Archive | 2020

New Ethnicities at Ancestry

Ancestry just did a major update to its ancestry composition estimates based on DNA tests. I was sad to see that my brother and I lost all our German. That seems strange and incorrect as our grandmother was Bavarian. Now her ethnicity appears to be some combination of Swedish, English, Norwegian, and Eastern European. Germany was a crossroads between Eastern, Western, and Northern Europe so one expects to be very mixed, still I was sorry to see her German and Italian go away. On the other hand, I am pleased to now be 49% Norwegian since my father was the son of Norwegian immigrants in Brooklyn and I am also happy to be even more Jewish.

Kitty Cooper's ethnicity at Ancestry.com

Kitty Cooper’s ethnicity at Ancestry.com

The ethnicity comparison with my first cousin who shares my German grandparents (one Jewish, the other Bavarian) seems to show the new view of my grandmother’s ethnicity

Today was the day that I finally got the email from Ancestry announcing the update to my ethnicity estimates. Vivs, an administrator of one of the many DNA FaceBook groups I follow, pointed out that this is an ideal time to send messages to DNA relatives you have not heard from as they may well log in and see your message because of that email. In fact, just now, I got a reply from a cousin I had messaged over a year ago!

Clicking on the button that says Learn more in Ancestry‘s email took me to a page that explained the update and included a nice map. Here is a quote from there with the essence of the changes:

“In our latest update we have been able to break larger regions—like England, Wales & Northwestern Europe; Ireland & Scotland;  Italy; China; Japan; the Philippines; Cameroon, Congo & Southern Bantu Peoples; and Eastern Europe & Russia—into smaller, more precise ones.”

Of course, I had to go look at some of the people I have helped who have interesting ethnic mixes.
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My Second Virtual Conference and Collaborative Trees

This Saturday I am one of the speakers at the Geneaquest Conference just outside of Chicago, but of course it is now virtual. I was really looking forward to meeting genetic genealogist Maurice Gleeson of Ireland. He is the mainstay of the annual Genetic Genealogy Ireland conference which posts their talks online. He also does much work with adoptees and even occasionally writes a post (click here for his blog).

Personally I had given up traveling to conferences before COVID, but my husband and I decided to see the New England foliage one last time so we had planned a September RV trip and Chicago was on the way. Oh well, maybe next year.

I am giving three talks, two on DNA – cousin matching and 3rd party tools – and another on a favorite genealogy topic of mine: Why you should use a one world collaborative tree. Since the conference is sponsored by the The Computer Assisted Genealogy Group of Northern Illinois (CAGGNI), it seems appropriate to discuss online collaborative trees. This is a topic I have blogged about in the past and I keep updating my comparisons of the three main collaborative trees: FamilySearch, GENI, and WikiTree. That chart is at the end of my blog post at http://blog.kittycooper.com/2014/06/the-advantages-of-working-with-a-one-world-tree/

“See” you there?

The Small Matches at Ancestry are Gone!

The genealogy airwaves have been burning with discussions about losing DNA matches with less than 8 cM shared at Ancestry. For my own family there is no loss, but I feel for those who were impacted. If the site responds faster and better then it was worth it in my opinion. Who can look through some 25,000 matches anyway?

To see how many matches you have left click on the Shared DNA in the list of filters as shown below with my added red arrow.

Personally I happened to save 72 of my small matches because I had made a note or grouped them with a colored dot. These included 35 with common ancestors who were grouped; I always group matches with shared ancestors. Whether the shared DNA is actually from those common ancestors is unclear. The half of them from my endogamous Norwegian area may well not be, but the others are probably good.

I liked the suggestion a reader made in a comment on another post that suggested Ancestry look for common ancestors and if found, keep these small matches. I wonder how hard that would be to do for new matches.

To see my remaining small matches I tried entering a minimum size of 6 and a maximum of 8 but that did not work at all well since all the matches of 8 plus a fraction showed up. So I had to use 7 for the high number as shown below with my added red arrow.

I had collected some statistics for me, my brother, and my tested cousins before the change and added the new numbers just now to look at the differences.
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Ancestry and the Longest Segment

All the DNA testing companies, except Ancestry, show you a chromosome map of the segments you share with a DNA match. For the casual user those maps, called chromosome browsers, may not be of interest. However those of us with intermarried families among our ancestors (endogamy) need to see the segments in common in order to know if a match is a findable relative who shares large chunks of DNA with us or just someone who shares multiple distant ancestors. Third cousins and closer family will always share some large segments, at least 20 or 30 centimorgans and even larger for closer relatives (see Blaine’s chart below).

Ancestry now shows the longest segment on a DNA match’s profile page which could be very useful to help decide which matches to pursue and which ones to ignore.

A known fourth cousin on my Norwegian line with some endogamy, notice how much larger his largest segment is than the size of the match

A word of warning, the size of the largest segment that they show is uncut, that is it is listed before they remove matching DNA that is expected to be population specific. For example, many of my one segment matches show a longest segment that is larger than the match size as shown above! If you click on the longest segment number there is a very informative popup about relationships and segments that includes this statement:

“In some cases, the length of the longest shared segment is greater than the total length of shared DNA. This is because we adjust the length of shared DNA to reflect DNA that is most likely shared from a recent ancestor. Sometimes, DNA can be shared for reasons other than recent ancestry, such as when two people share the same ethnicity or are from the same regions.”

A Jewish match not to pursue, likely related many times since the largest segment is 15

My often requested advice for Ashkenazi Jewish researchers is to look for one segment greater than 20cM and another greater than 10cM plus several others in order for a DNA match to be recently related enough to find the common ancestor(s). Therefore it would be even better if Ancestry showed the two largest segments. Subtracting the largest segment from the total to figure out the sizes of the other segments is not very accurate since the total is adjusted by removing population specific sections (Timber algorithm) while the largest is not.

Blaine Bettinger includes the longest segment in his DNA statistics collection form and below is a chart of those 2015 results by cousin level; click here for his blog post.

Chart of longest segment statistics collected by Blaine Bettinger. Click it for the full article

I spent some time looking at the cases where matches are tested at both Ancestry and 23andme in my family’s results.

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Attended My First Virtual Conference: Success!

I learned much more than usual from my first completely online conference, the 2020 IAJGS conference on Jewish Genealogy. Perhaps because there were fewer distractions: no seat-mates, no deciding on where to dine, no exhibit hall, and that I was only doing one presentation. Although it may have been because I had a purpose: to learn how to research my husband’s Polish roots. Or maybe with fewer talks, they were just very high quality ones, aside from a few technical glitches.

from the top right, me, my brother Shipley Munson (moderator), and Adam Brown (Y DNA expert)

Actually the online format is better in many ways. I can play and replay the talks easily and take screen shots for myself of key points. There were many more questions and answers plus people could chat both privately and publicly with each other, I also really like the many excellent on demand videos on specific topics which I am still working through.

I asked my friend Heather how it went for her and she said “I especially appreciate knowing the names of the audience while listening to talks. More valuable than being there in person and perhaps only meeting the person next to me. Makes it easier to figure out who has common interests.” She also said, ” It was cool  to be able to chat and make contact (share email addresses) while the talk was going on without bothering the speaker or my seat-mates.”

So what went badly? I personally never figured out the exhibit hall replacement. I missed the excitement of the live hall and seeing what was new from the various vendors. I would have loved a few small zoom-style break-out sessions on common interests where I could see everyone’s faces while chatting. However, much to my surprise, I actually preferred being at a virtual conference.

Now for a little follow up on our Chat with the Jewish DNA Experts session.
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