Category Archives: tools

Organizing my AncestryDNA matches

One of my ‘resolutions’ for 2018 was to come up with a better process for me to manage my AncestryDNA matches.  We’re halfway through the year, so I thought I’d share my progress.

My new strategy depends on the Notes option in AncestryDNA and a cool Chrome extension called MedBetterDNA. I established three baseline steps (do it once and I’m done!) and two recurring steps.

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Take the lederhosen vs. kilt challenge!

If you watch much TV, you’ve probably seen the Ancestry commercial in which a man’s DNA results contradict his family tradition of a German heritage, so he trades in his lederhosen for a kilt! The irony is, no matter how German you may be, if you test at Ancestry, you won’t get German as a result in your ‘ethnicity’ pie chart; it’s not one of the categories they offer!  (See, perhaps, a more generic ‘Western European’ as one possible alternative.)

Many genetic genealogists have written about how imprecise these predictions are within the continent of Europe. For example, see The Legal Genealogist Judy Russell’s blog post Those percentages if you must. Those estimates may be more reliable, however, in suggesting where some of your ancestors might have lived in the past 200 years or so.

Among DNA testing companies, 23andMe offers a unique chromosome tool to explore our biogeographic origins. It’s probably most valuable for people with ancestors from different continents, but I am going to create a lederhosen vs. kilt challenge for myself and more closely examine 23andMe’s identification of German/French roots in my DNA.

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An open letter to my DNA cousins

Dear Cousin,

I’m so glad to ‘meet’ you through DNA testing! I have lots of family history gems to share and explore with you. Perhaps we can help each other. I have copies of wills and obituaries and photos and maps I can send you–and family lore too!

Since March is the month we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d offer several Irish examples. (But there’s a Colonial American example at the end too.)

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Is it a maternal or paternal DNA match?

One of the first things we ask about a new DNA match is this: is this a match on Mom’s side, or Dad’s?
 
We all have two copies of each autosome (i.e. chromosome 1 through chromosome 22): one copy in each pair comes from Mom and one from Dad. Unfortunately, the testing company can’t tell by looking at our DNA if a segment that matches someone else is on our maternal copy of that chromosome, or our paternal copy.
 
We need to compare our DNA to known relatives who have tested; then we can begin to figure out how our new matches fit in our family trees.
 
If you’ve had both of your parents take an autosomal DNA test at the company where you and your new cousin match, it’s easy to tell maternal or paternal. But what if you don’t have DNA tests for both parents?
 
GEDmatch.com has some tools to help us.

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Giving Thanks (DNA Painter)

In the United States, we celebrate a day of thanks every November. So, this month’s post deals with something I am thankful for in the genetic genealogy community. There are SO MANY people here who deserve our gratitude: citizen scientists, search angels who help adoptees, folks who answer newbies’ questions on social media, kin who graciously agree to take a DNA test… it was hard to pick one.

In the end, I decided to write my thanks to someone who has recently developed and shared an amazing (and free!) new DNA tool: Jonny Perl and his DNA Painter.

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I made up a new acronym! MDIDS

One of the fun things about managing your DNA matches in a spreadsheet is that you can choose to log whatever matters to you. I just added a new column to mine, and I invented a new acronym to go with it! It’s MDIDS (I pronounce it M-dids); and I use it alongside MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor), because sometimes MRCA isn’t quite what I want.

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Triangulation with GEDmatch

On 25 Mar 2017, the Central Indiana DNA Interest Group is giving an in-depth presentation on the valuable (and mostly free!) DNA tools at GEDmatch.

At this program, we’ll be talking about the benefits of GEDmatch and walking through how to use the site. Of course, the most Basic perk of GEDmatch is that you can compare DNA from people who tested across different platforms (companies). On an Intermediate level, GEDmatch has tools to help you sort your matches into different lines of your family tree. For participants open to dipping their toes into Advanced territory, we’ll talk a bit about * triangulation *.

I know when I attend webinars or presentations, sometimes my brain gets full and doesn’t process everything I just heard. Then it’s helpful to have a resource to revisit later to help the more complex material sink in. So I thought I’d post something about * triangulation * on my blog this month!

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