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Do you have a DNA problem?
Maybe it’s as simple as having a ton of matches and not knowing what to do with them. How do you keep track of all those matches. How to you know which matches to focus on? How can you can use all your matches to do what you really want to do, which is learn more about my family history?
In this episode of Elevenses with Lisa we are visiting with someone who has worked past many of those problems. She uses her DNA matches to solve some of her genealogical questions and the questions of her patrons. Today she’s here to help you!
My special guest is Sara Allen, a librarian at the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library. I wanted to talk to Sara because she’s not a biologist, or a Genetic Genealogy Guru. She’s like you and me: she’s passionate about family history! She shares genetic genealogy with folks in a very practical, and easy-to-understand way.
As a side note, we were lucky to record this episode because the day Sara and I were to meet to record the library was closed due to a snow storm. I’m in Texas and we’re buried in a deep freeze with devastating power outages, and at our house, no water for a time. But we moved things around and got it done. However, in all the chaos I managed to put my microphone on the wrong setting, so I’m going to sound like I’m sitting in a Folgers coffee can. But that doesn’t matter because it is what Sara has to say that’s really important.
Oh, and they were also doing construction at the library the day we finally recorded, so it’ll sound occasionally like we use jack hammers on our DNA! However, neither snow nor ice nor lack of water nor construction zones will keep us (as your faithful genealogists) from the swift completion of this appointed show.
Special Guest: Sara Allen, Librarian, Genealogy Center at Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, IN
Sara shared her basic over-arching plan for using DNA to answer a genealogical question:
Then she shared the specific steps for her research plan.
Step 3 was to choose the most relevant DNA test. This is important because there are three main kinds of tests out there. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Understanding what each test is capable of is key to getting the results you need.
If you’ve decided that an Autosomal DNA test is what you need, a relative one or two generations older (on the correct side of the family) is always better. Examples: Parents, Aunts/Uncles, Grandparents, Great-aunts/uncles, Parent’s first cousin
If you’re going to do a Y or mtDNA, choose a family member who falls within the correct path of DNA inheritance.
If there is a family tree, copy it, either electronically or print it out on paper. Compare and contrast trees looking for common names, common ancestor couples, common places. Work on establishing relationship between the different matches based on their trees. In other words, do genealogy!
Here’s an outline of the case Sara covers in this episode so you can follow along.
Dovey Reynolds was born around 1822 in North Carolina and was married in 1846 in Owen County, Indiana to Phillip Allen. She died in 1901 in Jefferson County, Kansas. No records have been found naming her parents.
Autosomal DNA – test the closest living person to the mystery ancestor: Test my father or his sister (aunt) to get one generation closer.
Step 5: Complete Family Tree for Other Family Lines
Results of our search for “Reynolds” in matches’ trees: Look for Reynolds in key locations in Dovey’s life such as NC and IN, especially Owen Co. IN, and maybe KS:
24 matches to William Reynolds’ descendants (27 cM – 8 cM)
Granddaughter Kathy took the autosomal DNA test.
Ancestry DNA match sorting options:
Evaluated trees of the possible matches from Leroy’s side. Two match groups identified:
Can we find a marriage between these 2 families? Yes – Daniel Hedges married Alice Crute ca. 1894 probably Warren Co. PA.
Opening your AncestryDNA account to find a New Ancestor Discovery can be a bit like the experience my nine-year old had at the beach today. He noticed something unusual in the sand on his way down to the beach and excitedly used his hands to unearth the treasure. However, it turned out to be a Captain Hook figurine long lost by another (likely much younger) beach-goer. His initial excitement quickly dissipated. He was disappointed as he had clearly found something he did not need or want.
I have heard from many of you that are confused and disappointed with Ancestry’s attempts to merge your genetics and your genealogy. Keep in mind that AncestryDNA matches are only using your genetics. Your DNA Circles and your New Ancestor Discoveries incorporate your linked tree into your genetic test results.
Lisa recently forwarded me a comment from Kate that perfectly illustrates the confusion I’m talking about. “We had DNA done thru Ancestry,” she writes. “The results [have] made me seriously question what they are showing me. I believe they are using my tree to show me results that are more vague than they are revealing. The latest example they show is a person not related by blood. This family is related by name only (my uncle’s spouse).
“My results from Ancestry show that they use my tree to make matches. Just checked the web page for DNA results. They show numerous matches….Three or 4 contacted me because they were convinced they were related by blood when they may have had a remote tree connection. They contacted me because the DNA results showed they were a 3rd or 4th
cousin, when in fact they would only be a 3rd or 4th cousin in my tree.”
I can see why she’s confused. First, let’s review what an AncestryDNA New Ancestor Discovery (NAD) actually IS. NAD’s are based on the DNA Circle idea created by Ancestry. Remember that a DNA circle is when Ancestry can identify a shared genetic AND genealogical connection between three or more people. Using various standards and measures, they name an ancestor as your connection. This is the ancestor I affectionately call our Party Host. This is the ancestor who passed his or her DNA down to all of their descendants, like tickets inviting them to this party in the future. So, everyone who holds a ticket, AND who has honored that party host ancestor by placing their name in their pedigree chart, is listed as a guest in the form of a DNA circle connection. (Click here to read a blog post about this concept.)
The New Ancestor Discoveries just take that one step further. The NAD is an attempt to find ticket holders who have not yet taken that extra step and added that important Party Host ancestor to their family tree. The NAD is like a nudge, inviting us to double check our family tree to see if this particular ancestor might need to be added. It is important to remember that a NAD comes only after a DNA circle has already been formed, and there could have been errors in that formation. So the very first thing you need to do with a NAD is to correspond with circle members and double check that the Party Host of the circle, their common ancestor, is correct. Then we can move on to evaluating the NAD.
Ancestry admits on its help pages that there are three reasons why you might get an NAD, and only one is “right” in the way you and I might view it.
The “right” answer comes when the DNA circle was drawn correctly, the Party Host properly identified, and your DNA connection is strong to two or more members of the circle. You are then able to verify through traditional genealogical methods that you are an actual descendant of the Party Host, holding that coveted ticket, shown in blue in this modified image from the AncestryDNA help page.
There are two other alternatives.
First, you are related to the NAD Party Host (the New Ancestor that was discovered) via marriage. In this second example from Ancestry’s help page, we see that your ancestor was married twice. The members of the DNA circle are descendants of her other marriage. Remember, that you do not share DNA with every member of the DNA circle. In this case, you share the purple DNA with a few members of the circle. But there are other members that share the blue. So the super computers at Ancestry first put all the blues together in a circle with the Party Host at the top. Then you come along with purple DNA that matches a few in the circle and their supercomputer erroneously assumes that you too must have been invited to this “blue” party, but in fact, the blue/purple members of the circle are double booked. They have been invited to both the blue and the purple party.
How can you fix this? If you can identify your purple Party Host, then you can add that person to your tree, and the trees of your DNA matches and likely then a new DNA Circle will form with the purple Party Host at its head, and the blue NAD will disappear.
The other situation that many of you are seeing, especially those of you with ancestry from small communities, is demonstrated in Figure 3 of the Ancestry Help page, reproduced here. As you can see, this one is much more complicated. (In fact, the colors I added aren’t even quite accurate, as not all descendants of the blue NAD have the same blue, but rather different shades of blue depending on the segment they received- but this is a story for another post!)
The short of it is, the members of the previously established DNA circle share one single ancestor with each other, but they share multiple separate and distinct ancestors with you. Looking at this chart it seems very clear, but remember, in the database we only see you and the people you match. We cannot tell from the DNA shared which piece came from which ancestor. So, it is very important to check and double check the pedigrees of those in the circle to identify additional shared lines.
The short of it is, these NAD’s are following the guilt by association rule, but in fact, you could be innocent. Just keep in mind the simple principle that you DO share a common ancestor with those members of the circle that you share DNA with. You do NOT necessarily share common ancestry with those in the circle that you do not share DNA with.
The key is to take these NAD’s for what they really are: research suggestions. Keep your expectations low, and then you will be pleasantly surprised when you are able to verify a connection.
Ready to learn more about DNA testing for family history? Click here to watch two video interviews in which Lisa and I chat about genetic genealogy.
My DNA quick reference guides can get you started on your own DNA research, or help you unpuzzle and maximize results you don’t fully understand. Click here to see all six guides: purchase them individually or as value-priced bundles.
From Diahan Southard, Your DNA Guide here at Genealogy Gems: DNA testing is one of the most personal ways to get involved in your family history. You have DNA from your parents, who have DNA from their parents, and so it goes, back into your greats and great-greats. The technology of genetic genealogy is all about tapping into that DNA record and pulling out information that might be useful in your family history. DNA can do this for you in two ways:
You have three choices of DNA tests, each with its own unique purpose.
Autosomal DNA – For any ancestor, male or female, who is fewer than 5 generations from you, you can take the autosomal DNA test at either Family Tree DNA, AncestryDNA, 23andMe, or MyHeritage to find out more about that individual. Remember with the autosomal DNA that you always want to test the oldest generation first. So anyone who does not have both of their parents living should take the autosomal DNA test.
mtDNA – If I want to know about a female ancestor, let’s say Mary West, I need to find Mary’s daughter’s daughter’s daughter’s, etc. child (male or female) to take the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from Family Tree DNA.
YDNA – Essentially, if you want to know about a male ancestor, you need to find a direct male descendant to be tested. So if I want to know about my 3X great grandfather Morris Mitchell, I need to find Morris’s son’s son’s son, etc. until I find a living male with the Mitchell surname who can be tested on the Y chromosome DNA (mtDNA) test at Family Tree DNA.
There are several companies that test DNA for family history including:
Each of these companies offers a very similar autosomal DNA test, but each has its own unique tools and databases. Decide which company you want to test with by evaluating things like:
You can see a table comparing these companies here.
The best thing you can do when setting out on your genetic genealogy journey is set good expectations. You can expect that the test will document the personal genetics of the person who takes it. By so doing, you are creating another genealogy record that will last for generations. This test will link you to your ancestors via your cousins. That means that you may take the test looking for ancestors, but what you get are cousins. It will take traditional genealogy work to turn those cousin connections into ancestral connections. Above all, expect that this is a growing industry, and what we know today is different than what we will know tomorrow, so enjoy the journey!
There are several comprehensive books on Genetic Genealogy out there. However, for the layman who just wants to understand their DNA test results and get some additional value from them, an entire book full of scientific explanations can be overwhelming and daunting. The following email is one we receive regularly:
“Could you direct me to an understandable publication which explains dna results in layman’ terms ? Thank you” – Anne B.
Genealogy Gems Publications is proud to publish Diahan Southard’s wonderful series of DNA quick reference guides for understanding your DNA results in plain language, and helping you get the most out of the investment you made in testing.
The complete collection of DNA quick reference guides cover:
All guides are available in convenient digital download format.
Free Videos: Here’s a link to our DNA videos on YouTube with the author of the guides, Diahan Southard. Here’s a great one to start with:
Free Podcast: Diahan has a regular segment on the free Genealogy Gems Podcast where she answers your questions and provides invaluable insights into the latest in genetic genealogy.
Free Articles: You can browse the complete archive of DNA articles at Genealogy Gems. The most recent will appear first and then scroll down to read through the past articles.
As of March 28, 2017, AncestryDNA customers can see if their ancestors belonged to about 300 different Genetic Communities, small migratory groups that can be identified by DNA. In the next free Genealogy Gems podcast episode #202, you will learn more about it straight from Ancestry’s Chief Scientific Officer, Catherine Ball. For more information on Genetic Communities, watch the video below:
Want to get tested? Get your AncestryDNA test here.
The second annual MyHeritage user conference, MyHeritage LIVE 2019, was held in Amsterdam.
Below you’ll find a list of lectures from the conference which are now online. These sessions, given by world-renowned experts and valued MyHeritage staff, are now available on MyHeritage Education.
If you missed the conference or the live stream, you can now take watch these video recordings for free, from the comfort of your own home, at any time, and at your own pace.
Here is a list with a full description of each and links to watch them:
Opening Session: Keynote by MyHeritage Founder and CEO Gilad Japhet
In his keynote address at MyHeritage LIVE, MyHeritage Founder and CEO, Gilad Japhet, talks about recent MyHeritage achievements as well as upcoming features and projects
What’s New at MyHeritage
with Maya Lerner
Maya Lerner, VP of Product at MyHeritage, gives a summary of MyHeritage’s new features and a look ahead at future plans.
Introducing the New Educational Resource Center for MyHeritage Users
with Daniel Horowitz
This presentation will give you an inside look at MyHeritage Education, a new online resource center for enhancing your understanding of the MyHeritage platform.
Hear my interview with Daniel Horowitz in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #221.
Searching and Browsing on MyHeritage to Get the Most Out of Your Research
with Cyndi Ingle
With 10 billion historical records, MyHeritage is able to provide the most extensive genealogy searches available on the Internet. Learn how to use them efficiently to find new and relevant information to incorporate into your research.
Discovering Immigration Stories with MyHeritage
with Lisa Alzo
Every immigrant has a story. Learn how to leverage the immigration records collection at MyHeritage to uncover key clues and make amazing discoveries about your immigrant ancestors from both sides of the pond.
Lisa Alzo has been a guest blogger here at Genealogy Gems. Her articles include Heritage Receipts – Aunties, Sprinkles and the Santa-in-his-cap cookie cutter and 4 Steps to Getting Started with Scrivener Software for Writing Family History.
Using MyHeritage to Find Ancestors from the Netherlands
with Yvette Hoitink
If you have ancestors from the Netherlands, this talk introduces you to the most important records and shows you what you can find online, even if you don’t know any Dutch. Learn how naming traditions and emigration patterns can help you find your Dutch ancestors.
PANEL: Researching Dutch Family History Around the World
These experts give tips and advice on how to research your roots in Surinam and the former Dutch East Indies.
Evaluating Your Smart Matches™ and Record Matches on MyHeritage
with James Tanner
Smart Matches™ and Record Matches on MyHeritage supercharge your research. Learn how to review and evaluate these automatically generated matches and effectively use them to advance your genealogical research goals.
An Overview of Western European Record Collections on MyHeritage
with Mike Mansfield of MyHeritage
With over three billion records from thousands of collections of European origin and a vibrant user community, MyHeritage is an incredible resource for European research. This session will provide an overview of these collections and highlight how to best find access and utilize these sources.
Using Geni and How it is Different from Other Genealogy Platforms
with Mike Stangel
Learn more about the benefits of collaboration in a single-family tree, including adding sources to shared profiles, communicating with public discussions, understanding the revision history of profiles, and working with projects. Learn how Geni and MyHeritage work together to help improve the quality of the World Family Tree and connect you to new relatives.
Top Technology Tips for MyHeritage Users & Introduction to Family Tree Webinars
with Geoff Rasmussen
Developing Your Own Research Plan on MyHeritage
with James Tanner
MyHeritage provides an extremely valuable platform for conducting systematic and source-based research. A formal research plan can help you organize all the information presented in a coherent, useful way, and keep you moving towards your genealogical goals.
Using Census, Immigration, Newspaper, and Yearbook Records at MyHeritage to Explore the LIves of Your Ancestors
with Lisa Alzo
In genealogy, cluster and collateral research is a key strategy for solving complex brick wall problems. Learn how to use census, immigration, newspaper, and yearbook records at MyHeritage to explore the lives of your ancestors and their inner circles.
Science for the Non-Scientist: How Does MyHeritage Produce their DNA Results?
with Diahan Southard
DNA test results are a companion to our other research methods. A better understanding of how it all works will lead to better use of the tools for your family history research.
Diahan has been a regular contributor here at Genealogy Gems. Read her article Adoption DNA Match Strategy: Combine DNA Test Types.
Click the video player below to watch my conversation with Diahan about common genetic genealogy misconceptions:What Exactly is a Centimorgan? An Introduction to the Science of DNA Testing
with Ran Snir
Whether you have already taken a DNA test or this is the first time you’re hearing about it, in this session we will start from the very beginning. We’ll go over the basic terms of DNA testing and learn how DNA is passed down through generations, how and why individuals have shared DNA segments and how we’re able to estimate one’s ethnicity origins.
Ran Snir was featured in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #227. Click here to hear my interview with him on the Theory of Family Relativity™.
Mapping Your DNA Matches on MyHeritage
with Blaine Bettinger
Learn about useful tools to organize your list of DNA Matches, how to differentiate between them, and how to better utilize each tool.
Using the Theory of Family Relativity™ to Research Your DNA Matches
with Ran Snir
Learn about the revolutionary technology that saves you dozens of hours of research by synthesizing billions of data points to craft multiple theories about how you and your DNA Matches might be related.
PANEL: The Future of DNA Testing
Roberta Estes, Blaine Bettinger, Yaniv Erlich
This panel of DNA experts discusses the current state of DNA testing and what the future will bring.
Formulating a DNA Testing Plan
with Blaine Bettinger
DNA testing can be expensive, but DNA evidence is a component of exhaustive research when it is available. Identify some of the ways you can minimize costs while maximizing results by formulating a DNA testing plan early in your research.
Why You Should Complement Your DNA Data with Genealogy Research
with Diahan Southard
Building a family tree is free and adds a lot of value to your DNA test. Learn how it can help improve the accuracy of relationship estimates, trace common ancestors to uncover how exactly you are related, increase the chances DNA Matches will contact you, help you identify the family members whose DNA results would contribute the most value to your research, and more.
The World Wide DNA Web
with Alon Diament Carmel
Alon Diament Carmel, Ph.D., researcher for the MyHeritage science team, explains what we can learn from the vast web billions of DNA Matches about genetic groups and identity.
Introducing the MyHeritage DNA Health+Ancestry Test
with Yaniv Erlich
Discover how your genes affect your health and explore the valuable insights you can gain from this latest addition to our DNA product line. The MyHeritage DNA Health+Ancestry test gives you dozens of personalized health reports that explain your genetic risk for developing certain conditions, and tell you whether you’re a carrier for hereditary conditions that can potentially be passed on to your children.
PANEL: DNA Testing for Health
with Yaniv Erlich, Diahan Southard, Roberta Estes
This panel of DNA experts discusses the advantages of taking a Health DNA test to learn more about how your genes may affect your health and empower you for the future.