Friday, July 28, 2017

DNA tip

Ancestry, FTDNA, and MyHeritage have note fields for each of your DNA matches. This is a great way to record when you attempted contact, whether or not they answered you, their GEDmatch number if they have uploaded, MRCA if you have figured it out, etc.

If you want to make contact using Ancestry it will be via an internal message.  The messages are held in a central location and not attached to the individual match so the notes field will help you keep things straight.



FTDNA does not have an internal messaging system and contact is done via email. Again, the notes field helps you keep track of attempts to contact.




MyHeritage has an internal messaging system but the messages are in a central location (like Ancestry) and not tied to the individual matches (like 23andMe). Luckily they too have a notes field.


23andMe does not have a notes field but does has a message box that holds all of the back and forth conversations that is attached to each individual match which is very useful.  You don’t need a notes field.


GEDmatch does not have a notes field.  It would be VERY useful here to know who you have contacted and who you still need to contact.  Contact with matches is done via email. I will be suggesting this to them.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Keeping track of the unknowns

You can read about who I am trying to keep track of HERE.

I have entered the one known lineage and the three unknown brick wall ancestors into Legacy. Since all of this is speculative at the moment I have made them invisible. Invisible means that if I ever export my file or a part of my file these people will not be included.  They don’t exist anywhere but on my hard drive. Why do I enter them like they are real people even though they are not proven?  Because I can work with them much easier this way.  I can use them to directly sync to FamilySearch* and I can use Legacy’s new hinting feature.  As I learn more things about them I will enter the information including my sources.  I can also add Hashtags to these guys putting them into different groups.  I have a bunch of Hashtags already set up for my DNA projects.  I also add them to location Hashtags.  What I am eventually hoping to find are overlaps which will give me a clue as to which known Simmons groups these guys belong to.  When I first add them I add a special source to every fact.  Since these people are invisible and no one can see them but me this is only to help me keep track of what all I still need to look at and source.  The source looks like this:  DNA Match - Lineage not Confirmed. 

* When I say sync what I mean is I can see what FamilySearch has on this person through Legacy’s direct syncing capability but I don’t have to actually transfer any information.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Don’t ignore the 12 marker matches

If you have been following the blog for any length of time you will know that my all time #1 brick wall ancestor is James Simmons born 14 Aug 1764. I am trying to solve the big mystery of who his parents were using yDNA. My paternal uncle matches two men at 110 out of 111 markers which is about as good as you are ever going to see at this level of testing. As of yet the three lines do not connect even though all three lines are back far enough in time for the connection to be right at out fingertips.  My line is proven and one of the other lines is proven.  The third line, the one that goes back in time one more generation than the other two, is unproven. I have been unable to get ahold of the that tester for over two years. The other researcher and I are in the process of trying to prove that third line up the chain but we have 3 connections that we haven’t been able to prove yet.

In the meantime, if I drop down to 67 markers I pick up three more matches but they aren’t good ones.  Different surnames and genetic distances of 6-7.  When I drop down to 37 I have no new matches there to content with. When I drop to 25 I pick up a lot of matches but the genetic distance is too far off and there are no surname matches.

But when I drop to 12 markers…

I pick up four men with the surname Simmons that are a 12 out of 12 marker match.  All three only tested at 12 markers so I am not seeing them at the higher levels.  All three are in the right haplogroup. One of the four has a tree that leads back to the right area of the country. The other three don’t have trees. One of those three has his brick wall ancestor listed and he is in the right place.  Another has his brick wall ancestor listed but no locations. The third has his brick wall ancestor a good 3 generations farther back in time and in England but no pedigree so I don’t know if that is valid or not. Normally I don’t put too much stock in 12 marker matches but these have some promise.

That’s the good news.  That bad news is that none of the four has answered my emails. I have politely asked for their Simmons lineage and I requested they consider upgrading to 67 markers.

While I impatiently wait for a response I am actively working with what I have, one pedigree and three brick wall ancestors. I will be seeing what I can match up on FamilySearch and on Ancestry. I might even find my testers there and can try and contact them that way.

Next time I will tell you about a couple of little tricks that I do in Legacy to help me with this.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

It’s not the end of the world

Major panic attack on Facebook this week after Ancestry announced that starting July 18th each DNA sample will have to have its own Ancestry account.  Here is the official announcement by Ancestry:

Enhancing Collaboration and Roles on DNA Results

Many of us manage multiple kits under our account so this will be a change for us, however, it isn’t horrible. A little more work maybe but not horrible. If you manage multiple accounts at FTDNA you will be used to this sort of thing and Ancestry’s system will actually be less work than FTDNA’s in the long run. If you already have multiple kits under your account those won’t change. This will only affect new kits.

Since I need testers for specific dilemmas many of the people I ask to test are not genealogists and some don’t even have a computer so how will I handle this?

1) Set up a Gmail account for each test that you activate. You will need to come up with some sort of unique naming system for the accounts so that they follow a pattern to make it easier on you. Genetic genealogists already keep very detailed records so this isn’t going to be a big deal.

2) Have all mail from those accounts forwarded to your account. In Gmail click the gear icon and then go to Settings > Forwarding.

3) Create a new Ancestry account using the above address. One account per kit.

4) Log into this new Ancestry account and set yourself as “Manager” for that DNA.  When you log into your account you will see this DNA on your list.  Managers can do everything that the owner of the DNA can do except remove managers from the account.  You can even download the raw data.  If you have ever tried to talk someone through how to download their raw DNA so that you could get their DNA on GEDmatch you will know how nice this is. Since you have a paid account (most likely) you can do a lot more with the DNA from your account than you could if you logged into the free account.

Having said all of that.  Make your that you have PERMISSION from your test taker to do all of this. FULL DISCLOSURE is a MUST. You need to explain exactly why you need their DNA and what exactly you plan to do with it.  You also need to warn them about any surprises that could be uncovered. If they are comfortable with computers you can provide them with the login for their Ancestry account though you will be able to provide better information for them from your account.

Saturday, July 15, 2017


LivingDNA contacted me awhile back and offered me a free DNA test in exchange for an honest evaluation. No way I was going to pass that up.  I didn’t have to actually test. I sent them my raw DNA file from 23andMe. They do not normally accept raw DNA transfers. You must test with them, at least right now.

I was interested in LivingDNA because of their emphasis on the UK. They have started a new German project as well which I will be equally interested in.  Why is the UK and Germany interesting to me?  I “know” that certain brick wall lines originated in the UK but I don’t know where exactly.  I thought this test might help narrow it for me. One-half of my DNA is Germanic (Germany, present day Poland, and present day Alsace) so any insights on my German half is also appreciated.

My general breakdown is exactly what I expected. It matches my paper research very well.


Where it gets interesting is when you click the Sub Regions.  It is hard to see in screenshots. You can’t see the entire list over on the left, but how cool is this!  Look how the UK is broken down.


You can then click each individual region to get a closer look.  The lightly shaded area are additional regions but I only have South Central England highlighted.


Because I transferred my raw data and didn’t directly test with them I was not given my mtDNA haplogroup (men would also get their yDNA haplogroup).  They don’t do full yDNA and mtDNA testing but will provide the haplogroups as well as haplogroup maps and trees.

With their emphasis on the UK and soon Germany I think it is well worth your while to test with LivingDNA if you are interested in these areas.  All serious DNA researchers should have their DNA in EVERY pool and that includes LivingDNA. As with any company that reports ethnicity, the results will become more refined over time as they add more reference populations.

They do not have cousin matching yet but it is coming. Since LivingDNA's focus is international testing this will open up all kinds of new avenues.

I received my test results for free.  Would I have paid for it?  Yes.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Keeping up with DNA

Several people have asked me how I keep up to date with what all is going on in the world of genetic genealogy. Here are the resources I count on.


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