Archive | May 2014

How many ancestors did I have 1000 years ago?

Powers2Someone recently posed the question “How many ancestors did I have 1000 years ago?” in conjunction with the assumption that the various genetic origins programs include about 1000 years worth of ancestry … my answer, of the billion possible maybe a million, maybe far fewer …

Very simply, if you postulate that 1000 years was 30 generations ago then your theoretical number of ancestors is two to the 30th, or just over a billion: 1,073,741,824. This is impossible as nowhere near that many people were alive back then. Plus not everyone who lived a thousand years ago has descendants today. So your ancestors must be duplicated numerous times on your family tree; this is known as pedigree collapse. Brian Pears points out in his article The Ancestor Paradox, that “even if every marriage in every generation was between second cousins, a quite unbelievable situation, we would still run out of people to be our ancestors within 29 generations.”

Kenneth W. Wachter came up with an interesting mathematical model for this, described in Stephen Lewis’ blog post How many ancestors do I have. To somewhat paraphrase, “Going back 30 generations… Wachter’s model calculates that [an Englishman] would have 952,279 distinct ancestors in 1077 – only around 0.09% of the maximum but representing fully 86% of the total estimated English population [at that time] of 1.1 million.”

More recently (1999), Yale statistician Joseph Chang wrote a paper analyzing pedigree collapse that postulated that we Europeans all have a common ancestor who lived in about 1400 AD. Warning, that paper has lots of math in it.

Continue reading

The myOrigins feature at familytreeDNA

Family Tree DNA has come out with a great way of showing your genetic ancestry for the last several thousand years using a clickable feature-filled map called “myOrigins.” It is listed in the submenu under “Family Finder” on the main menu. You have to have done the Family Finder test, or transferred your autosomal data from elsewhere, to have this feature.

Their data shows that DNA has specific signatures in geographic clusters rather than by modern countries, so your origins are shown in terms of those clusters. In my own case, I am half Norwegian from my Dad and half German from my mother where half of that German was Jewish. I know from other testing companies that I got well more than 25% of my jewish grandfather’s DNA, so I was not surprised to see Jewish Diaspora listed at 32% as 23andme says I have 27% Ashkenazi. Here is the myOrigins picture for me from my transferred 23andme data.

myOrigins Kitty Cooper

My Genetic Heritage as shown in myOrigins at familytreeDNA

The bottom left box shows your relatives’ percentages in your top three clusters. You can click on any relative to show the location on the map for their furthest back maternal and paternal ancestor (if they have entered that information). Clicking the green (maternal) and red (paternal) dots on the far bottom right will put pins on the map for the furthest back maternal and paternal ancestor locations for all your closest matches who have entered that information. Click on a pin to see the person’s name. Click the red or green dots again to get rid of those pins.

To see a little historical explanation of a specific population cluster you have to expand the larger cluster, for example European, in the box on the top left, and then click on a specific cluster like “European Coastal Plain.” Then some information will be displayed in the bottom left box, under the “My Ancestry History” tab.

Here is part of what it says about my Northlands cluster, “The European Northlands centers on the people of Scandinavia. They thought of their homeland as an island because it is relatively isolated from the rest of the world by the Baltic and other seas. This isolation and later association with the Finnic peoples, however, have changed them in ways that are genetically clear. A sister cluster to European Coastal Plain and European Coastal Islands, the European Northland has developed in moderate seclusion, influenced by the arctic heritage it shares with those from the North Circumpolar cluster.” Since I am shown as well more than half Northern, I have to assume some of that came to my German side as well.

To better understand how to use all the features, I did the online seminar about myOrigins which can be found at the ftDNA library of webinars located at It was easy to sign up for it and download it and then play it in the “Windows Media Player” where it worked perfectly.

Continue reading

Keeping my mailing list emails out of gmail’s spam folder

The other day I found dozens of emails from my various genealogy and DNA mailing lists in my spam folder.  This was most annoying. In many email programs you can put email addresses on a “white list” so that they do not go to spam. With Gmail you need to use the filter function to make sure that emails from your lists never go to spam. Here’s how.


  1. Open a message from the mailing list
  2. Click on the More button above the emails to get a menu with “Filter messages like these” and click on that.
  3. Another box will come up with the sending email or words that identify this message type

Continue reading

The new Y tree at Family Tree DNA and our Munson R-P312 Y

MunsonNewYThe new Y tree released this past week by Family Tree DNA has dropped all those horrible long names like R1b1b1a1 and replaced them with the main Y  haplogroup followed by the terminal SNP. This had long been suggested as a better nomenclature. The downside is that you have to look at a chart to see how an R-P311 might be related to an R-P312 but it is worth it for the simplification of the name. Although I think we R1b’s are used to being different from the R1a’s and I would prefer that we were R1b-P312

The new Y tree combines the research of Family Tree DNA and the Genographic project.  The press release and its highlights are published on Emily Aulicino’s blog:

and Debbie Kennett’s blog goes into deeper details:


But what does this mean for us R1b Munsons? Are we Scottish or Germanic? Where did our earliest known paternal line ancestor, Mons Knutson Titland  1665-1725 , who farmed a little north of Bergen, come from? Does our Y DNA tell us?
Continue reading