Longobards Ancient DNA from Pannonia and Italy – What Does Their DNA Tell Us? Are You Related?

The Longobards, Lombards, also known as the Long-beards – who were they? Where did they come from? And when?

Perhaps more important – are you related to these ancient people?

In the paper, Understanding 6th-century barbarian social organizatoin and migration through paleogenomics, by Amorim et al, the authors tell us in the abstract:

Despite centuries of research, much about the barbarian migrations that took place between the fourth and sixth centuries in Europe remains hotly debated. To better understand this key era that marks the dawn of modern European societies, we obtained ancient genomic DNA from 63 samples from two cemeteries (from Hungary and Northern Italy) that have been previously associated with the Longobards, a barbarian people that ruled large parts of Italy for over 200 years after invading from Pannonia in 568 CE. Our dense cemetery-based sampling revealed that each cemetery was primarily organized around one large pedigree, suggesting that biological relationships played an important role in these early medieval societies. Moreover, we identified genetic structure in each cemetery involving at least two groups with different ancestry that were very distinct in terms of their funerary customs. Finally, our data are consistent with the proposed long-distance migration from Pannonia to Northern Italy.

Both the Germans and French have descriptions of this time of upheaval in their history. Völkerwanderung in German and Les invasions barbares in French refer to the various waves of invasions by Goths, Franks, Anglo-Saxons, Vandals, and Huns. All of these groups left a genetic imprint, a story told without admixture by their Y and mitochondrial DNA.

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The authors provide this map of Pannonia, the Longobards kingdom, and the two cemeteries with burial locations.

One of their findings is that the burials are organized around biological kinship. Perhaps they weren’t so terribly different from us today.

Much as genealogists do, the authors created a pedigree chart – the only difference being that their chart is genetically constructed and lacks names, other than sample ID.

One man is buried with a horse, and one of his relatives, a female, is not buried in a family unit but in a half-ring of female graves.

The data suggests that the cemetery in Pannonia, Szolad, shown in burgundy on the map, may have been a “single-generation” cemetery, in use for only a limited time as the migration continued westward. Collegno, in contrast, seems to have been used for multiple generations, with the burials radiating outward over time from the progenitor individual.

Because the entire cemetery was analyzed, it’s possible to identify those individuals with northern or northeastern European ancestry, east of the Rhine and north of the Danube, and to differentiate from southern European ancestry in the Lombard cemetery – in addition to reassembling their family pedigrees. The story is told, not just by one individual’s DNA, but how the group is related to each other, and their individual and group origins.

For anyone with roots in Germany, Hungary, or the eastern portion of Europe, you know that this region has been embroiled in upheaval and warfare seemingly as long as there have been people to fight over who lived in and controlled these lands.

Are You Related?

Goran Rundfeldt’s R&D group at Family Tree DNA reanalyzed the Y DNA samples from this paper and has been kind enough to provide a summary of the results. Michael Sager has utilized them to branch the Y DNA tree – in a dozen places.

Mitochondrial DNA haplogroups have been included where available from the authors, but have not been reanalyzed.

Note the comments added by FTDNA during analysis.

Many new branches were formed. I included step-by-step instructions, here, so you can see if your Y DNA results match either the new branch or any of these samples upstream.

If you’re a male and you haven’t yet tested your Y DNA or you would like to upgrade to the Big Y-700 to obtain your most detailed haplogroup, you can do either by clicking here. My husband’s family is from Hungary and I just upgraded his Y DNA test to the Big Y-700. I want to know where his ancestors came from.

And yes, this first sample really is rare haplogroup T. Each sample is linked to the Family Tree DNA public tree. We find haplogroups G and E as well as the more common R and I. Some ancient samples match contemporary testers from France (2), the UK, England, Morocco, Denmark (5), and Italy. Fascinating!

Sample: CL23
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: T-BY45363
mtDNA: H

Sample: CL30
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-P312
mtDNA: I1b

Sample: CL31
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: G-FGC693
FTDNA Comment: Authors warn of possible contamination. Y chromosome looks good – and there is support for splitting this branch. However, because of the contamination warning – we will not act on this split until more data is available.
mtDNA: H18

Sample: CL38
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: E-BY3880
mtDNA: X2

Sample: CL49
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-CTS6889

Sample: CL53
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-FGC24138
mtDNA: H11a

Sample: CL57
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-BY48364
mtDNA: H24a

Sample: CL63
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-FT104588
mtDNA: H

Sample: CL84
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-U198
mtDNA: H1t

Sample: CL92
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-S22519
mtDNA: H

Sample: CL93
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-S22519
mtDNA: J2b1a

Sample: CL94
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-DF99
mtDNA: K1c1

Sample: CL97
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-L23

Sample: CL110
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-L754

Sample: CL121
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-BY70163
FTDNA Comment: Shares 2 SNPs with a man from France. Forms a new branch down of R-BY70163 (Z2103). New branch = R-BY197053
mtDNA: T2b

Sample: CL145
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-S22519
mtDNA: T2b

Sample: CL146
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-A8472
mtDNA: T2b3

Sample: SZ1
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Study Information: The skeletal remains from an individual dating to the Bronze Age 10 m north of the cemetery.
Age: Bronze Age
Y-DNA: R-Y20746
mtDNA: J1b

Sample: SZ2
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-Z338
FTDNA Comment: Shares 5 SNPs with a man from the UK. Forms a new branch down of R-Z338 (U106). New branch = R-BY176786
mtDNA: T1a1

Sample: SZ3
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-BY3605
mtDNA: H18

Sample: SZ4
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-ZP200
FTDNA Comment: Splits R-ZP200 (U106). Derived (positive) for 2 SNPs and ancestral (negative) for 19 SNPs. New path = R-Y98441>R-ZP200
mtDNA: H1c9

Sample: SZ5
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-BY3194
FTDNA Comment: Splits R-BY3194 (DF27). Derived for 19 SNPs, ancestral for 9 SNPs. New path = R-BY3195>R-BY3194
mtDNA: J2b1

Sample: SZ6
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-P214

Sample: SZ7
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-S8104
FTDNA Comment: SZ13, SZ7 and SZ12 share 2 SNPs with a man from Denmark, forming a branch down of I-S8104 (M223). New branch = I-FT45324. Note that SZ22 and SZ24 (and even SZ14) fall on the same path to I-S8104 but lack coverage for intermediate branches.
mtDNA: T2e

Sample: SZ11
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-FGC13492
FTDNA Comment: Shares 1 SNP with a man from Italy. Forms a new branch down of R-FGC13492 (U106). New branch = R-BY138397
mtDNA: K2a3a

Sample: SZ12
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-S8104
FTDNA Comment: SZ13, SZ7 and SZ12 share 2 SNPs with a man from Denmark, forming a branch down of I-S8104 (M223). New branch = I-FT45324. Note that SZ22 and SZ24 (and even SZ14) fall on the same path to I-S8104 but lack coverage for intermediate branches.
mtDNA: W6

Sample: SZ13
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century 422-541 cal CE
Y-DNA: I-S8104
FTDNA Comment: SZ13, SZ7 and SZ12 share 2 SNPs with a man from Denmark, forming a branch down of I-S8104 (M223). New branch = I-FT45324. Note that SZ22 and SZ24 (and even SZ14) fall on the same path to I-S8104 but lack coverage for intermediate branches.
mtDNA: N1b1b1

Sample: SZ14
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-CTS616
FTDNA Comment: SZ13, SZ7 and SZ12 share 2 SNPs with a man from Denmark, forming a branch down of I-S8104 (M223). New branch = I-FT45324. Note that SZ22 and SZ24 (and even SZ14) fall on the same path to I-S8104 but lack coverage for intermediate branches.
mtDNA: I3

Sample: SZ15
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-YP986
mtDNA: H1c1

Sample: SZ16
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-U106
mtDNA: U4b1b

Sample: SZ18
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: E-BY6865
FTDNA Comment: Shares 1 SNP with a man from Morocco. Forms a new branch down of E-BY6865. New branch = E-FT198679
mtDNA: H13a1a2

Sample: SZ22
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-Y6876
FTDNA Comment: SZ13, SZ7 and SZ12 share 2 SNPs with a man from Denmark, forming a branch down of I-S8104 (M223). New branch = I-FT45324. Note that SZ22 and SZ24 (and even SZ14) fall on the same path to I-S8104 but lack coverage for intermediate branches.
mtDNA: N1b1b1

Sample: SZ23
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-S10271
mtDNA: H13a1a2

Sample: SZ24
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-ZS3
FTDNA Comment: SZ13, SZ7 and SZ12 share 2 SNPs with a man from Denmark, forming a branch down of I-S8104 (M223). New branch = I-FT45324. Note that SZ22 and SZ24 (and even SZ14) fall on the same path to I-S8104 but lack coverage for intermediate branches.
mtDNA: U4b

Sample: SZ27B
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century 412-538 cal CE
Y-DNA: R-FGC4166
FTDNA Comment: Shares 1 SNP with a man from France. Forms a new branch down of R-FGC4166 (U152). New branch = R-FT190624
mtDNA: N1a1a1a1

Sample: SZ36
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: T-Y15712
mtDNA: U4c2a

Sample: SZ37
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century 430-577 cal CE
Y-DNA: R-P312
mtDNA: H66a

Sample: SZ42
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-P312
mtDNA: K2a6

Sample: SZ43
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century 435-604 cal CE
Y-DNA: I-BY138
mtDNA: H1e

Sample: SZ45
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Study Information: ADMIXTURE analysis showed SZ45 to possess a unique ancestry profile.
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-FGC21819
FTDNA Comment: Shares 2 SNPs with a man from England forms a new branch down of FGC21819. New branch = I-FGC21810
mtDNA: J1c

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

23andMe Changes – Download Matches Now or Lose Many

Recently, 23andMe implemented a new subscription model. In their new model, which requires retesting (with a new sample) on the V5 chip, you can pay a yearly subscription fee of $29 to receive up to 4500 matches.

The subscription service is by invitation, which you can see at this link, excerpt below:

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Current Customers Losing Matches and Losing Out

Unfortunately, without notice to customers, 23andMe is reducing (or has already reduced) the match cap for current, existing, customers from 2000 matches to 1500.

In the past, the 2000 cap was minus the number of matches that had not opted-in to sharing. The new 1500 cap is the top 1500 that HAVE opted-in to sharing.

In my case, I went from over 1700 matches to 1500.

In the past, you could actually retain more than 2000 matches if you had issued a sharing invitation or corresponded with your match. Now, all of that work is gone. One of my friends had more than 4700 matches through years of work and now has 1500.

This purge may not have happened to you yet, as they seem to be rolling through the database in stages. Check your matches and if you have more than 1500, work with them immediately.

More Features are Gone

Furthermore, other features have been removed, such as the ability to sort by haplogroup and notes and possibly more. I haven’t tested everything. What’s clear is that current customers are losing matches, features, and are being “downgraded.”

That’s very unfortunate, as this appears to be arm-twisting in order to encourage people to upgrade to the V5 chip and subscription service to retain existing matches.

Many people can’t upgrade because they have died. For example, if you manage a parent’s kit who is deceased, this purge will hurt you immensely because even if you do upgrade, you’ll not be able to phase your matches against their kit.

Preserving Matches

Unless you upgrade and subscribe, you can’t do anything to preserve your actual matches above 1500, but what you can do is to download your matches in spreadsheet format which, for now, still contains your previous matches.

This opportunity won’t last long, as 23andMe support has replied to an inquiry that they will soon be adjusting the download list to match your new 1500 match list.

We don’t know when this will happen, as 23andMe has communicated absolutely nothing about these changes to customers, so download now.

Downloading Your “Aggregate Data”

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On your DNA Relatives page, scroll to the very bottom.

Click on “Download aggregate data.”

A file will be downloaded to your system which will include a significant amount of information from your matches’ profiles. Of course, important information such as matches-in-common won’t be there, but at least something will be.

Download now before it’s too late.

Opinion

23andMe has always been focused on health, with genealogists being a means to an end. That’s why our matches have been limited and functions such as trees, similar to features at the other three major vendors, have never been implemented. This isn’t news.

23andMe has disregarded questions about where my DNA is being stored, which studies it was included in, and for what purposes before they implemented the opt-in system for medical research, as opposed to the opt-out system.

I opted out of research years ago, because I’m not comfortable not knowing how my DNA is being utilized, and by whom. Furthermore, I have an issue with the amount of money 23andMe is being paid for the DNA information I paid to test. 23andMe states that they have received $791 million in venture capital and lists their investors, here. With 12 million customers, that’s about $66 per customer or $99 for opted-in customer.

That being said, I have previously upgraded from V2 to V3 to V4, paying to retest each time, in part, so that I could write about my experiences for my blog followers.

This time, I’m not upgrading and I’m done. They’ve gone too far by reducing the match cap by 25% of the matches we were previously allowed, an artificial barrier not imposed by any other vendor. And that’s assuming you had done nothing to prevent matches from rolling off your list previously. Not only that, but this purge has been done without notice of any type.

I won’t be removing my DNA, because it’s already there (and I’ve paid for it 3 times), but I won’t be answering any questions for the 23andMe surveys which they aggregate for the data, I won’t be spending any money to upgrade, and I certainly won’t be recommending 23andMe except for adoptees and people seeking unknown close family who haven’t found their answers elsewhere.

As Kenny Rogers said; “Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away…”

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Cool DNA Masks – Plus Tips for Mask Issues & Fogged Glasses

With the advent of the President of the US, First Lady, along with multiple aides, workers, and politicians diagnosed with Covid in the last few days – hopefully, mask-wearing will no longer be viewed through the lens of political allegiance. Each day that goes by sees more and more people who were unknowingly exposed testing positive for Covid.

Mask-wearing is the ONE thing we can all do to protect others from the spread of the virus. Other people’s mask-wearing protects us. Our own mask-wearing protects everyone else. Everyone is responsible to prevent the spread of their own germs.

If we can’t keep the President of the United States safe, and he is distanced from everyone outside of his inner circle – no one is safe without barriers like masks.

Clearly, the virus infected one person, who infected another, who infected another, and so forth. And for the record, the virus is aerosolized and can be caught through airborne transmission, meaning 6 feet distance really isn’t adequate. Virus particles stay in the air and float for some time especially in areas with multiple people and poor ventilation. Viruses don’t understand 6 feet and droplets have been measured as far as 26 feet. Article here with links to studies.

We are still learning about this virus, so what we thought were adequate precautions a few months ago really aren’t.

The best strategy for protection is a combination of:

  • face coverings, including outside when in close proximity
  • hand washing
  • as much distance as possible – more than 6 feet
  • exposure for as little time as possible

In other words, limit exposure in any way you can.

Just today, this new article in The Atlantic summarizes what we’ve learned and what we know today, including the following quote:

In study after study, we see that super-spreading clusters of COVID-19 almost overwhelmingly occur in poorly ventilated indoor environments where many people congregate over time — weddings, churches, choirs, gyms, funerals, restaurants, and such — especially when there is loud talking or singing without masks.

This virus is highly contagious, lethal, and often leaves those who do recover with severe disabilities. This group of people even has a name – the Longhaulers. It’s possible that Covid isn’t something that we entirely recover from, but live with for the rest of our lives with unknown consequences.

Stay home. When you absolutely must go out, wear a mask, and maintain as much distance as possible.

Some people are emboldened when they go out and nothing happens, so they repeat the behavior again and again. Eventually, the sheer probability catches up with them. It would be one thing if only the person who refused to act responsibly became ill – but that’s not what happens. By the time they have symptoms, IF they ever have symptoms, they have infected legions of others.

Just look at the circle of people surrounding the President’s super-spreader rose-garden event. We don’t know who had Covid “first’, and we’ll never know the full extent of who infected whom downstream.

Here’s the bottom line, if the most insulated, protected man in America can get Covid – so can you. If you don’t take precautions and protect yourself from those who don’t – it’s only a matter of time until you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time with or after someone who didn’t wear a mask and left Covid behind.

Once the virus begins its rampage through your body, or your family, there is no redo.

This image from the Northshore School District shows how interconnected we all are, whether we realize it or not.

Covid Strikes Close to Home

As I’ve mentioned in earlier articles, I’ve lost family members to Covid. By now, I can’t imagine that anyone in the US doesn’t know someone who has contracted Covid, and probably at least one person who has died. It’s inching its way closer and closer.

On August 25th, my cousin, Bob died. In his early 50s, Bob worked from and stayed home, ordered grocery delivery even, and had no co-morbidities. Yet, he’s gone.

Currently, my husband’s aunt in her 70s is infected, along with half of the people at her assisted living facility. She is not critically ill – yet – but others are and all of them are contagious. More than half of the staff is infected too and everyone is quarantined. They infected their family members before they knew. Their children attend school and take it to school, infecting others who take it home to their families. And so it flows, this monster creeping through the communities in heartland America. Community spread.

It. Doesn’t. Have. To. Be. This. Way.

I can’t even begin to describe the hellish roller coaster we all lived through while Bob was in ICU, night and day, for a month, 31 very long days, 744 agonizing hours, each of which we hoped and prayed for Bob’s recovery.

Our spirits elevated as one symptom would improve, then plunged again as new, life-threatening ones developed. In the end, blood clots and bacterial pneumonia took him. That’s what’s on his death certificate. Covid was only listed as a contributing factor – but he wouldn’t have had pneumonia, pulmonary embolisms or cardiac embolisms were it not for being infected with Covid.

Some might say that he “didn’t’ die of Covid” which is technically true if you look at the first three causes of death on his death certificate. But that statement isn’t accurate. Covid caused all three conditions, and his death, pure and simple.

But what really stole his life was the fact that this virus is running rampant. Bob’s death occurred when we had experienced 179,000 deaths in the US. Just 6 weeks later, we now have another 31,000 deaths for a total of more than 210,000 and 7.5 million US citizens infected. At this rate, with no increase. we’ll see 300,000 deaths around year-end. Happy New Year.

My heart goes out to every single one of those people and their families.

How Did This Happen?

Someone didn’t wear a mask, was probably asymptomatic and never knew they had the virus, at least not before they spread it – to someone else who did the same, to someone else, to someone else…until it got to Bob at a family gathering where one person didn’t wear a mask.

All it takes is one person. YOU are that one person, for bad or for good.

Here’s how this works. For full effect, just substitute your name or your loved one’s name, maybe your parent, for “Bob.”

The first red person was asymptomatic and still thinks all is well and that nothing bad happened, because they have absolutely no idea that their germs infected three other people and ultimately killed Bob, several people away, someone they might not even know.

If just one person in the contact chain between that first red person and before Bob had broken the chain of contagion by wearing a mask, had distanced and been responsible, the virus would not have been able to make its stealthy way to Bob.

JUST ONE PERSON wearing a mask would have made a life-and-death difference.

That second red person, above, wearing a mask, is literally a life-saver. They unknowingly saved Bob’s life – along with who-knows-how-many other people too.

The second red person contracted the virus from the first red person who did not wear a mask, but the second red person who wore a mask didn’t infect the first green person, who wore a mask, who didn’t infect Bob. That’s just it, everyone assumes, if they aren’t sick, that they are green – but they might not be – and someone clearly wasn’t.

In this scenario, Bob is alive today, not a box of ashes. So is the first green person who has no idea how close they came. The red mask-wearing person may or may not have gotten sick, may or may not have died, but either way, they didn’t spread Covid to others – breaking the chain of misery and death.

God bless the mask-wearers.

However, we are not condemned to suffer those 300,000 deaths by the end of the year. We can help ourselves – but it requires everyone to play by the same rules, including wearing masks. Regardless of what others do, YOU can wear a mask and YOU can make a difference. Please do.

I found some cool DNA masks and have some tips for people who are experiencing challenges wearing masks.

Two Cool DNA Masks

It looks like masks are going to be with us for a while – at least throughout the winter.

If we need to wear a mask, it might as well be cool. Cool masks inject an element of fun!

In my case, I want to wear DNA masks. Recently, other than the DNA masks I’ve made for myself, I found two created by members of our community.

Ordering these helps one of our genealogy vendors and a nonprofit stay afloat in these challenging times.

Tested DNA Mask

This mask from Jeannette at BlingGenealogy, normally a vendor at RootsTech, FGS, and other genealogy conferences, is quite substantial. In fact, with two layers plus an interfacing layer in between, it’s the most substantial mask I’ve seen other than N95 masks.

Yes, I have one. I particularly like the tieable elastic ear bands. You can adjust them easily and they aren’t actual elastic which can be irritating, but soft stretchable ties.  I’ve adjusted mine to pull the mask snug but not uncomfortably so. They don’t bother my ears or my glasses earpiece.

There’s more to this story than a cool DNA mask.

Jeannette mentioned that this mask was tested at Northeastern University, testing better than 2 of the 3 medical-grade surgical masks they tested.

I asked how she managed to get this done, and here’s what she said:

Getting Northeastern University in Boston to test them was interesting. I was sewing like a crazy woman and my husband told me about the article he read that Northwestern was testing masks. I think it was one of the first.

I emailed the engineers that were on the project and told them how I constructed the masks them. They didn’t have any masks that were tested using the interfacing filter I use. In fact, the only reason I had that type interfacing was that I use it in my prairie bonnets, so I had huge bolts of it. None was available anywhere for a few months.

They said to send 3 for testing. I was nervous because I had made a lot of them by then. I felt I would need to make a better one to send to everyone if it didn’t test well. I just couldn’t live with myself if it didn’t test well. I had nurses buying them to wear after hours and wear over their N95 masks to extend their use. But wow, my mask tested better than 2 of the 3 commercial medical grade surgical masks they had tested. So relieved!  Then I started working on genealogy themed masks.

You can see her genealogy masks, here. I need a Mayflower mask too, especially this year with 5 Mayflower ancestors.

Jeannette has other VERY COOL items too. Take a look. I own several which you may recognize from earlier articles.

Jeannette will give you $5 off of anything with the coupon code of DNAeXplained.

MitoYDNA Mask

Another DNA mask or neck gaiter is available through the non-profit, mitoYDNA.

For those who don’t know, mitoYDNA.org is a free, volunteer, upload site for both Y and mtDNA that was created when both YSearch and MitoSearch bit the dust due to GDPR. You can read about them, here, and be sure to watch the videos, here, if you are interested.

I keep meaning to write about mitoYDNA in detail, and I will eventually, but for now, suffice it to say that you can view your matches actual results, meaning mtDNA mutations and Y STR values AND integrate with WikiTree.

I like to support nonprofits when I can, and I love the double helix mask, although I don’t own one of these – yet.

Mask Tips and Tricks

I prefer wearing the cloth masks I’ve made because they are an opportunity to reflect something important to me – DNA, genealogy, quilts, cats, etc. I do, however, always keep a few spare paper masks in the car and tucked elsewhere. Sometimes I give them to other people. It’s so easy to forget and walk out of the house without one!

My biggest mask challenge is that my glasses fog up. The problem is becoming more pronounced as the weather cools, and I expect it’s going to get even more difficult during the winter.

Here are three tips and tricks that may help you.

I made a lot, and I mean a wardrobe of face masks that I wear every time I go anyplace. What I need to do, now, is to add some kind of metal stabilization to my existing masks in order to make the top of the mask conform to my face.

Conforming the mask to my face allows it to fit snugly up under my glasses and helps immensely with the fogging issue. Not only that, but the less air that escapes, the less of my germs escape too.

The fewer gaps, the less I’m breathing in other people’s germs. It’s a win-win.

I found 3 ways to retrofit my existing masks easily.

Option 1 – Aluminum Roasting Pan Nose Bridge Hack

I find this first option to be the one that works best for me, sometimes with the addition of Kleenex – option 3.

Buy relatively substantial aluminum roasting pans or salvage aluminum lids, like the one above, from takeout pans. With scissors, cut 7 inch-long (or the length you desire) by one inch wide pieces.

Fold the one-inch width in half to half an inch wide. I used a ruler to make a crisp fold line.

I also trimmed off the sharp edge of the aluminum corner by rounding so it won’t poke me or damage the fabric.

Here’s a YouTube video providing instructions. Although her metal strip is only 4 inches long, the process is the same.

Sew a small pocket on the back of your existing mask along the center top, leaving one end open. I used a 2.5 by 8-inch strip of fabric. I folded the fabric in thirds lengthwise and sewed it to the back of the mask, turning under the raw ends one-quarter inch. I sewed one end down but left the other open to allow room to insert the aluminum stabilizer, as illustrated below.

Just slip the 7-inch (or however long) by one-half inch piece of aluminum into the little pocket and shape to your nose when you wear the mask.

The reason you leave one end of the little pocket open is so that you can remove the aluminum piece to wash the mask, although if you hand wash, you don’t need to remove.

Look how beautifully this conforms to my face and holds its shape, including my cheekbones which prevent my glasses fogging.

Some people make iron-in metal nose-pieces, but I like the idea that I can retrofit the masks I already have, and that I can remove and replace the metal piece to wash the mask with no problem.

Please note that I’ve found that items like twist-ties and pipe cleaners don’t have enough rigidity to maintain their shape on my face and often aren’t long enough to eliminate fogging.

Option 2 – Salvaging the Nose Support from Throw-Away Masks

The blue throw-away paper masks, available here, have a reasonable rigid nose support that’s about 4-5 inches long.

I cut the paper mask when I’m going to throw it away anyway and just remove the nose piece, inserting it in a pocket of my fabric masks. My friend uses bias tape for the pocket.

I like the aluminum nosepieces better, but you may have ready access to these, they are free and hold their shape reasonably well. I’ve also tried twist ties and pipe-cleaners, and they just don’t have enough rigidity.

Option 3 – Kleenex Tissues Hack

Don’t laugh.

If you STILL have issues with your glasses fogging up, and I sometimes do, Kleenex may be your saving grace. If you need something quickly, you can always grab a tissue.

If your glasses are still fogging, it’s because your hot breath is escaping between the mask and the inside of your glasses lens, creating condensation. This probably occurs beyond where the metal nose bridge reaches if it’s less than the width of your mask.

The tissue gently fills in those gaps between the mask and your face, with the elastic ear-piece pulling the mask just tight enough across the Kleenex to prevent your own breath from escaping behind your glasses.

You’ll want soft tissues, not the more rigid, cheaper ones. Just fold the tissue into a thin line the length of the Kleenex and insert the folded Kleenex inside your mask at the top, between your face and the mask.

Please, Wear a Mask

Masks are our best weapon during this pandemic, second only to staying inside and away from other people,

Masks aren’t political statements. If they ever were, they surely aren’t now that the President and many others in his orbit have been diagnosed with this disease. Hopefully, everyone that was a mask-doubter has experienced a reality reset and realizes that masks, if everyone wears them, prevent or at least reduce Covid infections.

Masks say you care about saving lives and are willing to do this one simple thing to protect other people. Other people protect you with their masks. Beyond kind, it’s essential.

Whatever mask you choose, however you decide to do it – be a hero – wear a mask.

Please feel free to share this article and helpful hints with anyone and everyone.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Ancient Icelandic Viking Settlers Expand the Y DNA Tree

The harsh yet starkly beautiful volcanic island of Iceland was only settled about 1100 years ago, between 870 and 930 CE (current era). Obviously, the original settlers had to originate in locations where populations were already established. During this time, Vikings had been raiding islands and coastal regions of Ireland, Scotland, and England.

Their DNA, now unearthed, tells their tale.

This 2018 paper, Ancient genomes from Iceland reveal the making of a human population by Ebenesersdóttir et al, along with the supplementary material, here, provides insight into the genomes of 27 ancient Icelanders who are a combination of Norse, Gaelic and admixed individuals. The Irish Times wrote a non-academic article, here.

Unequal contributions of the ancient founders, plus isolation resulting in genetic drift separates the current Icelandic population from the founder populations. These ancient Icelandic genomes, autosomally, are more similar to their founding populations than today’s Icelanders.

While autosomal DNA recombines in each generation, Y and mitochondrial DNA does not, revealing the exact DNA of the original founding members of the population. This, of course, allows us to peer back in time. We can see who they match, historically, and where. Today, we can see if our Y and mitochondrial DNA matches them as well.

The authors of the paper selected 35 ancient individuals, believed to be first-generation founders, to have their whole genomes sequenced, of which 27 were successful. Sometimes the ancient DNA is just too degraded to sequence properly.

Nineteen of these burials are pre-Christian, 2 from Christian burials and one that is “Early Modern,” dated to 1678 CE. Ages are expressed, as follows:

  • Pre-Christian <1000 CE
  • Pre-Christian 950-1050 CE
  • Early modern Born 1678 CE
  • Pre-Christian <1050 cal CE

Dates that say “cal CE” mean that they were carbon 14 dated and calibrated and CE (alone) means that those dates are based on the archaeological context of grave goods, other remains, and environmental indicators such as volcanic ash.

As he did with the 442 ancient Viking genomes that I wrote about, here, Goran Runfeldt who heads the research department at FamilyTreeDNA downloaded the Icelandic genomes, extracted and aligned the mitochondrial and Y DNA results.

Michael Sager analyzed the Y DNA and those results, once again, have refined, enhanced or split at least 8 branches of the Y DNA tree.

For instructions about how to see if your mitochondrial or Y DNA results match any of these ancient genomes, please click here. If you haven’t yet tested, you can order or upgrade a Y or mitochondrial DNA test, here.

The Graves

This map, provided in the paper by the authors, shows the burial locations of the remains, noted by sample numbers. Circles are females, squares are male. Light gray was later excluded from the author’s study.

Some of these burials and grave goods are fascinating. For example, note the horse and dog burials.

Goran and Michael have been kind enough to share their analysis, below, along with comments. Thanks, guys!

Sample: DAV-A9
Location: Dalvík (Brimnes), North, Iceland
Study Information: One of the largest and most studied pre-Christian burial sites in Iceland. Thirteen human skeletal remains, six horse skeletons, and the remains of three dogs were found at the site. In one of the graves, the deceased individual had been placed in a sitting position at the rear of a boat
Age: Pre-Christian 900-1000 CE
Y-DNA: I-FGC21765
FTDNA Comment: Likely splits this branch
mtDNA: H1

Sample: DKS-A1
Location: Öndverðarnes, West, Iceland
Study Information: Grave goods included a sword, a spearhead, a knife, a shield-boss, a bone-pin, and fragments of iron. According to a morphological analysis, the skeletal remains show evidence of developmental delay that could be explained by hypogonadism caused by Klinefelter syndrome, testicular disorder or castration.
Age: Pre-Christian 850-1000 CE
Y-DNA: R-YP6099
mtDNA: U5a1h

Sample: FOV-A1
Location: Fossvellir, East, Iceland
Study Information: The remains are thought to have been placed at the site after the individual was deceased. The bones had been carefully arranged on top of each other and were surrounded by stone slabs and turf.
Age: Christian 1246-1302 CE
Y-DNA: R-DF23
mtDNA: HV17a

Sample: GRS-A1
Location: Grímsstaðir, North, Iceland
Study Information: Three pre-Christian burials were found in close proximity to each other near the site of a farmstead. We analysed one of the skeletal remains (GRS-A1), which were excavated in 1937. No grave goods were found at the site.
Age: Pre-Christian <1050 cal CE
Y-DNA: R-BY92608
mtDNA: K1a1b1b

Sample: GTE-A1
Location: Gilsárteigur, East, Iceland
Study Information: In 1949, field-leveling exposed a pre-Christian burial site near an old farm site. The remains of two skeletons were excavated in 1957. Both burials contained grave goods.
Age: Pre-Christian <1000 CE
Y-DNA: R-CTS4179
mtDNA: H4a1a4b

Sample: HSJ-A1
Location: Hrólfsstaðir, East, Iceland
Study Information: A comb, knife, and pieces of charcoal were found in the grave.
Age: Pre-Christian <1000 CE
Y-DNA: I-BY202281
FTDNA Comment: forms a branch with 2 men (Scotland and England). I-BY202281. The two modern samples share an additional 11 markers that HSJ-A1 is ancestral for
mtDNA: H3g1

Sample: KNS-A1
Location: Karlsnes, South, Iceland
Study Information: Grave goods included a spearhead, a knife, two lead weights, three beads, and a small stone.
Age: Pre-Christian 950-1050 CE
Y-DNA: R-Z290
mtDNA: H5

Sample: KOV-A2
Location: Kópavogur, West, Iceland
Study Information: Two skeletal remains. Based on archaeological evidence, the remains were identified as a female, born 1664, and a male, born 1678. According to historical records, they were executed in 1704 for the murder of the female’s husband. The male was beheaded, and his impaled head publicly exhibited, whereas the female was drowned. Their remains were buried in unconsecrated ground at a site called Hjónadysjar.
Age: Early modern Born 1678 CE
Y-DNA: R-L151
mtDNA: H1

Sample: MKR-A1
Location: Viðar (Másvatn), North, Iceland
Study Information: The remains date to <1477 C.E. based on volcanic ash chronology, and are thought to be from a pre-Christian burial site.
Age: Pre-Christian <1050 cal CE
Y-DNA: R-YP1258
mtDNA: K1c1b

Sample: NNM-A1
Location: Njarðvík, East, Iceland
Study Information: A human skull (NNM-A1) was found at a site considered to be a badly damaged pre-Christian burial.
Age: Pre-Christian <1000 CE
Y-DNA: R-BY56981
mtDNA: H2a2b5a

Sample: ORE-A1
Location: Ormsstaðir, East, Iceland
Study Information: Pre-Christian site near an old farmstead was excavated after being exposed during field leveling. One human skeleton (ORE-A) was found, along with an axe, a knife, and three lead weights. A single human bone from another individual was found nearby.
Age: Pre-Christian 900-1000 CE
Y-DNA: R-PH93
mtDNA: K1a3a

Sample: SBT-A1
Location: Smyrlaberg, North, Iceland
Study Information: Pre-Christian burial site in an old gravel quarry. Two years later its excavation revealed a male skeleton (SBT-A1) and an iron knife. Another grave, badly damaged, was found nearby, but only fragments of bone were recovered.
Age: Pre-Christian <1000 CE
Y-DNA: I-FGC74518
FTDNA Comment: Shares 6 SNPs with a man from England. Forms a branch down of I-BY46619 (Z140). Branch = I-FGC74518
mtDNA: H3g1a

Sample: SSG-A2
Location: Sílastaðir, North, Iceland
Study Information: A cluster of four pre-Christian graves. Based on morphological analysis, three of the skeletons were deemed male, and one female.
Age: Pre-Christian 850-1000 CE
Y-DNA: R-BY41282
FTDNA Comment: Split the R-BY23441 block – derived only for BY41282 (Z246)
mtDNA: J1c3g

Sample: SSG-A3
Location: Sílastaðir, North, Iceland
Study Information: A cluster of four pre-Christian graves. Based on morphological analysis, three of the skeletons were deemed male, and one female.
Age: Pre-Christian 850-1000 CE
Y-DNA: I-FGC9493
mtDNA: T2b2b

Sample: SSJ-A2
Location: Surtsstaðir, East, Iceland
Study Information: The remains of two individuals were found at the site, along with grave goods.
Age: Pre-Christian 850-1000 CE
Y-DNA: I-Y129187
mtDNA: U5a1a1

Sample: STT-A2
Location: Straumur, East, Iceland
Study Information: Pre-Christian burial site was excavated, which included the remains of four individuals (one child, one male, one female, and another adult whose sex could not be determined by morphological analysis). Grave goods included a horse bone, a small axe, thirty boat rivets, a lead weight, two pebbles, and a knife.
Age: Pre-Christian 975-1015 cal CE
Y-DNA: R-FT118419
FTDNA Comment: Shares 22 SNPs with a man from Wales. They form the branch R-FT118419 (Z251)
mtDNA: U4b1b1

Sample: SVK-A1
Location: Svínadalur, North, Iceland
Study Information: Human skeletal remains were brought to the National Museum of Iceland. They had been exposed for many years near an old farmhouse. There were no grave goods found at the site, but the remains are thought to be pre-Christian.
Age: Pre-Christian <1050 cal CE
Y-DNA: I-FGC21682
FTDNA Comment: Joins VK110 and VK400 as an additional I-FGC21682* (P109)
mtDNA: I2

Sample: TGS-A1
Location: Tunga, North, Iceland
Study Information: Human skeletal remains (TGS-A1) were excavated in 1981 by inhabitants at a nearby farm. They were classified at the National Museum of Iceland as having unknown temporal origin. The remains were radiocarbon dated for this study, indicating that they date from the 10th century C.E.
Age: Pre-Christian 943-1024 cal CE
Y-DNA: R-Y10827
FTDNA Comment: Likely R-BY4659. Also PH1220+, but this is a C>T mutation also present in hg I ancient samples R7 and Carrowkeel531.
mtDNA: T2e1

Sample: TSK-A26 / ÞSK-A26
Location: Skeljastaðir, South, Iceland
Study Information: Christian cemetery at Skeljastaðir in Þjórsárdalur. The remains are dated to before 1104 C.E., as the site was abandoned in the wake of a volcanic eruption of Mount Hekla in that year.
Age: Christian 1120 cal CE
Y-DNA: R-Y77406
FTDNA Comment: Shares 2 SNPs with a man from Norway. Forms branch down of R-BY30235 (L448). New branch = R-Y77406
mtDNA: J1b1a1a

Sample: VDP-A6
Location: Vatnsdalur, West, Iceland
Study Information: Boat grave with seven skeletal remains (three females and four males), along with a dog skeleton. Grave goods included a knife, thirty beads, a silver Thor’s hammer, a fragmented Cufic coin (ca. 870–930 C.E.) and jewelry.
Age: Pre-Christian 850-1050 CE
Y-DNA: R-YP1120
mtDNA: H1c3a

Sample: VDP-A7
Location: Vatnsdalur, West, Iceland
Study Information: Boat grave with seven skeletal remains (three females and four males), along with a dog skeleton. Grave goods included a knife, thirty beads, a silver Thor’s hammer, a fragmented Cufic coin (ca. 870–930 C.E.) and jewelry.
Age: Pre-Christian 850-1050 CE
Y-DNA: R-FT209682
FTDNA Comment: Shares 7 SNPs with a man from Sweden. Forms branch down of R-BY71305 (Z18). New branch = R-FT209682
mtDNA: H4a1a1

Sample: YGS-B2
Location: Ytra-Garðshor, North, Iceland
Study Information: The site included the disturbed remains of nine human skeletons (four males, two females, one child and two individuals whose sex could not be inferred based on morphological analysis). There were grave goods in all graves.
Age: Pre-Christian <1000 CE
Y-DNA: R-Y98267
FTDNA Comment: Split the R-Y84777 block (L238). Derived only for Y98267
mtDNA: J1c1a

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

FamilyTreeDNA’s myOrigins Version 3 Rollout

As the fall leaves change colors and people are turning more to inside activities, FamilyTree DNA began rolling out MyOrigins version 3 today.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that everyone is trying to sign on at the same time, so the system is quite slow right now. Maybe that’s actually good news too because it means people are interested AND maybe they will take this opportunity to add trees and link matches if they have not already done so!

What’s Happening?

Yesterday, the following email was sent to group project administrators.

If you’d like to view the list of all populations reported, click here.

The Rollout

I really like the process of prioritizing people who have signed in most recently. They are clearly the most interested in their results.

If you’re wondering if your results have been updated, sign on to your account. Look at your messages to the left of your Autosomal DNA Results.

click to enlarge

If you don’t see this message, then you have the new MyOrigins 3 results, so simply click on MyOrigins.

More Results Coming

Not only are more people going to be receiving results soon, but additional features will be released over time:

  • Population-based chromosome painting, including trace amounts less than 1%. I expect this feature will be released after everyone has received updated results – but that’s my assumption – not from FTDNA.
  • Some people may receive additional population trace amounts not reported in this initial release to facilitate chromosome painting – so check back every couple weeks to see if your results have changed.

My Results

click to enlarge

I have multiple kits at Family Tree DNA – one tested there and one from Ancestry that I use when I write about twins and siblings. Ancestry uses a different chip when processing their DNA tests, and my results at FamilyTreeDNA are somewhat different for the two tests. Keep in mind that the two tests test some of the same locations, but not all.

click to enlarge

I have a 23andMe test I could upload as well. I may do that, simply to compare results, especially since 23andMe also shows my Native segments. Once Family Tree DNA releases their ethnicity chromosome painting, I’ll want to see if the tests report the same locations.

My Comparison

My British Isles are much more specific now. Much of my genealogy from the British Isles is somewhat ambiguous. I know positively that some lines are from there – just not exactly where.

Trace amounts do not contribute to the totals. I wasn’t sure quite how to handle this since we don’t know how much the trace amount actually is – and if it’s noise in some cases.

Here’s the comparison of the four major vendors and their current results, above and below.

I can’t discern the exact amount of Native, although it’s clearly small. I know it’s present and not noise because I’ve proven these segments to the ancestors whose Y and mitochondrial DNA prove their Native origins.

Furthermore, MyOrigins3 essentially matches my Native segments at 23andMe. I know this because I was fortunate enough to have had that sneak peek earlier this year when MyOrigins3 was in beta. You can take a look at Dr. Maier’s presentation about MyOrigins3, here.

Population-based chromosome painting is coming for everyone after the MyOrigins3 rollout is complete. No, I couldn’t pry a more specific date out of anyone😊

How Can Ethnicity Help Your Genealogy?

By clicking on the Shared Origins tab, you can see a list of your matches that have some of the same populations and locations. Of course, this doesn’t mean that your match is because of that population, or within that population, but it does provide you with a place to start – especially if the population is a minority population to you – like my Native American.

I can view the list of my Shared Origins matches, view our matching segments in the chromosome browser to see how we triangulate and share matches with others – hopefully identifying our common ancestor.

In my case, I’ve also painted my known matches at DNAPainter, so most of my segments map to an ancestral line. I compare segment with a specific match to my identified segments at DNAPainter and I’ll probably be able to determine if our matching segment could be assigned that ethnicity by identifying the ancestral line.

Caveats

You all know the caveats I always preach, right?

  • Ethnicity is only an estimate!
  • Just because you don’t show a specific ethnicity doesn’t mean you don’t have that heritage.
  • You don’t inherit exactly half of the DNA of your ancestors. In fact, you may or may not inherit anything measurable from any specific ancestor(s) several generations back in time.
  • Small amounts of ethnicity can be noise.
  • You cannot have an ethnicity that neither of your parents have, although it may be named as something else from the same region. Chromosome painting will help unravel this immensely.
  • Did I mention that ethnicity is only an estimate?

Levity

Now for some much-needed levity

I had forgotten about this, but today, my friend mentioned that this is his favorite ad ever. Yes, an ad. It’s well worth the watch – only a minute or so and I guarantee, it will make you laugh out loud!!!

Go Thor!!!!!!

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Ancestry Releases Updated Ethnicity Estimates – Hope You Still Have Your Kilt!

Ancestry has been rolling out their new DNA ethnicity results over the past couple of weeks. By now, pretty much all customers have updated results.

When you sign on and click on your DNA tab, you’ll see a message at the top that tells you whether you have new results or they are coming soon.

I wrote about how ethnicity results are calculated in the article, Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum. You might want to take a minute and read the article because it applies to methods generally and is not specific to any one vendor.

Ethnicity analysis is quite accurate at the continental level, plus Jewish, but less so within continents like Europe. Your results will vary from vendor to vendor and from update to update with the same vendor over time.

To be very clear, your DNA doesn’t change – and neither does your genealogy, obviously – but the evaluation methods used by various vendors change as more people test, reference populations grow, and the vendors improve their algorithms.

Of course, “improve” is subjective. Changes that “improve” one person’s results have the exact opposite effect on other people.

The Eye of the Beholder

Every time vendors release new population or ethnicity results, everyone runs to check. Then – queue up either “they finally got it right” or teeth gnashing! 😊

Everyone hopes for “better” results – but expectations vary widely and how people determine what “better” means to them is quite subjective.

So yes, the accuracy of the results is truly in the eye of the beholder and often related to how much genealogy they’ve actually done. Surprises in your genealogy can equal surprises in your ethnicity too.

Quantitative Analysis

First, let’s be very clear – you do NOT inherit exactly half of the DNA of each of your distant ancestors in each generation. So you might have NO DNA of an ancestor several generations back in time and multiple segments contributed by another ancestor in the same generation. I wrote about how inheritance actually works in the article, Concepts: Inheritance.

Obviously, if you don’t carry a specific ancestor’s DNA, you also don’t carry any genetic markers for any portion of their ethnic heritage either.

Measuring

The best you can do in terms of ancestral ethnicity percentage expectations is to methodically analyze your tree for the geographic and ethnic heritage of your ancestors.

I explained how I calculated realistic ethnicity estimate percentages in the article, Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages.

In summary, I made a spreadsheet of my 64 great-great-great-great-great-grandparents, each of which, if the DNA was divided in exactly half and passed to the next generation, would contribute 1.56% of my DNA.

Vendors can typically measure geographically-associated DNA less than 1%. At some point, however, the segments are simply too small to reliably identify and associate with a geographic location or population.

Over time, how different vendors refer to and label different parts of the world both vary and change.

Region Names and Ancestral Assignment

I created a spreadsheet where I track both my “expected” DNA based on my genealogy and the amount of reported DNA from that region by each vendor. As I added vendor results, I sometimes had to add categories since their categories aren’t exactly the same as mine. You’ll observe this in the following sections.

You might notice the “inferred” category. I wrote about this in the Calculating Ethnicity Percentages article, but the inferred locations stem from situations like an unknown wife of a man who is living in England or Germany. We can probably infer that they are from that same country.

In the US, an earlier era spouse’s ethnicity might be inferred from marrying a Scot’s-Irish person, living in a Scots-Irish community or being a member of a Scots-Irish church, for example. Chances are very high that a Scots-Irish man’s wife is also from the “British Isles” someplace.

When creating my spreadsheet, I was intentionally conservative in my genealogical estimates.

Ancestry Update in General

Are there any trends or themes in this most recent Ancestry update? As a matter of fact, yes.

Everybody’s Scottish it seems. I hope you didn’t trade your kilt in for that liederhosen a few years ago, because it looks like you just might need that kilt again.

In fact, Ancestry wrote a blog article about why so many people now have Scotland as an ethnicity location, or have a higher percentage if they already showed Scotland before. I had to laugh, because let me summarize the net-net of the Ancestry article for you, the British Isles is “all mixed up,” meaning highly admixed of course. That’s pretty much the definition of my genealogy!

Another theme is that many testers have Scandinavian origins again.

Back in 2012, Ancestry had a “Scandinavian problem,” and pretty much everyone was Scandinavian in that release, even if they had nary a drop of Scandinavian ancestry. And no, not every person has an unknown paternity event and if they did, the Scandinavians cannot possibly be responsible for all of them. The Viking prowess was remarkable, but not THAT remarkable.

Eight years later, Scandinavian is back.

So, how did Ancestry do on my percentages?

Well, I’m Not Scottish…

In the greatest of ironies, I now show no Scottish at all. My calculations show 5.46%, and it’s probably higher because I descend from Scots-Irish that I can’t place in a location.

I guess I need to turn in my Campbell tartan along with a few others.

I do, however, have Norway back again, but no Scandinavian genealogy.

This chart shows all of the Ancestry updates over time, including this latest, plus a range column for this update.

In addition to the 2020 percentage numbers, I’ve included the ranges shown by Ancestry in the far right column for the 2020 update.

Ranges

When viewing your own results, be sure to click on the right arrow for a population to view the range.

You’ll be able to view the range and additional information.

In this case, Ancestry is confident that I have at least 35% DNA from England & Northwest Europe, and perhaps as much as 41%.

You’ll note that my range for the questionable Scandinavia is 0-5. The only two ethnicities that have ranges that do not include zero are England & Northwestern Europe and Germanic Europe.

My Opinion

I know that I have Native American heritage and that it’s reflected in my ethnicity – or should be.

23andMe results, below, shows me the chromosome locations of Native American segments, and when I track those segments back in time, they track to the ancestors in the Acadian population known to have married Native American partners as reflected in church records. Those ancestors were proven as Native through Y and mitochondrial DNA of their descendants which you can view in the Acadian AmerIndian DNA Project, here.

I wrote about using ethnicity segments identified at 23andMe with DNAPainter to triangulate ancestors in the article, Native American and Minority Ancestors Identified Using DNAPainter Plus Ethnicity Segments.

For me personally, including my Native heritage in my ethnicity results is important. I can’t “do” anything much with that at Ancestry, other than view my match’s shared ethnicity. Since my Native heritage doesn’t show at Ancestry, I can’t use it at all genetically.

Why is this important? Looking at a match on my Acadian line and seeing that we share at least some Native heritage MIGHT, just MIGHT be a hint about a common ancestor. Of course, that’s just a clue, because we might both be native from different sources. If my Native ethnicity is missing at Ancestry, I can’t do that. It’s worth noting that in 2017, Ancestry did report my Native heritage and other vendors do as well.

23andMe provides detailed, downloadable, segment information that translates into useful genealogical information. FamilyTreeDNA has announced that they will be providing ethnicity segment information as well after their new myOrigins release.

The Big 4

How do the Big 4 vendors stack up relative to my genealogy and ethnicity?

And for Native American heritage?

I took the liberty of highlighting which vendor is the closest to my estimated genealogy percentages, but want to remind you that these percentages will only be exactly accurate if the DNA is passed exactly in half in each generation, which doesn’t happen. Therefore, my genealogy is an educated estimate as well. Still, the results shouldn’t be WAY off.

An appropriate sanity check would be that my genealogy analysis and the DNA ethnicity results are relatively close. Many people think they are a lot more of something because those are the family stories they heard – but when they do the analysis, they realize that they might expect a different mixture. For example, my aunt told me that my paternal grandmother’s Appalachian family line was German and Jewish – and they are neither. However, German and Jewish lived in my head for a long time and that was what I initially expected to find.

What’s Next?

Both MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA are slated to release new versions of their population genetics tools – so you’ll be seeing new estimates from both vendors “soon.” Both announced at RootsTech they would deliver new results later in the year, and while I don’t have a release date for either vendor – keep in mind that both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage have brought new labs online from scratch in record time in a humanitarian effort to fight Covid. This critically important work has assuredly interrupted their development schedules. You can read about that here and here.

Kudos to both vendors. Ethnicity can wait.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

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

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

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

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

First, we need to understand the difference between:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The results in a raw data file look like this:

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

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

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

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

Match File

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

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

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

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

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

Deleting Results and Closing Accounts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every Vendor is Different

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Research Permission

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

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

Extra Steps

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

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

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Ancestry’s New StoryScout: Be Cautious

This week, Ancestry did three things to users’ accounts:

  • Deleted 6-7.9 (inclusive) cM matches
  • Deleted message folders
  • Added a new feature, StoryScout

What is StoryScout?

StoryScout sniffs out various records and weaves them into a story, supposedly about YOUR ancestor. Some of these records are accurate and some aren’t. As genealogists we are used to hints, but not to unverified information portrayed as a “story” about our ancestor.

Seasoned genealogists understand the need to always be skeptical and require proof that any record actually refers to a specific person. Newer genealogists, perhaps not so much. I’ve already noticed several people thrilled that StoryScout is breaking down brick walls. While that certainly might be the case, StoryScout also might be storying about this – pardon the pun.

If you’re new and learning how to research, you can read about Genealogical Proof Standard, here.

Even more concerning is that there is a social media “share” button at the end of each story, encouraging the sharing of unvetted and unverified information in the form of heartwarming stories. I mean, who doesn’t want to learn that their ancestor fought in the Revolutionary War? Right?

Caution, Please

A HUGE DOSE OF CAUTION is advised, along with additional research and confirmation before accepting any StoryScout stories as factually about your own ancestor.

Ancestry indicates that they begin with the ancestors in your tree. I’ve been building my tree for 40 years now, and ironically, some of the stories that Ancestry has stitched together actually contradict the legitimate information and records in my tree. For example, the identical person can’t be in two places at the same time.

Conversely, the same name, especially a common name, does not mean they are the same ancestor.

storyscout tree.png

For purposes of reference, here are the first 4 generations of my tree, although StoryScout reaches back further in some cases.

Let’s take a look at how StoryScout works.

StoryScout Unrolled

storyscout menu

You’ll find StoryScout under the DNA menu, although it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with DNA. I wonder if StoryScout is on the DNA tab because this is a method that Ancestry is using to encourage DNA-testers to build trees. If so, I hope testers take the hint, but verify these stories first.

storyscout option.png

Since my ancestors are already in my tree and I didn’t need to add grandparents, I clicked on “take me to my stories.” Apparently, if you don’t have a tree, you can utilize these stories to build a tree. (I can’t tell you how much this terrifies me, especially for novices.)

storyscout new

click to enlarge

Ancestry displays the 4 individuals I’ve listed as my grandparents in my tree, and the stories they’ve assembled about their lineage, shown at the top.

I clicked on the first story about my grandfather, John Whitney Ferverda.

storyscout cover.png

Word of caution – many of the images are NOT your ancestors, but representative images.

storyscout hiram.png

For example, I saw this image and was immediately excited, because I initially thought that someone had found a previously unknown photo of my great-grandfather. Ancestry does say this, clearly, but it’s very easy to miss.

Each story has at least three pages, the cover page, above, the referenced record or information, and an invitation to share the story. Some stories include additional historical information about the record selection.

storyscout wwi

The second image for John Whitney Ferverda shows his draft registration. The background image is indeed HIS draft registration card, not a generic record, and clicking on the green search link shows his card in the collection.

storyscout history.png

Ancestry then provides additional historical information.

While the green search box on his draft registration image displays his record, the green search box below simply shows the historical photo, not related to my ancestor, and associated information about the photo. My ancestor is not in this photo which is absolutely fine, so long as people understand what they are seeing.

storyscout draft

The most disappointing aspect of this story is that this draft registration from 1918, along with a corresponding WWII draft registration, was already attached to my tree.

storyscout both.png

This “story,” while accurate, did not provide me with anything I didn’t already know.

Sharing – Beware

The last page on every one of these stories is this invitation to share with family members by copying and pasting a link.

storyscout share

This concerns me greatly, not because I’m opposed in any way to sharing accurate stories, but because many, many inaccurate stories will now be widely shared. It’s a method of advertising for Ancestry as well.

storyscout fb.png

If you copy and paste the link, this is what appears as a Facebook posting.

storyscout fb2

The problem, of course, is that this verbiage doesn’t say a *potential* story about your ancestor, and in this case, the verbiage would lead someone looking at the Facebook posting to immediately presume this photo IS the ancestor.

storyscout fb warning.png

If you click on the social media link, the person viewing the record will see this warning – but they could interpret this to mean literally that this may not be their relative. In other words, maybe they are a friend and not a relative of yours, or maybe they are related on your maternal side and this is a paternal side photo. What it doesn’t say is that this information may be incorrectly identified to the ancestor in question.

So, if my first cousin who does descend from this great-grandparent looks at the information, and the information is incorrectly attributed to our common ancestor – they are now believing the story to be true because, I, the family genealogist shared it.

Not to mention that a family member immediately thought this was a photo of our ancestor and was asking if I knew which of two farms this was taken on, and when.

Ironically, there’s a photo of my great-grandfather on my own tree that could have been used instead.

Grouping of Stories

After you’ve looked at each new story, they are grouped together by ancestral line. This group includes my grandfather, his parents and wife.

storyscout grouping

Generic Stories

Some stories are rather generic, and you’ll have one for every ancestor in a particular census.

storyscout 1900.png

For example, several of my ancestors listed in the 1900 census have a “Working in America” story. This is fine so long as Ancestry selects the correct ancestor in the census. That doesn’t always happen, and numerous people have reported multiple stories that scatter the same ancestor across the country when in fact incorrect records were selected.

storyscout 19th

Every one of my female ancestors living in 1920 received a story about being alive when the 19th Amendment was ratified. That’s actually quite interesting and while it’s not about my ancestor exercising her right to vote, it does provide historical context of the time and place in which she lived. As it turns out, I had written about Edith Barbara Lore on that exact subject.

The Goal

First and foremost, I’m looking for new, previously unknown, accurate information about my ancestors.

Secondarily, I want to make sure stories about my ancestor ARE actually about MY ancestor. Sharing accurate information is a wonderful way to interest other people in their ancestors, too, but some assurance needs to exist that information is accurate before being presented as a story. There also needs to be some methodology of flagging the information as incorrectly associated with this specific ancestor so Ancestry does not continue to propagate inaccurate information in the format of stories.

Having said that, leaf hints are wonderful, because they don’t infer any certainty.  Ancestry already provides genealogical record hints in the form of leaf hints on trees.

storyscout leaves.png

These record hints are attached to people on my tree, NOT woven into stories, and give me the opportunity to review the hint. I can attach the document to my tree if it’s accurate, and to dismiss or ignore the hint otherwise. This is a responsible research methodology.

These leafy tree hints do NOT encourage me to share them. It would be nice if stories were only harvested from confirmed leaf hints.

StoryScout does NOT allow people to dismiss the story as inaccurate, nor do the stories seem to coordinate with the records already saved to my tree for that ancestor. I don’t know this for a fact, but if I received this story about this ancestor, other people with the same ancestor would probably receive the identical story – and you know that someone is going to share without verifying first.

How accurate are these stories?

I created a chart as I reviewed each story.

Right, Wrong, and FrankenAncestors

I created the following summary of my 14 StoryScout stories:

Ancestor Relationship Story Accurate Yes/No Comments
John Whitney Ferverda Grandfather WWII Draft Yes Document previously attached in my tree
Edith Barbara Lore Grandmother Winning Right to Vote Yes, alive in 1920 Generic information
Barbara Drechsel gg-grandmother Winning Right to Vote Yes, alive in 1920 Generic information
Evaline Louise Miller Great-grandmother Winning Right to Vote Yes, alive in 1920 Generic information
Michael McDowell Gggg-grandfather Revolution Militiaman No, wrong person, wrong place Same name confusion, his correct Rev War information is already attached to my tree
Andrew McKee Gggg-grandfather Clues from Lost Censuses General, not about him Not for him, simply says people can obtain information from old census information
James Mann (they show Robert James Mann) Gggg-grandfather Clues from Lost Censuses No, wrong person, wrong place Showed him in SC in 1780 (there was no 1780 census) but he was in Virginia.
John R. Estes Ggg-grandfather Clues from Lost Censuses No, wrong person, wrong place States that John R. Estes was in the 1820 census in TN, but they selected the wrong John Estes. He was in VA.
Nancy Ann Moore Ggg-grandmother Clues from Lost Censuses No, wrong person, wrong place States that she was in the 1820 census in TN, but she was in Virginia at the time. Only head of household listed in 1820 census, and she was not.
Joseph B. Bolton Great-grandfather Working in America in 1900 Yes Census, previously attached to my tree
Lazarus Estes Great-grandfather Working in America in 1900 Yes Census previously attached to my tree
Jacob Kirsch Gg-grandfather Working in America in 1900 Partly Right person and place, but location recorded incorrectly and occupation was not “salovriest”
Lazarus Estes Ggg-grandfather Working as a postmaster Yes Document previously attached to my tree
William Moore Gggg-grandfather Fighting in the Continental Army Probably wrong, cannot verify Says he was a Lt., but no link or information to confirm. There are many William Moores who fought from VA, but none from Halifax County where he lived. There is no tree leaf record hint.

It’s this last “story” about William Moore that excited me the most. There was no link to a record nor Ancestry leaf hint. I signed on to Fold3.com and, unfortunately, found no Revolutionary War record there for my William Moore who had lived in Halifax County, Virginia. The fact that Ancestry portrayed my William Moore as a Revolutionary War soldier without any type of documentation is both upsetting and provides misinformation that will be propagated for years to come by unsuspecting people to whom this information is provided either by Ancestry, or shared. William Moore had many descendants whom, I presume, are also receiving this “story.”

How Did StoryScout Do?

Of 14 total stories:

  • 4 were accurate, although none provided information I didn’t already have
  • 1 is partly accurate, but information I already had
  • 4 are incorrect
  • 4 are generic, but interesting
  • 1, William Moore, is probably wrong, but since I don’t know what record Ancestry was referencing, I can’t verify or find a similar record

Here’s the bottom line – enjoy, and I hope you receive some useful hints that you can work with.

However, unless you confirm that this information is about YOUR ANCESTOR and is accurate, please, do NOT share. I know from unfortunate personal experience that information released into the wild can never actually be recalled and resurfaces again and again – the genealogical equivalent of whack-a-mole.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

23andMe Genetic Tree Provides Critical Clue to Solve 137-Year-Old Disappearance Mystery

DNA can convey messages from the great beyond – from times past and people that died long before we were born.

I had the most surprising experience this week. It began with receiving an email with the sender name of my long-time research buddy, cousin Garmon Estes.

It’s all the more surprising because not only did Garmon never own a computer, despite my ceaseless encouragement, he passed over in 2013 at the age of 85. So, imagine my shock to open my email to see a message from Garmon. Queue up spooky music😊

As it turned out, Garmon’s nephew is also Garmon. I had communicated with the family off and on over the years since the death of Garmon the elder. Garmon, the younger, had written to tell me that the second “great brick wall” that haunted his Uncle Garmon had fallen – and how that happened, thanks to DNA.

Garmon, the Elder

Estes Garmon

Garmon Estes, the elder

I first met Garmon the elder, via letter, back in the 1970s or maybe early 80s. He was an experienced genealogist and I was beginning.

At that time, Garmon had been chasing the identity of the father of our common ancestor, John R. Estes, for decades, and I was just embarking on what would become a lifelong adventure, or perhaps it could better be called an obsession.

John R. Estes had moved from some unknown location to Claiborne County, Tennessee with his wife and family about 1820. That’s pretty much all we knew at that time. Garmon had spent decades before the age of online records researching every John Estes he could find. I can’t even begin to tell you how many John Esteses existed that needed to be eliminated as candidates.

Garmon lived in California, far from Tennessee. I lived in Indiana, then Michigan – significantly closer. He began caring for his ill spouse, and I began traveling to dusty courthouses, sometimes reading musty books page by yellowed page, extracting everything Estes. Garmon worked from his local Family History Center when he could and wrote letters.

Between our joint sleuthing and many theories that we both composed and subsequently shot down, we narrowed John R. Estes’s location of origin to Halifax County, Virginia. However, there were multiple John Esteses living there at the same time, about the same age, none using middle initials reliably, and some not at all. How inconsiderate!

I began perusing every possible record. I had eliminated some Johns as candidates, most often because they clearly remained in the community after our John had moved to Claiborne County. Late one night, in our local family history center, I found that fateful clue – John R. Estes noted as (S.G.) short for “son of George,” on just one tax list. All it takes is that one gold-nugget record.

It was after 10 PM when I left the Family History Center and even later when I got home. I debated whether I should call Garmon or not, but I decided that indeed, he would want to know immediately, even if I did call at an inconvenient time or wake him up.

The discovery of John’s father, of course, opened the door for much more research, and it solved one of Garmon’s two brick walls that had haunted his genealogy life.

He never solved the second one, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

What Happened to Willis Alexander Garmon Estes?

Willis Alexander Garmon Estes was born on December 21, 1854, in Lenoir, Roane County, TN. His nickname was Willie.

Willie married Martha Lee Mathis in 1874 and they had 4 children beginning with the first child born the next year in Roane County. Sometime between 1875 and the birth of the second child in 1877, they migrated to Greenwood, Wise County, Texas where their next two children were born in 1877 and 1881.

Martha was pregnant for their fourth child in 1883 when something very strange happened. Willie disappeared, and I do mean literally and completely. Just poof, gone.

Not sure what to do, Martha’s father, who lived in Missouri, went to Texas to retrieve his pregnant daughter and her children and took her and the children home to Missouri where their last child was born that September.

Willie was only 28 when he vanished. The family, of course, had many stories about what happened. Texas at that time was pretty much the “wild west” and the stories about Willie reflected exactly that.

Texas was sometimes the refuge of outlaws and shady characters. One story revealed that Willie had shot a man back in Tennessee and the family fled to Louisiana, then Texas. Of course, that doesn’t tell us why he disappeared in Texas, but it opens the door to speculation and casts doubt on his character, perhaps.

Another story was that he was shot by Indians.

A third story stated that Willie settled in Indian Territory north of the Red River, now Oklahoma, and that he had an altercation with an Indian over the supposed theft of firewood, although who was accusing who was unclear. Willie shot the Indian, then had to flee for his life, leaving his pregnant wife and children as a posse of Indian Police surrounded his house. Willie supposedly promised Martha that he would return, but never did. It was reported that he was shot in Mexico, but no further details emerged.

Aren’t these just maddeningly vague???

Yet another story was that Willie headed for the goldfields of California, struck it rich, and was murdered on the way back home. The details varied, but one version had him murdered by a traveling companion on the trail. Another had him becoming ill and dying in a hospital in St. Louis where his wife went to search for him, to no avail. That might explain why she went back to Missouri, Garmon postulated. And yet a third version was some hybrid of the two where “someone” tried to find Willie’s family for years to reveal what had happened, and where, but was never successful. Of course, how did the family know about this if the mystery person was unable to find the family? But I digress.

Garmon desperately wanted to solve that mystery. He wanted closure.

I didn’t realize that the genealogy bug had bitten Garmon’s nephew too, but it clearly has. Garmon would be so proud.

With Garmon the younger’s permission, I’m publishing “the rest of the story,” Connecting the Dots, as written by Garmon the younger, with a few technical interjections from me involving DNA from time to time.

Connecting the Dots

In 2015, My dad Richard Estes, my brother Corey Estes, and I took a trip to Texas and Oklahoma to see if we could find out more about Willis Alexander Garmon Estes’ disappearance.

Estes greenwood

We visited Greenwood, Texas and nearby Decatur where we looked at historical records at the Wise County Clerk Office. We also went up to Oklahoma City to see the state archives and to Tishomingo to look at any records that might be available.

Estes Oklahoma history.png

Interestingly enough, we did not find any clues as to the disappearance of Willis Alexander Garmon Estes. There were no newspaper articles or criminal records concerning any incidents with Willis Alexander Garmon Estes. The only new information that we found was a couple of land deeds showing that Willis Alexander Garmon Estes’ brother Fielding had bought and sold land in Wise County during the time that Willis Alexander Garmon Estes was living in Greenwood.

We left empty-handed on our trip but our curiosity remained strong and we began talking to each other about going on another trip to Tennessee to speak with Estes family members in Loudon County to see if they might know something about Willis Alexander Garmon’s disappearance.

DNA Testing

In December of 2018, my wife, children, and I had our DNA tested using the service 23andMe. We received test results within a month of sending in saliva samples. The results did not reveal anything unusual.

Fast forward to October 2019. 23andMe introduced a new Family Tree feature that automatically creates a family tree based on the DNA results that you share with relatives in 23andMe. This was a fascinating feature and I noticed that all of my family members were automatically placed into the correct position on the family tree without me having to do anything.

[Roberta’s note – this is not always the case, so don’t necessarily expect the same level of accuracy. The tree is a wonderful innovative feature, just treat family placement as hints and not facts.]

Every few weeks as more and more people had their DNA tested on 23andMe, new relatives were added to the family tree.

In February 2020, I noticed something interesting under the location of Willis Alexander Garmon Estes on the family tree. A woman by the name of Edna appeared as a descendent of Willis Alexander Garmon Estes. The first thing I did was to try and get in contact with her on 23andMe. No luck. Next, I thought maybe she was the descendent of one of Willis Alexander Garmon’s sons (James, John, or George). However, after researching the descendants of each of those lines, Edna’s name did not appear.

The next step I took was to look up as many Ednas by that last name on ancestry.com as I could find and trace their ancestry back to see where it led.

There were two Ednas by that last name in the United States whose age matched the one on 23andMe. I traced both of their ancestry lines back to the 1800’s. Neither one had Willis Alexander Garmon Estes as an ancestor.

Breakthrough

During the middle of March 2020, when I was quarantined at home from work due to the COVID-19 virus, I took another look at Edna’s family lines. I noticed there was a gentleman by the name of James Henry Houston mentioned as an ancestor.

The interesting thing about James was that he was born on the same day, same year, and in the same county as Willis Alexander Garmon Estes. James Henry Houston was born on December 26, 1854 in Loudon County, Tennessee. This seemed like possibly more than a coincidence, so I dived into the data a little bit more.

I looked at federal census records to find out more about James Henry Houston’s past. Strangely there were no official records of him until May 12, 1889 when he married Allie Ona Taylor in Erath, Texas. Normally, if someone is born in 1854, they would show up in one of the federal census records of 1860, 1870, or 1880. James Henry Houston does not show up in any official federal census records until 1900.

According to ancestry records, James Henry Houston married Allie Ona Taylor in 1889 and resided in the Hood County region of Texas until 1910. During this time, he raised 8 children with his wife Allie.

In 1920, the federal census placed him and Allie in Whitehall, Montana. The last federal census he appears in is 1930. He lived in Pomona, California where he died in 1933 at the age of 78.

At this point, I thought it was highly likely that James Henry Houston and Willis Alexander Garmon Estes were the same person. If my hunch was correct then a photo of James Henry Houston would most likely show a resemblance to his son, my great grandfather John Alexander Estes.

Estes James Henry Houston

The photos above show a remarkable similarity in the eyes, nose, mouth, and facial structure between the two men. To me, the photo and historical evidence is enough to conclude that Willis Alexander Garmon Estes is James Henry Houston.

Garmon’s Concluding Thoughts

As I reflect on the fact that Willis Alexander Garmon Estes renamed himself James Henry Houston and moved from Wise County down to Hood County, Texas – approximately 60 miles distance to marry and raise a new family, many more questions come to mind.

What exactly happened to cause Willis Alexander Garmon Estes to leave his wife and children behind? Was it simply a marital dispute or did it involve a criminal offense and running from the law as was mentioned in the family lore?

Did my great grandfather know that his father lived in Pomona in 1930, which was only 6 miles away from where he was living in Rancho Cucamonga? Were there other family members that knew what happened but promised not to tell anyone else? We may never know.

Finally, I want to add one more piece to the story that I found fascinating. On ancestry.com, many of the family trees for James Henry Houston state that the mother and father of James Henry Houston was Jennie Bray and Henry Houston. No information is given for their birthdates or where they came from. The mother and father of Willis Alexander Garmon Estes was Jennie McVey and William Estes. The names Jennie Bray and Jennie McVey are very similar. In order to hide his true identity, James Henry Houston would have to make up a surname for his father since he called himself Houston, not Estes. Willis Alexander Garmon Estes had a brother named John Houston Estes. This might explain why James Henry Houston chose to use the surname Houston rather than another name.

Congratulations Garmon

I know this made Garmon the elder puff up with pride for Garmon the younger’s sleuthing skills and leap for joy at the solve. Garmon, the elder, had two main genealogy goals throughout his entire life. One was solved while he was living, but it took another generation to solve this one.

Great job, Garmon!

About the 23andMe Genetic Tree

23andMe is the only vendor to construct a “trial balloon” genetic tree based only on how the tester matches people and how they do, or don’t, match each other. This occurs with no input from testers in the form of genealogical trees of identifying how people are related to the tester.

Family Tree DNA has Phased Family Matching, MyHeritage has Theories of Family Relativity, and Ancestry has ThruLines which all do some sort of DNA+tree+relationship connectivity, but since 23andMe does not support user-created or uploaded trees, anything they produce has to be using DNA alone.

On one hand, it’s frustrating for genealogists, but on the other hand, there is sometimes a benefit to a different “all genetic” approach.

Of course, the only information that 23andMe has to utilize unless your parents have tested is how closely you match your matches and how closely your matches match each other. This allows 23andMe to place your matches at least in a “neighborhood” on your tree, at least approximately accurate, unless your parents are related to each other and that shared DNA causes things to get dicey quickly.

I wrote about 23andMe’s new relationship triangulation tree when it was first introduced in September 2019, nearly a year ago, here. The launch was rocky for a number of reasons, and if you’ve done genealogy for a long time, your research goals are likely to be further back in time than this 4 generation relationship tree will reveal.

23andMe tree

Click to enlarge

This is what my relationship tree looked like at the time the function was launched. You’ll note that 23andMe places relationships back in time 4 generations, to your great-great-grandparents, meaning that you might have 3rd or even 4th cousins showing up on your genetic tree.

I initially had a total of 18 people placed on my tree, with 3 being close family, 4 being accurate, 4 unknown, 1 uncertain and 6, or one third, inaccurate.

Keep in mind that 23andMe doesn’t make any provision to accommodate or take into account half-relationships, like half-brother or half-sister, either currently or historically. Therefore, descendant placement predictions can be “off” because half-siblings only carry the DNA from one common parent, instead of two, making those relationships appear more distant than they really are.

In Garmon’s case, his great-great-grandfather is the ancestor who was MIA, so the genetic tree has the potential to work well for this purpose.

Estes 23andme tree today

click to enlarge

Today, my tree looks somewhat different, with only 14 people displayed instead of 18, and 6 waiting in the wings to see if I can help 23andMe figure out how and where to place them.

Since the initial launch, customers have been given the opportunity to add their ancestors’ names to their nodes. This works just fine so long as nobody married more than once and had children from both marriages.

Estes Willie Alexander today

click to enlarge

 

Here’s a closer image of the left-hand side of my tree where I’ve super-imposed the location of Willis Alexander Garmon Estes and Edna, as they are related to Garmon the Younger, at bottom right. Ignore the other names – I only utilized my own tree for an example tree structure.

One more generation and it’s unlikely that 23andMe would have made the connection between Edna and Garmon the younger.

Not only does this illustrate the perfect reason to test the oldest generations in your family, but also never to ignore an unknown match that seems to be within the past 3 or 4 generations. You never know what mysteries you might unravel.

Four generations actually reaches back in time quite substantially. In my case, my great-great-grandparents were born in 1805, 1810, 1812, 1813, 1815, 1816, 1818 (2), 1820, 1822, 1827, 1829, 1830, 1832, 1841 and 1848.

If you have mysteries within your closest 4 generations to unravel, the genetic tree at 23andMe might provide valuable clues, but only if you’re willing to do the requisite work to figure out HOW these people match you.

You can’t transfer your DNA file TO 23andMe, so if you want to have your results in the 23andMe database, you’ll need to test there.

Acknowledgments: Thank you to Garmon Estes, the younger, for generously sharing this story and allowing publication. My heart was warmed to see your generational research trip.

Thank you to Garmon Estes, the elder, for being my research partner for so many years. You can finally RIP now, although somehow I suspect you already have these answers.

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6 & 7 cM Matches: Are 172 ThruLines All Wrong?

Are some 6-8 cM matches valid and valuable? If not, then are my 172 ThruLines that Ancestry created for me that include my 8 great-grandparents surnames at that level all wrong? Or the total of 552 ThruLines at 6 and 7 cMs all wrong?

We all know by now that about half of 6 and 7 cM matches will be identical by chance, meaning not valid, but that leaves about half that ARE valid. We need clues to be able to figure out IF these matches are valid, and the logical place to start is by utilizing three techniques.

  • First, if both of our parents have tested, does the person also match our parent, and if a chromosome browser is available, on the same segment.

If the answer is no, no need to go any further, this match is not valid. If yes, then we know if phases through one generation and we need to keep looking for evidence.

  • Second, the same litmus test, but with our closest known relatives that have tested. Does the match also match aunts, uncles, siblings, first cousins, or other known proven close relatives? Of course, if they match on the same segment, that’s family phasing and the beginning of triangulation and strongly, strongly suggests descent from the same common identified ancestor.

Note that Ancestry does NOT show you Shared Matches below 20 cM, so don’t assume those shared matches to family members don’t exist. Check your family members’ kits directly. Don’t rely only on Ancestry’s shared matches.

  • Third, surnames and trees that suggest common ancestral lines of DNA matches. That’s what Ancestry does for us with ThruLines. Let’s take a look at what I’ve found sorting and grouping my 6-8 cM matches at Ancestry.

There’s way more information than I expected to find.

Focus on Grouping

With Ancestry’s upcoming purge of all DNA customers’ 6 and 7 cM matches, inclusive, I’ve been very focused on grouping and saving those matches for future use. Otherwise, they will be gone forever, along with my genetic connection and any useful genealogical information.

I’ve written about the upcoming Ancestry purge here, here and here – including preservation strategies and how to communicate with Ancestry to share your feelings about this topic if you so choose. Note that this disproportionately affects people seeking unknown ancestors a few generations back in time.

Raise your hand if you have no unknown ancestors before 1870 or so…

Ancestry’s 6-8 cM Matches

I’ve been recording statistics as I’ve been grouping and working with results, and thought I’d share what I’ve found with you.

Ancestry tota.png

I have a total of 92,931 matches at Ancestry. This includes endogamous Acadian, Mennonite and Brethren lines, which produce lots of matches, but also multiple German and Dutch lines of relatively recent immigrants with almost no testers. So it probably evens out.

You’ll note that of my matches, 3,757 are estimated by Ancestry to be 4th cousin or closer, and Ancestry categorizes the rest of them as Distant matches, from 6-20 cM, although some of those wind up being closer than 4th cousins.

I have 27,926 6-cM matches, 16,846 7-cM matches and 11,428 8-cM matches. I was initially saving 8-cM matches because Ancestry was initially rounding 7.6 up to 8 and the only way to save all 7-cM matches was to save all 8-cM matches. Last week, Ancestry added decimal points so you don’t have to save 8-cM matches anymore, just all 6 and 7.

Without additional tools, all of those matches are overwhelming – but that’s exactly WHY we need technologies such as clustering, triangulation, ThruLines which Ancestry provides, a chromosome browser, family phasing, shared matches below 20 cM, and more.

You can certainly look at known genealogy and make inferences about common ancestors when you match someone genetically, and that’s very useful in and of itself.

However, you need more than just the fact that you match someone to confirm that you share a specific common ancestor biologically, not just on paper. Having said that, just having the breadcrumb of a DNA match to lead you to your cousins isn’t a bad thing in and of itself.

Of my total matches:

  • 18% are 7 cM
  • 30% are 6 cM
  • That’s a total of 48% of my matches that would have been lost later in August if I hadn’t grouped them.

Some people feel that matches at this level aren’t useful, but the line in the sand is very thin between a 7.99 cM deleted match and an 8.0 retained match where the former is lumped into the “not useful, so no big deal to lose” bucket and the other is just fine and potentially useful.

I get it, I really do, that everyone gets tired of explaining that NO, you can’t find one match and assume a valid connection, and yes, digging for evidence is work. There is no magic wand. Smaller or larger matches, they all need additional cumulative evidence to indicate that the match is valid, and how.

It’s time-consuming and frustrating educating people HOW to utilize all DNA matching appropriately. Those smaller matches take more effort to work with and require more evidence of legitimacy, but there are absolutely, assuredly many legitimate, useful, matches between 6-8 cM.

Furthermore, many of those matches reach back in time to those elusive ancestors we are seeking and can’t yet identify. We need more and better tools, not less data. Conversely, some 6-8 cM matches are as close as third or fourth cousins. I found 4 in one family and we’re sharing photos of our ancestors who were siblings, born in 1827 and 1829, respectively.

I’m not throwing half of my 6-8 cM coins away because some are gold and some are counterfeit.

If you are, I’ll take all of your coins and I’ll be happy to sort out the gold, thank you😊

Where’s the Gold?

Ancestry filter

You can search and sort in any number of ways at Ancestry. First, I checked to see how many of my 6 and 7 cM matches had common ancestors as identified by Ancestry via Thrulines.

6 cM 7 cM Total
Common Ancestors (ThruLines) 274 278 552

If I had not grouped these, I would have lost all 552 matches that Ancestry connected to common ancestors through ThruLines. Of course, each connection needs to be individually verified using traditional genealogical record searches. Keep in mind that ThruLines can only find matches where people connect in trees.

Without these 6 and 7 cM matches, any connecting genetic path or breadcrumbs to these people is gone.

Great-grandparents’ Surnames

Since I can filter by segment match size and surname, combined, at Ancestry, I decided to take a look at my 6-7 cM matches that would be purged had I not grouped them, and see what I can discover by surname utilizing the surnames of my great-grandparents.

That’s just 3 generations for me, meaning I could expect to carry more of the DNA of these ancestors than of ancestors further back in time.

I started with the “Match name” of Estes, meaning that the person who took the test has that name. Of course, some women could use their married surname, so this doesn’t mean that my match to that person is via that surname. It’s just a starting point, but probably a good hint.

I had 12 Estes surname matches in the 6-7 cM range. Of those:

  • 4 had no tree
  • 1 had a private tree
  • 1 had an unlinked tree
  • None had common identified ancestors meaning ThruLines
  • That leaves me with 7 candidates to work with directly, including the unlinked tree
  • Of those, I knew how 5 of their trees connect to the Estes line

Of course, I have the benefit of having worked with the Estes genealogy for decades along with the benefit of trees and other resources not at Ancestry. Connecting these lines took me about 15 minutes. In essence, I’ve turned them into virtual “ThruLines” by identifying the common ancestor, even if Ancestry didn’t.

I have not yet worked with the rest of my surname matches in the same way, but by preserving them by grouping, I can in the future.

I searched for both the “Match Name” and the “Surname in the Matches’ Trees,” separately. Some who carry the surname aren’t going to have trees and conversely, finding the surname in your matches’ trees is by no means an indication that that particular surname or ancestor is why you’re matching. However, it’s a great hint and a place to begin your research, including shared matches.

Be sure to check alternate spellings of surnames too.

Note that a surname that can also be part of a name returns all possible connections. For example if I’m searching for the Lore surname and the name of my match is Loreal Jones, it will still appear in the Match name list. The same applies to the name of the managing person.  However, scrolling through these is pretty easy.

So, what did I find?

Results!

I created this chart of what I discovered using the surnames of my great-grandparents along with common alternate spellings.

Surname Match Name Surname in Matches’ Trees Comments
Estes, Eastes 13 matches, no ThruLines 208 matches, 20 Thrulines
Bolton 6, no ThruLines 121, 14 Thrulines All 6 surname matches have trees and I can place some immediately.
Vannoy, Van Noy 2, no ThruLines 49, 10 ThruLines I can place 1 of the 2 surname matches and connect them to the Vannoy line. Their tree is unlinked and another is private. Checking the “include similar surnames box” resulted in 2355 results. Won’t do that again.
Ferverda, Fervida, Ferwerda 0 2, no ThruLines Confirmed a common ancestor in the Netherlands with one tester. An 1860s immigrant line.
Miller 175, 1 ThruLine 2248, 95 ThruLines Very common surname and Brethren. Shared matches, if over 20 cM which is Ancestry’s threshold would potentially be very helpful.
Clarkson, Claxton 2, no ThruLines 96, 22 ThruLines I need to break down a brick wall in this line. Also, maybe someone has a photo of my great-grandmother. I was able to provide a photo of someone else’s ancestors discovered as a 6 and 7 cM match to 4 family members.
Lore, Lord 112, no ThruLines 209, 10 ThruLines Acadian, endogamous. Lore is part of many other names.
Kirsch 0 18, 0 ThruLines 1850s German immigrant line. This was VERY helpful. I’ve already found previously unknown cousins and one line that I thought was defunct, isn’t.
Total 310, 1 ThruLine 2951, 171 ThruLines Total 3261 matches and 172 ThruLines

I’m not willing to throw these away.

Continue to Provide Feedback to Ancestry

I find the assertion that these smaller matches are neither accurate nor valuable simply mind-boggling. Clearly, as you can see above, these matches provide invaluable clues for us, as genealogists, to follow. Over time, I’ve proven many matches in this range (who have tested at or transferred to other vendors with a chromosome browser) to triangulate with several generations of family members using DNAPainter, so at least some matches are quite valid. And yes, we do have tools to accumulate evidence – the same exact tools we use for larger matches.

Imagine how much else is actually buried in those matches that could be distilled into useful information with technology tools.

I fully understand it’s in Ancestry’s best interest to delete these matches to free up processing resources, but I’m far from convinced that it’s in our best interest as avid genealogists.

I also realize that many if not most genealogists who aren’t as focused as many of you reading this article won’t notice or care, but that’s not the case for truly committed genealogists with years invested in this work. There’s valuable information there for those of us willing to commit our resources and invest our time to work on the matches.

The Proof is in the Pudding

The proof is in the results – those 3,261 surname matches that serve as immediate hints and 172 ThruLines that Ancestry themselves has assembled for us.

The more I work with these matches, the LESS convinced I am that they should be deleted. There is certainly chaff to be sifted and discarded, but Ancestry could take a more precise, surgical approach instead of a wholesale decapitation that will remove 48% of my matches and more for other people. I would certainly be more than happy to be part of a proactive discussion focusing on how to delete less useful matches or those we’ve determined to be invalid, but preserve the rest.

Of course, the easiest option would simply be for Ancestry to allow us to elect to retain current and elect to receive future 6-8 cM matches by checking a simple box and continue to provide those for those of us who care and are willing to work with them.

Yes, the remaining matches after the purge will indeed “be more accurate,” as Ancestry says, because fewer will be false, but many of the very matches you need to identify those elusive distant ancestors will almost assuredly be gone. The baby will have been thrown out with the bathwater.

It’s generally not any individual match itself, but groups or clusters of matches that point the way – shared matches and ThruLines. If half or more of the cluster we need is gone, with no way to connect the genetic dots, we may never discover the identity of those ancestors. That’s a shame, because it negates the very benefit of being in the largest autosomal database. In a way, both Ancestry and we as their clients are victims of their own success.

Perhaps Ancestry will yet reverse their decision and if not, perhaps Ancestry’s competitors will see an unfulfilled opportunity here. I’d be glad to be a part of those discussions as well.

Take a look. What valuable nuggets are hiding in your smaller matches? Be sure to group those matches to prevent their deletion.

Provide Feedback to Ancestry

There’s still time to provide your feedback to Ancestry if you don’t want to lose your 6-8 cM matches later this month. Ancestry needs to serve all of their genealogical customers who have taken DNA tests, not just the most convenient. I encourage Ancestry to develop useful tools as others have done instead of deleting the matches we need in order to unmask those unknown ancestors.

  • Email Ancestry support at ancestrysupport@ancestry.com although there have been reports from some that this email doesn’t work, so you may need to utilize another contact method.
  • You can initiate an online “chat” here.
  • Call ancestry support at 1-899-958-9124 although people have been reporting obtaining offshore call-centers and problems understanding representatives. You also may need to ask for a supervisor.
  • Ancestry corporate headquarters phone number on the website is listed as 801-705-7000.
  • You can’t post directly on Ancestry’s Facebook page, but you can comment on posts and you can message them.
  • Ancestry’s Twitter feed is here.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research