Y DNA Tree of Mankind Reaches 50,000 Branches

Today is a really, REALLY big day in the genetic genealogy world.

The Y DNA tree of mankind at FamilyTreeDNA has reached 50,000 branches. That’s quite a milestone!

There’s been remarkably rapid growth in the past three years, as shown below.

From the FamilyTreeDNA blog article announcing this milestone event, we see the growth from 2018 to present cumulatively and within each haplogroup. Of course, haplogroup R, present in very high frequencies in Europe, forms the base of this mountain, but every haplogroup has achieved significant gains – which benefits all testers.

Who is Branch 50,000?

Michael Sager, the phylogeneticist at FamilyTreeDNA just added branch 50,000.

Drum roll please! Who is it? Surprisingly, it’s NOT found in haplogroup R, but a man from Vanuatu, a country in Oceania.

The new branch is a member of haplogroup S – specifically S-FTC416, immediately downstream of S-P315. Haplogroup S is found in Indonesia, Micronesia and other Pacific Island nations, including Australia and New Zealand.

This man was a new customer who joins a couple of Aboriginal samples found in academic papers from Kuranda (Queensland, Australia) and 3 ancient samples from Vanuatu.

How cool is that!!!

We’ve Come a LONG Way!

The Y DNA phylogenetic tree has been growing like wildfire.

  • Back in 2002, there were 153 branches on the Y-DNA tree, and a total of 243 known SNPs. (Some SNPs were either duplicates or not yet placed on the tree which explains the difference.)
  • In 2008, six years later, the tree had doubled to 311 branches and 600 SNPs. At the FamilyTreeDNA International Conference that year, attendees received this poster. I remember the project administrators marveling about how large the tree had grown.
  • In 2010, two years later, the tree was comprised of 440 branches and 800 SNPs. That poster was even larger, and it was the last year that the phylotree would fit onto a poster.
  • By 2012, when the Genographic Project V2 was announced, that bombshell announcement included information that the Genographic project was testing for 12,000 SNP locations on their chip, not all of which had been classified.
  • In 2014, when FamilyTreeDNA and Genographic jointly released their new Y tree to celebrate DNA Day, the Y tree had grown to more than 6200 SNPS, of which, more than 1200 were end-of-branch terminal SNPs. If this had been a poster, it would have been more than 62 feet long.

From that point on, the trajectory was unstoppable.

The earliest SNP-seeking product called Walk the Y had been introduced followed by the first-generation powerful Big Y NGS DNA scanning product.

That’s 1300% growth, or said another way, the database increased by 13 times in four years.

In the three years since, many of those SNPs, plus private variants that had not yet been named at that point have been added to the tree.

In January 2019, the Big Y-700 was announced and many people upgraded. The Big Y-700 provided dramatically increased resolution, meaning that test could find more mutations or SNPs. The effect of this granularity is that the Big Y-700 is discovering mutations and new SNPs in a genealogical timeframe, where the original haplogroups a few years ago could only piece together deeper ancestry.

The Big Y-700 has made a HUGE difference for genealogists.

  • Today, in December of 2021, the tree hit 50,000 branches. That poster would be more than 500 feet long, almost twice the length of a football field.

I have to wonder how many more branches are out there just waiting to be found? How many will we find in the next year? Or the next?

The pace doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, that’s for sure. Adding academic and ancient samples to the tree helps a great deal in terms of adding context to our knowledge.

What gems does your family’s Y DNA hold?

How Does a SNP or Variant Get Added to the Tree?

You might be wondering how all of this happens.

A SNP, which becomes a haplogroup has three states of “being,” following discovery.

  1. When the mutation, termed a SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism), pronounced “snip” is found in the first male, it’s simply called a variant. In other words, it varies from the nucleotide that is normally found in that position in that one man.
  2. When the SNP is found in multiple men, assuming it’s found consistently in multiple scans, and it’s in an area that is “clean” and not genetically “noisy,” then the SNP is given a name like R-ZS3700 or R-BY154784, and the SNP is placed on the tree in its correct position. From my article last week about using Y DNA STR and SNP markers for genealogy, you can see that both of those haplogroups have multiple men who have been found with those mutations.
  3. Some SNPs are equivalent SNPs. For example, in the image below, the SNP FT702 today is equivalent to R-ZS3700, meaning it’s found in the same men that carry R-ZS3700. Eventually, many equivalent SNPs form a separate tree branch.

One day, some man may test that does have R-ZS3700 but does NOT have FT702, which means that a new branch will be formed.

When men tested that had R-BY154784, that new branch was added to the left of R-ZS3700, because not all men with R-ZS3700 have the mutation R-BY154784.

You’ll notice that the teal blocks indicate the number of private variants which are mutations that have not yet been found in other men in this same branch structure, and those variants are therefore not yet named SNPs.

If You’ve Already Tested, How Do You Receive a New Haplogroup?

It’s worth noting here that none of the terminal SNPs that define these branches were available using the older Big Y tests which illustrates clearly why it’s important to upgrade from the Big Y or Big Y-500 to the Big Y-700.

In my Estes line, the terminal SNP in the Big Y-500 was R-BY490. These same men upgraded to the Big Y-700 and have now been assigned to four different, distinct, genealogically significant lineages based on SNPs discovered after they upgraded. Some men have three new SNPs that weren’t available in earlier tests. In real terms, that’s the difference between the common ancestor born in 1495 and descendants of John R. Estes who died in the 1880s. Genealogically speaking, that’s night and day.

If you haven’t taken a Big Y test, I heartily recommend it – even if you don’t have STR matches. I talked about why, here. Men can purchase the Big Y initially, or sign on to your account and upgrade if you’ve already taken another test.

In a nutshell, the Big Y-700 test provides testers with two types of tools that work both together and separately to provide genealogically relevant information.

Not to mention – you may be responsible for growing the tree of mankind, one branch at a time. What’s waiting for you?

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A Strategy for Using MyHeritage’s Brand New DNA Match Labels

MyHeritage just introduced Labels, a new, free, organizational tool for DNA matches.

Labels provide customers with the ability to organize their matches in various ways. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Labels for a few days now, and I’ve developed an organizational strategy that just might work for you.

First, let’s take a look at Labels and the new match look and feel as well.

Introducing Labels

When you sign on and click on DNA Matches, you’ll see a new pop-up box that points to the little box to the left and says, “Label your DNA Matches.”

Yes, that little toolbar at the left is new too. I like that the most used functions are now the most evident and quite handy.

Let’s see how this works.

I clicked on the little square box and voila, a popup appeared that says “Manage Labels.”

Since I don’t have any labels available yet, I need to define one. Click on “Create new label.”

30 Available Labels

You can see that you have a choice of 30 selections for Label colors. I decided to experiment by creating a Label called Maternal Match. Hint – Don’t do this just yet, read through the rest of this article first because this is NOT the best strategy – even though Maternal Match seems like an intuitive Label name.

Assigning Labels

After I created the Label, I want to Label my mother as a maternal match. I select the Label I want and then click on “Apply.”

You’ll be able to see up to 7 Labels for any one person, with a little + sign for additional Labels not shown.

Your first instinct is to create a maternal and a paternal side Label – but hold on. Don’t do anything just yet. We’ll talk strategy in just a minute. You “only” have 30 labels to work with, and I think I’ve devised a way to make the best use of all 30 labels.

Favorites and Notes

MyHeritage has also implemented the star that indicates a favorite of some sort. It’s your choice what “favorite” means to you.

The note icon has been moved to the left too where you see it first thing. If you’ve recorded a note, the conversation balloon will be purple. Otherwise, it’s empty. I record notes for each match as I work on them so I know which ones still haven’t been reviewed.

Now, let’s talk about a strategy for how to use Labels effectively.

Label Strategy

My first thought was that I’d immediately create a maternal and a paternal Label. That’s the first thing a genealogist wants to know about each match, right? However, if I were to take that approach, I would effectively waste two of my 30 labels, so let’s look at a different strategy that achieves the same goal – and more.

Let’s compare “sides” versus “couples.”

A “side” would be maternal or paternal. Each “side” actually points to a pair of grandparents, so my maternal side actually means that I’ve identified descent of our matching DNA through my maternal grandparents. My paternal side means that I’ve identified descent through my paternal grandparents.

I’ve yet to determine our common ancestor.

Without additional information, I don’t know which of the two grandparents on that particular side I match someone through. I could also carry segments of DNA from both of those grandparents’ sides. What I do know is that my side of the match descends from that grandparent couple.

Every person has 32 ancestor pairs up to and including the great-great-great-grandparent level, if you count each parent as one. That’s two more than the 30 Labels available. Hmmm…

However, if you don’t include each parent individually, and just include the couples, beginning with grandparents, you have exactly 30.

It just so happens that you also have 30 Labels to work with.

Now you see why using one Label each for the maternal side and the paternal side is a waste of a perfectly good Label. If you assign all maternal side matches to your maternal grandparents, and your paternal side matches to your paternal grandparents, you have exactly enough Labels to Label each of the 30 couples through your fifth generation.

Half Siblings

If an ancestor was married more than once and you share DNA with someone who descends from that ancestor and a different spouse, that match is automatically pushed back to the earlier generation.

For example, I know that my great-grandfather, Curtis Lore, #6 above, had children with a wife before being married to my great-mother, Nora Kirsch. If I match one of the descendants of the children of his first marriage, I know immediately that match gets labeled with couple #13, the parents of Curtis Lore. How do I know this? Because the person I match is not related to Nora Kirsch, so our match MUST BE through Curt’s side of the tree.

Half relationships are wonderful because they serve to push the genetic match back one more generation.

Couple Matches

Of course, if I match someone descended through Curt Lore AND Nora Kirsch, then I need to look at Shared DNA Matches and/or triangulate each segment with other people to determine which matching segments descend from Curt’s parents and which segments descend from Nora’s parents.

Needless to say, a person I match may well need multiple Labels, because it’s certainly quite possible for me to match someone on multiple segments, some of which descend through Curt and some of which descend through Nora.

In fact, my second cousin Patty and I match through Curt and Nora on 9 individual segments. Three of those segments descend from the Lore side and the rest either descend from Nora’s side or are indeterminate at this point.

Every individual segment has its own genetic history.

Of course, if you only match someone on one segment, then you’ll (likely) only assign that match to the female or the male of the couple, assuming there is no crossover in the segment where the DNA of both couples combined to make a longer segment.

I wrote the article, Triangulation in Action at MyHeritage, here.

Editing a Label

You saw that I created the Label titled Maternal Match. However, based on my Label strategy – a maternal match shifts back one generation to my maternal grandparents, so need to change Label #1 to read, “Maternal Match – John Ferverda & Edith Lore.”

In order to edit a Label title, click on the box of anyone.

You’ll see the “Manage labels” box pop up.

If you mouse over the Label you wish to edit, you’ll see the pencil and trash can appear.

Note that if you delete a Label, THE LABEL IS ALSO DELETED FROM EVERY PERSON WHO HAS BEEN ASSIGNED THAT LABEL.

To edit the Label, click on the pencil.

You can change the text or the Label colors. You are only shown colors that are available, meaning not yet assigned to other Labels.

You have up to 100 text characters available, so you can do things like add middle names or even birth and death years when you have multiple ancestors with the same names. Not that that ever happens, of course!😊

Be sure to “Save” when finished.

Using the Labels

Referring to that second cousin match with Patty as an example – let’s take a quick look at how I can use those 9 different segment matches.

I know for sure that 2 matches are Acadian, so from Curtis Lore’s father’s side.

I know that one match is from Joseph Hill and Nabby Hall, Curt’s mother Rachel Hill’s parents.

Cousin Patty could receive several Labels.

At this point, I need to go back to the main DNA match page and view Patty’s profile to be able to add Labels. I have it on good authority that MyHeritage plans to add the Label function from multiple locations, such as Shared DNA Matches. I hope this new functionality appears soon, because I’d like to Label all of my matches to my mother in one fell swoop. (We genealogists are passionate, always wanting “just one more thing,” aren’t we!)

I selected Patty and added these Labels for her, reflecting the genesis and source of each of the segments I can identify based on Shared DNA Matches, Theories of Family Relativity, triangulation, and segment painting.

The Label Filter

Now that I’ve added Labels to matches, I can use the new Label Filter.

By clicking on the Filter button, the Filter options appear, including “Labels.” I simply select which Label or Labels I want to use.

Please note that selecting multiple filters uses the “or” functionality. This means that if I select Antoine Lore and Rachel Hill, the yellow Label, and Joseph Hill and Nabby Hall, the pink Label, the filter will return any match who has a Label for EITHER Antoine/Rachel OR Joseph/Nabby. Either Label qualifies.

This filter is not the intersection, meaning the AND functionality. The filtered match does NOT have to have both Antoine/Rachel (yellow) AND Joseph/Nabby (pink).

I can also include the star for “favorites” in my label filter selection.

Multiples

Looking at my match list, I’ve worked on all of my close matches, so I know immediately which set of grandparents each match can be assigned to.

Click on any image to enlarge

On my match list, I match three of these four people on my father’s side, so they will be Labeled with my paternal grandparents, William George Estes and Ollie Bolton.

Our common ancestors are Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy, so I’ve selected to Label these three matches with Lazarus/Elizabeth as well. However, if Robert did not descend from Lazarus, but from his brother, for example, then Robert would not have been Labeled with Lazarus/Elizabeth, but with Lazarus’s parents whose Label I have not yet created.

By selecting multiple people and one or more Labels, I can Label multiple matches with multiple Labels at the same time. I can also remove multiple Labels from multiple people too.

Try Labels Out!

Think about your label strategy. What works for you?

If you haven’t yet tested your DNA at MyHeritage, you can order a DNA test, here.

If you have tested your autosomal DNA at another company, you can upload your DNA file to MyHeritage for free, by clicking here.

Need instructions for how to download your DNA file from other companies, and upload to MyHeritage? I’ve written step-by-step instructions for each company, here.

Have fun and let me know what kind of label strategy works for you!

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research

DNA for Native American Genealogy – Hot Off the Press!

Drum roll please…my new book, DNA for Native American Genealogy, was just released today, published by Genealogical.com.

I’m so excited! I expected publication around the holidays. What a pleasant surprise.

This 190-page book has been a labor of love, almost a year in the making. There’s a lot.

  • Vendor Tools – The book incorporates information about how to make the best use of the autosomal DNA tools offered by all 4 of the major testing vendors; FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, Ancestry, and 23andMe.
  • Chromosome Painting – I’ve detailed how to use DNAPainter to identify which ancestor(s) your Native heritage descends from by painting your population/ethnicity segments provided by FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe.
  • Y and Mitochondrial DNA – I’ve described how and when to utilize the important Y and mitochondrial DNA tests, for you and other family members.
  • Maps – Everyone wants to know about ancient DNA. I’ve included ancient DNA information complete with maps of ancient DNA sites by major Native haplogroups, gathered from many academic papers, as well as mapped contemporary DNA locations.
  • Haplogroups – Locations in the Americas, by haplogroup, where individual haplogroups and subgroups are found. Some haplogroups are regional in nature. If you happen to have one of these haplogroups, that’s a BIG HINT about where your ancestor lived.
  • Tribes – Want to know, by tribe, which haplogroups have been identified? Got you covered there too.
  • Checklist – I’ve provided a checklist type of roadmap for you to follow, along with an extensive glossary.
  • Questions – I’ve answered lots of frequently asked questions. For example – what about joining a tribe? I’ve explained how tribes work in the US and Canada, complete with links for relevant forms and further information.

But wait, there’s more…

New Revelations!!!

There is scientific evidence suggesting that two haplogroups not previously identified as Native are actually found in very low frequencies in the Native population. Not only do I describe these haplogroups, but I provide their locations on a map.

I hope other people will test and come forward with similar results in these same haplogroups to further solidify this finding.

It’s important to understand the criteria required for including these haplogroups as (potentially) Native. In general, they:

  • Must be found multiple times outside of a family group
  • Must be unexplained by any other scenario
  • Must be well-documented both genetically as well as using traditional genealogical records
  • Must be otherwise absent in the surrounding populations

This part of the research for the book was absolutely fascinating to me.

Description

Here’s the book description at Genealogical.com:

DNA for Native American Genealogy is the first book to offer detailed information and advice specifically aimed at family historians interested in fleshing out their Native American family tree through DNA testing.

Figuring out how to incorporate DNA testing into your Native American genealogy research can be difficult and daunting. What types of DNA tests are available, and which vendors offer them? What other tools are available? How is Native American DNA determined or recognized in your DNA? What information about your Native American ancestors can DNA testing uncover? This book addresses those questions and much more.

Included are step-by-step instructions, with illustrations, on how to use DNA testing at the four major DNA testing companies to further your genealogy and confirm or identify your Native American ancestors. Among the many other topics covered are the following:

    • Tribes in the United States and First Nations in Canada
    • Ethnicity
    • Chromosome painting
    • Population Genetics and how ethnicity is assigned
    • Genetic groups and communities
    • Y DNA paternal direct line male testing for you and your family members
    • Mitochondrial DNA maternal direct line testing for you and your family members
    • Autosomal DNA matching and ethnicity comparisons
    • Creating a DNA pedigree chart
    • Native American haplogroups, by region and tribe
    • Ancient and contemporary Native American DNA

Special features include numerous charts and maps; a roadmap and checklist giving you clear instructions on how to proceed; and a glossary to help you decipher the technical language associated with DNA testing.

Purchase the Book and Participate

I’ve included answers to questions that I’ve received repeatedly for many years about Native American heritage and DNA. Why Native DNA might show in your DNA, why it might not – along with alternate ways to seek that information.

You can order DNA for Native American Genealogy, here.

For customers in Canada and outside the US, you can use the Amazon link, here, to reduce the high shipping/customs costs.

I hope you’ll use the information in the book to determine the appropriate tests for your situation and fully utilize the tools available to genealogists today to either confirm those family rumors, put them to rest – or maybe discover a previously unknown Native ancestor.

Please feel free to share this article with anyone who might be interested.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research

How to Join a Project at FamilyTreeDNA – And Why You Want To

I’ve been receiving a lot of questions about how to join projects lately, and I think I know why.

Right now, FamilyTreeDNA is having a pre-holiday sale. All tests are on sale – the Family Finder autosomal test for $59, here, and the mitochondrial full sequence DNA test for your matrilineal line for $139, here. However, of particular significance is that the Y DNA tests are heavily discounted which is what’s driving the questions about joining projects.

The Y-37 is $79 and the Big Y-700, the most refined Y-DNA test, is only $379, here.

Why the Y DNA Test?

Y DNA tests facilitate men matching other men on their direct paternal line, which is generally the surname line. In other words, Estes men can be expected to match other Estes men, and so forth, unless an adoption or unknown parentage is involved. In that case, the man can expect to match his biological surname line.

The even better news is that the Big Y-700 test is refined to the level that WITHIN surname lines, testers can often differentiate and are able to tell where a specific mutation occurred in their genealogy.

You can see matches with either the 37 or 111 marker Y DNA test, but this level of detail is ONLY available with the Big Y-700 test.

A picture is worth 1000 words.

Here’s the view of the Estes portion of the Y DNA Block Tree, viewed from the account of one of my male Estes cousins who took the Big Y-700 test.

  • You can see that if a male takes the Big Y-700 test and receives the haplogroup of R-BY154784, we know he’s in the line of John born 1732, son of Moses Estes. This can be especially important for the man in the project with a Wilbur surname. It connects him with his Estes paternal lineage. For other Estes men, it tells them which son of Moses was their paternal ancestor.
  • If a man tests and receives R-ZS3700, upstream of R-BY154784, then we know he’s in the line of Moses Estes born 1711, son of Abraham, the Virginia immigrant.
  • If a tester receives haplogroup R-BY490, we know he descends from the Silvester Estes line, but NOT from the Moses line, or he would be R-ZS3700.
  • If a tester receives R-BY482 but not R-BY490, we know he is from the line of Robert Estes born in 1555, in Kent, but not in the American Estes line who all carry R-BY490 or more granular downstream haplogroups.

This is why people are ordering the Big Y-700 tests and want to join projects.

How do you know if a surname project exists for your surname of interest?

Does a Surname Project Exist for Me?

To see if a surname project exists for your surname of interest, click here, then scroll a little way down until you see the surname search box.

I typed Vannoy, my great-grandmother’s birth surname, and the following projects are shown.

Click any image to enlarge

You can see that the administrators for three projects have included Vannoy in their project names-of-interest, which is why the projects appear on the Vannoy search list.

Hurray! There is a Vannoy surname project with 66 members.

Ok, excuse me while I cheat for a minute. How many of these 66 people do I match on my Family Finder test?

Using the Advanced Matches tool on my main page, selecting Family Finder and the Vannoy project, I match 11 of those 66 people in the Vannoy project. How fun is that!?!

Ok, done cheating and back to the surname search results.

In the FamilyTreeDNA database, a total of 22 people have the surname of Vannoy, spelled exactly this way. Of the 11 people I match in the project, 7 have a surname of Vannoy or a derivative.

So, yes, there is a Vannoy project AND there are people with the Vannoy surname who have tested – and – as it turns out, I match several of the project members.

If you haven’t yet tested at FamilyTreeDNA, you can click here to check to see if there are surname projects of interest to you and to order a test.

If you’ve already tested or transferred your results, how do you join a project at FamilyTreeDNA?

How Do Customers Join Projects at FamilyTreeDNA?

Joining projects is easy and very beneficial. You can collaborate with other testers and you can use the Advanced Tools to see who else in the project you match as well.

Joining Projects

Family Tree DNA provides three types of projects for their customers to join. All projects are free to join and are run by volunteer project administrators, people who have a specific interest in the topic at hand and are generally quite glad to be of assistance. Projects are great ways to find people you match and others interested in a common topic.

There are three primary kinds of DNA projects:

  • Surname projects – like Estes
  • Haplogroup projects – like R-L21 for my cousin’s Y DNA or J-mtDNA for my own mitochondrial DNA haplogroup. Both Y and mitochondrial DNA projects exist for haplogroups and subgroups.
  • Geographic projects – really anything else that isn’t a surname or a haplogroup, like Cumberland Gap, American Indian or Scottish DNA

Sign on to your account. Begin by clicking on Group Projects at the top of your personal page.

You can join an unlimited number of projects, but you want to make sure projects you join are relevant to your genealogy, your research and/or your haplogroup.

If you click on “Join a Project,” you’ll see a number of projects where the volunteer administrators have listed your surname as a surname of interest to that project.

First, of course, you must have tested at or transferred your (autosomal) results to Family Tree DNA and you must have taken the type of test relevant to the project at hand.

For example, if you have taken the Family Finder autosomal test and not taken any other tests, you can’t join a Y DNA-only project because you have not tested your Y chromosome. (Women don’t have a Y chromosome.)

Some surname projects are for males only who have tested their Y DNA and carry that surname or are related on the direct paternal line. Like the Wilbur gentleman in the Estes Y-DNA Block Tree example. This is why surname projects are often called Y DNA projects.

Surname projects fall into three categories, based on the goals of the project:

  • Y DNA, meaning only males with that surname can join.
  • People who have a mitochondrial connection to the surname can join as well.
  • Anyone who is descended from any ancestor with that surname can join.

In the Estes surname project, I welcome anyone with an Estes ancestor.

The Project List

When you click on “Join a Project,” you’ll see the list of projects that are “Recommended Projects.” This means that the administrator has added your surname as one of interest. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should join all those projects, but that you might want to evaluate each project for appropriateness.

Let’s take a quick look.

  • The Cumberland Gap mtDNA project isn’t relevant, because my Estes line is my paternal line and my mitochondrial DNA is my matrilineal line – so no cigar on this one, at least not for me.
  • The Cumberland Gap Y DNA project isn’t relevant for me, because I’m a female and don’t have a Y chromosome, although my family is from the Cumberland Gap area. However, my male Estes cousins can join.
  • The Estes surname project welcomes anyone descended from an Estes by any spelling.
  • Estis Jewish Ukraine – Nope doesn’t pertain to me or my Estes line.
  • The I-L161 (Isles) project is a Y DNA haplogroup project, so does not apply to me as I have no Y chromosome.
  • The Jester project listed Estes as a variant spelling.
  • I would need to read about the rest of the projects.

Note that only the first 10 project are shown in the list and there may be more.

Searching

Obviously, there are probably other projects of interest that can’t be sensed by your surname.

For example, I’d like to know about the Bolton project – my grandmother’s surname, so I entered Bolton in the search box.

Click the project name to read more about each project.

Once you’ve determined that a project is for you, click the orange “Join” button to join. Don’t worry, you can unjoin easily if you make a mistake. Some projects have a “request to join” feature to be sure the pairing is a good fit.

Browse

Can’t find your surname or want to see what else is available? Try an alternate name spelling or scroll down to the Browse Group Projects section.

There are so many great possibilities.

Projects fall into multiple browse categories:

  • Surname
  • Y DNA Geographical
  • MtDNA Geographical
  • Dual (Y DNA and mtDNA Geographical)
  • MtDNA Lineage
  • Y-DNA Haplogroup
  • MtDNA Haplogroup

There’s so much of interest.

If I know a topic name, I can search here to see if an administrator has entered that as a keyword.

I searched for Acadian and found 6 options to evaluate.

Now all I have to do is click on the project link and then on the orange Join button to become a member.

Check Your Sharing Option

One quick housekeeping item as a project member is to check to be sure that your results can be shared on the project page, if that’s what you want.

At the top of your page, under “Manage Group Projects,” click on “Project Preferences.”

You can view the administrators of each project and manage permissions for each administrator individually.

Scroll down just a bit more and you’ll see the group project profile.

If you’d like for your DNA results to be included in the public project page results, be sure sharing is set to “on.” Your name is never shown publicly, except to your matches on your match page. In projects, only a surname and earliest known ancestor is shown. Here’s the Vannoy Y DNA page as an example.

Sharing in genealogy benefits everyone and encourages other people to test.

What About You?

Have you joined the projects that would be a good fit for you? Check out your surnames and topics of interest, here.

You can always transfer your autosomal DNA from other vendors and join projects today with no waiting.

If you transfer an autosomal kit from another vendor (instructions here,) you can order a Y DNA or mitochondrial upgrade and FamilyTreeDNA will send you a swab kit. That way all of your test results can be utilized together for added benefit.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

WikiTree Challenge Reveal – Spoiler Alert: Brick Walls Falling

I have to tell you – this was just so doggone much fun!

I was a guest of the WikiTree Challenge, a community sourcing and discovery event. The WikiTree volunteer researchers were just amazing.

I already had a tree on WikiTree, which is a combination of my “own” tree and the same ancestors that other people share on WikiTree. WikiTree is a “one big tree” genealogy site. If you take a look at my tree, then scroll down, you’ll see three categories of Research, Tools, and Contacts available to everyone

This screenshot is just an example – there are lots more features and tools available.

And before you say it out loud, yes, I know about the errors and misinformation on “one big tree sites” and how FRUSTRATING it is to find erroneous information and either have no ability to fix it, or it’s almost impossible.

I’ve found WikiTree to be different.

Eight Reasons Why I Like WikiTree

Let me explain for a brief minute how WikiTree works and why I like it.

  1. WikiTree is entirely free, all-volunteer, and encourages cooperation and collaboration between and among genealogists.
  2. You can upload your GEDCOM file and connect your ancestors, or you can simply enter yourself and your ancestors until you connect with an ancestor that already exists in WikiTree. In my case, that would have been my grandparents. WikiTree has many profiles of ancestors, so that process shouldn’t take long unless you have a family from an under-represented region of the world.
  3. WikiTree has volunteer moderators who are experienced and assist if issues arise. Let me give you an example. Let’s say you think something is in error for your ancestor. You leave a comment on that ancestor’s profile card, but the profile manager doesn’t respond. You’d like to have the questionable data evaluated, so you have the option to ask for assistance from one of the moderators.
  4. WikiTree has a GtoG (Genealogist to Genealogist) Forum where you can ask, or answer questions.
  5. You can post questions, comments and in many cases, edit the profiles to provide additional information.
  6. The research comments remain in the thread of the ancestor, including links to other resources.
  7. Descendants can post their Y and mitochondrial DNA information if they descent appropriately to be relevant to that ancestor – along with autosomal information so you can see if you match.
  8. WikiTree is free and doesn’t replace any other resource. In other words, you still need to test your DNA elsewhere, and you need those data and document subscriptions for research resources. You record the findings and documents from all the sites in one location in WikiTree for each ancestor.

WikiTree is Fun

As we genealogists all know, there are trees and various sources of data in many, many individual places, much of it online. However, there’s still a huge amount that isn’t online, hidden in musty courthouse basements, and/or resides in researchers’ file folders.

WikiTree is a central location where all of those various resources and hints can be sifted through and gathered together – and it’s available for everyone free and without a subscription. I think of it as my wiki genealogy repository. Otherwise, my ancestor’s data is scattered in many locations – and held in many trees online – none of which I can influence except my own. I can and do contribute on WikiTree.

Unlike some subscription services, researchers can have an ongoing dialogue about, let’s say, whether Abraham Estes’s wife, Barbara’s birth surname was Brock – or not.

Her surname has (erroneously) been reported as Brock since the 1980s when a NOVEL was written using Abraham and Barbara as characters and ascribed Brock as her surname. Literally, almost every tree on the subscription sites shows Barbara’s surname as Brock, but there is not one single shred of evidence that it was. Even the author later said he was sorry he had done that and had no idea people would latch on to that as gospel. After all, it was a novel. But they did.

You can take a look at Barbara’s profile here and the comments and documentation as well. In essence, WikiTree is your opportunity, aside from your own tree wherever you place it, to be sure there is at least one public location where your ancestor’s information is provided and compiled correctly – and that the discussion of why is preserved.

When I’m researching, I appreciate that I can see the back and forth dialogue. WikiTree assures that exchanges remain respectful.

My Challenge Week

My WikiTree challenge week ran from 10-13 to 10-20. In advance, I reviewed my ancestors and commented where I thought there were questions or issues. Yes, I was hoping for help, especially with certain particularly thorny ancestors.

It was all I could do to behave and not peek during the week. I can’t even express how excited I was.

I didn’t have any specific expectations, in part because I’ve been a genealogist for so long. But of course, I was hoping for some brick wall breakthroughs!

Finally, the big reveal day arrived!

You can watch the reveal here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwhxZmQ34VI

You can also see a summary of the highlights, here.

Given that challenges are a community event, WikiTree has made it fun by awarding points to researchers for various things. Scoring is explained here.

In addition to the WikiTree community, my blog followers who weren’t able to get on the WikiTree team at the last minute contributed as well by sending me hints and info. Thank you so very much. I love you folks!

Mindy Silva, the Challenge coordinator, began by creating a fan chart that showed where I had brick walls available to fall.

In fact, several of these walls did fall, leading to additional generations being added to that line as well.

I was gobsmacked.

In particular, the Henry Hill line out of Vermont has proven very confusing and the German Drechsel line is daunting.

I’m extremely grateful for the many Dutch records and how well they are preserved. This facilitated moving back several generations on two lines, here and here. Additionally, it was also discovered that one Piers de Jong changed his name in 1811. As if Dutch records and surnames aren’t difficult enough!

For Dorothy Edmiston, we have more information, but I still need to be convinced. My sticking point is that our only data source is a will in 1749 that refers to a Dorothy Edmiston as a daughter – but we know that our Dorothy was married to Thomas McSpadden in the mid-1730s. This is not a criticism, but in fact leads me to my next point.

It’s All Hints

I’ve heard it and even said it. One big trees are frustrating because there can be so much misinformation. The same is true for individual shared trees, too, of course, and they multiply like ants. In most cases, you can’t do anything about it, but you actually can at WikiTree.

Treat everything as a hint.

That’s my rule of thumb: It’s all hints!

Try to prove or disprove everything. You may well find that the proof is actually in the profile, or in the links to other resources. Remember to share your actual findings in the person’s profile so someone else doesn’t have to replow the field you just plowed.

Post your comments. Read the threads. There’s gold there. Even if you disprove something, it’s wonderful to know why it arose in the first place. In one case, someone finally found the original source of a family story and why a specific piece of information was given.

But There’s More

Sometimes I think we focus too much on breakthroughs and not enough of documenting what’s available. I try to do this in my 52 ancestor stories, but adding the resources in WikiTree and making sure they are accurate is important too.

More than 3100 edits of my ancestors’ profiles were completed during the challenge week.

In addition to everything else, lots, and I mean a LOT of cleanup and housekeeping took place.

For example, look how nice this profile page for my great-grandmother, Ellenore (Nora) Kirsch (Lore) looks now thanks to Cheryl Hess Smith’s hard work. I am so very glad to see the information from the articles I’ve written about my ancestors being integrated into these profiles. They asked and I gave permission for information from any of my articles to be used.

Trust me, Nora’s profile looked nothing like this before.

Are We Related?

Who are these people who spent so much time on my ancestors’ profiles? Am I related to them? Is that why they expended the effort? I expected the answer to be yes.

Just for fun, I decided to see if I am related to each person who worked on the challenge.

It’s easy to tell if or how you are related to someone on WikiTree.

Go to their profile, then under their profile information, select “Relationship to Me.”

If you don’t see these options, the profile owner may have opted to keep this type of information private.

If you want to see how you are related to me, click here for my profile. If we are related, tell me how and through which ancestor, along with your profile ID in the comments. Who knows, the WikiTree Challenge volunteers may have been working on your ancestor too!

For each of the team members who worked on my branches this week, I checked to see if and how we are related. The results are shown below, with birth surnames shown in parenthesis.

As I viewed the profile for each person, I was dumbstruck at the number of cumulative contributions by these volunteers. Are you ready for this – these 35 people have contributed well over 1.5 million times – and growing every single day.

Relationship to Me

Let me explain how this works.

Jayme Arrington was the MVP this week, meaning she made the highest number of contributions that received points. Thank you, Jayme.

Jayme and I are 12th cousins once removed and I’ve provided the relationship link so you can take a look if you wish. Yes, each step needs to be proven for both people.

  • Jayme Arrington – MVP – 12C1

Relationship link

54K contributions

Jayne is an amazing contributor! We are related through our Connecticut Puritan line that extends back to England.

  • Dieter Lewerenz – no relationship

23K contributions

Top bounty hunter – congratulations!

  • Cheryl Hess Smith – 11C1R

Relationship link

91K contributions

Look at that – 91 thousand. Wow. Just wow.

  • Margreet Beers

25K contributions

Margreet is Dutch and I bet you can guess who did some of that work on my Dutch lines!

  • Greg Lavoie – 9C through Abraham Dugas

Relationship link

35K contributions

We share Acadian ancestors. There’s an old saying that if you are related to one Acadian, you are related to all Acadians!

  • Donna (Tucker) Baumann – 10C1R – through Katherine Duxford

Relationship link

51K contributions

Donna and I share Puritan ancestors.

  • Kathy Rabenstein – not related

83K contributions

Kathy made 151 edits to my ancestors and added 22 of their relatives. I would have gone down some rabbit hole never to be seen again!

  • Ann Browning – not related

5K contributions

Ann created a new ancestor for me. I’m grateful to be among her contributions.

  • Rosalie Martin Neve – 12C

Relationship link

29K contributions

Our Bowling line is from Lancashire. It’s fun to find connections. Given that she’s a WikiTreer, I’d bet she has seen my Bowling articles that include Charnock Richard, where our ancestors lived.

  • Chris M. Ferraiolo – 7C2R

Relationship link

15K contributions

Chris and I are related through my difficult Hill line which intersects with the Drew and Downes line. Look at this.

Chris and I share 70 common ancestors on multiple unrelated lines. (Hint – he has Acadian ancestry too)

Isn’t this WikiTree feature cool!

  • Kathy J. Nava (Urbach) – 19c2R

Relationship link

2K contributions

If these lineages are correct for both of us, we connect in the royal lineages of England. I’m not convinced my side of this lineage is accurate, but I need to research my Rice line more anyway and this provides motivation.

  • Maddy Hardman

131K contributions

OK, I’m just blown away by the sheer number of Maddy’s contributions. She must help other people all day and night. Does she ever sleep?

  • Paul J. Gierszewski – no relationship

47K contributions

Paul created 9 relatives and made 83 edits. Paul, along with several other WikiTree volunteers works on Source-A-Thon‘s too, where the goals is to – you guessed it – add sources to unsourced information on trees.

  • Lucy A. Selvaggio-Diaz – 15C1R

Relationship link

46K contributions

Lucy edited 16 profiles and added several relatives.

  • Jennifer Robins – 10C1R through Katherine Duxford

Relationship link

52K contributions

Ah, look, this means that Donna, Jennifer, and me are all three related through the same ancestor.

  • Karen J. Lowe – 10C through Mercy Prence

Relationship link

185K contributions

Our common ancestor, Mercy Prence was the granddaughter of Elder William Brewster, the Pilgrim minister.

I can’t even imagine 185K contributions. My cousin is AWESOME!

  • Melanie McComb (Doherty) – no relationship

2K contributions

Melanie created two ancestors for me!

  • S. Johnston (Ellingson) – 15C

Relationship link

4K contributions

Ok, I really do have to get busy researching my Rice line to see if I can figure out if Thomas Rice is the son of Edward Rice and Mary Elizabeth Claiborne Harris. Group 4 of the Rice DNA Project is the line of my Thomas – more research is definately needed.

  • Laura A. DeSpain, Challenge team captain – 11C1R

Relationship link

40K contributions

Another Puritan lineage connecting through the Hill, Hall, Richardson lines out of Connecticut.

Thanks, Laura for being my team captain!

  • Elaine Weatherall – 17C2R

Relationship link

5K contributions

Our common ancestor relies upon being connected to Francis Pafat via an illegitimate birth. I wonder if there’s a way to prove or disprove this. Hmmm…

  • Michelle R. Enke – no relation

26K contributions

Michelle added two relatives and made several edits.

  • Mindy Silva, hostess of the WikiTree Challenge events – 11C1R

Relationship link

91K contributions

I think that one of my ancestral links, Jotham Brown’s father, is incorrect on WikiTree so I’ve added my article about Jotham that shows his early connection in New Jersey. Y DNA connects him with that line too. Unfortunately, that means that Mindy and I probably aren’t related.☹

  • Joan E. Whitaker (Williams) – no relation

122K contributions

Joan added a relative and cleaned up several profiles.

  • Nancy L. Wilson (Cox) – 16C

Relationship link

14K contributions

Our common ancestor, Reynold West, is a member of the Magna Carta WikiTree Project. Do you have any Magna Carta sureties as ancestors?

  • Ellen Smith – 7C through Mehitable Wood

Relationship link

119K contributions

Our common ancestor, Mehitable Wood, has several people listed who are descendants and provide their autosomal test information. I need to check and see if I match with Ellen or anyone else who descends from Mehitable.

I love the ability to add the different types of DNA tests for each ancestor. I use WikiTree often to check for both Y and mitochondrial DNA descendants. If everyone tests their autosomal and mitochondrial DNA, and males test their Y DNA at FamilyTreeDNA, this would eventually allow nearly every ancestor to have their Y and mitochondrial DNA information associated with their profile.

  • Tommy T. Buch – no relation

13K contributions

Tommy has worked on many WikiTree challenges. Often, people who have been the lucky recipients say thank you on the profile of the various volunteers – and Tommy has several.

  • Yann Le Ny – no relation

1K contributions

It looks like Yann just joined WikiTree in the spring of 2021 and has already made more than 1000 contributions. Welcome and thank you!

  • G. Price – 9C through Thomas Durham

Relationship link

2K contributions

I am really impressed that she has provided for her “Digitial Afterlife,” something we all need to do. I need to take this same action, and so do you. Take a look at what she did, here, by scrolling down.

Stephen Tomaszewicz – no relationship

1K

Stephen worked on cleaning up several Dodson profiles, even though they aren’t his family lines.

I was startled to discover that most people were contributing on lines that aren’t their own. Just from the kindness of their hearts.

David A. Lambert – 9C

Relationship link

200+ contributions

David is the Chief Genealogist at American Ancestors of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, so it’s only fitting that we connect via my Hill/Mitchell/Andrews line. I would wager a guess that I can count on the information for our common ancestors, Joane and John Andrews, being accurate.

Eileen Robinson (Bellamy) – no relation

1K contributions

I wish we were related. I find Eileen’s bio very inspiring. Additionally, in 10 days or so since I originally wrote this article, Elieen has gone from crossing the 1000 submission threshold to 1905. Hats off to Eileen!

Janet Wild (Langridge) – no relationship

74K contributions

In addition to working on my challenge, Janet has participated in other challenges including being the captain, has been a project team lead and a one-name-study coordinator. I didn’t realize that WikiTree had one name studies. I need to go and check this out!

Karen L. Stewart – 10C

Relationship link

8K contributions

WikiTree has different privacy levels. Karen has set her privacy level to “Private with Public Biography and Family Tree.” You can read about the various levels and what they mean, here.

Jelena Eckstädt – no relation

74K contributions

When I saw Jelena’s German name, I thought sure that we were related. Alas, no, but I was still the beneficiary of her German expertise.

Anon Sharkey (Cormack)

44K contributions

Anon may want to remain anonymous, but with almost 45K contributions, Anon is clearly making a huge difference.

Thank You One and All

I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you to everyone for working on my ancestors during my WikiTree Challenge week.

If I worked on 10 items a day, for a year, I wouldn’t have been able to get this done. It’s not just time. I was the beneficiary of the expertise and determination of these amazing volunteers.

Truly, the holiday season came early for me this year!

Thank you one and all.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

DNA Beginnings: Matching at Ancestry and What It Means

This is the fourth in the series of “DNA Beginnings” articles. Previous articles you might enjoy include:

Why Is Matching Important?

For genealogists, DNA matching to other people is the key to verifying your ancestors, beginning with your parents and continuing up your tree. You can also meet new cousins who may have information, including photos, that you don’t.

Each of the four major vendors has benefits that the others don’t have. As we review matches at each vendor, we’ll discuss the plusses and minuses of each one and how to use their unique features to benefit your genealogy quest.

Let’s start with Ancestry.

Ancestry

The highest total number of people have tested their DNA with Ancestry, although I’m not certain that holds true for testers outside the US.

This means that you are likely to find at least some close matches at Ancestry. Every vendor has people in their database that no other vendor has though. I recommend testing at the 4 major vendors, including FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, and 23andMe.

At Ancestry, Where Are My Matches?

You’ll find the list of people who match you under the “DNA”, then “DNA Matches” tabs at Ancestry.

Ancestry packs a lot of information into your match pages. Let’s take a look at what that means to you as a genealogist and how you can make it work for you.

Clcik to enlarge images

I’ll be discussing each one of these areas, below, so refer back. Let’s start with the basic page arrangement.

  • Features at the top apply to managing and working with all of your matches
  • Features under each match apply to that match only.

Pretty straightforward.

I’ll begin at the top and review each item, but first, let’s talk about testing your parents.

Test Your Parents

First, if you have either or both parents available to test, by all means, test both parents and not just at Ancestry. This is sage advice for all vendors.

Be aware that if one or both of your parents are not your biological parents, DNA testing will reveal that fact.

When your parent tests, matches that Ancestry can automatically attribute to that parent’s side of your family based on matching you and your parent, both, are noted as such.

While this is useful, especially since maternally and paternally assigned matches are your closest matches, Ancestry only automatically assigns about as many matches as fall into your close matches category. Someplace between half and 1% of your total matches. I sort of deflated like a balloon when I made that discovery. 

It’s still definitely worth testing your parents, though, because you will be able to view your matches to see if they match you and a parent both. Even if Ancestry doesn’t assign them maternally or paternally, you can certainly derive clues from who you match in common – and you can assign matches yourself.

We will talk about exactly how to do this in a bit!

Now, back to the function bar.

The Function Bar

The function bar beneath the ad promoting parental testing is your driver’s seat.

Click to enlarge images

You’ll find a variety of filters and functions like searching and sorting your matches. In other words, these are the actions you can take. Let’s start with the filters, on the left.

  • Unviewed – The “Unviewed” filter widget displays only matches you have not yet viewed. Unviewed matches are annotated with a blue dot. Because your matches are displayed in highest to lowest order, you’ll see your closest unviewed match first. I use this filter a lot because it means I don’t have to scroll through the matches I’ve already viewed and analyzed.

I have a “one initial touch” policy. When I initially view a match, I step through all the functions I can utilize to identify how that person is (potentially) related to me and I make notes.

The rest of these filters and functions are important steps in that analysis process.

Please notice that you can combine filters.

I’ve clicked both the “Unviewed” and the “Common Ancestors” filters, meaning BOTH of these filters are simultaneously functioning. If you just want one filter, be sure to “Reset Filters” before clicking a second filter button.

  • Common Ancestors – That infamous little green leaf. In this case, when viewing DNA matches, that green leaf is very important because it indicates that Ancestry has found a (potential) common ancestor between you and your match.

Clicking on the little green leaf shows you the most recent common ancestor(s) that Ancestry believes you share with that match based on:

  1. The fact that your DNA does match
  2. And that you have common ancestors either in your tree
  3. Or ancestors that can be linked to both of you through other people’s trees

Notice Ancestry’s careful wording about these potential ancestors. Megan “could be” my 5th cousin once removed. “Could be.” Ancestry isn’t using weasel words here, but trying to convey the fact that people’s genealogy, Megan’s, mine or other peoples’ can be wrong.

In other words, Ancestry has found a potential link between me and Megan, but it may not be valid. These connections use trees to suggest common ancestors and some trees are not reliable. It’s up to me (and you) to confirm that suggested ancestral path.

Clicking on “View Relationship” takes me to the Ancestry tool known as ThruLines which shows me how Megan and I may be related.

I have Stephen Miller in my tree, but not his son John J. Miller as indicated by the hashed boxes.

I can click on the Evaluate button to see what type of evidence and which trees Ancestry used to assign John J. Miller as the son of Stephen Miller. In other words, I can accumulate my own evidence to validate, verify, or refute the connection to Daniel Miller for me and Megan.

I wrote about ThruLines here and here.

  • Messaged – The “Messaged” filter button shows matches I’ve sent messages to through Ancestry’s messaging feature.

You can track your messages in the little envelope button by your name at upper right.

  • Notes – The “Notes” filter shows your matches and the notes you’ve made about that match. I use notes extensively so I don’t replow the same field.

In my case, I took a second test at Ancestry several years ago when they introduced a new chip to compare to the results of my original test. I noted that this is my V2 test in this example.

Normally my notes are genealogy-related, especially in cases where I’ve discovered more than one set of common ancestors through multiple lines. I record hints here, such as which of my closest relatives this person also matches. I also record our common ancestor when I identify who that is or even who it might be.

You can create a note by clicking on the match, then on “Add Note” near the top.

  • Trees – The “Trees” filter provides the ability to view matches who have only specific tree statuses.

Perhaps you only want to view only people with public, linked trees. Why are public, linked trees important?

Public trees can be seen and searched by your matches. Private trees cannot be seen by matches.

A public, linked tree means that your match has linked their DNA test to their own profile card in a public tree. The linking process tells Ancestry who “they are” in their tree and allows Ancestry to begin searching from that person up their tree to see if they can identify common ancestors with their matches. In other words, linking allows Ancestry’s tools to work for you and allows other people to view your position in your tree so that can see how you might share ancestors.

Some people don’t understand the linking process, so I normally take a look at unlinked trees too, especially if the person only has one tree.

Be sure your DNA test is linked to your tree by clicking on the little down arrow by your user name in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, then, click on “Your Profile,” then click on the settings gear beneath your name.

Then click on DNA:

You’ll see the tests that you own, so click on the little right arrow (>) to work with a specific test.

Finally, you’ll see the name on the test, the profile it’s connected to, and the name of the tree.

Not accurate or what you want? You can change it!

Ok, back to working with filters. Next, Shared DNA.

  • “Shared DNA” allows you to view only specific relationships of matches.

I use this tab mostly to see how many matches I have.

  • The “Groups” filter categorizes matches by the colored dot groups you establish. Matches can be assigned to single or multiple groups.

The good news is that you have 24 colored dot buttons that represent groups to work with. The bad news is that you have only 24 that you can assign.

Generally, I assign colored dots, and therefore matches, to a couple, not an individual. In some cases, especially with two marriages, I have assigned match buttons to a single ancestor. Of course, that means that one couple uses 2 colored buttons☹

After you’ve created your groups, you can assign a match to a group, or multiple groups, by clicking on your match.

“Add to group” is located right beside “Add note,” so I do both at the same time for each match.

I have one group called “Ancestor Identified” which is reserved for all ancestors who don’t have colored group dots assigned. I can tell which ancestor by reading the notes I’ve entered.

To view every match in a particular group, click on that group, then “apply” at the bottom.

The matches displayed will only be the 17 matches that I’ve assigned to the blue dot group – all descended from Antoine Lore (and his wife).

However, looking at who I match in common with these 17 people can lead me to more people descended from Antoine, his wife, or their ancestors.

  • Search – The “Search” function at far right allows you to search your matches in multiple ways, but not by the most important aspect of genealogy.

  1. You can search by the match’s name; first, last or Ancestry user name.
  2. You can search by surname in your matches’ trees. I sure hope you don’t have Jones.
  3. You can search by birth location in matches’ trees.
  4. You CANNOT search by ancestor. Say what???

Seriously.

Come on Ancestry…don’t make this intentionally difficult.

  • “Sort” allows you to sort your match list either by relationship (the default) or by date. I’d trade this for search by ancestor in a New York Minute.

We are finished with the filters and functions for managing your entire list, so let’s see what we can do with each individual match.

Match Information

We’ve already learned a lot about our matches just by using different filters, but there’s a lot more available.

You’ll need to click on various areas of the match to view specific or additional information.

Click on the predicted relationship, like 5th-8th cousin, to view how closely Ancestry,  thinks you are related based on the amount of DNA you share. If you click on the relationship, Ancestry displays the various relationship possibilities and how likely each one is.

Looks like there’s a bit of a disconnect, because while Ancestry predicts this relationship with 17 shared cM of DNA at 5th-8th cousin, their chart shows that variations of 3rd or 4th cousin are more likely. This is a great example of why you should always click on the predicted relationship and check for yourself.

Conversely, if you’re related to a match through multiple lines, or through one set of ancestors more than once, Ancestry may predict that you are related more closely than you actually are – because you may carry more of that ancestor’s DNA. Ancestry, nor any other vendor, has any way of knowing why you carry that amount of ancestral DNA.

Ancestry also shows you a little more information about how much DNA you share, and how many segments. Unfortunately, Ancestry does not provide a chromosome browser, so there isn’t any more you can do, at Ancestry, with this information – although you can certainly transfer your DNA to MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, or GedMatch (a third-party tool) who all provide chromosome browsers.

Ancestry shows you the number of cMs, or centiMorgans of DNA you share. Think about a centiMorgan as a length measure, for practical purposes. Each vendor has their own matching threshold and a matching piece of DNA with another person must be larger than that bar. Ancestry’s minimum cM threshold is 8 cM, the highest of all the vendors.

This means that any match lower than 8 cM is not considered a match at Ancestry, but that same person might appear on your match list at another vendor whose match threshold is lower.

Ancestry also removes some of your matching DNA before considering matches. In areas where your DNA is “too matchy,” Ancestry removes some segments because they feel that DNA may be “older” and not genealogically relevant.

There’s a great deal of debate about this practice, and strong feelings abound. Some people feel this is justified because it helps reduce the large number of matches, especially for people who descend from highly endogamous populations.

Other people who have one endogamous line among many others find that many or most of their matches from that population were removed by Ancestry when they did one of their two purges. That’s what happened to my Acadian and many of my African American matches.

Regardless, Ancestry tells you for each match if they removed DNA segments using their Timber algorithm, and if so, how many.

Clearly, when viewing this match, 1 cM of removed DNA isn’t going to make much if any difference unless that 1cM was the difference between being a match and not matching. You can read Ancestry’s paper about how their matching works beneath the hood, here.

There are only two real differences that DNA removal makes at Ancestry:

  • Whether you match or not, meaning you’re either over or under that 8 cM bar.
  • Shared matches under 20 cM won’t show, so if you have 22 cM of shared DNA with someone and Ancestry removes 3, you won’t show as a shared match to people you match in common. And people you match in common, if they have less than 20 cM shared DNA won’t show to you either.

Since Ancestry doesn’t provide their customers with advanced tools to compare segments of DNA with their matches, other than the two circumstances above, the removal of some DNA doesn’t really matter.

That might be more than you wanted to know! However, if you find some matches confusing, especially if you know two people are both matching you and each other, but they don’t show as a shared match, this just might be why. We’ll talk about shared matches in a minute.

Do Your Recognize Your Matches?

Ancestry provides a way for you to assign relationships.

If you click on “Learn more,” you’ll view the match page that shows their tree, common ancestors with you, if identified, and more.

If you click “Yes,” you’ll be prompted for how you match.

Ancestry will ask if you know the specific relationship based on the probabilities of that relationship being accurate.

After you confirm, that individual will be assigned to that parental side of your family, or both, based on your selection.

Shared Matches

Shared matches are a way of viewing who you and one of your matches both match.

In other words, if you recognize other people you both match, that’s a HUGE clue as to how you and your match are related. However, it’s not an absolute, because you could match two people through entirely different lines, and they could match each other through another line not related to you. However, shared matching does provide hints, especially if your match matches several relatives you can identify who descend from the same ancestor or ancestral couple.

This match only has initials and a private unlinked tree. That means they aren’t linked to the proper place in their tree, and their tree is private so I can’t view it to evaluate for hints.

How can I possibly figure out how we are related?

Click on the match.

Clicking on Shared Matches shows me the people that T. F. and I both match.

Notice that T. F. and I match my 5 top matches on my mother’s side. Clearly, T. F. and I share common ancestors on my mother’s side.

Furthermore, based on my notes and the amount of DNA we share, our common ancestor is probably my great-grandparents.

This match was easy to unravel, but not all are. Lets’s look at a different shared match list.

In this example, all 4 people have unlinked trees. The smallest shared match is 20 cM –  because Ancestry doesn’t show smaller shared matches below 20 cM. Of course, there are probably a lot of smaller shared matches, but I can’t see them. In essence, this limits viewing your shared matches to the 4th-6th cousin range or closer.

Just be aware that you’re not seeing all of your shared matches, so don’t assume you are.

Summary

By reviewing each match at Ancestry using a methodical step-by-step approach, there’s a great deal of information to be gleaned.

Let’s summarize briefly:

  • Your matches listed first on your match list are your closest, and likely to be the most useful to you in terms of identifying maternal and paternal sides of your family for other matches.
  • Test either or both parents if possible
  • Link yourself and the DNA kits you manage to their proper place in your tree so that Ancestry can provide you with parental sides for your matches if your parents have tested. Ancestry uses linked trees for ThruLines tii.
  • Manually assign “sides” to matches if your parents aren’t available to test.
  • Use the filters or combinations. Don’t forget to reset.
  • Click on “Common Ancestors” to view potential common ancestors – matches exhibiting those green leaves. This is Ancestry’s strength.
  • From Common Ancestors, check ThruLines to view matches linked to a common ancestor.
  • Don’t neglect unlinked trees.
  • Assign dot colors to ancestral couples or a way that makes sense to you.
  • Assign matches by colored dot group.
  • Make notes that will help you remember details about the match and what you have and have not done with or learned about that match.
  • Search by location or surname or a combination of both.
  • Assign relationships, when known. At least assign maternally or paternally, or both if the match is related through both sides of your family. Hint – your full siblings, their children, and your children are related to both sides – your mother’s and father’s sides, both.
  • Click on your match’s profile to view additional information, including common ancestors and their tree. Scroll down to view common surnames, locations and ancestors from both people (you and your match) found in those locations.
  • View shared matches to see who else you and your match are both related to. Your shared matches may well hold the key to how you and an unknown match are related. Don’t forget that Ancestry only displays shared matches of 20 cM or larger.
  • If you’d like to utilize a chromosome browser for additional insights and to confirm specific common ancestors by shared segments of DNA, download a copy of your raw DNA data file and upload, free, to both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage, here. They both provide chromosome browsers and advanced tools.

You can find step-by-step instructions for downloading from Ancestry and uploading elsewhere, here.

Join Me for More!

I’ll be publishing similar articles about working with matches at FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and 23andMe soon.

If you haven’t tested at all of these vendors and would like to, just click on these links for more information or to order tests:

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

  • com – Lots of wonderful genealogy research books

Genealogy Research

Free Webinar: 10 Ways to Find Your Native American Ancestor Using Y, Mitochondrial and Autosomal DNA

I recorded 10 Ways to Find Your Native American Ancestor Using Y, Mitochondrial and Autosomal DNA for Legacy Family Tree Webinars.

Webinars are free for the first week. After that, you’ll need a subscription.

If you subscribe to Legacy Family Tree, here, you’ll also receive the downloadable 24-page syllabus and you can watch any of the 1500+ webinars available at Legacy Family Tree Webinars anytime.

In 10 Ways to Find Your Native American Ancestor Using Y, Mitochondrial and Autosomal DNA, I covered the following features and how to use them for your genealogy:

  • Ethnicity – why it works and why it sometimes doesn’t
  • Ethnicity – how it works
  • Your Chromosomes – Mom and Dad
  • Ethnicity at AncestryDNA, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage DNA
  • Genetic Communities at AncestryDNA
  • Genetic Groups at MyHeritage DNA
  • Painted ethnicity segments at 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA
  • Painting ethnicity segments at DNAPainter – and why you want to
  • Shared ethnicity segments with your matches at AncestryDNA, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage DNA
  • Downloading matches and segment files
  • Techniques to pinpoint Native Ancestors in your tree
  • Y DNA, Native ancestors and haplogroups
  • Mitochondrial DNA, Native ancestors and haplogroups
  • Creating a plan to find your Native ancestor
  • Strategies for finding test candidates
  • Your Ancestor DNA Pedigree Chart
  • Success!!!

If you haven’t yet tested at or uploaded your DNA to both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage, you can find upload/download instructions, here, so that you can take advantage of the unique tools at all vendors.

Hope you enjoy the webinar and find those elusive ancestors!

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

FamilyTreeDNA’s Chromosome Painting Just Arrived!!!

FamilyTreeDNA’s long-anticipated chromosome painting for ethnicity results just arrived!

Videos and a White Paper!

Along with the release, Family TreeDNA has also provided several resources.

Dr. Paul Maier, Population Geneticist at FamilyTreeDNA created a three-part video series that explains MyOrigins V3 and the science behind the results – in normal language that air-breathing humans can understand. These are absolutely wonderful and only about 10 minutes each, so be sure to watch – in order!

MyOrigins 3.0 white paper that explains the science in more detail is here! If nothing else, at least skim and look at the pictures. It’s actually an amazing document.

Your Painted Results

To view your results, sign on to your account and click on Chromosome Painting!

Click on any image to enlarge

There it is – your beautiful new painted chromosomes with your Continental or Super Population results painted on your chromosomes!

Look, there are my AmerIndian segments, in pink.

What Can I Do?

You can download your segment file too – in the upper right-hand corner.

You can also download your segment match file found under the chromosome browser tab and sort your segments to see who matches you on these segments. I provided instructions, here.

Of course, you’ll see both sides, meaning paternal and maternal matches, so it will be necessary to determine on which “side” your segments of interest originate, and who matches you on that side of your tree.

We will discuss these strategies and how to implement them in future articles.

A little birdie tells me that DNAPainter will have an import soon so you can upload your chromosome painting file to integrate with your match painting.

Right now, just viewing and appreciating your chromosome art that represents our ancestors is amazing. Did you find any surprises? Who else wants to print and frame this?

If you don’t have results at FamilyTreeDNA, you can upload DNA results from the other three major testing companies and pay a $19 unlock to receive your very own chromosome painting. Upload/Download instructions are found here.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

DNA Beginnings: How Many DNA Matches Do I Have?

People often want to know how many DNA matches they have.

Sounds simple, right?

At some vendors, the answer to this question is easy to find, and at others, not so much.

How do you locate this information at each of the four major vendors?

What else do you need to know?

I’ve written handy step-by-step instructions for each company!

Matches at FamilyTreeDNA

Sign on at FamilyTreeDNA and under autosomal results, click on Family Finder Matches.

At the top of the next page, you’ll see your total number of matches along with matches that FamilyTreeDNA has been able to assign maternally or paternally based on creating/uploading a tree and linking known matches to that tree in their proper place.

Your parents do NOT need to have tested for the maternal/paternal bucketing functionality, but you DO need to identify some relatives and link their tests to their place in your tree. It’s that easy. Instructions for linking can be found in the “Linking Matches on Your Tree” section of this article (click here), along with information about how that helps you, or here.

Obviously, if your parents have tested, that’s the best scenario. For people who don’t have that option, FamilyTreeDNA is the ONLY vendor that offers this type of feature if your parents have NOT tested.

At FamilyTreeDNA, I have 7313 total matches of which 3169 are paternal, 1402 are maternal and 6 are related to both parents.

Hint – your siblings, their children, your children, grandchildren, etc. will be related to you on both your paternal and maternal sides.

If you don’t have an autosomal DNA test at FamilyTreeDNA, you can upload one from Ancestry, 23andMe, or MyHeritage for free. Click here for instructions.

Matches at MyHeritage

At MyHeritage, sign on and click on DNA, then DNA Matches.

At the top of your matches page, you’ll see your total number of matches.

At MyHeritage, I have 14,082 matches.

Matches are not broken down maternally and paternally automatically, but I can filter my matches in a wide variety of ways, including shared matches with either parent if they have tested, or other relatives.

If you don’t have an autosomal DNA test at MyHeritage, you can transfer one from Ancestry, 23andMe, or FamilyTreeDNA for free. Click here to begin your upload to MyHeritage.

Click here for instructions about how to download a copy of your DNA file from other vendors.

Matches at Ancestry

At Ancestry, sign on and click on DNA, then DNA Matches.

On your matches page, at the top, you’ll see a number of function widgets. Look for “Shared DNA.”

Click the down arrow to expand the Shared DNA box and you’ll see the total number of matches, along with the breakdown between 4th cousins or closer and distant matches.

Sometimes the number of matches doesn’t show up which means Ancestry’s servers are too busy to calculate the number of matches. Refresh your screen or try again in a few minutes. This happens often to me and always makes me question my sanity:)

I have 53,435 matches at Ancestry, of which 4,102 are estimated to be 4th cousins or closer and 49,333 are more distant.

For close matches only, if your parents have tested at Ancestry, when possible, Ancestry tells you on each match if that person is associated with your father’s side or your mother’s side.

You can’t upload DNA files from other vendors to Ancestry, but you can download a copy of your DNA file from Ancestry and upload to either FamilyTreeDNA or MyHeritage. Click here for instructions.

You can also download a copy of your tree from Ancestry and upload it to either of those vendors, along with your DNA file for best results.

Matches at 23andMe

23andMe functions differently from the other vendors. They set a hard limit on the number of matches you receive.

That maximum number differs based on the test version you took and if you pay for a membership subscription that provides enhanced medical information along with advanced filters and the ability to have a maximum of 5000 matches.

In order to purchase the membership subscription, you need to take their most current V5 test. If you tested with an earlier product, you will need to repurchase, retest or upgrade your current test which means you’ll need to spit in the vial again.

Please note the words, “up to 5000 relatives,” in the 23andMe verbiage. They also say that’s “over 3 times what you get” with their test without a subscription.

23andMe handles things differently from any other vendor in the industry. They made changes recently which created quite a stir because they removed some capabilities from existing customers and made those functions part of their subscription model. You can read about that here and here.

The match limit on the current 23andMe V5 test, WITHOUT the subscription, is 1500. If you tested previously on earlier kits, V2-V4, 23andMe has reinstated your prior maximum match limit which was 2000.

So, here’s the maximum match summary for 23andMe:

  • Earlier kits (V2-V4) – 2000 maximum matches
  • Current V5 kit with no subscription – 1500 maximum matches
  • Current V5 kit with subscription – 5000 maximum matches

Except, that’s NOT the number of matches you’ll actually see.

23andMe handles matching differently too.

23andMe matches you with their other customers up to your maximum, whatever that is, then subtracts the people who have not opted-in to genealogy matching. Remember, 23andMe focuses on health, not genealogy, so not all of their customers want matching.

Therefore, you’ll NEVER see your total number of allowed matches, which is why 23andMe cleverly says you “get access to up to 5000 relatives.”

Let’s look at my V4 test at 23andMe. Sign on and click on Ancestry, then DNA Relatives. (Please note, Ancestry is not Ancestry the company, but at 23andMe means genealogy results as opposed to medical/health results.)

At the top of your DNA Relatives page, you’ll see your total number of matches, before any sorting filters are applied.

23andMe does not automatically assign matches maternally or paternally, but if your parents have tested AND opt-in to matching, then you can filter by people who also match either parent.

I have 1796 matches at 23andMe, which means that 204 or 11% of my matches have not opted-in to matching.

You can’t upload DNA files from other vendors to 23andMe, but you can download a copy of your DNA file from 23andMe and upload to either FamilyTreeDNA or MyHeritage where you will assuredly receive more matches. Click here for instructions.

Summary

Each vendor has its own unique set of features and operates differently. It’s not so much the number of matches you have, but if you have the RIGHT match to break through a particular brick wall or provide you with a previously unknown photo of a cherished family member.

I encourage everyone to fish in all 4 of these ponds by testing or uploading your DNA. Uploading and matching are both free. Advanced tools require a small one-time unlock fee, but it’s significantly less than testing again. You can find step-by-step instructions to walk you through the process, here.

Have fun!!!

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

DNA Beginnings: What is a Match?

Before we evaluate matches at each of the four major vendors, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, Ancestry and 23andMe, let’s discuss what a DNA match is, what it means, and what it does NOT mean.

A Match to Another Person

Each of the four major vendors, but not some other vendors, provide matches to you and other individuals in their database.

This example from FamilyTreeDNA shows my mother’s match list listing me as her closest match, along with a kit I uploaded from Ancestry when I was recently updating upload/download article instructions for my readers. You don’t need to upload multiple kits to vendors.

Every vendor’s match list looks different, as is the information they provide. We will cover each vendor’s match list individually in future articles in this DNA Beginnings series.

Each vendor has different criteria for matching, but in essence, using that vendor’s match criteria – your DNA and the DNA of a person you match are identical on a section of DNA of a vendor-defined length.

Each of those vendors identifies the people who match each other and opt-in to matching in one way or another,

When you sign on to your account at each vendor, you’ll see a match list. Each of those people on that list match your DNA:

  • At or above the vendor-defined centiMorgan (cM) threshold. You can read more about centiMorgans here.
  • At or above the vendor-defined SNP threshold, meaning the number individual contiguous matching locations.

Each vendor has their own thresholds and internal algorithms that define matches. For example, a match of 8 cM with 1500 SNPs refers to both the length of the match (cM) and the density of locations within that segment of DNA that match between two people. Only matches above each vendor’s threshold appear on your match list.

Matches smaller than or beneath those vendor thresholds are considered less likely to be valid matches, so are excluded and do not appear on your match list.

Imputation Affects Matching

Different vendors test their customers’ DNA on different DNA chips:

  • Different chips test a different amount of DNA, but generally roughly 700,000 SNP locations
  • That 700K locations of DNA can be in different locations in your genome

In other words, just because two vendors both test 700,000 locations doesn’t mean they test the same 700,000 locations.

Even the same vendor will, over time, implement different DNA testing chips or modify the SNP locations tested on the same chip.

These different chips, chip versions and SNP locations are not fully compatible with each other, so the vendors use a technique known as imputation to level the playing field between non-identical files.

This is particularly relevant for vendors that accept uploads from other vendors.

In this example, we have 3 vendors and 10 different SNPs, or DNA locations.

  • Vendor 1, on their first Version 1 chip, tested locations 1-8.
  • Vendor 1, on their second V2 chip, tested locations 3-10.

Therefore only 6 locations, 3-8, were “common” between those two different chips used by the same vendor.

  • Vendor 2, on yet a different DNA testing chip version (V3) tested locations 1-4 and 7-10.
  • Vendor 3 on chip version V4 tested locations 2-5, 7, 8 and 10.

There are only 4 locations out of 10 tested by all the vendors’ chips.

If the vendor’s match criteria is that 10 locations in a row must match, then none of these people will match each other.

Sometimes differences occur because of chip differences, and sometimes a difference occurs because a location doesn’t read well for some reason.

In order to compensate for the differences in DNA locations tested/reported, a technique called imputation is widely used.

Imputation uses scientific probability techniques to fill in the blanks based on DNA that typically neighbors or “travels with” the nucleotides or DNA values, (T, A, C or G), found in the customer being tested.

Imputation allows all of those blanks to be filled in for all customers for each of those 10 locations, assuming the “missing DNA” is close to tested DNA locations.

It’s thanks to imputation that customers can download their raw DNA files from one vendor and upload to another for matching, even though the vendors don’t use the same exact chip.

Sometimes imputation is incorrect. Matching can be affected in both directions, meaning that some people will be on each other’s match lists who actually don’t match on a particular segment. Others would actually match if all of those locations were tested.

The highest quality matches are between people who tested at the same vendor, on the same chip or at two different vendors who use exactly the same chip. However, that’s often not possible and isn’t within the control of the customer.

False Positive Matches

This translates to, “You’re a match but not really” and is a headache for genealogists.

False positive matches show as a match between two people on their match lists, but they aren’t actually valid matches for genealogy.

  • A false positive match could occur as a result of imputation, of course.
  • A false positive match could also occur because the two people match because part of the DNA of their mother and part of the DNA of their father at those locations just happens to combine to appear as a match.

For purposes of these examples, presume that each of these matches exceeds the vendor’s match criteria so would be shown on your match list.

In our example, Person 1 and Person 2 match at all 10 locations, so they would appear on each other’s match lists.

However, if we could see the DNA of Person 2’s parents, we would see that Person 2 DOES match Person 1, but is NOT a valid match. Person 3 inherited the first 5 DNA locations from their mother and the second 5 DNA locations from their father.

While Person 2 technically is a match to Person 1, they aren’t a legitimate match because the segment of DNA that matches does not descend from the same parent. This means that the DNA did not descend in one piece from ONE ancestor, but clearly descended in pieces from two ancestors – one maternal and one paternal.

Therefore a technical match that is not a genealogical match because the DNA is inherited in part from both parents is known as a false positive and is said to be Identical by Chance, or IBC. You can read about IBC matches here.

False Negative Matches

A false negative match is just the opposite. False negatives occur when two people are NOT reported on each other’s match lists when they actually would match if all of the DNA at the various required locations were tested, read, and reported accurately. In other words, if imputation were not necessary.

  • False negatives can be caused by imputation not working as accurately as we would hope. Imputation is a probability tool, and it’s not perfect.
  • False negatives can also be caused by differing match thresholds at different vendors.

For example, if one vendor reports matches at 6 cM and above, and a second vendor reports matches at 8 cM and above, the same two people who match at 7 cM will match at the first vendor, but not at the second.

The only way you would ever know about a false negative match, because they aren’t reported, is if you simply happen to match at a vendor who allows smaller thresholds.

Also, keep in mind that each vendor creates their own imputations algorithms, so two different vendors using imputation on the same file may produce different results.

Determining Valid Matches

So, how might you determine which matches are actually valid matches?

That’s a great question.

There are useful “hints:”

  • If your parents have tested, a valid match will match one of your parents on that same segment of DNA. If your match does NOT match one of your parents, it’s a false positive match and invalid for genealogy.
  • If only one of your parents has tested, and your match does NOT match the tested parent, you can’t presume that person automatically matches your other, non-tested parent. That match could match your non-tested parent, or could be IBC.
  • If neither of your parents have tested, check to see if your match also matches close relatives who have tested, but not your descendants. For example, if a match also matches your aunt or uncle, or first cousins, that increases the probability that the match is probably valid.
  • The larger the match, the more likely it is to be a valid match. For example, matches in the 6-7 cM level are IBC about half the time. By the time you’re evaluating matches at the 20 cM level for a single segment, they are accurate almost all the time.

Keep in mind that each matching segment must be confirmed separately, and not every vendor shares the locations of the segments that match.

So What Is a Match?

  • A match is a person who is found on your match list at one of the major vendors.
  • A match at one vendor may not be on your match list if you both have DNA at another common vendor due to various reasons including the vendor’s match criteria, imputation, or file compatibility issues.
  • A match may be false positive, or IBC which means that person is not an accurate match for genealogy. This is especially true for smaller segment matches.
  • A false positive match can occur because of erroneous reads, imputation, or because your match is identical by chance.
  • The larger a matching segment of DNA, the more likely it is to be an accurate match meaning you and your match share a common ancestor.
  • The best way to tell if your match is valid is to compare your match to both of your parents as well.

A match is not a guarantee that you share a common ancestor unless you are matching to close relatives. You won’t match a close relative if the match is not valid.

What About You?

What is your plan to verify that your matches are valid?

Have your parents tested their DNA? Either of both parents?

If so, ask for your parents to upload their DNA with you to each vendor where you upload your own results.

At each vendor, you’ll have different matches. That’s exactly why we fish in multiple ponds.

I always work with my closest matches first, because I’m the most likely to be able to easily identify our common ancestor.

Locate your closest known relatives from both your mother’s side and your father’s side at each vendor. These people will be extremely helpful for our next article about shared matches.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research