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Ancestry Insider

Ancestry Launches New Genetic Communities

North American Genetic Communities map from AncestryDNAAncestry launched Genetic Communities last week. “Think of the AncestryDNA ethnicity estimates on steroids, and you’ll have a sense of what this is,” Tim Sullivan told RootsTech attendees last February. While ethnicity estimates show your genetic origins from hundreds to thousands of years ago, the Genetic Communities feature shows groups of people you are related to in the last few hundred years. Ancestry defines a Genetic Community as “a group of people who are connected to each other through DNA, most likely because they share a common history or lived in the same places.”

Kendall Hulet said, “Applying rigorous statistics and scientific development, we’ve created a unique experience that can connect you through your DNA to places your ancestors called home and the migration paths they followed to get there.” This doesn’t necessarily pin your particular ancestors to a particular place, since your ancestor may have been an outlier. Chances are good, however, that Ancestry will nail part of your ancestry to a particular region and timeframe.

AncestryDNA has identified over 300 communities with plans to release more in the future. Brad Argent of AncestryUK says that most people are members of at least one Genetic Community, some people are members of two, and, rarely, some are members of three. In my case, I am a member of one.

My ethnicity map now shows my ethnicity estimates on a dark azure map. (Can I just say, I don’t like this new color scheme?) Notice that Ancestry has narrowed (not!) my Native American ancestry to the entire Western hemisphere. Not very helpful in determining my tribal origin (Massachuset).

The Ancestry Insider ethnic origin map from AncestryDNA

But notice the small Orange spot on Utah? That’s my genetic community, “Mormon Pioneers in the Mountain West.”

The Ancestry Insider ethnic origin map from AncestryDNA with a Genetic Community noted

While my genetic community is of no surprise to me (I’m 5th generation Mormon on every single line—my ancestors all being good genealogists—I was born into a completely full, 7-generation pedigree), a Genetic Community could be very interesting to someone vaguely aware of—say—Germanic roots.

Your Genetic Communities are listed beneath your ethnicity pie chart on the left side of the page. The way statistics work, AncestryDNA can’t say with 100% confidence that you are a member of a community.

Ethnicity estimate pie chart and Genetic Communities list

When you click on your community, you are given an overview of the community.

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Scrolling past the overview reveals migration time periods with commentary.

Migration time periods for an AncestryDNA Genetic Community
Migration time periods for an AncestryDNA Genetic Community
Migration time periods for an AncestryDNA Genetic Community

Selecting a time period shows a migration map, different for each time period. Orange dots show birthplaces from community members’ Ancestry Trees during that time period. Pins show birthplaces from your own tree. Animated lines show the direction of migration.

AncestryDNA Genetic Community time period migration map and commentary

AncestryDNA Genetic Community time period migration map and commentary

Did you notice, I’m aboot one-fourth Canadian, eh?

Beneath the community name, two buttons select between the default Story view, which I’ve shown above, and Connection view. Connection view states that they are 95% confident that I am a member of the Mormon Pioneers Genetic Community, and that it has 89,000 members. Connection view provides a link to see all 737 of the ones that I am related to. It also lists common surnames in the community:

Last names associated with my genetic community

Hmmm. Anything jump out at you?

To see Genetic Communities, you don’t need to have a tree or a paid Ancestry subscription. It is available for free to everyone who has had an AncestryDNA test.

Darned Undertaking

We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about the past. Yet sometimes records have anomalies. Some are amusing or humorous. Some are interesting or weird. Some are peculiar or suspicious. Some are infuriating, or downright laughable. Records say the darnedest things!

Kenneth H. Rich was the undertaker. He was also the decedent. Weird.

Kenneth H. Rich of Kokomo, Indiana was his own undertaker.

After 30 years as an undertaker, Kenneth retired just 7 weeks before his doctor started treating him for interstitial nephritis. Less than 6 weeks later, Kenneth was gone. His son, Robert, took over the family business. Six years after his father’s passing, Robert had his first born son. He named him Kenneth.

Reader Naomi Martineau shared this record with me. Thanks, Naomi!

Image credit: Ancestry.com.

Erroneous AncestryDNA Genetic Community

North American Genetic Communities map from AncestryDNAReader Clytee Gold wrote me about an apparently erroneous AncestryDNA Genetic Community assignment. One of her two communities is “Mormon Pioneers in the West.” (First, I am jealous that she has two community assignments.) She is rather positive that none of her ancestors were ever Mormons. She has done extensive research and has never found any connection to the Church. As there are still pockets of prejudice against members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this assignment could be highly offensive to some people. Coincidentally—or not—it is not offensive to Clytee. Forty years ago she joined the Church and moved to Utah. She is, literally, the “Mormon Pioneer in the West” of her family.

I’m not qualified to explain how this misassignment occurred, but fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Perhaps experts among my readers can correct me. Clytee gave one possible explanation:

The only thing I can figure out is that is based on OTHERS testing (guess that makes a community – who else took the test to compare to), and that somewhere, 5-6 generations back a sibling of a great-great something of mine joined the church in Denmark in the late 1800’s and came to Utah as a “Mormon Pioneer in the west” and populated the west and there are lots of descendants who took the DNA test.

Ancestry has explained that they use an algorithm called community detection to detect groups of individuals with a large number of interconnections. I think of it like large DNA Circles that don’t require common ancestors. The Mormon Pioneers community contains 89,000 testers. Just like a DNA Circle, Ancestry states a confidence level for your membership in the genetic community. My connection to the Mormon Pioneers community is “Very Likely.”

Ancestry says they then examine the Ancestry Member Trees of the genetic community “to learn about the historical forces that may have brought their ancestors together.” Of course, some testers don’t have trees, some don’t include all their ancestors, some have ancestors without complete location information, and some have complete garbage in their trees. I assume Ancestry looks for common locations in 25-year increments. If they find a large number of ancestors who lived in the same place at the same time, they look into the history of that time period and why there was a large number of individuals there. Then they give that community a name.

For example, the sweet spot for one genetic community is centered on Massachusetts in 1725-1750 (shown on the map, below left). Ancestry chose to name that community, “Settlers of Colonial New England.” Another centered on Utah at a much later time period, 1875-1900 (below, right). Ancestry called this one “Mormon Pioneers in the Mountain West.”

AncestryDNA genetic community map for Settlers of Colonial New England, 1725-1750. AncestryDNA genetic community map for Mormon Pioneers in the Mountain West, 1875-1900

I assume Ancestry can follow the group forward and backward in time, up and down the member trees. This provides additional touchpoints to compare against historical sources and decide if they have correctly identified and named the genetic communities. Moving forward in time gives an interesting view on migration that may not be available from other demographic sources. This may truly be groundbreaking demographic tools. For example, look at the 1900-1925 map (below) of the descendants of early residents of Chihuahua and Durango. If I am interpreting the map right, by that time they were as likely to be living in El Paso as Chihuahua. (The large circle over central Texas represents ancestors whose member trees didn’t specify where in Texas they lived.)

AncestryDNA genetic community map for early residents of Chihuahua and Durango, 1900-1925

Moving backwards in time gives an interesting view on where the Mormons who settled in Utah came from. In the period 1825-1850, most were living in England, with a fair number in Denmark. (See map, below.) The surnames associated with the Mormon pioneer genetic community further point to Denmark:

Jensen, Christensen, Larsen, Hansen, Allred, Nielsen, Olsen, Sorensen, Nielson, Rasmussen, Christiansen, Madsen, Peterson, Anderson, Barney, Leavitt, Child, Andersen, Petersen, and Jorgensen

AncestryDNA genetic community map for Mormon Pioneers in the Mountain West, 1825-1850

Once they are sure they have identified the genetic community, Ancestry can take information from history books about that group and display it next to the migration map. However, the information may not apply to your ancestors who didn’t participate in the chain migration. That is how Clytee may have been put in a migratory group that her ancestors didn’t participate in. She told me her ancestry:

My father was half Swiss (4 generations from the immigrant to Missouri) and half German (5 generations from the immigrant to Missouri).  Mother half Norwegian (2nd generation from the immigrant to Iowa) and half Danish (2nd generation from the immigrant to Iowa).

I think the conjunction on Denmark is more than coincidence. Clytee’s Danish ancestors didn’t have to join the Mormon church for her ancestors to share DNA with those that did. I don’t think it had to have been a sibling in genealogic-time, either. I think Ancestry is looking at shared DNA in a closed community with hundreds of years of intermarriages.

There is a possibility that the genetic community Ancestry has identified is actually more specific than “all Mormon pioneers.” Ancestry may have identified DNA of Mormon pioneers of Danish origin. Look back at the dominant surnames for this genetic community. Does it look more English or Danish?

There are other possibilities. Remember the mention of confidence level? Clytee may not belong to the genetic community at all. Her DNA may just be a statistical anomaly. Remember the mention of garbage trees? Ancestry may be running calculations overwhelmed by erroneous information.

GIGO. Garbage in—garbage out.

Thank you, Clytee, for your message.

Ancestry Offering Irish Heritage Tour

Springfield Castle, Family Home to Lord Muskerry, IrelandAncestry ProGenealogists, in conjunction with Go Ahead Tours, is offering an 11 day tour to the Emerald Isle. “Discover the country’s highlights and enduring heritage with special insight from the expert AncestryProGenealogists team.” This guided tour visits Dublin, County Cork, County Kerry , Galway, and back to Dublin. For an extra cost, “continue your experience by adding an ancestral home visit to the places where your family members once lived, worked, worshipped, and went to school.” The tour runs 22 October through 1 November 2017.

For more information, visit https://ancestry.grouptoursite.com/.

Photograph by Gary Deane, used under license.

Serendipity in a Box

Glenda U'Ren Clyde photograph of John and Grace Uren childrenOver 40 years ago Glen and Joyce Alt lived in Platteville, Wisconsin where they became friends with Glenda Clyde and her husband. After several years, the two couples moved their separate ways, the Alts to Massachusetts, the Clydes to Washington state, and the couples had no further contact.

Years passed by. One day Glen’s parents were participating in a household auction in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. When they bought a box of stuff for a few dollars, the auctioneer threw in another for free. The Alts found the second box contained a bunch of old photographs and a piece of paper with names, dates, and places. For some reason, Glen’s mother threw them into a drawer instead of throwing them away. Eventually, she passed them on to Glen. Glen felt there must be someone out there who would place great value on the photographs, so he began investing great efforts in finding them. He had a clue. The paper identified the family as the Urens of Blanchardville, Wisconsin.

Glen started looking, but without success. When he went to Wisconsin on vacation three years later, he availed himself of the opportunity to ask around. He asked some old friends in Platteville if they knew any Urens. One remembered that they had a mutual friend whose maiden name was U’Ren: Glenda Clyde.

Twenty-eight years after they had last communicated, Glen found Glenda on social media. She thought the photographs and information might be of her family, so Glen sent the photographs and the paper to her. Glenda discovered that the pictures and paper were of her great-grandfather’s brother’s family. The information gave her seven new families and 31 new names.

“These precious pictures/paper were bought in the Midwest, given to Glen on the East Coast and then sent to me, a family member, on the West Coast,” Glenda wrote. “Considering the incredible preservation and journey of this valuable information, to us, it truly is a miracle.”

 

Retold with the permission of Glenda Clyde. You can also read her story in R. Scott Lloyd, “Family History Moments: Package Deal,” Deseret News (http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865675767/Package-deal.html : 16 March 2017). Photograph contributed by Glenda Clyde.

AncestryDNA 20% Sale

Order AncestryDNA for $79 through 26 April 2017.Happy DNA Day! Today (25 April) is the anniversary of the publication of articles theorizing the helical structure of DNA. Ancestry is celebrating with a 20% sale on its DNA kit. (Thomas MacEntee has put together a list.) Normally priced $99, Ancestry is offering the kit for $79 (plus taxes and shipping) through 26 April 2017 at 11:59pm Eastern Time. While I sometimes see a $89 sale price, I don’t recall seeing the $79 price since DNA Day last year. After Thanksgiving the past couple years they have offered the kit for $69. It seems likely they will do the same this year. At RootsTech this year they were trying to overshadow the announcement of kits from other vendors by selling AncestryDNA for $49 (with no shipping since you purchased in-person). I don’t know that you will ever see that happen again.

Bottom line, if you aren’t willing to wait until after Thanksgiving, today’s the day to order AncestryDNA for $79.

National DNA Day - April 25To see what scientists, teachers, and students are doing to commemorate DNA Day, visit the National Genome Research Institute website.

Click here to order AncestryDNA for $79.

Pre-Registration for NGS Conference Ends Tomorrow #NGS2017GEN

The Ancestry Insider is a member of the NGS 2017 conference social media press.Pre-registration for the 2017 National Genealogical Society Conference ends tomorrow, 27 April 2017. The conference will be held in Raleigh, North Carolina, 10-13 May 2017 at the Raleigh Convention Center. While you can register onsite starting noon on 9 May 2017, you must register by tomorrow for meals, events, and workshops. As I write this, some luncheon choices and workshops are already sold out.

According to NGS,

The conference program, Family History Lives Here, features more than 175 lectures from basic to advanced genealogical research, including eighteen presentations on DNA science and methodology. Finding records and effectively using them is the focus of fifty-seven lectures. Among the types of records discussed are a wide range of religious records, military and associated records, North Carolina and regional U.S. records, and African American and Native American records.

Organizations sponsor luncheons during the conference and provide entertaining speakers ($32). The North Carolina Genealogical Society is hosting an evening event, “Pig Pickin” ($45). Pig Pickin’ features North Carolina BBQ, a five-member blue grass band, and local artisans. NGS is hosting its annual banquet with speaker Stuart Watson, an award-winning investigative reporter ($45). 

The conference costs $240 for society members and $275 for non-members. One day registrations are available for $110 (member) and $120 (non-member).

For more information or to register for the conference, visit http://conference.ngsgenealogy.org.

I’m happy to serve again this year as an official social media reporter for the conference.

Darned Carcinogenic Names

We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about the past. Yet sometimes records have anomalies. Some are amusing or humorous. Some are interesting or weird. Some are peculiar or suspicious. Some are infuriating, or downright laughable. Records say the darnedest things!

What parent names their child after some kind of cancer?!

Search results for first name Cancer, last name Brain
Search results for first name Cancer, last name Lung
Search results for first name Prostate, last name Cancer
Search results for first name cancer, last name De La
Search results for first name cancer, last name Del
Search results for first name cancer, last name Brain

  • Brain Cancer
  • Lung Cancer
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Skin Cancer
  • Cancer de la Laringe (larynx)
  • Cancer de la Matriz (uterus)
  • Cancer Primitivo del Higado (Primitive Cancer of the Liver)
  • Cancer del Riñon (kidney)

Yes, records say the darnedest things!

AncestryDNA Whips Past 4 Million Samples

AncestryDNA Reaches 4 Million Customers in DNA Database.Four million. It’s staggering, really. AncestryDNA has exceeded four million samples in its DNA database!

It took AncestryDNA three years to get the first million samples. (See “AncestryDNA Exceeds Million Mark” on my blog on 22 July 2015.)

It took them 11 months to reach two million. (See “AncestryDNA Database Reaches Two Million” on 28 June 2016.)

It took just seven months to get to the three million mark. (See “AncestryDNA Zips Past 3 Million Samples” on 19 January 2017.)

Less than 4 months later, AncestryDNA has reached four million persons in the DNA database. (See “AncestryDNA Reaches 4 Million Customers in DNA Database” on the Ancestry blog, 27 April 2017.) AncestryDNA must be selling over 8,000 kits a day to grow that fast. Ancestry says as many people took their DNA test during that period as got married in the United States. They said “that’s about as fast as babies are born in the United States.”

That’s astonishing.

NGS Live Streaming – #NGS2017GEN

Live stream NGS 2017 Family History Conference sessions.If you can’t make it to the 2017 National Genealogical Society Conference, all is not lost. NGS is offering select sessions via live streaming or for three-month’s later viewing. You can purchase five sessions for Thursday, 11 May 2017 and five sessions for Friday, 12 May 2017.

  • Thursday: Viewers will be able to stream five lectures on DNA from 8:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. These lectures will demonstrate how DNA has revolutionized genealogy problem solving, clarified contradictions in records, and found female ancestors without a known maiden name. They will also offer advice on the best practices for analyzing autosomal DNA. $95 member, $115 non-member.

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  • Friday: View five “BCG Skillbuilding” lectures by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) from 8:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. This set of lectures will teach how to probe documents beyond the obvious, find rich evidence in deeds, use an ancestors’ neighbors, prepare a Genealogical Proof Summary, and build a solid conclusion from disparate evidence. $95 member, $115 non-member.

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All ten sessions can be purchased for $150 member, $185 non-member, if purchased before midnight, 10 May 2017. After 14 May 2017, the price jumps to $175 member, $215 non-member.

Sessions can be viewed for three months following the conference. All packages include a full, electronic conference syllabus.

For more information, or to purchase sessions, visit http://www.playbackngs.com/7770.