My genealogy groups are buzzing with excitement about a new tool from Genetic Affairs to automate the clustering of your DNA matches. This takes the Leeds method concept to another level.
Everyone is posting pretty cluster pictures like the one below that I made for my perfect cousin, the star of many of my blog posts. This is a table where each DNA match is listed on the top and side; then if they match each other, the box is colored in with the color for that cluster. The chart is sorted by cluster. The idea is that each colored cluster shows descendants from a probable great grandparent couple of yours.
The gray boxes show where people match others outside the cluster which can often happen when families intermarry more than once or when they are first cousins enough times removed to have been in the second or third cousin group by DNA but are related to more than one set of great grandparents.
Automated clustering is useful because it puts your DNA relatives who are related to each other into visual groups so that you can quickly see which line a new match is related on. The picture is pretty but the workhorses are the charts for each cluster shown below that image when you scroll down. Here is the privatized one for my “perfect” cousin showing our MUNSON cluster.
Each name can be clicked to go to that Ancestry match page plus much useful additional information is shown next to the username: how many cMs shared, how many matches shared in the whole group, cluster number, how many people in their tree, and the notes you made for that match.
The image and charts are from the HTML file which arrived via email from Genetic Affairs after I requested automated clustering for my cousin’s Ancestry profile, which is shared with me there. You have to save the html file to your computer and then click on it to view it. When it first comes up, it is a mish-mosh sorted by name, but then it resorts itself by cluster. Fun to watch. Click here for the step by step of how to use this tool from the Intrepid Sleuth. It can also cluster matches from other sites like 23andme.
I decided to try it on an unknown father case I had not gotten around to working on yet, to see if it succeeded in speeding up the process and it did, to under an hour! A new record.
I really like a number of the features that have come out recently at Ancestry. My favorite is that the total amount of DNA shared with each DNA relative is now shown on the match list page in centimorgans (cMs). This means that you no longer have to click through to the match page to find that number. Those total cMs are needed in order to look up the possible relationships at the DNApainter calculator. You want to check there because the cousin designations at Ancestry are just groupings based on the amount of DNA and many relationships share very similar cM numbers.
Look at the current top of my 2nd cousin list. These are all children of my first cousins except C.S. who is the grandson of a first cousin. (spot quiz – what is my relationship to each of them? Answer at the end of this article). In each case it shows not only the possible relationship but also the actual cMs and the number of segments.
The other recent feature that I truly appreciate is that Ancestry.com indicates whether there is a family tree linked to the DNA, a tree that is not linked, or no tree at all next to the View Match button. In the past there would only be a tree listed when it was linked to the DNA, so you had to go to the match page to see if there was a family tree that was just not connected to the DNA. A word of warning about unlinked trees, they may not be for the tested person. One of my real second cousins did his DNA test through a friend’s account so he is not in their tree at all!
Did you notice that little blue compare icon under the green View Match button? Click on that to get a comparison of the ethnicity of two tests. It always fascinated me to see the amount of difference between two full siblings. Here I am compared with my brother (click it for a larger version).
A word of warning. A friend complained that his sister only had a tiny amount of XYZ heritage while he had a good 33%. I pointed out that her ethnicity had not been updated to the new version. Once that was done, she had a bit more XYZ than him!
Another benefit of this comparison is the much larger versions of the profile pictures which are on top of the ethnic breakdowns on that page. Space considerations got me to cut them off in my image above. However it is quite nice to get a better idea of what your match looks like than you get from the tiny picture on the match page.
Now for a discussion of the new traits feature …
Most of the unknown parentage cases I have worked on have had very happy endings and I have enjoyed reporting on them here and in my presentations. Sadly it is not always like that.
My observations from the many cases I have been involved with is that the fathers who never knew are frequently delighted; while the mothers who gave up the child often want to pretend it never happened.
There are at least two cases in my files where the overly young parents, gave up their child, later got married, and were happy to have that child back in their lives. However I have another case where although they later got married, they subsequently divorced and are not acknowledging their son.
A 1960s diary
There are also a few cases where the father claims to not even have known the mother of the child. That does not necessarily stop him from being delighted to have a new daughter or son.
Some fathers are not so welcoming. The first case I ever helped out on was a DNA cousin, early in the days of testing, so I did not know she could be more distant than the reported 4th cousin. Regardless, I was happy to help. She lives in the next town over and came to my house to meet me. I did not realize what an emotional moment it would be for her, meeting her first ever biological relative. Subsequently her birth state opened their records, so she found her late mother’s family. With the extra information from her mother’s diary and her Ancestry test, I was able to find her birth dad, my distant relative. However he said in an email response to her, “Sorry, but I have no recall of a [her mother’s name].” Since the story was one of being taken advantage of when drunk at a party, my cousin chose not to pursue this.
Another genetic cousin who turned up early in my DNA explorations was also more distant than I realized, a double sixth cousin. Eventually I suggested he test at Ancestry where he found a paternal half sister born days apart from him. I found their Dad, my distant cousin, and called him, but he wanted no part of DNA testing. His reason was that he was protecting his known daughter who was going through a tough time and besides he was always “good,” never stepped out. Luckily a few months later that very same daughter did an Ancestry DNA test and is thrilled to have a half sister (she had no sisters) and another brother.
The case that broke my heart was a recent one involving two war babies.
I have shown a number of fellow genealogists the We’re Related app from Ancestry on my smartphone because it is so much fun. Let’s face it, we all like being related to famous people. My latest “famous” match is my 7th cousin thrice removed, Hans Christian Andersen, which delights the writer in my soul.
This app has also figured out how I am related to a number of my Facebook friends. Of course, they are usually cousins I that found myself with genealogy or DNA and then friended. I must have connected this app to my FaceBook account when I first installed it and of course I connected it to my Ancestry account as well.
An exciting recent surprise was that We’re Related found my relationship to fellow genetic genealogist Kelly Wheaton, famed for her free online beginning genetic genealogy course. We had long wondered about a smallish DNA segment that we share on chromosome 16, which is also shared with other relatives, so expected to be real. We had assigned it to a location – Seljord, Telemark, Norway but had not figured out the ancestor.
In the app, each cousin match has several icons below it (two on my phone, three on my tablet). The one with two boxes then another below them represents a family tree. Click on that icon or the person’s photo to learn more about the relationship. Although you most often share an ancestral couple, it only shows you one of them, usually the man for most of mine.
Family Tree DNA has updated their chromosome browser with a new sleek modern look that allows seven simultaneous comparisons. What’s more, you can click the chromosome browser on the home page and go straight to a page where you select the people to compare. The Family Finder section on the homepage highlights the new browser:
The new selection page sorts by any column just like the Family Finder Matches page:
This new chromosome map it produces is much more modern looking and intuitive to use, plus every segment can be clicked to see the information about it.