Aaron Orr, product manager at Ancestry.com, spoke to the topic “Ancestry.com: Using AncestryDNA to Further Your Research” at the 2015 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy.
Aaron asked how many attendees had taken an Ancestry DNA test. Many had. He asked how many felt like they had learned new information because of it. Only a few hands went up. He said the class would help us get more value out of our DNA test results.
First, Aaron reviewed some inheritance concepts that help people understand common questions with DNA test results.
Siblings from the same parent inherit different DNA from their parent. If you go down several generations, you have less and less DNA from a particular ancestor. After enough generations, it is possible for cousins to share no DNA. If you have your children tested, it is possible that they won’t all have the same ethnicity, depending on what they inherit from you and what they inherit from your spouse.
Next, Aaron presented several features that can be used to get more value from your Ancestry DNA test results.
DNA Circle – A DNA circle is a group of likely descendants of an ancestor. The circle is built using a combination of the data from your Ancestry Member Tree and the data from your DNA. The beta label indicates that AncestryDNA is actively improving the algorithms. Aaron said the results are conclusive enough that AncestryDNA can share them with you. Click the ancestor portrait to see a page about that DNA circle.
Scroll down a little to see a diagram (below) showing the relationships of those in the circle.
In the DNA Circle relationship diagram, the thick orange lines show the group members with which you share DNA. What about the others in the circle? Even though you don’t match some members of the group, they match others in the group with which you do match.
Rather than show every single member of the circle, very-closely related persons are grouped together. In the example above, the group highlighted at the top, the Thompson Family Group, consists of five closely-related persons.
New Ancestor Discovery – The New Ancestor Discovery feature hints to a possible ancestor. To differentiate it from a full DNA circle, it is surrounded by a dotted line and has a leaf like a record hint. Your DNA matches a DNA circle well enough that you are possibly a descendant of that ancestor.
Click on the portrait and AncestryDNA creates a popup (below) that shows a little information about the possible ancestor.
Click LEARN ABOUT and AncestryDNA gives a Life Story about the possible ancestor. This can give you clues about how this person might be related to you. Click on See Your Connection to see the DNA Circle. When you view it, you are shown outside the circle, indicating you are not a proven member of the circle. The ancestor doesn’t exist in your Ancestry Member Tree.
Just as with DNA Circles, you may not share DNA with every member of the possible ancestor’s DNA Circle. Orange lines show shared DNA, as shown in the above example between myself and the Harris and Van Orden family groups. While I share no DNA with the E. B. family group, its members share DNA with both the Harris and Van Orden families.
Shared Ancestor Hints – A shared ancestor hint shows how you are related to a DNA match. The relationship is determined using yours and his Ancestry Member Trees. In your match list, a leaf icon indicates a shared ancestor hint is present. Hopefully, you have public trees. That is how you get Shared Ancestor Hints.
DNA Matches – A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to find a match. Every single sample is compared with the million samples. Don’t be timid about sending a message to a DNA match who may be able to help you with your research. Try and start a dialog. Be specific with what you know and what you suspect, particularly if you don’t have a Shared Ancestor Hint.
After presenting these features, Aaron took a few questions. Here are a few that I thought you would be of interest.
Q. What is being done with the Sorenson database samples? A. The samples are currently being used only as ethnicity reference points.
Q. Why did you get rid of the Y DNA tests? A. Aaron indicated he was not the best person to answer that question. Each test has its uses and strengths. His understanding is that AncestryDNA has found that the autosomal test gives the best ability to establish cousins.
Q. What is the Snavely tool? Snavely’s [AncestryDNA Helper] tool is a Chrome plugin. It works with AncestryDNA to provide additional ways to work with your AncestryDNA results.
Aaron closed by telling us about other ways to get answers to our questions about AncestryDNA. Look for the question mark icons on the AncestryDNA web pages. Also, check out the free Ancestry Academy course, “DNA 101: An Insider’s Scoop on AncestryDNA Testing.”