Genetic Genealogy - who was my great grandfather?

During the Black Friday sales last December, I bought two Ancestry kits. I actually mean't to order one, but made a bit of a mess of it. Still, I thought, they were as cheap as I've seen a DNA kit, so I let the order process.

Some people might exclaim - but you've tested your DNA to death!  These kits were not directly intend for myself though.  I intended them for the art of Genetic Genealogy.  To help me verify my paper tree, biologically.

Although I enjoy the kick that I get from matching segments of DNA in strangers, to shared ancestors of the past on all lines, I'm particularly interested in one line, from one great grandfather.  You see, I had a very naughty great grandmother.  I have uncovered evidence of two bigamous marriages by her, as well as other relationships.  A second cousin of mine, through her, doesn't appear to have the amount of shared DNA that I would expect for a full second cousin.  It looks worse than even the old family rumours.

As I do have an extensive family tree down to that birth certificated great grandfather, even though I know full well that biological family isn't always as good family as non-biological, which the paper trail honours, I'd still like to know.  With Genetic Genealogy, I hope to verify - or otherwise, his biological relationship.

So... I used one kit to test one of my siblings, and the other to test my mother.  I've tested my mother before on 23andme.  Mistake.  I've learned a lot about DNA testing over the past few years or so.  Ancestry.com might seem like a heavy marketing, greedy big DNA company, with some slightly dishonest sales ploys (find out if your ancestor was a Viking!), and pressure to subscribe to more services in order to get the full benefit of the test - BUT ... it 1) has an awesome family tree building website for subscribers, that link to DNA tests, 2) has the largest customer database, and 3) through it's genealogy services, as well as marketing, has the most UK testers in it's database.

Okay, it's a little dumbed down.  The messaging system sucks (so I always send my email address), It doesn't provide a chromosome browser.  It doesn't provide segment locations on chromosomes.  But - for my uses - using DNA matches to verify a family tree pedigree, it serves extremely well.  I have had almost ten times more matches on AncestryDNA, than from 23andme, FT-DNA, and GEDmatch combined.  And many have online trees!

I've received my siblings results.  Wow.  I suspected it.  That the sibling has inherited some quite different DNA from the parents mean't that although we share some DNA matches, there are many that we don't!  Up to now, I've just used a spreadsheet to keep results of verified matches.  I could see that I now need something more powerful.  Something that I could search on - and filter different lineages.  When my mother's results arrived, I'll be able to divide all of my matches into maternal, or paternal sides.  On top of that, I have a 1C1R (first cousin once removed) on my father's side, that I can sometimes use to indicate some ancestry on his side.  I can look at all of my matches and their shared matches, and triangulate, where abouts they fit into my family tree.  I built a personal database for my DNA matches.

So I'm pretty pleased that I invested in those two kits during the sales.  It's kept me busy.

I used Open Office Base to build the database:

Okay it's basic and not pretty, but I can extend on it.  I've imputed our closest 187 DNA matches, nearly all from Ancestry, plus a few verified from FT-DNA and GEDMATCH.  It's a family match - I've included forms for imputing my mother's and sibling's matching segments - not just my own.  Any genuine matches that my sibling has - are also my cousins.  Just that I don't have personally share DNA segments with them.  I've also included a yes/no check box for that 1C1R.

I've used it to query an up-to-date list of "our" shared DNA matches that share a correlating common ancestor or two on their trees with ours.  My biological "verifiers".

Using the open source GRAMPS app, I produced a fresh family pedigree fan chart.  I then used open source GIMP to colour in the ancestors that I have verified with shared DNA segments.  The darker the tone, the more matches:

It's generally looking pretty verified isn't it.  My birth certificate grandparents were all very clearly, my biological grandparents.  The great grandparents, and the majority of great great grandparents are also looking pretty verified.  But what about that great grandfather?  The birth certificate version was my surname great grandparent, and biological version was my Y-DNA great grandparent.  Were they the same?

Well I still do not have evidence that I'd regard as overwhelming.  But I am gathering evidence that he may have been the same guy.  I have two DNA matches that strike directly through him.  Unfortunately, both were distant ancestry, with only a small shared segment each (around 7 cM).  That small, they could either belong to an undocumented relationship elsewhere, or even be identical but not by descent.  But it's evidence that I'm building, and it's more reassuring than if he'd had no DNA matches strike through his lineage to us.  The other supportive evidence was that my biological paternal line great grandfather carried an incredibly rare haplogroup: Y haplogroup L-SK1414 (L1b2c).  The only other L-SK1414 so far found in the British Isles, traced his paternal surname line back to Basingstoke, around 1740.  My documented surname line traces back in 1740 to Long Wittenham, Berkshire.  Only about 32 miles away from the Basingstoke L-SK1414 by road.  Could be a coincidence, but it supports that the Y-DNA could still correspond with the surname line back in 1740, and that my great grandaddy, was my DNA great grandaddy.

Such is the power of genetic genealogy.  Roll on the results of my mother.  That will reduce the number of matches that are likely to be on my paternal side.

Which is more accurate AncestryDNA or 23andMe?

I've been researching my ancestry, on and off, for about 30 years. That included interviewing elderly relatives, family histories, photographs, documents, etc. It progressed onto BMD certificates, Census, and many, many visits to local record offices, churches, and archives across Britain in order to examine parish registers, transcripts, minute books, etc.

These days I have the luxury of online genealogical resources, and the ability of searching online data bases. To cut a long story short, I have accumulated a family history that includes the names of 279 recorded, direct ancestors, 277, of which lived in South East England, particularly in the East Anglian County of Norfolk (the other two were a Swiss 3 x great grandparent and his named father).

At Generation 6 (3 x great grandparent), I can say that on paper, I am 97% South East English (including 75% East Anglian), and 3% Swiss. In other words, pretty much of local East Anglian ancestry. Here is a map showing my recorded ancestors - blue via my father (minus the few in Switzerland), red via my mother:

Okay, I will still have some mistakes in my genealogical research, particularly on more distant lines, where records start to be come more scarce and have less survival. There would also be some NPEs (non parental events). However, if I compare my pedigree with DNA matches / cousins that share common ancestors both in segments and on paper trails, I get this (shaded areas verified with DNA matches to paper trails):
So there is a reasonable verification there.

That is my background. The results? Remember, Generation 6:

97% English
3% Swiss

Well before phasing, 23andme gave me:

100% European: 94% NW European. 3% Southern European. 3% Broadly European. Broken down to:
32% British & Irish
27% French & German
7% Scandinavian
29% Broadly NW European
2% Broadly Southern European (including 0.5% Iberian)

After phasing with a surviving parent, it adjusted to:

100% European: 96% NW European. 2% Southern European. 2% Broadly European.
38% British & Irish (23% from father, 15% from mother)
24% French & German (13% from father, 11% from mother)
0.8% Scandinavian (from mother alone)
34% Broadly NW European (22% from father, 12% from mother)
2% Broadly Southern European (1% from father, 1% from mother)

Not very impressive is it?

AncestryDNA gave me:



Still way off, but a lot closer and more precise than 23andme. They also assigned me both to the Southern England Genetic Community, and to the East Anglia & Essex Genetic Community, perfectly correct.

Therefore in summary - I've come to the conclusion that NO current autosomal DNA test for ancestry is capable of accurately predicting your ancestry below a very large region, such as NW Europe - unless your ancestors belong to a particularly well defined population that avoided medieval admixture. They are all inaccurate. More important to me now is that they have fat databases of testers, with a system of searching them alongside family trees, ancestor locations and surnames. However, side by side - for my results, and weighed simply against recorded family history, I have to pronounce AncestryDNA/.com to be more accurate than 23andme.

Genetic Genealogy - DNA Relative Matches

I have new DNA cousin "matches".  This is a very important avenue of DNA testing for genealogy and ancestry that I have simply missed until recently.  Up to now, I've concentrated on DNA testing for general ancestry (or ethnicity as some businesses will call it).  The problem was that I first tested with 23andme, and simply, using their heavy USA customer base, and user unfriendly "experiences", I couldn't find any DNA relatives that actually had paper trails that could correlate to my own.

One of the problems is I feel, is that an awful lot of Eastern English migration to the Atlantic Coast of North America, occurred very early - late 16th to early 18th centuries AD.  As a result, although some generous matching systems (such as 23andme's) suggests much more recent shared ancestry, in reality, our links to our distant USA cousins are so old, that all they do is reflect that my distant cousins have Puritan, New England, and Virginian ancestry from Eastern England.  Even for those that do claim to trace ancestry to those pilgrim fathers - I can't.  Certainly not for the thousands of my direct ancestors for Generations 11 - 14.  I don't think any of us can.  Chuck in a bit of genetic folding, and all that these distant relationships is really telling us is, that we both have some ancestry from south east England between 300 and 600 years ago.

Then I tested with Ancestry.com, Ancestry.co.uk, AncestryDNA or whatever you want to call that genealogy mega-business.  Their matching system is dumbed down to the frustrating level.  No chromosome locations or chromosome browsers for painting.  Instead however, they have the fattest database of testers and customers - some of whom, will like myself, be subscription slaves to their family tree and documentary genealogical services.  Their matching systems may cut out chromosome data - but on the flip side, you can browse trees, surnames, ancestral locations, of your DNA matches.  As a consequence, I've found 14 matches that share DNA, with predicted relationships - that correlate to a paper trail relationship.

In addition I am now scouring GEDmatch, 23andme, and FT-DNA Family Finder for more relative DNA matches.  I'm recording everything (including chromosome locations when available) onto a spreadsheet.  The image at the top of this page demonstrates my DNA matches where they share ancestry so far.  The darker the shade, the stronger the verification.

I'm starting to see how this is a better tool to understanding, or verifying ancestry, than any stupid ethnicity / ancestry composition by DNA.  Family isn't always biological.  However, finding a genetic correlation is the ultimate evidence to strengthen a tree.  It's fascinating to see actual paper research turning up as segments of inherited DNA on matches.