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Thread: Big Increase in Matches with Shared Ancestors

  1. #11
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    My Ethnicity Estimate from Ancestry DNA seems to be pretty accurate. I do take into account the fact that the England and Wales component also includes Northwestern Europe. That accounts for my Dutch and Breton ancestry not showing up as separate continental elements.

    I've got 34% Ireland and Scotland, and that also makes sense to me.

    Stevens_Ancestry DNA Ethnicity Estimate_rms2_05 Apr 2019.jpg
    Last edited by rms2; 05-18-2019 at 03:22 PM.
     


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  3. #12
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    Have you all noticed an apparent increase in the number of matches you have with an identified set of shared ancestors? I know I have. Many of the people I looked at long ago and couldn't figure out how we were related now show up for me with a "Shared Ancestor" leaf and a set of apparently solid ancestors they share with me.

    Looks pretty good, but I don't have time to comb through all of them to try to test the connection for faults.

    I just finished spending a couple of hours going through them and still didn't finish. I've been assigning them the little colored dots based on surname groups. Funny how certain ancestors/surnames show up again and again and again.
    Really glad you brought this up, as I have been meaning to come back here and mention this. Recently, the number of "traced" cousins on my mom's side just exploded. When I started this process on Ancestry a year ago, I had just a handful. Now there are around 52 cousins with common ancestors, outside of close family. A similar thing has happened on my dad's subtree, but to a much lesser extent.

    Also, as someone else mentioned, this is clearly connected to ThruLines and some other "tricks" Ancestry is throwing in. However, unlike ThruLines proper, which, though useful to me, is a UI/UX mess, these common ancestor hints are almost all correct, as far as I can tell. Now, part of this is due to some huge brickwall breakthroughs I have made on my mom's tree, two of which have revealed ancestors who became Mormons and emigrated from England to the US. If you're trying to solve the family tree puzzle, pray for a Mormon ancestor!

    Like you, rms2, I have been using the colored dots, which has been another *huge* jump in my ability to understand who is who on the giant cousin list. I created and printed out a template of the colored circles, and labeled them with specific ancestral couples. Generally, I try to use the darker shades for more recent ancestral couples and the less saturated colors to indicate those further in the past. With my template in hand, I now investigate each cousin, starting with the most shared DNA, and based on information I have garnered in the past, which is in the notes field, and their shared matches, all of a sudden the vast majority of them are falling into place. A growing majority of those above 20 cM are now colored (or otherwise labeled and awaiting coloring).

    Beyond that, though, there is definitely a strange disproportionality to the clustering. A small minority of ancestral couples, even some going back to the early 1800s, account for a large majority of colored dots. Tons and tons of one color and very few of another. Even if both sets of ancestral couples are clearly DNA-confirmed and match paper trails really well, for some reason, one has tons of descendants who have been genotyped and some have almost none. I guess there are some obvious explanations for this (including the Mormon thing), but I'm surprised how different the picture looks for each family line.

    As I've often said about this process: the more you know about the puzzle, the more of it you can solve, recursively. And that is panning out in spades. It sort of felt like hitting "critical mass", but I believe the ThruLines thing, along with a few other events, just brought everything to a culminating point. Now I have so much work to do tracing these paths and confirming the exact ancestral couple, but the whole thing has shifted from feeling 'near impossible' to 'actually doable'.

    -MXC
    Latest paper trail:
    Lancashire/Manchester - 20%; Tyne&Wear - 12.5%; Scotland - 12.5%; Ireland - 25%; Mecklenburg-Schwerin - 12.5%; Somerset - 6.5%; Essex - 8%; Yorkshire - 3%

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  5. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike_G View Post
    I have one group of shared matches that consists of approximately 40 people. All originated from my great great grandparents. GGGF was Colonial mix and GGGM was German/Swiss.

    I get 4% Germanic and 4% England/Wales/NW Europe, but both should probably be higher considering that one of my great grandmothers was half Colonial and half German/Swiss while both of my maternal great grandfathers were half English/half Dutch. On the other hand, I get 4% Swedish and 3% Norwegian with no paper trail to back up either. Yet I get 29% Ireland/Scotland with an Irish great grandmother and no other known Irish/Scottish ancestry.

    Ancestry's estimate isn't the worst :cough cough: LDNA & MyHeritage, but there are enough big misses to question a lot of the smaller percentages.

    A lot of those matches mentioned above haven't updated their ethnicity results -- most of them still show Western Europe instead of the more specific categories.
    In the end, with any calculator your results are going to depend quite a bit on who is in the reference panel(s) you're being compared to. Recall that with Ancestry, anyone in the panel who is deemed to be an "outlier" will be excluded from the panel.

    At one level, this makes sense. The problem is, we really don't know anything about who ended up being excluded. We don't actually know, for example, that they don't "belong" to the region they're from every bit as much as those who remained in the panel. So a reference panel may miss the actual variation that exists in a region, and which -- for all we know -- has existed in that region from even earlier that the tests are supposed to reflect.*

    Another problem is that, for various regions, reference panel membership should be as specific as possible. I have no problem with "England, Wales, and Northwestern Europe" as a label for some ancestry "component", because the label reflects where the ancestry can actually be found.

    But, "England, Wales and Northwestern Europe" as a reference panel name kind of bothers me. In my view, the panel name should strictly reflect where the samples are from, and in this case that means that there must be some number of samples from England; some number from Wales; and some number from Northwestern Europe. Ideally, Ancestry would break that down. It would also be all right if a few were from other locations, but that should be specified.

    And, "Northwestern Europe" really should be further broken down. Where in Northwestern Europe? From France? Germany? Switzerland? Where?

    The reason for this should be obvious. You can't really pretend that this reference panel is essentially just an "update" of the Great Britain reference panel if it has a significant number of samples from outside Great Britain. Now, in a very technical sense Ancestry acknowledges that the panel is not simply Great Britain -- both in the ancestry label, and on the map. Yet they continue to speak of this category as an "update" to Great Britain, and they tell me my old 25% Great Britain increased by 55%, rather than that it simply absorbed most of another category due to reference panel changes.

    On paper, I have about 34% German ancestry, 6% Alsatian ancestry, 3% French ancestry, and 1% Swiss ancestry. Given that these locations are closer to France and Germany than to Great Britain, you might expect all of these to show up as some combination of France and Germanic Europe rather than as Great Britain, so the total between the two would perhaps be around 44%. That is, in fact, almost exactly what I got for "West Europe" before the update. (It's within maybe half of a percent.)

    Instead, I get 80% "England, Wales and Northwestern Europe" and 11% "Ireland and Scotland", for a combined total of 91%. This is as compared to my paper trail total for "British & Irish" or just 41%. And, again, it completely misses my 12.5% Menorcan Spanish. Even if in Ancestry's testing Menorcans do not show up as "Portuguese and Spanish", you'd think that they ought to then show up as French -- and not be absorbed into "England, Wales and Northwestern Europe".

    (At least Ancestry got my 2% Native American about right.)

    Added:

    What I'm arguing here is that in comparison to Ancestry's
    "England, Wales and Northwestern Europe" reference panel, which is necessarily drawn completely from modern populations, a lot of "German/Swiss" immigrants to Colonial America might well have look genetically as if they belong to the "England, Wales and Northwestern Europe" category.

    In that case, the problem really is not with their "belonging" to the region they're actually from, or being somehow of "British" descent. The problem is with the category not be inclusive enough. Excluded the "outliers" -- while understandable -- means that the final category "Germanic Europe" may actually exclude many people who truly belong to "Germanic Europe" just as much as the others. We may presume that "before Columbus" European populations were relatively unmixed, but I strongly suspect that this was not the case.

    It's possible that with a different core reference panel, you'd get different outliers and the final group would be completely different -- yet still representative of some of the people from a given region.
    Last edited by geebee; 05-19-2019 at 08:23 PM.
    Besides British-German-Catalan, ancestry includes smaller amounts of French, Irish, Swiss, Choctaw & possibly Catawba. Avatar picture is: my father, his father, & his father's father; baby is my eldest brother.

    GB

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  7. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike_G View Post
    I have one group of shared matches that consists of approximately 40 people. All originated from my great great grandparents. GGGF was Colonial mix and GGGM was German/Swiss.

    I get 4% Germanic and 4% England/Wales/NW Europe, but both should probably be higher considering that one of my great grandmothers was half Colonial and half German/Swiss while both of my maternal great grandfathers were half English/half Dutch. On the other hand, I get 4% Swedish and 3% Norwegian with no paper trail to back up either. Yet I get 29% Ireland/Scotland with an Irish great grandmother and no other known Irish/Scottish ancestry.

    Ancestry's estimate isn't the worst :cough cough: LDNA & MyHeritage, but there are enough big misses to question a lot of the smaller percentages.

    A lot of those matches mentioned above haven't updated their ethnicity results -- most of them still show Western Europe instead of the more specific categories.
    Apologies for the off-topic but your flags are the same mix as my father and I, rad!

    Quote Originally Posted by rms2 View Post
    My Ethnicity Estimate from Ancestry DNA seems to be pretty accurate. I do take into account the fact that the England and Wales component also includes Northwestern Europe. That accounts for my Dutch and Breton ancestry not showing up as separate continental elements.

    I've got 34% Ireland and Scotland, and that also makes sense to me.

    Stevens_Ancestry DNA Ethnicity Estimate_rms2_05 Apr 2019.jpg
    Your sentiment seems to be in the majority of AncestryDNA testers, honestly. Most seem overwhelmingly pleased with their results, I even like my own well enough, but I'm just a little salty (and taking a possibly flawed reference panel/algorithm way too personally) that my great grandfathers DNA was mislabeled. I can't say enough good things about their genetic genealogy tools (I wish they had a chromosome viewer) and genetic communities, overall AncestryDNA is great (probably the best overall service if you've got a subscription and DNA test together). I just complain a bit too much
    Y DNA E-V13>Z5018>S2979>Z16659>S2972* John Saunders unknown birthdate, died 1840 in Kings Bromley, Staffordshire, England.
    MtDNA U5a2c3a Betty Hallissy b.1801 Passage West, Cork, Ireland

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  9. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by BackToTheForests View Post
    I can't say enough good things about their genetic genealogy tools (I wish they had a chromosome viewer) and genetic communities, overall AncestryDNA is great (probably the best overall service if you've got a subscription and DNA test together). I just complain a bit too much
    Agree 100%. Despite the ethnicity estimate inaccuracies for some of us, Ancestry is very useful for research and continues to improve. Things like expanded matches as rms pointed out make it even better. If not for Ancestry I'd still be staring at a few distant cousin matches on FTDNA and 23andme and wondering how we're connected.

    I don't think you complain too much. Normally I dismiss surveys, but every time I get one from Ancestry I complete it with positive and constructively critical comments. It's a very good service, and I want it to get even better.
    The more I learn about this DNA stuff the less I know.

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  11. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike_G View Post
    Agree 100%. Despite the ethnicity estimate inaccuracies for some of us, Ancestry is very useful for research and continues to improve. Things like expanded matches as rms pointed out make it even better. If not for Ancestry I'd still be staring at a few distant cousin matches on FTDNA and 23andme and wondering how we're connected.

    I don't think you complain too much. Normally I dismiss surveys, but every time I get one from Ancestry I complete it with positive and constructively critical comments. It's a very good service, and I want it to get even better.
    I agree that Ancestry has a lot of potential, but currently they're misleading many of their customers with their ancestry analysis. How? By acting as if "England, Wales and Northwestern Europe" at its core is really just "Great Britain".

    There are many millions of Americans whose ancestry includes a considerable amount of colonial-era German -- like me -- who are effectively being told they really are British and Irish. For one thing, Ancestry told me when they came out with the 2018 update that my "Great Britain" had increased by 55%.

    They did not say, "we've tweaked some of our categories and you now have a new category called 'England, Wales and Northwestern Europe', and it's 80%." No, they suggested that a category I already had -- "Great Britain" -- was now 55% than it had been. Meanwhile, my 45% "Europe West" was not reduced to 6% "Germanic Europe", but merely refined to 6% "Germanic Europe".

    Here's the problem. I have a fairly robust paper trail after my ancestors reached America, though not so much before. But I know that 6.25% of my ancestry (on paper) came from Alsace-Lorraine during the first half of the 19th century. Is this my 6% "Germanic Europe"? If so, where is my 34% colonial German ancestry? Either all of it is showing up as "England, Wales and Northwestern Europe" (EW&NWE), or up to 6% is showing up as "Germanic Europe" -- in which case the Alsatian ancestry is all showing up as EW&NWE. I also have about 3% actual French ancestry that has to be accounted for somehow, plus 1.2% French. It would appear that both of these, if still present, are simply being counted with that EW&NWE.

    My Native American ancestry, which on paper should be about 2%, Ancestry has hit pretty much on the nose. But, whereas I also should have around 12.5% Menorcan Spanish ancestry, they've completely smoothed that out now.

    I can accept that even though both of my maternal grandfathers were actually Spanish immigrants -- making her half Spanish -- that I somehow failed to inherit an eighth. But I find it hard to believe I inherited none of this ancestry at all. Somehow, though, Ancestry tells my daughter that she has 1% Spanish & Portuguese. If you think this means it came from my daughter's mother, you'd be wrong -- or at least, Ancestry also shows no such ancestry for my wife. Instead, she's 54% "England, Wales and Northwestern Europe", 42% "Ireland and Scotland", and 4% "Germanic Europe".

    One of my wife's great grandparents was actually the daughter of German immigrants, so you'd expect something closer to 12.5% than to just 4%; but the map does make clear that there's a reason why there isn't just and "England and Wales" category. Obviously, some of the ancestry labeled as "England, Wales and Northwestern Europe" is simply "Northwestern Europe", despite Ancestry trying to make it appear to be part of "Great Britain". Why else would their "read more" section for "England, Wales and Northwestern Europe" talk about nothing but Great Britain?

    This is what bugs me -- that it would be so simply for Ancestry to clearly state that "the ancestors of people with 'England, Wales and Northwestern Europe'" may not have been from "Great Britain" at all. They may have been from a region which includes much of the ancestry of "Great Britain". It seems that prefer you to think there was a back migration from Great Britain to the continent. But to the extent that there was, it would have been very minor and primarily limited to the Channel Islands and the northern coast of France.

    I doubt very much that most of the Palatine Germans arriving in Pennsylvania during the colonial period were descended from the British. But did they have some DNA in common with today's British people? Probably. But because some of the ancestors of today's British folk happened to come from -- "Northwestern Europe". I think it would be better to try to separate England and Wales from "and Northwestern Europe", but possibly that can't be done.

    But if it can't, the only reason I can see for that is that Ancestry's reference panel for the region isn't clearly defined. Either it includes samples from England, Wales and Northwestern Europe -- in which case they could try separating these samples into two distinct panels -- or it doesn't really include samples from Northwestern Europe (in which case the panel is misleadingly named.

    In any case, this is currently my biggest gripe with Ancestry -- well, besides the lack of a chromosome browser and the way they use Timber. If they're going to use Timber at all (and I think they'd do better by their customers if they dropped it), they should use it in an advisory way. Right now, Timber will actually exclude some matching that it determines to be (by whatever criteria) "too matchy". It is abundantly clear that this results in the exclusion of significant amounts of genuine matching. It may also eliminate some false matching. But a way that Ancestry could use Timber would be to report the "excess matching", but simply "flag" it for the customer. They could say that "Timber reports that n amount of this match of x cM across y DNA segments may be excess matching" and then provide an explanation.

    The problem with simply doing the work for you and excluding the "excess matching" is that you have no way of evaluating the match for yourself, since you'll never see how much would have been reported without Timber.

    (Well, you won't see it unless both you and your match upload your files to GEDmatch. Then you might see, for example, where Ancestry reports a match of 51 cM across 5 segments and GEDmatch reports 91 cM shared across 7 segments. The first is likely to be a 4th cousin; the second is more likely to be a 3rd cousin. Significant difference!)
    Besides British-German-Catalan, ancestry includes smaller amounts of French, Irish, Swiss, Choctaw & possibly Catawba. Avatar picture is: my father, his father, & his father's father; baby is my eldest brother.

    GB

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  13. #17
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    I guess since I used so much space to complain about Ancestry, I might mention a few things I like -- because they actually are a lot of them.

    I like, for example, that they increased the size of many reference panels and also made a number of new panels. I would not object (much) even to my 80% "England, Wales and Northwestern Europe" if they didn't try in various ways to pretend it's really "Great Britain".

    Use of the word "increased" was a bad choice, if the new reference panel includes a significant number of actual samples from Northwestern Europe. If it doesn't use any from Northwestern Europe, then they should not use Northwestern Europe in the panel name. Every place named in a panel name ought to have actual samples from that place, or it's misleading. Category names are different, because they can be based on where the DNA component is found, as opposed to where the samples came from.

    So, yes, I recognize that my German, Swiss, Alsatian, and French ancestry might be mostly located in that "Northwestern Europe" part, which only 6% of it being reported as "Germanic Europe". But how do we actually know that the component called "Germanic Europe" is the "true German"? Well, we don't. And it's likely that even in the early to mid-18th century when these ancestors of mine were making their way to America, "Germany" (or "the Germanies") was already a somewhat mixed place. (But so was Great Britain, and so was France.)

    That still doesn't account for the question of where over 10% Spanish ancestry went. But I have found it interesting that LivingDNA actually splits the Balearic islands on their own map. They show the southwestern islands of Formentera and Ibiza as being in the "Iberian" region, but the northeastern islands of Mallorca and Menorca as being in the "France" region. But, Ancestry doesn't report any "France" for me either.

    I do appreciate the fact that Ancestry does see my 2% Native American, as 23andMe and FTDNA also do; but LivingDNA does not. (It's part of my paper trail, though, and seems just about right.)

    I also like ThruLines, for the most part, now that it's less glitchy and not reporting ancestry to which I have zero genetic connection. (Including ancestors connected to me only by adoption.) I don't like the fact that they pretty much killed off DNA Circles -- at least for me -- in order to do this, since I also found the circles very useful.

    And I definitely like being able to define and color-code groups. I just wish they'd give a little more information for matches than "n cM shared across m DNA segments. If they remain unwilling to have a chromosome browser, at least report how many chromosomes have segments; and whether any of these are located on the X chromosome. For males, especially, this would make a big difference -- since you'd know immediately which side the match was likely to be on. (Of course, it could still be on both sides -- but it would definitely at least be on your mother's side.)

    Now my daughter gets a nice feature. Her filter allows her to select either "shared matches on mother's side" or "shared matches on father's side" since both of us have tested. They could do the same thing even for folks with just one parent, but they'd have to call it "mother's (or father's) side" or "not mother's (or father's) side". Obviously, you'd expect that if a match isn't on your mother's side it must be on your father's side -- and this is very likely to be true when you share a lot of cM -- but it isn't always true for smaller matches. Sometimes that's because it isn't a real match. (But it can also be the fault of Ancestry's algorithm Timber suppressing a match for the parent but not the child.)

    There are other features I like, most of which still require a bit of tweaking, but I figure I've wandered off topic enough for now.

    But to get back on track, I'd figure the increase in matches with shared ancestors (to the extent there is one) is largely due to having an ever-bigger data base. I don't just mean of tested customers -- though that's a part of it -- but they're adding new records all the time. And even though most people don't really have trees, apparently there are enough who do for ancestors to be popping up for those with genetic connections to them.

    We may not be able to triangulate, thanks to the lack of a chromosome browser, but Ancestry knows exactly where we share DNA with our matches. I think eventually they'll be able to build trees of their own, just based on that. (To some extent they're doing that already.)
    Besides British-German-Catalan, ancestry includes smaller amounts of French, Irish, Swiss, Choctaw & possibly Catawba. Avatar picture is: my father, his father, & his father's father; baby is my eldest brother.

    GB

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