Sunday, December 14, 2014

AncestryDNA Circles Rolling Right Off The Page & Other Oddities

Ancestry and the little genealogists?

I've been working on those novel AncestryDNA Circles, which are currently deep in beta. Why am I  doing this when they aren't currently very interesting? Probably because I'm avoiding doing hated Christmas chores?? Ha, Ha, Ho! Ho!

When I examined my Cousin Nan's Circles I noticed she had at least one that my Mom should be in. Upon further examination we should have 3 more than we have (that we even know about?). We've each had 9 Circles since the Circles started. In an effort to forget Christmas chores I plunged into the Circles. I tried changing the information to match the Circles we should be in. This hasn't resulted in creating any new circles yet? I heard that the Circles cycle every few hours. So I would think I should see any new Circles showing up within a day or so?

I contacted Ancestry via Facebook messaging yesterday. They attempted to fix my Circles problem. Apparently they were not able to add any Circles. What they managed to do is replace one Circle ancestor with another. It appears our Circles are stuck on 9 ( I thought we had 7 but it's 9). Something is wrong which isn't allowing us to gain anymore Circles? This is what I saw last night when they tried to remedy the problem. You can see (below) one ancestor is replaced with "feature not available". This ancestor was later replaced by another ancestor.

Looking at the member trees for one Circle we're looking to join I noticed that one person doesn't even have the ancestor the Circle is based on in their tree. This person hasn't logged in since June? I take it he couldn't have changed the tree since the Circles were created?

After even brief examination it's clear the Circles are deeply mired in Beta. We hope they can fix these problems because previous search function problems remain. I got another message from Ancestry recommending I call them about the problems with our Circles. I learned to call them well before or after lunch. Backup phone Reps. apparently answer around lunch? I believe so because I called about a DNA test kit one time and the person seemed confused. They were like DNA test? Then they remembered, "Oh yay".

So now I have a new Circle but I'm still missing 3 Circles we should be in? If we can get them all at once I would be satisfied. The Christmas chores are looking better now.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

DNA: Grading Autosomal Testing Companies

What I've been doing so far with my test results is supporting my paper trail trees with DNA evidence. I haven't broken down any brickwalls yet, but I'm finding some evidence which may do that in the future.

Having worked with the Autosomal DNA tests since 2012 I've formed some opinions about the different companies I've had experience using.
Here are my grades based on my experience:

Click to enlarge

Since the point of testing for me is to confirm relationships my overall scores reflect the tools provided by the companies to do this. Some explanation of my scores:

Family Tree DNA: B Overall. Because they have good tools. If they used phasing they would get an A- overall. They need to improve their family tree interface and ethnicity predictions.
AncestryDNA: C Overall. They would get an A if they had tools for confirmation of relationships. The trees here can be so horrible which creates a problem. Some are great, but others just make me crazy. They do have a new tool called Circles which is mainly a novelty. They provide good matches; which, unfortunately need confirming elsewhere.
23andMe: C Overall. This grade reflects the low query response rate, and the low level of family knowledge of the database matches.

I looked at this review of AncestryDNA yesterday and it inspired me to grade the companies: My AncestryDNA Review: A Cautionary Tale. Interesting post.
The International Society of Genetic Genealogy has a great page comparing the DNA testing companies.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Are The New Moderate Matches Good?

I had to correct this post again. Timber is a filter that AncestryDNA uses and could be a reason for the segment size differences? Breaking up of compound segments through phasing is another possible reason You can view an explanation of Timber here.

Some people feel the Timber system is flawed? I would like to know more about it.

Because of the possibility of a phasing error I wouldn't completely disregard moderate matches. Some of these share large segments of DNA not reflected in the phased results. There is a phasing error rate of 1 for every 100 heterozygous sites in a sample.

Since GEDmatch is now working again I decided to do some research on my AncestryDNA matches. I was curious about those Moderate about 6cM and under matches. I did some searching on my Moderate match usernames to see if I could find any to compare with. A few had uploaded to GEDmatch and I quickly discovered the cM ranges they gave for Moderate matches were way off. I found that one of these matches shared a 15 cM segment and another an 18 cM segment, while yet another shared an 8 cM segment. Why put out these estimates at all? Why not explain these are Timber filtered and phased so the results can't be compared elsewhere?

The illustrations below demonstrate the differences between the Timber filtered and phased results from AncestryDNA and the unphased, unfiltered GEDmatch and Family Tree DNA results.

The Extremely High match I found is obviously extremely good. Good call here.

Now we move to a Very High Comparison. We share a couple segments so I'd agree.
Just plain High. Ok we just have on segment so I'll go with that. It's near the range.

Now we move to Good matches which are sometimes better than High? I noticed that these Good matches also match me at Family Tree DNA and the segment sizes are basically the same there, and they declare these matches to be 2nd to 4th Cousins instead of distant.

Good Confidence match

Good Confidence match
Good confidence match
Moderate matches are all over the place cM wise. Likely range from 5 cM's to 20 cM's.
Moderate Confidence
15 cM segment Moderate Match

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

How DNA Segment Data Has Helped Me

Big time triangulation

When I first took the Family Tree DNA, Family Finder autosomal DNA test, I had no idea how I could use the segment information to prove my matches. It seemed very complicated. I quickly found out the mechanics of it weren't that complicated at all, and it's necessary to prove relationships with cousins.

The first cousin I confirmed through DNA was a 5th cousin I had been collaborating with for several years. We could be fairly certain our segments came from our paper trail lines because we don't appear to have any other relationship according to our trees. When my Mom tested and shared the same segments we knew for certain they were IBD through my maternal line. We also could be sure we were not related through my mother's maternal side which is Nicaraguan, and my cousin has no Nicaraguan ancestry.

When examining the segment information for my 5th cousin we notice she shares more than one segment. I have found if someone shares more than one segment, including one over 10 cM's, and the others about 5 cM's or over, a relationship within the past 6 generations generally can be found. Also my 5th cousin has had her brother and aunt tested adding confidence to the IBD segments. We can see her brother shares a 5 cM segment which is IBD because 4 of us share on the same segment, and the others segments are in the high confidence, IBD size, range. All of us sharing these particular segments are descended from double first cousins. So we cannot say from which ancestral couple we received these segments? If we can find other cousins who match on these segments and they are not in our double first cousin line we could then say we got these segments from a particular ancestral couple.

I've been able to identify how other cousin matches are related in a similar way by fishing for them in my matches. I was only aware of one cousin in the Family Tree Data base when I started. By looking at the trees of my matches at Family Tree DNA I was able to find possible connections. When I spotted a shared ancestor I would use the "in common with" feature provided by FTDNA to see others who share DNA on the same segments. I would then check to see if we had triangulation by using the chromosome browser tool. By comparing these matches 5 at a time I can spot individuals who share DNA on the same segment. If this person, sharing on an identified segment, had no tree posted I would email them to let them know we may share a common ancestral line based on segment sharing. I've been able to identify additional cousins sharing on the same segments that way.
I also check for ICW matches when I get a new match and the cousin relationship is closer than remote cousin.

Attempting to identify every possible match helps to firm up the segment data, and cross off some matches from the list. This could help brickwall related matches to surface by reducing the number of matches.

Matrix showing nearly
everyone matching
Through the process I described I was able spot 15 people sharing DNA in the same place on Chromsome 18. All of the shares are in the presumed IBD cM range. This could be a pile up area, but one person also matches with me on another chromosome, suggesting a closer ancestral connection rather than a pile up. Most of these matches don't have trees so it's impossible to draw a conclusion on who the common ancestors are?   It appears that the 2nd to 4th cousin match sharing a 33 cM, and 18 cM, segment might be related through the Wray family? The Wrays migrated to Allen County, Kansas in the 1850's. This particular match also had family in Allen County, Kansas. The surname Ray appears in another common match's tree. The places listed on a few other ICW matches trees also point to Wray/Morris being our shared line. I can't say all 15 people are from this line without more proof. I was reading Roberta Estes' blog the other day and was reminded about the Matrix which is another tool at Family Tree DNA. With this tool I was able to learn that all of the matches on segment 18 also match my 2nd to 4th cousin, with the Allen County, KS roots. This is encouraging me to pursue this further.

Triangulation of matches
from the same area in Ireland
I have not been able to give my Irish and Nicaraguan segments family names. The only family surnames I know of in Nicaragua are Del Castillo and Garcia. In Ireland the only family surnames I know of are Mullen and Huvane/Huane. I have one Del Castillo match. I haven't found any cousin matches based on the other names. I always keep an eye out for these names.

The Nicaraguan matches don't usually have exact locations in Nicaragua. I know my family is from Granada, Nicaragua, so I keep an eye out for those matches. My Grandmother Graciela Del Castillo-Forgey had a number of Nicaraguan friends. I am familiar with their surnames, and I'm finding those names in our matches, names such as Lacayo and Chamorro. According to my Grandmother first cousins often married in Nicaragua so it may be difficult to separate out these DNA segments due to so much intermarriage. This may also be true on my Irish side, because the population was small in our ancestral locations. My family came from the Townland of Pollaturick in Galway, Ireland, and the Townland of Kilvine in Mayo, Ireland. I find it rewarding when my matches ancestors come from the same small area of Ireland as my family. I have a triangulation with several matches from the same small area of Ireland. Since most genealogical relevant records for Ireland have been destroyed I don't expect we'll ever find the names of the ancestors who passed these segments down to us. It's great to have the ancestral locations confirmed through DNA anyway.
Itty bitty Owens segment. An unnamed company would call this a moderate match??

When it comes to brickwall lines and segments I haven't been able to use the segment data, yet, to absolutely prove a relationship. We need more segment matches to add weight to our paper trail inferences. Right now I only have segment data for single segment in a particularly challenging brickwall line. I have brickwall related matches at fill-in-the-blank -------- Company. They don't provide segment data. So I have no segment data on for these matches, I won't be able to triangulate or confirm these matches. The segment I have is only 5 cM's, which I can't be confident is IBD. It would be great to find more and larger segments, and triangulation on the brickwall lines.

How segment data has helped me:
  1. They've provided actual proof that I'm related to a cousin. Without having the segment information there is no proof you are related to anyone. If a company provides you with a list of match names it's meaningless. We need to cite the DNA evidence like we cite documentation on our tree. We need to cite numbers and chromosomes. Not having this information is like only looking at an index to records without seeing the actual records. You don't have possession of the evidence without segment data. 
  2. I've been able to infer, then prove, a relationship with several matches based on matching on the same segments. Some of these people didn't have trees. When I emailed them they would often confirm the relationship through a particular line.
  3. The segment information allows me to evaluate which matches are the most promising for further study; such as those sharing more than one segment.
Problems with segment comparison
  1. Segment comparison in an endogamous population is not useful at this time. It only works well in mixed populations where there are more differences in the DNA
  2. Many of us with Early American ancestry find a web of relationships among our matches which is hard to untangle. If you test enough family members this can often be over come.
  3. Segments under 5 cM tend to be IBS and should not be used to draw conclusions. Some people are unaware of what the differences in segment size mean, and draw conclusions using IBS segments.

I've been able to work the DNA results by dividing them into piles based on ancestral locations. My family has such a varied ethnic heritage, making this possible. I can also divide matches by my maternal and paternal sides, because my Mom tested. My Mom's line can be divided in half because her mother was Nicaraguan, and her father was Northern European American. If I find a Nicaraguan match I can be confident it's from my Del Castillo/Garcia line. When I name segments I assign them to a couple based on the earliest shared ancestral couple on our trees.

The segment information has been the most useful, to date, in supporting my paper trails. Sometimes my paper trail is confirmed through shared ancestral names, other times it's shared places.

I have to say seeing the shared segments is rewarding. I mean actually seeing the shared segments with my own eyes. I think it's more exciting than seeing a list of match names.

Some blog posts about segments from authorities on the subject:
  1. "The Folly of Using Small Segments as Proof in Genealogical Research" Part One. By CeCe Moore
  2. "Small Matching Segments – Friend or Foe?" By Blaine Bettinger
  3. "Chromosome Browser War" By Roberta Estes

Friday, November 28, 2014

Dear Myrtle Video Leads To Revisiting Of My Own Ethnicity Results

Looking at the AncestryDNA ethnicity results again after watching Dear Myrt's video I see that the Scandinavian population does overlap into Germany. Great Britain extends into France and Germany also. This would make more sense when it comes to interpreting my own admixtures. The ranges are so broad they really can't miss.

Looking at my Aunt's DNA ethnicity results from Family Tree DNA there are missing portions. My Grandfather Rudolph Kapple, my Aunt's father, was born in Hungary. His family lived in the Austro-Hungarian empire for centuries. Since my Aunt got half of her DNA from him half of the pie chart should reflect his ancestry, but 20 percent is missing? The 29% would be correct. I'm giving the 1% Asia Minor to him also. He didn't have any British ancestry that I could find. The other half of the pie chart representing my Grandmother Dorothy Mason should show some Central European ancestry, since my grandmother was a quarter French, and the rest would be British Isles which is accurately reflected.
Kapple Grandparents Family Tree DNA
The suggested ethnic breakdown for my Forgey grandparents looks quite accurate at AncestryDNA. My Mom's pie chart should divide in half to represent her parents, and it nearly does.. I'm giving the Middle East result to my Grandmother Graciela Del Castillo believing that would more likely come from her line. The Native American has been identified as Mayan, and would be from her line too. She was born in Nicaragua. Her mtDNA is African so that would be her admix also.  My Grandfather Charles Forgey was born in Indiana and his ancestry on paper is Scots-Irish and German. Half of my mother's results are representative of Northern European ancestry which would have come from my grandfather's line. I decided to label this pie chart according the admixtures of my grandmother, and just called the rest Northern European representing my grandfather.
Forgey Grandparents AncestryDNA

These admixture estimates have come a long way since I first tested. They are getting much closer to correct. Although the margin for error they give themselves leaves room for interpretation in many different directions.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"Finding Your Roots" Season Finale & What is AncestryDNA V.2 Worth?

Chart Produced from Family Tree DNA results and Excel

The "Finding Your Roots" Season finale was one of their best shows of all time. I love seeing other peoples' admixture charts, and this episode focused on them more than usual. As promised DNA played a central role in this episode. Diversity was the theme of episode 10. DNA was used to show how interrelated we actually are.

Looking at the DNA charts presented for Jessica Alba you can definitely see the settlers of Mexico, like Central America in general, did mix with the Native population and African slaves. Central America is where my 2% African came from. The earliest settlers of the Spanish colonies in the New World were mostly male. They would often take local women or African slaves as concubines. The Caribbean had a longer history of slavery than Central America and a higher slave population; therefore, the African admixture is generally higher in those parts of former New Spain, than Mexico or Central America. So we see traces of African in Jessica's results, and her father's DNA, which are small compared to the Caribbean.  Also it's common for Iberian descendants to have some Jewish admixture.

It's interesting that I listened to the Epilogue of Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers" yesterday. A portion of the episode tied in with Malcolm's family's experience in Jamaica. Malcolm's mother was racially mixed. Instead of that being a barrier for her family it was actually an asset. When white slave owners took African slaves as wives their children actually moved up the social ladder and the children were no longer slaves. They weren't ostracized like the children of white slave owners in this country. This fact benefited his family for generations to come.

The opposite experience can be seen when looking at the Mulatto ancestry of Prof. Gates' and his relations in Virginia. CeCe Moore, the show's genetic research specialist, uncovered through DNA, a fascinating ancestral story. Looking for white ancestry in his tree she found a white slave owner who freed his female slave then did the unthinkable, he took her as his wife. This was so unheard of and the local population was so dumbfounded by this, they couldn't decided how to categorize him? To them he was no longer part of the white community. They assumed he must be mulatto? His race was in flux on Census records during his lifetime. This slave owner's unusual position in society put his family in danger. They were forced to create their own settlement of Mulatto's in an isolated area. It's great to see that relatives still live in the same area. Descendants of this community come together for family reunions. The reunion shown in this episode was very moving.

Another surprising revelation during the show was that Gov. Deval Patrick's (first African American Governor of Massachusetts) direct line Y and mtDNA ancestors were white. Their haplogroups were European. He discovered what we all have, that we are no longer predominately from a single ethnic group in this country. This transformation began early on in American history. We are becoming more and more ethnically mixed. We are truly Americans. We hope this leads to better relations between different factions in this country? 

My man Anderson Cooper had a brief appearance in this episode. He was happy to see some Chilean Indian blood in his admixture results.

It was great to finally see CeCe Moore, a professional genetic genealogist, appear on the show. Her contribution to the show was great. She was so composed on camera she should get her own genetic genealogy show.

During the final moments of the show Prof. Gates said goodbye "until next time" which we hope will be soon!

Just a few more words about AncestryDNA V.2. I was pretty happy with the results initially . Going through them a little more I'm finding cousins I've compared with, at GEDmatch and FTDNA, who shared more than 10 cM segments missing. Fewer matches isn't panning out to be better matches. I saw someone else post that the Extremely High confidence matches aren't as close cousins as the definition would suggest. There seems to be problems with their rating system and algorithms? We've lost some good strong matches, and they left in some terrible 6 cM and under matches? I guess that's what you'd expect from the company that declared everyone in the world is part Scandinavian and defended this finding when they were criticized.

Another factor diminishing the usefulness of the AncestryDNA V.2 product is the fact you can no longer download your matches. For a limited time you can download the V.1 matches, but you can't download your current match information. You could do this previously with the Ancestry Chrome DNA extension, which no longer is functional. CeCe Moore demonstrated how important it is to be able to easily sort through data about your matches' ancestors. She was able to find a pattern of shared ancestry which aided in finding the fascinating ancestor and story that was eventually uncovered for Prof. Gates. It would be great to be able to download names and locations so this kind of pattern can be uncovered. I don't expect AncestryDNA to ever do anything like this. AncestryDNA focuses on the superficial. They want to over simplify the process, to make it look like you only have to take the test to get all the  answers without anymore effort on your part than posting a tree. Getting a true picture of your ancestry with DNA requires some effort, and can't be mass produced in factory assembly line style. People often don't read the instructions on how to interpret the results and assume the cousin relationships are exact. They don't feel the need to check the exact relationship. The entire product at is a mix of excellent information and ridiculous speculation. Very odd!

Portions of's site should be labelled "for entertainment purposes only". If they had some serious DNA tools it would scare people into thinking that more than just testing is required of them. Some thinking may actually be required, god forbid?

Factoring in the diminished value of the AncestryDNA V.2 product I would say $49 is what it's worth to me in its present state. I don't feel like its worth $99 at this point.

Family Tree DNA has some great tools for the serious researcher, which make it worth the price. Unfortunately it has a much smaller database to compare with. We hope many more AncestryDNA testers take advantage of their raw data transfer offer, so we can confirm Ancestry's sketchy results. By the way, Family Tree DNA is having a Holiday sale right now.

I was in pie chart heaven while watching "Finding Your Roots" last night. I decided I need to make some of my own based on my results from AncestryDNA and Family Tree DNA. I realize that these results aren't cast in stone, but I enjoy looking at them anyway. I used Excel and the Kids' Zone graph maker that Randy Seaver had recommended for a "Saturday Night Fun" project.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Does AncestryDNA Respect The Genetic Genealogy Community?

For as long as Ancestry had been in the Autosomal DNA business the genetic genealogy community has been requesting the addition of a chromosome browser. Why should Ancestry cater to this community? What has this community done for them? Here is  partial list:
  1. They are the best unpaid spokespeople the company has. They explain how the product works and how best to use it with presentations at conferences, on videos posted online, and in blogs.
  2. They increase sales of the product through the same presentations.
  3. The Facebook International Society for Genetic Genealogists group has 5,975 members (and growing). Whenever Ancestry has any kind of announcement or sale the news is posted here, and everywhere by genetic genealogists. 
  4. Serious genetic genealogists buy multiple kits. Using the ISOGG Facebook site as an example if, say, 3,000 of these members buy an average of 5 kits that's 15,000 kits sold.
  5. I know that those who head the genetic genealogy community have increased sales for AncestryDNA by much more than 15,000 kits.
  6. The word of mouth at sites like Facebook is probably one of the best advertising tools Ancestry has. The genealogy community in general at Facebook is very large. The genetic genealogy community members have non community members as friends, and they read our posts about testing at AncestryDNA and become interested themselves. I would think I have probably been responsible for around 12 (maybe even more?) people testing with Ancestry, and I'm not as influential as the others.
  7. The genetic genealogy community also contributes some of the best researched, and most extensive trees that Ancestry has.
Why do we need a chromosome browser:
  1. A majority of the members of the genetic genealogy community use a chromosome browser to compare their segments.
  2. Comparing shared segments helps us to identify which family lines we are related on.
  3. The size and number of segments is an important factor when it comes to determining how strong a match is.
  4. Remember we had twice or three times more matches just a week ago. Many of us wasted a great deal of time on low quality matches that are now gone. Let us see the quality of our matches with our own eyes so we don't waste valuable time.
  5. Working with a chromosome browser is educational and expands our minds. It's great to show this feature to children, and grandchildren, to get them interested in science. My Circles are fairly static so far. Some people have no circles. Don't think they will generate long term interest.
  6. Sustaining interest is another good reason to introduce testers to segment comparison. Collecting segments gives people a reason to come back to the site. Static circles won't. New matches will mean more segments to compare. These new matches may not fit into a Circle.
  7. The best argument is "Trust but verify" your results. You can only do this with a chromosome browser.
Genetic genealogy can be compared to stamp collecting or keeping a baseball scorecard while watching a game. Baseball enthusiasts record all of the game statistics, hits, runs etc. This is part of the fun for them. Genetic genealogy enthusiasts collect DNA segment information. This is also part of the fun of the process. Like stamp collectors we like to see the segments. Not seeing them is like a stamp collector buying stamps while the seller actually keeps them. You own them but can't see them? It's like the seller keeps telling you how nice the stamps you own are but you can't see them. AncestryDNA has our segment information locked away leaving us in the dark.

The new tools are a step in the right direction, but not good enough.

The argument against providing a chromosome browser has often been privacy. So why not do what 23andMe did and require those comparing to consent to do so?

AncestryDNA would get more positive word of mouth at social media sites if they provided  a chromosome browser. I see a great deal of negative posts about AncestryDNA's refusal to provide a chromosome browser. Imagine the boost to sales if the posts were more positive!

Please demonstrate your appreciation to the Genetic Genealogy community for all they've done for AncestryDNA and add a chromosome browser.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hitting The Earth: AncestryDNA Reality Check

Reality struck me yesterday when I learned approximately how much DNA I share with some of my AncestryDNA matches

There were many thousands of weak matches. Most are gone. Some extremely low confidence matches remain and they are now called moderate? With the old version moderate actually meant your match was strong. These old moderate matches are now generally called good to high. The moderate designation is now given to those sharing 6 cM's or less??? My designation would be Extremely Low for the moderate matches. As Ancestry states you may not be related at all to these matches.

Looking at some of my starred matches I've discovered that most are in the Good category, sharing approximately 6-12 cMs. I've actually compared with one of these matches and we shared a 14.7 cM segment. Another one of these matches in the Good category shares an 8 cM segment according to FTDNA.

I've been wondering how strong my important Owens line match is. I asked this match to compare at GEDmatch. They haven't yet. Now I see we are a Good match so I'll keep pursuing this match (this is a distant 7th cousin so I'm satisfied with 6 -12 cMs). Others that have dropped down to moderate I'll check against my Mom's matches to see if they have a better confidence level a generation back.

Our Browning matches look very strong ( High and Extremely high) and should help to extend our tree further back. It would be great if we could compare in GEDmatch?

Really the best thing coming from the changes for me is seeing exactly how strong a match is. That's the meat and potatoes of  all this.

Now that I have a better idea of how many cM's we share I can decide where to focus my attention. When they give the cM approximations, however, they aren't clear about what the total represents? It seems to represent the largest segment or segments?

My conclusion is based on the fact that when you include smaller segments the totals are much higher. I know this from looking at the same matches at Family Tree DNA. I share 41 cM's with a cousin at FTDNA but the probable range at Ancestry is much lower around 12 cM's -20. So, at least, they aren't totaling in tiny segments.

Extremely High Confidence
According to AncestryDNA the extremely high matches are at nearly 100% confidence level that you share a common ancestor in the past 5 to 6 generations. I figure this is the best place to start trying to establish connections. Going back over these matches I'm still only able to confirm a link with 3 out of 8 extremely high matches. I can't establish matches for 5 of these for various reasons. Mainly because my matches don't have trees going back far enough.

I am seeing 2 Campbells in the extremely high group which is my brickwall line. I'll be working on trying to find a connection with this line. Both of these Campbell lines are from Tennessee.

I understand that the AncestryDNA system for determining matches is more complicated than comparing segment size. For my own piece of mind I like using triangulation because the phasing process is not fool proof. I feel sorry for people like some of those at today's live broadcast who are relying completely on Ancestry to name their ancestors for them without questioning the process at all. An AncestryDNA "scientist?" is writing a blog post to tell us why we don't need a chromosome browser. Can't wait to see what the BS arguments are against it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Finding Your Roots" Ep. 9 & AncestryDNA Giveth and Taketh Away (So Far So Good)

My AncestryDNA circles

"Finding Your Roots" Ep.9 created a challenge for the shows research staff. This show focused on Greek ancestry and featured the guests George Stephanopoulos, Tina Fey, and David Sedaris. With very little to go on in Greece due to invasions, which resulted in records being destroyed. It took some serious digging to unearth anything. Record loses are something we've all had to deal with. Ireland is a real bear when it comes to family history research so I understand the problem. Like Ireland smatterings of older records survive for Greece, so some of the guests lines were extended back into the late 1700's. Greece has such an illustrious history it's sad that lines can't be extended back to ancient Greece. Some interesting details were found linking some of the guests to the fight for Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire. Tina Fey had no idea she had some British ancestry. which also linked her to early Philadelphia, and the American Revolution. Her British American Ancestor came to the attention of Benjamin Franklin just like a member of my Owens family (not for murder like my line). I really love George and Tina so I found the episode interesting.

AncestryDNA Initial Verdict (You win some you lose some)
AncestryDNA was as good as their word and released the latest version of their DNA product today. I knew this was coming, probably today, because a live broadcast was planned for tomorrow. Last night I was working on the site and I got a message that new changes were rolling out. So far I love the changes and I'm hard to please. My Dad would always ask "what do you want egg in your beer?". I did lose some matches I would have liked to see stay around, but I gained some very good new matches.

My total matches are down to 1,456 from around 10,000. I have 30 pages of matches. Before the change I had more matches than my Mom. Now she has around 100 more matches than I do.

I immediately checked to see if my critical matches were still there. All but one were still there.

The circles are a great new feature. Both my Mom and I share the same 9 circles. There are no circles representing my Dad's side. If you share matches with a number of people on the same ancestor a circle group is created showing those who are a DNA match, and some who are not but have DNA tested. It's great to see who else has tested, but hasn't isn't a match.
Will the circles be unbroken?
Cousin Confidence levels
The only problem with circles would be name variations which may not show up linked with an ancestor, and slight date differences or place disagreements which may throw this feature off. 

I have not included some suspected ancestors in my tree. I think I will have to add some of my unproven ancestry just to see if I can establish a DNA link.

Another circle downside is you have to be a paid subscriber to see your circles.

Another great feature is the improved ancestral cousin estimates. My cousin Nan was a moderate match, and is now called high. They are breaking down the estimates to a much finer degree. We can now see how much DNA we likely share. If you read the new confidence levels you can see they give you a much clearer idea of how good the match is. The new algorithms eliminated the low confidence matches so the lowest confidence is now called moderate.

I received a message from a match I messaged 2 months ago. It appears the new features are attracting testers back to the site.

I'm happy with the changes so far. I think my 1,456 matches will be more manageable to deal with. I lost some matches and gained some new better ones. Overall a good thing. Good job Ancestry!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Finding Your Roots" Ep. 8 & The Autosomal DNA Tangle: Is AncestryDNA Right?

I really enjoyed episode 8 of "Finding Your Roots" focusing on British ancestry. I love to watch anything involving the British Empire. I mostly watch British TV programs when I watch TV. I've read more British novels than American. I have not found any proven English ancestry and would love to find some. I do have Scottish and Irish ancestry.

Sally Field's ancestry was the most fascinating. Some of her ancestors were loyalists, and one of her several times great-grandfather's was executed for treason during the American Revolution. His wife took the opportunity to relocate to Canada where she could receive free land for her family's loyalty. Sally Fields also has Mayflower ancestry that she was unaware of. One of her ancestors was a leader of the Plymouth Colony for many years, and presided over the first Thanksgiving. Sting's ancestors' lives revolved around the shipyards in England. He also had mariners in his family. The sea played such an important role in British history. Britain being an island meant they relied on sea trade to bring in commodities not available on the island. One of Stings ancestors was drowned, along with the rest of the crew, when their ship sank. Shipping was also important when it came to the lucrative Indian trade. Deepak Chopra's family benefited from the British colonization in some regards, but also suffered from some of the repercussions because of it. Deepak's father became a renowned Physician with the assistance of the British Governor of India. He was able to attend Medical school in Scotland which was a center for cutting edge medical training. When the British pulled out the unrest and relocations which resulted did negatively affect his family. As his Grandmother said the British came into India and reduced the native population to servitude  which caused the native population to lose the advanced knowledge they had previously attained. It would take generations to regain that knowledge.

Sally Field seemed to have traces of Native American ancestry in her DNA? Very likely to be true considering how long her ancestors have been in America

Rethinking the use of Autosomal DNA. I knew there were minor differences in segment size when looking at them in the company sites as compared with GEDmatch. I thought they were mostly slightly off, which is generally the case, but as I've now learned from a co-administrator of GEDmatch there can be significant differences (according to Family Tree DNA the differences are insignificant?). Entire segment deletions can occur. So this leads to the problem of who's numbers do you use when calculating relationships? If 10 cM segments and over are 99% IBD, and under that a significant number are IBS, then what if GEDmatch pronounces a segment to be over 10 cM's but Family Tree DNA has it significantly under 10 cM's? AncestryDNA has a point when they caution people about third party comparisons. The companies use complex calculations rather than just  cursory segment comparisons. They have better resources than the 3rd party citizen scientists' sites. I would still like to see a chromosome browser at AncestryDNA. If they had a chromosome browser at their own site they could oversee it, which would insure the segments are in line with their own findings, instead of risking misinterpretation at a 3rd party site.

AncestryDNA leans heavily on the often inaccurate trees, posted by testers, to suggest relationships. These tree connections can be wrong. Right now I'm dealing with a problem related to an AncestryDNA suggested relationship to a low confidence DNA match. This low confidence match is somewhat of a contradictory finding. A cousin of this Forgety match had taken the Y DNA test and did not match our Forgey testers. We assumed the close spelling of the name and proximity of the Forgetys and Forgeys on the map led to the mistaken idea they were related. This low confidence match of a Forgety to my Mom, who is a Forgey, is leading to speculation that there is a relationship after all. Since we cannot see how much DNA we share I'm not certain how valid this match is? Plus I noticed they have a Campbell line in Tennessee, and our Forgey line has a Campbell line said to have come from Tennessee.

So the problem making connections with the trees is few of us have trees going back 7 to 10 generations on every line. Sarah Campbell is actually only 4 generations from me, and 3 generations from my Mom. We don't know anything at all about her parents or ancestors. The only thing I have to go on is that Sarah Campbell/Wray lived in Indiana, while married, and died in 1847 at a young age. Her only child to live long enough to give an opinion on her place of birth was Polly T. Wray/Hall. She lived until 1920 and always claimed her mother was born in Tennessee. She was only 6 yrs. old when her Mom, Sarah, died. This leaves me with some uncertainty as to whether she would have any first hand source knowledge about where her mother was born?

We are in for a very interesting several weeks at AncestryDNA. No new matches will be posted until the reprocessing of over 500,000 tests is complete. In a couple of weeks from now we should be seeing the new results with the "false" matches eliminated. This could either turn out to be great or could be a complete disaster? We'll see. Read more here.

I'm getting ready to plunge into a Time magazine special publication called "How DNA Shapes Your Life". I just got it today.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy Veterans Day 2014 To All Veterans!

It seems like I always make progress on my Family's Veteran ancestors around Veterans' day. Maybe it's because the genealogy sites promote their military collections around this time of year. My grandfather was a Veteran of WWI. He has come to mind especially this year because it's the Centenary of WWI this year.

 This time another event spurred further research into our Military history. I was so peeved that my great uncle William Kappel was misidentified by the Margraten  Netherlands American Cemetery site that I was forced to gather more information about him to prove he was indeed my great uncle. As I stated in the past my Kapple grandparents divorced and my grandmother brought all of her children to California in the late 1940's. Her ex husband, my grandfather, remained in Illinois and remarried a couple times. My father didn't talk about his father or his father's family very much, unless I asked. He never mentioned his uncle William was killed in WWII. My dad was always interested in WWII history. My mom and I were forced to sit through many documentaries about WWII. He probably knew his uncle was killed and just never wanted to talk about it.

My genealogy obsession began in the late 1990's when I started searching for more information about the Kapple line. Early on I found out  my grandparents changed the spelling of their name from Kappel to Kapple. I was so surprised when I found out my grandfather Rudolph was from a family of 11 (now I hear possibly 12). I then gathered up all the information I could find online about his siblings. I found most of his brothers in the Social Security death index. It was then that I found out William Kappel had died in 1945. I was pretty certain that entry was his because the date of birth was exact.

I asked my aunt June if William may have been killed in WWII? She said yes he was and his widow and her grandmother were locked in a battle over benefits after his death. Before the war William had been living with his mother in the family home along with his wife and son (just like my own grandparents lived in the Kappel household for a few years). William worked as a steel inspector at a steel mill in Chicago before the war, along with his brother-in-law. Mary had relied on her youngest son a great deal after the death of her husband in 1937; which was why she felt she was entitled to benefits when he was killed at the end of the war. The detail my aunt June provided left little doubt that the William Kappel who died in 1945 was my great uncle. A few years after I identified him I found out he was buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery. That puzzled me because aunt June said he was killed in the South Pacific? At  this point I did more research and discovered the soldier buried at that cemetery was from Chicago, Illinois and was Catholic like my great uncle's family. I could find no other William Kappel's sharing his birthdate who were killed in the war. I felt confident the man buried in that cemetery was my great uncle.

I've always wanted more information. A few years ago a Facebook friend found a battalion history which gave a narrative of the circumstances of William's death. He was killed at the end of the war when he was pursuing a sniper. Another Facebook friend, and distant cousin on my Forgey line, visited the Cemetery this past summer and took some great photos and a rubbing of William's cross. All of this added information has been so rewarding!

My quest to prove William Kappel was my Uncle beyond a reasonable doubt led me to consider writing for his Social Security application which would contain his parents' names. Since a few years ago privacy laws were tightened requiring proof of the applicants death, and his parents deaths, it has become more difficult to unlock that information.  I was assembling the needed information when I stumbled on some evidence which met my own standard of proof. It was the application for a grave monument. William's widow's name was given as Belle Kappel which was also the name of his wife on the 1940 Census when they were living with my great-grandmother Mary. My father's birth certificate contained the same address in 1933. This is good enough evidence for me. I'm satisfied. The cemetery site has changed William's parents from Gabriel Kappel  and Rose Kappel to my great-grandparents Frank and Mary Kappel. The wrong family was added to William's page from an tree. The mix up was a good thing because it got me searching again, if I had not taken up the search again I never would have found the wonderful original documents posted at Ancestry.

Why my great uncle appears on a  National Jewish American Board record is a mystery? He was likely part ethnically Ashkenazi, but the family was Catholic for at least 200 years. My grandmother Kapple said the name Kappel was generally perceived as Jewish. The surname may have led to the mistaken belief that he was Jewish?

The entire research journey with William Kappel has been very rewarding. I appreciate his service and I'm honored he is my Great Uncle.

I would like to hear from William's son Ronald Kappel born around 1937 in Chicago. That would really be the icing on the cake!

Happy Veterans' Day to all Veterans!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

GEDmatch Says 14.7 cM's FTDNA Says 8.68? Who's Right?

Our Owens match contacted me yesterday. I found out that I was comparing with the exact same kit at GEDmatch as the one at FTDNA. So there was a 6 cM difference in the segment my Aunt shared with this match on chromosome 19. It could have something to do with the fact this kit was a transfer from AncestryDNA to Family Finder at FTDNA?

I have no idea why the results look so different at GEDmatch? I don't know if FTDNA is more accurate or GEDmatch? I just know the results don't match. If GEDmatch is less accurate than the testing companies than it may not be a good place to compare AncestryDNA results? It may be better to transfer your results to FTDNA and compare there. Although it may be that errors occur when raw data is uploaded to FTDNA? However I have compared with other transferred kits and don't see any unusual results?

Like I said before there are always slight differences in the cM numbers at GEDmatch. If anyone else has seen a cM difference of 5 or more on a segment please post a comment. I'm curious about how often this happens?

Friday, November 7, 2014

GEDmatch Segment Size May Be Different From That Reported by Your Testing Company

I found a long  awaited match on our Owens line at Family Tree DNA yesterday. This person evidently transferred her results to Family Tree DNA immediately after this service was announced in October. I copied her email address and went to GEDmatch to see if she appeared in my Aunts results. I found her listed with two kits. I compared her two kits.  Both kits showed identical results with my Aunt. Compared against my Aunt at GEDmatch I noticed their longest shared segment was 14.7. Her longest segment with my Aunt at Family Tree DNA was reported as 8.68?

A basically 6 cM difference. I've emailed this match to be sure we're comparing apples to apples. If there really is a 6 cM difference for the result on 19 (see their charts below) then there is a big problem somewhere?

Comparing results from Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, and GEDmatch there is a consistent 1 cM difference at GEDmatch with the occasional 3 cM difference. I checked to see if 23andMe was any closer to GEDmatch, but they also differ by 1 to 3 cMs (see above). I don't know how well 23andMe results compare with Family Tree DNA outside GEDmatch?

If we're using cM's to determine our relationship to a match and to triangulate it's important to have consistent numbers. Hope we can eventually compare with equivalent, agreed upon, standards. Right now I don't know whether I should accept the 14.7 result as correct or the 8.68 result? Or are we looking at different kits? Hoping to get answer soon?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

DNA News: "Finding Your Roots" Episode 7 and Tying Loose Ends

Chart pinpointing DNA matches

Episode 7 of "Finding Your Roots" featured guests with Jewish roots. It was a very moving episode because of the stories of the persecution of the Jewish population in the 19th and 20th centuries. Ancestors of the guests were forced to leave their homes because of the poverty and persecution they suffered in Eastern Europe. The Nazi officials were psychopaths which was clearly demonstrated by the fact that a massacre they carried out, in which some of  Tony Kushner's ancestors were murdered, was called a Wedding and those murdered guests. I'm not a fan of Alan Dershowitz at all. It's to his credit that his firm aids the underprivileged; but, the fact he represented a heinous  murderer, OJ Simpson, is unforgivable. Alan's family was quite gifted at working the system and were able to rescue some relatives from the Nazi's. Carol King's story demonstrated the difficulty of tracing Jewish ancestors in Eastern Europe because, as explained, few records survive. She was extremely lucky that some records for her family were found which took one of her lines back to the 1790's. So never give up even though you've been told it's unlikely the records survived. Also Carol's family had a complete change of surnames which adds to the challenge of tracing the family.

A statement made by Prof. Gates about it being more convenient to convert to Christianity made me think about my own family. I believe my family converted to Catholicism because of persecution. I also believe they became very committed Catholics. One of my Great Grandparents' children was named Francis Xavier which demonstrates a deep affinity with the church.

I missed the fact Episode 7 didn't feature DNA results. I just finished listening to a webinar about "Finding Your Roots" and understand that episode 10 will focus much more on DNA testing, which should be interesting. Another interesting fact is 3 to 4 hours of interviews with guests are shot for each episode. According to Prof. Gates all of the guests are overjoyed by the family information they get from the show. Like most people the guests have a personal knowledge of their family history going back only a generation or two.

The changes to AncestryDNA are coming soon according to their blog. Another AncestryDNA blog post referring  to the issue of IBS matches stated that cousin matching using their current technique produced too many false matches for Hispanics and Jews. This is probably why I have so many Mexican matches when my family came from Nicaragua. Similar over estimations were found with other ethnic groups. According to the AncestryDNA blog we will be notified regarding downloading our current match information so we can keep the notes etc. on our current matches.

I've been slowly listening to the i4GG conference videos. I watched the "Getting the Most from AncestryDNA" presentation the other day. Using a fan chart to see where your matches are on your tree was a great idea I got from this presentation. It clearly shows that most of my matches are out at 5 generations and beyond. This is because we have fewer close cousins.

Another highlight of the "Getting the Most from AncestryDNA" presentation was the portion about admixture. The presenter showed her admixture results side by side with her sisters. Of course these results seemed to match up as expected (an employee of Ancestry wouldn't show any that didn't).It was so funny when someone asked from the audience what if a child had more Irish admixture than both her parents? Of course this got a laugh from the knowledgeable audience. This wasn't easily answered. It was only explained that admixture was still being worked on.

I have really enjoyed Hoosier Daddy's blog posts. His November 3 post really hit home. His experiences communicating with matches are so relatable. I've often noticed the same thing he discovered, that many of my matches on certain couples are actually close relatives to one another, who may have tested together. I've had relatives tested and so have many other people, so multiple matches with one ancestral couple actually come from a single descendant line.

Hoosier Daddy's post also made me wonder if telling matches you are looking for adoptee information is a good idea in your first communication? I'm thinking some people may be fearful of becoming involved with a possibly  touchy situation?

I'm impatiently waiting to see what happens with the AncestryDNA changes and also waiting for another sale on their kits.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

DNA News: Episode 6 of "Finding Your Roots" & 7cM and 700 SNP Threshold

Episode 6 of "Finding Your Roots" was another interesting episode. The theme was enslaved ancestors.  A highlight of the episode was the slave receipt for one of Nas' ancestors. I've never seen one of those before. Valerie Jarrett turned out the be 49% European, which wasn't surprising. She was surprised that Native American ancestry showed up in her DNA ethnicity results. She came out to be 5 % Native American. Her slave owner ancestors were wealthy, willing and able to cultivate her ancestor's intellect and provide materially for him. One of her ancestors attended MIT. It was uncommon for the mulatto children of slave owners to be treated like their legitimate children. It was very nice to see how the former slave couples legalized their informal slave marriages after they were freed. This episode gave substance to people who were often just nameless property while enslaved.

Two whole people , so far, at AncestryDNA agreed to compare results with me at GEDmatch. These matches pointed, again,  to the problem of the too strict criteria for matches at Family Tree DNA. I had around half a dozen people to compare these matches with. When looking at the total cM's, even turning down the shared cM's to 1, some of these matches would not pass the strict matching requirements at Family Tree DNA, even though they do share DNA segments over 10 cMs and have a proven paper trail relationship to my family. The 14.1 cM segment illustrated here is an example. I found other good matches that don't add up to 20 total cM's either. I think the 7 cM and 700 SNP threshold at GEDmatch should be a model for the testing companies to follow. They can rank the matches according to their own system, but please give us all of our matches that fall in the 7 cM and 700 SNP range. Family Tree DNA is great for identifying parents and close cousins, but as a genealogist I'm interested in more distant relatives.

I watched this great video which featured a presenter from AncestryDNA. It's filled with interesting information about their DNA testing program. The number of kits being processed every month is staggering! They process 30,000 to 50,000 kits per month.

I'm not completely emotionally prepared for the coming changes to our match lists at Ancestry. When I saw the new DNA symbol on the Ancestry matches' pages I jumped. I wondered if that meant we would see the changes Ancestry has been promising sooner rather than later?  I'm hoping we don't see another Family Tree DNA scenario with limited matches. I'm hoping it's more like 23andMe, which has a reasonable threshold similar to GEDmatch.

I've been continuing to create chromosome charts with segments from our matches. I'm collecting Forgey surname related segments. I used a suggestion from Kitty's blog to name the segments after ancestral couples. Here are the people the Forgeys came from.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

DNA News: Two Outstanding Genealogy Shows And Evaluating Matches

Last night I binged watched two excellent family history shows. CNN's "Roots Our Journey Home" and PBS' "Finding Your Roots". Didn't go to bed until 1 am (again).

"Finding Your Roots" episode 5 was one of the best of the this season. Celebrity chefs were featured in this all male episode "The Melting Pot". My Mom loved the show "Simply Ming" so he is very familiar to me. Great to see the role his family played in Chinese history. His enormous family tree was great to see rolled out. Wonderful that a stele with his ancestor's names was the only one which survived the cultural revolution in his particular ancestral location. He is very fortunate. Tom Colicchio's immigrant ancestors were much like mine. My Great-Grandmother traveled back and forth from America to her Village in Austro/Hungary. Her husband was working first in Allentown, PA then Chicago, Ill. She often made the trip with several small children accompanying her. Aaron Sanchez' family's roots are in Sonora Mexico, not far from border with the US. The family was a target of hostility during the Mexican Revolution which forced the family to flee with their large herd of cattle to the US. Aaron's DNA results were very interesting to me since I have some Central American heritage. His mix of European, Native American and African were typical for Central and South America too.

The "Roots our Journey Home" show on CNN borrowed heavily from "Finding Your Roots". The Anderson Cooper segment repeated many facts first presented when he was a guest on "Finding Your Roots". It was interesting to see Anderson visiting family graves. I thought this show was a nice mix of emotionally connecting with ancestors and tongue in check segments. They also used DNA results to fill in the blanks.

23andMe Zombies
It was announced this week that 23andMe would be partnering with My Heritage. If they integrate the trees with the DNA results like they do at AncestryDNA it could make 23andMe a more useful resource. The biggest problem at 23andMe is the lack cooperation of those who have tested with them. More than half my cousin's matches won't even share their own names let alone any ancestral surnames.

Last week a test result came back for our Owens line. Sadly Ancestry doesn't release segment information. Fortunately a descendant of John Melvin and Mary Redden (my fifth great-grandparents) agreed to compare with us at GEDmatch. We compared with his grandmother and him. We shared varying amounts of DNA from as small as 4.6 cM's up to 50 cM's total. We can now call a segment five of us share on chromosome 1 a Melvin family segment . We are all around the fourth cousin range relationship to his grandmother. After doing a few comparisons of Ancestry results at GEDmatch  I'm finding their prediction process occasionally works, but some valid cousin matches aren't showing up as close matches? Also some of the high confidence matches aren't as good as they look when you compare at GEDmatch.

The Family Tree DNA process for determining matches isn't any better. The scientists at Family Tree DNA aren't as well versed with autosomal DNA as they are with Y and mtDNA. As one of them stated at an ISOGG presentation, paraphrasing, what I tell you now may turn out to be wrong in hindsight. From a past presentation by the founder of Family Tree DNA his scientists don't believe autosomal DNA is useful beyond 4 generations. That demonstrates a lack of knowledge of the subject. Most of our matches are at 4 generations and beyond. Their use of total shared cMs as a criteria for determining matches causes many good matches to be discarded. Looking at my proven matches at Ancestry a few haven't shared the 20 total cMs required by FTDNA. I can't find any common ancestors with most of my Family Tree DNA matches. If they eliminated the 20 cM requirement and instead gave us all our matches sharing 7 cM segments or higher it would help us find more cousins.

John Melvin and Mary Redden were my 5th Great-Grandparents
I've assigned chromosome 1 to them

Saturday, October 18, 2014

DNA News: Episode 4 of "Finding Your Roots" & Overwhelmed With New Information

Episode 4 of "Finding Your Roots" was another interesting episode with fun DNA results. The episode theme was Civil Rights and Freedom. Ben Affleck's mother was a Freedom Rider in the 1960's.  It was so funny to hear the former President of the NAACP, Ben Jealous, is mostly white only 18% African. On the flip side Khandi Alexander had more African than she expected, she seemed to change her identification from black to African. The most moving story in this episode was how one of Ben Jealous' ancestors purchased his freedom, and that of his wife and children. He was able to do this because he was a trained shoemaker, an unusual occupation for a slave.

It was great to see an explanation of how DNA testing works in this episode. Instead of showing the stock film blood vials they showed the accurate testing process and explained that saliva was used. I'm sure more people would pursue a saliva test rather than a blood test. I hope this encourages more people to test.

Looking at Ben Jealous I could predict he had a high percentage of European. Another guest on a previous show was quite dark complected and turned out to have more European than he expected. This brings me to my current projects. Predictions based on appearances can turn out to be correct or incorrect. The genealogical proof standard requires inferences drawn from appearances to be checked out by doing a reasonably exhaustive search. I'm turning more and more to DNA to support my inferences.

In  mid 2001 I began focusing my genealogy research on the Mason family line. I found some information about the family posted on message boards, which were the popular social networking media at the time. I received some great leads from a 3rd cousin, Sophia Preston. She posted some information about our common Mason line. She referred me to another Mason researcher with additional information. With their help I discovered the locations of our Masson family in Quebec, Canada. It was easy to trace the family back hundreds of years due to the fact that transcriptions of the extensive record collections in Quebec were available online at this point.

After quickly putting together a huge family tree for the Mason line I moved to my ancestor Peter Mason's American wife's family. His wife was Mary Owens. That's what I started with in 2001. I had a great lead on her parents when I found two of her sister's living with the Mason family in 1880 in Mattoon, Il. It was easy to find them  living with their father in 1870 in Mattoon, Il. His name was William F. Owens. I later found a Nancy Owens wife of William F. buried in a local cemetery. She would have been in the right age range to be the mother of my Mary Mason, and her siblings. Their mother was not in his household in 1870, she was probably the Nancy I found in the cemetery who died in 1865?

According to the children of William F. he was born in Kentucky, and their mother was born in Ohio. I looked for a marriage for a William F. Owens to a Nancy. I found such a marriage in Clermont, Ohio. A William F. Owens married a Nancy Hicks in Clermont, and they matched the Census description regarding where they were born. I found them in 1850 with two sons , James H. and John W. living in Clermont, Ohio. From there I looked for them in 1860. At that point in time the online Census information was sparse and the search function didn't always show matches with similar names. It took many months before I found them listed with the name spelled Owen and initials used instead of full names. I found Mary and all her siblings including James H. and John W. from the 1850 Census. These eldest siblings had disappeared from the area in Mattoon, Illinois early on.

By March 2002 I was able to find proof that Mary's mother's maiden name was Hicks. It came from a marriage record for her sister which listed her mother as Nancy Hicks, and her father was listed as William F.. Her own marriage record from a decade before did not contain her parents' names.

It wasn't until fairly recently that I found out what became of William F. and Nancy's eldest sons. I found some information about them at Find-a-grave and made contact with descendants through this site (you can read my 2012 post here. I later exchanged info with Pam and Justin.) I also found more information posted in Ancestry trees. Pam and Justin provided me with loads of additional information. I also discovered that one of the male Owens in my line Y DNA tested which helped confirm some of my inferences about this Owens ancestral line.

I was fairly confident I had traced this line correctly. I was a little apprehensive because I didn't have very much info about my Great-Grandfather Mason. I had heard he was French Canadian and used this knowledge to find his family in the Census. I believed I found him with the correct family. I had not known that he was originally from Mattoon, Ill. I was only aware of the family living in Chicago. I asked an Aunt and she said she believed I was on the correct track, and he was from Mattoon.

All of my apprehensiveness disappeared when the third cousin I had located on the message board years earlier tested at 23andme. We compared at GEDmatch and there was absolutely no doubt we were from the same Mason family from Mattoon. We shared more DNA than most third cousins. So the Mason line was confirmed with DNA.

Darrell Owens 3rd cousin 1x and me
I purchased an AncestryDNA kit on sale in August. I decided to give it to an Owens/ Hicks line cousin to confirm this relationship and hopefully find additional cousins in these lines. The results came in on last Wednesday, exactly 3 weeks after it was received. We were predicted to be 3rd cousins by Ancestry (great news!). We are actually 3rd cousins once removed, good prediction. Unfortunately Ancestry's raw data download feature was down until yesterday. It was so hard to wait for this to be fixed. I was on pins and needles the whole time. It was incredible to see how much DNA we shared in common. We had some 30 cM segments. There was a chance we wouldn't share any DNA at all. Our Cousin Sophia shared a 9 cm segment on a different chromosome, a lot less than either my Aunt or myself. That's the fickle nature of DNA inheritance.

Susan and Nan's Aunt
Another great match came in on the same day. My 5th cousin Nan Harvey's Aunt's results also came in on Wednesday. She turned out to be a much stronger match with my Mom and I than Nan. So now we have some good sized segments for triangulation. She was predicted to be a 4th to 6th cousin to both my Mom and I, which is the correct range. My cousin Susan is actually Nan's aunt's strongest match.

With our growing segment collection I'm hoping to reconstruct some of these lines.

There are so many changes occurring in the genealogy industry. Family Tree DNA released news about many new features which will be offered to customers at their group administrator conference. They rolled out one of those changes this week offering those who upload raw data from AncestryDNA or 23andme (only v.3) the opportunity to try their service for free. They can see their highest ranked 20 matches for free. The price to see all of your matches is $39, which doesn't include the myOrigins feature. They also announced a social networking platform will be added to the site. Sharing photos and documents etc. should make the site more interesting to use. The ability for the public to search Family Tree DNA trees for their surnames should boost interest in testing. I would love to see the number of testers grow.

GEDmatch is undergoing some changes too. You will be able to access more tools if you donate $10. Using family kits to create ancestors' kit sounds interesting.

I mentioned finding an Owens cousin at The value of the trees and information attached to them can't be over estimated. Most of my breakthroughs at Ancestry have been through documents attached to trees. A Wray line cousin contacted me to let me know she uploaded some pictures and manuscripts she found at their Kansas family home. I've never been to Kansas and would never have seen all of this had it not been for the networking opportunity provided by The old forums and mailing lists were helpful but didn't allow you to share documents and photos. It's been great with sites like Ancestry and Facebook that we can share information and coordinate DNA testing and find cousins to test.

I've had so much information coming at me so fast I need to stop researching for a while and start adding my new facts to my tree and my new segment information to Genome Mate .

Sophia's only shared segment with our 3rd cousin 1x removed