Friday, February 17, 2017

Advice to new testers of Ancestry DNA (and my wish list)

Ancestry does a better job I think of advertising than the other companies. The ads appear to be working. Find out who you are, what your ancestry is made up of. If my new results are any indication, that is probably the primary reason so many people are now testing.

I understand (well kind of) why someone doesn't want to do genealogy. It isn't for everyone. But I would suggest to anyone who tests their DNA to at least do a few things.

 First, read up on autosomal DNA. It is really, really interesting. There are several excellent DNA bloggers, but the one place you can find the most information is here at the International Society of Genetic Genealogy.  You want to find out about this DNA and how it gets inherited. Otherwise, it's kind of useless.

Second, if you have close, first, or second cousin matches, and even third cousin matches. Consider contacting them. Ancestry DNA has an easy user interface, but they don't really explain all of it. When you view all your matches, they start with your closest DNA match and work their way to the smallest. Those first few folks, are matching you a lot closer than those later on. I don't know how Ancestry DNA determines the cutoff for each category, but as an example, two  of my father's first cousins, my Aunt, and my great Aunt all are in my first cousin matches.

Click on your match. Under their name is a predicted relationship with an explanation. And to the right underneath it is a little i in a circle. Click on that. That will tell you how much DNA your sharing. If you visited and read a bit in the Wiki, you will understand what that means. Most people spent at least some holidays with extended family. Which means, you may just know that second cousin. It may be your mom's cousin, or your great Aunt. If you never reach out to them, you will never know.

Also, if you can, I would consider adding a tree at least to your grandparents and preferably your great grandparents. Ancestry uses a privacy feature automatically for living people. This means, that they are not shown, only a pink or blue icon is shown. This information will give you little green leaves by your matches. Those leaves tell you if your tree matches your matches tree.

Lastly, if you really want the best for admixture (ancestry composition), Ancestry does a fairly good job, but you will get a lot more out of the admixtures on Gedmatch. Gedmatch is free. You don't get spam. If you don't want to share your info you don't have to. You can use pseudonyms. A lot of folks make a free email account for DNA correspondence. And, it has some really good admixture features. This is put together by scientists who are genetic anthropologists and it can be a little more helpful.

If you want to delve deeper, well there is a lot more you need to know. This is were my wish list comes in. First, the Circles, Hints and shared matches are a useful tool in Ancestry, but they are not a concrete proving ground that how you match is based on the family relationship in your tree. To do that you need to triangulate your DNA. Which is where you identify the location and confirm it with at least three individuals to identify the genealogy. I have had some I assumed where matches based on our known family connection, only to find out when someone else tested, that they match a family member from another branch where they match my kit.

Ancestry has been asked multiple times for a way to see where you match. This is the number one item on anyone's wish list who does genetic genealogy. The other two companies, 23andme and Family Tree DNA both offer this. If you want to delve deeper into looking into how your DNA was passed, maybe you tested multiple family members, you have to go to Gedmatch to do that.

It would be nice if there was a way to tag our matches better. I would love to be able to even mark paternal from maternal, because I have no way to compare these Ancestry matches in the program I use to keep track of matches (genome mate pro). Alas, I don't see that coming. And so even if I do have identified matches, barring testing one of my parents again, there isn't a way to sort the matches.

I also wish that Ancestry had a easier search function for matches. I have members of my family from the Choctaw Nation, and because that is not the same as Oklahoma, searching by location doesn't work. I wouldn't mind a search by ancestry type but maybe that is problematic. I just have had the hardest time finding matches from that side of the tree.

From my own experience, I would also suggest if you are going to attempt to triangulate and compare DNA results, you want a good tree, or be willing to research as you go. You also want to stay away from smaller matches, I mean like under 30 cM matches, unless it is a triangulation that is beneficial. Often these are too small and too hard to find the link.

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