Ancestry DNA Results – Taking the Next Step

dna-double-helixSo you’ve taken the autosomal DNA test at Ancestry with the goal of furthering your genealogy research. If you are anything like me, after the initial euphoria of seeing matches and DNA tree hints you will very soon get to the point where you want more information. You want to know, for example, the segments you share with your DNA match and who else may share them with the two of you. Or you may just want to find your ICW matches beyond the 4th cousin limit. Ancestry of course has this information but has decided not to give it to you. Fortunately, several brilliant and generous researchers have created tools to pick up the slack. In this blog post I want to mention three tools that I have started using and have found immensely useful.

The first tool I started using was GEDmatch. (Learn more at gedmatch.com) Essentially, this is a site where you can upload your raw DNA results from Ancestry, FTDNA and 23andme. So right off the bat you have the potential to find DNA matches who tested with a different company if they upload to GEDmatch as well. And the biggest bonus to those who tested at Ancestry — GEDmatch has a chromosome browser and provides you with segment-level details on your match. This has allowed me to gain insight into some of my Ancestry matches that I never would have been able to determine otherwise. For example, in the case where my match and I share ancestry on multiple lines the chromosome browser can help me to determine from which of the multiple common ancestors (or ancestral couples) I inherited a particular matching segment. This is achieved by triangulating with additional matches that the original match and I have in common.

The second tool I started using was AncestryDNA Helper. (It is a free extension to the Chrome browser and you can find it in the Chrome store.) Use it to scan your matches and download cvs files of matches and ancestors of matches. The tool also adds an icon on the Ancestry match list display to indicate ICW matches between your kit and other kits you manage – without the 4th cousin limitation imposed by Ancestry. One of my favorite features is the ability to find your matches by user name. This is very helpful when linking up Ancestry GEDmatch kits to Ancestry trees.

The third tool I want to mention in this post is GMP (Genome Mate Pro). (More information at genomemate.org) This is an application that runs on your computer (PC or Mac) in which you can store, visualize and analyze your matching segments. (Note: this tool does not work with the raw DNA – just match data.) This program is awesome! Many of the genetic genealogy experts talk about creating spreadsheets for this purpose. I am so glad that I stumbled upon this program before I started down that road. Basically you create a profile for each kit you administer then load in the match data for each profile. Admittedly, GMP is a program that you will likely have to invest some time learning, but the good news is that there are various videos and blog posts that can help you get started. All I can say is that it is well worth the time.

In addition to these three, there are other tools out there that you may want to consider. This list represents some free or freeium tools that can help you get started. I hope you find it useful!

Gedmatch, Phasing and Losing Matches

As I mentioned in my last post, I have joined the autosomal DNA bandwagon and have uploaded my raw DNA data from Ancestry into Gedmatch. I have also had my Mom tested and have uploaded her results to Gedmatch as well. And now things are getting interesting!

One of the first things I did was to phase my DNA with my Mom’s. The phasing process compares my DNA to my Mom’s and determines which of my genetic information comes from her. The half that doesn’t come from her is assumed to come from my Dad. (He is no longer living, so I cannot phase directly with him.) As a result, in addition to my original Gedmatch kit, I now have a paternal-side kit and a maternal-side kit as well.

Before I jump into my DNA findings, I need to mention a bit about my heritage. Pretty much all of my ancestors on both sides were in the southeastern Pennsylvania counties of Montgomery, Chester and Berks since colonial times. Some arrived as early as the 1600s. Many were Pennsylvania German, but some were Welsh, Scottish, Swedish and a few other nationalities. The communities in which they lived were small and relatively isolated. As you might imagine there were cousin marriages.  This occurred within the lines of both my parents and also between their respective lines. So it’s possible, maybe even probable, that some of the phenomena I am finding with my DNA matches is a result of endogamy.

With that being said, here’s what happened. First I ran a 1-to-many match on my full kit using the default parameters. This should return all the people in gedmatch with whom I share a DNA match of 7 cM (centiMorgans) or greater, sorted largest to smallest. I got 1500 matches that were all 8.1 cM or longer. 1500 is the cut off for the number of matches that Gedmatch returns in the the 1-to-many results. Thus I hit the Gedmatch maximum before I reached the 7 cM threshold. To circumvent this, I decided to run the 1-to-many match on my paternal-side and maternal-side kits. My thinking was that this would not only sort my matches, but that by splitting them I would see the ones I missed due to the 1500 limit. So I ran a 1-to-many on my paternal-side kit, again using the default parameters, and got 389 matches. Then I ran a 1-to-many on my maternal-side kit and got 481 matches. A grand total of 870 matches!? Yes, I lost matches! Lots of them!

So what happened? I am not totally sure, but I have a possible explanation. The first step is to understand how gedmatch determines matches. Basically, the process of matching is comparing the respective values at certain locations (SNPs) on chromosomes of two people. But since our chromosomes come in pairs – with one coming from Mom and the other coming from Dad – we have 2 values at each location as does the person to whom we are comparing. In order to be a match at a given location only one of our values needs to match one of theirs. But when it makes these comparisons, gedmatch does not have the information to know which of the two values is contributed by which parent. To have a true IBD (identical by descent) segment, the matching values culled from my pairs must all come from either my mom or my dad, but not a combination of the two. Same for the other individual in the match. Thus, it would seem that the matches that disappeared were actually false matches and the result of one or more small segments inherited from my Dad combining with one or more small segments inherited from my Mom to form one larger segment that matched someone else. At least this the explanation I have come up with at this point.

What is still unclear to me is whether or not my results are typical. Does my genetic background and the fact that I have cousin marriages and pedigree collapse in my 8 generation pedigree chart make me more prone to these types of false matches? Is losing over 40% of their matches something most people can expect when they phase their kit to their parent(s)? I would be interested to hear what others think and what their experiences are regarding this.

 

My Journey into Autosomal DNA Testing

Until recently I was one of those people who did not think that autosomal DNA testing would bring much to the table in terms of advancing my own genealogy research. I have been researching for over 10 years and have built up my family tree through various traditional sources — both online and off-line. I have identified all my 3x great-grandparents by first and last/maiden names and all but 5 of my 4x great-grandparents. Granted, beyond that I have more holes and hit brick walls, but my thinking was that I would need to find a 5th, 6th or higher cousin with whom I share DNA and who is a lineal descendant of one of my unidentified ancestors in order to solve one of those brick walls. I thought the chance of that happening was pretty slim. But as the genetic genealogy buzz grew and more and more people were getting tested, I started to change my mind. Even if I was not able to break through a brick wall, maybe I would be able to find an elusive cousin who inherited the old family photographs or the family Bible. And so a couple of months ago I decided to get an autosomal DNA test.

Basically an autosomal DNA test is used to identify genetic cousins. Google can help you if you are looking for a detailed explanation of the mechanics. I chose to test with AncestryDNA because 1) they were having a sale [smile] and 2) I thought most AncestyDNA customers would be existing Ancestry.com customers and as such would be more interested in finding cousins than in finding their deep ethnicity. (I must admit that based on the number of matches that I have with no tree, I was undoubtedly wrong on that account.) I was also thinking that I could upload my AncestryDNA results to FTDNA. This would enable me to take advantage of finding matches in their system as well, and I would only have to pay the transfer fee. I have not done this step yet, but I have not ruled it out. My current match results on Ancestry are pictured below.

dna-matches-graphic

At this point I should point out that when I made the decision to go with AncestryDNA I knew that a major downside was that they did not provide adequate DNA analysis tools – most notably a chromosome browser. They force you to rely only on member trees to work out your DNA matches. And while comparing trees is an important and necessary step in analyzing a match, not taking the next step and comparing chromosome data can lead to erroneous conclusions. (I already ran into this on the second group of “related” matches that I was working on.)

In order to look at the chromosome matches, AncestryDNA customers must upload their results to Gedmatch (or FTDNA). The Gedmatch website provides several useful tools. It operates on a “free-mium” model with certain tools being free to use while more advanced tools require a donation or subscription. An added benefit is that FTDNA and 23&Me customers can also upload their data, thus results from all three companies can be compared. I have only used Gedmatch a short while, but it has been incredibly useful and necessary. The major downside, of course, is that not all of your matches have uploaded their data to that site. So while Gedmatch is awesome, I still think the community needs to continue to try to convince Ancestry to provide it’s customers with the tools necessary to make informed and valid analyses.

The bottom line with all this is that I have already met and collaborated with cousins that I probably would not have found otherwise. I am glad that I joined the DNA band wagon — and I even convinced my Mom to join me!!!

Joshua Delaplane — Germantown to Berks

This is a follow up to my previous blog post about my Delaplaine/Dilliplane ancestors & information about them gleaned from church records. The focus of this post is my 5x great-grandfather Joshua Delaplane.

My ancestor Joshua Delaplaine was likely born in Germantown, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania circa 1707. His parents, James and Hannah, were prominent in the community and respected members of the Society of Friends (Quakers). Joshua and his siblings were educated at the Germantown Friends School and brought up as Quakers as well. On a side note, it is interesting that in his will, Joshua’s occupation is listed as weaver. According the the website http://www.meetinghouse.info, Germantown was known for producing high-quality linens with the textile industry in that town dating back to the original settlers.

The first church record that I have found for Joshua is an 30th day 11th month 1737 [30 January 1738] entry in the Abington, Pennsylvania Quaker monthly meeting records. It is a complaint against Joshua Delaplane “for marrying contrary to the Rules of the Society.” In other words, he married a woman who was not a Quaker. In the minutes of the meeting the following month he “made acknowledgement of his outgoing in marriage to the satisfaction of the Meeting.” So he appears to have made peace with the Quakers, and they have accepted his marriage so long as he follows Quaker doctrine moving forward. Unfortunately, these records do not name his wife nor do they provide any further information regarding her family or her religious affiliation.

The next church record that mentions Joshua is a December 28, 1751 group baptism record for his wife Maria and children Joshua (age 12), John (age 10), Joseph (age 7) and Hannah (age 1). The baptism is recorded at Augustus Lutheran Church in Trappe, (now Montgomery County), PA. At the time Maria was seriously ill and was said to be on her death bed. Her husband Joshua was described in the record as an English Quaker. Despite the dire nature of her health Maria apparently did recover and have at least two more children. The records of New Hanover Lutheran Church (in current day Gilbertsville, Montgomery County) have a March 9, 1753 baptism for a son James who was born January 16, 1753. And St. Joseph’s Hill Church in Pike Township, (now Berks County)  have an October 3, 1756 baptism for son Jeremiah who was born September 10, 1756.

St. Joseph's Hill Church photo

St, Joseph’s Hill Church, Pike Township, Berks, PA

The last set of church records mentioning Joshua (that I’ve found up to this point) are set of entries in the Exeter, (present day Berks County), Pennsylvania Monthly Meeting notes dated from 28th day 4th month 1757 [28 Jun 1757] to 31st day 8th month 1758 [31 Oct 1758]. According to these records, a certificate was sent from Abington Monthly Meeting transferring Joshua’s membership to Exeter Monthly Meeting. But Joshua never started attending meetings in Exeter. There were also accusations recorded in the Exeter Monthly Meeting notes stating that Joshua’s conduct was “reproachful,” that “he often used wild unseemly expressions,” and “that his children have lately been sprinkled by a priest.” (The sprinkling, of course, refers to the baptisms.) Joshua told the Exeter Friends who were sent to speak to him that “he knew of the Certificate’s being come, but that Abington Friends having used him ill in refusing him some assistance when his Family were much indisposed and in want” and that he “would not come to Meeting here until he had spoke with them.” He indicated that he may start coming to the Exeter meetings if he got some satisfaction from the Abington Friends. Apparently that never happened and testimony was read against him and he was officially disowned by the Quakers in 1758.

So what can we make of all this? Well, first, just a bit of general information about Quaker Meetings (as I understand it). There is a hierarchical organization to the Meetings with Preparatory Meetings feeding into Monthly Meetings, feeding into Quarterly Meetings, feeding into Yearly Meetings. At each level the geographic area becomes larger, with Preparatory Meetings being the most local. Monthly Meetings, however, is where most of the business is conducted and where membership certificates are held. If you move out of the jurisdiction of a monthly meeting, a certificate is sent to the monthly meeting that encompasses your new place of residence.

Going back to the marriage reference, it was in the Abington monthly meeting notes where that was mentioned. I have found several references that point to Germantown being part of the Abington Monthly Meeting. So it is conceivable that Joshua was still living in Germantown at his parents home when he married in late 1737 or early 1738.  Joshua’s wife is supposed to be Maria Shelar or Shela according to the Delaplanes of America book – but I have not found any sources to support that being her surname. Based on this record, it seems like the Germantown area would be the best place to look for her family.

It also seems logical that when Joshua says that the Abington Friends refused to assist him when his family was indisposed and in want, he could be referring to the time in late 1751, when his wife Maria was seriously ill and said to be on her death bed. This coincides with the group baptism of Maria and the children. Although Joshua himself was not baptized, he may have “permitted” his wife and children to receive the sacrament because of his disenchantment with the Quakers for not helping him during this time. This is purely speculation unless further records can be found. This could also be about the time the family moved out of Germantown, particularly with James being baptized at New Hanover Lutheran Church in 1753 and Jeremiah at Hill Church in Pike township three years later. The Quakers just may not have tried to transfer his certificate right away.  It is probably worth double checking the Abington Monthly Meeting notes to see if they contain any additional information.

I was actually thrilled to find this set of records. Joshua strikes me as a feisty man who was doing his best to support his wife. Maria apparently had no desire to become a Quaker, and Joshua was left to find a balance between his Quaker upbringing and her beliefs. He appears to have succeeded for a while. But then he perceived the Quakers abandoned him when he needed their support and that became the game changer for him.

7 Generation Family Tree

I am always looking for creative ways to share and display my family history research. Some of my favorites are scrapbook pages, photo books and ancestor photo jewelry. Last summer I was really inspired by the ornate Bechtel Family tree created by Franklin Bechtel Gilbert in the 1860s. (See blog post.) It was at that point that I knew I wanted to create a piece of family tree artwork for my family room wall.

Drawing on inspiration from the Bechtel tree as well as some of the beautiful family trees posted on pinterest, I designed a 6 generation tree in photoshop on a 20×16 canvas. I had it printed and framed and could not be more pleased. My Mom liked it so much that she wanted one as well. The one pictured below is hers. It is similar to mine except that hers is 7 generations. (The extra generation is for her grandchildren.) The ancestor names themselves are the branches.  My Mom and Dad are the represented by the tree trunk and their children and grandchildren are at the base. (Recent generations are blurred for privacy.)

family-tree-web

I was so pleased with how these came out that I had to share. My next project is to create ancestor photo collages to hang on either side of the family tree. My family room is becoming my genealogy room!