DNA Tidbit #3: Ancestry’s Genetic Communities

For those who have DNA tested at Ancestry, Ancestry has combined your ethnicity results with Communities and loosely tied that to both your ancestors and your DNA matches within those communities.

Before we visit this feature, I need to stress that Communities are far from a complete picture of your heritage or where your ancestors came from, but various aspects of communities that do exist (for you) may hold some hints for your research.

Genetic Communities at Ancestry are assigned based on large-scale clusters of people who match each other and whose ancestors are found in regions with a specific type of history that can be considered communities.

DNA Tidbit Challenge

Sign on to your Ancestry account and click on DNA Story. For those of us who have already looked at ethnicity estimates (who hasn’t?), we generally click on DNA Matches or ThruLines and skip DNA Stories, but there may be hints buried in DNA Stories too.

Initially, you’ll see your ethnicity map with Communities at the right.

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Your ethnicity regions are in solid white lines, and the Genetic Communities based on your DNA matches, their ancestors, and your ancestors are indicated by the white hashed lines.

In some cases, a community will be split between an overseas location and a settlement area in the US.

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Note that both communities above have subregions as well, and if you mouse over these subregions, they are highlighted on the map.

That’s all you see if you don’t click further.

Click on Communities

With each community, you can either click on the right arrow or the actual community/subcommunity.

I have 10 possible ancestor stories in the first group and 8 in the second, although the 8 are a subset of the 10 which doesn’t make much sense, especially since Ancestry had a LOT more to choose from.

It’s interesting to note that more than 2 million Ancestry members are clustered in the Lower Midwest and Virginia Settlers community.

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Keep in mind that while your ancestors may not be found in a specific subregion, their descendants may be. In my case, my ancestors definitely ARE found in the Cumberland Gap region, but are not in Missouri or Arkansas. However, their descendants settled there in droves, so I have lots of DNA matches from that diaspora region. Think, “next frontier.”

Using the Timeline

You’ll see a timeline bar, beginning with “Overview” for each community, plus a grey sliding bar all the way to the right.

If you slide the bar at the far right, you’ll see Featured Matches and Community History in the panel to the right of the map.

The timeline bar by year to the left, if you click on a year, skips some general information shown if you use the slider at far right.

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In the panel, you’ll see possible ancestors identified through StoryScout. They are your ancestors from your tree, but the information they present about that ancestor may or MAY NOT actually be for your ancestor.

I wrote about StoryScouts here: StoryScouts in Ancestry’s New StoryScout: Be Cautious.

Again, beware, but don’t dismiss these out of hand, even if you’re an experienced long-time genealogist, because occasionally Ancestry might find a newly available record, one you didn’t know about previously or a tidbit that you overlooked.

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For example, the 1930 census (and others) includes street names and house numbers. You can click through to view the census page and discover the house number even though only Sinclair Street was mentioned in StoryScout.

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Next, you can go to Google maps street view, search for 123 Sinclair and “visit” where your great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother, both widows, lived – from the safety of your own home in the middle of a pandemic. How fun is that!

Each dot underneath that story represents a StoryScout story of a different ancestor. These are not my only StoryScout stories, the balance of which are available under the StoryScout tab.

Next, you’ll find three relatively close selected DNA matches.

The stories are not necessarily connected to maternal or paternal sides of my family, nor are the matches connected to the stories. Yes, I know, it’s confusing.

Those three matches are from my father’s side, but the stories are mostly from my mother’s tree. This isn’t a problem so long as you don’t assume a logical connection between information.

My mother’s side of the family was living in Indiana but came from Germany, the Netherlands, Pennsylvania, and Nova Scotia. My father’s side of the family is from the Cumberland Gap area of Tennessee via Virginia and North Carolina. These communities, especially where descendants went to live, overlap in terms of geography.

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If you click on a green number on the map, you’ll see the stories of the “possible ancestors” connected with that location. A green pin with no number means only one person in that location

Keep Scrolling – There’s More

You can either continue to scroll towards the bottom or you can click a specific time on the map slider, like 1700, for example.

The map will then show you the immigration patterns from the regions where people who settled in those communities were living in the 1700s, below.

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You’ll see some history of the region from that timeframe at right. The green pin locations are from your ancestral tree. The two in the pink and blue circles are people who just have a country location during that timeframe.

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As you enlarge the map the large green numbers become smaller as the pins land in more specific locations.

Eventually, you’ll get to the smallest number of ancestors in a location, and when you click on that number, you’ll see the ancestor profiles from your TREE who are found in that location. This is NOT from StoryScout, but from your own tree so there is no new information to be found other than that particular ancestor has been grouped in that community.

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As you continue to click on different years on the timeline, you can see the population expansion, along with ancestors who were located in those regions – their profiles shown in the panel at right. Note that Utah and Texas are not shown in the original Communities map, but this population has expanded into those regions on the timeline map.

Summary

Unfortunately, my maternal and paternal lines are mixed in these communities, even though their origins are very different. They both wound up in Indiana because that’s where the two disparate populations settled.

Therefore, I can’t really use Communities to sort through paternal and maternally connected ancestors or matches. We also can’t view or download a list of which of our ancestors are included in each community. We can’t see which of our matches have ancestors in any community either.

Probably the most interesting thing that I discovered wasn’t really a discovery, per see, at all – but a history tidbit that generated a question. The StoryScout for Barbara Drechsel, my great-great-grandmother who was age 70 in 1920, reminded me that was the first year that women could vote – exactly a century ago, of course.

The history mentioned that only one-third of women voted, compared to two-thirds of men. I wonder if Barbara voted. I wonder if the voting records for Aurora, Indiana where she lived at the time remain today. (I checked – Family Search shows nothing, but I’ll check with my friend at the historical society.)

I do know that Barbara’s granddaughter, Edith Lore Ferverda, not only voted, she worked at the polls and registered women to vote. Where did I discover that information? In the newspaper collection at MyHeritage.

While I didn’t break down any brick walls using the Communities at Ancestry, I did pick up a few tidbits that made me think and ask questions.

Every family’s story is different. Maybe you’ll notice something you didn’t see before or discover a nugget of history that might provide reasons why your ancestors might have emigrated.

Let me know what you find.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Books

DNA Tidbit #2: FamilyTreeDNA’s Compare Origins Map

When I started this series, my goaI was to find tidbits that might not be well known – features that people might not realize are available. We can all use all the help/hints we can get, right?!.

FamilyTreeDNA’s myOrigins “Compare Origins” map fits that bill perfectly. The functionality changed recently, probably with the introduction of myOrigins 3, and I had no idea.

It’s a pretty well-hidden feature, so I bet lots of other people don’t know either.

Hat tip to one of my readers who DID notice and suggested this tidbit.

You’ll need to have taken the Family Finder autosomal test at Family Tree DNA or transferred an autosomal DNA file from another vendor. If you haven’t tested or transferred, and you’ve tested elsewhere, you can transfer for free, here. You’ll need to unlock the advanced features for $29 which is a significant savings compared to a new test.

DNA Tidbit Challenge: Sign on to your account at Family Tree DNA and click on the myOrigins tab in the Autosomal DNA section.

The first thing you’ll see is the estimate of your population origins. What you may not notice is that there’s a second tab, “Compare Origins,” shown below.

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When you click on the Compare Origins tab, you’ll still see the map, but you’ll also see a list of your matches who have opted-in to sharing their origins.

To opt-in, go to your Account Settings, in the dropdown by your name, and click on Privacy and Sharing. Scroll down to “Origins Sharing” and move the button to on.

If you have not opted in, I believe you’ll see a question at this point asking if you wish to do so. If you don’t opt-in, you can’t compare.

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If you’re looking for someone with a specific population ancestry, especially at the continental level, this comparison feature may be particularly useful. For me, that would be Native American, although Donald doesn’t share that population with me. If you do find someone with that same population, that doesn’t mean that’s HOW you match the person, just another hint.

The comparison is a cool feature, but not where we’re focusing in this tidbit article.

Map Pins

Notice this map pin button?

If you click on that pin, a popup screen will open where you’ll be able to select the paternal ancestor markers or the maternal ancestor markers for your matches.

To be very clear, these pins are their direct patrilineal and direct matrilineal lines, only, meaning your Y DNA if you’re a male and your mitochondrial DNA if you are either male or female and have taken the mitochondrial DNA test.

Of course, your match will only have a pin if they’ve taken that test AND completed the Matches Map geographical information on their own page. If you haven’t done that, please do so your pins will be visible to your matches here and for Y and mitochondrial DNA Matches Maps.

Your Matches’ Y and mtDNA Lineages

How can you use this information?

You may not be related to these people through their patrilineal or matrilineal lines. But then again, you may not know how you are related, and location may still be relevant because, let’s face it, our ancestors married their neighbors.

There are two different ways to utilize this map. From the map and from your matches.

Working from the Map

My mother’s grandfather immigrated from the Netherlands. There’s a good chance that the people I match with Dutch roots, especially recent Dutch roots, may be related to that line.

On the map, I clicked on a blue (paternal) pin and the paternal ancestor information for that tester is displayed.

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Surnames and locations are both important, especially in countries where surnames weren’t standardized or were/are patronymic.

You can view your match’s profile for additional information or compare your origins.

If you click on “Pin Marker,” you can then go back to the map pin screen and elect to show only pinned markers. Pinned markers are temporary and not saved beyond your current session.

Working from the Match

Each match that has a pin available will be indicated with a pin beside their name.

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If you click on that pin, it will display the pin on the map. If no other pins are displayed, it will be the only pin showing.

If you do have all of the pins displayed and you mouse over the pin for that match, it blackens the pin on the map so you can see which pin represents the most distant patrilineal (blue) or matrilineal (red) ancestor for that particular match.

Search for Surnames

When I discovered the search facility in conjunction with the map, I was like a kid in a candy shop.

I entered “Miller,” my great-grandmother’s surname, in the search box.

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I have 10 Miller matches on the first page. The Miller line I want to look for is on my mother’s side. You can see based on the little red and blue people icons which of the matches are assigned to either (or both – purple) parental sides based on triangulation between me and identified, linked cousins in my tree.

Of the Miller individuals on my mother’s side, 4 are males. Of those, 2 have pins. Of those 2 men, one man’s pin is in the US, but the other cousin’s pin is located exactly where my Johann Michael Mueller line originated AND that’s also who my match has listed as his direct patrilineal ancestor.

Now, I’ve confirmed unquestionably that we share at least this one common ancestor. Of course, I can’t yet tell if our autosomal DNA match is through this ancestor, but I know where to start looking.

Now it’s time to see if:

  • He also matches my mother.
  • He matches the other 3 Miller males on Y DNA.
  • We share other autosomal matches in common that might shed light on our common ancestor.
  • If the matches we share shed light on how those other matches are related to both of us.

Compare Origins Summary

This little-known tool is a great way of discovering if any of your paternal surname lines have Y DNA tested and if they match you autosomally.

If you’ve followed my articles for long, you know that I “collect” the haplogroups of my ancestors. There’s a great deal of ancestral gold to be mined there.

Using Compare Origins, it’s easy to search for the surnames of your ancestors.

As an experiment, I entered the surnames of my 16 great-great-grandparents and found relevant Y DNA matches for 13. Of course, in my case, I had recruited a few of these cousins, but not all by any stretch of the imagination.

For mitochondrial DNA, the red pins, I know that my mitochondrial line originated in Germany, so I’ll be looking for matches in close proximity to my matrilineal ancestral village, then utilize advanced matching to see if we are mitochondrial matches as well.

In countries like Germany and the Netherlands where I have relatively recent ancestry, I’ll be using the “by map” method to view the individuals on the map so that I can inspect that match more closely to see if they also match my mother and maternal cousins.

Take a look at your myOrigins “Compare Origins” matches and map and let me know what you find.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Books

Introducing DNA Tidbits – DNA Tidbit #1: Triangulation

I know this winter is going to be difficult, but don’t lose heart. I have a plan.

Covid is already spiking and many families have already canceled holiday plans. This situation, combined with the seasonal darkness and cold will make things even more difficult for people in the northern hemisphere. I’ve been trying to think of some way to help make things better, to lift our collective spirits – and I’ve come up with an idea.

Drum roll please…

Today, I’m introducing the first of what will be weekly “DNA Tidbits” – fun genealogy+DNA tasks that might, just might, reveal buried treasure.

You know, tidbits, as in those wonderful tiny little nuggets of luscious goodness that tide you over until you can eat the whole thing, whatever your “thing” is. No, wait…eat the whole thing – that’s not what I meant to say:) Tidbits are about pacing ourselves, right??!!

DNA Tidbits will be enjoyable to do together because we can share our findings. They will range from introductory to a little more complex so everyone can play, and learn.

We will be jumping around between different vendors and third-party tools, so this might be a good time to be sure you’re in the 4 major databases, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, Ancestry, and 23andMe, either by testing or by transfer, where possible.

Here’s a step-by-step article about how to transfer results to both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage, which are the only two testing vendors that accept transfers:

DNA Tidbits

DNA tidbits will be different from my regular articles in that they aren’t going to be detailed educational lessons on HOW to do specific things. That’s already handled in lots of articles on my blog that are keyword searchable.

Keyword Searchable

For example, if you want to read about triangulation, what it is, and how to use triangulation at the various vendors, use the search box on the blog and type in “triangulation.”

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You’ll find educational and instructional articles along with other articles where I’ve mentioned triangulation, plus lots of examples.

DNA Tidbit #1 – Triangulation

A DNA Tidbit challenge will read something like this:

Challenge: Go to each of the three testing vendors, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, and 23andMe who provide triangulation, plus GedMatch. View your 5 highest matches that triangulate. Triangulation, of course, means that three people – you, a match plus someone else (not a direct relative meaning not parents or siblings) all match each other on the same segment.

Can you tell how the person or people you triangulate with match? Through which ancestral line? You might be able to discern this by viewing each triangulated match to see:

  • Who else they match in common with you. If they triangulate with you and your first cousin who you already know, that’s a huge hint as to the ancestral line.
  • Who else they match on that same segment.
  • Ancestors share by you and those matches. Look at their surnames, trees, and other tools to see if you can identify common ancestors.

How can or does this help your genealogy?

Have you painted those segments at DNAPainter? That’s yet another way to achieve triangulation.

Triangulation Instructions

When I’ve written articles about how to perform the various tasks referenced in a DNA Tidbit, I’ll include links to instructions.

Why is Ancestry missing from this list?

Because Ancestry doesn’t have a chromosome browser or triangulation, which is why checking at GedMatch is important. At least some Ancestry customers will upload their DNA files to GedMatch and not elsewhere.

Community

During these next few months when we won’t be able to see members of our own families, our genealogy community will be more important than ever. Be sure to post a comment sharing your outcome for each week’s Tidbit. Did you find something unexpected?

Trust me, you’ll inspire others and we all need positive inspiration right now!

This triangulation exercise is DNA Tidbit #1.

I’ll go first with a couple of examples to help you along the way. This is probably more detailed than future Tidbits because Tidbits are designed to be quick for you and me, both. Can’t do everything? That’s OK, do something.

There are no tidbit or chocolate police!

DNA Tidbit #1 – Triangulation Results

Family Tree DNA – My top 5 triangulated autosomal matches are people assigned to one parent or the other. That’s how triangulation occurs at Family Tree DNA. I’ve skipped the people whose relationships I’ve already identified, which I track by notes, and selected my top 5 that I haven’t previously identified. Their note icon is grey meaning nothing recorded there.

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Unfortunately, Christopher has uploaded no tree. He is, however, assigned to my paternal side with a sizeable piece of matching DNA across multiple segments.

Looking at who we match in common, I can discern immediately that we connect through my great-grandparents, Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy because we match people who descend from both of those lines upstream of that couple.

Christopher and I match on three significant segments.

  • The first segment also matches a cousin who descends through Lazarus and Elizabeth.
  • The second segment matches a cousin who descends from the Campbell/Dodson line which is Lazarus Estes’s mother’s line.
  • The third segment matches a cousin who also descends through the Campbell line so this segment can be attributed to Elizabeth Campbell of the Elizabeth Campbell/Lazarus Dodson marriage. That means, in generational order, this segment descends to me through my father, his father William George Estes, his father Lazarus Estes, his mother Rutha Dodson, and her mother Elizabeth Campbell and her parents John Campbell and Jenny Dobkins.

Next, I viewed these matches in the chromosome browser of course, and in the matrix tool.

I made a note on the match at FamilyTreeDNA and painted these segments at DNA Painter, noting how I identified the segments.

Unfortunately, none of my top 5 triangulated matches had trees that were productive in terms of identifying a common ancestor.

Have you gotten this far? Good job. Eat a strawberry or chocolate tidbit.

MyHeritage – I chose Jason from my match list, the first person with whom I did not have a note indicating I’ve already worked with the match.

I reviewed the DNA match to see if Jason and I share triangulated segments with other people, indicated by the purple icon on my shared matches with Jason.

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Jason and I triangulate with my cousin Buster, which tells me that we share a common ancestor from either the Lazarus Estes or Elizabeth Vannoy lines, my paternal grandfather’s parents They are my most recent common ancestors with Buster.

However, as I scan on down the list of shared matches that Jason and I triangulate with, I see several people from my paternal grandmother’s side who do not share ancestors with my paternal grandfather’s side. My grandparents were not related to each other.

This indicates that Jason and I are related through two different lines that lived in the same area and intermarried.

I might need two pieces of chocolate for this one!

I need to send Jason a message. He doesn’t have a tree, but I bet he knows at least some of his genealogy since this connection seems to be within the past few generations based on the amount of DNA we share.

23andMe is more difficult because you can’t quickly see which matches have notes. Notes only appear after you’ve clicked on the match, and then at the very bottom of that page after scrolling to the end. Instead, I use the stars to indicate that I’ve worked with the match.

I click on the star to turn it yellow after I’ve analyzed a match, in addition to making notes.

My first match at 23andMe with no yellow star is RA.

Checking who I match in common with RA, I can see that 23andMe has assigned RA to my father’s side of my genetic tree, as a descendant of Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy. Keep in mind that this tree is not uploaded, but genetically created by 23andMe with the customer adding the appropriate names of their ancestors in their proper position. This relationship tree can be incorrect, but it’s certainly a useful tool.

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Clicking “Find Relatives in Common” on my match page with RA, I see that RA and I do share DNA, meaning triangulate, with several relatives on my list. That’s what “Shared” means in this context at 23andMe – shared same segment.

Unfortunately, RA has not entered any additional information such as a tree link, family surnames, or locations.

I’ll message RA for more information as soon as I finish my next bite of chocolate.

GEDmatch is a bit different because your match list is not pre-generated, meaning there is no stored match list so no ability to create and save notes for matches.

At GEDmatch, I did a One-to-Many comparison which allowed me to view my match list.

In the far right column, you can see the testing company and test version. A=Ancestry, F=FTDNA, and M=23andMe along with the version when it says the results were migrated to the current platform. Otherwise, you’ll see the name of the testing company your match uploaded from more recently.

I selected an Ancestry match since I’ll match the people from MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA at their respective sites that already have triangulation capability. I will match close matches at 23andMe, but 23andMe caps matches at 1500 (unless you’re on the V5 chip WITH a subscription), so some matches may be here that aren’t there.

Ancestry testers are my best bet for finding new triangulated matches at GEDmatch because Ancestry doesn’t support triangulation on their own platform.

Based on my match’s name, I think the first person on this match list that I can’t identify is the same match, Christopher, that I was working with at Family Tree DNA. He uploaded 4 different files to GEDmatch, including an Ancestry file. This tells me he might have a nice tree at Ancestry since he’s obviously interested enough in genealogy to test multiple places😊

I went back to the main GEDmatch menu and selected Triangulation from the Tier 1 (paid subscription) options. Triangulation selects your closest matches and indeed, Christopher was among the triangulated groups with other people I recognize, providing immediate hints as to how we are related.

Next, I’m going to run over to Ancestry to see if indeed, I can find Christopher and view his tree there.

Unfortunately, I can’t find Christopher at Ancestry by the name he used elsewhere, although I do see a good candidate using initials but who has a private tree☹

Time for another chocolate!

Fortunately, I have Christopher’s email from GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA, so I can send him a friendly email introducing myself and asking about his genealogy.

DNA Tidbit #1 – Summary

Surprisingly, with reviewing just 5 triangulated matches at each vendor, I found a LOT to work with and discovered the ancestral lines through which several people are related to me, even if I can’t isolate exactly which ancestor. I painted each of those matches at DNAPainter. I’m currently sitting at 90% of my segments painted, which means they are identified with a specific ancestral line. Every identified match gets me closer to 100%.

I’m left with the distinct impression that after I find genealogical connections with these closest matches, that the leftover matches that triangulate will be the ones to break down brick walls.

Those will be the matches I really need to concentrate on, because somehow these people DO all match each other too, and the common ancestor they share between themselves may be the clue I desperately need. You know, the key to those people waiting just behind that brick wall of burned records and no last names.

Making that discovery will, indeed, be cause to celebrate with more than tidbits!!!

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Books