My experience in genealogy has always dealt with records and historical research. I like to follow the paper trail. Admittedly, I have always shied away from DNA and genetic genealogy. Maybe because it was a field I did not really understand; I feel a bit overwhelmed by all the scientific jargon. It was never really a part of my comfort zone so to speak, but after attending talks given by Genetic Genealogist CeCe Moore at the Massachusetts Genealogical Council Conference, I am inspired to dive deeper into the world of genetic genealogy. Surely some of the chromosome mapping and analysis remains a bit over my head, but I did gain some good tips.
Your Ethnicity Pie Chart is based on Very Broad Estimates
I took my AncestryDNA around January of this year. Since then, I have barely touched my DNA page. Cece Moore explained that the word ethnicity estimates are a bit misleading, that really the proper term for the composition of one’s DNA is admixture, because ethnicity indicates a definitive culture and type of person, when our DNA is a much more complicated because of human patterns of migration and intermixing with different peoples. What was most revealing to me is that the ethnicity estimates presented in your pie chart on Ancestry DNA are the result of testers running your DNA sample 40 times and then taking the average, therefore the true percentage could fall within a very broad spectrum.
When you’re at the Ancestry DNA homepage for your account, you want to click “See Full Ethnicity Estimate.” At that point, you reach a page that brings you the full pie chart and map highlighting the regions of the world that compose your DNA admixture. By clicking on each part of your pie chart represented in your DNA admixture, lets say “Western Europe,” it shows the actual range of percentages for that ethnicity region. While my pie chart says 71% Western European, it could actually be anywhere from 48%-94%.
The Importance of Data Mining and Analyzing Your Matches’ Family Trees.
The best part of taking a test from Ancestry DNA is locating close cousin matches, which I have several that are unfamiliar to me. CeCe’s talks prompted to start messaging all of these cousins, those who are removed less than four times. However, I am limited by the fact that I don’t personally subscribe to Ancestry. While I was trying to budget my expenses and not use a home subscription, I figured I could save some dollars using Ancestry at my local library. However, there is a huge difference in the abilities of Ancestry Library Edition and a regular subscription, particularly regarding DNA analysis and the ability to view family tress. To best understand my DNA matches, I need to be able to view their family trees and see what surnames and individuals correlate with my family tree.
One free tool that is available is called GedMatch, which allows you to see what segment of your chromosome is shared between with two users who have matching DNA. It is a useful tool in helping to narrow in one what line of your family tree two individuals share a common ancestor. From the AncestryDNA homepage, click on “Settings.” On the right of that page, a menu for “Actions” is listed, including the action to “Download Your Raw DNA Data.” This is the data taken from your genetic code before it has been processed and synthesized by the testing company into the ethnicity estimates and results you receive on your account. I will be sure to write future posts on my experience with GedMatch, along with other tools for genetic genealogy, and how it helps me in my research.
Use more testing companies to get the most out of your genetic genealogy research.
As CeCe explained, every testing company has pros and cons. The size of their databases only depend on the users that purchase tests from them, so to ensure more thorough research, use all the testing companies.
While I’m still a beginner to the world of genetic genealogy, I am excited to incorporate this into my research more along with more familiar research methods. I always leave genealogy conferences with new perspective on how to conduct successful research! As CeCe stressed throughout her day of talks, exhausting the paper trail, but also utilizing DNA testing and genetic genealogy, can break major brick wall and add a lot of depth to our family history.
Copyright (c) 2016 Jake Fletcher.
Jake Fletcher. ” What I Learned About Genetic Genealogy From CeCe Moore.” Travelogues of a Genealogist, posted 17 Apr 2016. https://fletcherfamilytree.wordpress.com/2016/04/17/what-i-earned-about-genetic-genealogy-from-cece-moore