Thursday, April 26, 2018

AncestryDNA and Chrome Extensions

After reading lots of complaints about AncestryDNA, lack of color stars (that was me), no chromosome browser, blah blah blah.

Anyway, my motto this year is to look on the good side and stop being so negative. It’s still a work in progress for me.

However, I have been using two Chrome Extensions with my AncestryDNA matches.

The first one is AncestryDNA Helper. This extension will read all your matches and do several things. You can read all about AncestryDNAhelper at

Warning: if you run the SCAN function of this Extension, it seems to have the habit of changing all your viewed matches to “new” and thus matches you already viewed will appear “new” to you. This can be a little annoying, so I thought I would put my disclaimer here.

However it also allows you to quickly search through all the notes of your matches and thus if you use keywords or phrases, you can quickly bring up your matches that have those keywords or phrases and find those matches easily. More about this a little later

Next I have started using MedBetter DNA Chrome extension and it has some other ways to filters your matches. Such has you can just show your starred matches or unstarred matches, only show locked trees (these are people with private trees) or not show those matches (if you uncheck this option). It also has the use of hashtags and you can set up to four hashtag filters to quickly concentrate on certain matches. Please note, you can use more than four hashtags, you just have to change the default filters because it only allows you to define four at a time. Check out Kitty Cooper's Blog post about MedBetterDNA.
 Recently, like today, I saw that Crista Cowen from Ancestry tweeted about adding color hearts to her notes. WOW, I love colors because I am a visual learner. I first did not know how to get the color hearts into my notes and quickly came up with a way.

I used my cell phone to access my AncestryDNA results. I went to my first match, my sister and in the notes field, I added 6 different color heart emoji’s and one broken heart emoji. Then I went back to my computer and created a little legend on how I wanted to use the hearts as follows:

Each color and corresponding hashtag and surname represents a grandparent’s line.  A is my paternal grandfather’s surname, B is my paternal grandmother’s surname, C is my maternal grandfather’s surname and D is my maternal grandmother’s surname. Then I decided to use a Broken heart and hashtag X for unknown matches and Orange and hashtag Y for those I want to follow-up on. Such as those that perhaps I could build out their tree and figure out our match, or those I have figured out our relationship and now I want to add their direct line in my genealogy software program.

I have half-siblings that I am also researching and I created a similar legend for their matches as follows:

I did change the color of their A and B hearts, only because this seems to make sense to me. I left the remaining four hearts the same as mine, since we have these two branches in common.

Now when I look at their DNA results and their matches, I can quickly pick out myside of the family versus their father’s side of the family.

I also started to use the Ahnetafel Numbering system if I found a common ancestor with my shared matches. This system is simple to use, you are number one and your father is twice your number and your mother is twice plus one. Thus your father is 2 and your mother is 3. You keep doing this for every generation on your pedigree chart. Keep in mind, males will always be even numbers and females will always be odd numbers. ( I still have to update all my notes to reflect this change).

Now back to the Chrome extensions, using the AncestryDNA Helper Chrome Extension Search box, I can copy and paste those wonderful color hearts and get all kinds of matches list and manage my matches so much easier.  I can even type those Ahnetafel Numbers into my search

In the above example I wanted to see all the unknown branches, if I could determine which grandparent it went through I added that color heart to the note too, if I could not even determine if this was a paternal or maternal match, then I just left the lone broken heart. If you click on the Matches username, you will go directly to that match. So if I want to find all my matches through my 2nd great grandfather I would type 16 James Crinion and I would see I had one match  however if I type his father-in-law 34 Edward McMahon I find two matches.  The numbers are another visual for me to help me remember where the match fits on my tree. Very helpful if you have serval generations of repeat names, such as James had a son James who had a son James. The bigger the number, before their name, represents that they are farther away from you on your tree.

The MedBetterDNA Chrome Extension allows me to display all my notes for all my matches on the screen and this saves me time from clicking each note icon and viewing the note and trying to remember what the note just showed me and then moving to the next note. 

As you look over my list of matches and notes, you can see how viewing the notes can be really handy. Especially when looking at shared matches notes as follows:

My new match has no tree, however when I look at their shared matches I first know this is on my mother’s side of the family. Even matches with locked trees are easier to figure out with the color hearts visual.

Give these two Chrome Extensions a spin, if you haven’t yet. Think of your own ways you might add color or other organizational aids to your Ancestry Notes. And just because a vendor is not giving you all you desire with your application such as AncestryDNA, this doesn’t mean you need to throw in the towel. Find and Make workarounds that you can use make your DNA discoveries easier.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

DNA Matches and Common Ancestors

Figuring out DNA matches and who might be our possible common ancestors is the most difficult thing to explain to a newbie.

When our DNA matches are group by level of confidence and then we look at our shared matches, I find that having a visual representation sometimes helps.

Thus I decided to create a tree of sorts that shows where our closer matches might fit onto our tree.

Let me explain some terminology that I use. DNA Matches are any match that shows up as sharing DNA with you. Share matches are those DNA Matches that both you and another DNA Match might share. Usually there is a button within your DNA application that you can click after viewing a DNA Match. This button will display all the DNA Matches that are the same people in your DNA Match list and one DNA Match's list that you were displaying. 

Below you will find the tree that I created, and perhaps I have made this more confusing than clearer, however, I wanted to save this image somewhere that I could direct those that I am helping.

Let me explain my graph:

Siblings share common parents, yes I know that half siblings will only share one parent, however full siblings will share two parents.

The next level are your 1st cousins, these are the kids of your aunts and uncles. Your aunts and uncles are siblings of your parents. These 1st cousins have the same grandparents as you. The same one set of grandparents. Okay, perhaps they only share one grandparent, this just makes it easier, however lets talk about both sets of grandparents. Thus your father's brother's children most likely won't match your mother's brother's children unless they share another set of common ancestors. There are so many situations that could be explain where other common ancestors could come into play, that I am not going to even try to explain any. Therefore, I am thinking of the most common situations, your first cousins on your father's side (Paternal side) will not match DNA wise to your first cousins on your mother's side (Maternal side). This is where looking at shared matches come in handy. If you identify all the share matches between your father's brother's children and you, you can at least place that shared match onto your paternal side and those share matches between your mother's brother's children and you will place the shared match onto your maternal side. Again, disclaimer, this is guessing that the share match only is related to you and your cousin with one set of common ancestors.

Going up to the next level are your 2nd cousins. These are simply your full 2nd cousins, no half, or once or more removed. These 2nd cousins will share a set of Common Great Grandparents. As you can see from my graph, you will have ideally,  four sets of 2nd cousins. Each set should match within themselves. So once you identify who your common great grandparents with a 2nd cousin, you can again place shared matches into one of four buckets. My disclaimer, again this is based on that you only have one set of common ancestors between you, your 2nd cousin and all your shared matches.

Up through this point, you should match everyone who are your siblings, 1st cousins and 2nd cousins. Thus if your paper trail shows a sibling, 1st cousin or 2nd cousin and they tested, and share their test results with the world, and you don't match, then there is a NPE. A Non-paternal event. Of course this opens a whole different can of worms that I am not going to cover here. I am just trying to make understanding your DNA closer matches more clear.

Okay, the final level of my graph gets to the fun part. Your 3rd cousins and you will share a sent of common 2nd Great Grandparents AKA Great Great Grandparents. However, it is said that if all your 3rd cousins would test their DNA, you probably will only match 90% of them. This means you won't match 10% of your 3rd cousins. Therefore, if a known 3rd cousin test and they don't match you, don't panic. You might still be related. For example, if your sibling and the 3rd cousin match and you don't, it just means you both didn't get the same DNA segment from your 2nd Great Grandparents. You may match a different 3rd cousin of that 2nd Great Grandparent. This is why testing siblings and 1st and 2nd cousins really help you find all your relatives. My siblings and I, and I have both full and half siblings match a lot of different descendants of our common ancestors. Its all good.

Going back to our 3rd cousins, thus, if you can identify a 3rd cousin, again a plain 3rd cousin, not a once or more removed cousin, this will help narrow down all those unknown shared matches. This can be especially helpful for lines that are currently your dead ends. I have a few unknown 2nd great grandparents and even a few that end with my 2nd great grandparents. I am hoping to use DNA to sort out and find my ancestors.

Therefore, as you step back each generation to 4th and more cousins, you are going to match fewer and fewer of all the possible 4th and more cousins that you have. Plus, you will probably start to find more than one set of common ancestors, or that you only share one common ancestor while the cousin might come from your common ancestor's other spouse. This actually makes it easier, because you have just reduce the number of ancestors your share matches will fall under. Just like with Genealogy research we are told to start with the known and work backwards, I try the same principle with my DNA matches, I start with the known and work backwards.

Have fun!