Sunday, September 19, 2021

Checked Your D N A Updates Lately?


Last Tuesday, I noticed a quick post on Gail Dever's Genealogy à la carte about a recent lack of new DNA matches on Gail quoted Ancestry's Crista Cowan's explanation that Ancestry had "temporarily paused the release of newly processed kits." The reason? Ethnicity updates to be run on September 17. Thus, my subsequent, repeated checking of my DNA kits this past week: impatient waiting to see what has changed.

I'm not usually one to wait with baited breath for ethnicity updates. I understand this is a currently evolving science. I was, however, curious to see how this one change would link with the other side of this genetic genealogy tool which has helped me fill in some blanks in my family tree. After all, my father-in-law still has several unknowns back in Ireland, for instance—to say nothing of my own paternal side's brick walls, with which I'll be grappling for the fall quarter of this research year.

Of course, the more I wrestle with these intractable unknowns, the more I manage to add collateral lines—my one hope for an end run around those resistant research brick walls. Thus, my husband's tree did grow by 152 names in the past two weeks, yielding us a tree now holding 23,551 researched individuals. But there is still such a long way to go. Getting the news that there might be a backlog of new kits about to be released into the DNA match mix was encouraging.

On my own tree, I checked for new matches yesterday, as well, and found yet another to add to my Tilson line. That extended Tilson family is the one which leads me back, through a maternal line, to Mayflower Society eligibility, so I'm keen to keep those records up to date.

But DNA matches require a working knowledge of collateral lines—in other words, the descendants of my direct ancestors' siblings—and my newest Tilson DNA match required me to explore an entirely new branch of that family line. Just with today's pursuit of that DNA connection, I've added fifty three new family names. And yet, despite the total in that tree now reaching 26,229, I've got much more work to do before I can figure out the connection with that one Tilson match.

Some matches take more grunt work to tie down than others, agreed. The tools we gain from each reiteration of ethnicity and related issues combine to make that effort easier, however. Perhaps the newly-added reference panels may not help your cause with this most recent ethnicity update, but that is not all that has changed. Ancestry's use of what they call "a popular network analysis method called community detection" is behind their ability to assemble "genetic communities." 

Combining those updated ethnicity estimates—thanks to the addition of more reference panels—with historical details extracted from family trees linked to AncestryDNA results, all under the timeline of overarching historical details, is what enables Ancestry to connect the dots for us by honing in on the patterns seen in specific communities. The end result is a powerful tool for predicting familial connections.  


  1. Whoa. I had to go check. And yes - lots of changes in my DNA. They moved a big chunk from Scotland to Wales. Can they do that:-) ?

    1. Oh, so that's where my Scottish came from! ;)

      Actually, Lisa, it's informative to read the clickable links on Ancestry's explanation to get more details on just how they made the updates. As they've said many times though, it's always a work in progress, with each new discovery.


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