Family Tree DNA myOrigins Ethnicity Update – No April Foolin’

The long-anticipated myOrigins update at Family Tree DNA has happened today. Not only are the ethnicity percentages updated, sometimes significantly, but so are the clusters and the user interface.

Furthermore, because of the new clusters and reference populations, the entire data base has been rerun. In essence, this isn’t just an update, but an entirely new version of myOrigins.

New Population Clusters

The updated version of myOrigins includes 24 reference populations, an increase of 6 from the previous 18 clusters.

The new clusters are:

African

  • East Central Africa
  • West Africa
  • South Central Africa

Central/South Asian

  • South Central Asia
  • Oceania
  • Central Asia

East Asian

  • Northeast Asia
  • Southeast Asia
  • Siberia

Europe

  • West and Central Europe
  • East Europe
  • Iberia
  • Southeast Europe
  • British Isles
  • Finland
  • Scandinavia

Jewish Diaspora

  • Sephardic Diaspora
  • Ashkenazi Diaspora

Middle Eastern

  • East Middle East
  • West Middle East
  • Asia Minor
  • North Africa

New World

  • North and Central America
  • South and Central America

Note that this grouping divides Native American between North and South America and includes the long-awaited Sephardic cluster.

New User Experience

Your experience starts on your home page where you’ll click on myOrigins, like always. That part hasn’t changed.

The next page you’ll see is new.

This myOrigins page shows your major category results, with a down arrow to display your subgroups and trace results.

Now, for the great news! Family Tree DNA is now displaying trace results! Often interpreted to be noise, that’s not always the case. However, Family Tree DNA does provide an annotation for trace amounts of DNA, so everyone is warned about the potential hazard.

It’s now up to you, the genealogist, to make the determination whether your trace amounts are valid or not.

Trace DNA inclusion has been something I’ve wanted for a long time, so THANK YOU Family Tree DNA!

MyOrigins now identifies my North and Central American ancestry, which translates into Native American, proven by haplogroups in those particular family lines.

Clicking on the various subcategories shows the location of the cluster on the map, along with new educational material below the map.

Pressing the down arrow beside any category displays the subcategories.

Clicking on “Show All” displays all of the categories and your ethnicity percentages within those categories.

Clicking on “View myOrigins Map” shows you the entire world map and your cluster locations where your DNA is found in those reference populations.

The color intensity reflects the amount of your DNA found there. In other words, bright blue is my majority ethnicity at 48% in the British Isles.

In the information box in the lower left hand corner, you can now opt to view your shared origins with people you match and share the same major regions, or you can view the regional information.

Accuracy

I’ve already mentioned how pleased I am to find my Native American ancestry accurately reported, but I’m also equally as pleased to see my British Isles and Germanic/Dutch/French much more accurately reflected. My mother’s results are more succinct as well, reflecting her known heritage almost exactly.

The chart below shows my new myOrigins results compared to the older results. I prepared this chart originally as a part of the article, Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages. The new results are much more reflective of what I know about my genealogy.

Take a look at your new results on your home page at Family Tree DNA.

Summary

All ethnicity estimates, from all sources, are just that…estimates.  There will always be a newer version as reference populations continue to improve.  The new myOrigins version offers a significant improvement for me and the kits I administer.

Ethnicity estimates are more of a beginning than an end.  I hope that no one is taking any ethnicity estimate as hard and fast fact.  They aren’t.  Ethnicity estimates are one of the many tools available to genetic genealogists today.  They really aren’t a shortcut to, or in place of, traditional genealogy.  I hope what they are, for many people, is the enticement that encourages them to jump into the genealogy pool and go for a swim.

For people seeking to know “who they are” utilizing ethnicity testing, they need to understand that while ethnicity results are fun, they aren’t an answer.  Ethnicity results are more of a hint or a road sign, pointing the way to potential answers that may be reaped from traditional genealogical research.

If your results aren’t quite what you were expecting, or even if they are and you’d like to understand more about how ethnicity and DNA works, please read my article, Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum.

Jessica Biel – A Follow-up: DNA, Native Heritage and Lies

Jessica Biel’s episode aired on Who Do You Think You Are on Sunday, April 2nd. I wanted to write a follow-up article since I couldn’t reveal Jessica’s Native results before the show aired.

The first family story about Jessica’s Biel line being German proved to be erroneous. In total, Jessica had three family stories she wanted to follow, so the second family legend Jessica set out to research was her Native American heritage.

I was very pleased to see a DNA test involved, but I was dismayed that the impression was left with the viewing audience that the ethnicity results disproved Jessica’s Native heritage. They didn’t.

Jessica’s Ethnicity Reveal

Jessica was excited about her DNA test and opened her results during the episode to view her ethnicity percentages.

Courtesy TLC

The locations shown below and the percentages, above, show no Native ethnicity.

Courtesy TLC

Jessica was understandably disappointed to discover that her DNA did not reflect any Native heritage – conflicting with her family story. I feel for you Jessica.  Been there, done that.

Courtesy TLC

Jessica had the same reaction of many of us. “Lies, lies,” she said, in frustration.

Well Jessica, maybe not.

Let’s talk about Jessica’s DNA results.

Native or Lies?

I’ve written about the challenges with ethnicity testing repeatedly. At the end of this article, I’ll provide a reading resource list.

Right now, I want to talk about the misperception that because Jessica’s DNA ethnicity results showed no Native, that her family story about Native heritage is false. Even worse, Jessica perceived those stories to be lies. Ouch, that’s painful.

In my world view, a lie is an intentional misrepresentation of the truth. Let’s say that Jessica really didn’t have Native heritage. That doesn’t mean someone intentionally lied. People might have been confused. Maybe they made assumptions. Sometimes facts are misremembered or misquoted. I always give my ancestors the benefit of the doubt unless there is direct evidence of an intentional lie. And if then, I would like to try to understand what prompted that behavior. For example, discrimination encouraged many people of mixed ethnicity to “pass” for white as soon as possible.

That’s certainly a forgivable “lie.”

Ok, Back to DNA

Autosomal DNA testing can only reliably pick up to about the 1% level of minority DNA admixture successfully – minority meaning a small amount relative to your overall ancestry.

Everyone inherits DNA from ancestors differently, in different amounts, in each generation. Remember, you receive half of your DNA from each parent, but which half of their DNA you receive is random. That holds true for every generation between the ancestor in question and Jessica today.  Ultimately, more or less than 50% of any ancestor’s DNA can be passed in any generation.

However, if Jessica inherited the average amount of DNA from each generation, being 50% of the DNA from the ancestor that the parent had, the following chart would represent the amount of DNA Jessica carried from each ancestor in each generation.

This chart shows the amount of DNA of each ancestor, by generation, that an individual testing today can expect to inherit, if they inherit exactly 50% of that ancestor’s DNA from the previous generation. That’s not exactly how it works, as we’ll see in a minute, because sometimes you inherit more or less than 50% of a particular ancestor’s DNA.

Utilizing this chart, in the 4th generation, Jessica has 16 ancestors, all great-great-grandparents. On average, she can expect to inherit 6.25% of the DNA of each of those ancestors.

In the rightmost column, I’ve shown Jessica’s relationship to her Jewish great-great-grandparents, shown in the episode, Morris and Ottilia Biel.

Jessica has two great-great-grandparents who are both Jewish, so the amount of Jewish DNA that Jessica would be expected to carry would be 6.25% times two, or 12.50%. But that’s not how much Jewish DNA Jessica received, according to Ancestry’s ethnicity estimates. Jessica received only 8% Jewish ethnicity, 36% less than average for having two Jewish great-great-grandparents.

Courtesy TLC

Now we know that Jessica carries less Jewish DNA that we would expect based on her proven genealogy.  That’s the nature of random recombination and how autosomal DNA works.

Now let’s look at the oral history of Jessica’s Native heritage.

Native Heritage

The intro didn’t tell us much about Jessica’s Native heritage, except that it was on her mother’s mother’s side. We also know that the fully Native ancestor wasn’t her mother or grandmother, because those are the two women who were discussing which potential tribe the ancestor was affiliated with.

We can also safely say that it also wasn’t Jessica’s great-grandmother, because if her great-grandmother had been a member of any tribe, her grandmother would have known that. I’d also wager that it wasn’t Jessica’s great-great-grandmother either, because most people would know if their grandmother was a tribal member, and Jessica’s grandmother didn’t know that. Barring a young death, most people know their grandmother. Utilizing this logic, we can probably safely say that Jessica’s Native ancestor was not found in the preceding 4 generations, as shown on the chart below.

On this expanded chart, I’ve included the estimated birth year of the ancestor in that particular generation, using 25 years as the average generation length.

If we use the logic that the fully Native ancestor was not between Jessica and her great-great-grandmother, that takes us back through an ancestor born in about 1882.

The next 2 generations back in time would have been born in 1857 and 1832, respectively, and both of those generations would have been reflected as Indian on the 1850 and/or 1860 census. Apparently, they weren’t or the genealogists working on the program would have picked up on that easy tip.

If Jessica’s Native ancestor was born in the 7th generation, in about 1807, and lived to the 1850 census, they would have been recorded in that census as Native at about 43 years of age. Now, it’s certainly possible that Jessica had a Native ancestor that might have been born about 1807 and didn’t live until the 1850 census, and whose half-Native children were not enumerated as Indian.

So, let’s go with that scenario for a minute.

If that was the case, the 7th generation born in 1807 contributed approximately 0.78% DNA to Jessica, IF Jessica inherited 50% in each generation. At 0.78%, that’s below the 1% level. Small amounts of trace DNA are reported as <1%, but at some point the amount is too miniscule to pick up or may have washed out entirely.

Let’s add to that scenario. Let’s say that Jessica’s ancestor in the 7th generation was already admixed with some European. Traders were well known to marry into tribes. If Jessica’s “Native” ancestor in the 7th generation was already admixed, that means Jessica today would carry even less than 0.78%.

You can easily see why this heritage, if it exists, might not show up in Jessica’s DNA results.

No Native DNA Does NOT Equal No Native Heritage

However, the fact that Jessica’s DNA ethnicity results don’t indicate Native American DNA doesn’t necessarily mean that Jessica doesn’t have a Native ancestor.

It might mean that Jessica doesn’t have a Native ancestor. But it might also mean that Jessica’s DNA can’t reliably disclose or identify Native ancestry that far back in time – both because of the genetic distance and also because Jessica may not have inherited exactly half of her ancestor’s Native DNA. Jessica’s 8% Jewish DNA is the perfect example of the variance in how DNA is actually passed versus the 50% average per generation that we have to utilize when calculating expected estimates.

Furthermore, keep in mind that all ethnicity tools are imprecise.  It’s a new field and the reference panels, especially for Native heritage, are not as robust as other groups.

Does Jessica Have Native Heritage?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but here’s what I do know.

  • You can’t conclude that because the ethnicity portion of a DNA test doesn’t show Native ancestry that there isn’t any.
  • You can probably say that any fully Native ancestor is not with in the past 6 generations, give or take a generation or so.
  • You can probably say that any Native ancestor is probably prior to 1825 or so.
  • You can look at the census records to confirm or eliminate Native ancestors in many or most lines within the past 6 or 7 generations.
  • You can utilize geographic location to potentially eliminate some ancestors from being Native, especially if you have a potential tribal affiliation. Let’s face it, Cherokees are not found in Maine, for example.
  • You can potentially utilize Y and mitochondrial DNA to reach further back in time, beyond what autosomal DNA can tell you.
  • If autosomal DNA does indicate Native heritage, you can utilize traditional genealogy research in combination with both Y and mitochondrial DNA to prove which line or lines the Native heritage came from.

Mitochondrial and Y DNA Testing

While autosomal DNA is constrained to 5 or 6 generations reasonably, Y and mitochondrial DNA is not.

Of course, Ancestry, who sponsors the Who Do You Think You Are series, doesn’t sell Y or mitochondrial DNA tests, so they certainly aren’t going to introduce that topic.

Y and mitochondrial DNA tests reach back time without the constraint of generations, because neither Y nor mitochondrial DNA are admixed with the other parent.

The Y DNA follows the direct paternal line for males, and mitochondrial DNA follows the direct matrilineal line for both males and females.

In the Concepts – Who To Test article, I discussed all three types of testing and who one can test to discover their heritage, through haplogroups, of each family line.  Every single one of your ancestors carried and had the opportunity to pass on either Y or mitochondrial DNA to their descendants.  Males pass the Y chromosome to male children, only, and females pass mitochondrial DNA to both genders of their children, but only females pass it on.

I don’t want to repeat myself about who carries which kind of DNA, but I do want to say that in Jessica’s case, based on what is known about her family, she could probably narrow the source of the potential Native ancestor significantly.

In the above example, if Jessica is the daughter – let’s say that we think the Native ancestor was the mother of the maternal great-grandmother. She is the furthest right on the chart, above. The pink coloring indicates that the pink maternal great grandmother carries the mitochondrial DNA and passed it on to the maternal grandmother who passed it to the mother who passed it to both Jessica and her siblings.

Therefore, Jessica or her mother, either one, could take a mitochondrial DNA test to see if there is deeper Native ancestry than an autosomal test can reveal.

When Y and mitochondrial DNA is tested, a haplogroup is assigned, and Native American haplogroups fall into subgroups of Y haplogroups C and Q, and subgroups of mitochondrial haplogroups A, B, C, D, X and probably M.

With a bit of genealogy work and then DNA testing the appropriate descendants of Jessica’s ancestors, she might still be able to discern whether or not she has Native heritage. All is not lost and Jessica’s Native ancestry has NOT been disproven – even though that’s certainly the impression left with viewers.

Y and Mitochondrial DNA Tests

If you’d like to order a Y or mitochondrial DNA test, I’d recommend the Full Mitochondrial Sequence test or the 37 marker Y DNA test, to begin with. You will receive a full haplogroup designation from the mitochondrial test, plus matching and other tools, and a haplogroup estimate with the Y DNA test, plus matching and other tools.

You can click here to order the mitochondrial DNA, the Y DNA or the Family Finder test which includes ethnicity estimates from Family Tree DNA. Family Tree DNA is the only DNA testing company that performs the Y and mitochondrial DNA tests.

Further Reading:

If you’d like to read more about ethnicity estimates, I’d specifically recommend “DNA Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum.

If you’d like more information on how to figure out what your ethnicity estimates should be, I’d recommend Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages.

You can also search on the word “ethnicity” in the search box in the upper right hand corner of the main page of this blog.

If you’d like to read more about Native American heritage and DNA testing, I’d  recommend the following articles. You can also search for “Native” in the search box as well.

How Much Indian Do I Have In Me?

Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA

Finding Your American Indian Tribe Using DNA

Native American Mitochondrial Haplogroups

Jessica Biel – Who Do You Think You Are – “Lore, Legend or Lies”

On this Sunday’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? at 10/9c on TLC, actress Jessica Biel makes surprising discoveries that change what she thought she knew about her heritage. She sets out to debunk, or confirm, three tales of family lore.

Jessica starts with her father’s side where she had always heard that her Biel side was German, and that there was a small village in Germany by that name.

The episode begins with a genealogist in Los Angeles who helps Jessica find her Biel family in Chicago in the census records. Jessica and the genealogist locate the census records for her ancestors from 1910, finding the immigrant ancestors. Instead of Germany, Jessica’s ancestors were from the Austro-Hungarian empire, the part that is now Hungary. The political configuration of countries has changed and borders between then and now have moved several times.

However, the contents of the census revealed information lost in the past 100 years to Jessica’s family. Morris Biel, shown below, is Jessica’s great-great-grandfather, and Edward, age 15, is her great-grandfather.

Can you spot the clue?  You can click to enlarge.

And the clue is….Yiddish.

Morris’s daughter-in-law speaks Yiddish, and Yiddish equates to Jewish heritage. Jewish people marry Jewish people.

Sometimes all you need is one clue – and as Jessica said, “This changes everything.”

Chicago

Jessica’s first trip takes her to Chicago, Illinois where she meets with a specialist in Jewish history. He explains about Jewish migration to the US, and translates what this means to Jessica’s family.

The immigration dates from the census are utilized to continue to find additional information for Jessica, but I wanted to use this example to do something else – that the program doesn’t include.

Where Did They Live?

In the census records, you can often find actual street addresses. That was the case in this episode. In the census, the street is written to the left side, and it’s the same street for all of the residents on that page. The house number on the street is 3318.

Jessica’s ancestors lived at 3318 Lexington Street.

You can also find addresses in newspapers. I use www.newspapers.com extensively. In Jessica’s case, an article in 1926 tells about her ancestor’s 50th wedding anniversary and includes their pictures in addition to giving their address in Chicago.

Courtesy TLC

Morris and Ottilia had moved sometime between 1910 and 1926. Can we find those properties today, and do the original homes still exist? Maybe we’ll be lucky.

Using Google Maps, enter the address, in this case, 1315 Granville Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. You may want to follow along using Google Maps, step by step, if you’ve never done this before.

The pin locates the property on the map.

Click on the Earth view, in the bottom left corner of the map, shown above. The property will still be highlighted with a red pin and look much more real.

Before going to the next step, orient yourself. In this case, Granville is heavily treed. There are two buildings that on the map are located side by side to the right of the red balloon and labeled as the church. 1315 is right next door. Now, click on the street directly in front of 1315 Granville.

A small grey pin will appear.

Click in the middle of the small picture in the center bottom of photo, shown above, beside the words “1310-1314 Granville.”

The map will then orient itself towards that location from the street at the grey pin location, although Google Maps doesn’t always drop you directly in front of the house you expect.  That’s why it’s important to orient yourself as to how many houses from the corner, etc.

In this case, I can see the church building and both houses, but I need to move slightly left.

By navigating with arrows up and down the street, and clicking on the street itself in the direction you want to move, you can put yourself in front of the house directly.

By moving up and down the street and scrolling in and out, you can get a better view yet.

So, Jessica could have seen where her ancestors lived in 1926 when they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Depending on the location, sometimes you can obtain views from sidestreets and even paved alleys.

Here’s the back from the alley.

You can look around at the neighborhood and get an idea of how they lived. It’s a beautiful little neighborhood, with gardens in the front between the street and the sidewalks.

In the 1910 census, the family lived at 3318 Lexington Street, which is the white house with the green steps, in the picture below. It’s easy to see those green steps from the satellite view, so this home is unmistakable.

This neighborhood looks less prosperous than the homes on Granville, so Jessica’s great-great-grandparents truly were “moving on up,” as George Jefferson used to say.

You can also enter both locations into Google Maps to give some idea of proximity. In their case, they moved quite a distance.

I hope the genealogists in the episode helped Jessica find her ancestral homes. Her family lived in Chicago for more than 3 decades, so these locations are quite relevant to their story. This was “home” to them.

The wonderful thing about Google maps is that you can find your ancestor’s locations too, without going to Chicago! Have fun looking for all the places your ancestors lived!

I also Google the address and look for real estate sites.  Even if the property isn’t for sale today, it may have been and there may be an inside tour and more information available.  You never know if you don’t look.

More Surprises

Jessica continues her search for her Native American ancestor and a third ancestor, whose name is unknown, but who is rumored to have been killed somehow crossing a river. Tune in for a history lesson on the Civil War in Missouri and to see just what Jessica discovers on the banks of the Mississippi.

More About Genetic Communities and Display Problem Hints

You don’t know what you’re missing, sometimes, until you see that someone else has one. Isn’t that how the seeds of discontent are often sewed?

It was in my case. Blaine Bettinger also wrote about Genetic Communities, here, and in his article, he had connecting lines and pins. I experienced difficulty during the BETA with the maps (which continues), so I never saw pins and I only saw connecting lines flash one time, then disappear. I did report this to Ancestry, but never heard back before launch.  However, just now, my contact did provide this link for suggestions about how to resolve issues with displaying their maps as related to browsers.

I asked the genetic community about lines and pins, and thankfully, someone else had figured this out. Hat tip to Sue and Traci! I was trying my iPAD and laptop, thinking somehow it was a browser issue. It wasn’t.

It’s a “hidden” feature that’s not at all intuitive, combined with display issues, so let me share what I’ve discovered with you. If you haven’t read my first article about Genetic Communities yet, you might want to read it now so that you’ll be familiar with how to navigate the features to this point.

When you first click on Genetic Communities, you’ll see the screen above. Click on the Genetic Community you want to view, at left. If your maps don’t load, try it again, or try clicking on the community or go back to the DNA home page and try again. Mine load sporadically, about every third time, using Internet Explorer, Chrome and Edge.  I have not tried Firefox.

Clicking on the Settlers of the Alleghenies and Northeast Indiana Community, I see this screen which defines the locations of the Community, along with the boundaries.

In order to make the connecting lines and pins appear, click on the various date ranges in the stories to the left. Yes, this was the hidden piece.  Not very hidden if you know what to do, but not intuitive either.

In this case, I clicked on “Religious Mecca of the New World,” which then listed the ancestors in my tree that fell into this category, below the text.

First, I was very excited, then I realized that we have a bit of an, ahem, problem.

You’ll notice that the community, as defined by Ancestry, does not include New Jersey. In fact, the eastern-most portion only includes southern Pennsylvania and Maryland not further east than the Hagerstown region.

However, if I look at the pin showing my ancestors included in this group, I see Susannah Anderson born in Hunterdon Co., NJ and died in Wilkes County, NC. That’s a bit of a fly in the ointment, because she clearly does not belong in this red group.

However, expanding the screen shows something different.

The people showing aren’t just in the Community, but seems to be all of my ancestors in the tree born in this general area during this timeframe. The red circles show where other people who match me have ancestors born during this timeframe too. Had I not expanded this map, I would have thought that I was only seeing people from the Settlers of Alleghenies Community, not a more general view, based on both the context and the coloration.

I hope that users don’t interpret this to mean that these ancestors showing on their map were all part of the Alleghenies and Northeast Indiana community, because they clearly aren’t. In my opinion, the red circles that aren’t part of this Community should not be colored the same color as the circles that are part of the community – red in this case.

This extends across the pond too, with Johann Michael Miller’s pin, who does belong to the community, settling in Hagerstown, Maryland, being located right beside Jacob Kobel and Isaac DeTurk who do not belong in the Community, settling in Schoharie County, NY and then in Berks County, PA, both of which are outside of the defined Genetic Community – but shown on top of or with red circles.

Hopefully display issues are a short term problem and Ancestry can get them resolved quickly. I really don’t think they are all browser related, but some probably are.

But more important long term, I hope Ancestry will consider making some changes in the coloration and display that will not confuse newbies. The confusing coloration is probably less important to seasoned genealogists, because we can look at the display and quickly surmise that what we are seeing is not quite as it would initially appear – but new people are much more likely just to take information at face value and run with it.

In the mean time, I hope you can find a new hint or clue that will be helpful to your search!

Genetic Communities

Ancestry’s Genetic Communities is being released today after a long BETA that included many people in the genetic genealogy community. You may have been hearing the chatter.

Before I show you my results, let’s talk for a minute about Genetic Communities.

According to Ancestry’s white paper, Genetic Communities are groups of AncestryDNA members who are connected through DNA most likely because they descend from a population of common ancestors, even if they no longer live in the area where those ancestors once lived.

Ancestry created Genetic Communities by analyzing the DNA of their members and looking at their trees and who they matched. They discovered that they could predict “fine scale ancestral origins from the genetic sharing patterns among millions of individuals.

The research and resulting paper led to the 300 different Genetic Communities defined by the research and available for people to cluster into today.

Ancestry created a short YouTube video here that talks about Genetic Communities.

Beneficiaries

For the most part, I think that beneficiaries will tend to be individuals who have done less genealogy rather that more. People who have done more genealogy already know who their genetic communities are. Still, it’s pretty cool to see that these groups of people tend to cluster, and in the future, I’m hopeful for tighter clusters, even quite specific locations, that actually will benefit seasoned genealogists by reaching back further in time.

Now, the good news for you is that I’ve done a lot of genealogy and have proven many lines both with paper and DNA, so my tree for several generations back in time is fairly robust. I created a five generation birth and migration pedigree chart which will give us a good foundation for judging the accuracy and usefulness of my Genetic Communities.

The percentages across the top reflect how much DNA from that generation, on average, one would carry. In other words, I carry approximately 3.125% of each of my 32 3X great-grandparents.

Cut to the Chase

I know you’re dying to see what exactly Genetic Communities does, so let’s take a look.

Your Genetic Communities link is a part of your DNA Results, under Genetic Ancestry.

Click on “View Your Genetic Ancestry.”

Your ethnicity estimate will be shown above, on the upper left, and reflected on the map with the fully colored green European circles, in my case. Ethnicity estimates are now labeled as “thousands of years ago,” while Genetic Communities are labeled “hundreds of years ago.”

The Genetic Communities are reflected by the areas that are comprised of tiny dots with outlined shapes. I have two, both located in the US. You can view all of the Genetic Communities available by clicking on the “View All” button, but let’s face it, most people want to see their own first.

By enlarging the screen, you can see that I have a gold group and a red group. Both of these groups are clustered into two regions that overlap somewhat.

The dots represent matches and clusters of matches.

You don’t need a paid subscription to see your Genetic Communities, but if you don’t have a tree linked to your DNA, Ancestry can’t pull tree matches into your results.  If you haven’t linked a tree to your DNA results, now would be a great time to do that.

Settlers of the Alleghenies and Northeast Indiana

I must say, I was surprised to see a region as finely identified as “Northeast Indiana.”

When you click on the area with the title in the box, above, or on the associated part of the map, you are taken to a screen with two links; Story and Connections.

The story will be showing in the box on the left.

In my case, I knew immediately when I saw the map that this was my mother’s Brethren lineage. The story isn’t that specific, but we’ll see in a minute how I know this is true.

Click on the “Connection” link.

You will see the confidence range that you belong in this community, but more importantly, you will see how many people are in this genetic community and the associated surnames, at bottom right. Miller, Cripe, Ulrich and several others that I recognize as being very specifically Brethren are showing. In the box at bottom left, you can click to view all of the matches that you have that fall into this community – including matches with and without trees.

By clicking on “View All Matches,” I can see my matches from just this community, as opposed to all matches in the data base, including matches with those valuable shakey leaves that mean they are a DNA match and we share a common ancestor on our trees.  Within a Genetic Community, those common ancestors are very important and will define why you are found within that community.

On your match page, you can then click on “Search Matches” and search for everyone in the group with the surname of Miller, for example.

Please note that as of last evening, I was having issues with this search (as well as the maps) using browsers Internet Explorer, Edge and Chrome.  I did not try Firefox, but others reported that both Chrome and Firefox were working for them.

Maps

Looking at the map, you can view the migration points. The Brethren settled as a group in lower Pennsylvania and into the Hagerstown, Maryland region before migrating, more or less as a group, in the late 1790s to the Dayton area of Ohio. Then another 30 years later they moved on into the Goshen/Elkhart region of Indiana, again, as a group. This map reflects that migration history amazingly well, including the larger circles located appropriately.

For some groups, there are also connecting “migration lines” back to the locations in other countries where those immigrants originated.

Early Settlers of the Lower Midwest and Virginia

Looking at the map, it was clear immediately that this was my father’s side of the tree.

The surnames are the first place I looked, and I only recognized one, Dodson, but there are many that I recognize as “married in” to various ancestral lines from this region.

Report Card

So, how did Ancestry do?

The two Genetic Communities they reported for me are accurate. That’s the good news. The bad news is that major communities are absent and the communities that are present don’t tell me anything that I didn’t already know .

However, that wouldn’t necessarily be true for everyone.  This tool would actually be more informative for people with unknown parentage, I would think, than ethnicity results. Furthermore, it appears to be more accurate than ethnicity estimates, although we’ll have to see if others have the same experience.

Half of my genealogy, on my father’s side, is indeed from Appalachia, originating mostly from Virginia. Of my 16 3X great-grandparents, the breakdown of their birth locations is:

  • Virginia – 10
  • Tennessee – 1
  • North Carolina – 4
  • England – 1

Their primary heritage is as follows:

  • Scotland – possibly Scots-Irish – 2
  • English – 5
  • Uncertain – probably British Isles – 5
  • Dutch – 1
  • Irish – 3

Hopefully the American communities will someday morph into European ancestral communities as well.

On my mother’s side, Ancestry didn’t do as well.

My mother’s one Genetic Community is accurate for her Brethren line, but that’s only 1 of my 16 3X great-grandparents.

The 16 3X great-grandparents on my maternal side were born in the following locations:

  • Netherlands – 4
  • Maryland – 1
  • Pennsylvania -1
  • Germany – 6
  • New England – 2
  • New Hampshire – 1
  • Connecticut – 1

Their heritage is:

  • Dutch – 4
  • Brethren German/Swiss – 1
  • German – 7
  • Acadian – 2
  • English – 2

Ironically, the only ancestral line that translated into a Genetic Community was the Brethren line – probably because they have so many offspring who have tested. One of the other German lines may have fallen into this group due to geography, but the balance of the German immigrants were quite separate and lived in another areas.

The reason, I’m sure, that the Dutch and German lines don’t cluster is that there aren’t very many descendants, and there aren’t a lot of Dutch and German people living in the Netherlands and Germany who have tested. Hopefully, someday.

I’m surprised that the Acadian lines didn’t cluster as many Acadian descendants have tested..

The Good News

More than the actual Genetic Communities and maps themselves, the matches within the community will do more to tie people to the family sides and groups for me than anything else. In some cases, for people with shakey leaf matches, I already knew which common ancestor we share, but for people with no tree, it was impossible to tell. Genetic Communities will at least give me an idea.

Caveat – just because someone matches you and is in the same Genetic Community doesn’t mean that’s how you are genetically related to them. For example, someone could be descended from a Brethren line that I’m not, find themselves in the same community, but be related to me on a completely different line that doesn’t have a community showing today.

So don’t be confused and don’t assume. Use all of the tools available, together, including traditional written records, other DNA matching tools and triangulation which can be achieved at either Family Tree DNA or GedMatch utilizing chromosome browsers if your matches will transfer their data to either location.

My Hope

  • I hope that in time this tool can become refined enough that I will be able to tell where in Europe certain family groups originated.
  • I hope that the “Early Settlers of the Lower Midwest and Virginia” can connect with other groups such as someplace in Scotland or Ireland, where I know many of my Scots-Irish originated, but I don’t know where.
  • I hope that someday integration will exist between matches, Genetic Communities and perhaps ethnicity in a way that allows people to break down brick walls in their genealogy.
  • I hope that Ancestry can pick up those areas that are missing from Genetic Communities today, like my mother’s German heritage, Acadian, and other prevalent genealogical heritage.

I’m very pleased that what is showing is accurate, unlike ethnicity results which can mislead people.

The Future

Ancestry plans to do a number of things in the future:

  • Add Genetic Communities when new clusters form
  • Show common Genetic Communities between you and your family members
  • Add records collections focused towards Genetic Communities

Mitochondrial DNA Build 17 Update at Family Tree DNA

I knew the mitochondrial DNA update at Family Tree DNA was coming, I just didn’t know when. The “when” was earlier this week.

Take a look at your mitochondrial DNA haplogroup – it maybe different!

Today, this announcement arrived from Family Tree DNA.

We’re excited to announce the release of mtDNA Build 17, the most up-to-date scientific understanding of the human genome, haplogroups and branches of the mitochondrial DNA haplotree.

As a result of these updates and enhancements—the most advanced available for tracing your direct maternal lineage—some customers may see a change to their existing mtDNA haplogroup. This simply means that in applying the latest research, we are able to further refine your mtDNA haplogroup designation, giving you even more anthropological insight into your maternal genetic ancestry.

With the world’s largest mtDNA database, your mitochondrial DNA is of great value in expanding the overall knowledge of each maternal branch’s history and origins. So take your maternal genetic ancestry a step further—sign in to your account now and discover what’s new in your mtDNA!

This is great news. It means that your haplogroup designation is the most up to date according to Phylotree.

I’d like to take this opportunity to answer a few questions that you might have.

What is Phylotree?

Phylotree is, in essence, the mitochondrial tree of humanity. It tracks the mutations that formed the various mutations from “Mitochondrial Eve,” the original ancestor of all females living today, forward in time…to you.

You can view the Phylotree here.

For example, if your haplogroup is J1c2f, for example, on Phylotree, you would click on haplogroup JT, which includes J. You would then scroll down through all the subgroups to find J1c2f. But that’s after your haplgroup is already determined. Phylotree is the reference source that testing companies use to identify the mutations that define haplogroups in order to assign your haplogroup to you.

It’s All About Mutations

For example, J1c2f has the following mutations at each level, meaning that each mutation(s) further defines a subgroup of haplogroup J.

As you can see, each mutation(s) further refines the haplogroup from J through J1c2f. In other words, if the person didn’t have the mutation G9055A, they would not be J1c2f, but would only be J1c2. If new clusters are discovered in future versions of Phylotree, then someday this person might be J1c2f3z.

Family Tree DNA provides an easy reference mutations chart here.

What is Build 17?

Research in mitochondrial DNA is ongoing. As additional people test, it becomes clear that new subgroups need to be identified, and in some cases, entire groups are moved to different branches of the tree. For example, if you were previously haplogroup A4a, you are now A1, and if you were previously A4a1 you are now A1a.

Build 17 was released in February of 2016. The previous version, Build 16, was released in February 2014 and Build 15 in September of 2012. Prior to that, there were often multiple releases per year, beginning in 2008.

Vendors and Haplogroups

Unfortunately, because some haplogroups are split, meaning they were previously a single haplogroup that now has multiple branches, a haplogroup update is not simply changing the name of the haplogroup. Some people that were previously all one haplogroup are now members of three different descendant haplogroups. I’m using haplogroup Z6 as an example, because it doesn’t exist, and I don’t want to confuse anyone.

Obviously, the vendors can’t just change Z6 to Z6a, because people that were previously Z6 might still be Z6 or might be Z6a, Z6b or Z6c.

Each vendor that provides haplogroups to clients has to rerun their entire data base, so a mitochondrial DNA haplogroup update is not a trivial undertaking and requires a lot of planning.

For those of you who also work with Y DNA, this is exactly why the Y haplotree went from haplogroup names like R1b1c to R-M269, where the terminal SNP, or mutation furthest down the tree (that the participant has tested for) is what defines the haplogroup.

If that same approach were applied to mitochondrial DNA, then J1c2f would be known as J-G9055A or maybe J-9055.

Why Version Matters

When comparing haplogroups between people who tested at various vendors, it’s important to understand that they may not be the same. For example, 23andMe, who reports a haplogroup prediction based not on full sequence testing, but on a group of probes, is still using Phylotree Build 12 from 2011.

Probe based vendors can update their client’s haplogroup to some extent, based on the probes they use which test only specific locations, but they cannot fully refine a haplogroup based on new locations, because their probes never tested those locations. They weren’t known to be haplogroup defining at the time their probes were designed. Even if they redefine their probes, they would have to rerun the actual tests of all of their clients on the new test platform with the new probes.

Full sequence testing at Family Tree DNA eliminates that problem, because they test the entire mitochondria at every location.

Therefore, it’s important to be familiar with your haplogroup, because you might match someone it doesn’t appear that you match. For example, our haplogroup A4a=A1 example. At 23andMe the person would still be A4a but at Family Tree DNA they would be A1.

If you utilize MitoSearch or if you are looking at mtDNA haplogroups recorded in GedMatch, for example, be aware of the source of the information. If you are utilizing other vendors who provide haplogroup estimates, ask which Phylotree build they are using so you know what to expect and how to compare.

Knowing the history of your haplogroup’s naming will allow you to better evaluate haplogroups found outside of Family Tree DNA matchs.

Build History

You can view the Phylotree Update History at this link, but Built 17 information is not yet available. However, since Family Tree DNA went from Built 14 to Build 17, and other vendors are further behind, the information here is still quite relevant.

Growth

If you’re wondering how much the tree grew, Build 14 defined 3550 haplogroups and Built 17 identified 5437. Build 14 utilized and analyzed 8,216 modern mitochondrial sequences, reflected in the 2012 Copernicus paper by Behar et al. Build 17 utilized 24,275 mitochondrial sequences. I certainly hope that the authors will update the Copernicus paper to reflect Build 17. Individuals utilizing the Copernicus paper for haplogroup aging today will have to be cognizant of the difference in haplogroup names.

Matching

If your haplogroup changed, or the haplogroup of any of your matches, your matches may change. Family Tree DNA utilizes something called SmartMatching which means that they will not show you as a match to someone who has taken the full sequence test and is not a member of your exact haplogroup. In other words, they will not show a haplogroup J1c2 as a match to a J1c2f, because their common ancestors are separated by thousands of years.

However, if someone has only tested at the HVR1 or HVR1+HVR2 (current mtDNA Plus test) levels and is predicted to be haplogroup J or J1, and they match you exactly on the locations in the regions where you both tested, then you will be shown as a match. If they upgrade and are discovered to be a different haplogroup, then you will no longer be shown as a match at any level.

Genographic Project

If you tested with the Genographic Project prior to November of 2016, your haplogroup may be different than the Family Tree DNA haplogroup. Family Tree DNA provided the following information:

The differences can be caused by the level of testing done, which phase of the Genographic project that you tested, and when.

  • Geno 1 tested all of HVR1.
  • Geno 2 tested a selection of SNPs across the mitochondrial genome to give a more refined haplogroup using Build 14.
  • Geno 2+ used an updated selection of SNPs across the mitochondrial genome using Build 16.

If you have HVR1 either transferred from the Genographic Project or from the FTDNA product mtDNA, you will have a basic, upper-level haplogroup.

If you tested mtDNA Plus with FTDNA, which is HVR1 + HVR2, you will have a basic, upper-level haplogroup.

If you tested the Full Mitochondrial Sequence with Family Tree DNA, your haplogroup will reflect the full Build 17 haplogroup, which may be different from either the Geno 2 or Geno 2+ haplogroup because of the number and selection of SNPs tested in the Genographic Project, or because of the build difference between Geno 2+ and FTDNA.

Thank You

I want to say a special thank you to Family Tree DNA.

I know that there is a lot of chatter about the cost of mitochondrial DNA testing as compared to autosomal, which is probe testing. It’s difficult for a vendor to maintain a higher quality, more refined product when competing against a lower cost competitor that appears, at first glance, to give the same thing for less money. The key of course is that it’s not really the same thing.

The higher cost is reflective of the fact that the full sequence mitochondrial test uses different technology to test all of the 16,569 mitochondrial DNA locations individually to determine whether the expected reference value is found, a mutation, a deletion or an insertion of other DNA.

Because Family Tree DNA tests every location individually, when new haplogroups are defined, your mitochondrial DNA haplogroup can be updated to reflect any new haplogroup definition, based on any of those 16,569 locations, or combinations of locations. Probe testing in conjunction with autosomal DNA testing can’t do this because the nature of probe testing is to test only specific locations for a value, meaning that probe tests test only known haplogroup defining locations at the time the probe test was designed.

So, thank you, Family Tree DNA, for continuing to test the full mitochondrial sequence, thank you for the updated Build 17 for refined haplogroups, and thank you for answering additional questions about the update.

Testing

If you haven’t yet tested your mitochondrial DNA at the full sequence level, now’s a great time!

If you have tested at the HVR1 or the HVR1+HVR2 levels, you can upgrade to the full sequence test directly from your account. For the next week, upgrades are only $99.

There are two mtDNA tests available today, the mtPlus which only tests through the HVR1+HVR2 level, or about 7% of your mitochondrial DNA locations, or the mtFull Sequence that tests your entire mitochondria, all 16,569 locations.

Click here to order or upgrade.

A Career in Genetic Genealogy

One of the questions I’m asked regularly is how one might prepare for a career in genetic genealogy.  I can’t really answer that question very effectively, because there is no official path or course of study for this career.  My own entry point was through a strong science and computer background, although my degrees are “legacy” by today’s standards, combined with a 35+ year obsession with genealogy and what I thought was an early retirement from my first career.  Little did I know I’d be busier than ever.

In November 2016, I met Jessica Taylor and Paul Woodbury at the International Conference on Genetic Genealogy sponsored by Family Tree DNA and held annually in Houston, Texas.  I had corresponded with Paul several times previously, before he went to work with Legacy Tree Genealogists, owned and founded by Jessica Taylor.

It was wonderful to meet Paul in person, one of the benefits of attending conferences. As you can see, we were having a great time on a lab tour at Gene by Gene.

Paul is the first (and only, so far) person that I’ve met that actually proactively decided to become a genetic genealogist.  Everyone else gravitated to this field from elsewhere or fell into it one way or another.  That really isn’t surprising given that genetic genealogy is only 17 years old, and that there wasn’t enough interest, testing or tests to constitute a career or even a specialty in genetic genealogy for the first several years.

I began writing the Personalized DNA Reports, available through Family Tree DNA and my website, in about 2004.  At that time, autosomal DNA testing for genealogy didn’t yet exist and wouldn’t for several more years.

The advent of autosomal testing with cousin matching and ethnicity estimates has really brought genetics into the forefront of genealogy research.  So the question of how one becomes a genetic genealogist, whether by plan from the beginning or by reinventing or adding to an existing career is a question we’re going to hear more and more.

I’ve asked Paul to write a guest column about the career path to becoming a genetic genealogist.  I would like to thank Paul for this article and Legacy Tree Genealogists for the coupon for readers who might benefit from genealogy research (at the end of the article), and with that, I’ll turn it over to Paul.

Pursuing a Career in Genetic Genealogy by Paul Woodbury

Person I just met: “What do you do for work?”

Me: I’m a genetic genealogist.”

Person I just met: “Wow! I didn’t even know that job existed. How did you get into that?”

I probably have this same conversation or variations on the theme every other day. Since I was sixteen, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in genetic genealogy. My fascination with genealogy began when I was still very young. I can trace my interest to the family history binder I got from my grandparents on my eighth birthday. But, in 2006 during the Winter Olympics, a television special entitled “African American Lives” aired on PBS and it introduced me to my chosen career. In the show, they shared stories regarding the ancestry and origins of African American celebrities. They used traditional genealogical research but brought in DNA as part of their exploration. I decided then and there that I wanted to be a genetic genealogist. Along those lines, I attended Brigham Young University where I majored in genetics and minored in Family History. If I could do it over again, I might have switched my focus.

Throughout my undergraduate education, my professors had no idea what to do with me. Most of my peers were preparing for medical school or for work in research labs. Many of our professors had emphases in plant genetics. Since I had a very different aim, I struggled in my classes which had limited application to the field of genetics. When I approached my professors requesting advice or references, they were at a loss of where to direct me. While my genetics education provides a strong framework for understanding genetic inheritance and biological concepts, most of the skills I use as a genetic genealogist I learned through informal and on-the-job education.

Most of my education relating specifically to genetic genealogy came through attending conferences, networking with leaders in the field, reading blogs, online forums, and books dedicated to the topic and working under the guidance of skilled mentors. Because genetic genealogy is a fairly new field, I have also found that much of my genetic genealogy education comes through hands-on experience dealing with real situations. I learn most as I apply my knowledge towards the resolution of a research goal, and as I search for novel approaches to solve more advanced research problems.

When I first began attending conferences, I would ask those offering classes on genetic genealogy topics what they recommended for those preparing to enter the field. Every one of them told me that I should pursue a masters or Ph.D. in Genetics or Bioinformatics. I ignored their advice. While there is certainly a demand for expertise in those areas, I saw a need (and still see a need) for genealogists who are well-versed in applying genetics to traditional research rather than vice-versa. As discussed previously, most of what I use daily as a genetic genealogist, I learned outside of my genetics classes. To be a good genetic genealogist, you do not necessarily need to be a geneticist. Nevertheless, to be a good genetic genealogist, you do need to be a good genealogist.

Genetic testing is increasingly becoming part of reasonably exhaustive research as mandated by the genealogical proof standard. As DNA takes its place as one record among many, good genetic genealogists will need to be well-versed in at least the basics of traditional research, and traditional researchers will need to be well-versed in at least the basics of DNA evidence. Certainly there are specialists in different localities, languages or types of record, but they exist in relation to larger genealogical practice, evidence analysis and problem solving. Specialty in genetic genealogy is not a stand-alone emphasis. For any individual planning to pursue genetic genealogy research as a career, I recommend specializing in other traditional research fields as well. Personally, I specialize in French, Spanish and Scandinavian research in addition to my emphasis on genetic genealogy.

Even now, genetic genealogy education is mostly offered through conferences and institutes. Some conferences and institutes which I have attended and which regularly offer in-depth courses on genetic genealogy include the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree and DNA Day (SCGS), RootsTech, Institute for Genetic Genealogy (I4GG), and the Family Tree DNA Group Administrators Conference. A host of other conferences, institutes, workshops and seminars also provide instruction on genetic genealogy including national conferences like NGS and FGS and local society conferences. Online offerings are also on the rise and one fairly new resource is a 15-week online course dedicated to Genetic Genealogy at Excelsior College. (https://genealogy.excelsior.edu/genealogy/genetic-genealogy/)

Conferences are not only valuable for the classes and sessions they provide dedicated to genetic genealogy topics, but also for the opportunities they provide to network with other genealogists and genetic genealogy researchers. By attending RootsTech and other conferences while still a college student, I was able to collaborate and network with leaders in the field of genetic genealogy. Through my correspondence and collaboration with these individuals, I have benefited from wonderful relationships and important mentorship opportunities.

Even if you do not have the opportunity to participate in genealogy conferences and network with other professionals, you can still benefit from online communities, forums and blogs which provide in depth education regarding genetic genealogy:

Books I recommend for genetic genealogy education:

  • Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Blaine T. Bettinger and Debbie Parker Wayne
  • NextGen Genealogy: The DNA Connection by David Dowell
  • The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine T. Bettinger

Perhaps the most important challenge for preparing to enter the field of genetic genealogy is gaining experience in the field. As you work with prospective employers and clients it is important to have a portfolio of professional level reports and materials to help increase confidence in your ability. Consider starting work on your own family history. As you compile evidence and proof arguments, be sure to abide by standards of genealogical proof and the genetic genealogy standards. When collaborating with other genetic cousins and relatives, consider pursuing some pro-bono work in helping them with their research problems. When you share your portfolio with clients or prospective employers, don’t be shy. This is your opportunity to show off the full range of your ability, so don’t feel bad about sharing a 30 page report. Since there are currently no organizations offering credentials in genetic genealogy specialty, clients and employers have to depend upon your previous experience in the area. For any research you do, make sure to write it up in a clearly written report.

Even if you are a very good researcher, you cannot be a successful professional genealogist without strong writing and communication skills as well. Even the most brilliant research breakthroughs go unnoticed when they are not effectively communicated. In addition to improving your research skills, work on developing your time management, report writing, and communication skills.

As genealogy becomes a more popular field of inquiry and as more people participate in genetic genealogy testing, demand for DNA interpretation and genetic genealogy research will only increase. Demand for genetic genealogy research services is already high and is rapidly increasing. In my view, demand for genealogy research is driven by disconnect and displacement from cultural roots. Current trends in migration and family structures lend themselves to more frequent disconnect and displacement between families and communities. In many cases, the cultural and familial ties being broken today through refugee crises, adoption, and misattributed parentage have sparse record trails on which we can rely for future genealogy research. As a result, genetic genealogy will play an increasingly important role in genealogy research in the future. It is an exciting time to be involved in the field of genetic genealogy and a great many opportunities are on the horizon. If you plan to join the field, make sure to arm yourself with the education and experience you will need to succeed.

Paul Woodbury is a Senior Genealogist with Legacy Tree Genealogists, a genealogy research firm with extensive expertise in genetic genealogy and DNA analysis. To learn more about Legacy Tree services and its research team, visit the Legacy Tree website at https://www.legacytree.com 

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