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.

Write Your Life Story: Good for Your Health?

Did you know that writing–and then re-writing–our personal stories can be good for our health? And even better for our future, 

Preserving Old Letters Archive Lady

 

Courtesy Houston County, TN. Archives.especially if we are struggling to define that future optimistically. 

So says a recent New York Times blog post. “We all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves,” writes Tara Parker-Pope.

“But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it completely right. Some researchers believe that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health.”

She’s not talking about writing childhood memories or ancestral anecdotes. In several studies, people who were struggling in an area were asked to write about it. Then they were presented with optimistic scenarios about how others had overcome difficulties. Those who rewrote their narratives were able to grab onto some of that optimism. They actually changed the way they thought of their “problem,” whatever it was. And long-term results in some studies showed that these people DID in fact improve.

We often see celebrities on Who Do You Think You Are? talk about how their ancestors’ lives inspire them or teach them new ways of understanding their own lives. Many who write their own family histories say the same thing. As we wrestle with memories or facts and how to present them in writing, we also interpret the past in new ways and, often, this new insight brings hope for a better future.

Genealogy Gems Podcast and Family HistoryOne more GREAT reason to write your life story and family history, don’t you think? Thanks to my brother Chris McClellan for sharing this blog post with me.

Listen as Lisa and I discuss different styles for writing about your family history in the FREE Genealogy Gems podcast episode 176. Or get inspired by the family history-themed books we love and share on our Genealogy Gems Book Club page. Click here for great suggestions on what to read!

 

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Try FindMyPast for FREE This Weekend!

free_pc_400_wht_2095Beginning today, try FindMyPast for FREE –all weekend long!

Over 2 billion historical records will be available to search beginning Friday, March 6 and ending Monday, March 9 (start and finish at midday London time (GMT)). Local subscribers will have World access during this time and World subscribers get an extra three days tacked onto their subscriptions.

What kinds of records are we talking about? According to FindMyPast:

  • “Over 900 million census records from across the UK, USA and Ireland;
  • Passenger lists for ships sailing to and from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA;
  • Birth, marriage and death records dating back to the 18th century, and the largest online collection of UK parish records;
  • The most comprehensive collection of UK military records anywhere online;
  • The largest collection of Irish family history records available online;
  • Historical newspapers from across the world, including more than 10 million British newspaper pages from as long ago as 1710;
  • An easy to use online family tree builder which allows you to import and export your tree if you’ve built it elsewhere;
  • Our automatic Hints feature, which automatically searches our records for you and suggests potential matches to the people you add to your family tree.”

You may also find these resources helpful:

Webinar on Finding Female Ancestors. To celebrate International Women’s Day, at 7am EST on Sunday 8th March, Findmypast will host a webinar on searching for women in historical records. Women are usually tougher to find than men in old records because a) they were mentioned much less frequently and b) their names changed with their marital status.

Getting Started Video. Findmypast has created a new Getting Started video which will be available to view beginning this weekend.

Find out more at Findmypast’s dedicated Free Weekend page.

Why Your Genealogy Research Could be Going to the Dogs

 

Did your Irish ancestors have a dog? Over 3.5 million Irish Dog Licence registers have been added to a collection already online at

“More Besties from the Clonbrock Estate.” Taken September 22, 1883. National Library of Ireland photograph, posted at Flickr Creative Commons National Library of Ireland on the Commons page. No known copyright restrictions.

FindMyPast. “Now containing over 6 million records, the Irish Dog Licences list not only the name, breed, colour and sex of your ancestor’s four legged friend, but also the owner’s address and the date the licence was issued, making them a valuable census substitute,” says a recent FMP press release.

Also new on the site are other notable collections, as described by FMP:

  • Trade Union Membership registers (3.4 million+ records) with digitized images of original records books from 9 different unions. The documents include details about individual members such as payments made, benefits received, names of spouses, and a number of unions published profiles of their members or those who held offices. Many unions kept detailed records for when a member joined, paid their subscription, applied for funeral benefits or superannuation (retirement). These records allow you to follow your ancestor’s progress within the union and perhaps uncover previously unknown details of their working lives and careers. The documents can also include details about the trade unions themselves, such as directories of secretaries, meeting dates and times and items of trade union business. Many trade unions also included international branches from Ireland to Australia to Spain and Belgium.
  • Indexes to over 28,000 articles in 2000+ PERSI-indexed periodicals. These include magazines, newsletters and journals, according to location, topic, surname, ethnicity and methodology. (Learn more about PERSI on FindMyPast in our blog post on the topic.)
  • Peninsular War, British Army Officers 1808-1814 dataset, compiled by Captain Lionel S. Challis of the Queen’s Westminster Rifles shortly after WW1. Using Army lists, Gazettes, despatches, official records and regimental histories, Challis gathered information on more than 9,600 officers who fought for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars and recorded them on index cards. Each record contains an image of the original handwritten index cards and a transcript.
  • South Australia Births 1842-1928. Over 727,000 records and date back to when the compulsory registration of births first began in 1842. Sourced from an index transcribed by volunteers from the South Australian Genealogy and Heraldry Society Inc., each records consists of a transcript that usually includes the child’s full name, gender, date of birth, place of birth and registration number. The names of both parents will also be included and in some cases the mother’s maiden name will also be present. South Australia’s colonial origins are unique in Australia as a freely settled, planned British province.
  • South Australia Marriages 1842-1937 contain over 457,000 records. Each record includes a transcript that can contain a variety of information such as the first and last names of the bride and groom, their ages, birth years, marital status, the date and place of their marriage as well as their fathers’ first and last names.
  • South Australia Deaths 1842-1972 contain over 605,000 records and span 130 years of the state’s history. Each record consists of a transcript that usually lists the deceased’s full name, gender, status, birth year, date of death, place of death, residence, the name of the informant who notified authorities of their death and their relationship to the informant.

Ancestry_searchAre you making the most of your online searches at FindMyPast and other genealogy websites? What about on Google? Learn more about search strategies that work in this blog post!

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