09 February 2018

Working with my Ancestry Matches

I want to start off by saying I would really love some feedback on this posting. This is something new I am trying and I am feeling a bit cross eyed by looking at it so much. I need others who have worked with DNA matches to verify that what I am doing makes sense and that this technique can give me helpful information. If I have anything in error I would love the opportunity to correct it so others aren't confused by my mistakes....

Over the years of working with my DNA matches I had figured out how a number of them were related to me, but there are still a lot that I have no clue how we are related. So, I decided I wanted to systematically work through some of my Ancestry matches. To do that I need to figure out a plan of attack.

While looking for techniques I might want to try I came across some YouTube videos about doing Genetic Genealogy research. One of them was by an adoptee who talked about forming groups of matches to sort things out. She took sticky notes and wrote names on them and then looked at their shared matches and put them up on her wall based on groups of shared matches. This is the concept I am going to write about in this blog.

Since I don’t have the wall space to put a bunch of sticky notes up, I decided to use 4x6” index cards for this project. Easy choice, I already had a bunch of that size index cards I had bought for a different project. They are large enough to hold a good amount of info without being so large handling them becomes difficult. I also decided index cards would be easier to rearrange than sticky notes.

Since I wanted to be able to label each card as to what group I was assigning each person to the first thing I had to do is decide how I was going to group these matches and what name I was going to call each group. Since my first chore was dividing between Maternal and Paternal side, I decided that would be the basis for my group names. This is what I came up with:

Because right now I will primarily be working with my first 50 matches I figured this would give me enough groups to be able to sort out who the common ancestors are but not so many that sorting becomes unmanageable. I decided if I come across a 4th cousin match I would just put them into the group that was their descendant's group. For example if I found a 4th cousin who was descended from Antrim/Mason (parents of the Antrim part of Paternal 2B) I would just label them as Paternal 2B.

The next decision was the layout of the individual cards I would be using. It would need to be something I could quickly look at and be able to see the basics about that match. I decided there were some basics I wanted to be able to see quickly: Name, Group, Relationship, amount of shared DNA over how many segments, and if they have a tree. This is the layout I decided on:

First line on front of card: match’s name, included the managed by name if applicable, on left and on right space to put a group name.

On the 2nd line I will put my relationship to the match. If I know the relationship I will use pen to write it on the card. But, if I don’t know the relationship I will use pencil to write predicted range. I will then write amount of shared cMs and over how many segments.

On the 3rd line I will write "Tree" then note if tree is public/private/none.

I skipped a line then wrote “Contact Information:” and left 4 blank lines before writing “Notes:” these are areas I will fill in as I work the matches.

After I have put the basics on the front of the card I then will flip it over and make a list of all the shared matches between me and that person.

The first sort for most of my matches is really easy. I have a maternal aunt who has tested so if someone matches both me and her the match is on my maternal side. In addition I have a paternal 1st Cousin Once Removed and a paternal 2nd Cousin who have tested, which means if they have one of them as a shared match they will fall on my paternal side.

Like I said earlier, I decided to start with my first page of matches on Ancestry, which has 50 people on it. This will give me time to refine what I am doing without being too big of an issue if I decide to start fresh with something else. I decided to also include anyone I had a "Shared Ancestor Hint" (SAH) with. This gave me about 65 cards I am going to be working with to start.

After writing out the front side of the cards with the basics but not all the shared matches lists, I took a quick look at the groups that I had found. I discovered I had lots that were maternal, some that were paternal. However, there were 7 out of the 65 that I couldn’t tell which side they fell on. They didn’t match my maternal aunt nor did they match my paternal 1C1R. So I decided to take a closer look at those.

I started by writing the shared matches list on the backs of those 7 cards. 5 of the 7 had a lot of the same names on them. This is the basis for what I did next.

I opened excel and wrote down my name as #1 and then every name of my matches and all of the shared matches that showed up for any of those matches, numbering them as I added them so I could number the columns and know who that column was referring to.

I then went through each name and marked the intersecting square with an X if the two people were a shared match and a 0 if they were not a shared match. I then filled in the squares that had an X in them in yellow to make them easier to see. This is what I came up with:

First thing that popped out is that the first group of 10 not only matched me, but each one of them matched everyone else in that group. I am thinking with that level of matching with each other there is probably a shared ancestor there.

Then, at the suggestion of someone else, I shifted rows around a little (and I was very careful that I didn’t accidentally change who was sharing with who). That led to discovering a 2nd grouping where 58 of the 64 possibilities also showed up as shared matches. Not quite as good as first group, but probably still worth working to see if there is a shared ancestor there.

Here is that chart:

If you are still with me here, I posted this just to share what I am working on, with the hopes that someone can verify whether or not my hypothesis is even a possibility or if despite the pretty chart I still have no new real information to work with. I am really hoping that I do because many of the 25 matches have no tree or a tree with only a couple of names. And those that do have a few names, some of those have no dates or locations attached to the names. I am guessing my next step is to work on building some mirror trees but with such limited information to work with it will make building mirror trees difficult.

17 January 2018

Questions to Ask Before Doing A DNA test

I recently joined a new Facebook group started by Thomas MacEntee called “DNA Do-Over” in the About section the description of the group is as follows:

You did a DNA test and you have your data, so what's next? Put your DNA data to work with DNA Do-Over, a closer look at your DNA!

Each month we will tackle ONE topic with easy-to-understand, non techy language that isn't too scientific. We will learn how to download our DNA test data, transfer it to another DNA testing vendor, transfer it to GEDMatch, learn terminology such as SNP and centiMorgans, etc.

Since I learned a lot from his Genealogy Do-Over group I was pretty sure I would find this group helpful as well so joined the group.

Note: if you don't do Facebook or don't want to join the group you can read Thomas' posts on his blog at Abundant Genealogy or sign up to join his email list. However then you miss out on the discussion from the members, and for me I have learned so much from the discussions from other members on this journey I wouldn't trade being a member of the group for anything!

This week there was one such discussion that I participated in. One member posted saying they were going to give a 7 minute presentation based on two questions. One, What are the questions one should should ask before doing a DNA test; and two, what are the questions one should ask before hiring a Genetic Genealogist. This post sparked an interesting and lively discussion. And that made me think it might make for an interesting blog post. I am going to limit this post to the first question.

First thing that was agreed upon was that 7 minutes really wasn’t enough time to adequately cover even one of those questions let alone both, that really both deserved their own 45-60 talk. There is just so much information, and misinformation, out there on what DNA testing is, and what you can hope to get from doing one or more DNA tests. I will try and touch upon the topics brought up in a general way in this post. In the future I may revisit the topic and expand on one or more of the points in separate posts.

First question to ask is: ”What do you want to find out by taking a DNA test?” This will help direct you to picking the right company to use and which test to use.

Are you only interested in your ethnicity? In my opinion then any of them are an OK option. Why do I say they are just OK options? Because at this point in time the ethnicity aspect of DNA testing is a new science with a limited sample base, thus thy are not 100% accurate and are subject to change. See my post from 17 Dec 2017 to learn more. Also be aware that we have inherited different bits of DNA from our Ancestors than a sibling will have inherited. So your results will be different even from a sibling (unless you are an identical twin, then their results should be the same).

Are you looking for health info? Then you probably want to do the 23andMe Health + Ancestry Test. Although you can do a test from one of the other companies and then upload your raw DNA to promethease.com and they will run a report for potential health issues that are in your DNA. Just remember that only a fraction of the dna has been mapped for how it may or may not affect our health. Other genes may also affect whether or not someone gets or doesn't get a certain disease or conditions. These unmapped genes may increase OR decrease your risk to develop a disease. Other factors like diet and environment have an affect on our health that will impact our potential to develop a disease. So do NOT panic if your report shows you are at increased risk for something, and conversely do NOT disregard symptoms and your family health history if the report shows average or even decreased risk to a specific disease or condition. Once you get a health report you should ALWAYS share it with your primary health provider and discuss what if any changes you might want to make in your life to minimize risks, or if there are further tests your doctor might want to run based on the information in the health report.

Are you looking to find info on your direct male line? Then you will want to use a Y-DNA test (if you are a female you will need to find a male ancestor on that line to do the test since only males inherit the Y chromosome.) Do you want information on your direct maternal line? Then you will want to do a Mt-DNA test, both males and females can do this test. Only one sibling needs to take the MtDNA test. Unlike the autosomal test where there is variations in what DNA each child gets from each parent, the MtDNA is usually passed down from mother to child unchanged. At the moment only major DNA company that offers the Y-DNA and Mt-DNA tests is Family Tree DNA (FTDNA). They also have projects for surnames and locations. Sometimes the projects will offer discounted tests, and occasionally free tests, so check them out before buying a test. The people heading up the various projects will also offer advice as to the best level for you to test at, so again talk to them before buying.

Are you looking to find living cousins to help break down a brick wall? or to verify the paper trail? or just to help leaf out your tree further? Then the Autosomal test is for you. It gives you the broadest number of matches. Both Ancestry and 23andMe are Autosomal tests. My Heritage, Living DNA and Family Tree DNA also offers the autosomal DNA test. Most people suggest you test at either Ancestry or 23andMe (or both) first then upload your raw dna to My Heritage, Living DNA and Family Tree DNA. You can upload to all 3 for free, although FTDNA has a small one time fee to view the full results. Gedmatch is another site you can upload to for free and if your matches from other companies have also uploaded their DNA to Gedmatch you can compare your DNA even if you haven't tested on the same sites. The basic tools on Gedmatch are free, although they do have some premium tools available for a small monthly fee.

I have tested at 23andMe (2011), then Ancestry (2012). I uploaded my raw DNA to Gedmatch, FTDNA and most recently to My Heritage. I have not uploaded to Living DNA, yet. I have family members who have tested for me on Ancestry and others who have tested for me on 23andMe. Most of those have also transferred their raw DNA to Gedmatch.

In my personal research I have found Ancestry to be the most helpful, only because that seems to be where most of my dna matches have tested. For my children, 23andMe has been great because they have had a number of 2nd cousins who have tested there. Your results will vary depending on where your cousins have tested. I have not spent as much time working with my matches on FTDNA or my matches on My Heritage.

One point that was really emphasized in the discussion was being aware that DNA TESTS CAN REVEAL SURPRISING THINGS! Such as an unexpected sibling or cousin. Another possibility is a person who is a close family member that should be a DNA match not being a match. By close family member I mean 2nd cousin or closer. By 3rd cousin there is 10% possibility you ARE related but do not share DNA. By 4th cousin match there is a 50% possibility you are related but don't share DNA. If this happens to you the FIRST thing to do is verify that they have tested at the same company you tested at. They can not and will not show up as a match if you haven't both tested at the SAME company!!! These types of surprises have happened to people, sometimes with devastating results. This is a possibility you should consider BEFORE testing. DNA testing has a way of outing family secrets.

Again back to the point that we received differing amounts of DNA from Common Ancestors. Just because we get 50% of our DNA from each of our parents doesn't mean we get 25% from each of our grandparents or 12.5% from each of our great grandparents.

Think of it it this way... Our parents' DNA are 2 separate bowls of DNA marbles. We take half our DNA marbles from our Dad's Bowl and half from our Mother's Bowl. The bowls magically refill and our sibling takes half of their DNA marbles from Dad's Bowl, and half from Mom's bowl.... The probability that we each got the exact same mix of marbles is pretty astronomical due to the number of possible combinations. It is possible that I get no DNA from a 3x great grandparent that one of my siblings or a cousin did get DNA from.

Another point that was brought up was DNA testing will NOT magically fill in your tree. There is still work involved in evaluating matches and how you fit into each other's trees. DNA is just another Tool in our Genealogy Toolbox, it is NOT a magic wand!. You will see that you share dna with your match, and it will suggest a possible level of how you might match. For example, predicted 2nd cousin with possible range of 2nd-3rd cousin. Ancestry does have Shared Ancestor Hints. These hints pop up when both you and your DNA match have the possible common ancestor in your trees. However the name has to be the same and the dates have to be close enough the algorithm can tell they are the same person. I have a 2x grandmother that in some records she is listed as Drusilla, others as Rozella, or Rose. I have had some hints that show us related to our 2x great grandfather but not the 2x great grandmother because of the difference in how we have her name listed in our trees. It is even worse when someone uses nicknames in quotes in the name, or titles in the name. The algorithm just won't recognize them as being the same person.

Privacy of tester was another topic brought up, but that is a pretty big topic in and of itself and probably deserves its own post. There are a number of good posts on the topic already out there. The Legal Genealogist covers the topic periodically, as do other Blog Authors. A web search should bring up some good posts on the topic. I will cover it sometime in the future, after I have done my own search to see what has already been covered.

I will close with the link for International Society of Genetic Genealogy. They have a LOT of information on Genetic Genealogy. I also want to include a link to the Genetic Genealogy Standards which covers the standards some of the leading Genetic Genealogist have developed. Finally, I would like to extend an invitation for you to join me on the Facebook group DNA Do-Over.

31 December 2017

Genealogy Do-Over 2018 Reboot

I joined Thomas MacEntee's Facebook Genealogy Do-Over Group at the end of Dec 2014, basically when we were preparing for the first go through of Thomas' Do-Over process.

Well, that first quarter I managed to pack up all my genealogy papers.

I also managed to come up with HUGE list of goals, both short term and long term.

I wrote up my "Warm Up Exercises"

And a research flow chart

I learned lots by reading all the posts and joining in conversations, but did very little towards actually DOING my Research over. I did post on this blog a few times about the Do-Over starting in December 2014 if you are interested in the little progress I made last time.

I plan on spending this next year filling in the holes in my genealogy knowledge and skills. I hope to start the process of becoming a Certified Genealogist in 2019. Figure this is a good time to get serious about actually DOING the Do-Over.

One, this will make sure my personal tree is in good shape. And two, this will help me put the new skills I am trying to learn into practice.

It helps that I have managed to let go of an outside responsibility that was taking a lot of my free time. I have also been working on whittling down the piles of things that have been accumulating around here while I was busy with outside things. I actually have my laptop sitting on the desk in my "Office" (also known as the spare room)! The space still has a lot of work to do to make it a really effective work area. But I have made some good progress on it.

I am putting this on my blog hoping that maybe it will help make me more accountable. Anyone want to join me in rebooting (or starting) a Do-Over with their Genealogy?

Here is to a productive 2018!

24 December 2017

Tracking and Organizing My Genealogy Studies

Over the years I have read lots of articles, books, blogs, attended talks, watched webinars, learned from others. But if I was asked to name even a fraction of them I would not be able to do so.

So I decided that I needed some way to document this upcoming year of study in preparation of becoming a Certified Genealogist.

First requirement was that it fit my way of thinking so using it would be instinctive. If my method was difficult I might use it short term but not long term. I learned this from a book called "Organizing From The Inside Out" by Julie Morgenstern.

Second requirement was that it would include all the information I needed so that I (or someone else) would be able to locate the information again. But again keeping it simple enough that I would use it and not feel bogged down having to write a bunch of stuff down.

So this is what I have come up with...

I will be using Excel spreadsheets. Someone else might use Word, OneNote, Evernote or even Scrivener. As I will explain later in this post, I am going to also use OneNote for a particular portion of my tracking. But for now I will concentrate on why I decided on Excel and how I am going to utilize it.

I have been playing around learning how to use Excel for a couple of years now and have become quite comfortable with the program.

Excel will allow me to create a "book" of spreadsheets to track the different types of learning I will be doing. Each sheet has its own tab that I can name, allowing me to know what is on that sheet and to easily navigate between them.

My tabs (the "How" I am getting the information) are titled:

*Online Courses
*Live Lectures & Seminars (meaning I was physically at them)
*Live Courses and Classes (again I was physically at them)
*Magazines and Periodicals (including newsletters and professional journals)

Each tab has some variation of the following columns:

*Title (of Webinar, Course, Book, Lecture, Blog Post, Article this takes care of the "What")
*Presenter/Author/Teacher (This takes care of the "Who")
*Date of Presentation/Publication (This takes care of part of the "When")
*Location (URL for things online, for live events where the event was held, for books I have Publisher in this spot, for magazines I have Magazine title. This takes care of the "Where")
*Length (Time of presentation, or if written word number of pages.)
*Date I watched/read/attended/completed (That takes care of the other part of "When")
*Notes (some things, like webinars and classes, are labeled "Beginner" "Intermediate" "Advanced" If something I do has such a label I will include it in the Notes column)

I mentioned also using OneNote in my record keeping for my project. I will use OneNote to organize any Syllabus I get from a class, lecture, or webinar. I think I will also add the Table of Contents from books. This gives me a quick easy way to go through the things I have heard and read, as well as good documentation of what was included in that lecture/course/book.

For those who have managed to reach this point of my post, hopefully you have found some inspiration and ideas for tracking your own learning. Whether the topic is Genealogy or some other subject (especially if it is for your profession) tracking your educational pursuits is probably a good idea.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

21 December 2017

A Christmas Gift

Thank you to my daughter for my Christmas present.

Her gift was a membership to the National Genealogical Society and two of their courses:
American Genealogical Studies - The Basics
American Genealogical Studies - Guide to Documentation and Source Citation

But actually her greatest gift is believing in me and supporting my dream to become a Certified Genealogist

National Genealogical Society Member

18 December 2017

On Becoming a Certified Genealogist

Becoming a Certified Genealogist is an idea that I have been playing with off and on for several years. I have bought some of the books on the subject. Most of them I have flipped through quickly before placing them on my bookshelves to gather dust. But have I read them and studied them thoroughly? The answer is no.

I was talking to my younger daughter about how at least 3 of my 4 kids gave up on the dreams they had as teenagers. One wanted to be a singer and everyone agrees she has a good voice. One wanted to go into acting, and she is a good actress. One had dreams of Baseball, and I believe he has the talent (rather reminds me of a Ricky Henderson type of Ball Player). But for one reason or another they all chose different paths.

Then she asked me what my dream was/is.

When I was young and healthy it was to teach English and Drama in High School. In my 30's I even managed to enroll at the University of Rhode Island in the Secondary Education Program. Then I developed Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). I quickly realized if I couldn' physically handle taking 2 college classes a semester there was no way I would be able handle spending 5 full days a week teaching in a classroom. That ended that dream.

Then I discovered a passion for genealogy. Although I have to say it wasn't really a new passion, I had been interested in my family history since I was a child. I just didn't know much about the how to research until I started learning in 1995. But it took another 2 years and moving back to California when I was able to go with my mom to the Family History Center in Oakland, the National Archive in San Bruno and the California State Library in San Francisco that I really became hooked.

Fast forward through years of learning and researching, of helping others find their family's history, to last night and my daughter's question of "and what has been your dream mom?" My answer was to be a Certified Genealogist.

She said "you have wanted to do that for years mom, you should do it." I told her one of the things that has stopped me is the cost and that once you start you are supposed to finish it in a year, and with my health not always cooperating with my obligations and desires I wasn't sure I could meet the deadline. So then she asked how much would it cost and offered to pay for it for me.

I have to admit that brought tears to my eyes.

So today I went seaching for answers to her question. I looked at the Board of Certification for Genealogist (BCG) website. Preliminary application costs $75, then once it is accepted you have a year to turn everything in with a $300 fee. You can get extensions for an additional year for another $75 fee. That eased some of my fears of what if my health interferes and I couldn't finish it in a year, BUT if the requirements have changed or the fees have gone up you have to use the new requirements and/or pay the new fee amounts. All that is just to become Certified!

Once you are Certified then comes things like annual memberships to BCG ($75/yr), setting money aside every year so I can do the recertification in 5 years ($60/yr), membership to National Genealogical Society ($70/yr), Association of Professional Genealogists ($100/yr). Then there are the subscription site fees Ancestry All Access ($389/yr), Find My Past Premium ($239.50) and Genealogy Bank ($69.95). That is $1002.95 a year. And it doesn't include office supplies like ink, paper, postage, advertising, travel, etc.

I realize I would be able to deduct most if not all off my taxes as business expenses, but just looking at that number is scary. I don't currently get that much a month on disability. If I do this I have to be serious about actual getting clients or I will quickly go under.

But the truth is this really IS something I want to do. So I will get my books off the shelves and start studying so when I do send in the Preliminary Application I will be prepared to give it my best.

Looking forward to the day I can put out my shingle as Linda Newman, C.G.

17 December 2017

Think of Doing a DNA Test? Things to Know Before you Take It

I know Ancestry pushes the ethnicity part of DNA testing. What they don't tell you is that the ethnicity part is fairly new science and the database is still limited enough that it probably won't be 100% accurate.

In addition just because 1 great grandparent is from England, 1 from Spain, 1 from Africa, 1 from Germany, 1 from Scandinavia, 1 from Cambodia, 1 from China, and 1 is 100% Native American does not mean you will be 1/8 of each of those ethnicities.

Yes you get 50% of your DNA from your mom and 50% from your dad, but I don't think anyone has ever gotten exactly 25% from each grandparent. It may be a 30/20/15/35 mix or some other combination.

Plus remember just because your Great Grandparents came from a certain region doesn't mean that is where their ancestors were from. Or even if they have lived in the same region for the last 1,000 years most places have had invaders. Sometimes the invaders stayed in the new region, or sometimes they left little souvenirs behind which affects the ethnicity of future generations.

The ethnicity results are fun and interesting, but the real benefit to DNA testing is in the DNA cousin matches. They help verify the paper trail and break down brick walls.

Just be aware you may find out things you weren't aware of. You might find a close relative you weren't aware of, or you might find out someone you thought was a blood relative really isn't related by blood after all.

I don't want to discourage anyone from taking a DNA test, in fact I actively encourage people to do so. I have tested at both 23andMe and at Ancestry, then transferred my DNA to Gedmatch, FamilyTree DNA and My Hertitage. My feeling is the more places my DNA is the more likely I am to connect with all the DNA cousins I can. And the more DNA cousins I connect with the more brick walls that will fall, either for myself or for others.

In addition to my own tests I have paid for 2 family members to test at Ancestry and 5 to test at 23andMe. As you can see I think DNA testing is great. I have verified some of my paper trails, including one that was based on circumstantial evidence at best. And the more people that test the more likely I will be able to verify the rest of the lines. But I think it is important that people make the choice to test based on facts, not because of fancy advertisements.