A Targeted Process at AncestryDNA

AncestryDNA does not provide segment info. This is a problem for Segmentologists who want to Triangulate – like me. Triangulation has worked well in grouping my many thousands of segments into specific groups representing specific ancestral lines. These Triangulated Groups (TGs) now cover 94% of my 45 chromosomes, and identify specific maternal and paternal segments of DNA from my ancestors. Over 75% of my 45 chromosomes have some identified Common Ancestor(s) beyond my parents. Are they all correct? Of course not. But many are linked to first, second, third and fourth cousins, which are walking back the Common Ancestors of those segments. These are reinforcing and validating more distant Common Ancestors shared by fifth through ninth cousins.

I have over 400 Hints at AncestryDNA, and very few of them can be linked to GEDmatch kits. It’s frustrating to know so many Triangulated Groups on one hand; and so many Common Ancestors at AncestryDNA on the other hand; and not be able to merge this information. Knowing the segment data for each of the AncestryDNA Hints would significantly expand my chromosome map. Grrrrrrr:-(

So I’ve tried a new process at AncestryDNA, and am having some amount of success with it – I thought I’d share it in this blog.

I selected a surname – HIGGINBOTHAM – on my mother’s side. This surname is in my Tree 6, 7, 8 and 9 generations back. The patriarch (9 generations back) is thought to be John HIGGINBOTHAM, but there is some controversy about his given name. However, there is general agreement on several of his children, and I have several AncestryDNA Hints at the 6C, 7C and 8C levels going back on this HIGGINBOTHAM line.

So I searched on this surname at my AncestryDNA Results page and got over 100 Matches. I looked at each one and selected 46 which were Hints or had strong Colonial Virginia ties to Amherst Co, VA (where my HIGGINBOTHAMs were for 3 generations) or to nearby counties.

Note that at 9 generations back we have 256 ancestors on our mother’s side. My chromosome mapping currently shows just over 200 TGs on my mother’s side. So I should reasonably expect about one, maybe two or three, of my TGs to be from my HIGGINBOTHAM line. Maybe there are a few Matches at the 6C level which actually then branch off on the HIGGINBOTHAM’s wife’s ancestry.

I was surprised at the number of HIGGINBOTHAM cousins I had – particularly since I was pretty sure they shouldn’t be spread out over many different TGs. And, on the other hand, I don’t believe that many cousins should all pile up on the same ancestor – unless, of course, some of them were related to each other more closely (some Matches were from the same Admin), or they only descended from two or three of the Patriarch’s children at each TG.

I needed to find out the actual segment data each match shared with me….

So I drafted a standard message:

You and I have a DNA match at AncestryDNA, and have a common HIGGINBOTHAM line. I have 46 such Matches at AncestryDNA! I am mapping my DNA (linking Ancestors to specific DNA segments), and would very much like to determine the segment for each of these lines. Most of us are 8th cousins, and I did not expect to get HIGGINBOTHAM DNA from more than one or two different segments. To sort this out, I am requesting that you upload your raw DNA file to www.GEDmatch.com .It’s a free site – easy to register – with complete instructions on their home page. My GEDmatch ID is Mxxxxxx. You will get many more Matches at GEDmatch, with emails. No medical or health info. Please let me know your GEDmatch kit number if you upload at GEDmatch.

I will provide you feedback on what I find, including other cousins who share the same segments. This will help all of us.

FYI, I’m having success with atDNA and would be happy to help you. See my How to Succeed list at: http://boards.rootsweb.com/topics.dnaresearch.autosomal/301/mb.ashx It has some good links at the end. My  DNA blog is at www.segmentology.org – written for genealogists in plain language.

Hope to hear from you. Jim Bartlett jim4bartletts@verizon.net

end of message

Note – do not send such a standard message to 46 Matches at one sitting. Ancestry looks for “spam-like” messages, and will block your messaging ability (you have to phone in and talk them out of it, to get reinstated). I sent 5 or 6 a night for a week or so.

Well… this worked out much better than previous attempts to randomly beg Matches to upload to GEDmatch. I now have 23 GEDmatch kit numbers out of this group. And several others are still working on it. The results have been in several categories:

  1. At GEDmatch I can also compare with my deceased father’s kit uploaded from FTDNA. It turns out several of my HIGGINBOTHAM cousins share a DNA segment with both me and my father. So although we may well be genealogy cousins on HIGGINBOTHAM, the shared DNA that formed our match at AncestryDNA is from my father’s side – not from a HIGGINBOTHAM line.
  2. Several TGs are getting most of the shared segments. TG [04P36] has six Matches on two children of the Patriarch (some of them are 5C or 6C to each other from one child of the Patriarch). TG [10I36] has 3 Matches; and TG [04B36] has two Matches. [NB my TG naming system starts with the Chr (04 and 10); the letter roughly represents the 10Mbp block where the segment starts; and 3-6 are Ahnentafel for my mother’s father’s side – where my HIGGINBOTHAM ancestry is]
  3. The rest of the Matches are spread out over different TGs – most of these TGs include Matches with other Common Ancestors. So it is entirely possible, indeed probable, that most of these TGs will come from different Common Ancestors. As time allows, I will investigate the several surnames from each of these TGs to see if there is consensus among the Matches.

This process would probably be too overwhelming for common surnames like JONES, SMITH, JOHNSON, etc. And your own surname might not be very helpful in determining a few TGs – your father’s or mother’s surname could be sprinkled all over your chromosomes – so it would be harder to form groups. Since we probably have the majority of our Matches in the sixth to eighth cousin range, I’m thinking that would be a good place to select surnames.

The main point here is that by using a more personal message, I’m getting more cooperation from my AncestryDNA Matches. By selecting a surname, and doing some homework to make sure we have the same Patriarch, the message is targeted. By promising to provide feedback to each Match who uploads to GEDmatch, I’m helping my Matches. The Matches don’t have to understand Triangulation or Segmentology – all they need to do is upload to GEDmatch. It seems to be working…

This process also works for testing educated guesses on new Surnames. It takes advantage of the more than 23,000 Matches I now have at AncestryDNA. I can search for a particular SURNAME and see if it pops up. Out of 23,000 Matches, each of my Ancestral surnames should be shared by some of my AncestryDNA Matches.

For example, I’ve looked for years for the maiden name of the wife of my ancestor Thomas BARTLETT c1705-1783 of Richmond Co, VA. At one point he owned a piece of land between two EIDSON brothers, so I thought perhaps his wife’s maiden name was EIDSON (and I’ve collected a lot of EIDSON records in Richmond Co, VA trying to find the connection – to no avail). So I searched my AncestryDNA Results for the Surname: EIDSON. I only got one EIDSON hit, and that clearly was not a link to Richmond Co, VA in the early 1700s. This means to me that that surname is probably unlikely as my ancestor. I’ll try some other surnames from my FAN list for Thomas BARTLETT. And in a year or two, when I have twice as many Matches at AncestryDNA, I may try EIDSON again. And revisit some of the other surnames…

For me, this targeted approach is turning out to be a good way to get uploads to GEDmatch and to find Triangulated Groups with several Matches who share the same ancestry with me.


15G Segment-ology: A Targeted Process at AncestryDNA by Jim Bartlett 20161020