Ancestry.com Is Makin’ Moves in Genetic Genealogy

This morning I watched the online streaming video of the Ancestry.com panel at RootsTech.  The format of the panel was conversational between President & CEO Tim Sullivan and other leaders within the company.

We all learned of some exciting developments in the pipeline for features to come at Ancestry.com – all of which will be great assets.  I in particular was most intrigued by what I was hearing with regard to their plans for how to work with DNA in the future.  Though they did not explicitly outline details, from the overall conversation, it was easy to read in between the lines.

Specifically, Ancestry is looking at what is needed to leverage DNA as content.  What does this mean? It means that DNA will become part of the genealogical experience.  How might that happen? For that, I refer back to a blog post I made this past November as I discussed thoughts on how DNA content could be better leveraged by 23andMe.

In that blog post, I made several points, but overall, expressed a desire for DNA companies to use DNA data in smarter ways.  Those of us getting tested are able to pinpoint specific segments to specific ancestors, yet, our knowledge of this is not internally captured in the system, nor shareable with anyone else via the system.  If that were to change, and it was as easy to “tag” DNA segments to specific individuals in an online tree that also existed in the system, a whole new world could be opened up for us all.   I invite you to read the post for further information.

While I have done a lot of testing with 23andMe – I do anticipate that Ancestry may get into a lead position on this — as they demonstrated today at RootsTech for non-genealogical data, they already have infrastructure in place to make it possible for us to tag records, on the fly, and in very shareable ways.  

Let us tag our DNA. Then, let us attach it to specific individuals in our tree.  Doing so would then help realize an amazing transformation in how we now work with genetic information to move forward our genealogical cause. I am looking forward to see how their DNA testing service grows.

I’M INSPIRED! ARE YOU?

Update:  Blaine Bettinger has a stellar post further describing the session and the implications. It’s a must read article!

He’s Been to Florida Before

This is a photo of the envelope that my uncle Stanley (1950-2010) sent to my grandmother back in 1984.

This letter is notable because Stanley was a “wanderer.”  He would leave New York and go travel and the family would never really know where he was at.   His return address here is “On the Road” and interestingly, in Florida.  He would eventually settle in Florida,  living there near my mom.

SNGF: My Maternal Grandfather’s Paternal Line

Randy Seaver’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun exercise tonight is as follows:

Find a living male person in your database from your maternal grandfather’s patrilineal line who could take a Y-DNA test.  

Then, we are tasked to answer several questions.  Here are my responses – fortunately, this was a very easy topic for me given all the testing I’ve been able to do under the auspices of the 23andMe’s Roots Into the Future Initiative.

1) What was your mother’s father’s name?

Herman Robinson.

2) What is your mother’s father’s patrilineal line? That is, his father’s father’s father’s … back to the most distant male ancestor in that line?

Herman (1926-1986)  –>  Lewis “Christopher Columbus” Robinson (1886-1928) –> William Robeson/Robinson (1830-?) –> Bob Robeson (1800-?).    Bob & William were former slaves from Columbus County, NC as best as I have been able to determine to date.

3) Can you identify male sibling(s) of your mother’s father, and any living male descendants from those male sibling(s)? If so, you have a candidate to do a Y-DNA test on that patrilineal line. If not, you may have to find male siblings, and their descendants, of the next generation back, or even further.  

Yes, I can identify living male descendants and one of them has already been tested – my mother’s brother.  His 23andMe results show his paternal haplogroup to be E1b1a8a, a haplogroup with deep origins to Africa.

This post is a reminder to me to upload his info to Gedmatch.com so I can check his yDNA against others. I’m off to do that now!

Establishing my Great-Grandparents DNA Profile

Well, parts of it anyway. :-)

This week, the 23andMe DNA Roots Into the Future results came back for one of my mother’s paternal 1st cousins.  A great advantage of her having done the test is that I can now begin to establish segments of my mother’s DNA that comes from her paternal grandparents,  Lewis & Lucinda (Lennon) Robinson, whom Cousin C and my mother have as their Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA).

“Cousin C” shares 10.5% and 28 segments of DNA with my mother.  All 28 of those segments come from Lewis & Lucinda.  Additionally, Cousin C shares some DNA segments with my mother’s brother that she does not have in common with my mother (11.2% and 32 segments).    Because the sharing with my mother and uncle are not 100% overlapping, this means even more segments from the great-grandparental units.

In the image below the DNA Cousin C shares with my mother is marked with green; the DNA she shares with my uncle is marked in blue.

This means that as I sort through my mother’s Relative Finder matches, if someone matches both her and Cousin C – then that person is related to us through Lewis & Lucinda and will thus help me narrow which branch to focus the search on.  As I have started to tabulate these shared segments into my analysis spreadsheet I have already identified a few individuals who I can now narrow our search for our MRCA to that branch of my tree.

And also of interest, I have parts of DNA of a set of my 2nd great-grandparents, Andrew & Gracy (Bullock) McNair on my mother’s side since a 3rd cousin of hers, for whom Andrew & Gracy are the MRCA, has also had his testing completed.  On my father’s side, I’ve got DNA segments attributed to ancestors of mine even more generations back that these — how cool is that?

I really need for one of the DNA testing companies to add the tagging capability I’ve described on my blog in the past — it would be so helpful!

My FGS Involvement

With the New Year comes another new involvement for me — I’ve been asked by Randy Whited, a Director of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), to join the FGS Education Committee! I was honored to be asked and of course had to accept. :)

The FGS Education Committee produces the weekly FGS radio show and the ongoing webinar series. Our focus could expand in the future and I believe this will be another opportunity to increase my skill sets and gain even further experience in melding my technology + genealogy interests.

And crazily enough, my 1st week as a member, Randy asked if I’d be interested in being a guest on the FGS radio show! So, today, I was a guest, along with Paula Hinkel of the Southern California Genealogical Society. Our topic of discussion was Crafting an Effective Member Survey.  Paula has professional experience as a market researcher, in addition to her extensive genealogical expertise, and I contributed some information I too have learned in my professional career.

I very much enjoyed the show and was so tickled to be online like that! We hope that those who listened learned something that they can then take back to their societies.  And, if you have suggestions and/or feedback, please let us know by commenting on the FGS Voice Blog.  The FGS radio shows are an excellent resource – you can listen to past episodes online, on your smartphone via the FGS Voice Android app, or via iTunes.

Listen to internet radio with mysociety on Blog Talk Radio

 

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy – Week #3 – Free Online Genealogy Tools

With the new year, I am planning to do more blog posts for Amy Coffin’s 52 Weeks series.  This is now week #3 and the topic is “Free Online Genealogy Tools.”  Specifically,

Free online genealogy tools are like gifts from above. Which one are you most thankful for? How has it helped your family history experience?

 

My favorite free online genealogy tool is the USGenWeb Project, hands down.  When I started my genealogy research in 2006, the USGenWeb was a fundamental component of the early successes that I was able to achieve.   The Washington County, NC page contained a very comprehensive listing of deaths from the county that had been compiled by local volunteers.  Due to the extensive coverage (from 1913-1980) and the wealth of information included in the index (names of parents for example), I was able to connect many families together in my tree and obtain vital records information.  Then, as a result of gathering those details, I ordered certificates galore.

Then, because of the benefit I’d gained from the volunteer works of others, I knew I had to find a way to give back and I sought out a way to join the USGenWeb Project myself.  I started by becoming the site coordinator for Blount County, Tennessee.  Though I had no personal research connections with the area, I planned to use my proximity to the Tennessee State Library and Archives as a source of material.   Soon after, I became webmaster for the NCGenWeb, took on several counties with them (including Washington County!) and this summer, became the State Coordinator of the TNGenWeb Project.

I value the USGenWeb’s efforts because in many cases, the site coordinators just wish to provide resources to help others.  One of my fellow coordinators in the NCGenWeb, Lisa Frank,  recently wrote a fantastic blog post about the USGenWeb that is a must read.  Each county is unique and you never know what you may find — this makes it all that much more interesting to peruse.

I am extremely passionate about the mission of the USGenWeb, wish to see it continue to grow as a resource to all, and am proud to be a part of it.  I love browsing and searching pages across the site looking for tidbits about those I research.

Finding Dwight Hillis Wilson: The Resolution

Almost a year ago to date, I shared a quest I embarked upon to find a picture of Dwight Hillis Wilson, a former archivist at Fisk University.  The Society of American Archivists was looking for a picture of him for a set of trading cards they were putting together in honor of the organization’s 75th anniversary.  A couple of weeks later, after I found and contacting his son, the SAA had their pictures! Dwight Jr. was kind enough to send them a few that he had.

A couple of weeks ago, I followed up and did find that the SAA did indeed publish the cards and they were kind enough to send me a complimentary set as an acknowledgement for my help.  The cards arrived this week.

The cards inside are very nicely done and right on top was Dwight’s.

On the back is a summary of his accomplishments.

What a great treasure for Mr. Wilson’s family to have these cards in his memory.  I am so honored to have been able to help.  And, most importantly, this process has sparked an interest in Mr. Wilson’s son and family to do more research on their family tree.  That makes me smile. :-)

 

 

 

Cousins, Cousins Everywhere

I have had the most fabulous few days in that I have had several cousin connections! I can’t even begin to go in-depth on all of them, but in brief:

  • a third cousin of mine, Nafeesah, emailed me after searching online for more information about her family and finding my family genealogy site.  She and I share Anthony & Martha Jane (Baker) Walker of Washington County, NC as our 2nd great-grandparents. I spoke to Nafeesah tonight and had a great conversation. I cannot wait to speak to her sister tomorrow.
  • via the 23andMe account of a cousin Devon, we found another cousin — Katrina. Katrina, like Devon,  is also a descendant of Thomas & Phillis Holloway of Craven County, NC.   Katrina is my 3rd cousin once removed.   I was excited to learn that her grandparents live about an 90 minutes away from me and her grandfather went to high school with my grandfather. I am now making plans to go visit her grandfather as soon as I can.  She matches me at a different segment than she matches Devon – so, I now have two separate DNA segments that I can trace back to our common ancestral couple.
  • via 23andMe, I made contact with a genetic cousin, Eric but we do not yet know how we are related.  Such a small world though because Eric is an active member of the African-American Genealogical Society of North California – the same group which my hubby’s genetic cousin, Nicka Smith, is involved.  Eric has been doing genealogy for well over 30 years and I was the first person he’s chosen to connect with on 23andMe – he said he could tell I was serious about my business.   Eric and I share .76% of our DNA and 23andMe predicts us to be 3rd-5th cousins.  That may not sound like a lot, but here is the order of percentage shared from largest to smallest at the top of my Relative Finder list – my mother (49.6%), my sister (54.5%), my uncle (25.2%), my 3rd cousin Devon mentioned above (.80%), and Eric! I spoke with Eric Friday night and we are both excited about the potential to find our connection.

In addition to these wonderful connections, my uncle and my stepfather’s DNA results came back from 23andMe on Friday so now I get to sort through their relative matches.  I hope I get more relatives from my uncle’s results!

 

Which Test Do I Use?

I have a goal to do a DNA comparison test this month.  There are two individuals I want to test so that I can find out if they descend from the same male ancestor – one is black (Person A) and one is white (Person B).  My primary genealogical research leads me to believe there is a strong possibility they both descend from a male white male who lived from 1798-1881.  I want to compare their Y chromosome DNA.   My dilemma is this — which DNA testing service should I use?

Here are the considerations:

a) 23andMe – I have a free 23andMe testing kit I can use for Person A.  I ordered it for him as part of the Roots into the Future Initiative.  I would love to use this b/c the test is free.  For Person B, I would then order another 23andMe test for him and pay for that one ($99).  The benefit of having them both in 23andMe is that I could compare both Y-DNA and autosomal DNA.  I know that 23andMe will tell me if their Y chromosomes are the same or not — is it as good as what I could learn from FamilyTree DNA?

b) FamilyTree DNA — is my other option – they are so well-known for the Y marker tests.  Since I have the kit for Person A already, I could then pay $50 to submit his DNA to FamilyTree DNA.  Then, I would purchase the 37-marker yDNA test for Person B.  The benefit of using FamilyTree DNA is that if  Person A turns out not to be related to Person B, then there would be other surnames in the database that *may* come us as matches.

Which would you use in this situation and why?

Update 11:30pm —  I have my answer! FTDNA it is.  Turns out that 23andMe does not test markers on the Y Chromosome like I thought they did so I’ll be ordering the 37 marker test for both men.  Thanks everyone!