Tuesday, February 17, 2015

RootsTech 2015

RootsMapper uses your Family Search Tree to map Ancestral locations.

I enjoyed watching the live feed from RootsTech 2015, as usual, this year. I appreciate Family Search making this available to us for free. The keynote speeches this year didn't appeal to me as much as in previous years. I would like to hear more about tech or genetic genealogy during the keynote presentations. I enjoyed Donny Osmond's presentation. I know he, and his family, have been actively involved in researching their family history. I'm sorry an episode of a Welsh show called "Coming Home" is no longer available at Youtube. Donny Osmond was featured in a show episode where his family history in Wales was presented to him. They unrolled a long family history pedigree chart for him at one point; he seemed genuinely moved. I enjoyed his upbeat, energetic presentation at RootsTech.

The "Innovator Summit Challenge Event" was interesting. The second place winner was my favorite. It allows searches on handwritten pages even in foreign languages. This would allow searching without indexing, it's called "ArgusSearch". I personally have zero interest in the event winner "Story Worth". I might use the 3rd place winner sometime? It's called "GenMarketplace". You post a problem and researchers bid to solve it.

Any technology that helps me  Systematize and Analyze my research is what I want to know more about. The streamed sessions, at RootsTech, which appealed to me the most were:

  1. 30 Pieces of Tech I Can't Live Without Favorite website shared in this presentation ArchiveGrid which allows you to search archives for family information.
  2. Building a Genealogy Research Toolbox The best link from this presentation was Wolfram Alpha helps calculate relationships and provides other kinds of data computation. Good for nicknames.
  3. Getting Started in Genetic Genealogy Great for those starting out in Genetic Genealogy, I enjoyed it also.
  4. What's New at FamilySearch I thought this was an interesting presentation. I will continue to attach information to their tree but I'm hoping it's not a complete waste of time? Their are so many duplicates that need fixing I'm hoping my attached info doesn't get thrown out when merging occurs. The ability to search all of the trees for photos and other special content is nice. The best links to come out of the presentation were: "RootsMapper" my favorite toy from this year's RootsTech. "Find-A-Record" is another partner of Family Search with an app. for finding possible documentation for your family tree. It also spots problems on your Family Search tree. The problems found are so massive it would be a full time job for months to fix them (it's about as massive as tearing my house down and rebuilding in my case).
You can watch some of the previously streamed sessions here.

My dream app. would be a page like the old iGoogle which would display messages from all sites, with messaging, including Ancestry.com. It would also display all of my DNA matches as they come in, and allow me to click to view their surnames. I would also like to see blogs like GeneaWebinars display their content directly on the same page. A list of new record content from all of the research sites would be great to see on the same page too. Genetic Genealogy is the future and RootsTech needs to focus on this area even more. We need help understanding how to use our results and integrate them with our traditional research. We need more apps. for genetic genealogy and I hope future innovators address our needs.

I personally need an app. that cuts my internet connection after a certain number of hours, or at a certain time in the evening. Time to cut myself off and do come grocery shopping. Bye for now.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The McDonald's Of DNA Does It Again!

You can stop researching your family tree AncestryDNA has made it unnecessary. Just take their DNA test and they'll find your ancestors for you. They may not be the correct ancestors, but you can't have everything. Where did I learn of this latest innovation? You can read more about the announcement here.

"Building on DNA Circles, in 2015 we will launch a new experience that will use the latest genetic technology to discover new ancestors without the customer having to search records or build a family tree. This new feature will transform how family history research is done by providing valuable hints to help experienced genealogist looking to break through brick walls, as well as open family history to a whole new segment of the population. Through this new experience, AncestryDNA customers will be able to discover new ancestors as far back as the 1700's by connecting into existing DNA Circles."

Sounds like a dream come true for those uninterested in doing research? It is just a dream. You can't avoid the research process. AncestryDNA cannot manufacture a tree for you using DNA alone. There are some wonderful trees attached to DNA results which can produce accurate Circles. In other cases, for instance, many people have the wrong ancestral information copied from old published genealogies. Those trees will contribute to inaccurate Circles. I'm not saying the Circles are a bad idea. I think they are a good idea if used properly; as hints only. Although they will never replace segment information for confirming matches.

If you don't read the latest Ancestry press release carefully you may miss the fact that Ancestry is only providing hints. In their first sentence, describing the Circles, they state a customer can discover ancestors without doing research or building a tree. If you read further it says they are providing hints. This contradicts their first statement and suggests research is required. A few people were misled yesterday believing Ancestry could now correct all the bad trees on their site. That would be great, but is impossible at this point in time.

The DNA testing companies are going to accentuate the positive when trying to sell their product. That's understandable. They shouldn't be grossly misleading however. The founder of Family Tree DNA has been openly critical over claims about what some say autosomal DNA can do. He has integrity. I would like to see AncestryDNA continue to grow their database in a way demonstrating they have some integrity. Many people walk away, after spending $110, dissatisfied with the results they receive. This happens when people don't understand what they are buying. This happens most often at AncestryDNA because they over state the accuracy of their product.

I have to say I get a kick out of the ridiculous statements that seem to pour out of Ancestry.com. If they made reasonable statements about their product I would miss the comic relief. I wouldn't fall off my chair laughing anymore. On the other hand, I hate to see people spend money expecting to get one thing; but, instead walk away with something they aren't happy with.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

AncestryDNA Sells 100,000 Kits In December 2014 And Comparing Cousins Results

Ancestry.com reported their 4th quarter earnings, and year end earning results, on February 3rd ( you can listen to the full report here).  I guess the AncestryDNA boycott hasn't caught on yet because they sold 100,000 kits in December of 2014 alone; that's double what they sold in the same month last year which was around 50,000 kits. Most of these kits, I suspect, were purchased by the Millennial generation who are interested in the Ethnicity results. This seems to be reflected in the Ancestry subscription numbers which are declining instead of growing. Ancestry lost 25,000 subscribers in 2014. I'm not sure whether adding a subscription requirement to see your matches' surnames will increase subscriptions? The young people testing for ethnicity don't seem interested in looking at match information. I had planned on subscribing to the trees using the "Ancestral Insights" subscription. That was before they instituted the new subscription requirement for new accounts. I don't like to be coerced into buying a subscription so I'm thinking that purchase over now.

Revenues are up for Ancestry.com in the 4th quarter. Losses are down compared to a year ago. There were some great sales last year apparently due to slowing sales. With such incredibly high kit sales recently I don't expect to see another sale, at least until they process all the kits purchased in late 2014. AncestryDNA is driving revenue growth at Ancestry. AncestryDNA will be expanding into Germany and Mexico this year.

Sounds like more novelty features will be added to the AncestryDNA product. Maybe a Neanderthal prediction? As I understand it these new features will not include the sharing of segment information. An interesting blog post was published this week about the DNA Circles and their weakness as a tool for determining how you are related to matches. The post  Anatomy of a DNA Circle explains the problems faced when drawing conclusions based on Circles. When I contact matches at AncestryDNA, sadly, most don't understand the benefits of triangulation with DNA matches. AncestryDNA misleads their testers into believing they don't need to do anything except attach a tree.

Like so many genetic genealogists I've been trying to figure out possible cousin relationships based on the amount of shared DNA. My Mom was born in Granada, Nicaragua to Charles Lynn Forgey, a US Marine based in Nicaragua, and his Nicaraguan wife Graciela Del Castillo. My mother was 4 years old when she came to the US. I have very little information about my Nicaraguan family. Luckily the civil registration records for Managua, Nicaragua are online. Unfortunately the records for Granada, Nicaragua aren't, and that's where most of my ancestors lived. I've been examining my Mom's Nicaraguan matches at AncestryDNA and Family Tree DNA. I had been contacted, a couple weeks ago, by a distant cousin whose Aunt matched my Mom at AncestryDNA. She is a "Very High" confidence match for my Mom, and my family was acquainted with her great-grandfather Francisco who lived not far away from my family here in Southern California. AncestryDNA predicts they are 3rd to 6th cousins. Her 2nd cousin, on her only Nicaraguan line, also matches my Mom at FTDNA. Her 2nd cousin doesn't match my Mom as closely however. He is a 5th cousin remote sharing an 11 cM segment. Looking at both of these predictions, plus the fact our families were acquainted with each other, I'm guessing 4th cousin? Don't know if I will ever be able to confirm that? If the Granada records still exist, and go back far enough, I may be able to discover our exact relationship..

I've been analyzing my cousin Darryl's results. These comparisons, again, highlight the fact it's nearly impossible to predict relationships past the 2nd cousin degree of relationship. The first chromosome chart compares him with his Aunt Loretta. He shares 1704 cM's total with her. The longest segment is 162 cMs. My mother and her niece share 1769 cMs. Longest segment is 156 cMs. Generally those who share this degree of relationship share between 1500-2000 cMs. (got most of the cM averages from this ISOGG page here)

Aunt Loretta and Nephew Darryl

A comparison of Darryl and I. We are first cousins. We share 1074 cMs. Our longest segment is 156 cMs. I share 1041.81, total cMs, with another first cousin. And the longest segment is 75 cMs. First cousins generally share 548-1139 cMs. 
First Cousins Darryl and Annette
Moving on to a third Cousin to Darryl. He shares only 27 cM's with our  third cousin; the longest is 16 cMs. Vastly smaller share than his Aunt Loretta and I. I share a total of 149 cMs with our third cousin. The largest segment is 69 cMs. Aunt Loretta share 182 cMs with the largest segment being 88 cMs. Third cousins generally share 16-111 cMs,  I believe my Aunt would be a 2nd cousin 1x removed from this cousin. Second cousins once removed generally share 19-197 cMs.
Comparing between 2nd cousin 1x removed and 3rd cousins

Darryl's 3rd cousin 1x removed shares 35 cMs and the largest segment is 14.9.  I share 91.5 cMs and the longest segment is 32 cMs. Our Aunt Loretta shares 65 cMs the largest segment being 37.9. I share more DNA than my Aunt and cousin with this match. The average 3rd cousin 1x removed shares 0-99 cMs.
3rd cousins 1x removed and 3rd cousin

Darryl shares DNA in the same place on chromosome 1 as a 5th cousin on our Melvin line. We have great triangulation with this Melvin match. Again Darryl's segment is smaller at 7 cMs but is in the same location. The rest of us share about 15 cM segments in the same place.

4th and 5th cousins to Melvin match

Apparently Darryl's father, Thomas Kapple, inherited some segments from his father that my father, Robert Kapple, did not get. We don't know which line or lines of our Burgenland family this DNA was inherited from? This match shares the surnames Jost, Kurta, and Koppel. Since my Aunt inherited half of her DNA from her father I would have thought she would have inherited the longer segment. Instead her nephew Darryl shares the large 32.5 cM segment, and Aunt Loretta shares an 11.8 cM segment in the same place.
Unknown relationship with several possibilities

Sunday, February 1, 2015

AncestryDNA Non Subscription Accounts Downgraded Plus People Behind The Segments

I wrote last week that AncestryDNA now requires a $49 annual subscription to review matches for non subscribers. It's been very difficult to get specific details about this new requirement. After basically insisting on getting answers, I with the help of others, was finally able to get more details. October 1, 2014 is when this change took affect. If you purchased a kit before this date your account is considered an "old account", and you can still see partial trees, surnames and maps. Future kits activated in old accounts also have access to the old features. The "new accounts" (those who purchased kits after October 1, 2014) now require a subscription to view any part of a match's trees, or surnames. In the past AncestryDNA representatives said the DNA portion of the Ancestry site would be maintained as a standalone product which would not require a subscription? (See an explanation of the changes below, and a video about what was available to non subscribers before and what non subscribers see now when they click on matches, see above.)

Another problem I have with AncestryDNA's decision, to require a subscription, is that you can build and access your own tree at Ancestry without maintaining a subscription. They allow you to add value to Ancestry's site with your research, pictures and documents but won't allow you to use your tree to make connections if you are a non subscriber. The DNA tests aren't free and generally cost $110. I don't see why new non subscribers can't see what the old non subscribers can see? If a non subscriber attaches a tree to their results their matches can use it if they are subscribers, but the non subscriber can't. Unfair. I've removed my trees from my own results.
 Ancestry has had a rough start in this first month of the New Year. Their Chief Product Officer is leaving at the end of this month. They are now offering their DNA product for sale in the UK. Apparently the price is higher there than in the US, which isn't going down well with some people. Some records recently added to the Ancestry.com site didn't have any source information. When someone asked for a source citation they were told they couldn't provide one for contractual reasons. They did later offer a partial citation. I've been doing more research at the Ancestry site than usual the last few days. I've noticed the same problems others have reported; the search at Ancestry doesn't always find everything searched for. I've gotten some results that took me to the wrong page. I don't always get the same results with the same search? When the settings are set to show like matches this feature also fails to find some like matches that should be included. I've been using MyHeritage this week and find their search is the best available. I'm finding things using their search that are not coming up with any other search. The problem with MyHeritage is that you have to pay see the results of your search and the results are generally located on free sites.

On the positive side Ancestry's President and Chief Executive Officer, Tim Sullivan stated, at the "Personalized Medicine World Conference 2015",  they now have 700,000 people in their database. They are now beginning to move in a direction which may eventually lead them to provide health results to testers in the future. A new app was talked about at the conference which allows users keep a record of their health history. He stated that DNA was the "core to company mission." The importance of the DNA product at Ancestry, I believe, will lead them to release segment information at some point. I think once new testers become more familiar with what the segment information can do for them they'll start demanding this information.

There are many interesting stories behind our DNA matches. Many DNA testers test to solve a family mystery. Their stories are often fascinating. I love mystery novels, so I love hearing about how people use DNA and genealogy to solve long standing family mysteries. The Genealogy Roadshow highlights and helps solve family mysteries which makes this show so fascinating. A distant cousin contacted me this week and his story reminded of some of the stories featured on the Roadshow. A relative of his matched my Mom at a "Very High" match confidence level at AncestryDNA. This cousin's Great-grandmother met a Nicaraguan cousin of mine in the 1920's. He owned and operated a dance studio in Nevada. She had a whirlwind romance with him and they eloped. This was a short lived marriage probably owing to huge cultural differences. One party being Latin and the other Anglo, one Mormon and the other Catholic, which would have been huge differences in the 1920's. This distant cousin seems to have been a ladies man having affairs with women in many states. He didn't provide his true identity to his Reno wife. This family has had to do some research to find out his true name and learn more about their family. More research is needed to find out exactly what happened to him, and his true family's identity. This would make a great story for The Genealogy Roadshow.

I have spent a lot of time writing about AncestryDNA, mainly because of all of the changes they've made. Some people think DNA testing is a team support. As Leo Leporte often says people who own smart phones think they belong to a team. "I'm team Android, I'm team IPhone." DNA testing isn't a team support either. All of the companies provide nearly the same quality results with a few exceptions (some provide better tools for reviewing matches).  I would recommend testing with all the companies if you can afford it. I might have a fit of pique with these companies from time to time, but they all provide matches that help with my genealogy. I don't think there will be much more to say about AncestryDNA for a while at least. I'm curious about their performance in the 4th quarter. We'll find out on the 3rd when they release the 4th quarter financial report. Otherwise it's time to move on and evaluate some new matches.