Saturday, June 1, 2019

Armchair Genealogy


DNA: Advances in Aid of Research

      In continuance of the search for the adoptive parents of my first husband (found the father, need the bio mother’s identity confirmed now) and the mystery grandfather of my firstborn grandson, Adam, your author has discovered some new aids in that quest.

      Hip! Hip! Hooray! Ancestry has added some new features to its DNA application. So far these features are useful only in the organization of the matches to a DNA test. However, given that my own DNA test has now resulted in literally thousands and thousands of matches (mostly, of course, cousins), any improvement in organizing those bits of data will help turn the data into information. (In case you are not a statistician or analyst who has been tasked with absorbing tons of DATA and trying to make sense of it in such a manner that it INFORMS your management group, organization and analysis is the key. Mere collection of bits and pieces of facts and statistics does not help to form cohesive understanding of WHAT IT ALL MEANS. One must find a way to massage the data, make comparisons, draw conclusions, confirm suspicions, and emerge successfully with INFORMATION!)

      To that end, Ancestry has just revealed the new applications that should help make sense of all those DNA matches! Where did they come from? How are we related? How does this data help me make sense of my ultimate goal – WHO AM I?

      First of all, FINALLY, a way to sort the useless matches from those destined to provide clues: [Straight from Ancestry’s introduction to the new applications:]

      Filter and sort your matches
• Common ancestors - see matches who may share a common ancestor with you based on Ancestry trees (formerly Shared Ancestor Hints).
• New - people that have been matched to you in the last 14 days.
• Tree status - sort your matches by just those with public, private or unlinked trees.
• Messaged - see matches who you've sent messages to.
• Notes - see matches you've written notes about.

      COMMON ANCESTORS: These matches will typically provide a quick, down and dirty “look-see” to aid in building the tree. These folks have done their own research (usually – unless they blindly add every “Hint” or copy others’ trees without discretion) and Ancestry has been able to identify the MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor). This helps in determining relationships. I frequently add the match’s tree data in. That, of course, expands my tree, but why bother with DNA testing if you don’t?

      NEW: These are the ones you will want to check first. There may be a real pearl among these matches – the very match that confirms a relative you suspected was in your line but had no proof. What better proof than DNA, SO LONG as the other person’s tree is well-documented. Otherwise, they may have simply added a (famous?) person’s name into their tree in hopes of that being true. Can’t say it enough – do your own research, regardless.

      PUBLIC, PRIVATE, UNLINKED TREES: For those new to the process, folks who take a DNA test do serve a highly valuable purpose: their DNA helps to further the science of discovering how ALL humans relate to one another. It helps with building profiles of our earliest ancestors, who they lived near, how they interacted even to the merging of their “tribes” and so forth. However, for the researcher seeking to locate a missing link by confirmation of “known” facts from suspected facts, those who fail to link their DNA to a specific tree, or to a Private tree, are defeating the purpose. There simply is NO information to be gained from the research into that person’s documented (paper trails, folks, Bibles, Census records, local, state, and federal documents that are tirelessly scanned and then made available via the Internet) family history. This new sort key permits a researcher to quickly eliminate those matches with little to no chance of providing new INFORMATION. Thus, the serious researcher will want to check those PUBLIC trees linked to Matches first to glean the most data to INFORM their search.

      MESSAGED: Unless a response has been cordially provided, those we’ve spent time messaging in the past are highly unlikely to now help. Forget them.

      NOTES: I am a firm believer in Notating the matches after I investigate them. Why bother to do the work and then have no reminder of what that search turned up?

      Updated relationship likelihood chart Click on the 'i' icon next to the amount of DNA you share with a match (cM) to see the possible relationships and the percentage of time they appear between people who share that amount of DNA.

      This is a helpful little tool. The greater the cMs shared, the closer the relationship; however, the length of the segments, number of segments matched, and cMs shared can be confusing because the relationships indicated could be Cousins OR Nieces/Nephews or Aunts/Uncles. Just another hint to help you figure it all out. (Might be time to make a NOTE)

      Custom groups Click 'add to group' to add any of your matches to a custom group. You can create up to 24 groups, which can each be assigned a color. This is a great way to organize your matches by family line.

      All righty now! Here is where your author got excited. The old Starred match tool was helpful – to a degree – until one had more than one line of curiosity. Then, the Stars sort of lost their significance. NOW you can color code the known lines. I believe I shall code closest Maternal line (Joslin here) with PINK and the closest Paternal line (Carroll) BLUE. Then next will be the grandparents and greats: Bullard, Hopper, Godwin, Alexander, Anderson – divided into diluted color matches to the Maternal and Paternal lines. That, at least, is my initial plan. This may take some playing around to best utilize those 24 custom groups – but WOW! So happy to see this new tool!

      Mother's side and father's side labels Maternal or paternal labels for matches you share with your mother or father (if your parents have taken an AncestryDNA test).

      Unfortunately, DNA testing did not come about early enough to permit my parents to be tested. This still MIGHT provide a bit of help – if I can figure a wise way to fake the data. For instance, having been given some really excellent family histories upon which to build my initial tree, I have a really sound idea of which MRCAs go to which parental line. Stay tuned.

      Updated compare features Click on a match to preview the public trees, surnames and birth locations for your matches. You can also see how your ethnicity estimate compares and which other DNA matches you share.

      Now, this is publicized as though it is a new app; however, your author has been checking these clues when no other info is available. It is marginally helpful and totally dependent upon how well you confirm what you suspect by hard, classic research methods.

      Hide a match Click 'tools' in the upper right corner of the match compare page to hide a match.

      It is possible, I suppose, for a match to be a mistake. Without having encountered a need to do so, I cannot fathom another reason for choosing to hide a match. ??

      Last logged in Click on a match's name from the match compare page to see when they last logged in to Ancestry.

      The most obvious use of this tool is to gauge how “into it” your match might be and, therefore, how likely they might be useful in providing additional insights.

      Interesting how this works in my own family. The tests that match most closely to my own are my sister (Unlinked tree), my daughter (Unlinked tree), my niece (Unlinked tree) and a 1st cousin (Unlinked tree).

      Ah, well. It is a good thing I KNOW those folks. It is NOT a good thing that any DNA secrets their own tests might reveal will be much, much harder to zero in on.

      And that, dear readers, is the DNA tutorial for this month. Keep seeking the leaves and roots to your own trees via Armchair Genealogy!

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

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