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.

Genealogy Gift Ideas: Get Organized and Find Everything!

Some genealogists–actually, most genealogists–need help being organized. These genealogy gift ideas are the perfect gift to give yourself: the gift of helping you keep track of your research, your sources and everything else in your family history world.

These ideas include those for gathering and organizing your research materials but also precious memories and original artifacts. When you shop, and click on the links from this post your purchases help support the free Genealogy Gems podcast. Thank you!

Evernote. Ok, this program is FREE so maybe it doesn’t count as a holiday gift. But sometimes the most important gifts we can give someone (including ourselves) are TIME and a FRESH START. That’s what you’ll give when you install Evernote on your computer or a loved one’s, then learn or teach someone how to use it.

Some of my most popular classes now are on how to harness Evernote to keep track of genealogy sources, online and print content, photos, research notes and all those other essential bits that can haunt you when you can’t put your hands on them. And all the options available for Evernote mean you can synch and access your stuff across several devices and computers: it’s available for Windows and Mac systems and there are apps for iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry. PRICE: Free.

 

Evernote Smart Notebook.
 Even the most paper-free researchers still need to take handwritten notes sometimes. Make your notes easy to scan and integrate into your Evernote software with this notebook. The notebook paper is lightly gridded to  make it easier to scan the pages nice and straight. But the real genius of this notebook is the accompanying “smart stickers” you can put on each page. These stickers have icons that become searchable digital tags when scanned. These tags make it easier to identify and synch your notes with other material you’ve tagged in Evernote (by surname, location, person’s name, etc). PRICE: $19.95. 

 

Evernote Quick Ref Guide

 

Evernote for Windows for Genealogists Quick Reference Guide

This is my newest publication! Evernote users (and those who want to be) appreciate having an at-a-glance tutorial, tricks and shortcuts for using this free and essential software for genealogy. Evernote helps genealogists keep track of their source material–and my laminated Quick Reference Guide helps genealogists do it smarter and faster.

Price: $9.95

 

 

 

 

My Life & TimesMy Life & Times: A Guided Journal for Collecting Your Stories.

This gorgeously-designed book by Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton helps the user capture their own life story or someone else’s. The book is organized into natural sections like childhood, family life, career, etc. Each section is filled with thoughtful memory-jogging questions about the past: relationships, events, growing experiences. A spiral-bound format with a bonus CD with extra printable pages makes the book flexible to anyone’s life: remove or add additional as needed to tell your unique story. The introduction and the beginning of each section offers compassionate and sound advice on topics like how to improve the quality of memories, understanding memories, what to do with difficult memories and more. PRICE: $29.99 (but last I checked it was on sale for $19.99 at Amazon the link above).

 

Disclosure: This article 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 Genealogy Gems!

Newsboys: Colorful Figures of the Past

Newsboys or “newsies” used to sell the news. But for a time in American history, they were the news!

Newsboy. Little Fattie. Less than 40 inches high, 6 years old. Been at it one year. May 9th, 1910. Location: St. Louis, Missouri. Wikimedia Commons image, original at Library of Congress.

Newsboy. Little Fattie. Less than 40 inches high, 6 years old. Been at it one year. May 9th, 1910. Location: St. Louis, Missouri. Wikimedia Commons image, original at Library of Congress.

You’d know them by their common call: “Read all about it!” It was their job to sell stacks of inexpensive newspapers on every street corner that would support them. The Library of Congress has posted a fascinating page about the history of newsies, including their own appearance in the papers.

In 1899, newspaper prices rose–and that cut into the profit margins of boys who had very little  profit to begin with. In New York City, many newsboys refused to sell papers published by Pulitzer and Hearst. Over the next few years, the newsboys didn’t exactly unionize, but they did organize. Eventually they formed the National Newsboys’ Association, which evolved into today’s Boys Club and Girls Club.

It’s interesting to read how the newspapers reported the doings of the boys who were essentially their salespeople. I bet it was a tricky place to be caught: a newspaper couldn’t afford to totally alienate their own best salesmen. Those salesmen were actually children, whom nobody wants to be accused of targeting. But their activities were aimed at driving down prices. In some cases, you see newspapers taking “the high road” and reporting charitable efforts to help these boys, like this story from the 1909 Washington Herald:

Newsies article

Click here to read this full story on Chronicling America. And click here to “read all about” newsboys and their role in American newspaper life.

Remember, stories like these are the kind that shaped our ancestors’ lives. Whether we find our relatives mentioned directly in the paper or we just see what life was like around them, we can learn so much from reading the same newspapers they did. Learn more from my book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers–and Genealogy Gems Premium Subscribers can check out “Getting the Scoop on Your Ancestors in Newspapers” in the Premium Videos section.

 

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