Saturday, February 11, 2017

Tim Sullivan Announces AncestryDNA Genetic Communities at #RootsTech 2017

Tim Sullivan announces AncestryDNA genetic communitiesTim Sullivan, CEO and president of Ancestry announced this morning a new DNA feature called Genetic Communities. He gave us a quick, sneak peek at the product experience to be released next month.

“Think of the AncestryDNA ethnicity estimates on steroids, and you’ll have a sense of what this i,s” Tim said. Tim explained that genetic communities are created by combining information from their database of three million genotypes with date and place information taken from trees attached to those samples. They discern population clusters and are able to discover migration patterns. They have identified 1,000 of these communities so far.

Tim showed three examples from his DNA. One of his genetic communities shows he has ancestry from the West part of County Kerry, Ireland. It was amazingly specific—and entirely consistent with the paper trail.

AncestryDNA maps genetic communities of your ancestors. This is "Irish of West Kerry."

Another feature provided by the experience is the plotting of migration patterns. Members of this genetic community migrated to places all over the United States, but primarily in the Northeast. The experience maps the migration and identifies possible, historic reasons.

AncestryDNA genetic communities track migrations

Tim is a member of another genetic community called “Early Settlers of New York.”

AncestryDNA maps genetic communities of your ancestors. This is "Early Settlers of New York."

Migration pattern for AncestryDNA genetic community, "Early Settlers of New York."

Tim showed a third example from his genetic communities, “French Settlers Along the St. Lawrence.”

AncestryDNA maps genetic communities of your ancestors. This is "French Settlers Along the St. Lawrence."

AncestryDNA genetic community migration map of "French Settlers Along the St. Lawrence."

As the size of the AncestryDNA database gets grows, the number of communities they will be able to identify will increase.

Existing customers will receive this experience with no need to retest or pay for another kit.

22 comments:

  1. This sounds like an interesting tool. I'll be looking forward to seeing it in practice. Thank you for sharing.

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  2. Anything based on flawed trees may not be very accurate.

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  3. I can definitely see time lapse videos made from this, with images of historical events popping up in the right time sequence.

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  4. This is definitely possible and a real advance if it works - but I woudl liek to know how it is done. There is too little scrutiny of methodology which gives us no confidence in results.

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    1. Here's the peer-reviewed scientific paper about the methodology: http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms14238

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  5. This was described in some detail at a session today at 3 pm. It makes sense to do, and I believe it will get better as time goes on. The tech person at the talk fudged the "bad trees" question by saying they treat these results as an average and the bad trees wash out as noise. Unfortunately, as we know, the bad trees are correlated, since they copy from each other. But I actually think they'll make a useful tool out of this! Um, it's 2017, and I'm still waiting for my Ancestry chromosome browser.

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    1. I agree, these days seems like more bad trees than good ones.

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  6. Any idea of the timeline for its implementation?

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    1. They said March at the RootsTech session mentioned above. It looks very cool.

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  7. I'm certain that, just as with the other 'tools' they offer, such as the family circles or whatever they call them, it will tell me nothing that I don't already know - my family is southern and I have cousins in my southern families. This is just another tool to bring in new customers, not to help those they already have.

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  8. I am excited about this new tool. As with anything you need to verify with a paper trail and understand that humans make mistakes. I wouldn't expect this to be perfect, but I think it will help solve a lot of the complaints from the people looking for "more specific" ethnicity. It might even get some of them interested in building trees and participating in genealogical research. I'm not only interested in my family's history, but history in general so I think this will be a lot of fun.

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    1. As someone looking for a "more specific" ethnicity, I am pretty excited about this development. The fact that there is only *one* ethnicity for North *and* South America is a little frustrating. MyHeritage is already offering ten more ethnicity groups than Ancestry, and a MH rep at RootsTech told me they are planning to have close to 100, soon. Seeing Ancestry move in this direction makes me very happy, even if the trees are less than perfect.

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    2. There are few Native American reference datasets to use for comparison, and more ethnic categories will not necessarily be better. At some point, there will be a problem with overfitting the data.

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  9. Looking forward to see what this will offer us.

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  10. I'm hopeful, too, though skeptical
    http://www.medicaldaily.com/dna-ancestry-tests-are-meaningless-your-historical-genealogy-search-244586
    This link from Business Insider gives a clean presentation. Worth watching:
    http://www.businessinsider.com/ancestrydna-genetic-test-review-2016-3/#and-ball-showed-me-when-i-clicked-on-those-distant-family-members-i-could-see-a-web-of-connections-i-had-with-them-this-potential-ancestor-likely-had-a-lot-of-children-16
    The BI reported that it takes quite a lot of effort to make so little spit.
    Think of Jolly Ranchers; it helps a little ;-)

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  11. The images in this article aren't working.

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