DNA plus paper


Known relative comparisons  (Jan 15, 2016)

Snip generations

I have extracted reports from gedmatch showing how they calculate generations to MRCA and the autosomal DNA comparison matrix for myself and three close family members. Our MRCAs (Most Recent Common Ancestors) are my maternal grandparents. The family members shown in the test are my maternal aunt and the granddaughter and great granddaughter of her elder sister. The 1C1R and 1C2R are not mother and daughter, but are aunt and niece to each other.

Snip Autosomal

Counting contacts – 23andme  (Nov 14, 2015)

A question posted today on the ISOGG facebook group triggered my curiosity about the level of response to my attempts to contact matches at 23andme. See my comments below about Addressing Anonymity (Nov 7) for an explanation of why I was rushing to make contact.

A quick count shows that 40 previously anonymous people (4.4% of my total matches) have accepted my invitation to identify themselves and share genomes. This was a surprisingly positive response. Unfortunately 531 anonymous matches (58.4%) did not respond before the cut-off date of November 11th when 23andme disabled contact with them and deleted introduction messages. These matches will be lost to me unless they specifically choose to identify themselves and opt in to DNA Relatives when the updated 23andme website is made available. Fingers crossed that they will see the benefits of sharing when the new website is launched.

To date I have a total of 147 matches (16.2%) on 23andme who have shared genomes and I have promising discussions in progress with several of them. No common ancestors leaping out and making their presence known yet though, so more gaps in the paper trail need to be plugged.

Snip 23andme contact status 14 Nov

Getting to know Genome Mate Pro  (Nov 7, 2015)

For some time now I have been playing with various lists and spreadsheets to keep track of my contact with DNA matches. This became increasingly difficult as I tested other family members and took additional tests myself. Having tested at FTDNA, AncestryDNA and 23andme, there is a risk of sending duplicate introductions to a single match from different sites which can be both confusing and irritating for the recipient.

The answer to my dilemma has come in the form of Genome Mate Pro. This is an app Snip GMPfor coordinating and analysing autosomal DNA results. Match lists, chromosome browser results and ICW (In Common With) results can be loaded from various sources and compared. There is functionality to merge results from the individual companies, compare matching segments, compare surnames, maintain a log of contact and much more.

A big thanks to the developer Becky and to her virtual team of beta-testers around the world who have helped to produce such amazing functionality. If you are facing similar problems on how to keep track of your analysis then give it a try. Be sure to read the helpful User Guide first though, so that you upload your files in the right sequence.

23andme – Addressing anonymity (Nov 7, 2015)

Snip 23andme statusSince my 23andme results arrived in the middle of September I have received 15 new matches, giving me a total of 916. The level of information provided is highly variable. Some have a comprehensive list of surnames and locations and/or access to a tree giving a good starting point for prioritising who to contact. Unfortunately there is no option to compare matching segments without first making contact and agreeing to share genomes. I started slowly, with focus on those where I could see a common surname or location. In my initial approach I completely avoided any who had decided to remain anonymous. I revised that strategy after reading Kitty Cooper’s blog article: “Time to send your last 23andme invitations“.

Following her advice, I sent introductions to over 600 anonymous matches. I also completed my contact initiative towards named matches. It took a few days to work through all of them, but the effort is now beginning to pay off. I now have 142 matches who have agreed to share genomes and several of them have responded positively to the suggestion of collaboration to find our common ancestors. So if you have been hesitating to take the first step and make contact with your matches, my advice is jump in and go for it. 15% of my 23andme match base have said yes already and I am expecting more as the last invitations just went out today. My next task is to work systematically through all of the positive responses. I have already shared trees and begun a dialogue with some, but still have a lot of follow up mails to send.

Caught a Crackett  (Oct 22, 2015)

After 4 years of hunting I have finally “caught my first Crackett”. Imagine my jump for joySnip shared surnames Crackett today when I logged on to find that, after four years of testing and using three autosomal DNA testing companies, I have finally hooked my first match that has a named Crackett in their pedigree. This potential new Australian cousin has a brick wall at her Crackett great grandmother. I may be able to knock down that brick wall for her if we can just figure out how the young lady I am assuming fits managed to get herself from NZ to Australia after travelling from Northumberland to Wellington in 1913. If my theory proves to be correct then our common ancestors are my great great grandparents, William Cracket of Kyloe and Elisabeth Tait of Norham. This could be a significant breakthrough in working with my Tait brick wall.

Any day now  (Oct 18, 2015)

Eagerly awaiting the next two sets of results from AncestryDNA. Both kits were posted in Northumberland on 26th Sept, arrived on 6th Oct and started processing on 8th Oct. If they process as quickly as my last two kits then the results should be rolling in  sometime this coming week.

Status AncestryDNA sample SandJ

Alone in DNA.LAND  (Oct 18, 2015)

The new kid on the block in analysis of DNA results is DNA.LAND, which has its roots in academia. This new service for analysing the genome was just made available early this month and to date has about 6000 users. I uploaded my raw data from FTDNA Family Finder on Oct 10th and the first report rolled in today. A little disappointing to get a relative finder report with no matches, but not really surprising. It will be interesting to see how this develops as their database grows.

First result DNA LAND

MRCA: John Davis and/or Mary ??  (Sept. 20, 2015)

Having now tested my brother on AncestryDNA I am able to pick up on additional interesting matches as he has inherited some segments of DNA which I didn’t get. The first experience of a match to him, but not to me, helps me to verify some of my paper trail findings for my maternal grandfather’s Davis ancestors. These people have been a challenge to me because of their common surname. They have also challenged me geographically as my knowledge of communities around the border of Shropshire and Worcestershire is fairly limited. Google maps and genuki have proved very useful in tracking my Davis lineage.

Our new Australian 4th cousin shares 3rd great grandparents with us: John Davis and his wife Mary. John was born in 1799 in Madeley, Shropshire to parents James Davis and Mary Beach. John and his Mary (maiden surname unknown) had 4 children: Sarah Ann 1829, George 1833, Mary 1837, John 1839. My brother and I are descended from their son George Davis and our match from their daughter Mary Davis who married Jesse Morrall.

DNA John Davis and Mary

As we continue our analysis we may be able to determine whether our shared DNA came from John or Mary. It may even give us some clues as to who she was.

The first paper trail indication I had, early in my research, that there was a Davis/Morrall connection was a young lodger, called Charles Morell, staying with my great great grandfather George Davis in Choppington, Northumberland in 1881. It has taken me several years to figure out that he was actually a nephew and is the Charles Edward Morrall senior shown in the figure above.

My third ethnicity estimate  (Sept. 17, 2015)

I have now tested with the three major providers of autosomal DNA testing for genealogy purposes and have three very different ethnicity estimates from them. The estimates are based on comparison with reference populations. Interesting to see that my Scandinavian percentage has dropped with each test. All agree that I am predominantly British, but the other ethnicities thrown into the mix vary quite a bit. This is my Ancestry Composition as determined by 23andme:

23andme Ancestry Composition


23andme processing completed  (Sept. 17, 2015)

Step 6 of 6 in the processing of my autosomal DNA at 23andme was ready when I woke 23andme step 6up this morning. Nobody seems to understand the length of time for each step or even the sequence of reports produced within a step. However, I can now stop counting the days and start to enjoy the fun of trying to make sense of all of this new information. I am already in contact with two American matches who have Northumbrians in their tree. so cross your fingers and hope that we will be able to disentangle the connection.

Where to start?  (Sept. 16, 2015)

Since my own DNA results from 23andme came in yesterday and my brother’s DNA results from AncestryDNA came in today I am “spoilt for choice” as to where to start my analysis and follow up. Not enough hours in a day to take a serious look at all of these new cousins. I have sent half a dozen share requests to the most hopeful 23andme matches. Two have responded today. I am now tackling my brother’s AncestryDNA results. Very encouraging to see that there is extremely high confidence that we are immediate relatives. Not that there was ever any doubt there 🙂

Top relative surnames (Sept. 15, 2015)

Here is another curious report which 23andme have given me today. Top Relative Surnames. I have taken a snip of the top 10 to illustrate my puzzlement. I clearly have some homework to do before I can fully appreciate the value of this report. Had to smile at the line where my closest relative is me 🙂 Am I being a little dense here? I would have intuitively expected to be my own closest relative on all or none. Many of these top 10 names have not featured anywhere in my research to date, but I can lay claim to Wilson and possibly Jackson in my pedigree. Most puzzling of all is the Enrichment scale on the diagram. If that is going to enrich my research in any way then I will have to do some reading to figure out what it is trying to tell me and why it overrides the count in the default view.

Top relative surnames

Countries of Ancestry (Sept. 15, 2015)

Countries of Ancestry23andme have also suggested Countries of Ancestry for me today. I am a little sceptical about this analysis as it is based on where my matches have reported that their 4 grandparents originated. It excludes USA, Canada and Australia due to immigration levels, but as far as I can see, if their great grandparents were immigrants then this can introduce some strange results.

UK is understandable and I am not surprised at Ireland as I think I have several lines that may have crossed the Irish Sea. Even Germany is no surprise as I have been toying with the idea that my Miller line may originally have been Muller/Mueller. A bit baffled by Bulgaria though. Nothing I seen among matches on FTDNA or AncestryDNA has pointed in that direction. It will be interesting to see if anything comes from that area when my Ancestry Composition result is ready.

23andme DNA Relatives processed (Sept. 15, 2015)

23andme relativesMy DNA Relatives list (901 in total) has rolled in today from 23andme and was accompanied by Countries of Ancestry. Have not had time yet to see what the Countries report gives me. Still waiting for Ancestry Composition. I am now about to dive in and see if any of these new “relatives” have an easily identifiable place on my tree. Particularly interested to see if the one single person who is a 2nd or 3rd cousin might give me some good clues.

DNA % shared with my aunt (Sept. 13, 2015)

Shared DNA Lyn and HalFTDNA Family Finder tells me that I share 1564.49 cMs of autosomal DNA with my aunt and that we have a longest block of 93.28 cMs. Do any of you wonder what these numbers really mean? How much of our ancestral DNA do we share as aunt and niece? This pie chart gives a visual representation of our shared DNA.

If you would like to run a similar analysis yourself, then you can take a look at MorganSense. This is one of many tools currently under development. If you would like to suggest ideas for new tools or get involved in beta-testing of the tools that are currently under development then please join MorganSense User Group on facebook.

mtDNA Haplogroup (Sept. 11, 2015)

U5a1b1My initial results from 23andme have confirmed the mitochondrial DNA analysis as performed by FTDNA. Both have assigned a haplogroup of U5a1b1. The additional mutations that I have are not very common. There are currently not enough people who have tested with these mutations to be able to assign a new subclade.

Step 5 at 23andme (Sept. 10, 2015)

23andme step 5My initial results at 23andme rolled in during the night. I have hopped from step 4.5 to Step 5. I still have no idea how long I might have to wait for the really interesting part where I get to see ancestral origins and potential relatives. Today they have given me raw data, which I already have two sets of from FTDNA and AncestryDNA. They have also given me health reports, mtDNA and Neanderthal percentage.

Progress on 23andme (Sept. 8, 2015)

My sample at 23andme has taken a half step forward today. It is still in Stage 4, but has now moved from analyzing to quality review. Unable to show you the actual status report as my snip tool is not working after upgrade to Win 10.

Alias Smith and Jones? (Sept. 6 2015)

Most common surnamesFTDNA Family Finder publishes statistics of the most common surnames on your match list. I had to smile when I saw these stats for my aunt. Really useful in narrowing down where to look for new cousins and ancestors. My own are slightly different but no more illuminating: 10 Brown, 9 Williams, 7 Smith.

Interesting though that my maternal aunt has more Smith matches than I do when I also have direct line Smith ancestors on my paternal side. Maybe I need to take a closer look at some of those collateral line Smiths on my mother’s side. Is there anyone out there who has actually pinned down a new common ancestor using this type of statistics?

AncestryDNA circles (Sept. 6 2015)

AncestryDNA no circlesOver 4 months since I tested with AncestryDNA, but still not a circle in sight. I suppose that is not really surprising as I only have 3 shared ancestor hints so far. I was wondering if my recent tidying of geographical locations might help, but it has not made any difference so far. Where are all of you people who have ancestors from Northumberland or Durham? I hope you will soon be testing and developing your trees. I would also be happy to see some of you from Aberdeenshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire and Shropshire joining in the fun 🙂

. There are also a variety of tests that can be taken. If you are about to dip your toe in the water and take your first DNA test, then a good place to learn about how to define your goals and get best value for money is the ISOGG wiki. (ISOGG = International Society of Genetic Genealogy). Particularly useful if you are planning to test to help identify ancestors is the Autosomal DNA Testing Comparison Chart.

Autosomal DNA relationship calculator (Sept. 5, 2015)

One of my distant genetic cousins is developing an autosomal DNA relationship calculator. This is a work-in-progress at the moment, so he is happy to have folks test and offer suggestions on improvements. You can find more information about his development activities on Robert James Liguori’s Blog.

Sample status (Sept. 1, 2015)

I have two autosomal DNA samples currently processing at testing labs in USA. They were posted a couple of weeks apart from England during my summer holidays. The first is at 23andme. This kit has been at Stage 4 (Analzying DNA) for a couple of weeks now:

Status 23andme sample

The second kit is at AncestryDNA. This one arrived at their lab last Thursday, but has just gone over to lab processing status today.

Status AncestryDNA sample

Any bets on which company will win the race to deliver results?

MRCA: George Murray and/or Anne Ruddiman

Just occurred to me that some of you may not be familiar with the abbreviation MRCA. It refers to Most Recent Common Ancestor.

My third DNA success was also a result of a shared ancestor hint on AncestryDNA. In this case the match is my 4C1R located in Ohio, USA. Our first shared ancestors on the paper trail are my 4th great grandparents: George Murray and Anne Ruddiman of Aberdeenshire, Scotland. This was a very encouraging find as my Murray line paper trail has the challenges of having to wend its way through an NPE and disentangle a plethora of George Murrays in Aberdeenshire. Here too it will take more work to establish whether it was George or Anne who contributed the shared segments.

DNA George Murray and Anne Ruddiman

MRCA: John Henderson and/or Harriet Miller Newton

My second DNA success was a couple of months ago when I started to review the results of my test at AncestryDNA. This one came up in my shared ancestor hints, with a little green leaf, and was easy to follow in the paper trail. Our first shared ancestors are my 3rd great grandparents, John Henderson and Harriet Miller Newton. The married on 24 April 1833 at St. Hilda’s, South Shields, Durham. Marriage location was a little surprising as they were both living on the other side of the river Tyne in Northumberland at the time. Since out test is on AncestryDNA we have no indication of the quantity of shared DNA or on which chromosomes we have shared segments. This is the probable connection:DNA John Henderson and Harriet Miller Newton

MRCA: John Thornton and/or Margery Hall

My first DNA success was a few months ago using FTDNA Family Finder. This one took me by surprise as the first match name easily recognisable as someone I had corresponded with on paper trail research. He is a 4th cousin in America, but does not match me as we have not inherited enough matching DNA segments through our respective lines. Luckily I have also tested my aunt and he showed up as a match to her with 77.64 cM and a longest block of 21.83 cM.  There is no X-match. We already knew that the first set of ancestors we share are my 3rd great grandparents John Thornton and Margery Hall who married 17 May 1822 at Hartburn in Northumberland. It will take more work to figure out how John and/or Margery contributed their DNA to us.DNA John Thornton and Margery Hall

Documenting DNA successes (August 2015)

I have been contemplating how to document my DNA successes. I need to find a format that will enable me to explain the results of each match that I successfully investigate without divulging information about the living cousins that match my tests. The other issue is how to explain the situation when I have identified a common pair of ancestors, but still do not know which member of the couple contributed the matching DNA. Most of my matches are still too distant to be able to make much sense of triangulation and attribute inherited DNA segments to a specific MRCA. They are, however, beginning to give me a higher degree of comfort that my paper trail research is on the right track for several lines.

Testing status (August 2015)

I now have two more tests in progress. One of these is a third test for myself. I decided to cast the net wider by adding a test at 23andme. I posted the sample while in England on my summer holidays. Status feedback indicates that it went into Stage 4 Analysis on 18th August. Maybe it will hit the next step in the next few days. The other new test was for my brother who has kindly agreed to submit a test to AncestryDNA. His sample arrived at the lab a couple of days ago, but is not showing any processing activity yet. I suppose the earliest that can be hoped for will be a result mid-September.

Current testing status is shown in the table below. The eagle-eyed among you may be wondering how I have less shared ancestor hints now than I had in May. This is because following up on one hint has helped me to see that I was climbing a wrong Smith branch. I have now corrected my tree and so that hint has disappeared.

Company/Test Myself Brother Aunt
FTDNA/FF 844 matches Not tested 981 matches
FTDNA/mtDNA U5a1b1*
2 GD0
11 GD3
Not tested U5a1b1
3 GD1
AncestryDNA 2751 matches
3 hints
27 at 4th or closer
No circles
Arrived at lab
27 Aug
Not tested
23andme In analysis
Stage 4
Not tested Not tested

My next test (April/May 2015)

I decided to try another test at Easter and sent off my sample to AncestryDNA. I was impressed by the speed of delivery and processing. I had my results back about a month after placing the order. 44 pages of matches, with 50 matches to a page. 4 shared ancestor hints. Only 24 matches at 4th cousin level or closer. No DNA circles. No NADs (New Ancestor Discoveries).  It is going to take a few weeks to make sense of all this and establish contact with those matches I would like to investigate further.

Using autosomal DNA to confirm paper trail findings (April 2015)

Four years ago I took an autosomal DNA test using FTDNA Family Finder. Among my main aims in taking this test were:

  • to see if it would help with tracing my elusive Webb line
  • to try to identify who may have been the father of my great grandfather George Murray Turner, born George Murray.

My initial results gave about 100 matches, none of which made much sense to me at the time. As of Easter 2015 I have 720 matches. I have not been particularly systematic in my follow up of matches, but have learned a great deal and had fun trying to figure it all out. I have, however, had a couple of successes in my follow-up which have helped me to confirm elements of my paper trail research. Given the sketchiness of some record sets in my part of the world it is very satisfying to have genetic confirmation that I have not been unwittingly barking up the wrong tree.

Last year I asked my maternal aunt to take a test to give me a better chance of identifying which side of the family my matches belong to. The benefit of being a generation further back gives her a total of 843 matches as of Easter 2015. We have over 160 matches in common. This does not mean that all of my other matches are from the paternal side though, as my grandparents will have passed on different segments of their DNA to my mother and my aunt.

Now I am hoping that more of my family may become interested and agree to take a test to help with this research.

11 thoughts on “DNA plus paper

  1. Pingback: DNA : John Thornton and Margery Hall | Digging up the ancients

  2. Pingback: DNA: John Henderson and Harriet Miller Newton | Digging up the ancients

  3. Pingback: DNA: George Murray and Anne Ruddiman | Digging up the ancients

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  9. Pingback: DNA: John Davis and Mary | Digging up the ancients

  10. Pingback: 3 new topics on DNA plus paper | Digging up the ancients

  11. Pingback: Two new topics on “DNA Plus Paper” | Digging up the ancients

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