Archive | 2013

Finding common ancestors with automation: Compare GEDcoms or use a one world tree

It is exciting when you find a new DNA cousin who actually has a family tree. However it can take days to wade through it looking for the common ancestor and more often than not, you do not find it. Sometimes that is because the ancestor is too far back in time. Other times it is on a line that is not documented or is just wrong. Also there can be spelling discrepancies or if you have Norwegians, naming differences (father’s name or farm name used for surname).

You would think that there would be good automated tools to do this and you would be right. These are the ones I know of.


Partial results of a GEDmatch compare one GEDcom to all run

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Found a 3rd cousin in Norway via DNA!

A Norwegian, who turned out to be a descendant of my gg-grandparents Jørgen Wold and Anna Knutsdatter of the Drammen area, tested his DNA on 23andme and came up a close match (3rd-5th cousin) to my Dad with 35 cM over three segments of matching DNA (0.48% shared). Most matches called 3rd to 5th have been just two segments and have turned out to not be that close but rather to share two ancestors. However Henrik was on and an exploration of his tree found that he was descended from Jørgen Wold’s daughter Olava. This is the first time it has been so quick and easy to find a relationship! He is much younger than I am, so two generations further down the tree. Naturally I had to use the new DNAgedcom feature where I could compare him to all my shared profiles and see who else he matched. Here is the plot of his matches with my family and the larger shares (surnames removed for privacy except from my Dad and brother) created with my DNA segment mapper tool:


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What to do with your DNA test

Some of my cousins and friends have tested at 23andme or familytreeDNA, due to my urging, and now they are asking me what to do next. I dedicate this post to them.

Autosomal DNA testing will not not magically find your ancestors. You will need to work at it and may have very little success if not enough of your known and unknown relatives have tested. It will give you many clues and hints about where your ancestors were from. Be sure to use some of the admix tools at on your results if that interests you, see my post on GEDmatch.

I suggest that if you are not familiar with DNA or DNA testing that you read my DNA basics page and if you have tested at 23andme also read my post on 23andme basics.

Assuming that you all do not want to spend the kind of time on this that I do (an hour or two most days for the last year); here is how to get the most for the least time input.

First you need to understand that an autosomal DNA test is nowhere near as definitive as a Y chromosome test, it can show you that you are related because you share runs of identical SNPs (referred to as segment matches from here on) with someone but not exactly how or even how close. After the 2nd cousin level the amount you will share with a relative gets more and more random. I have a few 9th cousins I share a one segment match with who like me have extensive trees and that is the closest match we have found. ISOGG has published the expected ranges of cMs and number of segments on their wiki that relatives share at different levels of relationship.

So what was your objective taking the DNA test? If it was just to satisfy your curiosity then my post on 23andme basics should answer your questions. If finding new relatives is of interest then read on.

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Ate my first Peruvian Apple Cactus Fruit

Peruvian Apple Cactus

My Peruvian Apple Cactus with fruit

One of the really fun parts of living in Southern California is the strange tropical fruits you can grow. I recently planted a banana tree and a mango tree. We will see how they do.

Having bought a house with over an acre that had belonged to an avid organic gardener for some 40 years I am occasionally surprised by a new plant or fruit popping up.

There is a cactus garden well off to one side that I had paid very little attention to until the other day when I noticed these big round pinkish red fruits on a tall cactus. Somewhat like a dragon fruit but no pointy things. So I took some pictures and sent them off to a friend in the local chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers.

Oddly enough at the meeting I missed (yes I am a member and love it) someone else had asked the same question.

The answer is that this is a Peruvian Apple Cactus, Cereus repandus. So I immediately googled it and found the wikepedia article and a utube video both of which assured me it was edible.

So I had to try this gorgeous fruit and it was quite delicious.



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Results for a second cousin on the Skjold line

The results for our second cousin John who shares Skjold and Wold ancestry are just in today at 23andme so of course the first thing I did was compare him to me, my brother, my dad, and a few other cousins. Interestingly John has inherited far more DNA in common with us than our Munson side 2nd cousin has.

Dad shares 608 cM over 25 segments with John and only 389 cM within 18 segments with Dick, our Munson 2nd cousin. My brother shares 281 cM over 13 segments with John as opposed to 155 cM over 7 segments with Dick while I share 282 cM in 15 segments with John as opposed to 175 cM within 10 segments with my Munson 2nd cousin Dick.

Here is a pretty picture I made with my chromosome segment mapper tool:

Our 2nd Cousin on the Skjold line from Segment Mapper

Overlapping DNA from our 2nd Cousin on the Skjold line compared to family with the Segment Mapper

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