DNA Ethnicity Results: Exciting or Exasperating?

Are your DNA ethnicity results exciting, confusing, inconsistent, exasperating…or all of the above?

Recently Kate expressed on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page her frustration with her ethnicity results provided by AncestryDNA. She gets right to the point when she writes, “the way they refer to the results is confusing.”

Kate, you are not alone. Many genealogists have been lured into taking the autosomal DNA test at one of the three major DNA testing companies just to get this glimpse into their past. Remember that the autosomal DNA test can reveal information about both your mother’s side and your father’s side of your family tree. Many take the test hoping for confirmation of a particular ancestral heritage, others are just curious to see what the results will show. Though their purposes in initiating the testing may vary, the feeling of bewilderment and befuddlement upon receiving the results is fairly universal.

Kate has some specific questions about her results that I think most will share. Let’s take a look at a couple of them. First up, Kate wants to know if our family tree data in any way influences the ethnicity results provided. The answer is an unequivocal “no.” None of the testing companies look at your family tree in any way when determining your ethnicity results. However, the results are dependent on the family trees of the reference population. The reference populations are large numbers of people whose DNA has been tested and THEIR family history has been documented for many generations in that region. The testing companies compare your DNA to theirs and that’s how they assign you to an ethnicity (and place of ancestral origin?).

Next Kate asks, “Do they mean England when they report Great Britain?” Or to put it more broadly, how do these testing companies decide to divide up the world? All of the companies handle this a little bit differently. Let’s look at Ancestry as an example. When you login to view your ethnicity results, you can click on the “show all regions” box below your results to get a list of all of the possible categories that your DNA could be placed in. These 26 categories include nine African regions, Native American, three Asian regions, eight European regions, two Pacific Island regions, two West Asian regions, and then Jewish, which is not a region, per se, but a genetically distinct group.

Clicking on each individual location in the left sidebar will bring up more information on the right about that region. For example, clicking on Great Britain tells us that DNA associated with this region is primarily found in England, Scotland, and Wales, but is also found in Ireland, France, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. Basically, this is telling us that people with generations of ancestry in Great Britain are quite a genetic mix from many areas.

The first chart here shows that if we are to test the DNA of 100 natives of one of these primary regions (England, Scotland or Wales) then 50 of them willhave the great Britain “pattern” of DNA covering 60% or more of their entire genome, and 50 of them will have that pattern in less than 60% of their DNA. The fact that this half-way number is so low, only 60%, tells us that there is a lot of uncertainty in this ethnicity estimate because there is so much mixture in this region. Kate, for you that means that when you see Great Britain in your ethnicity estimate, it could mean England, or maybe it means Italy- Ancestry can’t be certain.

But that uncertainty isn’t the same for every region. Pictured here is also the ethnicity chart for Ireland. You can see that half the people who are native to Ireland will have 95% or more Irish DNA.  Kate, for us this means that if you have Irish DNA in your results, you can be pretty certain it came from Ireland. From these tables you can see your membership in some regions is more robust than others, and Ancestry is using these tables to try to help us tell the difference.

 

In the end, the ethnicity results reported by each DNA testing company are highly dependent on two factors: the reference populations they use to compare your DNA against, and the statistical algorithms they use to compute your similarities to these populations. Every company is doing both of these things just a little bit differently.

Kate, if you want to get another take on your ethnicity results, you can take your data over to Family Tree DNA, or you can be tested at 23andMe. A free option is to head over to Gedmatch and try out their various ethnicity tools. If you need help downloading and transferring, you can head over to my website: http://www.yourdnaguide.com/transferring.  Most people have found after searching in multiple places that their “true” results are probably somewhere in the middle.

While these ethnicity results can be interesting and useful, for most they will just be a novelty; something interesting and exciting. I have found that their most useful application is acting like a fly on a fishing line. They attract our family members into DNA testing where we can then set the hook on the real goal: family history.

If you’re ready to bait your own hook, I recommend you check out my series of DNA quick guides. These guides will help you choose the right DNA tests for your genetic genealogy questions. You’ll become a smart shopper, more prepared to choose the testing company that’s right for you. And you’ll be prepared to maximize your results from each company, rather than look at them blankly and wondered what the heck you just spent that money on. Click here to see all my DNA guides: I recommend the value-priced bundle!

 

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!

Episode 70 – Getting Started Using Evernote for Genealogy

Doing genealogy research generates a wide variety of research notes: typed and handwritten, audio, photos, video, and screenshots of information on websites. If you want one tool to pull together your current research projects, Evernote might just be the answer. In this video and article you’ll learn the role that Evernote can play, what it is and how to set it up, and your options for using for free or as a subscriber. 

evernote for genealogy tutorial

Evernote for Genealogy Video Tutorial

In this video and article Lisa Louise Cooke will discuss:

  • What Evernote is and the role Evernote can play in your genealogy research
  • How to get started with Evernote
  • Using it for free or as a subscriber
  • Best Practices for tagging, notebooks and more. 

Click here to get started with Evernote.

Use it for free or upgrade to get all the bells and whistles like OCR and use on all your devices. (We will be compensated if you use our affiliate link. Thank you for supporting this free show.)

Watch Live: Thursday, September 9, 2021 at 11:00 am CT

(calculate your time zone

Three ways to watch:
1. Video Player (Live) – Watch live at the appointed time in the video player above.
2. On YouTube (Live) – Click the Watch on YouTube button to watch live at the appointed time at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel. Log into YouTube with your free Google account to participate in the live chat. 
3. Video Player above (Replay) – Available immediately after the live premiere and chat. 

Episode 70 Show Notes – Coming Sept. 9, 2021

In my recent videos on how to avoid research rabbit holes that keep you from your genealogy goals, I mentioned that I use Evernote to capture BSOs or bright shiny objects that are interesting but not what I’m working on at the moment. So in this video I’m going to explain what Evernote is, and how to get started using it.

Give Evernote a try with our link

https://evernote.grsm.io/genealogy
(Using our link helps support the free show. Thanks!)

What is Evernote?

Evernote puts all your notes in one place and offers an incredibly fast and easy way to retrieve them.

Evernote is a:

  • website
  • software program for your computer (Win & Mac) that you download for free from their website
  • mobile app (iOS & Android): search for Evernote in your device’s app store
  • a web clipper for your computer’s web browser

Benefits

Genealogy can get a big messy. Information can be gathered from countless sources and in a variety of forms. You could funnel things through a cloud service like Dropbox. However, because Evernote is a note taking app, it offers unique and super helpful features:

  • Create all types of notes
  • From all of your devices. Thanks to Cloud synchronization you can take a note on any device and always have access to the most current version. (Free mobile app)
  • Web clipping – It allows you to clip items from the Internet (rather than saving entire bulky web pages),
  • OCR technology makes notes (such as newspaper articles) keyword searchable (subscription)
  • Data like URLs and the date you created the note is automatically included
  • No total storage limit, just monthly upload
  • You can use it for free, and upgrade for all the bells and whistles.

Getting Started with Evernote

  • Sign in for a free account at https://evernote.grsm.io/genealogy
  • Install the software on your desktop computer (Windows & Mac)
  • Download the web clipper to your browser (app store or Google it)
  • Download the free Evernote app to your mobile devices from the iTunes App Store or Google Play

Features & Costs

(Subject to change. Visit evernote.com/compare-plans)

evernote pricing plans comparison 2021

Evernote pricing plans comparison Sept. 2021 – See the website for the most current offer.

 

Software Home Layout

Evernote’s Home view gives you a summary of what you’ve got going on in Evernote. If Home is new to you and you don’t see it, simply head to the left Navigation menu and click Home.

Home gives you a place to sort of summarize what you’ve got going on in Evernote. It also allows you to add more personalization.

A fun way to personalize Evernote is by adding a background image. Click Customize in the upper right corner, and then click the Change Background button. Here you can add a preset image or add your own.

By default, Home comes with widgets such as:

  • Notes (highlighting your most recent notes, and Suggested notes based on your activity)
  • A Scratch Pad
  • Recently Captured items by type (web clips, images, documents, audio and emails)

While you’re in Customize mode, you’ll see additional available widgets like:

  • Calendar (allowing you to sync your Google calendar with Evernote)
  • Filtered Notes
  • Notebooks
  • Pinned Notes
  • An additional Scratch Pad
  • Shortcuts
  • Tags
  • Tasks

We’ll explore some of these further in a moment. But first, let’s create our first note!

All Notes View – Snippet View:

  • Left column = your files and organization
  • Center column = search for notes
  • Right column = the note you are currently working on

Change the layout by clicking the View Options icon (in Snippet View it appears at the top of the search column). This will give you a variety of layout options.

Change what appears or is hidden from view, and whether the view is dark or light by clicking View in the menu.

Notetaking 101

Create a note by clicking the New Note (+) button at the top of the screen.

Creating a new note is as simple as starting to type. Evernote saves your work instantly and without any extra effort on your part. Notes are saved in “the Cloud” on Evernote’s servers. This means all of your notes are automatically backed up. In addition, all of your notes will sync across all of your various computing devices. And Evernote facilitates sharing notes with others for research collaboration.

Click the Info icon at the top of the note to see the meta-data for that note. You can add and edit this information.

Types of Notes:

  • Typed
  • Sketched
  • Photos
  • Attachments
  • Video
  • Audio

Note Info has changed and can now be found by pressing Control + Shift + I on your keyboard, or clicking the More Actions (3 dots icon) in the upper right corner of the note and selecting Note Info.

Tagging is the Key to Organization

Add a tag based on important keywords associated with the note.

Examples of tags for genealogy:

  • Surnames (Cooke, Moore)
  • Record types (birth, census, land)
  • Locations (Indiana, Germany)
  • Time frames (1900-1909, 1910-1919)
  • Tasks (pending, add to database, follow up, etc.)

To tag a note, click Add Tag at the top of the note and select a tag from your list or add a new tag. Tags will appear in the left column. Click any tag in the left column to retrieve all notes with that tag.

Evernote Tasks

In June of 2021 Evernote added a Tasks feature. It operates just  a little differently than how I’ve been using tasks. Evernote tasks are:

  • To Do Items
  • Note Specific (versus a tag which can retrieve all notes with that task)
  • Often Deadline Driven
  • Assignable to Others
  • Searchable

Where is the Trash?

You will find Evernote’s Trash bin at the bottom of the Navigation bar on the left.

Notebooks

Notebooks take organization a step further. I create notebooks sparingly. I use them to divide Evernote up into workspaces: Genealogy, Personal, Business, etc. I also use them for long-term and collaborative research projects that I may want to share with others.  You can drag and drop notebooks on top of each other to create Stacks, although Evernote only allows one level of stacking.

How to create a new notebook:

  1. In the menu select: File > New Notebook
  2. Name the new notebook in the pop-up window
  3. Select notebook type – usually you would set it up to synchronize, but you do have the option to have the notebook reside only on the computer it was created by selecting Local

The Cloud and Synchronization

Notes are saved on your computer and in the Cloud on Evernote’s servers. This means all of your notes are automatically backed up, and also accessible from your account on their website. Your notes will sync across all of your computing devices that have Evernote installed. There’s no need to manually sync with the new version. It happens automatically whenever you’re connected to the internet.

Web Clipping

As you visit webpages, you can clip just the portion of the page that you want to remember and keep rather than printing the page or bookmarking it. You can type the source citation directly into the note. Clippings appear as images in the note.

How to clip a screenshot using the computer software:

  1. Right-click on the Evernote icon in your computer task bar.
  2. Select Clip Screenshot.
  3. Use the cross-hairs to draw a box around the desired content.
  4. Release you mouse and you will see a quick flash on the screen indicating the content has been saved as a note in Evernote.
  5. In Evernote click on the note to type additional information if desired.

How to download the free Evernote web clipper for your web browser:

  1. Go to: evernote.com/webclipper
  2. The download page will detect the browser that you are using and offer the correct web clipper. Click the download button.
  3. The Evernote web clipper will install in your web browser (look in the upper right corner of your browser for the elephant icon.)
  4. Sign into your Evernote account in the clipper.

Using the Browser Web Clipper:

When you visit a web page and find something that you want to clip, click the Evernote Web Clipper (elephant) icon in your web browser. The browser web clipper can save:

  • a full page (even the parts out of view)
  • an article
  • a simplified article (removing unwanted graphics and text not pertaining to the article)
  • a screenshot (where you precision clip with cross hairs)
  • a bookmark

As you clip you can select which notebook to file the note in and add any desired tags. It will also include the URL in the note header.

Search and Retrieval

Type a keyword into the search box and Evernote will locate and display notes that contain the keyword in the center column. This includes typed text from a website clipping or image, as in the example above. With a subscription, OCR technology makes it possible for you to search for words in Evernote to retrieve notes that include those words, both on the clipped image and in printed handwritten text.

Resources

Genealogy Gems Premium Videos including:

  • Organize Your Research with Evernote
  • Making Evernote Effortless
  • Using Evernote to Create a Research Plan
  • Evernote: 10 Projects You Can Do
  • Collaborative Genealogy with Evernote

Premium Members: download this exclusive ad-free show notes cheat sheet PDF
Not a member yet? Learn more and join the Genealogy Gems and Elevenses with Lisa family here

 

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

Here’s our weekly roundup of new genealogy records online. Should you search for your ancestors in any of these databases?

BRITAIN, MERCHANT SEAMAN. Findmypast.com has added nearly a quarter million records to its 1918-1941 database of British Merchant Seaman.

IDAHO VITAL RECORDS. New indexes of Idaho births (1861-1911) and deaths (1938-1961) are now searchable for free at FamilySearch.org.

ILLINOIS DEATHS. Over 3.7 million records have been added to a free index of Cook County, Illinois deaths at FamilySearch.org. Cook County is home to the city of Chicago.

INDIANA CHURCH RECORDS. A new database of Indiana United Methodist Church Records(1837-1970) is available at Ancestry.com. According to the collection description, “The registers may contain baptisms, marriages, burials, memberships, and lists of clergy.”

IRISH BIRTHS, BAPTISMS AND MARRIAGES. Complementing recent online Irish parish records collections are two databases of Non-conformist church records (meaning those not in alliance with the Church of Ireland) now at Findmypast: births/baptisms and marriages.

ONTARIO BIRTHS. FamilySearch has added over 125,000 indexed records to its collection of Ontario, Canada birth records.

UNITED STATES and NEW ZEALAND ARTICLES. Findmypast.com has updated its PERSI database with over 45,000 new indexed entries and images. Ten publications spanning 1883-1984 include articles covering several New Zealand and several U.S. states, including Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Utah.

VARIOUS MARRIAGE RECORDS. FamilySearch.org has published or updated several new free marriage records collections. Click here to see the full list, which includes British Columbia, Durham (England), Indiana, Kansas, Liberia, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah.

Try These Two Powerful Tools for Finding Genealogy Records OnlineDon’t see the records you hoped to among these new genealogy records online? Click here to read a blog post on two powerful tools to help you search for elusive records.

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