Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Power of DNA – Kendall Hulet at #RootsTech Luncheon

Part 3 of 3

Kendall Hulet is’s senior vice president of product management. He spoke at a Saturday luncheon titled “Things to Look Forward to on Ancestry in 2016.”

Ancestry sold a million DNA tests last year. This is good, because the larger the size of their DNA database, the more powerful things they can do. In 2015 they rolled out the product in the UK, Canada, and Australia. They are going to roll out a lot more countries in 2016.

Ethnicity estimates will improve. Ethnicity calculations are based on a group of people whose ethnicity is thought to be accurately known. Their trees go back four generations or more and all lines are from a particular place. This group of people—a reference panel—is growing from 3,000 to 9,000 people. As the panel gets bigger and Ancestry’s data gets better, their ethnicity estimates will improve. They may change what they report about your ethnicity. A larger database also allows them to divide ethnicity regions into smaller localities.

Ancestry is clustering people who share DNA. They can analyze the information from test subjects’ trees and ethnicity to see commonalities. They might be able to tell what geography the cluster originated from, or what religion they might believe in. “So imagine a time when we could actually tell John, ‘Based on your DNA, John, we think you are actually from Cork, Ireland.’ And he never even did a family tree.” That’s a direction that Ancestry is trying to go, but it’s going to take a while to develop.

Lorenzo and Elizabeth Jane (Russell) Day with unidentified childKendall closed by showing us his great-grandmother, Elizabeth Jane Russell, in New Ancestry. With the new ability to show events from other family members on the timeline, Kendall noticed that she had a daughter die on the 15th of July, a son die nine days later, and another die four days after that. In two weeks’ time she lost three of her children. Kendall researched and found there had been a diphtheria epidemic. Then he noticed the next event on her timeline. She gave birth just seven months later. That child lived only two days.

“This didn’t jump out at me at first,” Kendall said. “But for some reason seeing it this way, it jumped out at me differently. Now, my view of Elizabeth Jane Russell is very different. I think of her as this amazing heroine in my family tree. And the struggles she went through—what a strong, amazing, woman.”

It is true that her person page takes more scrolling now, but that can be a good thing.

There is a way to turn off the display of events from other family members for the times you don’t want them. At the top-right of the timeline, select Show and uncheck Family Events. Similarly, historical insights (or “hysterical insights,” as one person called them) can be shown or hidden.

Another New Ancestry tip is the display of the tools so easily available in the old Ancestry. In the upper-right corner, select Tools, and then Show Research Tools.

Kendall pointed out tutorials. There is a tutorials button that floats in the bottom-right corner of the person page. Select it to see a collection of training videos, all about a minute in length.

His last tip was directed at those who don’t like Life Story. Ancestry wanted to jump start the story of your ancestor. What they present isn’t fixed in stone. It’s easy to edit. “But if you don’t like that tab, …just don’t go to [it]. … It’s an easy answer. Select the Facts tab; it will stay sticky.”


  1. >With the new ability to show events from other family members on the timeline, Kendall noticed . . . .

    Let me guess, he was too busy picking out that wonderfully rich and vibrant shade of brown?

  2. When will the new AncestryDNA ethnicity estimate updates be released to the public?


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