23andMe’s New Ancestry Composition (Ethnicity) Chromosome Segments

I was excited to see 23andMe’s latest feature that provides customers with Ancestry Composition (ethnicity) chromosome segment information by location.  This means I can compare my triangulation groups to these segments and potentially identify which ancestor’s DNA that I inherited carry which ethnicity – right?? Another potential way to help discern whether I should ask Santa for lederhosen or a kilt?

Not so fast…

Theoretically yes, but as it turns out, after working with the results, this tool doesn’t fulfill it’s potential and has some very significant issues, or maybe this new tool just unveiled underlying issues.

Rats, I guess Santa is off the hook.

Let’s take a look and step through the process.

Ancestry Composition Chromosome Painting

To see your Ancestry Composition ethnicity chromosome painting, sign into 23andMe, then go to the Reports tab at the top of your page and click on Ancestry. Please note that you can click on any of the graphics in this article to enlarge.

23andme-eth-seg-1

Then click on Ancestry Composition, which shows you the following:

23andme-eth-seg-2

Scrolling downs shows you your chromosomes, painted with your ethnicity. This isn’t new and it’s a great visual.

You may note that 23andMe paints both “sides” of each chromosome separately, the side you received from your mother and the side you received from your father. However, there is no way to determine which is which, and they are not necessarily the same side on each chromosome.

If one or both of your parents tested at 23andMe, you can connect your parents to your results and you can then see which ethnicity you received from which parent.

Let’s work through an example.

23andme-eth-seg-3

This person, we’ll call her Jasmine, received two segments of Native ancestry, one on chromsome 1 and one on chromosome 2, both on the first (top) strands or copies. She also received one segment of African on DNA strand (copy) 1 of chromsome 7.

Caveat

Words of warning.

JUST BECAUSE THESE ETNICITIES APPEAR ON THE SAME STRANDS OF DIFFERENT CHROMOSOMES, STRAND ONE IN THIS CASE, DOES NOT MEAN THEY ARE INHERITED FROM THE SAME PARENT.  

Each chromosome recombines separately and without a parent to compare to, there is no way to know which strand is mother’s or father’s on any chromsome. And figuring out which strand is which for one chromsome does NOT mean it’s the same for other chromsomes.

In fact, Jasmine’s mother has tested, and she has NO African on chromosome 7. However, Jasmine and her mother both have Native American on chromosomes 1 and 2 in the same location, so we know absolutely that Jasmine’s strand 1 on chromosome 7 is not from the same parent as strand 1 on chromosome 1 and 2, because Jasmine’s mother doesn’t have any African DNA in that location.

If you’re a seasoned 23andMe user, and you’re saying to yourself, “That’s not right, the chromosome sides should be aligned if a parent tests.”  You’re right, at least that’s what we’ve all thought.  Keep reading.

Let’s dig a bit further.

Connecting Up

23and Me encourages everyone to connect their parents, if your parents have tested.

Jasmine’s mother has tested and is connected to Jasmine at 23andMe.

23andme-eth-seg-4

Even though the button says “Connect Mother,” which makes it appear that Jasmine’s mother isn’t connected, she is. Clicking on Jasmine’s “Connect Mother” button shows the following:

23andme-eth-seg-5

Furthermore, if the parent isn’t connected, you don’t see any parental side ethnicity breakdown – and we clearly see those results for Jasmine.  Below is an example of the same page of someone whose parents aren’t connected – and you can see the verbiage at the bottom saying that a parent must be connected to see how much ancestry composition was inherited from each parent.

23andme-eth-seg-not-connect

If a child is connected to at least one parent, 23andMe, based on that parent’s test, tells the child which sides they inherited which pieces of their ethnicity from, shown for Jasmine, below.

23andme-eth-seg-6

In this case, the mother is connected to Jasmine and the father’s ethnicity results are imputed by subtracting the results where Jasmine matches her mother. The balance of Jasmine’s DNA ethnicity results that don’t match her mother in that location are clearly from her father.

23andMe may sort the results into the correct buckets, but they do not correctly rearrange the chromosome “copies” or “sides” on the chromosome browser display based on the parents’ DNA, as seen from the African example on chromosome 7. Either that, or the ethnicity phasing is inaccurate, or both.

You can see that 23andMe tells Jasmine that all of her Native is from her mother’s side, which is correct.

23andMe tells Jasmine that part of her North African and Sub-Saharan African are from her mother, but some North African is also from her father. You can see Jasmine’s African on her chromosome 7, below.

23andme-eth-seg-7

There is no African on Jasmine’s mother’s chromosome 7, below.

23andme-eth-seg-8

So if African exists on chromosome 7, it MUST come from Jasmine’s father’s side. Therefore, side one of chromosome 7 cannot be Jasmine’s mother’s side, because that’s where Jasmine’s African resides.

This indictes that either the results are incorrect, or the “sides” showing have not been corrected or realigned by 23andMe after parental ethnicity phasing, or both.

Here’s another example. Jasmine shows Middle East and North Africa on chromosomes 12 and 13 on sides one and two, respectively.

23andme-eth-seg-9

Jasmine’s mother shows Middle East and North Africa on chromosome 14, only, with none showing on chromosome 12 or 13.

23andme-eth-seg-10

Yet, 23andMe shows Jasmine receiving Middle East and North African DNA from her mother.

23andme-eth-seg-11

Jasmine is also shown as receiving Sub-Saharan African and West African from her mother, but Jasmine’s mother has no Sub-Saharan or West African, at all.

Interestingly, when you highlight both West African and Sub-Saharan African, shown below, it highlights the same segment of Jasmine’s DNA, so apparently these are not different categories, but subsets of each other, at least in this case, and reflect the same segment.

23andme-eth-seg-12

23andme-eth-seg-13

Jasmine’s mother shows this region of chromosome 7 to be “European” with no further breakdown.

Clearly Jasmine’s sides 1 and 2 have not been consistently assigned to her mother, because Jasmine’ African shows on both sides 1 and 2 of chromosomes 12 and 13 and Jasmine’s mother has no African on either on those chromosomes – so those segments should be assigned consistently to Jasmine’s father’s side, which, based on Jasmine’s match to her mother on chromosome 1, side 1 – Jasmine’s father’s “copy” should be Jasmine’s side 2.  This tool is not functioning correctly.

Jasmine’s father is deceased, so there is no way to test him.

The information provided by 23and Me contradicts itself.

Either the ethnicity assignment itself or the parental ethnicity phasing is inaccurate, or both. Additionally, we now know that the chromosome “sides,” meaning “copies” are inaccurately displayed, even when one parent’s DNA is available and connected, and the sides could and should be portrayed accurately.

This discrepancy has to be evident to 23andMe, if they are checking for consistency in assigning child to parent segments.  You can’t assign a child’s segment to a parent who doesn’t carry any of that ethnicity in a common location.  That situation should result in a big red neon sign flashing “STOP” in quality assurance.  Inaccurate results should never be delivered to testers, especially when there are easy ways to determine that something isn’t right.

The New Feature – Ethnicity Segments

Like I said, I was initially quite excited about this new feature, at least until I did the analysis. Now, I’m not excited at all, because if the results are flawed, so is the underlying segment data.

My original intention was to download the ethnicity segment information into my master spreadsheet so that I could potentially match the ethnicity segments against ancestors when I’ve identified an ancestral segment as belonging to a particular ancestral line.

This would have been an absolutely wonderful benefit.

Let’s walk though these steps so you can find your results and do your own analysis.

When you are on the Ancestry Composition page, you will be, by default, on the Summary page.

23andme-eth-seg-14

Click on the Scientific Details tab, at the top, and scroll down to the bottom of the page where you will see the following:

23andme-eth-seg-15

You will be able to select a confidence level, ranging from 50% to 90%, where 50% is speculative and 90% is the highest confidence. Hint – at the highest confidence level, many of the areas broken out in the speculative level are rolled up into general regions, like “European.”  Default is 50%.

23andme-eth-seg-16

Click on download raw data and you can then open or save a .csv file. I suggest then saving that file as an Excel file so you can do some comparisons without losing features like color.

In my case, I saved a 50% confidence file and a 90% confidence file to compare to each other.

I began my analysis with both strands of chromosome 1:

Strand 1 was easy.  (Click on graphic to enlarge.)

23andme-eth-seg-17

At the 50% confidence level, on the left, three segments are identified, but when you really look at the start and end positions, rows one and two overlap entirely. Looking back at the chromosome browser painting, this looks to be because that segment will show up in both of those categories, so this isn’t an either-or situation. Row 3 shows Scandinavian beginning at 79,380,466 and continuing through 230,560,900, which is a partial embedded segment of row 2.

At the 90% confidence level, on the right, above, this entire segment, meaning all of chromosome 1 on side 1, is simply called European.

You can see how this might get complex very quickly when trying to utilize this information in a Master DNA Spreadsheet with your matches, especially since individual segments can have 2 or 3 different labels.  However, I’d love to know where my mystery Scandinavian is coming from – assuming it’s real.

Now, let’s look at strand 2 of chromosome one. It’s a little more complex.

23andme-eth-seg-18

I’ve tried to color code identical, or partially-overlapping segments.

The red, green and apricot segments overlap or partially overlap at the 50% level, on the left, indicating that they show up in different categories.

The red segments are partially the same, with some overlapping, but are grouped differently within Europe.

The green Native/East Asian segments at the 90% level are interrupted by the blue unassigned segments in the middle of the green segments, while at the 50% confidence level, they remain contiguous.

All of the start and end segments change, even if the categories stay the same or generally the same. The grey example at the bottom is the easiest to see – the category changes to the more general “European” at the 90% level and the start segment is slightly different.

Jasmine and Her Mother

As one last example, let’s look at the segments at the 50% confidence level, which should be the least restrictive, that we were comparing when discussing Jasmine and her mother.

You can see, below, that Jasmine’s Native portion of chromosome 1 and 2 are either equal to or a subset of her mother’s Native portion, so these match accurately and are shown in green.

This tells us that Jasmine’s mother’s side of chromosomes 1 and 2 is Jasmine’s “copy 1” and given that we can identify Jasmine’s mother’s DNA, all of Jasmine’s “copy 1” should now be displayed as her mother’s DNA, but it isn’t.

23andme-eth-seg-19

On chromosomes 7 and 12, where Jasmine’s copy 1 shows African DNA, her mother has none. All African DNA segments are shown in red, above.

Furthermore, 23andMe attributes at least some portion of Jasmine’s African to Jasmine’s mother, but Jasmine’s mother’s only African DNA appears on chromosome 14, a location where Jasmine has none. There is no common African segment or segments between Jasmine and her mother, in spite of the fact that 23andMe indicates that Jasmine inherited part of her African DNA from her mother.  It’s true that Jasmine and her mother both carry African DNA, but not on any of the same segments, so Jasmine did not inherit her mother’s African DNA.  Jasmine’s African DNA had to have come from her father – and that’s evident if you compare Jasmine and her mother’s segment data.

Where Jasmine has African DNA segments, above, I’ve shown her mother’s corresponding DNA segments on both strands for comparison. I have not colored these segments. Conversely, where Jasmine’s mother has African, on chromosome 14, I have shown Jasmine’s corresponding DNA segments covering that segment.  There are no matches.

Clearly Jasmine did not inherit her African segments from her mother, or the segments have been incorrectly assigned as African or European, or multiple problems exist.

Summary

I initially thought the Ancestry Composition segments were a great addition to the genealogists toolset, but unfortunately, it has proven to be otherwise, highlighting deficiencies in more than one of the following area:

  • Potentially, the ancestry composition ethnicity breakdown itself.  Is the underlying ethnicity assignment incorrect?  In either case, that would not explain the balance of the issues we encountered.
  • The chromosome “sides” or “copy” shown after the parental phasing – in other words, the child’s chromosome copies can be assigned to a particular parent with either or both parents’ DNA. Therefore, after parental phasing, all of the same parent’s DNA should consistently be assigned to either copy 1 or copy 2 for the child on all of their chromosomes.  It isn’t.
  • The child’s ethnicity source (parent) assignment based on the parent’s or parents’ ethnicity assignment(s).  Hence, the African segment assignment issues above.
  • The ethnicity phasing itself.  The assigning of the source of Jasmine’s African DNA to her mother when they share no common African segments.  Clearly this is incorrect, calling into question the validity of the rest of the parental ethnicity phasing.

Unfortunately, we really don’t have adequate tools to determine exactly where the problem or problems lie, but problems clearly do exist. This is very disappointing.

As a result, I won’t be adding this information to my Master DNA spreadsheet, and I’m surely glad I took the time to do the analysis BEFORE I copied the segment data into my spreadsheet.  In my excitement, I almost skipped the analysis step, trusting that 23andMe had this right.

All ethnicity results need to be taken with a large grain of salt, especially at the intra-continent level, because the reference populations and technology just haven’t been perfected.  It’s very difficult to discern between countries and regions of Europe, for example.  I discussed this in the article, “Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum.”

However, it appears that adding parental phasing on top means that instead of a grain of salt, we’re looking at the entire shaker, at least at 23andMe – even at the continent level – in this case, Africa, which should be easily discernable from European. Parental phasing by its very nature should be able to help refine our results, not make them less reliable.

Is this new segment information just showing us the problems with the original ethnicity information?  I hate to even think about this or ask these difficult questions, but we must, because testers often rely on minority (to them) ethnicity admixture information to help confirm the ethnicity of distant ancestors. Are the display tools or 23andMe’s programs not working correctly, or is there a deeper problem, or both?

I think I just received a big lump of coal, or maybe a chunk of salt, in my stocking for Christmas.

Bah, humbug.

New Family Tree DNA Holiday Coupons – And Why the Big Y

holiday-lights

Each week during the holiday season, Family Tree DNA issues new coupons on Monday. These coupons are redeemable on top of the holiday sale prices, already in effect.

As I’ll be doing each week, I’ve listed my coupons available to redeem from kits that I manage.

But first, want to talk briefly about one particular type of DNA that is tested, and why one might want to order that particular test.

I’ve seen questions this past week about the Big Y test, so let’s talk about this test today.

The Big Y Test

The questions I’ve seen recently about the Big Y mostly revolve around why the test isn’t listed among the sale prices shown on the Family Tree DNA main page.

The Big Y test is not an entry level test. The tests shown on the Family Tree DNA main page are entry level and can be ordered by anyone, at least so long as the Y DNA tests are ordered for males. (Females don’t have a Y chromosome, so Y tests won’t work for them.)

The Big Y test is an upgrade for a male who has already taken the regular 37, 67 or 111 STR (short tandem repeat) marker test. For those who are unfamiliar, STR markers are used in a genealogically relevant timeframe to match other men to search for a common recent ancestor and are the type of markers used for 37, 67 and 111 marker tests.

SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) are used to determine haplogroups, which reflect deep ancestry and reach significantly further back in time.

Haplogroups are predicted for each participant based on the STR test results, and Family Tree DNA’s prediction routines are very accurate, but the haplgroup can only be confirmed by SNP testing. These two tests are testing different types of DNA mutations. I wrote about the difference here.

Different SNPs are tested to confirm different haplogroups, so you must have your STR results back with the prediction before you can order SNP tests.

The Big Y is the granddaddy of SNP testing, because it doesn’t directly test each SNP location, and there are thousands, but scans virtually the entire Y chromosome to cover in essence all known SNPs. Better yet, the Big Y looks for previously unknown or unnamed SNPs. In other words, this test is a test of discovery, not just a test of confirmation.

Many SNPS are either unknown or as yet unnamed and unplaced on the haplotree, meaning the Y DNA tree of mankind for the Y chromosome. The only way we discover new SNPs is to run a test of discovery. Hence, the Big Y.

It’s fun to be on the frontier of this wonderfully personal science.

Applying the Big Y to Genealogy

In addition to defining and confirming the haplogroup, the Big Y test can be immensely informative in terms of ancestral roots. For example, we know that our Lentz line, found in Germany in the 1600s, matches the contemporary results of Burzyan Bashkir men, descendants of the Yamnaya. I wrote about this here, near the end of the article.

Even more amazing, we then discovered that our Lentz line actually shares mutations with ancient DNA recovered from Yamnaya culture burials from 3500 years ago from along the Volga River. You can read about that here, near the end of the article. This discovery, of course, could never have been made if the Big Y test had not been taken, and it was made by working with the haplogroup project administrators. I am eternally grateful to Dr. Sergey Malyshev for this discovery and the following tree documenting our genetic lineage.

JakobLenz Malyshev chart

Our family heritage now extends back into Russia, 3500 years ago, instead of stopping in Germany, 400 or 500 years ago. This huge historical leap could NEVER have been made without the Big Y test in conjunction with the projects and administrators at Family Tree DNA.

And I must say, I’m incredibly glad we didn’t wait to order this test, because Mr. Lentz, my cousin who tested, died unexpectedly, just a couple months later. His daughter, when informing me of his death, expressed her gratitude for the test, the articles and shared with me that he had taken both articles to Staples, had them printed and bound as gifts for family members this Christmas.

These gifts will be quite bittersweet for those family members, but his DNA legacy lives on, just as the DNA of our ancestors does inside each and every one of us.  He gave all Lentz descendants an incredible gift.

Purchasing the Big Y

If you or a kit you manage has already tested to 37 markers, you can order the Big Y test as an upgrade.  If they haven’t yet tested to 37 markers, you’ll need to order that test or upgrade first.

Every kit has an upgrade link that you can see in two places on your personal page.

upgrade-link

Click either of these links and you’ll be able to see which tests are available for you to purchase including upgrades.

upgrades-available

The sale prices are reflected on this page. Just click on the Big Y or whatever tests you wish to purchase.

If you have a coupon code, type it into this field where I’ve typed “Coupon Code” and then click on Apply.

upgrade-big-y-checkout

It’s worth noting that there are a couple $100 off coupons for the Big Y and some $75s and $50s too.

Coupons

Now, for this week’s list of coupons. As always, first come, first serve. These coupons expire on 12-4-2016 unless otherwise noted. Dates before 12-4 are a result of bonus coupons issued during the past week as coupons were used.

Please list any coupons you wish to share in the comments to this article.

Please note that these coupons, with the exception of the Big Y test, are for new kit orders only, not upgrades.

Remember to be cognizant of the number 1 versus the capital letter l, and the number zero versus the capital letter O.

Click here to redeem coupon codes below or to see what coupon codes await you on your account!!! Enjoy!

Coupon # Good for What
R186H23O1CJY $10 Off MTDNA
R18UFAYP9YP1 $10 Off MTDNA
R18CM684KFTG $10 Off MTDNA
R18QQOEDDC2W $10 Off MTDNA
R18B6EQTQNZO $10 Off MTDNA
R18N16ONSWUM $10 Off MTDNA
R18T3EGHSFSJ $10 Off MTDNA
R18DK57J883L $10 Off MTDNA
R18ZAODYZ5OS $10 Off MTDNA
R18G3OZQCHBR $10 Off MTDNA
R1859WUSWKWO $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18P6S4FJWOM $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18KOGLXRX7O $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R185G17XWT3R $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18RJ37YR49M $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18KDQDDADVB $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R186LQRI8DS2 $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18QSZB7A86T $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18IU4DK5NGW $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18IK8GMDD8C $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18U9XCYU1HO $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18OM4SXOL16 $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18AWCHIW45H $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R188VCTO38WC $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18AJXZEZEXC $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R155WBEMG99 $100 Off Big Y
R18HMGLKL4KG $100 Off Big Y
R1834VTG4CIF $20 Off MTDNA
R18TRKWO2MY9 $20 Off MTDNA
R18OUBCTA2KI $20 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18ZXDH7TAX7 $20 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18OX18NFXJE $20 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18AB7JDZ73O $20 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18XEKCN8GPH $20 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18UUAEIVMG9 $20 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R1813Q24LQA7 $30 Off Y-DNA 67
R1853SS3IIQP $30 Off Y-DNA 67
R18BQFEFNWSL $40 Off MTFULL
R18M96WZ4X5F $40 Off MTFULL
R18O73U6Y51O $40 Off MTFULL
R18S53W9HXBC $40 Off MTFULL
R157Y5N3USEH $40 Off MTFULL (until 12-3 only)
R189ZHFFPSU3 $40 Off Y-DNA 111
R18XO6Q76XP{N $40 Off Y-DNA 67
R187Y9BO9ODH $40 Off Y-DNA 67
R18OFGORCM7E $40 Off Y-DNA 67
R189HMHY3N9D $40 Off Y-DNA 67
R18DMEO59OVO $40 Off Y-DNA 67
R15QHJMX45W7 $50 off Big Y
R18MKLR7L32P $50 off Big Y
R15GVYGX51MI $50 Off Big Y (Until 12-1 only)
R18H467ILEKD $60 Off Y-DNA 111
R18AOZQU4XZG $60 Off Y-DNA 111
R18QO8WNQNOZ $60 Off Y-DNA 111
R186Z9BJDZEC $60 Off Y-DNA 111
R18HOPBNDKIL $60 Off Y-DNA 111
R188ODYMOO5P $75 Off Big Y
R15VBANUACFW 20% Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R154JXYQPK6F 20% Off Y37, Y67 or Y111

Building Your Personal Mitochondrial Tree

People who test at Family Tree DNA and receive mitochondrial DNA full sequence results often have questions about how they can use their results to further their understanding of their ancestors.

One of the things you can do is to build a mitochondrial DNA haplotree of your own, showing how various people that you match are or are not descended from common ancestors. To do this, you’ll need to contact your matches and share your mutations.

Your results at Family Tree DNA tell you how many mutations you have, shown below, in the genetic distance column.  For more information on genetic distance, how it is calculated and what it means, click here.

GD my results

Your results at MitoSearch, if you upload, or within projects at Family Tree DNA, show you the HVR1+HVR2 region mutations, but the only way to compare the coding region, or full sequence matches is for the people involved to share them directly with each other.

How can mutations help identify your common ancestors with your matches, or if not the ancestor themselves, at least where they were from?

Let’s look at reconstructing a DNA tree based on both your common mutations and mutations you don’t share with your matches.

When building a DNA tree, remember that once a mutation enters the mitochondrial DNA, unless there is a back-mutation, which is exceedingly rare, that mutation will be found in all descendants.

This discussion excludes heteroplasmic mutations, which can be easily identified as any mutation that ends with any letter other than T, A, C or G – for example 16519Y would be heteroplasmic, indicated by the Y. The simple explanation for heteroplamic mutations is that they are a mutation in progress, and therefore relatively recent. They don’t pertain to deeper ancestry, so we are ignoring them for this discussion. Most people don’t have heteroplasmic mutations.

Building Your Tree

Let’s look at an example of how to build a mitochondrial mutation tree.

A common ancestor, at the top of the tree, has 2 mutations that they pass to all of their descendants.

Ancestor B and C have those 2 mutations, so they match ancestor A and each other.

Both ancestor B and C have both developed mutations that don’t match each other. In real life, it would be very rare for mitochondrial DNA to develop mutations in every generation, so just view this as a rather time-compressed example.

In ancestor B’s line, there are two contemporary individuals, D and E, who have all 3 of the mutations that Ancestor B carried.

So, you have a tree that looks like this.  You can click to enlarge.

mito-tree

Ancestor C also has two descendants, F and G, who both carry all of Ancestor C’s mutations, plus both F and G each have a mutation that doesn’t match each other.

So, now let’s say Person I comes along as a match. You can tell which line they belong to, and which lines they don’t, by which mutation(s) person I carries, as compared to your tree. For example, if person I carries mutations 1, 2 and 4, then you know that they are a descendant of Ancestor C, not B.  If they carry 1, 2, 4 and 5, then they descend from Person G’s line.

I suggest that you work with your full sequence matches to build this type of mitochondrial descendancy tree. You must work with your matches, because you cannot see your matches’ coding region results, not even in projects, so you’ll have to ask each one to share with you. Be prepared, some people won’t answer, but often, based on who the people match that do respond to you, and are willing to share, you can figure out the missing blanks.

For example, Let’s say John matches you with one mutation, and so does Joe, but Joe doesn’t answer your e-mail. However, John wants to work with you and John matches Joe exactly. Now you know which mutation Joe has as well – the same one as John.

You know that each of your full sequence matches is within a maximum of 3 mutations difference from you, because that’s the maximum that Family Tree DNA allows to be considered a match at the full sequence level.

Of course, not all of your matches will have the same 3 mutations, which is why you’ll need to work with them to see how your tree fleshes out. Who knows what surprises you may find.

The first question I ask each of my matches, after explaining what I’m trying to do, is whether they share any of my extra or missing mutations, with the exception of the insertions at 309, 315 or 522 and/or any mutation at 16519. These mutations are extremely common. Sometimes people are more comfortable sharing specific mutations than sending you their results. Other people will be glad to send results. In rare instances, the coding region may hold mutations that have medical significance, which is why Family Tree DNA doesn’t show specific mutations, only whether you match or not.

mito-extra-and-missing

In the example above, you can see that C16189T is normally present in this mitochondrial sequence, but it missing from this person’s results.

Your mitochondrial tree that you build may well shed light on your common ancestor and based on the location of the oldest ancestor of the person at the top of your tree, may also shed light on the location where your common ancestor may have lived and the migration path she took to where your most distant ancestor in this line was found.

My own mitochondrial DNA tree begins in Scandinavia and only my line winds up in Germany before 1700.  Another branch is found in Poland.

mitomatches

Ironically, my exact matches are in Norway (red), not to the line in Poland (orange). The rest of the lines whom I match and that also descend from my Scandinavian ancestor are still found in Scandinavia with one exception found in southern Russia which could be a result of migration to this region from the Germanic region of Europe in the 1700s and 1800s. This tells me that I’m closer, genetically, to the Scandinavian branches than the Polish branch, which is not at all what I would have expected. The Polish branch apparently migrated separately from mine.

My mitochondrial tree also tells me that the common ancestor of all of the matches likely originated in Scandinavia, possibly Norway, also not something I would have expected, given that my most distant ancestor is very clearly German, based on church records.

Give building your mitochondrial tree a try and see what kinds of surprises it may hold!  If you haven’t yet tested your full sequence mitochondrial DNA, order that test today.  You have ancestors waiting for you!

Ancestry V1 vs V2 – Shared DNA and Relationship Predictions

I reviewed the results of Ancestry’s V1 chip in comparison with their V2 chip relative to matches recently in the article titled Ancestry V1 vs V2 Test Comparison.

I had previously tested on the V1 chip, and recently tested on the V2 chip to see how many of the same matches were present on both match lists. The results were better than expected. Out of my 333 V1 Shared Ancestor Hint matches, all but 7 were on the V2 match list. Given that Ancestry replaced almost half of the SNPs on their chip, that’s an amazingly high retained match number – about 97.5%.

Another genetic genealogist asked about how much of the DNA is the same, or in common for the individual matches. In other words, did the amount of shared DNA with individual matches change between the two chip versions?

While Ancestry does not provide us with a chromosome browser, they do provide us with the amount of DNA in common with a match after their Timber algorithm removes segments that Ancestry feels are “too matchy.”  You can read more about how this is done, here.

ancestry-self-to-self-shared-dna

In the screen shot above, you can see that the amount of shared DNA is displayed when you click on the “i” button beside the confidence level of the predicted relationship.  In this case, I’ve looked at my V1 kit match to my V2 kit match.  Clearly, I don’t have 26 chromosomes, so some of my chromosome segments have been severed, either by faulty reads or by Timber removing segments.

Because of Timber, the amount of shared DNA shown by Ancestry is not the actual amount of matching DNA when compared to matching DNA at any other vendor or Gedmatch.  However, the amounts of shared DNA are consistently calculated between the V1 and V2 chips, so comparing Ancestry V1 to Ancestry V2 is certainly reasonable.  What we don’t know is whether this is the same DNA that is matching between V1 and V2, or if the matching DNA is actually on different segments, partial segments or different combinations of segments.  Without a chromosome browser or specific segment information, we have no way of knowing or discovering that information.

In the chart below, I’ve compared my 100 top shared ancestor hint (green leaf) matches (other than my own V1 to V2 kit comparison), meaning those with tree leaf hints indicating:

  • That our DNA matches and
  • That we share at least one common ancestor in our trees

Please note, for purposes of clarity, a shared ancestor hint (green leaf) does NOT mean or confirm that the DNA we share is from that common ancestor. The shared DNA could be from a secondary or different common line or the genealogy could be incorrect in one or both trees.  The fact that we share DNA, and that we have an identified common ancestor in our trees are independent pieces of information that both serve as important hints.  Both need to be verified.  Without a chromosome browser and triangulation, we cannot confirm that the shared DNA is from that particular ancestor.

Amount of Shared DNA Between V1 and V2 Chips

For each of my 100 top V1/V2 shared ancestor hint matches, I recorded the amount of shared DNA as displayed by Ancestry and the number of shared segments.  In addition, I also recorded the Ancestry predicted relationships and actual relationships as shown in my tree and my matches tree, as shown in the example below for Match 1.

ancestry-common-ancestors

My top 100 matches are shown in the table below, with their V1 and V2 results along with predicted and actual relationships.

  • Bold=increases and decreases in the amount of shared DNA
  • Red=increase or decrease of 2cM or greater
  • Yellow=increase or decreases in the number of shared segments

ancestry-shared-cm-and-rel

Increases and Decreases

Of the various matches, 9 increased between V1 and V2, indicating that these individuals match on some of new newly included SNPs.

On the other hand, 52 decreased between V1 and V2 indicating that some of the SNPs where they previously matched have been removed on the new (current) chip.

Increases and decreases are bolded, including those in red which signify an increase or decrease of 2cM or greater. Nine matches had an increase or decrease of 2cM or more. Of those, 2 increased and 7 decreased.

The maximum increase was 5.3 cM.

The maximum decrease was 6 cM.

In most cases, the number of shared segments remained the same. Of the 4 that changed, 3 decreased and one increased, indicated by cells highlighted in yellow. In one case, the cMs dropped, but the segments increased, causing me to wonder if a segment was split in the V2 version. In another instance, the shared cMs remained the same, but the segments moved from 2 to 1. I’m not sure how to explain that one, except for the possibility that some of the removed SNPs caused the measured area to be counted as one instead of two, or perhaps the matching segments aren’t the same.

Actual vs Predicted Relationships

Eight people, or 8% had private trees meaning they can see the identity of our common ancestor, because my tree is public, but I cannot see the identity of that ancestor.  That also means that I can’t determine the actual relationship for this comparison.

The 5 noted with ? means the ancestor is not the same ancestor or the match’s tree information is incorrect.  In this case, that means 5% of the tree matches, or common ancestors as indicated in the trees are known to be inaccurate for one reason or another.  There are likely additional inaccurate “common ancestors” given the amount of “tree grafting” that occurs.

In two cases the relationship was further out in time than predicted, although the predicted ranges are fairly broad and do significantly overlap. For example, one range is 4-6th cousins, and the next range is 5-8th cousins.

In 16 cases the relationship was closer than predicted.

I do have an endogamous Acadian line as noted.

In all cases, the amount of shared DNA was within the range of other people whose predictions were accurate, so this prediction variance is clearly a factor of the variability of inheritance of DNA.

The Net-Net

The net-net of this exercise is that when comparing the shared DNA between the same match on the V1 and V2 chip, far more people lost matching DNA than gained – 52% vs 9%.  In this comparison, all 100 of the people remained as matches, which isn’t surprising since these are my 100 closest shared ancestor hint matches, meaning those with the highest amounts of shared DNA.  However, with matches that have “less to lose,” meaning more distant matches having fewer matching centiMorgans of DNA to begin with, matches are more likely to be lost.

In this comparison, the people who appeared as matches on the V1 chip remain as matches on the V2 chip, but just over half showed less matching DNA utilizing the V2 chip.

Increasing “In Common With” (ICW) Functionality at Family Tree DNA

You know how Murphy’s Law works, right?

Right after I wrote the article Nine Autosomal Tools at Family Tree DNA, as in minutes later (Ok, that’s probably an exaggeration), Family Tree DNA made a change and the ICW (in common with) tool functioned differently.  Murphy lives at my house, I swear!

I initially thought perhaps this was unintended, but it may well be a design change since additional functionality was provided and three months have elapsed.

So regardless of whether or not this change is permanent or will change minutes after I publish this article, I’m providing instructions on how this feature works NOW. If it changes or works differently in the future, I’ll let you know!

In all fairness, it’s the addition of the combination searches, I think, that has caused the confusion. Combo searches are great features and powerful, if you know how to use the functionality correctly for what you want to accomplish.

Let’s take a look at how to utilize the various kinds of searches, individually and in combination, step-by-step.

Example One – Regular “In Common With” Matches

The ICW feature shows you who your matches match in common with you. I’ve signed on as my mother for these examples to illustrate this feature since she is a generation more closely related to these folks than I am.

First, let’s do a normal “in common with” search between my mother and her cousin, Donald.  The results of this search will show us everyone that matches mother and Donald, both.

icw-donald-arrow

In this example, I’ve done the following:

  1. Selected Donald (who appears on mother’s match list, above) by clicking on the box to the left of his name, which you can see in the “Selected Matches” box at the bottom left indicating he has been selected.
  2. Click on the “in common with” function button above the list of names.

icw-donald-results-arrow

After clicking on the “in common with” button, what I see (above) are all 91 people that match mother in common with Donald, meaning that mother and Donald both match all 91 of these people. This does NOT mean mother and Donald both match them on the same segment(s), only that they do match on at least one segment over the matching threshold.

As you can see, Donald’s name appears now in the “In Common With” box at the top left, along with a total of 91 people who match Donald and my mother both.

To clear any search, meaning all options, at any time, just click on the “reset filter” blue button, located to the right of the “not in common with” function button.

There are multiple features that work together for “in common with” matching and surname searching. Let’s take a look.

Example Two – Surname Searches Plus ICW, Combined

Now, I’ll enter the name Miller in the search box at the upper right. This shows me everyone who has name of Miller, or Miller appearing in their ancestral surnames, who match my mother.

Next, I want to select someone from that Miller match list to see which other people on the Miller match list they match in common with mother. Hey, let’s pick Donald!!!

To utilize a surname search (Miller) and ICW (Donald) together, do the following:

  1. Enter the surname Miller in the search box on the upper right and click enter or the search (blue magnifying glass) icon. Donald appears on the Miller match list, as well as 90 other people.  This means that Donald has Miller appearing in his list of ancestral surnames, since his surname is not Miller.
  2. When the match results are returned, select Donald by clicking on the box to the left of his name.
  3. Then click on the “in common with” function box above the list of matches.

icw-work-arrows

I selected Donald, as you can see, by clicking the box beside his name, and his name now appears in the “Selected Matches” box in the lower left hand corner of the page, indicating that he has been selected. However, note that the name Miller still appears in the search box in the upper right hand corner.

Next, I click on the ICW function button, above the list of matches, and I see the following 22 matches that all share the Miller surname or Miller on their list of ancestral names AND match Donald and mother, both. I’m NOT seeing all of mother’s 91 Miller matches, but ONLY her Miller matches that are ALSO “in common with” Donald.  This immediately gives me a list of people that are very likely descended from this same ancestral Miller line, and some of them will likely triangulate by utilizing the chromosome browser and other tools described in the Nine Autosomal Tools article.

icw-combo-results-arrow

This combination search is a wonderful feature, but this isn’t always what people want to do. Sometimes you want to first see the Miller matches, then select someone from that match list to run the full ICW tool and see ALL of their matches, not just the ICW Miller matches. This is the functionality that works differently than previously, but it’s actually very easy to accomplish.

Surname Search, Then ICW to Person on Match List, but not Combined

Often, you’ll find someone in the ICW Miller match list, for example, and you then want to see ALL of the ICW matches to that person, NOT just the ICW matches with Miller. Said another way, you want to utilize the name of someone found in the Miller search, but not limit the ICW results to just the Miller surname.

In this case, simply follow these steps:

  1. Run the Miller search as in Example One.
  2. Select Donald from the results by clicking on the box beside his name – step #2 in Example Two.  Do NOT click on the ICW button, yet.
  3. REMOVE Miller from the search box at upper right. After removing Miller, you will see the full match list load again (replacing the Miller match list), but Donald remains selected in the “Selected Matches” box in the lower left corner.
  4. Click on the “in common with” function button to see the full ICW match list for the person selected.

Once again, you will see the full match list of 91 people between mother and Donald, as if Miller was never selected.

What Doesn’t Work

One function doesn’t work that worked previously, and that’s the ability to search for a location, meaning those locations in parenthesis in the ancestral surnames.  This type of search is particularly important to people with Scandinavian ancestors whose surnames are patronymic, meaning they derive from a father’s first name, such as Johnsson for John’s son.  These surnames changed generationally and locations are often more reliable in terms of genealogy searches.

This is probably a function of a feature that was being utilized by users in a way never imagined by the designers.  Regardless, a bug report or enhancement request, depending in your perspective, has been submitted, but there is no known work-around today.

Double Match Triangulator (DMT)

Recently, I received an e-mail from Louis Kessler, a Microsoft platform developer and genetic genealogist who has created a new tool, the Double Match Triangulator:

Double Match Triangulator (DMT) uses two FamilyTreeDNA Chromosome Browser Results files from two different people and combines them in an Excel file to produce a map of all the Double Matches and Triangulated segments between the two people and all third people. It provides a different way of looking at matching segments than the Chromosome Browser and helps identify Triangulation groups.

The program runs on Windows, is free for everyone, includes a short but comprehensive help file, and is available at: www.beholdgenealogy.com/dmt

Please note that this tool is only for Family Tree DNA chromosome browser download files and only runs on a PC.  There is no MAC version.

I’m already providing this functionality for the people whose kits I manage and have access to their match list, simply by utilizing a regular spreadsheet. In fact, I combine multiple people in a single spreadsheet to see who matches whom on the same segments. I’ll be demonstrating this in a future blog article.

However, I also realize that not everyone wants to do that manually, so this is a great tool for those who don’t, and it does the math between two people so you don’t have to. The only down side is that it only compares two match files at a time, but given Louis’s format, I don’t really know how he would incorporate more than two files in one comparison file. Besides, I’m not about to look a gift horse in the mouth and I think the DMT tool that Louis has provided is a great service to the genetic genealogy community.

Installation and Instructions

First, let me tell you that you must install this program on your PC. Now also let me say that I’m EXTREMELY leery of installing anything on my PC, especially from a relatively unknown source. However, I could tell from reading the documentation and information that Louis was indeed a genetic genealogist, and I decided the potential risk was worth the potential reward, so I did the install which went very quickly and easily. Besides that, curiosity got the best of me.  Yes, I’m apparently part cat, although that has never shown on any DNA test:)

Secondly, let me also say that BECAUSE this program is installed on your own system, and does NOT require you to upload match information into a public location, I’m OK with this. I would have serious ethical reservations if this program were offered on a public site where you uploaded matches to a public location, because your matches have not given permission for that to happen and it’s outside of Family Tree DNA where your matches expect their information to remain. However, since you’re only downloading to your own PC, for kits you manage or who have already given you access, I’m fine with this.

Third, don’t even think of trying to do this without utilizing the help file. I have dual monitors, so I opened the help file on one screen and the program itself on the other screen. The help file contains all of the instructions and column definitions, and you can’t run the program or make sense of the results without this information.

The Program

Below is the program screen where you select the two chromosome browser files that you have downloaded from Family Tree DNA to compare. Of course, these must be from kits that you manage or have access to in order to download the chromosome browser matches. Otherwise, you can ask your matches to e-mail you their match file.

dmt program

The Help button that holds instructions is at the right side below the option boxes, just above the line between grey and white.

The Help screen looks like this and is where you will find all instructions for how to select files, run the program and interpret the results.

dmt instructions

Scroll down to the bottom of this main help screen to see the various page selections under the title “The contents of Double Match Triangulator.” You will need to click on each one and read what Louis has written.

The contents of Double Match Triangulator

Double Match Triangulator Main Window
Excel Output File – Map Page
Excel Output File – Person Page
Log Files
Interpreting Results

The Results

After following Louis’s installation instructions, I downloaded three chromosome browser files that I manage and am familiar with so that I can determine if the program is functioning as expected.

I selected my cousin Cheryl, cousin Bill Lentz and cousin Rex Miller. All three of these individuals descend from the same lineage and they do match. I already know they have triangulated matches – although the common ancestor of their common matches is not always identified.

I would suggest creating a folder called something like “DMT Experiment” and copy the chromosome browser files you wish to use to that location. Your DMT results file will be in the same location.

After clicking “Run,” the program did not automatically pop up the completed match file, so I sat and waited before thinking to check the folder where I had put the files to use.

Two files were generated, Cheryl to Bill Lentz and Cheryl to Rex Miller. I’m going to use the Cheryl to Bill file for purposes of demonstration simply because it’s smaller.

dmt Cheryl to Bill

On the first (default) spreadsheet tab, labeled Map, we see the details of the Person A, Cheryl, matching to person B, Bill, with their common segment matches to a third person listed in the third column, Name-C. The next columns are documented in the Help file, but the column you are most interested in is the Status column which shows the “Full Triangulation” cells highlighted in green. These are the people where person A (Cheryl) matches person B (Bill) who both match person C, on the same segment(s).

dmt Cheryl to Bill status

While this matching “per segment” information is useful and interesting, Louis fortunately added a second tab, called “People” which shows one row per triangulated person. On the above spreadsheet, an individual match can be listed many times, for as many segments as qualify to be matching or triangulated. For example, you can see above that Donald is listed 3 times in the first few rows of this spreadsheet.

The People page, on the other hand, provides a summary with one line per matching person. So, on the People page, Donald will only appear one time.

DMT people

The People tab provides a significant amount of information that you’ll need to refer to the instructions to decipher.

However, the most important columns are the first six which show you the names of the two people whose matches are being compared, their common matches (Name-C) and summary information about those matches. Louis’s program did not color code these. I did, for purposes of discussion.

DMT People 2

In this case, the first match is between Cheryl F and Bill Lentz to Donald, who is Cheryl’s brother. They all three match on a total of 9 segments for a total of 47.02 cM. That’s significant.

The next two individuals, jerdon and james, also colored green, match on a significant size segment and jerdon triangulates on two separate segments.

These would both be considered strong triangulated matches.

The individual colored yellow is still a relatively strong triangulated match, especially in light of the triangulation, and in particular if the common ancestor is known.

Generally, when matching alone, meaning NOT triangulating, I would dismiss the smaller red segments as probably irrelevant. However, in light of the triangulation, and common known ancestors, I am not nearly so quick to dismiss these. I talked about small segment guidelines meaning how to and how not to utilize small segments in this article.

Among these small segment matches are known cousin Rex Miller, known cousin Roland, mother and me. I would not discard these, but I also would never “call” any relationship on one small segment alone. The good news is that when matching to others, on my DNA Master Spreadsheet, some smaller segments do form triangulation clusters. There is safety in numbers, whether utilizing smaller or larger segments. Of course, larger segments are always safest because they are less likely to be identical by population (or chance) instead of identical by descent. You can review the concepts of identical by descent, chance and population in this article.

Louis has included one more feature. The last three rows are people who match two of three, but not all three people. While these people don’t all match each other on the same segment, they do match a pair and a third person from this same line might well match those two. In other words, in the bottom row, Betty Jean matches Cheryl and Bill, both, but Cheryl and Bill do not match each other on the same segment where Betty matches each of them. More research is needed to determine whether Betty Jean is from the Lentz or Miller lines, or not. It is, however, a good hint to follow.  If you would like to review the concept of match groups versus triangulation groups, you can do so here.

What’s Next?

For me, I need to sign in to Family Tree DNA to see who jerdon is. Jerdon is the second highest triangulated match and I don’t know anything about that person. I surely hope they have a tree online, and if not, I’ll be e-mailing them shortly. In the mean time, I’ll be doing ICW and trying to figure out which line jerdon is from by utilizing other available autosomal tools.

Have fun with the DMT tool, and thank you Louis.  You can catch up with Louis at his blog where he provides additional explanations for his tool and the underlying concepts.

Ancestry Shared Matches Combined With New Ancestor Discoveries

Ancestry added a greatly anticipated feature this week that promises to help genealogists – shared matches.  This is similar to the “In Common With” feature at Family Tree DNA – at least in concept.

Shared Matches

Previous to this announcement, when you match someone at Ancestry, the only way you can see who else they happen to match in common with you is if you are placed in an ancestor DNA Circle with them – and then you can only see the other people in that Circle.

For example, here is my Henry Bolton DNA Circle.

circle henry bolton matches2

The people I match are shown with an orange line.  Each of those people match me, and they may also match other people in the Circle that I don’t match.

circle henry match matches2

Regardless of whether I match the individuals directly, or they match someone else that I match, the common factor is that we all share Henry Bolton identified as an ancestor in our tree.

What Ancestry introduced today is the ability to click on any of these people who match me, OR, the people in the circle who do NOT match me but who do share Henry Bolton in their tree and match others in the circle – and see who they match in common with me.  This should allow people to group their matches, at least tentatively and is especially promising for those frustrating people with whom you match closely but have private trees and won’t reply to messages.

While this is interesting for circles, it’s not terribly useful in terms of breaking down walls, because I already know Henry Bolton is my ancestor.  In other words, I wouldn’t be in the circle if I didn’t already know the identity of that ancestor.

What I’m particularly interested in, is applying this tool to my NADs, or New Ancestor Discoveries, because if I can figure out how these people truly are related to me, then I may be able to make a discovery of a new ancestor in my tree.  Now THIS holds a lot of promise and intrigues me greatly.  So, let’s take a look at my NADs and see how this new tool works and if it’s useful.  I can hardly wait!!!

State of the NADs

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that Ancestry and I have been having a bit of a friendly Bad NAD duel.  Ancestry keeps giving me new ancestor discoveries (NADs) but in several cases, I have unquestionably proven that those NADs are not my ancestors – hence the term – Bad NADs.  In one case, the new ancestor assigned to me is the husband of my ancestors sister.  However, I currently have three NADS that are related to each other than may benefit greatly by this new shared matches tool.

Since my last NAD update, where Diedamia Lyon and John David Curnutte were given to me a second time, another NAD has been added – John David Curnutte’s mother, Deresa Chaffin.

shared matches nads

Here’s the tree version of this relationship

shared matches nad tee

NAD Circles and Matches

In the NAD Circle for Diedamia Lyon, John David Curnutte and Deresa Chaffin, we find both Don and Michael, whom I match.

First, keep in mind that I may match both Don and Michael on other lines – so the fact that I match both of them and they both descend from a common ancestor does NOT mean that is how I connect genetically to both of them.  But for purposes of this discussion, let’s assume that it is and proceed.

The fact that we find these two individuals whose DNA I match in all three circles suggests that the relationship is through the Curnutte line, and not through Diedamia Lyon at all, except for the fact that these men also descend from her.  Given that John David’s Curnutte’s mother is also a NAD suggests that the connection to Diedamia Lyon and John David Curnutte is through the Curnutte line.  Although Deresa Chaffin’s husband is not listed, he is John Tolliver Curnutte and clearly, the connection might be through him as opposed to Deresa – just like the connection to the couple Diedamia Lyon and John David Curnutte was through the Curnutte husband.

The NAD Circle for Diedamia Lyon and John David Curnutte are identical, with two matches and 5 non-matching individuals.

shared nad diedemia lyon

For each one of these individuals in the Circle, if you click on their name on the right, you’ll be able to see a variety of information, including their pedigree and matching surnames, maps and locations, and the new shared matches tab.

shared matches shared surnames

The new shared matches tab is a great tool, and it’s particularly important, when unraveling NADs to use it in conjunction with the shared surnames, shown at left.  These are the surnames found in both your tree and the person whose tree you’re comparing against.

Let’s take a look at one of these – Moore, as an example.

shared matches surname compare

As you can see, these are either not the same line or at least can’t be identified as such.  However, in some cases, you may recognize your matches’ end of line person as connecting with your tree further upstream.  It’s times like this that having a robust tree where you’ve tracked downstream lineages of your ancestor’s siblings can be very beneficial.

By clicking on the shared matches option, you’ll see the following people who you match in common with the individual – in this case, Don, my DNA match.  I could also compare to one of the people in the Circle whom I don’t DNA match.

shared matches shared with

What I’m particularly looking for are matches with that lovely shakey leaf by the View Match button on the far right.  Ahem…there aren’t any, which means none of these matches match me with a known common ancestor.  Rats!!!

While Diedamia Lyon and John David Curnutte have the same members as each other in their NAD circles, John’s mother, Deresa Chaffin, has more members in her NAD circle – which means more opportunities for me to find common line hints..

shared matches nad circle

The DNA matches are to the same 2 people, but now there are additional people in the circle who also match Michael and Don.

The great news is that in addition to clicking on your matches to see who else they match, you can also click on any other circle member.  I’m very, very hopeful that a distinct trend emerges so I can tell at least what line these NADs might be associated with.

I needed a mechanism to keep track of who all my matches match, that I match, and what lines they descend from – so I created a spreadsheet.

NAD Matches Spreadsheet

shared matches spreadsheet

Column 1 – NAD – The ancestor’s name of the NAD Circle where these individuals are found as members.

Column 2 – Person in Circle – The “person in circle” is the individual whose name shows either as a DNA match or as a circle member who does not match my DNA, but does match the DNA of at least some of the other circle members.

Column 3 – DNA Match – Tells me if this person is a DNA match to me or not.

Column 4 – Common Family Line to Person in Circle – The common ancestral line (or lines) if I can determine whether or not we share a specific ancestral line.  By the way, just because we share that line does NOT mean that is how we are DNA related – and no – there is no way to tell without a chromosome browser.

Column 5 – Common Surnames to Person in Circle – Common surnames between my tree and the person in the Circle, as identified by Ancestry.

Column 6 – Shared Matches with Person in Circle – Names of Shared Matches between me and the person in the Circle.

Column 7 – Common Line with Shared Match – Common ancestral lines with shared matches (column 6).

I combined the information from Diedamia Lyon, John David Curnutte and John’s mother, Deresa Chaffin.  I sorted column 6, Shared Matches with Person in Circle, alphabetically, hoping that some of these matches would be the same, and they are, and would be identifiable to specific family lines.

So….Drum Roll….Who is the Common Ancestor???

I compared each person identified as a person in the NAD Circle (column 2), or any person that matches me and a person in the NAD Circle (column 6) with my other spreadsheet that I maintain listing all of my Ancestry matches and our common ancestors.

The group that includes the initials EVH are a family of siblings and their children, so they really only count once.  The person by the name Mars has a private tree, but told me that our common ancestor was Joel Vannoy and Phebe Crumley, the same individuals as my cousin group through EVH.

It’s certainly possible that the common DNA that connects me with Michael and Don and possibly with John David Curnutte’s parents are through the Vannoy/Crumley line.

If indeed, our common ancestor is upstream of Joel Vannoy and Phebe Crumley, which is a VERY BIG if, but it’s the only lead I have – then they must fill a known pedigree void.

Deresa Chaffin, according to the Ancestry overview (which is all I have to go on at this moment and is compiled from 705 trees which makes me exceedingly nervous) was born in 1775 in Virginia to Simon Chaffin and Agatha Curnutte.  She married John Tolliver Curnutte, so we have an intermarriage already (or incorrect surname information), which can mean a larger dose of the Curnutte DNA.  Trying to follow these individuals up their trees at Ancestry was an exercise in frustration and futility with many of the wives surnames being the same as the husband and no sources or documentation of any kind.  Suffice it to say, I can’t connect the dots through surnames or location, other than the state of Virginia.

However, looking at my tree, my vacancies for ancestors in that timeframe, in the Vannoy/Crumley branch of the tree are limited.

shared matches pedigree

Phebe, Jotham Brown’s wife’s surname is unknown, but they were married about 1760.

William Crumley’s wife’s name is unknown, but they were married by about 1788.  Clearly, Deresa being born in 1775 cannot be William Crumley’s wife (or Jotham Brown’s), and Deresa married a Curnutte, so she cannot be the ancestor in question for either vacancy.

John Tolliver Carunutte, Deresa’s husband was born about 1774, so clearly, he isn’t my ancestor either.  One generation upstream, I have vacancies for six unknown parents, one of which would have been surnamed Brown.  These people would have been born between 1720 and 1740, at the latest, and possibly earlier, so probably not John Tolliver or Deresa Chaffin’s parents either.

Unfortunately, we’re now back into the ether – and it’s very tenuous ether at that.  Without a chromosome browser, I can’t confirm that the DNA of any of these matches triangulate with the Vannoy/Crumley DNA line – or any line for that matter.

However, in the spirit of running every lead down, right into the ground, and in this case, into the rathole – I view these new shared matches as my only hope of ever unraveling the mystery of the 3 related NADs.  So far, I’ve proven they can’t be my ancestors, at least not in that line, but I still have absolutely no idea of how or if they are related to me – despite due diligence on my part- at least all the due diligence I can think of.

Suffice it to say I’m disappointed.  It’s not my lucky day.  No happy dance for me.  I guess I probably don’t have to mention that if Ancestry provided a chromosome browser, I wouldn’t even have to be slogging around in the mud trying to piece these puzzle pieces together that might not even be from the same puzzle.

However, your mileage may vary and it may be your lucky day, so please give this new shared matches tool a try.  If nothing else, it will help you group your matches by ancestral group and will give you clues as to the family groups of those people with private (or no) trees.  And who knows, maybe you’ll unravel your NAD and actually discover a new ancestor!!!  It could happen, especially if your matches are willing to download to GedMatch for verification!

Here’s Ancestry’s blog posting about the new shared match tool which includes a nice “how to” video.