree. This occurs in ThruLines, not in your own tree unless you specifically add the information there. This additive “tree extension” effort is very similar to the WeRelate application which was infamously wrong – more like WeDontRelate.
  • You will still receive potential parent hints for ancestors on your actual tree, some of which will (or may) also be reflected in ThruLines. In some cases, the hint on your tree and the ThruLine suggested “potential ancestor” are different, so check both places.

Thrulines potential parent tree.png

  • ThruLines only reaches back 7 generations, so if you’re looking for a breakthrough or descendants from ancestors before that time, you won’t see them in ThruLines. Previously in this regard in relationship to Circles, Ancestry had said that there were too many unknown family lines and multiple relationship paths that far back in time.
  • Many of the ancestor ThruLines share exactly the same descendants. For example, my Dutch line only has a limited number of testers, so the same 10 people are listed for generation after generation going up in the pedigree (back in time.)
  • Once ThruLines offers a potential ancestor, they continue offering parents and grandparents of that potential ancestor until they run out of ancestors, reach the 8th generation or some other criteria for stopping. If this is a legitimate line, great – and if not, it’s a royal pain without an “off” button to reject known erroneous “potential ancestors.” “Gators having baby ‘gators!
  • There is no way to “ignore,” “reject” or tell Ancestry to “disconnect” or remove a potential ancestor. I hope they will add this feature soon. This could be useful if they suggest another ancestor, especially in lines where you are truly at a brick wall. New “potential ancestors” would provide you with ideas for who/where to search.
  • There is also no way to mark a ThruLines card as “seen” so you don’t review it again.
  • Having two kits connected to the same person in your tree will (at the time of this writing) prevent one of those kits from receiving ThruLines. In my case, I took a V1 and a V2 test and had them both connected to my own record. This can be solved by adding yourself as a sibling and connecting one kit to the sibling.
  • ThruLines is free for everyone for now but may require a subscription in the future. (Don’t forget about the Insight subscription to access DNA features only, assuming it still exists, but you must call support to obtain that limited subscription.)

Suspicions

  • That trees with “more” sources are weighted more heavily than trees without “more” sources. Case in point is my own tree for an ancestor who little is known about, so I only had an estimated birth and death year. However, Ancestry suggested a replacement with a very robust but nonsensical tree that incorporates “lots” of documentation. In fact, this amazing woman has birth records from Washington DC 1830-1955 (which didn’t exist in the 1700s when this woman lived), New Hampshire 1714-1904, PA 1669-2013 and who died in TN but is buried in PA. Any modicum of logic would have immediately down-weighted this tree’s veracity.
  • That not all relationships are genetically based. For example, I have 15 ancestors for whom I’m the only DNA tester listed, legitimately, so why are those ancestors shown as a ThruLine for me? No DNA is involved.
  • That Ancestry created, updated or still has a version of that “One World Tree” someplace, because some of this information is drawn from old trees with information removed long (as in years) ago. Does Ancestry know where this information was obtained from customer trees, and how they selected the specific tree to use? Do they update it? How often and what logic decides what is incorporated into that tree? I notice that in some cases, suggested ancestors’ spouses came from different users’ trees, even when the same spouse was in the same tree.
  • That projected ancestors are entirely tree based only, not genetically based.
  • Although Ancestry has not yet told us how they weight tree matches, it stands to reason that the most complete records are the most likely to be matched successfully – so be sure your ancestor’s records are as complete as possible.
  • Having said that, some of the suggested potential ancestors replacing my existing ancestors have much LESS documentation than my own tree, including some with the only “source” being Ancestry trees. I have no idea what Ancestry is actually doing, when, or why.

Accessing ThruLines

Sign on to your account and click on DNA and then “Your DNA Results Summary.”

Click on “Extras” and then “Ancestry Lab.”

ThruLines Ancestrylab

Once there, enable the beta functions. I’m not positive you need to do this for ThruLines, but there have been so many issues that I’d recommend doing this, just in case.

ThruLines Ancestrylab enable

If you have ThruLines available on your account, you’ll see this on your DNA Summary page.

ThruLines explore.png

Click on the green box to access ThruLines.

Please note that as of this writing, ThruLines is not stable, meaning that ThruLines and ancestors, as well as matches are tending to come and go. Some features are working sporadically and some not at all. The Shared Ancestor Hints and Common Ancestors filter is not working at all, even when ThruLines is functioning.

Sorting ThruLines

After working with ThruLines, I discovered, for me, working the different types of records together was easiest, because what I do with those records differs.

Records fall into the following categories:

  • Existing ancestors in your tree
  • Potential (suggested) ancestors

In fact, Ancestry provides the ability to filter in exactly that fashion, at the top of the ThruLines page on the left side.

ThruLines filter.png

Let’s look at these two types of records individually, because I use them differently.

In case you’re wondering how I track my ThruLines, I created a spreadsheet that includes columns for:

  • Number – numbered so that I know I’ve accounted for all 254 ancestors through 7 generations
  • Generation in which that ancestor is found – for example my 4 grandparents are generation 2
  • Surname of Ancestor
  • First name of Ancestor with birth year if multiple people by that same surname
  • “Should Be” column for when Ancestry suggests a replacement ancestor for a correct Ancestor I have in my tree. “Should be” is the correct ancestor’s name.
  • Existing – meaning does the ancestor exist in my tree already and is the ThruLines card provided by Ancestry for this existing ancestor from my tree
  • Potential – meaning is this a “potential ancestor” as indicated by a hashed line. Believe it or not, I have several cases where I have an ancestor by a specific name in my tree and Ancestry has suggested a different ancestor by the same name that is a conflated version of my ancestor and another person by that same name, so the answer can be yes for both “existing” and “potential.”
  • Members – how many people match in this ancestor’s group. The number of matching people is easy to see at the top of the ThruLine card when you click on the Ancestor card to open.

ThruLines may be related.png

  • Comments – anything that comes to mind such as why the suggested ancestor is wrong, something to look at, if they are a Y or mtDNA candidate, etc.

ThruLines spreadshet.png

Here’s an example of my spreadsheet.

I also color coded the ThruLines ancestors according to the groups identified later in this article so that I could filter by color. In the example above, the grey entry is an example of a correctly gathered ancestor and the red entry is a hypothetical example of an incorrect entry. If an incorrect person was listed, I would enter the correct ancestor in the “should be” column.

I had to create this spreadsheet to wrap my head around what Ancestry was doing with ThruLines, and to some extent, perhaps determine why.

I would suggest that you read through this entire article before deciding how to handle your ThruLines, then come back and create this spreadsheet if you want to. I had to create a spreadsheet to wrap my head around what was going on with ThruLines so I could write this article.

Existing Ancestors

ThruLines only “sees” ancestors on your linked tree. That means the tree linked to your DNA results.

If you switch trees, you’ll have to give Ancestry some amount of time to switch your results to the new tree. No, I don’t know how long that is in actuality. Hours to days. Ancestry suggests two days. Many people are reporting much longer waits.

What you’ll see when the process is complete is a very nicely organized set of “ancestor cards” that begins with the closest ancestors you have in your linked tree.

ThruLines cards.png

Linking Your Tree

If your tree is not linked, PLEASE LINK IT. You will not have ThruLines if your tree is not linked correctly.

To link your tree, click on “DNA” at the top of the page, and then on DNA Summary.

ThruLines settings.png

Click on the Settings gear in the upper right corner of the page.

Be sure you are participating in matching and then link your tree in this section:

ThruLines link tree.png

Exploring ThruLines

I have 161 individual ancestors listed on cards at Ancestry, along with 49 potential ancestors, although this number varies from hour to hour and day to day.

Existing ancestors in your tree have a solid line around their card when your cursor is above the ancestor.

ThruLines existing ancestor.png

Potential ancestors have a hashed line around their card.

ThruLines potential ancestor.png

This might be a good time to mention that Ancestry includes information from searchable but private trees. This means that information from many of those private trees that so frustrate genealogists is included. It may also mean that trees people are using as “quick and dirty trees” and they forgot to make unsearchable are included too.

However, if you have a private searchable tree, this now means that you too will have ThruLines.

As frustrating as these “private” cards appear at first glance, they actually aren’t useless. I clicked on this private placard and look what I see.

ThruLines private.png

This potential ancestor happens to be inaccurate, but at least I can see something.

ThruLines contact.png

Sometimes you’ll see this instead (even if the person lived so long ago that they can’t possibly be living), or if you’re lucky, the following which at least provides the name of the suggested ancestor so you can search elsewhere.

ThruLines private ancestor identified.png

I’m very grateful for this change to provide the ability to at least identify the ancestor being referenced.

Looking at my Ancestry tree, to the 8th generation (meaning 7 generations, inclusive, counting from my mother, means that if you expand your tree once, every ancestor other than the last column should be shown on a ThruLines card as illustrated below.

ThruLines 7 generations.png

In 7 generations, there are a total of 254 ancestors, counting our parents as generation 1.

Let’s break my 254 ancestors down into categories based on the Ancestry ThruLines.

Group 1 – Ancestors with No DNA Matches

Based on the fact that I’m the only child that has tested as a descendant of my mother, and she has a card, Ancestry appears to have taken every one of those 254 individuals and processed them in some fashion. I say this because I have a total of 20 ancestors in my tree with whom there are no DNA matches attributable to that ancestor.

ThruLines no matches.png

In fact, it’s this line of relatively recent German immigrants, the parents having arrived in the mid-1850s. Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Drechsel (Drexler) didn’t have a lot of children and many of those children didn’t marry and have children, which leaves a small descendant pool to test.

Clearly, based on this, the ThruLines, meaning the cards shown, aren’t generated based on a DNA match. That’s fine, except that I understood that a ThruLines card meant that you HAD a DNA match first, then secondarily a matching tree as well.

Obviously, that’s a misconception.

I’ll be keeping a running scorecard of my 254 ancestors and how they break down in ThruLines.

Ancestors Number Comments
Total ancestors in 7 generations 254
Ancestors with no DNA matches 20 German immigrant line
Remainder 234

Group 2 – Missing Ancestors Altogether

This next group is probably the easiest to account for, because they are missing in the Ancestry ThruLines cards altogether. They are clearly in my tree, but they have no ThruLines card showing that they exist. If they were only in the 7th generation, I could understand that they are missing AND don’t have hints about ancestors in earlier generations – because Ancestry (unfortunately) doesn’t provide anything in the 8th generation, but that’s not the case here. Two full generations are missing entirely.

ThruLines missing branch.png

This entire branch of my mother’s tree is missing altogether – both parents and all 4 grandparentts of Angenietje Houtsma.

It’s clearly NOT because there aren’t any DNA matches, because the Kirsch branch in the last example has no matches and still has ThruLines cards for ancestors.

It’s not because there aren’t parents, because Angenietje Houtsma has grandparents who should have cards as well, AND, those grandparents have record hints. So, it’s not like these people are unknown to the system, because they aren’t. In this one line alone, 6 ancestors are missing.

In the 6th generation, I have a total of 4 missing ancestors who are in my tree but have no cards, and in the 7th generation, 10, for a total of 14 missing ancestors. Where are these ancestors and why don’t they have a ThruLines card?

I have no idea.

Ancestors Number Comments
Total ancestors in 7 generations 254
Ancestors with no DNA matches 20 German immigrant line
Missing Ancestors 14
Remainder 220

Group 3 – Ancestors in My Tree with Gathered Descendants

This next group is the largest group of matches after eliminating the missing ancestors and those with no DNA matches.

This group consists of ancestors who have cards from my tree shown by Ancestry AND with whom I have DNA matches attributed to that line.

Keep in mind that many more people may have DNA tested and are descended from these ancestors, but their DNA doesn’t match my DNA. The only resource available to see that those people match others descended from that ancestor is if you have a Circle for that ancestor, you can check for people NOT shown in this ThruLine grouping.

Ancestry has stated that they are not going to continue to add to the Circles, so if you want that information, archive it now. I wrote about how to do that here.

I will be doing that for every ancestor with a Circle.

Let’s look at Lazarus Estes. He’s my great-grandfather and I know of most of his descendants, or at least I think I do. I have 6 DNA matches that descend from Lazarus.

Thrulines ancestor gathered descendants.png

Ok, maybe I don’t know most of his descendants. I know most of his descendants a generation ago. One of these names I’ve never heard of. The good news is that they might have information that I don’t. Pictures, stories, something.

If your goal is to connect with LIVING people, you’ll love this ThruLines feature.

In recent or relatively close generations, people are likely to know their genealogy which means their parents and grandparents. For example, I don’t question for a minute that the three descendants of Gracie Estes Long know that she’s their grandmother. I would hope that Tyler knows that my half-sister is his great-grandmother, but I suspect he has no idea who I am. His mother and grandfather are still living, which is why they are marked as private and have hashed lines, so he could ask them and I’m sure they know both who Edna was and who I am.

As you move further back in time where people are depending on historical research, that’s when the trees become more problematic, entering ‘gator territory, because they adopt and incorporate other people’s trees, believing them to be accurate.

One point that this graphic illustrates quite well is the difference in inherited DNA in the green boxes. Note that with my three 2C1R (second cousins once removed), I share 170cM, 161 cM and a paltry 25cM of DNA with them. That’s a very large difference. Then note that I share LESS with my half 2nd great-nephew, with whom I’m more closely related than with two of my 2C1R. Roll of the genetic dice.

You might notice that I can’t drop down the middle box because there’s not enough space for all 6 matches to show simultaneously. Sometimes you have to scroll back and forth to see the entire graphic, including all the siblings, so you can click at the top on the “List” link to see the people you match who descend from this ancestor in a list format.

ThruLines list.png

There are three additional pieces of information available from this “List” screen.

If you click on “View Relationship,” it takes you back to the tree where you will see only your relationship with that person.

ThruLines relationship.png

Notice that the solid lines mean these people are in my tree, but there’s another hint too. You can see that Becky’s father was taken from her own tree, but her grandmother, Lucy was taken from someone else’s tree. Is that accurate information? Don’t ever assume that it is. The trees are all hotlinks. Verify, verify, verify!!!

If you click on the person’s initial box or name, you’ll be taken to the DNA comparison screen that we’re all familiar with. Be sure to note how you’re related so you can check easily.

ThruLines match info.png

This confirms that Becky didn’t provide any more information than her parents in her tree.

If you click on the segment information in the middle of the “List” screen, you will see the following:

ThruLines relationship percents.png

Please note that these percentages do not correlate with the DNAPainter tool here which I use extensively. Ancestry does remove segments that they feel are “too matchy.”

ThruLines DNAPainter percents.png

There’s a pretty large difference between 40% and almost 52%. I wonder if Ancestry is a victim of their own incorrect trees where relationships are reported inaccurately. If that’s how they are calculating these statistics, it could well explain the discrepancy.

I would think that genealogists who care enough to make the effort to enter their DNA information into Blaine Bettinger’s Shared cM Project, from which the DNAPainter tool is derived would care enough to make sure the relationships reported are accurate. You can contribute to this crowd-sourced effort here.

I have a total of 148 “Ancestor Gathered Descendant Trees.” I know for a fact that not all of them are accurate for any number of reasons, but what I do know is:

  • That my path to the ancestor is accurate because it’s my tree and I’ve spent 40 years performing original research and documenting those ancestors.
  • That I’m somehow related to these people, assuming that the segment is not identical by chance.
  • The identical by chance scenario can be lessened for each match by looking at the Shared Matches for hints based on other people that also descend from the same ancestor.

ThruLines shared matches.png

Checking my match with cousin Beverly to help eliminate the identical by chance scenario, I discover that I do have shared matches with her, and that two of the closest common matches are people I recognize. Becky from my example above and another cousin I know well – both who descend from the same lines and help confirm the legitimacy of Beverly’s match.

Ancestors Number Comments
Total ancestors in 7 generations 254
Ancestors with no DNA matches 20 German immigrant line
Missing Ancestors 14 No ancestor cards at all
Ancestors from my Tree with Gathered Descendants 149 My ancestor is accurate. Ancestor of matches may or may not be accurate.
Remainder 71

Group 4 – Ancestors with Unknown Parents But No ThruLine

These are the individuals I was truly hoping would have a potential ancestor.

With one exception, all of these 9 ancestors are females with no surnames. In the one case where the ancestor is a male, the potential father is incorrect and no mother is offered. Based on the other mothers offered connected to incorrect fathers, the mother would be the wife of the incorrect father.

Ancestors Number Comments
Total ancestors in 7 generations 254
Ancestors with no DNA matches 20 German immigrant line
Missing Ancestors 14 No ancestor cards at all
Ancestors from my Tree with Gathered Descendants 149 My ancestor is accurate. Ancestor of matches may or may not be accurate.
Ancestors with Unknown Parents 9 Generally, missing parents of females with no surnames and no potential parents offered.
Remainder 62

Group 5 – Ancestors Shown as Potential Ancestors are Already in Tree

In 3 cases, I have Potential Ancestor cards for the same exact person that is listed in my tree already, with much the same information, making me wonder why mine was ignored and the other offered as a replacement.

The good news is that the other person’s tree from where these suggestions arose looks to be quite well documented, so I look forward to contacting them and researching what they have attached.

Ancestors Number Comments
Total in 7 generations 254
Ancestors with no DNA matches 20 German immigrant line
Missing Ancestors 14 No ancestor cards at all
Ancestors from my Tree with Gathered Descendants 149 My ancestor is accurate. Ancestor of matches may or may not be accurate
Ancestors with Unknown Parents 9 Generally, missing parents of females with no surnames and no potential parents offered.
Potential Ancestors Already in Tree 5
Remainder 57

Group 6 – Possibly Accurate Potential Ancestors

Only two Potential Ancestors are possibly accurate. Both of these individuals are the parents of a known and proven ancestor. A cousin has done some research on this line and eliminated a number of candidates, but I need to work with her to research further to determine if the suggested couple has been researched or eliminated.

Ancestors Number Comments
Total in 7 generations 254
Ancestors with no DNA matches 20 German immigrant line
Missing Ancestors 14 No ancestor cards at all
Ancestors from my Tree with Gathered Descendants 149 My ancestor is accurate. Ancestor of matches may or may not be accurate
Ancestors with Unknown Parents 9 Generally, missing parents of females with no surnames and no potential parents offered.
Potential Ancestors Already in Tree 5
Possibly Accurate Potential Ancestors 2
Remainder 55

Group 7 – Inaccurate Potential Ancestors (‘Gator City)

I saved this group for last because it’s just painful. As a genealogist, I have to say that truthfully, the fact that Ancestry has suggested 55 ancestors that I know positively are inaccurate terrifies me for the sheer fact that less experienced genealogists will grab gleefully onto these “new ancestors” and perpetuate the Ancestry-provided incorrect trees like kudzu vines. The perception is that these trees are now “proven” by DNA – a statement I’ve seen repeatedly the past several days.

THESE ANCESTORS AND TREES ARE **NOT** PROVEN BY DNA!!!

These trees are predicated upon other people’s inaccurate trees with suggestions being made to replace your ancestors, currently in your trees, with other ancestors from other people’s trees. There seems to be no consistent logic that applies in ‘Gatorland.

The end result will be that even more people will receive inaccurate “Potential Ancestors” because there are yet more of those incorrect trees skewing the algorithm. I don’t know if the criteria for ancestor suggestion is “most numerous” tree or something else. This scenario is the very definition of a vicious ‘gator circle.

The incredibly frustrating aspect of ThruLines for me is when Ancestry ignores the ancestor in my tree that I’ve spent years (if not decades) researching and documenting, and instead suggests a “Potential Ancestor” that defies logic. LHM!

In some cases, such as with Lydia Brown, wife of William Crumley III, the widely disseminated Elizabeth Johnson is shown as the mother of my ancestor, Phoebe Crumley, instead of Lydia Brown. Not only is Elizabeth Johnson incorrect, it’s been proven incorrect for several years now via mitochondrial DNA, AND, I’ve written and published about this case.

Imagine my frustration, to put it mildly, to discover that Ancestry is now ignoring my carefully proven ancestor and suggesting that I replace her with the unproven, erroneous ‘gator. Not only that, but I fully suspect that my tree is NEVER going to be suggested to others, because it’s a (nearly) lone voice lost in the forest of incorrect ancestors.

Truthfully, this makes my blood boil – 55 separate painful times. Once for each incorrect ‘gator masquerading as an ancestor. Why would Ancestry think that replacing my ancestors in my tree with ones from other people’s trees is even remotely a good idea?

To suggest that I “consider” a different ancestor or information in another tree is vastly different than simply ignoring the ancestor I have in my tree and providing a “Potential Ancestor” replacement, like the one in my tree doesn’t even exist. (Not to mention that this attitude in and of itself is both arrogant and condescending.)

If I should consider a different ancestor, I’d at least like for that ancestor to have lived in remotely the right place and time. People did not have children at age 5 nor after they died (except occasionally for men within 9 months), nor did they have 30 children, nor were they married, having children and living in multiple places at the same time. Well, at least not most ancestors😊

The Quality of a potential tree should be part of the recommendation factor, especially if Ancestry is blithely ignoring my existing ancestor in favor of another potential ancestor from someone else’s tree.

Simply telling you how wrong these suggested Potential Ancestors are would not do the situation justice. I’ve documented the circumstances, briefly, with the hope that you will use my experience trying to sort through this ‘gator swamp as a warning for what to look for and consider in your own ThruLines, and how.

What’s worse, when Ancestry ignores your existing ancestor and suggests others, they don’t stop with that one ancestor, but then continue to suggest and propagate ancestors on up your tree for the erroneously suggested ancestors. These recommendations are not based on DNA or your existing ancestor in your tree but on “those other” trees alone.

Let’s look at an example of what Ancestry “suggested” for my Crumley branch. The red Xs document where Ancestry replaced a known ancestor with suggested incorrect ancestors – including on up the tree. (I should have used little ‘gators instead of Xs.)

Thrulines bad tree.png

Unknown H2a1 is an unknown wife of William Crumley II with the H2a1 mitochondrial haplogroup. Ancestry did not assign a potential ancestor for her, but obviously Ancestry “believes” that she was a Johnson, because her father is suggested as Andrew Johnson. Of course, this means that H2a1’s mother is incorrectly “suggested” as well as Andrew Johnson’s wife.

I know this is wrong, because Elizabeth Johnson was a second wife who married William Crumley in 1817, long after his son, my ancestor, William Crumley III was born in 1785. Therefore, it’s impossible that Elizabeth was William III’s mother. Not only that, she was 12 years YOUNGER than William Crumley III. Twelve years younger than her step-son.

Furthermore, Lydia Brown, the proven mother of Phebe Crumley through William Crumley III in the next generation, was ignored as well, and his wife was also given as Elizabeth Johnson through a different tree. This Elizabeth Johnson’s parents were assigned as different parents than the Elizabeth Johnson who married William Crumley II in 1817. Are you confused yet? Believe me, so was I and obviously, so are other people as well as Ancestry.

The end result of this is that not only were my existing ancestors ignored and replaced, but the erroneous trees that are themselves full of impossibilities for the person they are documenting are then suggested to replace mine. Those trees are then cobbled together by Ancestry in a Frankenstein mosaic of patched together ancestors that are blatantly wrong and very difficult to unravel.

And this in only one branch of my extended tree. This scenario happened on multiple branches. If you’re thinking to yourself, “How bad can this really be?”, here’s the graphic of every branch affected, and how.

That old “picture is worth 1000 words” thing.

If you think I’m overreacting, take a look at these graphics which do NOT include missing ancestors or the two that that might potentially be accurate – only the “Potential Ancestors” provided by Ancestry that I know positively are inaccurate.

ThruLines bad tree 2.png

The red Xs show where my ancestors have been ignored and alternative incorrect ancestors suggested as “potential ancestors.”

ThruLines bad tree 3.png

ThruLines bad tree 4.png

ThruLines bad tree 5.png

ThruLines bad tree 6.png

ThruLines bad tree 7.png

ThruLines bad tree 8.png

Thrulines bad tree 9.png

ThruLines bad tree 10.png

ThruLines bad tree 11.png

ThruLines bad tree 12.png

My tree is literally bleeding red Xs. And I just realized while proofing that there are now more than there were initially, and I missed one X. Sigh. The ‘gators are “propagatoring.”

If your jaw just dropped looking at those red Xs, let this serve as a warning for your own tree.

Below, brief descriptions of what is wrong, and how. Think of this as the ‘gator trap.

Ancestor Suggestion to Replace Accurate with Inaccurate Ancestor
Joseph Bolton My ancestor ignored and suggested similar Joseph Bolton from tree with significantly less information than mine.
Lydia Brown Proven incorrect ancestor based on widely spread speculative misinformation.
Elisabeth Mehlheimer’s mother I already have her mother, Elisabetha Mehlheimer, in my tree. Why suggest a “private” person instead? (This has since disappeared.)
William Moore Replaced my William with another William Moore proven via Y DNA not to be from the same line. The William they suggest has 30 children from 3 “wives” who are obviously the same woman by different variations of a common surname, with many “children” by the same name. This tree has obviously been constructed by indiscriminately “gathering” from other trees. Yet, that tree, according to Ancestry, trumped my own carefully curated tree.
Lucy, wife of William Moore Suggested wife of yet a different wrong William Moore, above, ignoring Lucy in my tree. Birth shown in Giles County, VA but also with an attached England birth document. Shows marriage to two different William Moores, at the same time, neither one where mine lived.
Daniel Vannoy Suggested his brother, Francis, ignoring Daniel in my tree. The Francis tree has many spurious references to IGI records, Family Data Collection and Ancestry trees, but does NOT include my Elijah as his child, so how Ancestry decided to make this connection is baffling.
Sarah Hickerson Suggested Daniel’s wife from a different tree than above where Elijah is included as a child. Which Vannoy brother fathered Elijah Vannoy was proven through DNA matches to the Hickerson family, not Millicent Henderson, wife of Francis Vannoy.
Jotham Brown Because the right wife, Lydia Brown, was ignored, the wrong line continued to be suggested upwards in the tree instead of Jotham Brown, Lydia’s proven father. This “private” tree is for Zopher Johnson, as shown by his connected children even though “Zopher” himself is private. Another Potential Ancestor shows Zopher as a card a generation earlier, along with wife Elizabeth Williamson Cooper, perpetuating this wrong information up the tree another generation.
Phoebe Cole Because the right wife, Lydia Brown, ignored, the wrong line continued to be suggested upwards in the tree instead of Phebe Cole, the wife of Jotham Brown, Lydia’s proven father in my tree. This “private” ancestor is for Catherine Harrison, wife of Zopher Johnson.
James Mann Substituted James Robert Mann, the wrong person, ignoring the accurate person. This continues upstream for 2 more generations.
Mary Cantrell Substituted Mary Jane Wilson, wife of James Robert Mann. The wrong line continued up the tree for 2 more generations.
Michael McDowell Suggested replacing my Michael with a different, less correct, possibly conflated, Michael McDowell.
Samuel Muncy Suggested Samuel Munsey-Muncy, ignoring my Samuel, from a tree that shows a Civil War service record for a man who died in the early 1800s and would have been about 100 during the Civil War. Miraculous! Lots of Family Data Collection and Ancestry Trees sources.
Andrew McKee Suggested replacing my Andrew with a different, incorrect “private” Andrew McKee. The original tree for Andrew has now been made completely private.
Elizabeth, wife of Andrew McKee Ignored my Elizabeth and suggested replacing with another Elizabeth. The matches look to be correct, so the other tree has the two Elizabeths conflated. The only source for the replacement tree is “Ancestry Family Trees.” Sheesh, Ancestry.
James Moore Ignored my proven ancestor and suggested replacing him with a William Moore proven via Y DNA not to be of the same line. This William in the person’s tree was said to be born in Henrico Co., VA, but has an attached birth record from England. Can’t be both.
Mary Rice Ignored Mary Rice and suggested Margaret Hudspeth, wife of the incorrect William Moore, above. Again, shown to be born in Henrico County, with English birth record attached along with IGI record as only sources.
Charles Hickerson Since Sarah Hickerson was ignored, the incorrect family line was perpetuated up the tree with a wrong ancestor for the second generation instead of Charles Hickerson.
Mary Lytle Since Sarah Hickerson was ignored, the incorrect family line was perpetuated up the tree with a wrong ancestor instead of Mary Lytle.
Sarah Rash Ignored mine and suggested replacing with a Sarah Rash that appears to be more fleshed out, but the dates are all based on records not belonging to the correct Sarah, including a birth in England despite a shown birth date in 1732 in Spotsylvania Co., VA. We have our Sarah’s birth from the family Bible.
William Moore’s wife, Lucy’s father Nancy Moore’s erroneously given mother’s supposed father, Samuel Little Harwell. This erroneous tree now perpetuated to the second generation.
William Moore’s wife, Lucy’s mother Nancy Moore’s erroneously given mother’s supposed mother, Anne Jackson. Woman who died in 1765 has a SSDA claim record and an 1800s immigration record, even though she was supposedly born in Brunswick Co, VA in 1712. Married Samuel Harwell 5 different times – clearly has simply collected and attached data to their tree without evaluation, but Ancestry thought it was “better” than my tree.
Jotham Brown’s father Because Lydia Brown was misidentified, so was Jotham Brown, and now his father as well, perpetuating garbage up the tree for two more generations
Jotham Brown’s mother Because Lydia Brown was misidentified, so was Jotham Brown, and now his mother as well, perpetuating garbage up the tree for two more generations
John Cole Since Phebe Cole was misidentified, so was her father.
Mary Mercy Kent Since Phebe Cole was misidentified, so was her mother
Michael McDowell Sr. Since the wrong Michael was identified earlier, a wrong father, John McDowell, was also identified, proven by Y DNA not to be related. The son of this John McDowell is yet a different John McDowell than the one Ancestry substituted for my John McDowell.
Wife of Michael McDowell Sr. We don’t know who she was, but we know she wasn’t Magdalena Woods, married to John McDowell. The Magdalena Woods tree they recommended includes 13 Ancestry Family Tree, Family Data Collection and IGI records as sources, plus a German birth record for a person born (supposedly) in 1705 in Ireland, according to the tree itself. Pretty tricky!
Isabel, wife of Michael McDowell Jr. Suggested private father, Ebenezer Hall, and erroneous mother, Dorcas Abbott who lived her entire life in New Hampshire, not Virginia.
James Claxton’s parents Suggested erroneous private father and mother, widely distributed but proven via Y DNA testing not to be of the same line. Ironically, there are other trees for this person that are not private. How and why Ancestry selected the private one is a mystery. Ancestry also suggested his mother, from another tree as Catherine Kathryn Caty Middleton which is incorrect as well.
Joel Cook Ignored Joel, proven ancestor via military records to suggest Henry Cook. Henry’s only daughter, Sarah, in the suggested tree would have been 5 years old when she married and 6 when her first child was born. Another miracle!
Alice, wife of Joel Cook Ignored Alice to suggest wife of Henry Cook from a different tree with the only source being Ancestry Family Trees.
Samuel Muncy Ignored Samuel to suggest Obediah Muncy.
Agnes Craven Ignored, Agnes, wife of Samuel Muncy to suggest “private” person who was the wife of Obediah listed as “Mrs. Obediah.”
Andrew McKee Ignored Andrew McKee who is proven to suggest Hugh McKee who did not live in the correct state to have his child. The next generation up the tree is also incorrect, suggesting a George McKee who had Elizabeth Barnes, mother of Ann McKee, according to Ancestry. Ann McKee’s mother was actually Martha (probably) McCamm. Another potential ancestor card suggests George McKee’s wife is Anna Elizabeth Carney with no sources at all.
Martha possibly McCamm Ignored Martha and suggested wife of Hugh McKee, Mary Nesbit, perpetuating erroneous information for another generation up the tree. Some very convoluted trees in this mess with only source being “Ancestry trees.” This has now been made entirely private.
Elizabeth, wife of Steven Ulrich. Ignored my Elizabeth and suggested Elizabeth Cripe, a surname/person that has been disproven but rampant in trees.
Marie LePrince Ignored proven genealogy that Marie LePrince is the mother of Marguerite de Forest and replaced with Marie Claire Rivet. Shown marrying both in France and in Nova Scotia.
Hannah Drew Ignored my Hannah Drew and replaced with wrong Hannah Drew from another tree with less information, showing only an Ancestry Family Tree and a record showing the birth of her son in England, while the rest of the tree shows his birth in the colonies.
Samuel Mitchell Ignored my Samuel Mitchell and replaced with an erroneous Samuel Mitchell who was supposed to have died in 1756 in Maine, but has a Michigan death record from after 1867. I had no idea people lived to be almost 200 years old. Wow!
Elizabeth, wife of Samuel Mitchell Ignored my Elizabeth and suggested Elizabeth Penglase as the mother of Catherine Mitchell. Elizabeth Penglase was born in 1698 in Kittery Maine, but with at London England birth/baptism attached to the record. Also shows her father as Christopher Mitchell and two marriages to her husband. Tree is very confused and conflated.
Susanna Koob Ignored Susanna who is proven and suggested replacement with Anna Margaretha Kirsch with only source being “Ancestry Family Trees.” No DNA matches, so how was this done, exactly?
John Herrell Ignored my John and substituted John Isaac Herrell, incorrectly from a different location, with no documentation.
John Herrell’s father Because John Herrell was incorrectly substituted, so is his father, shown as Davie Harrell.
Francois LaFaille’s father Suggested Jean Francois LaBelle who did not live in the right location to be the parent of Francoise LaFaille, nor is the surname correct.
Francois LaFaille’s mother Suggested Marie Genevieve Auger Baron who as the mother of Francois LaFaille, who was the wife of Jean Francois LaBelle.
Jacques De Foret Ignored proven ancestor, Jacques de Foret and replaced with Bonaventure Foret who did not live where my ancestor lived.

Evaluation

If you are looking for close cousins and know your tree well, you may well find some individuals with whom to collaborate based on the grouping of DNA matching descendants by ancestor. Perhaps you’ll be fortunate and discover previously unknown family photos, history or stories.

The further back in time ThruLines reaches, the more problematic the frankentrees that are unrelated to DNA become.

The suggested “replacements” of known, proven, ancestors with incorrect ancestors are found in my tree as follows:

  • 1 individual at generation 4
  • 2 individuals at generation 5
  • 12 individuals at generation 6
  • 40 individuals at generation 7

Here’s the final scorekeeping chart.

Ancestors Number Comments
Total ancestors in 7 generations 254
Ancestors with no DNA matches 20 German immigrant line
Missing Ancestors 14 No ancestor cards at all
Ancestors from my Tree with Gathered Descendants 149 My ancestor is accurate. Ancestor of matches may or may not be accurate
Ancestors with Unknown Parents 9 Generally, missing parents of females with no surnames and no potential parents offered.
Potential Ancestors Already in Tree 5
Possibly Accurate Potential Ancestors 2
Correct Ancestors Replaced by Incorrect Potential Ancestors 55

By any measure, this is an abysmal report card relative to “Potential Ancestors,” with only 2 potential new ancestors that could be accurate and 55 wildfires that can never be extinguished – with gasoline thrown on, encouraged and propagated by Ancestry themselves. What a terrible example of stewardship. This is not just a disservice to me, but to the entire genealogy community. We should be striving for accuracy, not feeding the ‘gators and fertilizing Kudzu vines frankentrees.

Goals and Benefits

My goal with genetic genealogy, and genealogy as a whole, is fourfold, as shown in the following chart. The questions is, how does ThruLines help me achieve these goals?

Goal ThruLines
To confirm known ancestors through DNA

 

This is best achieved by segment matching which Ancestry does not provide, but less conclusive evidence can certainly be obtained through close matches and shared matches that match both me and close family members. Unfortunately, Circles which is a form of genetic networks would provide additional confirmation but is being discontinued.
To document the lives of my ancestors accurately for future generations

 

ThruLines encourages the propagation of erroneous trees by suggesting them, by linking to them, and by failing to use any discernible quality measure. A quality tree is NOT a tree with conflicting sources about the same event, the same timeframe or unreliable sources such as “Ancestry Family Trees.” We, as individuals, can’t put these fires out as fast as Ancestry flames them, especially if quality trees are discounted for larger “scavenged” trees. Size does not = accuracy.
To break through brick walls

 

The two individuals that I have yet to research, as well as perhaps viewing trees for others whose DNA I match and share a common ancestor may be illuminating. It would be difficult to sift through the chaff for a newer genealogist.
To reconstruct and paint the DNA of my ancestors For this, I need at least segment data, if not a chromosome browser. I hope that Ancestry customers will transfer their DNA files to FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and GedMatch to reap the added advantages of the tools at those sites – including the availability of segment information and the resulting confirmation ability.

ThruLines Recommendations

The “Potential Ancestor” feature could have been, and still can be presented in an entirely different way, facilitating responsible genealogy, including the following:

  1. Extremely visible and repeated warnings cautioning that ThruLines are not definitive, only hints and MUST BE VERIFIED with research.
  2. Do not ignore the ancestor in the customer’s tree.
  3. Providing “suggestions” to look at alternate ancestors or trees for additional information for ancestors, not doling out “potential ancestors” to replace your existing ancestors.
  4. Implementing artificial intelligence (machine learning) for accuracy including factors such as looking for multiple births in various locations (a person can only be born once), cobbled together frankentrees, multiple marriages at the same time in different places, births too late or early in the lives of potential parents, and more red flag factors that should down-weight trees as being “recommendation worthy.”
  5. Sharing with the customer why these trees were considered as recommendation worthy, similar to the MyHeritage confidence factor and side-by-side comparisons.
  6. Eliminating “Ancestry Trees,” IGI records and other similar “word of mouth” types of sources as being “recommendation worthy.”
  7. The ability to “dismiss” a “Potential Ancestor” suggestion and for that dismissal to be part of the AI learning process relative to future recommendations.
  8. Ability to group ThruLines, such as by categories: Dismiss (inaccurate), Accurate and processed, Reviewed but unknown accuracy, In Process, New and not yet reviewed, etc.
  9. Restoration of shared ancestor hints.
  10. Fix bug in common ancestors causing no matches with common ancestors to be found, which I would presume is supposed to replace Shared Ancestor Hints.
  11. Permanently archiving Circles and NADs.
  12. If the Circles must be replaced, find another way to provide a genetic network that includes people who descend from the same ancestor, have DNA tested and match some of the people in the Circle or NAD but not everyone.
  13. The ability to know when looking at a tree of a descendant of an ancestor if they have tested, and if so, if they match you.
  14. Much more adequate product testing before release. By any measure, this release has been miserable and was not adequately tested in advance. No one expects new code to be bug-free, but this is unacceptable.

Ancestry, I hope you’re listening, cause the ‘gators are circling and you need to help us escape from this mess you created.

Gator

______________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the 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.

Ancestry’s Disappearing ThruLines – Now You See Them, Now You Don’t

Ancestry has quite a mess on its hands right now, and genealogists are losing their collective minds. I have some information here to help.

You are always welcome to post links to my articles on other sites, but this article in particular may help many people – so please feel free to pass it on.

I’ve been trying to write an article on ThruLines, but the Ancestry site has been experiencing so many issues that I can’t manage to actually get through my ThruLines to evaluate them and write the article.

There are two different scenarios:

  • You’ve never had ThruLines and you aren’t sure if they have been rolled out to your account yet. They will be rolled out to everyone through the month of March.
  • You’ve had ThruLines, but now you don’t and your account has reverted back, meaning ThruLines no longer shows and the Circles placard has returned, or the Ancestry site simply doesn’t work and says the pages are no longer present.

Scenario 1 – Never Had ThruLines – Does My Account Even Have Them at All?

If you’re never had ThruLines yet, or aren’t sure, you need to do the following in order to qualify for ThruLines and to make sure they work.

For ThruLines to work, you must be sure:

  • Your tree is connected to your DNA.
  • Your tree is either public or a private searchable tree. Unsearchable trees won’t have ThruLines.
  • Your tree is at least 3 or 4 generations deep.
  • You only have one kit for any individual person connected to that person in the same tree. If you have multiple kits for the same person connected to one tree, only one kit will have ThruLines. If this is your situation, you can create a “twin” to yourself in your tree and attach the second kit to that person and both kits should get ThruLines. There aren’t many people like me who have tested twice with AncestryDNA, so this shouldn’t be a problem for most people.

You can have multiple kits attached to the same tree, but each kit must be connected to a different person in the tree

Do the following:

At the top of your Ancestry DNA Summary page, you’ll see “Extras.” Click there and then on Ancestry Lab.

ThruLines Ancestrylab.png

To enable Ancestry’s new features, you’ll see the following screen.

ThruLines Ancestrylab enable.png

I’m not positive you need to enable to active ThruLines, but if you want the other new features, you definitely do, so enable just to be sure.

If you see this next “we’re sorry” screen instead of the one above, you’ll need to move to the Scenario 2 and clear your cookies, but read the instructions all the way through, first, please – to save yourself a lot of grief.

ThruLines sorry.png

Do You Have ThruLines on Your Account?

If you’ve already had access to ThruLines and now it’s not functioning correctly, move to the next section, Scenario 2. If you’ve never had ThruLines, read this.

If you don’t have access to ThruLines, you’ll see this screen with Circles showing to the far right:

ThruLines not available.png

If you have access to ThruLines, but you don’t have any ThruLines, you’ll see this placard, below:

ThruLines available but you have none.png

You do have ThruLines if you see the next screen, with the green “Explore ThruLines” box at the bottom of the ThruLines box. Click on that green box to view your ThruLines.

Thrulines present.png

Scenario 2 – You Had ThruLines But Don’t Now or They Don’t Work

I had ThruLines on one of my two accounts. They were present and I was working through them one at a time – right up until they stopped working a couple days ago. Initially, it was flakey, like the Ancestry site was having problems, but then, the old screen showing the Circles placard in place of ThruLines reappeared and ThruLines were entirely gone.

This, on top of the issues with the ThruLines themselves is proving incredibly frustrating. I’ve called ThruLines an array of not-very-complimentary names derived from Thru…but I’ll be the better person and not print those here:)

I waited, not so patiently I must admit, but today in the Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques group of Facebook, Paula Williams posted about how to clear specific cookies. Not ALL of your cookies and not your cache – just the Ancestry cookies. I was very skeptical, since “clear your cookies” is always the “go to” answer when the answer is unknown and it almost never works. It’s kind of the last resort and won’t hurt anything, but will make it so that no “memory” functions if you have sites that remember your preferences, for example.

However, Paula’s instructions tell you how to clear specific cookies for one site only, and they aren’t destructive to other cookies.

Best of all, this actually worked to correct the “disappeared” ThruLines issue.

I have no idea why Ancestry is having so many problems right now, but these suggestions should help you restore your ThruLines if they have disappeared or the Ancestry site is acting flakey.

Good luck and thanks to Paula. Instructions reproduced with permission, below.

Deleting Specific Site Cookies

Many of us have had issues with Ancestry in the last day or so. Deleting your Ancestry cookies should fix problems such as not being able to load pages. This particular issue is in the cookies, so you’ll need to delete your **cookies** and not your cache.

Here are some links that explain how to delete your cookies. Do note that many of these sites also explain how to delete cookies from just one site, so you can delete just your Ancestry cookies if you’re afraid to delete any others.

Chrome (note the Computer, Android, and iPhone/iPad tabs just above the words “Clear All Cookies”) :
https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/95647…

FireFox:
https://support.mozilla.org/…/clear-cookies-and-site-data-f…

Safari (Mac):
https://support.apple.com/…/manage-cookies-and-website-…/mac

Safari (iPhone / iPad):
https://support.apple.com/lv-lv/HT201265

Microsoft Edge:
https://support.microsoft.com/…/4027…/windows-delete-cookies

Internet Explorer:
https://support.microsoft.com/…/windows-internet-explorer-d…

If I’ve missed your browser, go to Google and search for “delete specific cookies” (without the quotation marks) and your browser or device – for example, delete specific cookies Samsung Galaxy.

I’ll still be writing about ThruLines as soon as I can actually finish the review.

Other Options

With or without ThruLines working, there are other DNA comparison options you may want to consider.

The MyHeritage Theories of Family Relativity tool is working fine and you can transfer your DNA file easily.

Both GedMatch and FamilyTreeDNA, although they didn’t make any announcements of new products recently work just fine too. You can also compare your segments at all three sites which you can’t do at Ancestry.

I wrote about how to transfer to MyHeritage here and FamilyTreeDNA here.

Have fun, enjoy!

______________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the 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.

MyHeritage’s New Theory of Family Relativity

2019 Theory of Family Relativity

MyHeritage’s new Theory of Family Relativity, introduced February 28, 2019 at RootsTech combines the power of DNA matching with trees and documents to suggest, SUGGEST, potential common ancestors with your matches. You can read the MyHeritage announcement article here.

As the title indicates, the results are a theory about how you are related to other people you match. In fact, there may be more than one theory for a match – and multiple theories might be accurate if you descend from more than one common line.

That happened with one of my matches and the two separate theories were both accurate.

Tree resources utilized include MyHeritage trees, Geni and Family Search.

Documents include the entire library of MyHeritage resources.

I must say, I was somewhat of a Doubting Thomas on this, given the number of bad trees in cyberspace, but the results have been amazingly accurate for me.

Are Theories Accurate?

I have a total of 51 matches with theories.

There are a total of 61 theories, because some matches have multiple theories. In some cases, one is wrong and one is right. In others, both are accurate because of descent through different lines. In one case, none of the three theories were accurate because other researchers have conflated multiple William Crumley’s into one person.

However, and here’s the great news, in all cases except one, I was able to discover the correct path even in the situations where the information was not accurate. It got me “close enough” that I could do the rest myself. There is only one of 61 that I cannot yet confirm. That’s pretty amazing.

Of the 51 matches, I already knew where 20 people fit into my tree (although they weren’t in my tree at MyHeritage), so this advance knowledge helped me immensely in evaluating the accuracy of the MyHeritage genealogical theories of why these people matched me.

So are Theories accurate? Yes, for me, they are very accurate.

How Does the Theory of Family Relativity Work?

Borrowing from the MyHeritage blog article (with permission), MyHeritage shows the Big Tree with this interconnected graphic.

Theory Big Tree

They describe the Big Tree thus:

The Theory of Family Relativity™ is based on a big data graph that connects billions of data points drawn from thousands of databases on MyHeritage, in real time. We call it internally the “Big Tree”. Every node on this graph represents a person, and every edge depicts a blood relationship between two individuals that is described in a family tree or a historical record; or a match between two tree profiles that are likely to be the same person; or two records that are likely to be about the same person.

Ok, now let’s see how to use the Theories.

Finding the Theories

Sign on to your account and click on DNA.

Theory of Family Relativity

Initially, you’ll see this purple banner, but eventually you’ll just filter your matches, at right below, and look under “All tree details” and select “Theory of Family Relativity.”

Theory finding

Please note that you can click on any of the images for a larger, more clear view. Unfortunately, some images are difficult to see otherwise.

Evaluating Theories

I discovered that I have Theories for 51 matches. Many individual theories have multiple paths. In other words, MyHeritage is telling you HOW they arrived at these theories, AND they rank the paths with a confidence level based on match quality.

Please note that if you see the note “plus 1 more theory,” it’s easy to miss the second theory for a particular match. This is NOT the same thing as multiple paths on the same theory – but a completely different theory for this match altogether.

Theory multiple

To clarify, multiple paths on one theory means different trees and documents that get you and your match to the same set of common ancestors.

Different theories means that you have two potentially separate lines. Either the ancestors can be entirely different, or the path to the same ancestral couple can be different enough to result in a different end relationship for you and your match, meaning 3rd cousins versus 3rd cousins once removed for example.

I would encourage you not to skim these paths and theories, but to review them carefully and thoughtfully and compare with credible documentation.

Theory 2 theories

On a match that has multiple theories, when you view the first theory, you see “view another theory” but it’s easy to miss.

It’s worth noting that if you match on more than one segment, one segment can descend through one line and another segment through a different line. Every segment has its own history.

OK, let’s take a look. I’m going to step through my 4 closest matches with theories to illustrate how theories work and what to look for in different scenarios.

Match 1 – Known First Cousin

I filtered for matches with theories and here’s my first match.

Theory match 1

I happen to know the identity of this match who just happens to be my first cousin who is not in my tree. (I know, my bad.) However, knowing exactly how they matched and not having them in my tree helped me evaluate the accuracy of Theories.

To view the theory, click on “View theory.”

Match 1 – Path 1

You’ll notice immediately that this match has three different paths. Path 1, the highest confidence path, is displayed first.

Theory match 1 path 1

Path 1 of this theory, with a 74 % confidence level is that the tester is my first cousin on my mother’s side, based on first, DNA, and secondarily trees that show we have a common grandfather, John Ferverda.

This happens to be correct.

To review the match that connects the trees (John Ferverda), click on the green icon on the seam between the two trees. You’ll see the display below, which shows at the top that the 74% confidence factor is predicated on a SmartMatch showing a common ancestor in a tree.

I’ve noticed that it appears that the only SmartMatches that receive Theories are those with incomplete couples or with matches that aren’t clear enough to be deemed a definitive match. Don’t assume that people with SmartMatches don’t have Theories or that people with Theories don’t have SmartMatches. Filter for both separately.

On this match with both a Theory and SmartMatch, the Profile card information is not an exact match – which is probably why the confidence level is only 74%.

theory Ferverda profile

The red arrows above have to be the matching criteria because the information is either the same or similar. However, they aren’t exact. My tree is much more robust than my cousin’s tree.

The red squares are differences between the trees. Note that in one case, a surname is misspelled in my tree and my cousin’s tree is missing a great deal of information, including our grandmother’s surname.

Match 1 – Path 2

Path 2 shows that my record in my tree matches a record of me in my cousin’s tree.

Theory match 1 path 2.png

Note that in Path 2, my cousin doesn’t show either his parent or my mother as deceased. However, I’m living and showing in both trees. MyHeritage would not expose a living person unless both people gave permission by participating in matching, which is probably why neither of our parents are matched, even though both are deceased.

Clicking on the 93% green joining spinner, we can see that my cousin did not enter my father’s name and he doesn’t show my mother as deceased, which is why she is showing in his tree as private.

Theory match 1 path 2 profile.png

Match 1 – Path 3

Path 3 is actually quite interesting because it’s made up of two separate items, one being a tree match and one being a record match from the 1940 census.

Theory match 1 path 3.png

In this example, you can see three different records and the two “join seams.”

Beginning at the left, my tree is joined at my mother to the census record by the 1940 census. Note that my mother’s name is misspelled in the census. The 1940 census record is joined to my cousin’s tree by my mother’s father.

Theory match 1 path 3 review.png

This record just happens to be accurate, but the information is not identical, but similar – hence the low confidence score.

The second link between the census and my grandfather is shown below.

Theory 1 match 3 profile.png

This match connects John Ferverda, but there’s a lot missing in my cousin’s tree and my mother’s middle name is misspelled.

Match 1 Conclusion

All 3 paths are accurate, just different, which can provide me with various hints as to trees and records to view for additional information.

Match 1 Suggestions

These suggestions are in no way criticisms – it’s just that genealogists are always wanting something more😊

I’d love to be able to do three things at this point.

  • First, to click through to view the specific census page. You can hover over the record description and search the collection, but I’d like to automatically see this record since MyHeritage already found it for me.

Theory census.png

  • Second, to be notified if I already have the census attached to any of these people in my tree and if not, to have the option of attaching the census record directly from this point.
  • Third, add my cousin to my tree in the proper location. Not automatically, but with prompts perhaps.

Match 2 – Known Half Niece

This second match is my half-sister’s daughter. Half relationships are more difficult to discern.

There are two ways to reach theories.

  • Through your match page by filtering for “Theories.”
  • Through your “Review DNA Match” page.

A short summary of the most confident theory, shown below, is provided on the “Review DNA Match” page, with a link to view the full theory.

Theory match 2.png

On this summary page, the relationship between my sister and me is correctly shown as half, but the relationship with my half-niece is simply shown as niece. While I’ve always referred to my sister as my sister and my niece as my niece, and this may seem picky, it’s not genetically, because it means that we likely share about half as much DNA as a full sibling or a full niece would share. You can see the differences in the chart in the article here. Full siblings share approximately 50% of their DNA and half share approximately 25%. A full niece would share about 25% and a half niece about 12.5%.

Click on the purple “View Full Theory” button to reach the Review DNA Match page from the summary page, or, you can return to the DNA Match page, shown below.

Theory match 2 theory.png

By clicking on “View theory,” I see the following:

Theory match 2 half niece.png

The theory is actually accurate, but the relationship is named incorrectly on the Theory of Family Relativity page. My sister is actually my half-sister and this person that I match is actually my half-niece since my father had me and my sister by different wives.

Theory review match icon.png

On the Theory of Family Relativity main page, by clicking on the little green join icon above the percentage sign, I can review the match as shown below.

Theory review match profile.png

There is a lot of common information (red arrows), but there is also a lot of different or missing information (red boxes). For example, my father’s death date is incorrect in my match’s tree. The city is the same, but the county is missing in one record. Siblings are shown in my record, but not hers. My name is correct, then incorrect in the other record, including being listed with my mother’s maiden name and also with my former husband’s surname.

Theory view tree.png

Note that by flying over any MyHeritage link you can click to see the tree, which means you can click to view the profile of any individual in the tree. I’m showing mine to illustrate, but it works the same for any site listed.

When viewing the tree, click on the “box” of the person you want to view to display their detailed information at left, below.

Theory tree and profile.png

To view the attached records, click on Profile.

Theory profile records.png

You’ll notice that there are two records attached to my father, but no census, SSDI or otherwise. Don’t neglect the second, “Events” tab.

The “Events” tab, shown below, shows that indeed, he was shown in the 1910 census. If you click on the citations for any event, you’ll see the source for that piece of information. In this case, the 1910 census, even though I haven’t attached the actual image to his profile. I should do that!

Theory profile events.png

Match 2 Conclusion

This match theory is accurate.

Match 2 Suggestions

  • I’ll notify MyHeritage that their half relationships are mislabeled an I’m sure they will correct that.
  • I would like to be able to message the other person from these screens to ask them a question or inform them politely of an issue, such as my father’s death date. I would also like to be able to “invite” them to attach a record, such as a death certificate or census, for example, if it’s attached to my account.

Match 3 – Known Third Cousin Once Removed

This person descends through my great-grandparents and is my 3rd cousin once removed.

Theory match 3.png

By clicking on “View theory,” I see her tree and mine.

Theory match 3 theory.png

This stitched three tree theory is incorrect.

The middle tree shows that Margaret Clarkson was married to William Lake Monday.  She wasn’t, but her daughter Surrelda, was married to William Luke? Monday. The middle person’s tree has incorrectly married my great-grandmother to her daughter’s husband. This is the perfect example of GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) BUT, and a very big BUT, MyHeritage very clearly says these are theories and need to be verified and proven.

The second path is exactly the same as the first path, except that a different person has the exact same inaccurate information in their tree.

Match 3 Conclusion

The match 3 theory is inaccurate due to an inaccurate tree. However, if I didn’t already have this information, I have a new hint to work with.

Match 4 – Previously Unknown Third Cousin

This fourth match is more interesting for me, because I don’t know Shela or why I match her DNA.

Theory match 4 unknown.png

Shela is estimated, by DNA alone, to be my 3rd to 5th cousin.

Notice I don’t have a “Smart Match” with Shela which means that she and I don’t have a common ancestor in our trees, so how we match isn’t evident and wouldn’t be without a significant amount of work.

By clicking on “View theory” I can see how MyHeritage thinks we are related.

Match 4- Path 1

Theory match 4 path 1.png

This is actually very cool, because I just verified this connection through Leora. Obviously, Shela knows who her mother is, confirmed by DNA matches.

The path to confirmation is me ‘up” through Rachel Hill, who connects through the Family Search data base, then “down” to Shela’s mother, Leora. The amazing thing is that Shela has provided just one generation, her mother, that could match on her mother’s side of the tree. She has entered her grandmother by her married name, so Family Search picked up on the daughter, Leora Snyder. I’ve reached out to Shela, and if she’s interested, I can take her back generations on her maternal grandmother’s line.

Theory match 4 surname difference.png

Match 4 – Path 2

The second path reaches the same conclusion but connects through my grandmother which is an exact match at FamilySearch. That could be because I originally entered the FamilySearch information.

Theory match 4 path 2.png

It’s interesting that the link between the two Edith Barbara Lores is 100%, while the link between Leora V Snyder and Leora Snyder remains at 57%. MyHeritage uses the smaller of the various confidence scores to rank the entire path.

Match 4 – Path 3

This last pathway also reaches the same conclusion but connects three times with three seams: my tree to another MyHeritage tree, to FamilySearch, to Shela’s tree once again.

Theory match 4 path 3.png

Match 4 Conclusion

Match 4 is accurate whether you utilize path 1, 2 or 3.

Match 4 Suggestion

  • I would like to be able to confirm or dismiss these theories, once I’ve worked them, and have them categorized as such and held separately from new Theories that I need to work with.
  • I would like the ability to flag a theory as “seen” even if I don’t confirm or dismiss the theory so that I know it’s still a possibility.
  • I would like to quickly see if I match the owner of the intermediate trees. You can view the tree owner information when you fly over the name of the person who manages the tree.

Theory DNA icon suggestion.png

I created an example with a DNA icon. If I also match the person whose tree is being used as an intermediate, Mr. Jones in this case, I want to see that little helix icon and be able to click on it and see my match with Mr. Jones.

  • I would love to be notified by e-mail of new theories as they emerge.
  • I would like to see on the Shared DNA Matches section of the Review DNA Match page whether each match has either a shared ancestor or a theory, along with the names, so that I don’t have to go back and look individually.

Theory theory or smartmatch suggestion.png

  • I would like my “Notes” icon to show on the Shared DNA Matches view so that I can see if I’ve identified the relationship to this person. I use notes extensively.

Next Steps

Since the first three matches were already known to me and I used them as proof of concept, I don’t have homework from those, but I do from my newly discovered third cousin, Shela. What’s next and how can I further utilize this information?

  1. I’ve already clicked on the “contact Shela” on the match page. You can also fly over the name of the person managing the website at the top of the Theory page to contact as well

I told Shela that I was pleased to find this match through Theories of Relativity and that if she’s interested, I can provide her with additional information on her maternal grandmother’s line. Won’t she be surprised! I bet she doesn’t know she has a river pirate in her lineage! Maybe I won’t go there right away😊

Theory contact.png

  1. I’m going to see if Shela triangulates with other matches from this line by reviewing the DNA match.

theory review dna match.png

I noticed immediately that Shela triangulates with other known relatives on this line, such as match #1.

  1. Shela and I share 3 DNA segments, which I’m going to immediately paint on DNAPainter. You can read about DNAPainter here and here.

Theory paint chromosomes.png

  1. Shela also carries the mitochondrial DNA of Rachel Levina Hill because she descends through all females to the current generation (which can be male.) You can read more about mitochondrial DNA here. If Shela replies to me, I’ll offer to test her mitochondrial DNA at FamilyTreeDNA (MyHeritage doesn’t do mitochondrial testing) so we both have that information about our common ancestor, Rachel.

I’m only to Theory 4 of 51 matches, and it’s already a great day!

How to Get Theories of Relativity

If you tested at MyHeritage or transferred your DNA to MyHeritage prior to December 16, 2018, Theories of Family Relativity is free and included. If you transferred after that date, there’s a one time $29 fee (per kit) or you can subscribe to MyHeritage to avoid the unlock fee.

Truthfully, I recommend the subscription over the unlock fee, in part, because the subscription covers all kits uploaded to your account and you can try a subscription for free by clicking here. I already subscribe to Ancestry and doubted for a long time the utility of a second records subscription, but I’ve found the MyHeritage subscription absolutely indispensable this past year with many records (96 billion total) and collections at MyHeritage not found elsewhere. For example, I found over 1000 invaluable newspaper articles alone on the Ferverda family, farmers in northern Indiana.

If you haven’t tested at MyHeritage, you can transfer your kits from other vendors. I wrote the article, “MyHeritage Step by Step Guide: How to Upload-Download DNA Files.”

If you tested elsewhere, you can transfer today and pay the one time $29 unlock fee or subscribe to unlock Theories of Family Relativity and other advanced features.

You have not tested elsewhere, meaning you can’t transfer, you can order a DNA testing kit at this link.

DNA at MyHeritage Theories of Family Relativity
Transferred prior to Dec. 16, 2018 Free
Transferred since Dec. 16, 2018 $29 unlock per kit or subscription
Tested at MyHeritage Subscription

You can read MyHeritage’s DNA upload policy here.

______________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay, but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog completely 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.

Don’t Like Your Ethnicity? Wait 5 Minutes

In the past, customers waited with bated breath for ethnicity updates which were labeled with version numbers. Not anymore.

That old weather saying applies – “if you don’t like the weather in <insert location here,> wait 5 minutes.”

Today, there are a lot more vendors today offering ethnicity (who doesn’t?) and the updates often don’t come in a sweeping change, but gradually with smaller partial updates – so it seems like some vendor is always updating something. That’s a good thing and keeps us checking back, which means we can check on new matches too.

Recently, 23andMe made ethnicity changes and today, it’s Ancestry’s turn.

Ancestry now divides their ethnicity results into 500 regions which combined with your matches and where your ancestors were found comprise Genetic Communities.

Genetic Communities

Obviously, Genetic Communities are most accurate if you know where your ancestors were from and lived at any given point in time – but even if you don’t, Genetic Communities are useful, nonetheless, providing hints.

Ancestry ethnicity 1

My overview is shown at right, with the regions and communities shown on the map. A timeline shows below.

Ancestry ethnicity 2

Clicking on 1750 shows the migration pattern from Europe to the US and the communities in the US where the people from Germany settled, for example.

At right, you can see the region stories, but of more interest is the list of my ancestors who were alive in those locations at that time.

Ancestry ethnicity 3

Enlarging the map continues to show my ancestors more granularly. Clicking on a pin shows that or those ancestors in the pane at right.

Ancestry ethnicity 4

Probably not useful for breaking down brick walls, but quite interesting.

Increased African American and Afro-Caribbean Communities

Today’s ethnicity update from Ancestry includes 94 new and updated communities for people of African American and Afro-Caribbean descent.

If this means you, check out your ethnicity results and see what or who might be waiting – at Ancestry and the other vendors too.

23andMe Step by Step Guide: How to Upload-Download DNA Files

In this Upload-Download series, we’ll cover each major vendor:

  • How to download raw data files from the vendor
  • How to upload raw data files to the vendor, if possible
  • Other mainstream vendors where you can upload this vendor’s files

Uploading TO 23andMe

This part is easy with 23andMe, because 23andMe doesn’t accept any other vendor’s files. There is no ability to upload TO 23andMe. You have to test with 23andMe if you want results from 23andMe.

Downloading FROM 23andMe

In order to transfer your autosomal DNA file to another testing vendor, or GedMatch, for either matching or ethnicity, you’ll need to first download the file from 23andMe.

Download Step 1

Sign on to your account at 23andMe.

23andMe download

Under your name at the upper right-hand corner of your page, by clicking on the little circle with your initials, you’ll see “Browse Raw Data.” Click there.

Download Step 2

23andMe download 2

You’ll see “Your Raw Data.” Click on the blue download link.

Download Step 3

On the Download Raw Data page, scroll down towards the bottom until you see “Request your raw data download.”

23andMe download 3

Click on Submit request.

Download Step 4

You’ll see the following message saying an e-mail will be sent to you.

23andMe download 4

Download Step 5

A few minutes later, an e-mail will arrive that says this:

23andMe download 5

Click on the green button in the e-mail which will take you back to 23andMe to sign in.

Download Step 6

After you sign in, you’ll be immediately at the download page and will see the following.

23andMe download 6

Your raw data file will be downloaded to your computer where you’ll need to store it in a location and by a name that you can find.

The file name will be something like “genome_Roberta_Estes_v2_v3_Full_xxxxxxxx” where the xs are a long number. I would suggest adding the word 23andMe to the front when you save the file on your system.

Most vendors want an unopened zip file, so if you want to open your file, first copy it to another name. Otherwise, you’ll have to download again.

23andMe File Transfers to Other Vendors

23andMe files can be in one any one of four formats:

  • V2 – the earliest tests taken at 23andMe. V2 test takers were offered an upgrade to V3.
  • V3 – V3 files beginning December 2010 through December 2013
  • V4 – V4 files beginning December 2013 through August 2017
  • V5 – V5 files beginning August 2017 through present

The changes in the files due to chip differences sometimes cause issues with transfers to other vendors who utilize other testing chips.

Your upload results to other vendors’ sites will vary in terms of both matching and ethnicity accuracy based on your 23andMe version number, as follows:

From below to >>>>>>> Family Tree DNA Accepts * MyHeritage Accepts** GedMatch Accepts *** Ancestry Accepts LivingDNA Accepts ****
23andMe V2 No Yes Yes No Yes
23andMe V3 Yes, fully compatible Yes Yes No Yes
23andMe V4 Yes, partly compatible Yes Yes No Yes
23andMe V5 No Yes Yes No Yes

* The transfer to Family Tree DNA and matching is free, but advanced tools including the chromosome browser and ethnicity require a one-time $19 unlock fee. That fee is less expensive than retesting, but V4 customers should consider retesting to obtain fully compatible matching. V4 tests won’t receive all of the distant matches that they would if they tested at Family Tree DNA

** MyHeritage  and Family Tree DNA use the same testing chip, but MyHeritage utilizes a technique known as imputation to achieve compatibility between different vendors files. The transfer and matching is free, but advanced tools require a one-time $29 unlock fee unless you are a MyHeritage subscriber. You can read about the various options here.

***GedMatch recently transitioned to their Genesis platform and is still working on matching between multiple vendors highly disparate chips with little overlapping test regions. Patience is key. Matching is free, but the more advanced features require a Tier 1 subscription for $10 per month.

**** LivingDNA accepts files, but their matching is still in an early testing phase. They have also just changed DNA testing chips so the net effect is unknown. I will review their features later in 2019.

23andMe Testing and Transfer Strategy

My recommendation, if you’ve tested at 23andMe, depending on your test version, is as follows:

  • V2 – Upgrade (retest) at 23andMe to newer test version.
  • V3 – Transfer to Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage and GedMatch
  • V4 or V5 – Test at either Family Tree DNA or MyHeritage and transfer to the other one. You never know which match is going to break down that brick wall, and it would be a shame to miss it because you transferred rather than retested.

Step by Step Transfer Instructions

I wrote step by step transfer instructions for:

______________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the 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.

Mitochondrial DNA Bulldozes Brick Wall

I’m doing that happy dance today – leaping for joy – and am I EVER glad I’ve sponsored so many mitochondrial DNA tests. Today, I’m incredibly thankful for one particular DNA test.

Think mitochondrial DNA doesn’t work or isn’t effective for genealogy?

Think again.

Often, when people ask on social media if they should test mitochondrial DNA, there is a chorus of Negative Nellie’s chanting, “No, don’t bother with that test, mitochondrial DNA is useless.” That’s terribly discouraging, depriving people of knowledge they can’t obtain any other way.

When people heed that advice, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When people don’t test and don’t provide genealogical information that would go along with a mitochondrial DNA test, mitochondrial DNA is much less useful than it could be if people actually tested their full sequence mitochondrial DNA at Family Tree DNA, not just for their haplogroup at 23andMe or Living DNA. There’s a huge difference.

Family Tree DNA tests the full mitochondria and provides matching to other testers which is critical for genealogical purposes. In fact, Elizabeth Shown Mills wrote about using this exact same technique here.

mtDNA not useless

And by the way, this is not an isolated outlier case either. In fact, mitochondrial DNA from this same line was used previously to prove who Phoebe Crumley’s mother was.

If people hadn’t tested, then these walls would not have fallen. Every person who doesn’t take a mitochondrial DNA test is depriving themselves, and others, of critical historical information and clues.

It’s all about CLUES and sometimes that big brick-wall-breaking boulder falls into your lap out of the blue one day.

Today was that day!

Phoebe’s Family Found

I’ll be writing a more detailed article about my ancestor, Phoebe, shortly, but for now, I’d like to share exactly how mitochondrial DNA broke through this brick wall that I truly believed was permanent. I’ll walk you through the various steps so you can follow the same path. Do you have female ancestors without families in your tree? Start thinking about the possibilities!

DNA Pedigree Chart

Let’s start with my DNA Pedigree Chart.

I know many people look at my DNA Pedigree Chart and think it’s a bit over the edge, but identifying the family of Jotham Brown’s wife, Phoebe, would absolutely NOT have been possible without this valuable tool and the fact that I’ve been “collecting” my ancestors’ DNA.

As you can see, any time I find the opportunity to test either the Y DNA line, or the mitochondrial line of any of my ancestors, I do. I’ve been quite successful in that quest over the years thanks to many cousins.

The brick wall that fell is an ancestor of Elizabeth Vannoy and her mother, Phoebe Crumley, shown on my DNA Pedigree Chart, boxed in red, with their haplogroup, J1c2c.

A Proxy Tester

Elizabeth Vannoy, being my great-grandmother on my father’s side, doesn’t’ share her mitochondrial DNA with me, so I had to find a proxy tester.

My cousin Debbie knew another cousin, David, whose mother was Lucy, granddaughter of Elizabeth Vannoy. David agreed to test, back in…are you ready for this…2006. Yes, almost 13 years ago. Sometimes DNA is a waiting game.

Cherokee?

At that time, the family rumor was that Elizabeth Vannoy was “Cherokee.” Yea, I know, everyone with ancestors who lived east of the Mississippi has that same rumor – but the best way to actually find out if this is true is to test the relevant family line members’ Y and mitochondrial DNA. Native American haplogroups are definitive and haplogroup J1c2c is unquestionably not Native, so that myth was immediately put to death. (You can read about Native American haplogroups here.)

However, Elizabeth’ Vannoy’s mitochondrial DNA has patiently remained in the Family Tree DNA database, accumulating matches. Truthfully, I’ve been focused elsewhere, and since we had a brick wall with Jotham Brown’s wife, Phoebe (c1750-c1803), which had not yielded to traditional genealogy research, I had moved on and checked cousin David’s matches from time to time to see if anything interesting had turned up.

I thought there was nothing new…but there was! However, it would take my cousins to serve as a catalyst.

Cousin Rita

On New Year’s Eve of 2016, I received an e-mail from a previously unknown cousin, Rita, who was also descended from Jotham Brown and Phoebe. Rita was born a Brown and over the next two years, not only tested her Brown line’s Y DNA which matched Jotham Brown’s line, but also connected her family via paper trail once she knew where to look. She’s a wonderful researcher.

Cousin Stevie

Another researcher who lives in Greene County, Tennessee has doggedly researched the Brown, Crumley, Cooper and associated Johnson lines. It was rumored and pretty much believed for years, because of the very close family associations and migration routes that Phoebe was Zopher Johnson’s daughter. I worked through this mountain of information in late 2015, reaching the conclusion that I really didn’t think Phoebe was Zopher’s daughter, but since there were no known daughters and Zopher’s wife’s surname was unknown, there was no way of finding matrilineal descendants to test. That door was slammed shut. I thought permanently.

However, Stevie had previously recruited two men from the proven Jotham Brown line to Y DNA test who matched a third Brown man whose line descended from the Long Island, Sylvanus Brown family.  Wow, Long Island is a long way from Greene County, TN. Adding to the evidence, our Jotham Brown named one of his sons Sylvanus, a rather unusual name.

This revelation allowed us to track the Brown line forward in time from the Sylvanus on Long Island, providing significant pieces of evidence that Jotham indeed descended from this line.

At that point, we all congratulated ourselves on at least finding an earlier location to work with and went on about solving other mysteries.

Rita’s Theory

I think Rita must be on vacation between Christmas and New Years every year, because I heard from her again on December 28th this year. It took me a few days to reply, due to the Holiday Crud being gifted to me, but am I EVER glad that I did.

Rita, it seems, has spent the last several months sifting through records and looking for migration patterns of families from Long Island. Can you say “desperate genealogist.” I’m not going to steal her thunder, because this part of the journey is hers and hers alone, but suffice it to say she wrote me with a theory.

Joseph Cole was found in Botetourt County, VA along with many of the families that eventually settled in Frederick County, VA and then migrated on together to Greene County, TN. In other words, she’s using the Elizabeth Shown Mills FAN (friends and neighbors) concept to spread the net wider and look for people that might be somehow connected. I took this same approach in Halifax County, VA several years ago with my Estes line very successfully.

Rita discovered that Joseph’s father John Cole also migrated from Long Island through New Jersey into Virginia and settled with this same group. Hmmm, Long Island, same place as Sylvanus Brown. Interesting…

John Cole, it turns out, had a daughter Phebe, who married a Jotham Bart, according to a Presbyterian church book in New Jersey where they settled for a short time in their migration journey. The church records referenced are transcribed, not original.

Jotham Brown, who is known to connect to the Brown family found on Long Island, is found migrating with this same group, and Rita wondered if indeed, Jotham Bart was really Jotham Brown and Phoebe was actually the daughter of John Cole and wife, Mary Mercy Kent.

Still being in the grips of the Holiday Crud, I asked Rita if John Cole and his wife had any proven daughters who would be candidates to have descendants mitochondrial DNA test.

Lydia Cole

While Rita was searching for daughters of Mary Mercy Kent and John Cole, I had sufficiently escaped the grim reaper to check cousin David’s mitochondrial DNA matches, just on the off chance that some useful gem of information was buried there.

David has 16 full sequence matches, of which 7 are exact matches, meaning a genetic distance of 0, a perfect match. Keep in mind that a perfect match can still be hundreds of years in the past, but it can also be much closer in time. Just because it can be further in the past doesn’t mean that it is. You match your mother, her sisters and their children, and that’s clearly very recent.

What was waiting was shocking. Holy chimloda!

Phoebe's sister, Lydia Cole

The Earliest Known Ancestor of one of David’s exact matches is Lydia Cole, born in 1781 in Virginia and died in 1864 in Ohio. The tester, Pete (not his real name,) had a tree. Thank you, thank you!!

Pete was stuck at Lydia Cole, obviously, but his tree provided me with Lydia’s husband’s name.

Oh, and by the way, guess what our Phoebe, born about 1750, named her daughter? Yep, Lydia.

Should I have noticed this hint sooner and dug deeper. Yes, I surely should have – Pete’s test was taken in 2012 so this information was there waiting for 6 years.

Is Lydia Cole too good to be true? Perhaps. Is she related? Of course the first thing good genealogists do is try to poke holes in the story. Better me than someone else. Let’s see what we can find.

Ancestry

Desperate to find out more about Lydia Cole, I checked Ancestry’s trees, understanding just how flakey these can be. Regardless, they are great clues and some are well sourced. Other people’s trees are at least a place to start looking.

Phoebe's sister, Lydia Cole at ancestry

There was Lydia with her father, John Cole and Mary Mercy Kent, the exact same couple Rita had hypothesized as Phoebe’s parents!

Lydia’s marriage was sourced and sure enough she married William Powell Simmons in Frederick County, VA in 1801, where Jotham Brown and Phoebe, his wife lived. It appears, according to Rita, that John Cole and his entire family settled there.

What a nice little bow on this package – at least for now. Am I done? Heck no…this journey is just beginning. You know how genealogy works – when you solve one mystery, you just add two more! Plus, there’s that little issue of verification, finding the relevant documents, etc. I know, details, right?

Is it possible that Lydia Cole isn’t really Phoebe’s sister? Yes, it’s possible. There is a roughly 30 year birth difference – although we all know how fluid these early dates can be.

DNA alone this far in the past can’t prove anything without additional evidence. It’s theoretically possible that Lydia’s mother was another close relative of Phoebe’s mother, somehow – explaining why Lydia and Phoebe would match so closely on such rare mitochondrial DNA. It’s possible, but not terribly likely.

Preliminary autosomal research also shows connections to the Cole family through other descendants of John Cole – so the evidence is mounting.

There’s a lot more research to do – verifying records, discovering more about Phoebe and John Cole and Mary Mercy Kent. I think Rita is already in the car on the way to Virginia😊

We can now follow Phoebe’s family’s migration from Long Island through New Jersey to Virginia. We now know the identity, pending confirmation, of both of Phoebe’s parents and can track those lines back in time. We know roughly when and where Phoebe was born. We can put the Brown and Cole families in the same place and time on Long Island.

All, thanks to mitochondrial DNA tests at Family Tree DNA confirming Rita’s hypothesis.

What a glorious day!!!

What Can Mitochondrial DNA Do For You?

Mitochondrial DNA is anything but useless. If you’re thinking, “yes, but David only had 16 matches total, and the only possible useful ones were the 7 exact matches because the rest are too far back,” – you’d be mistaken.

One of David’s matches is a distance of 2, meaning two mutations, and that’s the match that confirmed that Clarissa Marinda Crumley was the sister of our Phoebe Crumley, proving that Lydia Brown was indeed Phoebe’s mother, NOT Elizabeth Johnson who apparently married a different William Crumley just a few months before Phoebe’s birth. I wrote about unraveling that mystery here.

If you haven’t mitochondrial DNA tested, what critical information are you missing? You don’t know what you don’t know. If everyone would test, just think how many brick walls would fall.

If you haven’t tested, please do so today. Here’s a summary of what you can learn – as if you needed any more encouragement after Phoebe’s story.

  • Matching to other testers – you can’t solve genealogical puzzles like this without matching – which is the primary and incredibly important difference between “haplogroup only” tests elsewhere and Family Tree DNA’s full sequence test.
  • Lineage identification – Native American, African, European, Asian through haplogroup assignment and matching
  • Haplogroup Origins – countries where other people’s ancestors with your haplogroup are found, much more granular than the haplogroup lineage identification
  • Migration Path – in deeper history, where your ancestor came from
  • Settlement Path – more recent history by looking at where your matches ancestors were from
  • Ancestral Matches Map – your matches Earliest Known Ancestor’s locations
  • Ancestral Origins – locations of your matches earliest known matrilineal ancestor, which is how I discovered my own matrilineal ancestors are Scandinavian even though my earliest known ancestor is found in Germany
  • Combined matching with autosomal test results through Advanced Matching

I want to thank my cousins and wonderful collaborators, Debbie, Rita, Stevie and in particular, David for testing – along with Pete, Lydia Cole’s descendant.

Sometimes it does take a village! Test those cousins.

_____________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the 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.

Top DNA Articles for 2018

2018 Top 10

It’s always interesting to look at the most popular articles at DNA-Explained at the end of each year. Out of millions of page views, these are the Top 10 in 2018, with the * indicating articles that were in the 2017 Top 10 list as well. If you missed some, now’s a good time to catch up or to share with friends.

*Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA
*Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages
*Which DNA Test is Best?
Ancestral DNA Percentages – How Much of Them is in You?
*Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum
*How Much Indian Do I Have in Me?
Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?
Concepts – Percentage of Ancestors’ DNA
X Marks the Spot
*Mythbusting – Women, Fathers and DNA

Spread the Word – What You Can do to Help!

The purpose of writing articles is to educate people who have taken genetic genealogy tests along with providing motivation for potential testers.

With more and more companies performing tests, and record numbers of people testing – there’s a lot of confusion and misinformation out there.

You can help by spreading the word.

If you see a question and know that I wrote about that topic, you can enter key words into the search box at the top of any blog page to find the article.

You can always share the links to articles on social media, with friends and at genealogy meetings. If you want to share the actual text of the article in more than a summary fashion or relatively short excerpts (with attribution), as in a reprint, please check with me first – but as for links – please share away. You don’t need to ask first. Sharing is the purpose of writing these articles.

Educating others with credible information helps all of us have a better experience.

What Would You Like in 2019?

To some extent, I maintain a list of articles that I’d like to write at any given point in time. My candidate list always seems to be longer than the time I have, but I do try to prioritize the topics based on, in no particular order:

  • Discoveries in my research
  • Industry happenings
  • The need
  • Reader requests

So, given that criteria, what topics would you like to see me cover in 2019? I’m also open to suggestions during the year as well. In fact, this article is in response to a reader’s “wish.”

Please post your suggestions in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Combined DNA Matches + Tree Matches at MyHeritage

In the 2018 year in review article I wrote a couple days ago, a reader commented that they didn’t realize that MyHeritage had combined DNA matching with tree matching.

They have and it’s super easy.

DNA and Tree Matching in 4 Easy Steps

Here’s how to see your combined matches in 4 short steps.

  1. Sign on and click on DNA Matches.

  1. Click on the little filter icon.

  1. Click on “All tree details.”

  1. Then, click on “Has Smart Matches.”

That’s it!

DNA Matches Plus SmartMatches

Voila – using this filter setting, the only matches you will see are your DNA matches that are also SmartMatches, meaning the other person shares a common ancestor (or more) in a tree with you. You’ll see a combination of both features. We’ll use my match with Michael as an example.

Scroll down to review all of your information in common with this match including:

  • Summary Information (estimated relationship, % match, shared cM match, number of shared segments, largest segment in cM,)

  • Shared Ancestors

  • Shared Ancestral Surnames

  • Shared Ancestral Places

  • Shared DNA Matches, including triangulation indicated by the purple circled segment icon at right

MIchael matches my mother too, so if I didn’t already know which parental side Michael matched me on, I do now. Triangulating with multiple other relatives assures me of a valid match.

  • Pedigree charts

  • Shared Ethnicities

  • Chromosome Browser – Shared DNA Segments

Who do you match, share ancestors and triangulate with?

Testing at or Transferring to MyHeritage

You can either test at MyHeritage or transfer a DNA file from other vendors to MyHeritage.

To order a DNA test, click here.

To transfer a DNA file to MyHeritage, click here.

The article, MyHeritage Step by Step Guide: How to Upload-Download Files provides you with easy to follow instructions.

Have fun😊

______________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the 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.

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 the link to one of the 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.

Finding Mary Younger’s Mitochondrial DNA – 52 Ancestors #219

Ah, the blessings of cousins.

The Y and mitochondrial DNA of our ancestors can provide us with a smorgasbord of information. Unfortunately, we only carry the Y and mitochondrial DNA of one or two lines. If you’re a female, you carry the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of your matrilineal line only, and if you’re a male, you carry the paternal (patrilineal meaning surname) Y DNA line (blue squares) in addition to your mother’s matrilineal line (red circles.) You can read about the difference between maternal versus matrilineal and paternal versus patrilineal here.

Y and mito

Therefore, to collect the rest of the haplogroups and match information about our ancestral lines, meaning those with no color above, we must depend on cousins who descend from those ancestors in such a way that they carry the desired Y or mtDNA.

For men, their surname is generally reflective of the Y DNA inheritance path, presuming that neither the surname nor the Y DNA was changed, intentionally or otherwise – meaning adoption or name changes, for example.

Women contribute their mitochondrial DNA to both genders of their children, but only females pass it on to the next generation.

This inheritance path assures that neither the Y nor mitochondrial DNA is admixed with the DNA of the other parent, meaning the DNA changes little if at all generation to generation and we can see back a very long distance into the past by following the stair-step mutations that have accumulated over hundreds and thousands of years.

Think of it as your genetic periscope!

Recently a press article reported that in very limited cases with a medically co-presenting mitochondrial disease, the father’s mitochondrial DNA is found in children. Blaine Bettinger explained further here. It’s actually not new news and you really don’t need to worry about this in regard to genealogy.

Mary Younger

When I originally wrote Mary Younger’s 52 Ancestors article, I didn’t know anything about her mitochondrial DNA because no one from that line had yet tested.

In that article, I detailed her descendants as best I could, and of those descendants, who would carry Mary’s mitochondrial DNA.

A cousin, Lynn, read the article and replied that indeed, she descends from Mary through all females – and was willing to DNA test. Thank you Lynn!!!

Mary’s mtDNA Dispells a Myth

Lynn’s results came back and told us that Mary Younger’s mitochondrial DNA is haplogroup H1a3a.

Often in early genealogy research, when a colonial lineage brick wall was encountered, the comment that “maybe she was Indian,” was made. Sometimes those comments fanned the flames of myths that took hold like wildfire and are reflected today in many online trees. The “maybe” became quickly omitted and the comment was elevated from the realm of speculation to gospel.

Mary Younger was born about 1766, probably in either Essex or King and Queen County to Marcus Younger and his wife, Susannah whose surname we don’t know. Therefore, Susannah would have been born between 1720 and 1746.

There’s a persistent rumor that Susannah’s surname was Hart and there is some reason to suspect that it may have been, but the bottom line is that we don’t know.

If Susannah’s surname IS Hart, we don’t know which Hart individual was her father, although Anthony Hart (1755-1832) and Marcus Younger were both associated with one Robert Hart, believed to be Anthony’s father, but that too is unproven. The King and Queen County courthouse burned and that’s where the Hart land was located, so most records are gone. Bummer.

There is some amount of suspicion that Anthony Hart and Susannah that married Marcus Younger were siblings. To make matters even worse, Marcus and Susannah Younger’s son, John Younger married Lucy Hart – so autosomal DNA from that line will match the Hart line and not (necessarily) because of Susannah. Therefore, John Younger’s line can’t be used for comparisons to the Hart line for either mitochondrial or autosomal. However, cousin Lynn’s DNA as Mary Younger’s direct matrilineal descendant can be utilized for both mitochondrial and autosomal comparisons.

What we do know, from Mary Younger’s mitochondrial DNA alone is that Susannah through her matrilineal line was NOT Native American. Haplogroup H1a3a is European, unquestionably European.

We can dispel that Native American myth forever, at least about this particular line.

Lynn’s H1a3a Matches

What can we tell about haplogroup H1a3a and in particular, Lynn’s matches?

Mary Younger matches map

None of Lynn’s three exact matches have completed their geographical information for their most distant known ancestor. These match maps are such powerful tools if people would only complete the information.

Other than the three with no information, so aren’t shown on the map – the matches on the map in the US aren’t terribly relevant unless specific clusters suggest a particular migration path. In this case, nothing of note, although those 3 Canadian maritime matches are curious. I don’t know if there is any useful information there or not.

However, Europe is different, because those matches are fairly tightly clustered.

All of Lynn’s matches are either in the British Isles or in Scandinavia. This could suggest either that descendants of her ancestors, hundreds or thousands of years ago migrated to both locations, or it could mean that the English locations are perhaps showing a Viking influence.

Lynn’s matches themselves are unremarkable other than the fact that her only rare mutation occurs in the coding region, which means that we really do need the full sequence test to make use of this information. She has 107 full sequence matches, of which three are exact, providing the following most distant ancestor information.

  • Martha Patsy Terry was born in 1805 in North Carolina and died after 1865 in Alabama
  • Sarah Emma Doyle was born in 1824 in Fayette County, TN and died in 1890 in Cass Co., Texas.
  • The third match says “information needed.” Well, me too😊

The only person with one mutation difference shows their most distant ancestor with a name and birth of 1534. They apparently misunderstood what was being asked, because if you look at their tree, their most distant matrilineal ancestor is Margaret Moore born in NC, died in Texas, and who had daughter Dicie Moore in 1830 in Tennessee.

Unfortunately, these matches aren’t terribly helpful either, at least not today.

Two of the three exact matches have trees which I checked for the surname of Hart and Younger and looked for geographic proximity.

Checking advanced matches by selecting both Family Finder and the Full Sequence mitochondrial matches shows no individual who matches on both tests.

Haplogroup H1a3a

If Lynn’s mtDNA matches aren’t being productive, what can I tell about haplogroup H1a3a itself?

Doron Behar in his 2012 paper placed the age of H1a3a at 3859 years, give or take 1621 years, so therefore haplogroup H1a3a was born between 1238 and 6480 years ago. An exact match with no additional mutations could be from long ago. Fortunately, Lynn does have a few additional mutations, so her exact matches share mutations since the birth of haplogroup H1a3a.

Using the Family Tree DNA mitochondrial tree and searching for H1a3a, we discover the following information.

Mary Younger H1a3a

Haplogroup H1a3a is found in a total of 21 countries. The most common location is Germany, which isn’t reflected in Lynn’s matches.

Mary Younger mtDNA countries

This is especially interesting, because it suggests that the haplogroup itself may have spread from the Germanic region of Europe into both England and Sweden. Lynn’s matches are only found in those diaspora regions, not in Germany itself. To me, this also suggests that the people still in Germany have accrued several mutations as compared to Mary Younger’s DNA. They are no longer considered a match since their common ancestor is far enough back in time that they have accumulated several mutations difference from cousin Lynn today. Conversely, the people closer in time that share some of those mutations do qualify as matches.

And no, haplogroup H1a3a is not Native American, in spite of the one person who had indicated such (the feather icon.) Many people record “American” or “Native American” because they believe, before testing, that they have Native American on “that side,” as opposed in that specific line. Of course, the maternal side could mean any one of many ancestors – as opposed to the matrilineal line which is directly your mother’s mother’s mother’s line until you run out of direct line mothers in your tree.

What we know now is that sometime between 1200 and 6500 years ago, the haplogroup defining mutations between H1a3 and H1a3a occurred, probably someplace in Germanic Europe. From there, people migrated to both the British Isles and portions of Scandinavia.

Given that we find Susannah in the early 1700s in King and Queen County, Virginia, it would be a reasonable working hypothesis that she was English (or at least from the British Isles) and not Scandinavian. Alexander Younger, the grandfather of Marcus Younger was from Scotland and many of the early era colonial settlers in that region were English.

Hopefully, time and more DNA testers will eventually tell more of Susannah’s tale – either through mitochondrial or autosomal DNA matches, or both.

What About You?

If you haven’t yet tested your mitochondrial DNA, now would be a great time. In fact, you can click here to order the mtFull test. Who knows what you might learn. Are there specific questions you’d like to answer about dead end female lines? Mitochondrial DNA is one way to circumvent a surname/genealogical blockade – at least partially.

If you don’t carry the mitochondrial DNA line that you need, sponsor a test for a cousin. You’ll get to meet a really cool person to share information with, like Lynn, and learn about your common genealogical bond as well as your ancestor’s DNA.

_____________________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the 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.