AncestryDNA Works Toward Genetics + Genealogy Integration

 

AncestryDNA Review GEDCOM DNA integrationThe ideal genetic genealogy interface creates a seamless transition between genetics technology and genealogical research findings. Most currently available tools are either DNA technology without much genealogy, or genealogy without much DNA technology. AncestryDNA is really pioneering the genetic and genealogical integration with its newest AncestryDNA product update.

The goal of genetic genealogy is to aid your traditional research by verifying known connections and providing clues to as yet unknown ancestors. DNA was never meant to replace traditional research methods, nor has it ever claimed that ability. Rather, it is meant to aid your traditional research by verifying known connections and providing clues to as-yet unknown ancestors.

I admit, I dream of a future technology so precise that it pinpoints the locations of ancestors and defines our exact relationships to others. While we are not there yet, many have experienced a genetic test’s power to obliterate previously-held beliefs about relationship and heritage, and create new intricate and personal relationships where before there were only blank spaces. In this sense, genetic genealogy can be viewed as a kind of police force of the genealogy world, righting wrongs and taking names. But I digress.

For now, the ideal must remain a seamless transition between genetics technology and traditional research results, so that the two so completely complement each other that we can’t see where one stops and the other begins. Yet the two worlds are often separated by a chasm of misunderstanding and just plain ignorance. Of the three testing companies, two are making mediocre efforts at best to try to help you incorporate your genetics into your genealogy. They are basically dishing out a serving of genetics, offering a vending machine of genealogy snacks and calling it a full meal.

With one exception.

AncestryDNA has put genetic and genealogical integration at the forefront of its product.  They are the only company making a serious effort to integrate your genetics and your genealogy. To be successful, they need two things: tons of people and their genealogy. The more people test, the better the database becomes. Not just in terms of the matches you find, but also in terms of statistics and the power that numbers have to solve complex problems, like relatedness.

So, how do they get more people interested in genetic genealogy?

This reminds me of my early days at Relative Genetics, one of the first genetic genealogy companies.  I was fresh out of college and tasked with training our CEO, CFO, QA director, and marketing director about what exactly it was that we did as a genetic genealogy company. None of these men had any experience in genetics or genealogy. In those meetings as we were trying to figure out ways to grow our company in an unknown industry, I felt like I was the constant downer to the party.  As a scientist I had been trained that there are no absolutes. Whenever we talk about outcomes it is always in terms of “most likely” or “less likely” and to never, ever say “always.” So when they would get excited about an idea and propose wording for an ad campaign, I was always reining them in.

After reading a recent announcement by AncestryDNA, I feel like their marketing department had a meeting on the day their scientific advisor was out sick and without his or her corralling, they started a stampede.

Which, of course, was exactly what they wanted.

In their press release, Ancestry’s Dr. Ken Chahine, SVP and GM of AncestryDNA said, “It is effectively a shortcut through time—you take the test today and we tell you who your ancestors were, for example, in the 1700s. You don’t need to research records or build a family tree — AncestryDNA now transports you to the past.”

Which is exactly what people want to hear, especially non-genealogists who are curious about their past, but don’t have the tools or know-how or interest in doing the actual genealogy work.

But is it true? Is genetic genealogy a short cut through time?

“Absolutely,” says the marketing team.

“Sometimes, and that depends on factor A, and factor B and situation C and…” say the scientists.

And they are both right. The trick is to hear them both as you review these kinds of new advances in genetic genealogy.

What makes the “absolutely” true is that one of the dreams of genetic genealogy is to use the DNA of living people today to actually reconstruct the genetics of our ancestors. So that their actual DNA profile is known. Then it will be easy to identify their descendants as we will be able to see immediately what part of our DNA came from which of our ancestors. Ancestry has demonstrated their ability to do this in a large scale study of the descendants of a 19th-century American and his two successive wives.

Now, time for the “Sometimes.” This full genome reconstruction hasn’t been done yet for your grandparents, or great grandparents. Right now the best we can do is use your DNA to link you to living individuals, then rely on your traditional genealogy to help you find your common ancestor. Ancestry is trying to help you do that using their DNA circles, and now with their New Ancestor Discoveries.

Remember that to be included in a DNA circle you have to have a “ticket” to the party, meaning both your genetics and your genealogy match with at least two other people in the database and a circle is created around the host of the party, who is your common ancestor.

With New Ancestor Discoveries, we are letting those with just a genetic ticket into the party. Meaning that if you share DNA with two or more people in a DNA Circle, the host of that circle is named as an ancestor who might be on your pedigree chart.

Did you notice how I said “might?” That this newly discovered ancestor MIGHT be in your pedigree chart?

As an idea, New Ancestor Discoveries is VERY EXCITING, don’t you think? To be able to find out using both genetics and genealogy that a particular person living 100 years ago might just be the one who belongs in that blaring blank space on your pedigree chart? And it will be. But right now, Ancestry needs to work out some bugs, starting with a stronger acknowledgement that the ancestor listed in the Discoveries is by no means an absolute, but just a hint.

Genetic Genealogy and DNAIn coming posts I will share with you how I am using the New Ancestry Discoveries to discover more about my genealogy, even if it isn’t exactly in the way Ancestry intended. For now, learn more by reading my recent posts: from the left side of the Genealogy Gems home page, search on the category “DNA.”

And click here to visit my website and learn more about how I can help you navigate the exciting world of genetic genealogy.

Genetic Groups at MyHeritage – DNA and Genealogy

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 42 Show Notes

Welcome to Elevenses with Lisa, our weekly  little slice of heaven where friends get together for tea and talk about the thing that never fails to put a smile on our face: Genealogy!

My special guest in this episode is Ran Snir, Director of Product Management for DNA at MyHeritage. If you listen to my Genealogy Gems Podcast then  you’ve heard him on that show, and Premium Members can enjoy his terrific Premium Video called How to get the most from your MyHeritage DNA test results. 

Today we’ll be expanding on that topic and talking specifically about Genetic Groups. Ran covers:

  • What MyHeritage had regarding Ethnicity Estimates up until this release
  • how they built Genetic Groups
  • the User Interface to show some cool examples of Genetic Groups in action

About MyHeritage Genetic Groups

Genetic Groups is MyHeritage’s long-awaited DNA feature that  they describe as “accurately identifies ancestral origins with an incredibly high resolution of 2100+ geographic regions, more than any other DNA test on the market.

Genetic Groups provide greater granularity than standard ethnicity breakdowns by segmenting larger ethnic groups into smaller ones that share a common historical background. For example, beyond learning that they have Scandinavian origins, a user can now find out that they are Danish, and they may now learn where exactly in Denmark their ancestors came from.”

Here’s the announcement about Genetic Groups from MyHeritage:

The outstanding resolution of Genetic Groups and the innovative technology that powers this feature mean that MyHeritage is now able to identify many populations that have never before been detected by any consumer DNA test.

Examples of the Power of Genetic Groups

For example, descendants of the ancient Jewish communities of Aleppo in Syria, or Tripoli in Libya, can now trace their origins among 55 different Jewish groups supported by MyHeritage.

Another population with fascinating history is the Volga Germans — this group is composed of descendants of German settlers who migrated to the Volga River region of Russia and whose descendants later moved to Ellis County in Kansas and other locations. MyHeritage can identify 9 distinct Genetic Groups of Volga Germans.

More examples of groups that are unique to MyHeritage include Norwegians from Kvam and Bergen and their descendants in Minnesota, Italians from Potenza and Basilicata and their descendants in the United States, and hundreds more.

MyHeritage Genetic Groups

Ran Snir of MyHeritage demonstrates the Timeline Player.

Genetic Groups include detailed genealogical insights about each group. Users can view a group’s migration patterns and drill down to view its precise whereabouts during different time periods from the 17th century until today. For each Genetic Group, users can view common ancestral surnames and common given names, the most prevalent ethnicities among the group’s members, a list of other groups that have high affinity to the current one, and more.

This special animation we prepared for a specific Genetic Group of Mormons tells the story of Mormon settlement in the USA over 400 years, providing enlightening information about the group’s migration history.

How to Get Access to Genetic Groups

Genetic Groups are available for free to anyone who has already taken a MyHeritage DNA test, as an enhancement to the ethnicity estimate.

Users who have previously uploaded DNA results to MyHeritage from another service and have access to advanced DNA features (including those who uploaded before December 16, 2018 and have been grandfathered in), or who have an active subscription, will likewise be able to access Genetic Groups at no added cost. 

Users who have uploaded DNA results from another service and do not currently have access to advanced DNA features may pay a one-time unlock fee of $29 per kit to view their Genetic Groups and much more. Users who have taken a DNA test with another service are welcome to upload their results to MyHeritage and unlock access to their Genetic Groups, which will be calculated for them overnight. Click here to upload your DNA results to MyHeritage (Disclosure: These are affiliate links that will compensate us if you make a purchase. Thank you for supporting this free show.) 

Answers to Live Chat Questions

One of the advantages of tuning into the live broadcast of each Elevenses with Lisa show is participating in the Live Chat and asking your questions.

Question from Doug H: How is it that I have Ashkenazi on My Heritage but Sephardic on another site? 
Answer from Ran Snir: Different companies use different algorithms for identifying Ethnicity Estimates and it is also strongly affected by the reference population data sets. Meaning, how was the model built and which data was used to validate it. So, it could be that because the data used to “identify” Ashkenazi Jewish and Sephardic Jewish

Question from Beverly L: How far does the Iberian ethnicity extend into France (Gaul) and beyond. My Heritage puts me at ~18% Iberian. I have no paper trail there. Of 4 companies, only MH puts me w? Iberian ethnicity.
Answer from Ran Snir: Here’s a nice article I found about the ties between Iberian ethnicity and France – https://whoareyoumadeof.com/blog/the-ethnicity-of-the-iberian-peninsula-dna-examined/

Question from C. Davis: Caribbean ethnic groups? How can you tell which groups still need to be built up? Thanks
Answer from Ran Snir: We were able to come up with a variety of real cool Genetic Groups in the Caribbean in different places such as Jamaica, Cuba, Dominican Republic and others. Same as for other areas around the world, we are able to form new Genetic Groups and fine tune the existing ones based on the information we have. As more people build their trees on MyHeritage and add ancestral events (such as birth and death facts) to the trees, we might be able to come up with more Genetic Groups in this area (and others).

Question from C. Davis: 0% ethnicity with 1,344 matches means what?
Answer from Ran Snir: Need to keep in mind that people are from mixed ethnicities. For example, I could be 100% Iberian and I have a match who is 50% Iberian and 50% Ashkenazi Jewish. That means I have 1 match with Ashkenazi Jewish in his results.

Question from Carn B: I do not see sub groups in any of my dna results. Does that mean i have none or does it mean it hasn’t refreshed my results?  
Answer from Ran Snir: We have completed releasing Genetic Groups for all of our users. Please make sure you check the Genetic Groups section below the Ethnicity Estimate results. Sometimes Genetic Groups will be nested below a specific Ethnicity in your results and sometimes in the Genetic Groups section at the bottom of the list.

Question from Jennifer F: I have 79.4% English, but my 5 groups are all in America. Will future versions of genetic groups be able to tell me where in England?
Answer from Ran Snir: Please note that sometimes, even if the group is in America, it does tell the story of where these people came from. Also note that sometimes you will have more Genetic Groups in lower confidence levels so please make sure you have moved the Genetic Groups confidence level slider all the way to the “low” so that you can see all the Genetic Groups you have. As for the question, yes, we do plan to keep on adding more Genetic Groups and break existing ones in the future to smaller groups and it is likely we will be able to “break” England to smaller portions.

Question from Laura B: My grandfather is, supposedly, pure Ukrainian since his parents and grandparents etc. grew up there. However my DNA test picked up Baltic traits and not eastern European traits. What does this mean?
Answer from Ran Snir: DNA goes back much more than 3 generations. It is possible that a bit further back, there are ancestors who are from Baltic origins, who later moved to Ukraine.

Question from Steve. S: If you add to your family tree online, can that change your ethnicity and genetic groups immediately or is that changed at a later time?
Answer from Ran Snir: When we calculate your Ethnicity Estimate and Genetic Groups, we are not taking into account the information that exist in your family tree. We do use this information when we are working and developing our algorithms and coming up with the features we have. So, the answer is no – your results won’t change, but it might help us in differentiating between ethnicities and coming up with new ones in future models we will build.  

Resources

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 216

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 216

with Lisa Louise Cooke

In this episode:

  • Lisa shares her experiences Down Under in Australia
  • Enjoy Lisa’s exclusive RootsTech 2018 interview with Findmypast CEO Tamsin Todd;
  • Military Minutes contributor Michael Strauss shines a spotlight on women who have served in the U.S. military;
  • Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard introduces the MyHeritage chromosome browser; and
  • Genealogy Gems Premium membership gets its biggest boost ever.

NEWS: ROOTSTECH 2018 RECAP

Click here to watch the short RootsTech 2018 official recap video.

NEWS: GENEALOGY GEMS PREMIUM eLEARNING

Update: The Companion Guidebook has been discontinued. 

 

Lisa Louise Cooke uses and recommends RootsMagic family history software. From within RootsMagic, you can search historical records on FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com.

Keep your family history research, photos, tree software files, videos and all other computer files safely backed up with Backblaze, the official cloud-based computer backup system for Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems. Learn more at https://www.backblaze.com/Lisa.

BONUS CONTENT for Genealogy Gems App Users:

Beginning German Genealogy: Defining “German”

If you’re listening through the Genealogy Gems app, your bonus content for this episode is some get-started-now tips from Legacy Tree Genealogists on tracing your German ancestors. The Genealogy Gems app is FREE in Google Play and is only $2.99 for Windows, iPhone and iPad users.

To learn more about Legacy Tree services and its research team, visit www.legacytree.com. Exclusive Offer for Genealogy Gems readers: Receive $100 off a 20-hour research project using code GGP100. (Offer may expire without notice.)

MILITARY MINUTES: CELEBRATING WOMEN IN U.S. MILITARY HISTORY

Military Minutes with Michael Strauss

Click here to see the full article (and plenty of images!) on the Genealogy Gems website.

INTERVIEW: TAMSIN TODD AND BEN BENNETT, FINDMYPAST.COM

Findmypast.com is the Genealogy Giant best known for its deep, unparalleled historical record content for England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

Tamsin Todd is the Chief Executive Officer of Findmypast.com. She “has worked in the travel, retail and technology sectors, and brings with her a track record of leading successful growth businesses. She spent the early part of her career at Amazon and then Microsoft, where she led the introduction of ecommerce and search products into the UK and Europe. This was followed by stints as Head of Ecommerce at Betfair, and Managing Director of TUI-owned Crystal Ski Holidays. She joins Findmypast from Addison Lee, where she was Chief Customer Officer of Europe’s largest car service company. Tamsin lives in London with her family, and is Digital Trustee of the Imperial War Museums.”

Ben Bennett is Executive Vice President, North America and International at Findmypast.com, “focused on helping families stay connected in the United States and other markets across the globe.”

EPISODE SPONSOR: CASPER MATTRESSES

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Exclusive Genealogy Gems offer! Get $50 toward select mattresses by visiting Casper.com/gems and using gems at checkout. (Terms and conditions apply.)

 

YOUR DNA GUIDE: MYHERITAGE CHROMOSOME BROWSER

Just last year, if you had asked me if I thought anyone could catch AncestryDNA in their race to own the genetic genealogy market, I would have been skeptical. However, it is clear that MyHeritage intends to be a contender, and they are quickly ramping up their efforts to gain market share and your confidence.

MyHeritage began 2018 by making a much-needed change to their DNA matching algorithm, which had some errors in it. They were able to adjust it, and now it is humming right along, telling our second cousins from our fourth. Another development, launched in February, is the addition of a Chromosome Browser.

THE NEW MYHERITAGE DNA CHROMOSOME BROWSER 

Much like you would browse the library shelves for the perfect book, or browse through the sale rack for a great bargain, you can use a Chromosome Browser to look through your chromosomes for the pieces of DNA you share with your genetic cousins.

Chromosome Browsers can be everything from a fun way to review your genetic genealogy results, to a tool to assist in determining how you are related to someone else. Let’s go over three tips to help you make use of this new tool.

NAVIGATING TO THE CHROMOSOME BROWSER

There are actually two different kinds of Chromosome Browsers in MyHeritage: one to view only the segments you share with one match (the One-to-One Browser), and a browser where you can see the segments shared with multiple matches (the One-to-Many Browser).

To get to the One-to-One Browser, head over to your match page and find a cousin for whom you would like to see your shared DNA segments. Click on Review DNA Match, then scroll down past all the individual match information, past the Shared Matches and Shared Ethnicities until you see the Chromosome Browser.

USING THE ONE-TO-MANY CHROMOSOME BROWSER

To find the One-to-Many Chromosome Browser, you can use the main DNA navigation menu at the top of the MyHeritage homepage. Click on DNA, then on Chromosome Browser, as shown below.

In the One-to-Many Chromosome Browser you can compare yourself, or any account you manage, to anyone else in your match page. To choose a match to evaluate, just click on their name and they will be added to the queue at the top, as shown here.

Clicking on Compare will then allow you to see the actual segments you share with each person:

In this One-To-Many view, each individual match gets their own line for each chromosome. Since we have added 7 people to the Chromosome Browser, there are seven lines next to each chromosome number. Each match not only gets their own line, but also their own color. So you can easily match up the lines on the chromosome to the match that shares that piece of DNA with you. For the majority of people the majority of the time, these Chromosome Browsers are just another fun way to visualize the connection you have with your DNA match. In the end, it doesn’t matter where you are sharing on the chromosome, just how much DNA you are sharing. You can obtain that information from your main match page and never look at this Chromosome Browser image, and still make fantastic genetic genealogy discoveries.

THE TRIANGULATION TOOL

Another feature of the Chromosome Browser on MyHeritage is the Triangulation tool. To understand how this works, you first need to understand that you actually have two copies of each chromosome. Two copies of chromosome 1, two copies of chromosome 2, etc. One copy is from mom, and the other from dad. However, in the Chromosome Browser image, you see only one line for yourself (in grey). Therefore, when you see someone matching you on chromosome 14, for example, you don’t know if that person is matching you on the chromosome 14 you got from your mom, or the chromosome 14 you got from your dad.

Likewise, if you see two people whose shared piece with you looks to be in the same location on the same chromosome, you can’t tell if they are both sharing on the same copy of that chromosome, or if one match is related to your dad’s family, and the other match is related to your mom’s family. However, this is what the Triangulation tool does for us. It tells us if two (or three or four, etc.) matches are sharing on the same copy of the same chromosome. Be careful when you use this tool, though. Many erroneously assume that when they see a segment shared between multiple people, that indicates the presence of a recent common ancestor for all of those people. However, that is not always the case.

MyHeritage.com is the place to make connections with relatives overseas, particularly with those who may still live in your ancestral homeland. Click here to see what MyHeritage can do for you: it’s free to get started.

Ready to start exploring what the MyHeritage DNA chromosome browser may tell you about your family history? You have two options. Click here to upload your autosomal DNA test results from another company to MyHeritage for FREE. Or click here to order a MyHeritage DNA test kit. Either way, you can start using all the great tools at MyHeritage DNA!

PROFILE AMERICA: FORD LAUNCHES ASSEMBLY LINE

PRODUCTION CREDITS:

Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer
Sunny Morton, Editor
Diahan Southard, Your DNA Guide, Content Contributor
Michael Strauss, Military Minutes Content Contributor
Hannah Fullerton, Production Assistant
Lacey Cooke, Service Manager

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting this free podcast and blog!

Subscribe to the Genealogy Gems newsletter to receive a free weekly e-mail newsletter, with tips, inspiration and money-saving deals.

 

Resources

Download the episode

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New AncestryDNA Common Matches Tool: Love It!

A new tool at Ancestry DNA is blowing my genealogy mysteries wide open!

AncestryDNA common matches tool

I have been up since 5:30 with plenty of goals and ambitions for today. But I got distracted. Distracted by a new tool at AncestryDNA that is blowing my genealogy mysteries wide open.

The new tool AncestryDNA Common Matches tool is hiding between the “Pedigrees and Surnames” filter and the “Map and Locations” filter on your matches’ main match page. The Common Matches tool pulls out the shared 4th cousin or higher matches between two people.

Let’s take a look at how this might work for you.

2015 8 ICWDeniseLet’s say you have a second cousin, Denise, that you have already identified in the Ancestry database and you know your common ancestral couple is Joseph and Louise Mitchell.  You want to gather others who share DNA with both you and Denise. Those individuals then have a high likelihood of being related to Joseph and Louise in some way.

So we click on the “Shared Matches” button on Denise’s page and find that Mike, Spencer, and Wendy all have DNA in common with you and Denise.  After reviewing pedigree charts, you are able to determine that Mike is related through Louise’s sister and Wendy is related through Joseph’s brother.  Note that Wendy’s actual relationship to you is not 4th cousin, as it is shown, but she is actually your 3rd cousin once removed. Remember that the relationship given is not always the exact relationship of two people who have been tested.

2015 8 ICWSpencerBut what about Spencer? Spencer, unfortunately has not yet linked his family tree to his Ancestry account or answered any of your queries about his family tree. I am sure he has just been busy. Or he doesn’t know his family tree. Or his computer was captured by aliens or smashed by his two-year-old grandson just as he was about to click “send” and reveal how the two of you were connected. Whatever the case may be, up until this point you haven’t heard a peep from Spencer and therefore had absolutely no way to figure out how Spencer was related to you.

But now you know that he is somehow associated with the Joseph and Louise Mitchell family because he came up as In Common With (ICW) you and Denise.

We can take this one step further and ask Ancestry to show us who has DNA ICW you and Spencer.  You can see here that while Mike still remains, Wendy has dropped off the list.  Now there are two possible explanations for this: The first is that Spencer is related through Louise’s parents, John and Sarah, and that is why he is not sharing DNA with Wendy.

The other, less likely, possibility is that Spencer is related through Joseph’s parents Louis and Mary, but doesn’t share enough DNA with Wendy to be detected on this test.

While this information is helpful, it still hasn’t completely solved the case. The first thing you should do with your new-found knowledge is start sending more pointed questions to your matches. Here is an example message you might send to Spencer:

“Dear Spencer,

I was just playing around with the new AncestryDNA Common Matches tool and I see that you are related to a few of my other matches that connect through Joseph and Louise Mitchell.  Louise’s parents, John and Sarah Marsh, were both born in Mississippi in the 1840’s and Joseph’s parents Joseph and Mary Mitchell, were born in Tennessee in 1856 and 1863 respectively.

Do any of these names or places sound familiar to you?

I am looking forward to working with you on this connection.

Your DNA Cousin, Diahan”

Assuming this garners a response, you can then work together to find your connection. If his budget is not allowing for a new computer at this time and you never hear from Spencer, the key to figuring out how he is related to you may be in the new match, Beth, who is ICW you and Spencer. If you can figure out how Beth is related to you, you will know Spencer is related in a similar way.

AncestryDNA and FamilyTreeDNA quick guide setIf you’ve decided you would like to get in the DNA game, start with Ancestry DNA: Genetic Testing – DNA Test, and then head over to AncestryDNA and start growing your genetic family tree!

For a little more guidance, I suggest you purchase my laminated quick guides, “Understanding AncestryDNA and “Understanding Family Tree DNA.” These are also available as a part of a complete bundle of DNA guides specifically designed to help you navigate your results at the leading genetic genealogy testing companies. Click here to see all our DNA quick guides. 

 

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