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DNA and Genealogy

Updated on June 13, 2019

DNA Tests and Analysis

I used Ancestry.com to test my DNA. I was mostly curious to see if my ancestry matched our oral and written family history and was a bit surprised to find that it did not, as it showed a very high percentage for Scandanavian inheritance. Nothing I knew about my family roots indicated any connection with that part of the world, but I assumed that perhaps Viking raiders or settlers had been part of our early history.

Scandinavia was a total surprise to me.
Scandinavia was a total surprise to me.

When I checked in more recently, I found that Ancestry now thought differently about my heritage and the Scandinavian influence had disappeared, replaced by a mere 2% Swedish measurement.

Ancestry explained the changes. Apparently they are now able to analyze longer segments of DNA and therefore provide more accurate results. If you obtained DNA results several years ago, you too should return to see updated and more accurate results.

More recent analysis
More recent analysis

My Sister is Indeed My Father’s Daughter

As it happens, one of my sisters also submitted her DNA to Ancestry. As we expected, checking for matching DNA confirms that yes, she really is my sister. We were not doubting that, but more than one family has turned up unknown cousins and siblings.

Ancestry also noticed one of my first cousins - the son of my father‘s sister, so that also tells me that my father truly was my father. That is something that can go the other way with tests like this,

Matches from Ancestry
Matches from Ancestry

A Little Boring

Most of my family is uninterested or fearful concerning DNA testing, so only my wife has also used Ancestry and that showed that I am not at all closely related to her except by marriage. I suppose that is good to know, but truly all of this was a bit boring as it only confirms what I already knew: I’m French and English with a bit of stuff from other places. Ho Hum.

Enter GEDmatch

I happened to listen to a podcast that told the story of how police had caught a murderer using a site called GEDmatch. This site allows people to upload DNA tests done at other sites and provides tools to search and match DNA in various ways. The idea here is that your unknown relatives may use a different testing site than you used and you would never know about each other. But if both of you uploaded your results to GEDmatch, their tools could help you find each other.

That’s where the police came in. Someone realized that a site like GEDmatch could also be used for crime solving. If you have DNA from a crime scene, you could search for matches. Finding an exact match would be a long shot, but finding cousins and even family members might not be. Find a cousin, add some old fashioned manual police work, and you might be able to find the owner of the crime scene DNA.

That was what the police thought, and they were right. It wasn’t just blind luck, either, as they and others went on to solve more crimes using the same methods,

Privacy Concerns

Apparently that usage was a surprise to the owner of the GEDmatch.com site. He quickly realized that he had promised some privacy to the people who people who had provided their DNA. Yes, they expected it to be used for genealogy, but did they expect the police to be looking at it?

He decided that they did not, and changed the terms of the site agreement so that people would have to specifically opt-in to say that they would allow such searches.

One to Many DNA Match

I uploaded my own DNA data to GEDmatch and played around a bit with some of the many tools they offer. As I am neither an expert in DNA nor deeply interested in genealogy, I honestly couldn’t make heads or tails of most of it, but I did note that the default One to Many DNA search quickly found one of my cousins who had also put his DNA at GEDmatch. That particular cousin is very interested in genealogy and has done a lot of research of our family, so I was not surprised to find him there.

No other member of my family turned up. I know some others have done DNA tests, but they probably aren’t deep enough into all this to know about GEDmatch.


Matching at GEDmatch turned up one of my first cousins immediately.
Matching at GEDmatch turned up one of my first cousins immediately.

GEDcom Matching

A GEDcom file is just a text file showing how people in your family are related to each other. Ancestry.com has what little there is of mine and it looks like this.

0 HEAD
1 CHAR UTF-8
1 SOUR Ancestry.com Family Trees
2 VERS (2010.3)
2 NAME Ancestry.com Family Trees
2 CORP Ancestry.com
1 GEDC
2 VERS 5.5
2 FORM LINEAGE-LINKED
0 @P1@ INDI 
1 BIRT 
2 DATE 1948
1 SEX M
1 NAME Anthony /Lawrence/
1 SEX M
1 FAMC @F2@
0 @P2@ INDI 
1 RESI 
2 DATE 1949
1 BIRT 
2 DATE 1914
2 PLAC Massachusetts, USA
1 NAME Beardslry /Lawrence/
1 SEX M
1 DEAT 
2 DATE 1990
1 FAMC @F1@
1 FAMS @F2@
0 @P3@ INDI 
1 NAME Anna /Raymond/
1 SEX F
1 RESI 
2 DATE 1914
2 PLAC Massachusetts, USA
1 FAMS @F1@
0 @P4@ INDI 
1 SEX M
1 RESI 
2 DATE 1914
2 PLAC Massachusetts, USA
1 BIRT 
2 DATE 1887
1 NAME Beardsley /Lawrence/
1 FAMS @F1@

I didn’t give it that information. It created that from other sources and it’s wrong. Right away I noticed that my father‘s name is spelled incorrectly; it should be Beardsley, not Beardsry.

Something else is awry too because when Ancestry displays that visually, it indicates my father‘s grandmother as his mother and that he has a sister who actually is my sister. His true sister is not living, nor is his grandmother. I could not find any way to correct all this.

A slightly broken GEDcom visualization at Ancestry.com
A slightly broken GEDcom visualization at Ancestry.com

You can upload your GEDcom file to GEDmatch.com and it can link that to your DNA to supposedly provide even more search methods. I uploaded mine and saw that it had a different idea of what the file means. Anna Raymond is not my mother or my father’s mother!

GEDmatch interprets the GEDcom file differently
GEDmatch interprets the GEDcom file differently

I Went No Farther

I tried some of the GEDcom file tools, but they take a long time to run and I lost patience. Given that I know the file is messed up, it is difficult for me to have much confidence in any results it might eventually give me and I don’t have much interest or need for this anyway. The cousin I mentioned above has provided me and the rest of the family with his research results and that’s enough to satisfy my curiosity.

If you are interested in genealogy and lack a cousin who has already done all the work, you might want to investigate these new tools more thoroughly.

Comments

Submit a Comment
  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    24 months ago from SE MA

    Well, yes. I once did some computer work for the Mass. Society of Mayflower Descendants. My family claims ancestry from Elder Brewster. The folks at MSMD told me that if all the folks that think they are part of the Mayflower line really were, most of Massachusetts would be very close relatives :)

  • Glenn Stok profile image

    Glenn Stok 

    24 months ago from Long Island, NY

    The genealogy problem with ancestry.com is that it’s dependent on people building family trees of their own with the correct information. These individual trees other people create can be connected by genealogy and that’s probably why your tree had the wrong information about your father's sister and his grandmother.

    Their dna results, on the other hand, are more accurate, as you discovered. Especially since the latest updates with newer technology. I used 23andMe and was pleased with the results. My sister and one of my nieces also used it and they came up correctly in my report.

    I also found it interesting to see my heritage going all the way back 60,000 years, to learn that I’m 3% Neanderthal. But when I researched that it turns out most humans are.

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    2 years ago from SE MA

    Thanks, Lela. I’m so happy you are still here!

  • Austinstar profile image

    Lela 

    2 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    Welcome back, pcunix! Another French/Irish long lost relative.

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