Family Tree DNA Updates Matching Thresholds

Family Tree DNA will be updating its matching thresholds in the very near future (QC is currently being run). Here’s a flowchart of the modified matching algorithm:

FTDNA_Matching_Algorithm

From FTDNA’s announcement (modified to indicate that the changes are coming very soon):

You asked for it – we listened!

For several years the genetic genealogy community has asked for adjustments to the matching thresholds in the Family Finder autosomal test.

Currently, the current matching thresholds – the minimum amount of shared DNA required for two people to show as a match are:

– Minimum longest block of at least 7.69 cM for 99% of testers, 5.5 cM for the other one percent

– Minimum 20 total shared centiMorgans

Some people believed those thresholds to be too restrictive, and through the years requested changes that would loosen those restrictions.

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Connections to the Past

As genealogists, we often have the privilege to connect with relatives who have memories that stretch back much further than our own. Sometimes these connections are long-lasting, and sometimes they are very brief. But every one of these connections enrich our understanding of the past, and help keep alive ancestors that live on only in their memories.

Millie

A smiling Millie with her parents Hamilton and Grace (Widrig) Colwell, and her baby.

On June 1, 2002, I had the privilege to meet Mildred “Millie” Leet, who lived 3 hours away in Corning, New York. I’d briefly corresponded by mail with Millie about our shared ancestors, the Colwell Family of Ellisburg, New York. She was the great-grandchild of the immigrant couple Hamilton and Susanna (Stein/Steen) Caldwell/Colwell, my ancestors as well, and she was born just 20 years or so after their death.

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Announcing “Genetic Genealogy in Practice” – A New Book Providing Genealogists with the Skills to Understand and Apply DNA

GGPEDIT: See Debbie’s post here: “New Book Coming Soon: Genetic Genealogy in Practice” with lots more detail!

May 3, 2016 – Genetic genealogy educators and bloggers Blaine T. Bettinger, Ph.D., JD, and Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, announce Genetic Genealogy in Practice, the newest book in the National Genealogical Society’s Special Topic Series. GGP will be available for purchase in mid-summer 2016.

Genetic Genealogy in Practice is directed to genealogists of all levels, from beginner to intermediate to advanced. For the very first time, GGP offers hands-on exercises in areas of Y-DNA, mtDNA, X-DNA, atDNA, the Genealogical Proof Standard, ethics, and more. Genealogists can test their understanding and expertise in each of these subject areas via 75+ hands-on exercises, and will receive immediate feedback from an answer key that provides detailed explanations for every exercise.

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AncestryDNA Plans Update to Matching Algorithm

AncestryDNAAncestryDNA is making several changes to its matching algorithm in the next week or two (an exact time is not yet available). You may recall an announcement that was made earlier this month entitled “New Advances in DNA Science Coming Your Way” (pdf) in which they stated the following:

“These advancements are expected to deliver more-precise predictions of whom you are related to, and how closely, among the million-plus others in the AncestryDNA database.”

There were no specifics in the announcement, however. Last night, AncestryDNA provided additional information about the changes that we will be seeing in our match lists in the next week or two.

Before I launch into the specifics, here is a very high-level summary, based on the information we were provided:

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Cyndi’s List Celebrates 20 Years! Congratulations!

cyndislistCongratulations!! Cyndi’s List, the most comprehensive list of family history resources on the internet, turns 20 years old today! 20 amazing years of FREE help for genealogists.

According to the Cyndi’s List About page, the website started on March 4, 1996:

The list began as a one page set of bookmarks that I shared with my fellow genealogical society members at the Tacoma-Pierce County Genealogical Society. After that I expanded it to be a 6-page article for the society quarterly. On March 4, 1996 I published my personal web site and, as sort of an after-thought, I added my “list” of bookmarks. The original list was contained on one categorized web page with more than 1,025 links.

In addition to websites and resources in every conceivable subject area, Cyndi’s List has a very healthy list of “DNA, Genetics & Family Health” links.

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Visualizing Distributions for the Shared cM Project

Many people have benefited from the more than 6,000 submissions to the Shared cM Project, an incredible crowdsharing project (which is still collecting data HERE!).

One issue with the Shared cM Project, however, is that it is user-submitted data, meaning there are invariably two inherent problems that will affect that data: (1) data entry errors; and (2) relationships that are not accurate.

It is actually a very simple matter to resolve both of these issues, and that is to provide the distributions for the data. The distributions will show clearly where the outliers (the errors and the incorrect relationships) reside. To generate distributions, I enlisted the help of mathematician Ingrid Baade, who volunteered all of her time. I am forever in her debt for this contribution!

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Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research – “Genetic Genealogy for Professional Genealogists”

Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research

Are you familiar with the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research? The Virtual Institute is online platform offering a wide variety of courses by well-known instructors. Each 6-hour course is presented over the course of two consecutive Saturdays. The course is recorded and all participants receive a copy of the recording! Live attendees have the benefit of Q&A periods in each session.

Earlier this year I presented “(Finally!) Understanding Autosomal DNA” through the Virtual Institute, and the course was very well received (see some example reviews here and here).

Genetic Genealogy for Professional Genealogists

This November 7th and 14th (or at your convenience if you’re listening to the recordings), I will be teaching my second course through the Virtual Institute, entitled “Genetic Genealogy for Professional Genealogists.” The course is designed for anyone interested in genetic genealogy, but especially for genealogists that help others understand DNA test results whether as a paid professional or simply as a knowledgeable friend.

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The Search For Helen’s Roots – Part II

In the last post (“The Search for Helen’s Roots“) we learned that my adopted great-grandmother, Helen Johnson, has a cluster of shared close autosomal DNA matches in the 3rd and 4th cousin range. These matches are all genealogically members of a Snell family which lived in the same small county in Upstate New York where my great-grandmother was born.

We also learned that my grandmother married Walter A. Snell, who also appears to be a member of the same Snell family.

Did Helen knowingly marry someone who was her cousin or possibly her half-brother? Did she always know who she was biologically?

Is My Surname Actually SNELL?

On February 17, 1932, Helen’s first husband Frank Bettinger passed away unexpectedly at the age of 59:

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The Search For Helen’s Roots

My great-grandmother, Helen Johnson, was adopted.Copyright Blaine T. Bettinger

She was born on March 2, 1889 in Mexico, Oswego County, New York, the unnamed daughter of a “Minerva D. Johnson” (age 20 and born in nearby New Haven, Oswego County, NY) and an unknown father. (New York State Department of Health, birth certificate 8040 (1889), no name; Office of Vital Statistics, Albany).

She died at the age of 93 in 1983 in Watertown, New York. Visiting the elderly Helen (by then known as Marley) is one of my earliest childhood memories.

In an attempt to find Helen’s ancestors, I’m using DNA that I graciously obtained from four of Helen’s grandchildren (my father, two of his sisters, and their first cousin). Last week, I uncovered some possible clues that have raised more questions than I could have ever thought possible. And when DNA is involved, that’s really saying something!

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AncestryDNA Announces New IN COMMON WITH Tool

With genetic genealogy the name of the game is collaboration, whether it is collaboration with other people or collaboration among the trees and records of our genealogical and genetic matches. Only when we collaborate can we generate the clues and information necessary to break through walls and recover the names of those missing ancestors.

We have multiple tools for collaboration of genetic matches. At GEDmatch and DNAGedcom, for example, we have many third-party tools that assist our efforts. The companies also offer tools that allow us to sift through our matches to find the clues we need. Family Tree DNA, for example, has an In Common With (“ICW”) tool and a Matrix tool that allow users to see what matches they share in common with another person.

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