Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Step 2 – Is the common ancestor obvious?

The objective of this step is to quickly compare your family tree with your match's family tree to see if the common ancestor has already been identified on each of your respective trees.

In order to do this, you will need to share your family tree with your match. Many people will have posted either a list of their known ancestral surnames, or a gedcom detailing their family tree, on their FTDNA / 23andMe / AncestryDNA Homepage. By simply looking through this list you may be able to spot a surname that also exists in your family tree or you could even be lucky enough to identify the Common Ancestor. Simple! And extremely rare. Most people will have to work a lot harder to identify the Common Ancestor, but a list of surnames is certainly a good start, and at the very least, everyone should be publishing their list of ancestral surnames on their results pages at FTDNA / 23andMe / AncestryDNA.

Can YOU spot the common ancestor?

Far better than sharing a list of surnames is sharing a link to your online tree. This is simple and easy. If your tree is on Ancestry, and your match has an account there, just send them the link (from the address bar). If your match does not have an account at Ancestry, ask for their email and invite them to view your tree as a Guest. My tree is available online at the following places:

Genesreunitedhttp://www.genesreunited.co.uk  (by invitation only)

There are also other websites where you can upload / build your tree and subsequently share it with others including www.Geni.com and www.familysearch.orgwww.werelate.org, and www.wikitree.com.

If you can't send your match a link to your online tree, start an email conversation and send them a gedcom file, or a Bow Tie chart of your ancestors.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to share your entire tree and not just a list of surnames. You will both need the entire family tree for later work on ruling out unlikely candidates for the Common Ancestor.

Here’s how to do compare surnames or trees at the different testing companies:

FTDNA – log in, hover the pointer over Family Finder in the menu bar across the top, select Matches, and in the Filter Matches By section, go to the Relations drop down menu and select Show All Matches. Ancestral surnames (if entered by your matches) will appear in the last column to the right. Family Trees (if they have been uploaded by your matches) will be indicated by a dark blue square under each match’s name in the first column on the left. Click on the blue square to launch their family tree and check for any ancestors or ancestral names that also appear in your tree.

23andme – log in, hover the pointer over Family & Friends and click on DNA Relatives. A list of all your matches comes up but most of them will be private and you won’t be able to go any further. If you click on Sort: relationship in the menu bar across the top, and select Contact Status from the drop down menu, all your “Public Matches” will appear. To see if any of them have entered ancestral surnames, you will have click on each name and go through them one by one. If any of these matches have uploaded a family tree, you will see View Family Tree in the last column on the right. This can be a very time-consuming task - I have 968 matches of which 244 are Public Matches and 724 are private. It would be nice to be able to Send a Message to ALL 724 in one go but it looks like I will have to do this 724 times. Furthermore, if I want to share genomes with them (which will be essential for determining “common matches” – see Step 4), I will have to Send a Message to all 968 matches. This is the sort of activity that requires automation and could be done by the company relatively easily. For now, I am leaving 23andme for another day.

AncestryDNA – to follow in due course

A worked example
JH and MB compared their lists of ancestral surnames and there were no common surnames. So we emailed each other Bow Tie charts of our known ancestors (below). Again, no common ancestor is immediately apparent. This suggests that the common ancestor has not as yet been specifically named in one or both trees.

Note how we have inserted ahnentafel numbers for easy identification of our respective ancestors, and in MB's tree, there is also info re dates and locations of births and deaths - all very useful information for further research. Incidentally, the red X's represent the inheritance pathways of the X-chromosome - this is discussed further in Step 3.2.

You can download an Excel spreadsheet that allows you to generate a Bow Tie chart here - https://www.dropbox.com/s/8z3rzgsvnfm3dg1/Bow%20Tie%20Ancestral%20Chart%20template.xls 

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