Wednesday, March 11, 2015

I Finally Have Some DNA Circles on AncestryDNA

I check my DNA matches every so often on AncestryDNA.  Up until recently, I had no DNA Circles to investigate.

When I checked yesterday, I had two DNA Circles (screens shown):

Note that I blanked out the pictures of my DNA matches per genetic genealogy standards.

Further down:

I clicked on one of them (the two persons above are husband and wife; two screens shown):

The top of the DNA Circle page is informational - it tells me:

"You are a member of James Richman's DNA Circle, a group of 3 of his probable descendants. He is your 2nd Great-Grandfather.
"What determines circle membership?
  • Circle members share DNA with other members of the circle
  • Circle members all have family tree evidence that they are direct descendants of James Richman."

Further down:

So there are three of us in this DNA Circle (again I blanked out the other identification data).  I'm not sure what "Emerging" means under "Circle Membership confidence."  The orange "X" under "Raltionship to Randy Seaver" appears to indicate that I share segments of DNA on specific chromosomes with each of these two persons.

I have corresponded via email with both of these matches in years past.  It is good to know that our lines from James Richman and Hannah Rich are essentially "proved" by the DNA matches.

I clicked on the "View Relationship" button and saw the relationship paths from the common ancestor:

So this person is my third cousin according to our Ancestry Member Trees.

My relationship to the other DNA Circle member is a second cousin once removed.

Apparently, that is as far as I can go in AncestryDNA.

Since AncestryDNA doesn't tell us which chromosome and segment start and end numbers, or even the segment length, I can't use that information to find other cousins who might have some or all or more of that same segment data.  To see this information, which is extremely useful according to the DNA experts, I have to convince my two cousins above to export their DNA dataset to a file and then import it into a third-party software program such as GEDMatch.

This chromosome browser type of information is one of the major item that AncestryDNA does not provide.  Another is the amount of matching DNA, in centiMorgan terms or some other metric, can be very helpful, and it is probably how AncestryDNA determines the stated relationships.

Do they think we are "too stupid" to understand what the data means, or how we can use it?  It can't be "too hard to do" because other companies do it well.  Even if, say, 80% of the AncestryDNA users are uninterested in, or can't understand, information from a chromosome browser, it is still useful for the other 20% who yearn for one - and that's about, what 160,000 users (if 20% is the right fraction).

Ancestry has, by far, the best family tree matching setup, but it limits itself on the DNA analysis end by not providing a chromosome browser.  It is very useful to identify which chromosome segments are passed from specific ancestors.  Hundreds of thousands of users received the chromosome browser and centiMorgan information on FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe (including myself) and can try to understand it.  But those sites don't have the family tree coverage that has.  I find it strange that AncestryDNA doesn't provide the state of the art in DNA information to its customers.

Note:  I am not any kind of expert on this topic, but I do read blogs by Blaine Bettinger, CeCe Moore, Kitty Cooper, Angie Bush, Roberta Estes, Debbie Wayne and others on the subject.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver


Anonymous said...

I wanted to advise using caution with the word "proved" in your sentence "It is good to know that our lines from James Richman and Hannah Rich are essentially "proved" by the DNA matches." As you point out, Ancestry does not provide a chromosome browser to verify the matching segments, and without this segment information one cannot properly say a relationship is "proved" by the Ancestry DNA results alone.

For example, I have a match with someone that Ancestry indicates traces back to an ancestor on my father's side of the family. When I had my parents take the Ancestry DNA test, I discovered the person actually matches my mother and not my father. Had I not been able to compare against my parents, and simply taken Ancestry's word, I would have been drawing an incorrect conclusion.

Ancestry's circles and shared ancestor hints are nice starting points for what ancestor(s) the DNA match may trace back to, but they are not definitive by themselves, and need further checking. Categorizing these as "proof" is overstating things a bit. It's a bit akin to not having a proper source (such as a family legend) for a "fact" in your genealogy database.

Andrea said...

Just today, I was "kicked" out of a DNA circle at AncestryDNA. The immigrant ancestor was born in a small town and then moved to a large city before immigrating to the United States. I correctly have his town of birth listed but everyone else has his last residence listed as his place of birth. Yesterday, another person was added to the DNA circle and today, I was no longer listed.

I have been experimenting a bit with how facts are listed in my family tree - how general or specific. It makes a difference how closely your facts compare to others as to whether you are listed or "unlisted" from the DNA circle.

Unknown said...

Even with a chromosome browser I'd be hesitant to use the word "proved".

And while a chromosome browser might be useful for some problems, I see more and more people misapply what is displayed at FTDNA or gedmatch.

That is, we have to be careful of a false sense of surety simply because we can see a graph.

Teresa B Devine said...

I consider the Ancestry DNA circles to be "interesting" but only moderately helpful. They are best if used as a jumping off place to contact potential matches for additional research. Two things I really wish AncestryDNA would do: 1) offer as an additional option a kit with swabs instead of a collection tube. My 84-year-old aunt tried twice but was unable to provide enough material for testing. We eventually went to Family Tree DNA which brings me to 2) provide a way to upload DNA files from Family Tree DNA and 23andme. I would really like to add my aunt's kit to my Ancestry tree but it can't be done.