26 November 2013

My FamilyTreeDNA Family Finder results and my Ancestry.comDNA

Yesterday I wrote about my early attempts at DNA testing in "An intro to my DNA and the tests I've been taking." That post introduced my Y-DNA and mtDNA, using testing I took from Ancestry.com in 2008 and 2010.

Those were the only genealogical types of DNA tests I was aware of up till that time, but then in 2010 Family Tree DNA brought autosomal DNA testing to the market. It totally supercharged the value of DNA testing for genealogists. Instead of following only the direct paternal line (Y-DNA) or the direct maternal line (mtDNA), this test covers all ancestors DNA as inherited within the last 5-7 generations. Ancestors who were farther back than that may not have passed any measurable amount of their DNA on to you.

I ordered the "Family Finder" test in late 2010, and received my results in February 2011. I got some DNA matches and an ethnicity estimate. Unfortunately, I haven't taken the required time to learn how to use all the match tools they provide. There are plenty of other bloggers who explain this all much better than I will even attempt.

Ancestry.com released a similar test in 2012 and I took it too. Ancestry.com's user interface doesn't have so many tools to analyze matches, but Ancestry.com's test is more beginner friendly. My closest matches on F.T.DNA's Family Finder are five matches that apparently fall into the range of 2nd-4th cousin. Then there are pages more in the 3rd-5th cousin range. My closest matches on Ancestry.com's autosomal test are a few relatives who took the test for me, and sixteen in the 4th-6th cousin range at a 96% confidence. Then there is like another page full of the same range at 95% confidence before the rest which are all "distant" cousins with only a 50% or less chance of being related within any historically documentable range. With this review, it looks like there may be more matches on Family Tree DNA. Family Tree DNA may have more analysis tools, but in reviewing my own matches I have seen that the users are less likely to connect their tree to their results. Overall, I'd probably recommend starting out with Ancestry.com's test.

If you decide to get deeper into DNA testing, Family Tree DNA allows you to transfer your results in for less than purchasing the test again--although it does not work the other direction. For that matter, they have more specialized testing too (such as more detailed Y-DNA and mtDNA, as well as specific DNA marker tests).

These are just some general observations and I will forgo revealing any specifics about matches. Suffice it to say that out of all the suggested matches, we've been able to document the connections to only a few of them thusfar. More often I can see that we match a certain area or surname, but in many cases I can't find a surname that matches my tree either. It may take more research to document many of the suggested cousins.

One more interesting thing about my matches: Both of my grandmothers took the AncestryDNA test for me. One of them shows up in my matches as "Close family" (2-4 degrees of separation) and the other grandmother shows up as "1st cousin" (3-5 degrees of separation). A grandparents is actually 2 degrees of separation. Looks like I inherited less DNA from one of them than the other, which is totally believable and scientifically possible, though you can research that more elsewhere. For us, it is just a potential conversation piece to say I am more genetically like one side of the family than the other. If we are fortunate to know some of our ancestors, we can often identify a physical or personality trait we have inherited without a DNA test--although taking the test can sometimes be an interesting confirmation of things like this.

DNA ethnicity estimates are a fun conversational piece. I'll attach mine below.

Family Tree DNA

These percentages fairly well follow what I know about my ancestors from research, except for a few major discrepancies. I do not have any documented ancestors from the Middle East or Scandinavia. My own research suggests I have several more lines from Western Europe than from Ireland. There are several reasons why these kinds of percentages cannot be exact, although many in the genetic genealogy community believe the results will get more reliable with future developments. Again, I leave many questions unanswered. If you're curious to know more about genetic genealogy and don't know where to look, I'd be happy to point out some resources. Just leave a comment below.

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