Wow, could the genealogy world have received more exciting news than the latest updates in technology and the use of DNA?! Both Ancestry and MyHeritage announced here at RootsTech, that they have developed new tools and techniques to help genealogists find their families!
New AncestryDNA tools If you haven’t seen the improvements on your own AncestryDNA, you will want to click on the Extras tab in the black bar at the top of your screen. A drop-down menu appears so scroll down the menu and select Ancestry Lab.
You will see the new design, color-coding, custom label options, and other new tools allowing you to sort, group, and view your DNA Matches many ways. You can create up to 24 custom family groups with custom labels (and there are some labels that they offer), assign a color and apply to your DNA Matches. Here’s a picture from my page:
The filters are different (you lost the ability to filter by geography or region) but gained some new items:
And from DNA Circles (a version of triangulation that groups those who share a common ancestor and matching DNA) to ThruLines, where relatives are suggested and you may find connections in a new way.
Not to leave out the new developments at MyHeritage, here’s a great easy image of what they are offering us – really fun! A version of other methods we’ve been learning ……
I’ll admit to be both overwhelmed AND excited about these new tools and I’m still exploring. No dinner out here at RootsTech for me tonight – playing with this is on my agenda!!!
Today’s theme for me here at RootsTech today is DNA!!! It began early – a “Power Hour” with Christi Lynn Jacobsen, Dana Leeds, and Diahan Southard – You CAN Do DNA. An excellent and well-taught overview of why DNA is important for genealogists. They used great examples, kept it simple and honed in on the important points. Of COURSE! They are all professionals working with DNA for years, so they have explained it over and over to clients. Great job!
Then a series of classes with Blaine Bettinger (found out he’s my cousin! Well, it’s pretty distant – 8th cousin – but that matters, right?!). He too, a long-time professional with DNA, offered two presentations – the first on Essential Considerations for DNA Evidence, explained the pitfalls and potential issues in working with or utilizing DNA evidence to find family relationships. He is great with explaining complex information in easy-to-understand terms. His second presentation – Chromosome Mapping Tips and Techniques – shared about the DNA Painter tool and how it can be utilized with data from FamilyTree DNA, GEDMatch, 23AndMe, and MyHeritage (not Ancestry). Step by step, Blaine led us through the reasons to do chromosome mapping while also giving advice and his own experience about what works best. VERY helpful!
My brain is fried – and NOT because the presenters didn’t do an awesome job of explaining DNA and using it with “paper” genealogy. It was just a lot to take in but I am so energized to dig into this when I return home. Very exciting way to help me make some potential breakthroughs in my family research, and to offer to clients in my Lineage Journeys work.
Yes, it’s the new year … and how many DNA testing kits did you get as a gift? Yes, it’s a current fad and yes, it is also fun. But let me help to frame some of the issues with DNA, genealogy, testing, ethnicity vs. race and those pretty pie charts.
First, I’m a genealogist AND a scientist. I have two degrees that stress the importance of data, replication as a tool of quality and refinement, and control groups and more. And I value documentation, and proof – more than one document that provides information confirming or refuting what another document says, and a “reasonably exhaustive search” – a standard of utilizing everything that we can access to prove/disprove facts.
Second, let’s be clear – DNA testing is in its early stages. Yes, it has come a VERY long way from the 1980s when it was first used with genealogical information, and tools now available to us is far more extensive, detailed, scientifically-based that ever.
And third, there is NO biological basis for “race”. From a chemical, DNA, or cellular level, we are all 99% the same and we share chemistry, DNA and cellular structures with bananas, trees and other living things. We are carbon-based organisms that have evolved over millenium. To state, because of DNA data, that we are a particular race is just wrong – scientifically, genetically, socially and otherwise. There are plenty of research-based studies and writings that trace every human living on the planet back to Africa…..thousands and thousands of years ago. AND those pretty pie charts – with percentages and lovely colors – stating this or that percentage of DNA from Western Europe or the Iberian peninsula or wherever …. that information is based on a testing database of samples that place the same or similar DNA in a particular geography at a point in time (most of the DNA sites will offer that this ancestral DNA is from approximately a 500 to 800 year old time frame).
So, to keep it simple, if you decide to use the DNA test kits (please at least be sure to use the companies that work very hard to maintain scientific standards, privacy rights, testing protocols and ethics – these are Ancestry, 23 and Me, MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, and FindMyPast), there are some things to consider: 1) Please know that virtually everyone will get a surprise from their results. It may be as simple as “I didn’t know we had Scandinavian ancestors!” to as emotional as “My dad isn’t my dad??!!!” Yours truly is working her way through what a really big revelation means, so don’t take this lightly. 2) The pie chart is the LEAST of it! The database that is used for the testing is always growing and changing, refining and developing. I’ve already seen as least two updates that have changed my results – in the first one, I was Ashkenazi Jewish, then from the Iberian peninsula, and now it’s Scandinavian. The Scandinavian one actually makes sense as I know that my ancestors (from the years of doing research in the paper trails my ancestors left) were from Normandy – a region of France heavily impacted by Norman or Viking invasions … hence “Scandinavian”. THE most important part of your results is the COUSIN matching!! You will find people related to you through the DNA that you didn’t know about (I found someone a half hour from my home!) and you will have a really fun time getting to know them! Trust me – the COUSIN CONNECTION is the BEST part of DNA testing. 3) Follow the instructions. It’s easy, and perhaps a bit yucky, but it’s important. The science is built on a clean sample and your results will make sense. 4) AND know that there is a paper trail that will help you to sort it all out, with lots of helpful people to show you how to look at what you find in your results.
And don’t let anyone tell you what RACE you are – because they can’t! The results can tell you a bit about where geographically your ancestors traveled through on their way to where you are today. It will tell you a bit about ethnicity – the culture of our families, such as customs, favorite foods, holidays, dances and music, clothing styles, and possibly eye and hair colors. The testing information is based in finding clusters, clumps of DNA that reappear over and over again in a particular region, geography, locality in people in that area. I know, for instance, that on my mom’s side, our people were Native, French-Canadian, and Scottish because – and this is important – others with our similar DNA were from these identified groups because of records, documentation, and more. But it doesn’t tell me WHICH tribe, or WHERE in France or Scotland, or that level of detail. At least yet …. as more and more people are tested and can document specifics about these ancestors, we can begin to narrow down migratory trails, immigration routes and track back into time.
So please look beyond the pretty pie charts. Take time to look for the paper trail that your ancestors left to find out about their lives …. their religion, foods, homes, jobs and what made their lives worth living. You are the product of pairs of people who had a relationship that created a child …. I was going to say “pairs of people who loved” but I know that many children were born of affairs, rape and incest. In the context of their lives, the child lived and had children ….. down to you. Think about the blessing of two parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, 16 great-great-grandparents, and more going back into time. Learn about that and don’t worry about whether they wore kilts or lederhosen, a sari or animal skins … find a cousin and learn about your common ancestors’ lives and the courage, stamina, and strength that helped them to thrive. Let me know if I can help ….
MyHeritage made some great announcements about new features in their DNA work! One, the DNAQuest.org is an effort by the company to help adoptees – using this site address, MyHeritage is offering FREE testing for those experiencing hardships (you have to apply for the free testing) but they have dedicated money to this effort and it should help many. Just before coming to #RootsTech, I had a great conversation with a woman who used DNA to find three sisters (two half-sisters, one full) and, within a year, they all met and are expanding their family relationships in a loving way!
The other great update from MyHeritage included their new tool – DNA Chromosome Browser.
MyHeritage announced #RootsTech in Salt Lake City a major upgrade of its chromosome browser that makes it easier for users to analyze their DNA matches! If you’ve taken a MyHeritage DNA test or those who have uploaded their raw data from other DNA companies, you can check out this feature in the MyHeritage DNA drop-down menu. I’ve checked it out on my own DNA and it is fun, and I’ve been spending alot of time playing with it.
I have to say that the advances in DNA research and the opportunities it provides to family historians and genealogists was SO on display at #RootsTech … the power we all have to break through brick walls and discover relatives, history, migration patterns, and family stories is phenomenal!!! If you aren’t on board with these tools (AncestryDNA, FindMyPast, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritageDNA and more), you are truly missing an opportunity!