Tag Archive | GWorks

Automation to Find the Common Ancestors in the Trees of your DNA Matches

Recently I gave a presentation on many of the great new DNA tools that have come out this year. The talk focused on how both Ancestry and MyHeritage figure out the likely ways in which you are related to a DNA match from the other trees on their sites (click here for my slides). This left very little time to go into the details of my favorite third party tools that can do similar magic, so I promised the attendees a blog post…

The three tools I use the most for finding common ancestors are:

They all have their strengths but none are free. Think of the endless hours professional programmers have spent making these tools and be grateful.

Mainly I use them for unknown parentage cases where the tree is not yet known. However they are also useful for your genealogy. For example, Genetic Affairs will look at the trees on Family Tree DNA and show you any common ancestors it finds with the path to your matches:

My Dad shares DNA with many descendants of this couple as shown by Genetic Affairs from his FtDNA results

There are many other tools I could not do without, like the online relationship calculator at DNApainter (click here) but this article is about automation to find common ancestors. Read on for my summary of the strengths and weaknesses of each of the tools that do that.

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Eliminating the DNA Matches from One Side

UPDATE 26-Oct-2018: Click here for this tool  –  Extract Desired Lines

Unless you get lucky with a first cousin or closer match, searching for an unknown parent or grandparent involves building lots of trees for your DNA relatives and looking for common ancestors among them. Then you build down from those ancestors looking for someone in the right place at the right time. It is best to have two pairs of common ancestors because then you are looking for where their descendants meet in a marriage.

Sample ancestor list from GWorks – linked to slide in my GWorks presentation – using-dna-for-adoption-searches

It is wonderful to have automation to compare trees for you. The GWorks tool suite from DNAgedcom.com does just that and, no surprise, I have written many blog posts about how to use those tools. They can collect all your Ancestry matches and then all the ancestors in their DNA connected trees and give you a list of the most frequently seen ancestors. You can also upload GEDcoms collected elsewhere or created by your own research to use in the comparison.

There are many times I would like to automatically exclude half the ancestors collected from Ancestry. For example when I am helping a person who knows only one parent but has a half sibling or the known parent tested. Specifically when they look at the results from a GWorks run, how do they eliminate the matches from the other side?

View Trees with an example for deleting

One way is to go to the “View Trees” on the GWorks menu at DNAgedcom and delete all the trees from the known side by clicking the red X to the far right of each tree. Then rerun the “Match GEDcom files” in the Manage Tree Files function. This could take forever in a half sibling case.

However, it is very useful to delete trees when one person has tested multiple family members and they are all in the same tree. In that case I keep the tree for the person who is further up the line. Very conveniently you can click on the tree name to go to that match at Ancestry, as long as you are logged in there, so you can easily figure out which one to keep. But again, this is too lengthy a process for a half sibling case.

DNAgedcom client home window

I have long used the Match-O-Matic (M-O-M) feature in the DNAgedcom client (DGC) to get the lists of matches for just one side (the m_ file) in a spreadsheet for use to keep track of my research. However M-O-M does not work for the tree files (aka the a_ file – actually it has a list of ancestors and which trees they are from).

Sometimes it is good to be a programmer. I have put together a new tool that you can use with a list of matches, for example the match file from M-O-M, to create a new tree file with only those trees that are for the matches in the match file. Then you can upload that match file and the new tree file to DNAgedcom for use in GWorks.

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Jamboree Round Up

The SCGS Jamboree is perhaps my favorite genealogy conference because there are so many DNA talks. Of course the i4GG conference, which is coming back to San Diego on December 8-9, is all DNA so I love that one even more.

It was great to meet so many of the people I only knew via the internet, particularly the DNAadoption crew for whom I have written several tools. Here we all are last Thursday night (thank you Leah Larkin for taking the photo!)

Front: Rob Warthen, L to R: Gale French, Barbara Rae-Venter, Pam Tabor, Barbara Taylor, Richard Weiss, Karin Corbeil, me, Don Worth, Kaitlin Mueller (Rob’s stepdaughter)

A shout out to all who came to my Triangulation talk, the slide for MyHeritage triangulation is now included. Those slides are online at https://slides.com/kittycooper/dna-triangulation-8-8-26#/

My presentation about using GWorks with unknown parentage cases went very well. This pleased me since I had worked so hard to try and make this tool understandable. I did this by showing how I used it on a few cases. Here is my favorite slide:


The idea is that you can usually find the ancestral couple to build down from on a second cousin match’s tree by using GWorks alone. Look at the top ancestors in the GWorks compare all trees to see if any of them are on the second cousin’s pedigree tree.  In the image above the tree is on the left and the top GWorks matches on the right. Do you see any names in both places? Click the image to go to the slide, then click the forward > to see the answer highlighted.

All the conference videos and audios are available for sale (Click here). There were talks I did not get to in time to get a seat, and others that conflicted with each other, so I will probably buy a few myself.

One of the things I have been thinking about a lot recently is how to get my younger family members interested in family history and perhaps even DNA.
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Solving unknown parentage cases with DNA

In the last few months, I have helped solve five out of six unknown parentage cases in just a few weeks from mainly third and fourth cousin matches. How? By using the GWorks automation from DNAgedcom combined with AncestryDNA results. These searches used to take many months, even years, with much tedious spreadsheeting and segment analysis. What has changed?

Well, Ancestry.com now has a database of over 10 million tests [number updated on 5 aug 2018] plus software to connect trees and DNA. This can make the search easy for Americans without having to use the segment data.

My attempt to explain the technique I use of combining GWorks with mirror trees met with glazed eyes in my Adoption workshop last June. I thought my previous write-up was pretty clear but I have not heard back from anyone saying that it had worked for them. So I am trying again with this post today.

In an unknown parentage search, the object is to find a common ancestral couple among your DNA matches and build a tree of their descendants until you find someone in the right place at the right time. It seems pretty obvious to me that an automated way to compare trees is best; followed by surname frequencies to check for the spouses, in order to figure out which lines to follow. So why does everyone tune out when I try to explain how to do that with GWorks? Too many steps? Too geeky?

By using GWorks to find a likely ancestral couple, I have been able to build down to the grandparents or great grandparents of the adoptee fairly quickly. Then I build the trees back in time for each child’s spouse to find the most likely line. At this point I start using “mirror” or research trees.

Here is the step-by-step approach:

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DNAgedcom can compare gedcoms and help analyze match results

The DNAgedcom site was created to provide tools for adoptees using DNA to search for biological family but it is also very useful for those of us working on our family’s genealogy. Down with those brick walls!

 

Richard Weiss of DNAadoption.com did a very informative talk for our local genealogy group recently and as always, I learned a few things. Click here for that presentation which I uploaded to slides.com for him. In the next few weeks there will be a voice over version on DNAgedcom; I will add that link at the bottom of this article when it is ready.

There are two terrific free web sites created by volunteers that have tools to use with your test results that are often confused with each other: GEDmatch and DNAgedcom:

 

  • GEDmatch is a place to upload your DNA results and GEDcoms and compare those to possible cousins and your family. Click here for my many posts on that wonderful site.
  • DNAgedcom; is a place to upload your match comparison results, not the DNA results, and work many tools on them. You can even upload your match results from GEDmatch!

The key to successful use of DNAgedcom is to get a paid membership for at least a month and download their client program, DNA Gedcom Client (DGC), to collect data from the sites where you tested.

The feature that I have used the most as a genealogist is the collection of all the segments that every person I share with at 23andme.com shares with each other. Of course now that there is automated triangulation at 23andme, this is less important. Click for a good article at segmentology on that 23andme feature and also click here for this article of mine about the new 23andme experience which discusses it towards the end.

There are two main types of analyses you can do at DNAgedcom:

  1. Tree comparisons
  2. Segment data analysis

DGC can collect the tree data from Ancestry.com with ease. I use the fast version, 4th cousins only for most cases and then follow with Gworks for the analysis. If you are lucky, you may never need to look at segment data at all to solve your mystery.

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