DNA downunder

Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

 

I have just spent three days in Sydney at the first DNA downunder conference. Blaine T Bettinger, Louise Coakley and many other presenters showed us better ways to use and analyse our DNA.

They also ran single day events in many capital cities in Australia (not Hobart).

The conference was held at the Castle Hill RSL club – a lot bigger than the one at Sorell I am used to.

Some topics I listened and took notes from were:

Thursday

  • Understanding and interpreting your ethnicity results
  • What do Australians think about DNA testing?
  • Using autosomal DNA for 18th and 19th century mysteries
  • Evaluating a genealogical conclusion including DNA
  • Latest advances in third party tools for autosomal DNA
  • Are you doing everything to identify your DNA matches?

Friday

  • Ethical and legal considerations for DNA evidence
  • Great great DNA
  • Shared matches and genetic networks
  • Advanced third party tools
  • Practical tips for working with speculative trees

Saturday

  • Stories behind the segments
  • DNA and the aftermath of uncovered family secrets
  • Phasing and mapping your DNA
  • Limitations of cousin matching
  • The Helen Marley story – case study
  • Panel – DNA: A look at the future

As you can see from my programme, there was little time to synthesize everything we were learning. But my takeaways from the conference were:

  1. check those shared matches and make use of the coloured dots in Ancestry
  2. use chromosome browsers in MyHeritage and FTDNA to find those shared and triangulated matches
  3. use tools like DNA Painter to map your segments – keep records of who you have already painted
  4. join DNA facebook groups to get help
  5. test all those close relatives – but explain the ethics and legal side of testing to them first

Here are some DNA Facebook groups that could be handy: Remember to answer the questions when asking to join

Blaine also has his own YouTube channel and presentations for Legacy Family Tree with some great videos on both of them related to DNA and tools at the different testing companies.

Many thanks to Alan and Anthea Phillips and Alona Tester from Gould Genealogy and Unlock the Past for organizing such a great conference.

Readers: For those who might have attended the conference (one day or three day), what was your best takeaway?

Update DNA results

At the beginning of 2019, I decided to start tracking how many new DNA matches I received over a 6 month period. So here are the results.

In January on Ancestry – 4th cousins or closer

  • I had 228 : June 269 – an increase of 41
  • Mum had 295 : June 347 – an increase of 52
  • Philip had 209: June 237 – an increase of 28
  • Dad had 187: June 210 – an increase of 23

In January on My Heritage – total matches

  • I had 3472: June 4157 – an increase of 685
  • Mum had 3990: June 4860 – an increase of 870
  • Philip had 3555: June 4239 – an increase of 684
  • Dad had 3508: June 4243 – an increase of 735

In January on FTDNA – total matches

  • I had 241: June 259 – an increase of 18
  • Mum had 283: June 303 – an increase of 20
  • Philip had 202: June 219 – an increase of 17
  • Dad had 198: June 220 – an increase of 22

I really like using Ancestry as it quickly tells me if I have common ancestors.

  • Sue 50 common ancestors – 4 unsure links – these are generally 5th-8th cousins
  • Mum 52 common ancestors – 7 unsure links as these are mainly back in the 1700s or early 1800s before formal registration and censuses
  • Philip 48 common ancestors – 5 unsure links when using thrulines and other clues
  • Dad 11 common ancestors of which 4 are kits I manage – Dad is definitely the problem person when it comes to DNA and the paper trail not matching.

When I know where a match is on my tree, I star them on Ancestry

I am lucky to have nearly 10000 people on a database on my home computer, so can quickly work out if a person is a match or not by using their online tree and my database.

  • Sue 66 stars
  • Mum 69 stars
  • Philip 65 stars
  • Dad 13 stars

I am doing quite well with messages sent through Ancestry – probably getting replies on 1 out of every 3 sent. I do check when the last time the match was on the website and will more likely message those who have been on in the last few months.

Ancestry now allows you to colour code for family lines or any other purpose you might need. When I star a match, I also use the notes section to put in how that person matches my mother or father eg Sue – Phyl – Hannah – George – John and Ann Davey nee Dixon This means I can see the most recent common ancestor at a glance (MRCA). That allows me to colour code very quickly eg Davey Dixon line

Readers: How are you going with working out matches using your DNA results? Are you using the new tools from each testing company? Which tools are you finding the most useful?

 

DNA connections and record keeping

I look after 7 DNA kits from Ancestry and all are uploaded to Family Tree DNA, My Heritage DNA and GEDmatch DNA. How do I keep a record of my matches, chromosomes and common information?

I have a spreadsheet on my google drive  which synchronizes across all my devices. This means whether I am at home on my desktop PC, or in a library with my iPad or my laptop then I can always get to that spreadsheet to make any changes.

I mainly work on my father’s DNA connections or my mother’s as they will be one generation closer to the Most Common Recent  Ancestor (MCRA) than if I work with mine or my brother’s.

The main DNA spreadsheet has lots of sheets relating to Dad

The first sheet has a copy of the first 2000 links from GEDmatch using the one-to-many test. This is just a straight copy/paste. I have then gone through the first 100 people using the one-to-one test to find out the chromosomes shared with my dad.  I am starting to colour code people who match each other when using the share 2 kits test. At least once a moth I update this sheet by checking the people marked in green on the main GEDmatch page for Dad. These will be the recent people who share his DNA.

The second sheet is a copy of the share 2 kits test for Dad and Kevin (his half brother)  This is a straight copy/paste. This means everyone on that list is from dad’s paternal side as dad and Kevin share a father. This list includes names and emails of the matches as well as the amount of cM shared and the generations between the matches. I am in contact with 3 people on this list so far.

The third sheet is one I have to create from information on available trees from the people in the Dad/Kevin list. I find their trees on any of the DNA websites. On this sheet I list the name of the person, the surnames at 4 or more generations away and where and when those people were born and died.

The fourth sheet is the share 2 kits test for Dad and Ruby. Anyone on this list relates to my dad’s maternal grandmother.

Dad/Patrick is because Patrick is the closest unknown link on the GEDmatch list at 3.9 generations.

I just found a great video from Ancestry explaining shared cM, mirror trees and a lot more. The sound is not too great and sounds a bit tunnelly.

My future plans

I will be starting a new spreadsheet for Mum’s DNA at some stage to keep all her information there.

On Ancestry, I have lots of trees, one labelled DNA Dad’s tree. It is here that I use the information from dad and Kevin matches to create mirror trees to find out where they link. So far I have about 6 trees started but none link yet. This will certainly be an ongoing project.

I also keep a separate spreadsheet with all those people I have already found a match to with DNA from either Mum or Dad. But I also include matches with the other people whose kits I look after eg Ruby, Dorothy and Kevin. The information in this is then sent to Blaine Bettinger’s shared cM Project via this Google form. The MCRA is usually a grandparent couple rather than an individual except in the case of my father’s grandmother. Most of my dad’s matches are half relationships and in the note column I will mention if the match is double cousins as I have on one side of mum’s tree. As Ancestry doesn’t give the largest number of cMs, I just put Ancestry in this column. When I have uploaded data to the shared cM project I put the year in the Done column. Anything highlighted in yellow is dad’s side but more information needs to be included, green is same but mum’s side.

Readers: How do you record your matches for DNA from all the websites or do you just use one website?

Checking the DNA

Since my last post, I have been doing some more work on the DNA tests that my immediate family had done as well as those relatives I asked to test to prove or disprove some of Dad’s background. (He is my problem child with a paper trail not matching his DNA very well.)

They all tested with Ancestry but I had uploaded the raw DNA data from the immediate family to Family Tree and My Heritage as well. I found some different names at these websites that were not included on the Ancestry site.

The one site I had uploaded everyone to was Gedmatch – the site US police are now using with cold case files.  It is here that people who have tested with any site upload their data so it is a huge database of  DNA connections. Again I found some new connections.

But it is only this last week that I decided to upload the other  relatives DNA raw data to FTDNA and MyHeritage. Immediately this helped me work out a new connection with my father.

Below is a quick pedigree chart for my dad. Now you can see why he is my problem child. Very little proven paperwork for his father – not even a birth date and place. But at least having his half brother tested means anyone who matches them both must come from dad’s paternal side of the tree. Now to build lots of trees from his DNA hits to see where the links are in all these trees.

On his mum’s side we have an unknown 1st-2nd cousin which could only possibly mean her father is not who we thought. Through testing a so called relative and a cousin we proved dad’s mother didn’t descend from my whaling captain William Smith. Now to find who her father really was – I have quite a few DNA hits that must relate there.

Dad’s maternal great grandparents are also a problem with 5 possibilities as the father and the mother born to one person but then living with another person with half siblings.

 

It is a lot of work trying to prove the paper trail using DNA at least it is for dad. My mum’s paper trail and DNA match well so I spend little time on that. Most hits are easier to find as I have most of her ancestors back at least 4 or 5 generations.

Readers: Have you DNA tested? If yes, what are you finding most difficult? Where have you uploaded your DNA raw data to?

DNA update

A couple of months ago, Ancestry updated their DNA ethnicity results so I thought I might compare from my previous results.

Sue’s results

Sue in 2017
Sue in 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mum’s results

Mum in 2017
Mum in 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dad’s results

Dad in 2017
Dad in 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Philip (brother) only has results for 2018

Philip in 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, my family are virtually totally Western European but especially from Great Britain.  The paper trail I have for mum matches her DNA trail, but dad’s paper trail is changing every day due to the DNA  results.

Originally I had no Irish in dad’s paper trail but I have now found three possible lines back to that country.

Readers: When your results were updated, did you notice much of a change?