A new tool at Ancestry DNA is blowing my genealogy mysteries wide open!
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.
Let’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.
But 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:
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.
If 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.
Earliest surviving portrait of Richard III. Wikimedia Commons image.
An article recently published in Nature Communications confirmed the identity of the remains of King Richard III by DNA testing. This result wasn’t a huge surprise, but there were some eyebrow-raising findings along the way. More to the point, now a celebrity case study teaches us more about how to use DNA in family history research.
Prior to the genetic investigation of the skeletal remains presumed to be that of Plantagenet King Richard III, there was already mounting evidence that this was indeed his body. Genetic genealogists can take cues from this research to learn how to more fully integrate your genetic testing into your genealogy.
While these researchers were able to use radiocarbon dating and skeletal analysis methods that most of us won’t have access to, they did pore over a substantial amount of historical evidence to substantiate the last known whereabouts of Richard III. The archaeological, skeletal, and historical evidence were overwhelmingly in favor of this positive identification. But it was the genetic evidence that provided the last, ahem, nail in the coffin.
In this case the nail was made of mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA. King Richard shares his mtDNA with anyone who is also related in a direct maternal line to his mother. There were two such candidates found, both sharing mtDNA with the skeleton presumed to be King Richard, thus further verifying its identity. In fact, lead researcher Turi King said of the findings, “If you put all the data together, the evidence is overwhelming that these are the remains of Richard III.”
Of interesting note to us as genetic genealogists is that one of the two mtDNA samples used for reference did have one difference from the mtDNA signature shared by the other individual and the skeleton. This did not jeopardize the integrity of the results, but rather provided a good case study in how DNA does change over time.
You would think that the DNA match confirming the identity of the skeleton would be the biggest news out of this round of DNA testing. But along with the direct maternal line testing, there was also direct paternal line testing to try to verify the paternal line of the skeleton.
Genealogists worked tirelessly to identify direct paternal descendants of Richard III’s great-great grandfather Edward III and five were found and tested. Their results revealed not one but THREE different paternal lines.
While the results were not quite as expected, they weren’t exactly unexpected either, as there are plenty of royal rumors of non-paternity (click here for a summary). Watch a brief video discussion of the yDNA results here:
Again, the YDNA portion of the study provides a great case study for us in how to use YDNA, namely that it takes a lot of traditional genealogical work to find direct paternal line descendants to be tested, and that the results are conclusive, but can sometimes provide more questions than answers.
The Richard III DNA drama has started many families talking about “doing” their own DNA. Learn how with my series of quick guides (purchase all 4 laminated guides or the digital download bundle for the best deal);
Visit my website to learn about expert consultations with me. You’ll get customized guidance on which tests to order and how to maximize your results for your genealogy research.
Here’s our weekly roundup of new genealogy records online. This week: Great Britain, Ireland, Sweden, the U.S. and Australia.
AUSTRALIA LAND. Land grant deeds for Tasmania, Australia (1804-1935) are now searchable on Ancestry.com. The format and content varies: sometimes you’ll find the name, location, description, date, payment amount and witnesses. These records come from the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office.
AUSTRALIA NEWSPAPERS. Over 700 newspapers digitized by the National Library of Australia (NLA) are now searchable at MyHeritage.com. This collection is also searchable at Trove, the digital newspaper library for the NLA. The benefit to having this collection at MyHeritage.com is that the site uses its Record Match technology to automatically search the newspapers for individuals on your tree, matching on several parameters to improve search results.
AUSTRALIA WWII. A new index to Australia World War II military service records (1939-1945) is available on Ancestry.com. It covers the Australian Army, Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force. Records “commonly contain biographical information supplied on enlistment, as well as important details on a person’s service.” See info on ordering the original records from the National Archives of Australia in the Ancestry.com collection description.
GREAT BRITAIN – DIRECTORIES, ALMANACS. Ninety new volumes of directories and atlases (late 1800s and early 1900s) have been added to Findmypast’s online collection, “Great Britain, Directories & Almanacs.” According to the collection description, “Inside you will find the names of prominent people, tradesmen, people who held office, business owners and local civil servants. Discover your ancestor’s address and occupation or explore the history of your home address. The almanacs and directories stretch across three centuries.”
IRELAND – HISTORICAL. A new historical collection relating to the Easter Island uprising is available on Findmypast.com. This collection is free to search until April 27, 2016. According to a company rep, the database draws on “75,000 records that tell the story of one of the most difficult periods in 20th century Irish history. These records, once classified, include eye witness accounts, interviews with civilians and reports of the trials of the leaders of the Rising and their sentences of execution. The release also includes 25,000 search and raid records, giving detailed insights into how the Irish people of the period lived under martial law.”
SWEDEN EMIGRATION. Ancestry.com has posted a new database with over 1.3 million entries of emigrants listed in church books, 1783-1991. That represents about 75% of emigrants, of people leaving the country, during that time span. The records and index are in Swedish. This database was previously available in CD format under the name “Emibas.”
U.S. WILLS. Ancestry.com’s enormous collection of U.S. wills and probate records has been updated for the following states: Ohio, Alabama, New York, New Jersey, Arkansas and Georgia.
Thank you for sharing this list with every genealogist you know who might be interested! We love sharing good news about new genealogy records online.
I’m still a little bit bewildered as to how we got to 1000 genealogy blog posts! But here we are, and we are celebrating!
Our website has changed over the years to new platforms and web hosts, and our analytics don’t even go back to the very beginning. Therefore, I’m content with recapping your top 10 favorite blog posts of 2015, which was a significant year since almost 1/3 of the 1000 appeared in the last 11 months. This demonstrates our growing commitment to blogging about genealogy and bringing you the best GEMS we can find! So, here’s my take on a Casey Kasem-style TOP 10 Countdown of our most popular genealogy blog posts, starting with…#10!
I think it is pretty safe to sum up 2015 as the year of DNA. Genetic genealogy was a sizzling hot topic as Ancestry blazed a new trail, after abandoning mitochondrial and YDNA testing in 2014 and focusing all of its efforts on autosomal. Those efforts included a concentrated marketing campaign that resulted in a database of more than 1 million DNA testers.
When I first met Diahan Southard at a conference in Florida in March of 2014, I knew instinctively that she was a Genealogy Gem and immediately invited her to join our team. Now as Your DNA Guide she expertly navigates us all through the sometimes murky DNA waters. Through her blog posts and podcast segments, she helps us make sense of genetic genealogy through her warm and easy-to-understand style. So it is no wonder that the tenth most popular and widely read blog post on the Genealogy Gems blog was penned by Diahan on this very hot topic.
In the #10 genealogy blog post New AncestryDNA Common Matches Tool: Love it! Diahan reports on a fabulous online tool that pulls out shared genetic matches between two people at AncestryDNA. After hinting at what the Common Matches tool was doing for her own research…
A new tool at Ancestry DNA is blowing my genealogy mysteries wide open!
…Diahan lays out in a fun and easily digestible way how you can put it to work for you. It’s a great read or re-read – just click the link above.