Confused by Your AncestryDNA Matches? Read This Post

confused by AncestryDNA matchesOpening 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.

genealogy gems podcast mailboxLisa 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.

NADhelpFigure1The “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.

NADhelpFigure2First, 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.

NADhelpFigure3BasicThe 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.

Using DNA for Genealogy Ancestry Family Tree DNA GuidesReady 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.

 

3 Things This Gems Follower Loves About the New Ancestry Site

Ancestry what I love about the new siteRecently we reported changes in the Ancestry.com site, now available to all U.S. customers. Genealogy Gems follower Nora then emailed us with three things she loves about the new Ancestry experience, and her instructions for merging facts related to the same life event. Below are her comments; I’ve added screen shots for the sake of illustration that don’t pertain to Nora’s ancestors.

“I’ve been playing around with the new version of Ancestry.com, and have the following comments:

Yes No Maybe Ancestry1. YES, NO, MAYBE SO. “I LOVE that in the “hints”, it now asks you if the facts match your ancestor, and you have “Yes,” “No” and “Maybe” options.

In some cases, it is clearly not your ancestor, but sometimes you just aren’t sure. If you click “Yes,” you get the usual screen where you compare the items in the record to your tree and decide which points you want to use as “preferred” before you save the source to the individual in your tree.

If you click “No”, the hint gets put in the “Ignored” list. Yes, you could always go back and review these again, but you had to dig through all the entries that clearly did not relate to your ancestor. With the addition of “Maybe” there is now an “Undecided” list.  If you think it is possible that this is your ancestor, but don’t yet have any additional information that would support an unconditional “Yes, save this to my ancestor” reaction, you can click “Maybe.” Then, when something else shows up in your research that supports that hint, you can search back through the “Undecided” list under hints for that ancestor, and maybe go ahead and save the info to them in your tree.

Ancestry LifeStory viewTHUMBS-UP ON LIFESTORY VIEW. “I quite like the LifeStory view, especially as it gives the option to remove items you don’t want to include. For instance, the 1860 U.S. Federal census shows my ancestor as residing in New York, NY.  She was actually visiting her parents with her firstborn, a toddler son named for her father. Her actual home at the time was in California.

Because I entered the census info on Ancestry, her LifeStory suddenly included “current event” items for New York in the years between the 1860 and 1870 censuses. While these are appropriate in her parents’ records, they are not applicable to her, as she returned to California and her husband.

EASIER TO MERGE FACTS. “On each ancestor’s Facts tab, it is now so easy to combine duplicates of life events that came from different sources! I’ve been doing editing there and then syncing with my Family Tree Maker tree. The page shows the list of facts for the individual, the list of sources for that individual’s facts, and the list of immediate family members.

For the ancestor [mentioned] above, there were four separate marriage “facts.”  All of the documentation of the marriage date came from other members’ trees. Two of these trees had the information entered in exactly the same format, so they were both linked to the same fact. The other three trees each had the information entered slightly differently from any of the other trees. In order to consolidate down to just one “fact” with multiple “sources,” I did the following:

  1. Chose which “fact” I wanted to keep (in this case, it was the one with the most detailed information about the event). I’ll call this the “Master Fact.”  My “Master Fact” was showing one source.  The “duplicate facts” were showing 2, 1, and 1 source respectively.
  2. Clicked on the first “duplicate fact.”  This drew a connector line to the associated “sources.”
  3. Allowed my mouse to hover over the associated source, and clicked on the EDIT button that appears. At the top of the resulting screen, it listed the “facts” that this particular source is currently associated with. Below, it listed all the other “facts” for the individual.
  4. In the lower list, I clicked the plus sign next to the Master Fact that I wanted to keep. This associated the current “source” with the Master Fact.
  5. Next, in the upper section, I checked the “X” next to the “duplicate fact” that I intended to delete.  This unlinked the current “source” from that “fact.”
  6. I repeated these steps for all the “sources” associated with the “duplicate facts.”
  7. Lastly, I went back to the Facts tab for this particular ancestor. My “Master Fact” was now showing 5 associated sources, and each of the “duplicate facts” showed no associated sources. I was able to click on each “duplicate fact,” select “Delete” from the “Edit” menu associated with that “fact,” and wind up with just the “Master Fact” for my ancestor’s marriage. Doing this really cleaned up the LifeStory view without having to “hide” a bunch of entries.”

Thank you, Nora! I appreciate hearing from you about the “gems” you’re finding in the new Ancestry site experience–and especially thanks for those instructions on associating several sources with the same life event.

podcast logo 180The free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 180 has tips for backing up your Ancestry data (not just your tree, but sources and DNA), as does this blog post. Make sure you’re always backed up, whether your data lives online or on your home computer. I rely on Backblaze as the official Genealogy Gems backup data provider. Click here to learn why

Family History Episode 12 – Post An Online Family Tree

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy PodcastOriginally published 2009

Republished December 31, 2013

https://lisalouisecooke.com/familyhistorypodcast/audio/fh12.mp3

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 12: Post Your Family Tree Online

In this episode we focus on posting your family tree online. There’s no use in re-inventing the research wheel! By posting what you know about your family tree online you can easily connect with others who are researching people in your family tree. You can share information, collaborate and even get to know distant relatives.

Updates and Links

A few things have changed in online family tree services, including the 2013 acquisition of Geni.com by MyHeritage and the end of GeneTree. Check out these great sites for creating free family trees (you will need to create a free login to use these sites):

Ancestry.com

FamilySearch.org

Geni

MyHeritage

Mocavo

Learn US History through the Census

 

Remember the board game LIFE?  Archives.com has put its own spin on this family favorite that experienced a revival in the 1960s.

(Quick Quiz: 1. What  year was the game of LIFE created?
Bonus: 2. What was the original name?)

 

We recently discovered this cool, interactive webpage for learning more about U.S. history through census facts. It’s called The American Family Through Time and you can “play” it here free at Archives.com.

This clever page uses census data to show how American life has changed over the course of 220 years (and 23 censuses). You can click on decade-by-decade summaries on the “gameboard.” In addition to the census questions, you’ll find some fun now-and-then comparisons for housing, education and occupations. Great for kids of all ages!

Quick Quiz Answers:
1. 1860
2. The Checkered Game of Life

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