Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday's Focus

Ancestry DNA Matches

Ancestry DNA shows that I have 166 shared ancestor hints, 164 starred matches, and 1,062 fourth cousins or closer. How does a member decide what they are going to work on first when viewing the DNA matches? As with any project, you begin by looking at the list and then prioritize in order of importance. I start out by looking at the shared ancestor hints. I am not saying that I ignore the other fourth cousins or closer matches. Those are important too. There are close matches in that list also even though some do not have family trees. But, I begin by looking at the shared ancestor hints list. The starred matches are personal favorites. I did that myself by clicking on the star beside a match. That match is then added a match to favorites. Those are matches that I have worked with.

What are shared ancestor hints? Ancestry DNA searches for pieces of DNA that are identical between two individuals – myself and another member. The “Shared” part of shared ancestor hints tell you that you have a match that shares enough DNA with you to be a IBD (Identical by Descent) ancestor. The “Ancestor” part of ancestor hints tell you that you and this DNA match each have a MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor) on your trees that is possibly your DNA MRCA.

We are interested in DNA that is identical between two people because we both inherited the same piece of DNA from a common ancestor – recent common ancestor. This DNA that is IBD (Identical by Descent.) Another reason two people’s DNA may be identical is that of IBS (Identical by State) because the DNA is identical for a reason other than having a recent shared common ancestor.

Since the Shared Ancestor Hints are first in my list I begin with those matches. The Ancestry DNA match and the family tree match suggests that we possibly have a DNA match or a cousin match. We share enough DNA that we are related and we have a common ancestor in our family trees. Ancestry DNA does tree matching, so basically that part of the work is done for me by showing me which people match my DNA. However, there is plenty of work left for me to do when looking at the hints. And I will add, those hints are just that, “shared ancestor hints.” I must work to prove which family line the match is on and our common ancestor. If you don’t have a family tree on Ancestry, then you are missing out on the benefits of testing with Ancestry DNA. You won’t have the shared ancestor hints since Ancestry has nothing to compare.

I begin by looking through the shared ancestor hints and to see if anything looks familiar, and if it does then I go through the family tree. The first shared member in my list is an immediate family member. I know my sister tested with Ancestry DNA so I move to the next member in the list. This one is a predicted third cousin and has a confidence level of extremely high so it is worth considering. When I am confident in the information for this particular family and common ancestor then I look at the next member in my shared ancestor hints list. This is the process I use; however, you may have a different process; and that is what works for you. An important thing to remember is that when you discover that a person shares a common ancestral line with you, that person might also share another family line as well. This is an ongoing work in progress.

Shared ancestor hints are there as a tool for members who have DNA tested with Ancestry. If you have done genealogical research for your family lines, and you are confident it is reliable, accurate, and there is no conflicting information in your family tree, then the shared ancestor hints are the “icing on the cake” for you, as are any of your close matches where you have found a MRCA.

Ancestry is a website that I use daily in researching family. It is worth the expense, and I work to learn to use the tools provided by Ancestry. I also use the free website, but not as often as Ancestry. Genealogical research and DNA testing is a continual learning process, and I am willing to spend the time to learn. To get the most from Ancestry DNA testing learning about the shared ancestor hints and the other tools available is important in researching family lines. I want to have the correct family in my tree, and that should be the goal of each family historian.

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