Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy New Year 2016

Our 23andMe DNA test results are in! And our impressions of their service . . .

Yesterday, I got back the results of my son's atDNA test. It is my first experience with this genetic genealogy testing company. I have tested in the past at Ancestry and FTDNA. And in my opinion of 23andMe - what an absolute utter mess.

The site is not user friendly (very difficult to navigate), the genetic tools, especially the chromosome browser, if that is what they call it, is non-standard and it is darn near useless.

They have loaded their plate up for all this health stuff and turned away from the genetic genealogy part of DNA testing. To add insult to injury it looks like they may have hired some of Ancestry's programmers to make their site real pretty, but like Ancestry and their "new site" the trade off is it is non-functional as a working DNA testing site (tongue firmly planted in cheek).

This experience has been a huge disappointment and as a genetic genealogy instructor I will make sure to let my students know not to utilize this service if they are interested in doing real genetic genealogy testing.

Bottom line: I immediately took his raw data and uploaded it to GedMatch (will also populate his test to FTDNA), and will wash my hands of this site, their tests, tools and company. For something that I have heard others rave about in the past, the 23andMe of today pretty much sucks and is a huge disappointment IMHO.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Gedmatch's new spreadsheet feature

I am a huge fan of Gedmatch, a tier 1 supporter. It is a place where you can read the tea leaves, and tell the story that your atDNA test results hold for you. TL Dixon on his Roots & Recombination DNA blog just posted about a new feature - a spreadsheet option when you run your Gedmatch kit number (mine is A343022) through the Gedmatch admixture calculators (ie Dodecad, MDLP, PuntDNA, Eurogenes). This new Population Spreadsheet corresponds to your ORACLE results --- simply a population-fitting program measuring your genetic distance to a set of chosen reference populations based upon your Gedmatch admixture calculator results.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Tri-County Community College Spring 2016 Genealogy Classes

Here is a list of genealogy classes that I will be teaching at Tri-County Community College in Peachtree, North Carolina, during the Spring 2016 semester.

Genealogy – Searching for Your Ancestors

Who am I and where did I come from? It's that intriguing question that has made genealogy research one of America's most popular hobbies. But where does one begin such research? What resources exist? How can you prove that what you find is true and valid? How do you go beyond America's borders to find roots in other English speaking nations? This "new" TCCC genealogy course - Searching for your Ancestors - offers the beginner and experienced genealogist alike a fresh approach to genealogy research. Subjects cover the full gambit from organizing your research to exploring your family history using traditional and electronic research, social media, and our newest tool DNA testing. Whether you are new to genealogy or have been family hunting since microfilm days, this course will assist you in researching your family in the 21st century. This beginner/intermediate course is a prerequisite for advanced genealogy courses offered at TCCC. 32.5 hrs.(13 weeks)
January 19 - April 12 - Tuesday 6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

Genealogy – Getting Started with Genetic Genealogy

Genetic science can help you with your genealogy research, but you are going to have to take a test first. That test is a "low cost" autosomal DNA test available at DNA testing companies such as Ancestry, Family Tree DNA or 23andMe. This course will cover the new and expanding field of genetic genealogy basics and is designed for DNA newbies and other genealogists who want to get the most from their DNA testing. Some of the topics to be covered include an introduction to DNA testing and technical terms, the different types of autosomal DNA tests available, how DNA testing will help your genealogy research, what are your ethnic origins and how to interpret your results. Special emphasis will be given to the AncestryDNA autosomal test. If you want to demystify genetic genealogy, and you want to use this new and exciting research tool in your family history study, then this course is for you. This course is a prerequisite for the advanced DNA course. 7.5 hrs. (3 weeks)

January 21 - February 4  - Thursday 6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Genealogy – Getting More Out Of Genetic Genealogy Research

This advanced course is intended for the genealogist who has a thorough understanding of genetic genealogy basics and has experience applying DNA testing to family history research. The course will examine the methods used by genetic genealogists to thoroughly and accurately analyze DNA testing results to advance knowledge of an individual’s genealogy. Instruction will include the incorporation of various types of DNA testing results, analyzed in conjunction with documentary evidence. Part of this course will include comparing DNA testing data from all of the companies offering products to the genealogy community with explanations and demonstrations of the most valuable features and tools for the genetic genealogist. Students in this course will be exposed to skills for integrating DNA testing with traditional genealogy research. Pre-Requisite: Getting Started with Genetic Genealogy course. 12.5 hrs. (5 weeks)

February 11 - March 10 - Thursday 6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Genealogy – Genealogy Research in Military Records

Military records are from times of war and times of peace. They identify individuals who served in the armed forces or who were eligible for service. How can Military Records help in our genealogy research?  Military records can help you learn more about your ancestors who served their country and can often provide valuable information on the veteran, as well as on all members of the family. It is highly recommended that you have taken one of our beginner/intermediate courses before you take this course. 7.5 hrs. (3 weeks)

March 17 – March 31 - Thursday 6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Genealogy – Getting It Right

If you are one of the millions of people who research, record, organize, or share family history, then this course is for you. You will learn a systematic approach to recording information in your genealogy databases and online trees. This course will teach you the rules and language you need so that your research will fit smoothly and efficiently with the rest of the family trees and histories being compiled worldwide. We will teach you how to compile a style guide for all your data entry regardless of the genealogy platforms you use. Whether you are a beginner or seasoned veteran in the world of genealogy, this is a class you do not want to miss. 5 hrs. (2 weeks)

April 7 – April 14 - Thursday 6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

For more information or to get your name on the interest list contact Lisa Long at (828 835-4241).

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Merry Christmas Family Tree Maker Users

Well if you were using Family Tree Maker (FTM) software and you used it to interface (tree sync) with your Ancestry tree(s), this announcement will not make you a happy camper. Got it yesterday in e-mail and confirmed it on their Ancestry blog. Also thank you Karen Howard, one of my genealogy students, for also passing along the heads up on this.
Dear Family Tree Maker™ community,
Ancestry is proud to have made a significant investment this year to bring valuable new content and records to the Ancestry site. In 2015, we’ve made 220 million searchable historical records from Mexico available, more than 170 million pages from the largest collection of U.S. will and probate records, among others. We’ve also introduced new features such as Ancestry Academy, and major advancements for AncestryDNA.
As we strive to provide our customers with the best experience possible, we are constantly evaluating our services and product offerings. True to this focus, we’ve taken a hard look at the declining desktop software market and the impact this has on being able to continue to provide new content, product enhancements and support that our users need. With that, we’ve made the tough decision to stop selling Family Tree Maker as of December 31, 2015.
We will continue to support existing Family Tree Maker owners at least through January 1, 2017. During this time, all features of the software, including TreeSync™ will continue to work. Our Member Services team will also remain available to assist with questions or issues you may have.
These changes are never easy. But by focusing our efforts, we can concentrate on continuing to build great products for our loyal Ancestry community.
You can find additional details about the retirement of Family Tree Maker on our blog.
So this is more fallout by the implementation of their new Ancestry website next week. This company continues to amaze me how they manage to tick off their members on a regular basis.
Not sure who is advising Tim Sullivan Ancestry CEO in these matters, but I guess when you are the 10,000 pound gorilla in the room, you will do what you want subscribers be damned.
My guess is this represents the Internet cloud mentality that permeates the net these days. Also this looks like more a marketing ploy to keep you as a subscriber rather than doing good genealogy. I can't imagine doing genealogy in a net/tree only environment.
If you are using FTM software I highly recommend making the move to Legacy genealogy software.
Geoff Rasmussen at Legacy is smiling all the way to the bank.

Friday, December 4, 2015

More AncestryDNA woes.

Well I have been on the phone again to DNA, more issues like the ones I have uncovered below.
This time my dad and I shared matches with a set of cousins and he had the leaf matches but I did not.
Here are the screen captures with mine matches we share above and his below.
He had the leafs hints and I did not. I discovered this due to the extensive documenting via spreadsheet that I work with all the DNA testing results I work with. As I explained to the Ancestry DNA support tech, if I am having these issues I guarantee that others are as well. So far this has manifested itself in only my father and me matches. You might want to closely examine your matches with other relatives to see if they or you have leaf matches and they do or not have those matches. Do keep in mind that there is a 10 generation limit (7GGP - 9th cousins). If you are looking at parent/child matches both need to be within that 10 gen limit in order to document this issue.
Let's hope that Ancestry gets this fixed. Oh yea, they still haven't fixed the initial issue with my cousin's Gerald's tree/leaf match with me (see previous post). I have replied to their email telling me it was all fixed.
"Not so fast my friend. It isn't fixed."

Sunday, November 29, 2015

AncestryDNA Frustration Levels Continue to Rise at this Genealogy House

Well here I am again, writing about more troubles and issues with This time we have a mix of issues they may involve the old vs new Ancestry website, as well as the computers that run the DNA matching system.
During the third week of November, I called in two trouble complaints to the tech support people at AncestryDNA. One involved a problem getting back to the match list from a match's page when using the "new Ancestry" webpages with either Internet Explorer 11 or Google Chrome. Switch back to the old Ancestry website pages and the issue goes away.
I don't mind telling you if I keep having issues with AncestryDNA pages crashing my browser after a handful of match views, and me having to restart the browser each time that happens, you won't be hearing nice things after the 15th of December when the old pages go away. You folks need to get this fixed ASAP or delay your implementation. BTW I did confirm that others are having the same issue and they were able to duplicate the issue at AncestryDNA tech support.
But there is a second problem and this second issue is a bit more sinister in nature and it calls into play the entire computer DNA-tree matching system at Ancestry. The first instant I have documented  involves a cousin who is a DNA match at both FTDNA and Ancestry that I have been researching with for decades. Since my early days as a Beta tester for AncestryDNA, my cousin Gerald, my dad and I have been AncestryDNA leaf matches with a strong paper trail that supports it. DNA testing at Ancestry, GEDmatch and FTDNA all show the same thing, we are all cousins, well until now.
Recently while adding in the new shared cM/segment data that Ancestry now has available for each match into my DNA matches spread sheet, I noticed something very odd. My cousin Gerald's tree was no longer showing a leaf match between him, my dad and me. In addition it was showing his tree as private.
Now to some that might not be that big of a thing, but Gerald's tree is not private and I have contributor access to it (both recently confirmed by him). In addition, now when I do a surname search off either my father's DNA match list page or mine, the surname Witt we share in common does not bring his tree up in the DNA match list (he has all sorts of Witt ancestors and so do I). Nothing has changed on either end, we still have him listed as a DNA match, but now he is not a leaf match and we can't see the tree anymore off the DNA match page since it says it is private, yet I do have contributor access.
What makes it even more bizarre, I got an email this week saying that he had added to his tree. When I clicked on the link, I could see his tree via that email link and here is what it showed.
If you look closely at the graphic above it says Your role (that is me) Contributor.
Now the nice lady at AncestryDNA tech support was able to verify that there was an issue and put in a trouble call on November 20 [Incident: 151118-000867] which I also uploaded to screen captures per her instructions. I even received a nice email thanking me (verifying they had received the screen captures) from someone named Christopher.
On November 25, I received the following email from Ancestry.

This email is in reference to your recent inquiry with Ancestry Member Services, number 151118-000867.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to assist you. Now we'd like to know how we did, and what we can do better. Please take a moment to complete the following short survey about the support we provided.

Click here to take this survey.

Sincerely, Ancestry Member Services

**Please do not respond to this auto-generated message, as we will not receive it.

When you clicked on the link to take the survey it didn't work. Surprise, surprise.
Regardless, of what this email says the issue isn't fixed, it doesn't work still either. They either don't know what they are doing, didn't look at it or just flat blew me off, none of which makes me a happy camper, uh, customer.
BTW, Ancestry does not show a match between my cousin Gerald and my 1C-1R Jerilyn (GEDmatch shows they share 8.6 cM/1637 SNPs on Chromosome 10 and she is a descendant of the same line as my dad, Gerald and me, but no match at Ancestry.
Now it is getting even worse. I have my four family DNA testers all linked to their spots in our family DNA tree. Those four are me, my dad, my cousin mentioned above (that is also genetically a match to my cousin Gerald) and my mother. It is the tree I use publicly for my AncestryDNA testers (we share the same family).
Since this incident cropped up a new one has just surfaced today. Again keep in mind that my dad and I are using a common tree that I have prepared at Ancestry just for DNA matching purposes. So any leaf match I have, he should also. But not so fast my friend.
Today I discovered that while I have an AncestryDNA leaf match with one of my cousins and her father (see screen grab above click for a zoomed in version), my dad doesn't get the same treatment from the computers at Ancestry (see screen grabs below for the same two cousins shown above for me).
And this plays into what I have been seeing on a regular basis now since the changeover to the v2 last year. I track all my leaf matches for all six of my testers very, very closely. I have seen leaf matches come, go and reappear again; matches themselves come, go and reappear and in some cases disappear; and sometime it happens in a matter of only hours. One match in particular appeared, disappeared, reappeared as a leaf match, disappeared and came back as a leaf match again, all in a matter of two weeks.
I'm sorry Ancestry this is no way to run a railroad. You have some major issues and I bet if others followed their matches as close as I do, they would start discovering some crazy issues as well.
You folks have some problems and instead of investing time, manpower and energy make your site pretty for the masses, how about taking that same energy, time and manpower to make it work properly.
My subscription to your site is up for renewal in two months. I have been a continuous subscriber for nearly 15 years now. But all of this has given me pause to rethink whether this relationship will go on further or not. Something has to give and it isn't going to be my sanity, plus the waste of time and energy I am expending working with your DNA system.
Guess it is time to get back on the phone with tech support again. Just damn!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

News Flash! Digitized Microfilm: From the Drawer to Your Computer

Great new from the FamilySearch Blog at has the complete story,

Exciting news is here explaining how users will access microfilmed records found in the FamilySearch catalog. In the early weeks of November, a new feature called the Thumbnail Gallery will be available to the public. Everywhere that historical record images are visible, users can view a single full-screen image or view a gallery of thumbnail (small) images for all images on a microfilm. Parts of this new viewer can be accessed through the Record Hints on Family Tree.

It is important to note that the thumbnail gallery will respect all record restrictions. Some digitized films will be available to anyone at home with a FamilySearch log-in. Other films will be LDS-only or family history center–only. Logged in users will see the camera icon based on their access rights. Only completely unrestricted images will display the camera icon for users who are not logged in. When you notice a film with the format icons, look at the same film as a logged-in user and nonlogged-in user. View films from home and from your family history center. Becoming familiar with the icons will help you be a better resource for answers from your staff and from visitors.

A complete transition to digitized film will happen over several years.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Another Ancestry DNA change just hit the street

The other night I told Gayle (those of you who do not know that is my lovely spouse) that I knew Ancestry was fixing to make another change/upgrade. And I was right. Must b getting pretty good at predicting these things now.

They have added a new feature (aka another DNA diagnostic tool) to the Ancestry DNA match page.

Now when you open a match you will get the total amount of shared DNA with your matches in centimorgans (cM) and how many segments that DNA occupies. So again they are slowly advancing the ball towards a chromosome browser IMHO.

Below is a screen capture of what I saw for my dad's match with me.

This feature works on every match on your pages including private trees, unlinked trees, no linked trees, leaf matches, etc.

Now how accurate is it, that remains to be seen.  CU you all in class Tuesday night and hope to have more in the pre class show.

Here is the information page from Ancestry on this feature which is tied to the match confidence level.

What does the match confidence score mean?

When we compare your DNA to the DNA of one of your matches, we calculate a confidence score for you. This score lets you know how much DNA evidence there is for you and your match actually being related.
But, just because you and another member have identical DNA doesn’t mean that you both inherited that DNA from a recent genealogical ancestor. (Learn how you can have identical DNA and not be related.) That’s where the confidence score comes in, and how we calculate the likelihood that you and your DNA match are actually related. A high confidence score means that we’re pretty sure that your DNA is identical because it was inherited from a recent ancestor. A lower score means that your identical DNA might be because you’re related, but it might also be because you have similar ethnic or regional backgrounds.

The confidence score is based on the amount and location of the DNA that you share with your match. We show the shared amount using centimorgans (cM), a unit used to measure the length of DNA. The higher the number, the higher the confidence, and in general, the closer the relationship. Since you can share DNA with your match on one or more segments in different locations in the genome, we show you how many. Note that the number of segments and number of centimorgans that we show reflects only those segments that we believe were inherited from a recent common ancestor (in other words, segments that are likely to be identical by descent).

When you’re exploring your list of DNA matches, look for these confidence scores and let them help you focus your research.

Confidence Score / Details

Extremely High  - Approximate amount of sharing: More than 30 centimorgans
Likelihood you and your match share a single recent common ancestor (within 5 or 6 generations):  Virtually 100%
You and your match share enough DNA to prove that you’re both descendants of a common ancestor (or couple)--and the connection is recent enough to be conclusive.

Very High  - Approximate amount of sharing: 20—30 centimorgans
Likelihood you and your match share a single recent common ancestor (within 5 or 6 generations):  99%
You and your match share enough DNA that we are almost certain you’re both descendants of a recent common ancestor (or couple).

High  - Approximate amount of sharing: 12—20 centimorgans
Likelihood you and your match share a single recent common ancestor (within 5 or 6 generations):  95%
You and your match share enough DNA that it is likely you’re both descendants of the same common ancestor or couple, but there’s a small chance the common ancestor(s) are quite distant and difficult to identify.

Good  - Approximate amount of sharing: 6—12 centimorgans
Likelihood you and your match share a single recent common ancestor (within 5 or 6 generations):  More than 50%
You and your match share some DNA, probably from a recent common ancestor or couple, but the DNA may be from distant ancestors that are difficult to identify.

Moderate  - Approximate amount of sharing: 6 centimorgans or less
Likelihood you and your match share a single recent common ancestor (within 5 or 6 generations):  20—50%
You and your match might share DNA because of a recent common ancestor or couple, share DNA from very distant ancestors, or you may not be related.

It’s important to note that the confidence score is related only to your match and not to the relationship range we’ve assigned. The confidence score should not be interpreted as our confidence that you are specifically 4th cousins, for example. Instead, it lets you know how confident you should be that you and your DNA match are related through a recent common ancestor.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Setting the Record Straight on Province and Colony Names

While entering states into your genealogy databases - have you ever wondered what the correct name for Georgia or the other twelve, before they became a state ? While most researchers opt for listing these as they are now known, during colonial days, Delaware, Maryland and the others were not states, but instead were known as  a colony or a province. Virginia during colonial days was known as Colony and Dominion of Virginia. The following list can assist your research as well as keeping a concise and correct name for those once known as the Thirteen Colonies.

Thirteen Colonies
The chart below lists the 13 original colonies in alphabetical order, along with information about when each colony was founded and when each colony became a state:

January 9, 1788
December 7, 1787
January 2, 1788
April 28, 1788
February 6, 1788
New Hampshire
June 21, 1788
New Jersey
December 18, 1787
New York
July 26, 1788
North Carolina
November 21, 1789
December 12, 1787
Rhode Island
May 29, 1790
South Carolina
May 23, 1788
June 25, 1788

Contemporary documents usually list the thirteen colonies of British North America in geographical order, from the north to the south.

·         Province of New Hampshire, later New Hampshire, a crown colony

·         Province of Massachusetts Bay, later Massachusetts and Maine, a crown colony

·         Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, later Rhode Island, a crown colony

·         Connecticut Colony, later Connecticut, a crown colony

·         Province of New York, later New York and Vermont,[3] a crown colony

·         Province of New Jersey, later New Jersey, a crown colony

·         Province of Pennsylvania, later Pennsylvania, a proprietary colony

·         Delaware Colony (before 1776, the Lower Counties on Delaware), later Delaware, a proprietary colony

(Virginia and Maryland comprised the Chesapeake Colonies)

·        Province of Maryland, later Maryland, a proprietary colony

·        Colony and Dominion of Virginia, later Virginia, Kentucky, and West Virginia, a crown colony

·        Province of North Carolina, later North Carolina and Tennessee, a crown colony

·        Province of South Carolina, later South Carolina, a crown colony

·        Province of Georgia, later Georgia, northern sections of Alabama and Mississippi, a crown colony

Other divisions prior to 1730

Dominion of New England
Created in 1685 by a decree from King James II that consolidated Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth Colony, Rhode Island, Connecticut,Province of New York, East Jersey, and West Jersey into a single larger colony. The experiment collapsed afterthe Glorious Revolution of 1688–89, and the nine former colonies re-established their separate identities in 1689.
Settled in 1630 by Puritans from England. The colonial charter was revoked in 1684, and a new charter establishing an enlarged Province of Massachusetts Bay was issued in 1691.
Settled in 1622 (An earlier attempt to settle the Popham Colony in Sagadahoc, Maine (near present-day Phippsburg and Popham Beach State Park) in 1607 was abandoned after only one year). The Massachusetts Bay Colony claimed the Maine territory (then limited to present-day southernmost Maine) in the 1650s. Parts of Maine east of the Kennebec River were also part of New York in the second half of the 17th century. These areas were formally made part of the Province of Massachusetts Bay in the charter of 1691.
Settled in 1620 by the Pilgrims. Plymouth was merged into the Province of Massachusetts Bay in the charter of 1691.
Founded in 1635 and merged with Connecticut Colony in 1644.
Settled in late 1637. New Haven was absorbed by Connecticut Colony with the issuance of the Connecticut Charter in 1662, partly as royal punishment by King Charles II for harboring the regicide judges who sentenced King Charles I to death.
Settled as part of New Netherland in the 1610s, New Jersey was captured (along with New York) by English forces in 1664. New Jersey was divided into two separate colonies in 1674, which were reunited in 1702.
Founded in 1663. Carolina colony was divided into two colonies, North Carolina and South Carolina, in 1712. Both colonies became royal colonies in 1729.