Saturday, April 26, 2014

DNA with 23andMe and now AncestryDNA for Mom

Mother's Day is coming up and what do you give the mom who is 95 and has it all, and is an avid genealogist? Another DNA test, of course!

Just in time, the results are now in for Mom's AncestryDNA test. Mom got a 23andMe test for Mother's Day last year and we've had so much fun with it that it seemed like a good idea to do it again this time with Ancestry. Cousin Rich with whom we've been working on the Farrell DNA Project, highly recommended AncestryDNA. He was a newbie when he started but he's experienced now and likes it a lot. And now that Mom's results are back I can see why and I'd like to share a few observations and thoughts about its advantages as well as a place or two where they could tweek it.

First, and this isn't news to anyone, is the ethnicity profile, also called in common parlance, ancestry composition. Here's the AncestryDNA screen for Mom's ethnicity.

Now here's the one for her Ancestry Composition from 23andme.

You'll be noticing that the AncestryDNA chart shows Mom as having 49% Irish DNA, and she'll like that! It also shows her Great Britain ethnicity as 6%. 23andMe breaks it down into Non-specific Northern European as 45.1% and  British and Irish as 38.9%. That's a bit different but similar enough that I'm satisfied with it, and see it as indicating that Mom mostly descended from a whole lot of Irish and British folks (including the Welsh) and not so much from the Native American population. And that's what we expected. But that said, have to note that 23and Me does have a more detailed breakdown of ancestry categories.
Mom and I don't have too many mysteries about who our ancestors were, but the role composition of ancestry can play got underlined for me recently when a DNA match contacted me and was searching for their grandfather. All of her DNA tests showed a largely Portuguese heritage but there were no Portuguese people on her tree. We're all about the Irish and British - and have no Portuguese going on - so we couldn't help her. At least she was able to eliminate us and our ancestors from her search.
The bulk of the work for me in using DNA for genealogy has been contacting matches. This is where AncestryDNA excels. Just look at this, below.


There ya' go. It's all I need in order to evaluate a match. No more waiting and hoping that the person you match will be interested in genealogy as has been my experience on 23andMe. There is a lot of information on this screen and let me point out a few of the features I particularly enjoy.
First and foremost, look at the trees! Whoop-de-do! The middle column tells us how big the tree is, if it's private which is indicated by the lock, and if Ancestry has already spotted a shared ancestor indicated by a leaf. I really like that.
The look of the screen is visually intuitive, I think. 2nd cousins are grouped together with a color band separating them from third cousins. You can see right away if the match is male or female and you can also tell if the match is in an account managed by someone else so you know what you're getting into when you send a message.
The real pay-off for me is the little green leaf that indicates that Ancestry is taking a shot at matching us up and showing me and my contact where they think the shared ancestor is. Take a look when you click through and review the match. Now this is cool.
I have to say that this is way better than playing "do you have a tree online" which was my least favorite game over at 23andMe. At AncestryDNA when there's a match and both of you have a public tree on Ancestry then all the work is done for you.
Where I run into problems is people who don't have a tree on Ancestry even though they did a DNA test there. (Why would you do that? Oh, wait, I take that back. They might if they were adopted and have no clue as to who their parents were.) Then there are the people who have a private tree so I have to message them pleading for a peek at the goods. What if they fell off the edge of the world just yesterday? How's that gonna' work? It's not. Just put up a bare bones tree with only direct ancestors on it and make it public. That would work for both of us.
The second cousin match that I contacted for Mom knows her real well and is in frequent contact. We went back and forth a bit chatting about relatives and holes in our trees and documents we'd just love to have. It was just plain fun. And of course Rich's Aunt and Uncle were there on the list of third cousins, as expected and should be.
I'd like a chromosome browser on AncestryDNA. That would be very useful. But overall, we're real happy we tested with them.


  1. I also took an AncestryDNA test and got the results about a week ago. Like you, I'm happy I tested with them. I also did the Family Finder test with FamilyTreeDNA, which was interesting as well.

    I really like Member Matches on AncestryDNA. It has a lot of cool and helpful features.

    1. Hi Jana--
      Isn't that Member Match a whole lot of fun? Almost as good as an ice cream cone:)