Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Simple Online Search Can be a Goldmine!

Some of the most fantastic finds are the easiest.

Simply do an online search for your ancestor by providing a name, date and location. You can also add the abbreviation "obit" before the name. Be sure and read the obituary. It may not be for the person whose name you entered but the name may be listed as a survivor or as someone who preceeded them in death.

One of my favorite "goldmine" searches is using a surname and the word genealogy. Example: "Prichard Family Genealogy", "Simonton Genealogy," "McCormick Family Genealogy," This will often yeild books that are now free to download online that were written by researchers more than a hundred years ago. The frosting on the cake, many of these books also list allied lines. (Branches from the main tree.)

Have a brick wall? Try doing this and see what happens. If you have done an autosomal DNA test, you may find a whole slew of names you have been finding in your tree searches and have been wondering who the heck these people are. 

Simple can be awesome.

Happy finding!

And, I am still having a blast.


Sunday, February 4, 2018

FTDNA Offers Free Transfers! A Few Basics for Everyone Especially Adopted People

Family Tree DNA offers free autosomal transfers. You will find more matches. The beauty of using FTDNA is you don't have to pay a subscription.  If you really want to have fun on this site, pay that $19 ONE time for the use of their awesome tools. (You'll be glad you did.) You will be able to see which chromosome(s) and the locations where you share. This way you can learn how to "read" your DNA.

It's kind of like being a tracker who learns the difference between a deer print and a rabbit print, and how long it has been since the animal was on the path. For us, how long it has been since our ancestor was around.

If you are an adoptee who has discovered one parent but not the other and know someone on the "known side" who will also do the free transfer, this can help you "divide" your maternal from paternal lines.

Here are some basics to get you started. Log in and you will find the landing page.

There is a place called "About Me" under the heading "Manage Personal Information" where you can tell your matches about yourself. If you put nothing else here, add your GEDmatch kit number. You can also say something like, "I need all the help I can get." There are some people who will.

This landing page is also where (if you took your test here) you can download your raw data for transfer to other sites. It is also where you find the Matrix tool (I'll get to it). 

If you don't have a tree make one; even if it just shows you, and bio mother unknown or bio father unknown. Times have changed and most of your matches are willing to help. This is a nice way of asking for it. 

Click on the "My Family Tree" tab to fill it in. If you have a gedcom you can upload it by clicking on the gear and uploading. It's that easy.

You can click on the Matches tab to view all your matches. Your closest ones will be at the top of the page. 

At the very top of the page on the right, you will see the most common surnames among your matches. This can be a little deceiving if someone has added a bunch of one surname in their tree or have the surname listed in the place where you can fill in their list of surnames. It can also act as a clue to what your paternal surname might be especially if it is not a common surname like Smith, Brown, White or Jones. A bunch of Shoff surnames would be unusual. You know your match has a tree if the little tree icon is blue.





When you search surnames your match page changes to show people with that surname identified somewhere in their tree or their surname list. 

Next, try selecting the person at the top of your match page by checking the box next to their name and select "in common with". Select the first four people that come up on this "in common with" page and click the chromosome browser. (You can look at five people in the browser at the same time but only add four right now.)  Give the browser a minute to populate. 

Look at the chromosomes and see if there is a colored coded stack of people who share on the same chromosome and overlap in the same position. 

Now, on the left of the chromosome page in the "Filter by matches" box use the pull down menu and choose Name. Enter the name of the person who you checked for "in common with" and click their box that will be next to their name. Does that person show up in your stack? Once you have some people stacked up in the same place and chromosome write down their names. Check the rest of the people on the "in common with" page to see where and how they stack up with each other. You might end up with a couple of others who stack up on a different chromosome. That's great.

Now go back to your landing page where you find the link to the Matrix tool. It may take a minute for your match list of names to show up. When it does scroll down to find the people's names you wrote down who stacked up. Click on their name and choose add. If you get a blue box with a check it means they all match each other. This highly suggests a triangulation which means you share a most recent common ancestor (MRCA). You can adjust the names up and down in the Matrix until you get a neat square of matches. Some people may match most but not everyone; that's okay. It could be where their DNA recombined, but you want at least three who match each other. If the don't have a tree up write them to see if they have a tree. (You can tell them how many matches they have with you and how many matches would probably contact them just from your match page alone.) 

You can click on their profile picture or icon to see their email address. 

The little note pad with pencil is where you can add notes. Be sure to save because the notes will dissappear if you don't.

Using DNA Painter in conjunction with FTDNA is great. I keep it open in another tab when I am using FTDNA. I use the cM tool V4 because it gives me best odds of how we match. 

Enter the total amount of cM in the little box on DNA Painter. (Round it to an even number.)

Look at the grandparent umbrella to see which generation of grandparents you most likely share. The boxes will light up for your most likely relationships. If your match has a tree (remember it will be blue) click on it and in the upper left click on pedigree view then count back back from their parents to grandparent, to great grandparents to great-great grandparents or however far and write down the names (I do screenshots and use microsoft paint to add my matches name and amount of cM's they share with me) of the grandparent level my relationship on DNAPainter says I should share. (Also a good time to make a note on their profile as to suggested grandparent generation.) 

I also use MS paint to draw a circle or box on the screenshot around the grandparent level so I can study these sheets and know where to look when I am comparing screenshots of matches for a most recent common ancestor (MRCA). A MRCA can be a pair of grandparents. I know. I thought it shoud be MRCAs for a long time, but sometimes it ends up being only one grandparent (people die and remarry or they sometimes mate outside of marriage).

When in Family View on the tree tool you can click on "show details" which will reveal birth and death dates as well as locations. (If only they all did.) 

Please, everyone upload your raw data to GEDmatch and invite your matches to do the same. If you do have a triangulation you may find more from other testing sites and grow your triangulated group.

Finally, when contacting your matches, if you find someone who is adopted, be sure to let them know who the most recent common ancestor is that you share in your group. People who are adopted can help you by searching their match list to see if they can find more information by searching these surnames among their matches.

Finally when you find or know a most recent common ancestor build your tree back (if you are adopted you can enter private for either parent back the distance to the MRCA (it doesn't matter that you don't know which side they are on at this point (you can rearrange later if you need to) and add your match's tree branch all the way to your match. Then click on the link tool. It brings up your match as you enter the name. There is a little chain link you click on to link them.  If you add the branch on your maternal side FTDNA's program will light up a bunch of trees with a red icon for maternal side. If you add and link them to your paternal side it will light up most the matches that match your matches with blue. Just remember we don't know yet if this is maternal or paternal. (Unless you do--which is fantastic!)

If you are adopted and are a female and you get lucky and find a female match with over 1330 which is a possible half-sibling (DNA painter will give other odds on other possible relationships) and you share 196 cM of X, you share a common father.

Still having a blast.

Happy Finding!


Monday, January 1, 2018

Why Having More Than One GEDmatch Kit Uploaded Can Be Slowing You Down

If you have your raw data from more than one testing company uploaded to GEDmatch you could be hampering your best chance to find matches.

GEDmatch is a case where one is enough.

First, GEDmatch only shows you your top 2000 matches. If you have more than one kit for yourself uploaded you are cutting down your own matches on your One-to-many page for each additional kit you add. You are always going to match you! Not only that, you will be your highest match.

Study your One-to-many page to see how many of your matches have done this. The easiest way is to sort your emails by clicking the up arrow. As you scroll down the page it is easy to see repeated email addresses. (This will also bring to view matches you've never seen before.)

I did a random check on five One-to-many-pages.

An average of 17 people had two kits uploaded with the same name and results. 
An average of 11 people had three tests posted with all the same results.
An average of 4 people had four kits uploaded with the same results.  

There are many people who will spend money and test at more than one company. That used to be considered a good thing because if you're adopted you want to "fish in all the ponds." That is great if you have your results at multiple sites.

Today it's not necessary to test at all the sites and a waste of money. (It really is.) 

FTDNA, MyHeritage, GEDmatch all accept FREE transfers from other companies and that puts you in nearly all the ponds---and GEDmatch is the ocean. 

Yes, transferring your raw data to another company is not as good as testing at it. Testing may give you a few more distant matches, but distant isn't necessarily what you're looking for if you're adopted. Transfering WILL show your closer matches. 

What's with all those email address that are the same?

A family historian is doing the work for loads of family members and is SERIOUS about tracking their family tree.

Someone is under the mistaken impression that having more than one kit will help them make more connections. Nope, it doesn't work that way.

Some people think their DNA will change over time and re-taking a test will help them find new matches. This is not true.

When you make people aware it is unecessary your are helping not only them you are also helping a lot of other people.

Many serious genealogists triangulate to study their matches. 

The Tier 1 tools make the job easy. These tools, however, limit the number of matches (depending on the tool they use). This means you are triangulating against yourself and in doing so, you could very well be eliminating one of your own triangulated matches that you need to make an important connection. 

Serious genealogists collaborate with those in their triangulation groups. 

When you are in one triangulation group you are often in another. If the person doing the triangulation is a close match to you, and you share a large number of segments with them, you could be costing yourself and them more triangulation groups.

If you share 21 segments with a second cousin and have more than one kit, you will triangulate with yourself and bump out matches who could be key for identifying a common ancestor FOR YOU. 

Now you understand why you are defeating your own efforts to find your family by uploading more than one kit. It is a simple process to remove kits from GEDmatch. The place to do this is on your landing page under Your DNA Resources.




A note to adoptees. 

Times have changed. Don't be afraid of letting people know you are adopted, especially on GEDmatch. There are tons of people willing to help. Put up a tree (Gedcom), again I recommend WikiTree. Don't give the excuse you don't have one. You can link it directly to GEDmatch. If your tree says nothing more than your name and place of birth (or adoption) and bio father unknown and bio mother unknown, that will help others help you. 

If you are adopted you can add your profile to Wikitree and link your GEDmatch kit number to it so others can find you. Be sure to add pictures of yourself at various ages in your life. You never know when a grandparent may be searching. (Wikitree also has an Adoption Angel Project and people willing to teach you how to find your family.)

If you have identified one line and not the other, please show what you do have. (It is always important to list living people as private. WikiTree does this automatically.)

Recently while working with someone I studied a tree of their match while doing triangulation groups. Their match had a tree and only the maternal branch It was a very good one too. Loaded with twigs and leaves.

As we closed in on the match for the person I was helping, I wrote the person with the maternal line tree and suggested they search a certain surname line the person I was working with and I discovered while studying the triangulated group. 

I received a reply back explaining they didn't have any lines by that name in their tree. 

I explained I realized that because I had studied their tree. If they pursued the names I provided, they might have a good start on building the paternal branch of their tree. I provided the kit numbers that linked to trees in the triangulated group they were in.

When you help a researcher by having a tree that indicates you are looking for your biological family, many professionals will be considerate enough to contact you when they find your shared common ancestor. 

The really astute researchers will enlist an adopted person's help. If you are in a triangulation group they are working on and they have a list of possible common ancestor matches, they may contact you and request you to conduct a surname search at your testing site and tell them the amount of cM's the site shows you share with your match who shares that surname. If it fits the right amount of cMs for the distance, you could be instrumental in helping them find the most recent common ancestor for the entire triangulation group as well as yourself!

Happy Better Finding!

Still having a blast!


Monday, December 25, 2017

DNA Painter Gets Even Better!

I love it when I am researching and blunder into a new enhancement of a tool. Not that long ago I happened on web developer, Jonny Perl's interactive DNA Painter, which is a new spin of ISSOG's Blaine T. Bettinger,  Shared cM Project data.

I love this so much I keep a laminated copy of this relationship chart close at hand.



When actively working with matches, I now keep the DNA Painter open in the background on my computer. By entering the number of the total shared cM's with a match, this chart provides an enhanced view of predicted relationships. Here is an illustration using a total1350 cM's shared and suggested possible relationships with DNA Painter's cM comparison tool. (This isn't the only wonderful tool on Perl's DNA Painter site.)




Today I discovered DNA Geek, Dr. Leah Larkin's newest contribution that takes the DNA Painter shared comparison tool a step further and provides statistical analysis which shows how correct the prediction will be. What a great holiday gift!



The higher the amount of total cM's shared the closer your relationship. This new enhancement shows the higher cM's shared, the better the odds of the predictions as well.

My sincere appreciation and thanks to Blaine T. Bettinger, Jonny Perl, and Dr. Leah Larkin for their contributions to those learning about genetic genealogy and for providing such awesome tools. 

Happy Finding made easier!

I'm still having a blast!


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Spark Your Grandchildren’s Interest in History: Use WikiTree's Relationship Finder!


This tool has been around for awhile.  There are so many bells and whistles on WikiTree I am only now getting around to really discovering how amazing the Relationship Finder is.

Playing with the Relationship Finder today I discovered I am related every one of the WikiTree's listed Sureties of the Magna Carta. We are talking deep shared great-grandparent levels here. (21st -23rd for me.) Now I need to make sure all my documentation is good going back. 

Because of this tool, I was able to tell a close friend we share the same 23rd great-grandfather!

To bring history lessons closer in time, I also discovered it appears my family is also related to no less than seven U.S. Presidents!

It's one thing to be told growing up Abe Lincoln may have changed the diapers of a distant great-grandfather, or that Abe defended a cousin on murder charges. It is another to discover Lincoln is also a 13th cousin! I can’t wait to share this with my family.

When you become a member of WikiTree you are assigned a WikiTree profile number.

The number is usually tied to your surname at birth. Once you have grown your tree a bit you can use it to find your relationship with other relatives you might not even know.  You simply compare your WikiTree profile number to another person’s profile number.

Below, I have circled where you find your profile number on your page after you have joined WikiTree.



You can go to your match's profile page and click on the word ADD which opens a pull-down menu to find your relationship to each other. How cool is that? 


If you shared DNA on GEDmatch and can’t find your relationship (you click on the Wiki Tree link to view their tree and click on their profile to use the Relationship to Me tool), you can collaborate with your match to determine if you need to build your tree deeper or wider so you can make the connection.

You can also see if you link to famous people. The finder works both in direct lineage and by degrees modes.

A direct line means the match shares a common ancestor with you up or down your tree.

Relationships by degree will help you learn how to spread your branches and make connections often through the marriage of someone (or several) in your line. For instance, a 3rd great-grandparent’s sibling may have married someone that would take you along a crooked path to the notable person, oftentimes royalty!

When you follow your branches wide and connect to someone by degrees, you widen your net to find more direct line branches while at the same time helping WikiTree toward one of its major goals to build a single world-wide tree.

Single Entry vs Gedcom


The thought of rebuilding a tree (especially a large one) makes many people cringe. However, there are very good reasons for doing this in many cases.

First, this is a single person entry world-wide tree. Your more distant relatives (and often times closer relatives) already have a profile in WikiTree. Another reason, to add them again is making more work for yourself because you will need to merge duplicate entries to link your tree to the first profile entered for that person. And another good reason, when you do, you will most likely meet a cousin you didn’t even know you had.

I recommend before uploading a Gedcom do a search of WikiTree first to see if any of your ancestors are already listed. Then you can meet a cousin (the profile manager for the entry) and send them a message introducing yourself. You can click on the descendant button on your ancestor's profile to see other relatives' entries. You follow your ancestor's children's line “down” the tree to see how many generations you need to add to your branch.

You may discover you only need to add a few profiles to link to a huge branch which already exists. This also gives you the opportunity to contact people whose research may reveal something other than you expected. If you see they have someone linked incorrectly you can collaborate with them and help them “prune” their branch and graft it in where it belongs.

By using this “check-for-family-first” method before uploading a Gedcom, you may discover you can divide your Gedcom up and only have to add one short branch that ties other branches together to connect a ton more people! This may result in your being awarded the WikiTree Family star. 

(WikiTree has tons of awards.)

Click HERE to find instructions that show you how to split a Gedcom for several different software programs. Simply click the link for each one.

Still having a blast! 

Happy Finding!




Saturday, November 25, 2017

Basics: Generations Are Calculated Differently at GEDmatch and Viewing Trees

Generations Are Calculated Differently at GEDmatch

This is a screenshot is from my GEDmatch One-to-Many page. 

Gen is an abbreviation for generations


Parents = 1st Gen
Grandparents =2nd Gen
Great-grandparents = 3rd Gen
2nd Great-grandparents =4th Gen
3rd Great-grandparents = 5th Gen
4th Great-grandparents = 6th Gen
5th Great-grandparents = 7th Gen
6th Great-grandparents = 8th Gen
7th Great-grandparents = 9th Gen

When you look under the Gen heading on your One-to-Many page, it is an estimate of the distance to your most recent common ancestor (MRCA) you share with your match. There is a number and GEDmatch puts in a "." followed by a different number to establish degree based on the amount of DNA shared. Siblings are always 1. something. Full siblings are usually 1.2.  I have noticed while working with adoptees if there is a half-sibling this will usually show 1.5. 

I think this "." is to try and pinpoint the once removed, second removed and such. However, DNA is not consistent and one person may show different amounts. So full siblings are 1.2, 1.3. 

The Gen 1 combined with total DNA over 1300 cM indicates siblings who share at least one parent. If you are a female and have a half-sibling who is also a female you will share 196 cM of X and share a biological father. (Sometimes on One-to-Many it will show a tiny bit less.)

Most genealogy sites consider YOU the start point of a tree and thus you are generation one; on GEDmatch your parents are considered GEN 1.

When Viewing Trees



When you click on a GED on your One-to-Many page to view the trees of your matches, you can reset the number of generations to view. I like to set it for several generations beyond what the amount of DNA shared suggests our GEN should be. When I do this I don’t have to click those arrows in a tree to see a surname we might share. I usually set the view to 12. Choose the number of generations you want to view in the pull-down and click Submit.


When working with triangulated groups I copy and paste the trees of those matches (that have them*) into a single document that is set in landscape (under the layout tab) with margins at .3 or 1/3 inch.

(Use Ctrl+A to select everything, then right click copy with your mouse, then when you are on the page left click to paste. You can also use Ctrl+V to paste)

After I paste it on the page-

I select by highlighting (left click your mouse and drag it over what you want to highlight) and reduce the size of the font type in the entire tree to 8. This gets everything on the page and makes it easier to read what you need to. (I usually delete the major page headings on the tree so I only end up with the tree. You can do that by highlighting the part you want to delete and click the delete button on your computer. You can also place your cursor after what you want to delete and click the backspace.)

Using the Gen provided by GEDmatch, I count back to the estimated level of grandparents in the tree (I use my fingers to count), and highlight and enlarge their names in that generation to a font size of 10 and click bold. This makes the surnames stand out.

When all of the trees in the triangulation group are on a single word document it is easy to scroll up and down reading the enlarged bolded surnames and find repeated surnames in the various trees. This makes finding the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) or a common surname stand out.

* This is another reason for having a tree on GEDmatch. If you don't you are missing out when others are searching you in a triangulated group (TG). You are helping them help you by identifying a common ancestor you share on a specific chromosome and letting you know who it is. Then they can email you let you know they have the same couple and where your shared DNA is located. (If you are adopted and know one side of your family tree, upload it to GEDmatch to get more people looking at your tree. You can enter the unknown parent as unknown.)

When you have segment and position information and someone sends you a one-to-one comparison of how they match you, you can give them the names of your known shared MRCA's at that location. Of course, remember there are going to be two, one on your maternal side and one on your paternal side. 

Also, as the distance increases in Gen you are stepping back another generation and if you share a smaller segment in the same area with another TG, you may share a different common ancestor, often in the same line. So, if you have identified your 4th great-grandfather, your newly identified MRCA with a smaller segment may share the 5th or 6th great-grandfather in that same line if the surnames are the same.

Happy Finding! (I'm having a blast!!!) 

Coming soon--I have been blessed teaching classes at different libraries and genealogy societies in my area. They have taught me a lot. One major challenge for many genealogists who want to understand about DNA is they also struggle with basic computer skills. Let's face it, I'm a grandma. I did not grow up in the computer era and struggled to learn. I am convinced when you can overcome that challenge, you will soar. 

I also believe you do not have to fully understand genetic genealogy to be successful finding family and knocking down brick walls. You just need to know which buttons to push on which programs. I am in final edits of a book that will soon be released on Amazon. It is for the DNA and computer challenged. It is geared to the adopted person (or someone who has an adopted person or NPE in their family). 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A New Tool for FTDNA! The Triangulator

Goran Runfeldt, this brilliant computer guy over in the UK, who is also a genealogist, has made my day. His latest development, The Triangulator came to my attention at two a.m. this morning.  

I found out about it on the amazing Roberta Estes’ blog, DNAEXplained. You can link to her post here.

It wasn’t like I wanted another night without sleep, but once I started playing with it I couldn’t stop.

The Triangulator is for everyone who has their data at FTDNA. (There is no reason not to have it there  when FTDNA offers free transfers from most other companies. ($19 one time cost for full use of the tools. FOREVER!)

As soon as I read Roberta Estes’ article I couldn’t connect the Chrome extension fast enough. (I already use Chrome.) And it WAS fast. All I did was click a button and the extension attached to my Chrome browser. I knew it was installed because in the upper right corner of my browser screen was this colorful little icon.
I logged in to FTDNA and there The Triangulator was, waiting on my toolbar ready to go to work, just like Roberta promised.



One of my favorite pastimes on FTDNA is clicking the little box next to a match, selecting “in common with” and then looking at how people compare in the chromosome browser. Now all I have to do is the same thing, but instead of clicking on the chromosome browser, I click on the Triangulator tool!

I made a folder for all of my different comparisons using my name and FTDNA Triangulator. I did the same thing for the people whose kits I manage. (Otherwise I blunder and end up with files scattered all over my desktop.) 

It's a good idea to insert an extra column in the Relationships spreadsheet to make a note for the level of grandparents to ask about when a match is contacted. (The matches names are removed in this screenshot for privacy.)





That way I can word my emails on behalf of those people whose kits I manage along these lines,  “The Triangulator extension on FTDNA indicates the match shared of (give name) is 3rd  cousins, to (give name) therefore the common ancestors are 2nd great grandparents. Could you tell me who yours are, or share your tree with me? By the way the segment they share is on Chromosome (number) Segment size is ( number). It says (fill in some names) also share this same common ancestor.”

You can find the chromosome and  position information is on the CSV file you download from The Triangulator.

When I am contacting personal matches, I give them the names of my known grandparents. If you write everyone you have never confirmed, you may be an angel unaware and providing desperately sought after information. Please, be an angel and contact everyone.

How much easier can get get?!!!!

Happy Finding!