Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Recognizing AncestryDNA Test Taken Outside the US

Well I thought I knew what the answer was going to be, but I did have to ask.

Question from the old chief:

"Now that Ancestry has opened up testing outside the US will we be able to see those matches here on the US system? If so will there be a way to distinguish those matches from US matches (i.e. US Flag, UK Flag, etc)?"

Crista Cowan, the Barefoot Genealogist, got back to my FB query and here is her answer regarding my two part question:

"Larry - The AncestryDNA database is all one giant 850,000 genotyped members database. That means that regardless of where the individual happens to live, if they take the DNA test, they will show up in the database. And, if it turns out they are a match to you, they will show up on your match list. Use the SEARCH location feature to determine who in your match list has English ancestry."

So now you know the rest of the story.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Ancestry DNA Test on Sale

The AncestryDNA test is now on sale for $79 thru April 27. This is one of the new technology autosomal DNA tests that I recommend.

By taking the this test you will find hundreds of genetic cousins, view family trees for most of them (if they aren't private), and get an idea of your overall ethnic ancestry.

AncestryDNA results can be transferred into the Family Finder database at Family Tree DNA for just $39. So this is the least expensive path to get into two of the big genetic genealogy databases.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ancestry's New Ancestor Discoveries Feature Revisit and Update

Well as most of you who read this blog know recently I blasted the Ancestry DNA tool release of the "New Ancestor Discoveries" feature on this blog (see previous post). After taking some time to sort through the debris field of this new tool and getting a few more of these matches on two of my DNA testers pages I can now say that there "may" still be "some" hope for this new tool after all. Honestly one good set of matches out of 15 still doesn't give me a real warm and fuzzy feeling.

While I am still not a fan of this network centric DNA tool concept (read into this that I want a chromosome browser tool), out of all the mess that was the opening week for this new "tool," including what I consider the promotion of this new feature that bordered on false advertising, I have actually used it to bust wide open a very long standing ancestral female brick wall line. So while the initial promotion still gets a failing grade, the new tool gets a qualified "C-."

As it turns out and now Ancestry has admitted in some of their material these "New Ancestor Discoveries" are not necessarily "new ancestors" in your chart after all.

From one of their question mark menu's:

Possible New Ancestors & Relatives
Once you've taken your AncestryDNA test and received your results, keep an eye out for "New Ancestor Discoveries" on your results page. To find these new potential ancestors and relatives, we compare your DNA to that of other AncestryDNA members who have already built their family trees. And, New Ancestor Discoveries can happen all the time as more people use AncestryDNA. Clicking on the photo of your potential new ancestor or relative will lead you on the path to discovering amazing new details of your family story as you determine how they may fit into your family tree.
My fellow genetic genealogy blogger Roberta over at DNAeXplained has had a similar experience and her results are noted at this link:
So let's back up and look at what I got from my father's DNA testing page and this "New Ancestor Discoveries" matches tool.
Initially, there were only two of these "new ancestor discoveries" presented (which is what I based my initial criticism on -- Berryman Isom Jones and his wife Licenia Watkins. I crawled, dug around the net, banged my head against the wall, searched, analyzed, researched, banged my head against the wall again, and no matter how I cut it neither a crowbar or dynamite was going to fit this couple any where as ancestors in my tree. There was already at that possible generation indicated for these potential ancestors to much proven via existing DNA testing and a great supporting paper trail for these folks to even remotely fit.
A couple of days later, after much criticism Ancestry dropped their little bomb shell on their blog written by the man who did the introductory video to this new feature Mr. Kenny Freestone. I call this the dirty little truth revealed -- "these may not be ancestors" at all. Duh, hey Kenny, ya think?
You can read his post at, but let me pick a couple of the more notable passages.
"Last week we announced an exciting new AncestryDNA feature called “New Ancestor Discoveries.” The response to this feature launch has been very interesting to watch—we’ve received lots of feedback breathless with praise because we “proved” a relationship, and some feedback that dismisses the feature because it does not “prove” relationships. As we consider feedback from both of these extreme positions, it seems appropriate to explain more clearly what this feature is and is not."
Well it least I did not say "it does not “prove” relationships." I said it doesn't prove ancestors as you claimed in your promotional material including the video introducing this feature.
Still quoting from Mr. Freestone's blog post (italics/bold text are my doing).
What is a New Ancestor Discovery?
  • What it is: A New Ancestor Discovery is a suggestion that points you to a potential new ancestor or relative—someone that may not be in your family tree previously. This beta launch is our first step toward an entirely new way to make discoveries, and a way to expand how we do family history.
  • What it isn’t: This is not proof, or a guarantee, of a new ancestor. They’re called New Ancestor Discoveries, and many may be your actual ancestors. Some will be other relatives that fit somewhere on your family tree, and some will be people that you may not be directly related to.
  • It’s a starting point to further research. We’ll show you a New Ancestor Discovery if you share significant amounts of DNA with multiple members of a DNA Circle—which means you might also be related to the ancestor that the DNA Circle is built around. These hints can be a great starting point for your research and help you connect to other family members you didn’t know you had.
You know I wish you would have said that from the very beginning Mr. Freestone. It would have saved me and many others hours of research trying to figure out how to get those people in our family trees. So promotion of this new tool still gets an "F."
Now for the silver lining in all this. My father's DNA page has since picked up three more of these "new ancestor discoveries" people. The original couple and one of my dad's new ones still has not panned out to date.
But one couple did! Up front I will tell you that if I had not done some paper trail research on my one known ancestor (John Hurt) several years ago in the South Carolina state archives, this match might have gone unnoticed as well. No records available at Ancestry helped me uncover this until now missing wife of John Hurt, my 4th great grandmother. The initial research done in South Carolina made all the difference in the world. So with this DNA circle match and the paper research, it all ultimately let me knock down a long standing female ancestral brick wall.

The description given for John Lynch was my first good clue on where to look in my tree to see where he might fit.

"John Lynch was born on January 24, 1780, in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He was married in March 1806 in his hometown. He died on March 5, 1863, in Gainesville, Texas, having lived a long life of 83 years."

Given the range of relationship that the others in DNA circle had to him, I only had one line that runs through Spartanburg SC. I knew that we had to be dealing with a family associated with my John Hurt, a paternal 4th great grandfather. As it turns out these people above weren't ancestors, but in fact this Jhn Lynch was a 4th great grand uncle and his wife.

Once I opened up one of the trees to a match in the circle and I saw who John Lynch's mother was, alarm bells started to ring. I had seen that name before in the research I had done in South Carolina. That name was Margaret McCarter. As it turns out based on DNA testing and the paper trail she is my 5th great grandmother and her second husband - John Lynch is my 5th great grandfather.

Here is some of the info provided by the paper trail.

Taken from SPARTANBURG COUNTY/DISTRICT SOUTH CAROLINA DEED ABSTRACTS BOOKS A - T 1785 - 1827 ( 1752 - 1827) by Albert Bruce Pruitt.
BOOK K p. 344 Jun. 26, 1806

Margaret MCCARTER (Spartanburgh) to son-in-law John HURT (same); for love and affection give a Negro girl Nutty (or Mutty). Witness Alexander MCCARTER, Mary MCCARTER, and James VERNON. Signed Margaret MCCARTER's mark. Wit. oath Jun. 27, 1806 James VERNON, Alexander MCCARTER, and Mary MCCARTER to Isham FOSTER. Rec. Jul. 7, 1806

BOOK L p. 290 - 292 May 6, 1808
John HURT (Spartanburgh) to James VERNON (same); for $100 sold 50 ac on N fork of branch of Tygar R; border: S - Alexander MCCARTER, E - James VERNON, and N - line mentioned below; part of 160 ac grant to John ORR but presently owned by John HURT; except land between "head of pond" and a line to N fork of Tygar R. Witness William PERRIN, Andrew VERNON, and Moses RICHARDSON. Signed John HURT. Wit. oath May 7, 1808 William PERRIN to Isham FOSTER. Rec. Jun. 24, 1808 Dower renounced Ester HURT to Isham FOSTER May 7, 1808.

BOOK L p. 309 Jan. 12, 1808
Margaret MCCARTER (Spartanburgh) to Mary MCCARTER (Greenville Dist.); for $1 sold a Negro girl Fanny Witness William PERRIN and John HURT. Signed Margaret MCCARTER's mark. Wit. oath Jul. 4, 1808 John HURT to Danl WILBANKS. Rec. Aug. 8, 1808

BOOK N p. 98 - 99 Nov. 28, 1811
John HURT (Spartanburgh) to Andrew B. FLEMING (same); for $10 sold 140 ac on N side of S branch of N Tygar R; part of grant to John ORR; border: W - Alxr. MCCARTER, E & N - J JORDAN, and S - J VERNON. Witness Joseph HURT, Henry HUTCHESON, and James VERNON. Signed John HURT. Wit. oath Mar. 15, 1814 Henry HUTCHESON to John CHAPMAN. Rec. Apr. 6, 1812. Dower renounced Nov. 28, 1811 Ester HURT to Michl MILLER. BOOK N p. 157 - 159 Oct. 22, 1811
Once all the pieces were put into place, this pretty much was a slam dunk. So when you look at these "New Ancestor Discoveries" matches on your Ancestry DNA test page, do not look at them as ancestors only, but broaden that a bit to aunts/uncles or even close cousins. Pay attention to the others in the circle and see how they are related and that may help you place them on your family tree.

Bottom line, thank you Ancestry for helping me bust through a major brick wall. Now help me figure out who the other 13 "New Ancestor Discoveries" matches are!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Ancestry's New Ancestor Discoveries Feature - Grade "F" - Update

Update #1:

Well I'm not the only one blasting this new feature. Roberta over at the DNAeXplained - Genetic Genealogy blog did an excellent job presenting her case. You can read her comments and analysis at

Original Post:

With a bit of fanfare yesterday Ancestry rolled out it latest DNA tool/feature "New Ancestor Discoveries" and I will admit it is in Beta.

I first saw this new feature early yesterday afternoon and on first glance, my initial impression was that maybe this would be the genetic genealogy tool replace the tedious researched match digging I have been doing for the last 3 years.

Is this truly a ground breaking DNA research tool that could simplify finding long lost ancestors and knock down lineage brick walls?  Will this be Ancestry's answer and replacement to the long sought after chromosome browser that they refuse to make available to their DNA customers?

In short, no on both accounts. In fact, to be quite honest, I think this is one of the worse new features I have ever seen Ancestry roll out in the nearly 15 years I have been a member/subscriber of the site, and I have seen more than a few of their stinkers.

I manage six Ancestry DNA tests and work with a seventh test (a cousin who was adopted). I have two Ancestry "ancestor only" trees involved with these six tests and they are both very mature and well documented. The ancestral lines have been well proven using paper trails and various DNA testing techniques (autosomal/Y-DNA at Ancestry and FTDNA). All my results have been uploaded to GEDMatch and I use that site to verify and supplement the Ancestry/FTDNA testing results.

Of the six testers that I closely manage, four testers had these "New Ancestor Discoveries," and two in particular, my father and spouse," had hits using this new network genetic feature. The other two are cousins off one side of the family tree and since we have not proven all lines, their matches cannot be verified for accuracy.

I carefully studied the all of the "genetically networked" circle ancestors presented by Ancestry and did so in-depth since I am extremely familiar with my dad and spouse's lineage (35 years experience). Closely comparing the supposed new ancestor matches in trees of those in the circles to our trees and came to the conclusion that none of the "new ancestors—just by looking at your DNA" that Ancestry found for my testers can even remotely be associated with anyone in our trees during the time frames implied by the timelines of those ancestors and the relationships described to the matches in these networked Ancestry DNA circles.

I agree with several individuals and in particular Shannon Christmas who posted comments on the Ancestry Blog in regard to this rollout. Shannon's comments were particularly pointed and since she says it much more eloquently than I ever could, I have quoted her comments below from the Ancestry blog.

"...the gimmicky features AncestryDNA heralds as an alternative to a chromosome browser fail to meet the needs of genetic genealogists.

"From my experience and the testimony of many other customers, AncestryDNA’s attempts to automate discoveries do not clarify connections, but instead confuse them.
The problem at the core of these beautifully rendered but often dysfunctional features is the underlying methodology: genetic network theory.

"Genetic network theory has arguably less explanatory power than the segment triangulation methodology that genetic genealogists have employed for years. Genetic network theory claims that if a ring of people share DNA with at least one other person in the group and they claim descent from a common ancestral couple, then the known common ancestors are the source of the shared DNA. The flaw in the genetic network theory is that it fails to account for endogamy, pedigree collapse, and the possibility that the various members of a DNA Circle group share – and likely inherited their common DNA from – multiple family lines other than the one illustrated in the circle/discovery ecosystem. Segment triangulation, on the other hand, is a more precise methodology that alleges that in many cases a group of people all sharing the same DNA segment inherited that DNA segment from a common ancestor. Segment triangulation, while not flawless (some shared DNA segments are artifacts of ancient population bottlenecks and evolutionary changes in humans), seems far more logical than the genetic network theory AncestryDNA espouses.

"Even AncestryDNA staffer Dr. Julie Granka has conceded “The reality is that if you share DNA with members of a DNA Circle, it does not necessarily mean that you also share the DNA Circle ancestor. You could instead have another ancestor in common with the Circle members – for example, if the Circle ancestor is the sister of your great-grandmother. You could also share several different common ancestors with multiple members of the Circle – even if none of them are actually the ancestor of the Circle.” Segment triangulation with an onsite chromosome browser would permit customers in many cases to sidestep some of the imprecision that the genetic network theory-powered Circles and Discoveries engender. This would also provide, as customers of Family Tree DNA and 23andMe know, an extra layer of quality control, quality control that AncestryDNA desperately needs.

"However, despite Dr. Granka’s admission, AncestryDNA continues to deny customers the convenience of an onsite chromosome browser or even matching DNA segment data, preventing customers from employing more illuminating analysis on their site and almost forcing them to accept the questionable, if not erroneous claims their flawed systems all too often generate. This is not a breakthrough, but instead a clear backward step."

Shannon has it absolutely correct. What probably ticked me off more than anything was the fact that even though many of the posters commented about the lack of a chromosome browser tool, Anna Swayne a DNA spokesperson at Ancestry who was answering the comments on their blog for them deliberately ignored them all and answered the fluff comments instead. This is not the first time she has done this and to be honest she once removed some simple suggestive comments I made on the same blog regarding this same subject. I'm surprised that she hasn't purged any of these latest comments that do not put their product in a favorable light.

I'm not sure what hard headed individual is driving these decisions at Ancestry but this whole thing is starting to get a bit more frustrating than it has in the past. Ancestry's refusal to even acknowledge the obvious raises a lot of important questions regarding their service and commitment to their customers to provide a quality service. Glitz doesn't excitement me, accurate comprehensive genealogical research does.

My advice to my students is to continue to document your results as I have indicated in past classes and it would be best to ignore this new feature for the time being as I find it is a waste of time and energy. As I see it right now it has NO value or impact on your ongoing genetic genealogy research and I see no one in the future threatening Ancestry's patent on something that is this big of a big bust.

The Bottom line

From my Dad's DNA page ----

New Ancestor Discoveries BETA        
These are people who are not already in your family tree


We found you new ancestors—just by looking at your DNA.
Our latest scientific innovations make it possible to discover ancestors you never knew you had–just through your DNA. It's an entirely new path to finding your family story.

The reason they aren't in my dad's tree Ancestry is because . . . wait for it . . . they aren't my relatives and they never will be. I will give you an A- for the nice graphics (innovative programming for sure) but an "F" on everything else.
If you would have just poured your efforts into developing an eloquent and genetically effective DNA chromosome browser tool as you did with this genetic networking circle mess, you might have truly made a significant breakthrough that needed to be patented. I truly believe you really need to rethink this network circle mess you have just doubled down on and get some adult supervision in your DNA division of the company.