AncestryDNA’s Genetic Communities are Finally Here!

Today (March 28, 2017), AncestryDNA launches a new tool called “Genetic Communities.” Genetic Communities (GCs) are groups of test-takers who are connected through their DNA because they descend from an identified recent and distinct population of ancestors (somewhere around 1750 to 1850, in my experience).

There is a lot to explore with these GCs, so this will be just an introduction rather than a complete guide.

At 2 PM EST this Thursday I’m doing a webinar for Legacy Family Tree Webinars called “Exploring AncestryDNA’s New Genetic Communities.” You can register at any time. If you’re reading this after March 30, 2017 and you missed the free webinar, you’ll be able to watch the webinar if you are a Legacy Family Tree member (and you should be!).

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GUEST POST: The McGuire Method – Simplified Visual DNA Comparisons

EDITOR: Last summer while co-teaching a DNA course at IGHR, one of the students in the class had some questions about a mystery she was trying to solve in her own family. While discussing the brick wall, Lauren McGuire showed me a chart she had created with all the test-takers and their relationships to each other. Unlike most other methods of displaying names, relationships, and shared DNA, this chart was incredibly efficient and easy to understand. All the information was right there! It was dubbed “The McGuire Method” by the class, and it remains my favorite way to display shared cM data among a group of individuals.

For example, this method would have been perfect for displaying all the information in “A DNA Case Study: Revealing a Misattributed Parentage Event with DNA,” but I wanted Lauren to announce her method first. It would be an interesting exercise to go back, now, and re-plot that graph using the McGuire Method.

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A DNA Case Study: Revealing a Misattributed Parentage Event with DNA

As DNA testing for genealogy becomes increasingly popular, more individuals are using the tool to examine and confirm their family trees. However, as more people are tested and comparing DNA to their paper trail, more people are discovering that their genetic ancestry is not what they expected it to be.

The Genetic Genealogy Standards were created to help educate people about the possible outcomes and limitations of genetic genealogy testing. One of the possible outcomes is misattributed parentage, or the discovery that a supposed genealogical ancestor is not in one’s genetic line. Many correctly point out that a misattributed ancestor is still be a social ancestor firmly rooted in one’s social tree, although it is potentially important to know when an ancestor is not one’s genetic ancestor.

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Can a Genealogist Refuse to Use DNA Evidence?

The answer is, of course, yes. A genealogist can refuse to use any evidence they don’t want to use. There is no Evidence Police. The real question, therefore, is whether the research from a genealogist refusing to use DNA evidence can be considered complete and reliable IF AND ONLY IF that DNA evidence: (1) would have shed light on the question (to either support or refute the hypothesis); AND (2) could have been obtained.

The GPS and DNA Evidence

DNA evidence has been available to genealogists since 2000, although it has only reached what one might call a “critical mass” of awareness within the genealogical community in the past 5-10 years. As a result of the proliferation of DNA testing, a spotlight is currently aimed at DNA evidence, including when it should be used and how it should be used.

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Are You Doing Everything to Identify Your Matches?

We all know that it can be frustrating trying to identify who a genetic match is and how they are related to us. Today we’ll look at some of the ways we can learn more about matches using the limited information we are given.

But this post has a two-fold purpose. The first purpose is to help people identify their AncestryDNA matches even if the match has no tree, has a private tree, has a meagre tree, and/or is not communicating. Keep in mind, some people have very good reasons for not having a public tree (they don’t have one, there’s a bad history, and so on), so this post is not at all about chastising people who don’t have a tree.

The second purpose, which is perhaps even more important, is to help test-takers who want privacy understand the ways in which people can use information to identify them. EVERY test-taker has a right to make their information as private as possible; but you must also understand that DNA is inherently identifiable. The purpose of genetic genealogy is identification. The only way to maintain 100% DNA privacy is to not take a DNA test. Period. The next best way to maintain some level of DNA privacy is to make your information as private as possible, as we will see below.

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Analyzing a Lack of Sharing in 2C1R Relationship

To date, there has never been a confirmed case of second cousins (2C) or closer that don’t share DNA. There have been a few rumblings here and there, but nothing proven. See “Second Cousins (Or Closer) That Don’t Share DNA?” for more details.

But what about second cousins once removed (2C1R)? That’s only a single meiosis away from a 2C relationship. Is it possible to not share DNA at that distance? If I don’t share DNA with my 2C1R, should I suspect a misattributed parentage event, or is that normal? Is there anything I can do to give myself some peace of mind?

According to data from the 2016 update to the Shared cM Project, several submissions to the project reported no shared DNA between 2C1R. The histogram shows the distribution, and how often 0 cM shared is for that relationship:

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Winner of The Genetic Genealogist 10th Anniversary Sweepstakes!

As you may recall, February 12, 2017 was the 10th Anniversary of the launch of The Genetic Genealogist. To celebrate, I conducted a sweepstakes to give away the very first signed copies of my books, The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy and Genetic Genealogy in Practice (with Debbie Parker Wayne) – see “The Genetic Genealogist Celebrates 10 Years of DNA!”

There were hundreds of entries in the contest, and a winner was selected by Wishpond (the plugin I used) at random. I will contact them tonight, and if the person agrees to have his/her name made available here, I will update the post. Thank you so much to everyone that entered, and an even bigger THANK YOU for 10 great years!

EDIT: Congrats to Natalie McLain of Houston, Texas!

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