Monday, May 1, 2023

Armchair Genealogy

By Melinda Cohenour

DNA: For the casual family researcher to the professional genealogist, the advances in DNA bring exciting discoveries. Your author tested several years ago (2016) and encouraged a few family members to also test. Awaiting results left us eagerly seeking the first DNA matches to be revealed. Then, puzzlement: who are those people? And how do they fit in my tree?

The Big Reveal: Ethnicity:

My first email from Ancestry®. years ago brought a mixture of elation, surprises, and mysteries. First of all, a long-awaited "reveal" of what my DNA indicated my ethnicity to be. The initial findings were more evidence of family lore being shown to be faulty. Always told WE were primarily French, Irish, and English with a smattering of Native Americans thrown in, the ethnic regions that were included shook up that premise! Included were some areas that raised eyebrows. A very small percentage from Eastern European Jewish heritage? Sweden, Norway, and a pinch of Belgium were thrown in. Not one single match shows evidence of Native American heritage.

(As Ancestry adds more and more test results from around the world and tweaks its methods of evaluating the data, the ethnic mix evolves. Each new analysis shuffles the percentages for me and my family members.)

A long dissertation was included explaining my Haplogroup, or how my DNA compared to the historical migration patterns that depicted ancient origins. I must admit I found those bits of knowledge fascinating.

One of my first columns focused on my fledgling exploration of DNA in my attempt to absorb a basic understanding. That column may be read at this link: The Mysteries of DNA and How It Might Aid Our Research

More recently Ancestry has turned to examining not the ancient migration but the more recent: where do our DNA matches reveal our ancestors to have migrated to in modern times? Thus, matches are shown in clusters and labeled with titles like West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee Settlers.

Later, Ancestry utilized Circles of connection which was explored in my column titled DNA: More Mysteries to be Unraveled Click to read.

My first group of DNA Matches back in 2016 numbered just about 400. Today using its advanced Sideview technology, my matches are divided and numbered thusly:
Maternal 44,758
Paternal 46,722
Both Sides 34
Unassigned 8,423.

A staggering 99,937 DNA Matches to be explored!

Sideview Technology:

Through the intervening years, Ancestry and I have been busily examining my DNA Matches to identify how each is related to me. One of my columns touched on this in depth. Click title in blue: Who Sourced the Ethnicity Story of my DNA?

Here we began to add Matches to our family tree and track how those we explored were related, indicating Maternal or Paternal Side. We were feeding Ancestry important information its computers were busily absorbing and analyzing. Specifically, Ancestry began examining the strings of letters that reveal the two halves of each rung on the helix ladder to divide (given evidence of our info and of our DNA Matches) to see what denoted Paternal or Maternal. Here is a link to Ancestry's explanation:

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A recent email from Ancestry highlights the latest technology being utilized by Ancestry and the tools offered to subscribers:

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Celebrate DNA Day with Ancestry®.

On April 25, people around the globe commemorate the discovery of the double helix. At Ancestry®, we’re passionate about DNA technology and developing tools to help people explore their heritage.

This DNA Day, explore our innovative AncestryDNA® tools and features, like our most recent developments:

    Sideview™ technology*
    Our first‑of‑its‑kind technology can show which side of your family tree your ethnicity estimates and DNA matches are from.
    Chromosome painter*
    Gain a sense of which parts of your DNA tie back to the regions in your ethnicity estimate.
    Family Compare
    See your DNA matches’ ethnicity estimates and communities right alongside yours.
    Our latest DNA Traits*
    Learn how your genes may influence whether you’re a risk‑taker, a morning person, and someone who likes a good nap.

NOTE>*Some DNA features may require an Ancestry® subscription.

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    Chromosome Painter.
    Ancestry tells us:
      To find the chromosome painter:
      1. Go to your DNA story.
      2. Scroll down to the Ethnicity inheritance card and click View breakdown.
      3. Select the Chromosome painter tab.

Ever wonder where in your DNA your connection to a certain region lies?

With our chromosome painter, you can get an idea. It “paints” your DNA with your ethnicities, showing where in your DNA we found the regions that make up your ethnicity estimate. With this different view of your ethnicity estimate, you can also see which biological parent your ethnicity came from. Click Link Here:

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I haven't explored this excellent new technology yet but plan to do so. Perhaps this tool can help break down the Five Brick Walls against which our Research Head has been banging for years now. I hope to try this out, solve a mystery or two and report results at a later date. Fingers crossed!

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Family Compare:

    Family Compare provided a look into how each family member inherits DNA in different "handfuls" from the same pool of available chromosomes.
    This technology is in its Beta stage. To explore select My DNA Story which brings up your Ethnicity Estimate. Scroll down and see a link: Compare to my Matches. Click and you're given options to play with. Mine provided my two closest matches (sister and daughter) and set up columns to see how our DNA ethnicity compared by each breakdown. You are also given the option of removing or adding selected matches.

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Family Traits: mostly an ad to entice you to add another feature.

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To sum up, I found the explanation of how Sideview Technology works the most interesting.

Chromosome Painter will need to be explored before I can evaluate its value. I hope to find time to check it out.

Traits. I pass although I did take the time to answer queries as to my own traits in all the categories. I did this hurriedly so not sure how informative my responses may prove to be.

A surprise? Between the time I started this column today and when I examined Family Compare, my DNA Matches surpassed 100,000 as a few new Matches showed up.

Fascinating what we can discover about ourselves and our family from the comfort of our armchair. Continue your own Armchair Genealogy and look for my next month's column. Who knows? Maybe some of this new technology will yield the clues we need to solve some long-standing tree mysteries!

Click on the author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
This issue appears in the ezine at and also in the blog with the capability of adding comments at the latter.

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