Blog post

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The DNA results are in: Ancestry Finder

About six weeks ago I provided a saliva sample to DNA testing company 23andMe after purchasing a kit on sale. Along with many others, my results have now come in. This post continues the discussion in my previous post. Bear in mind that I have a whole week of experience in looking at this stuff, so anything I say is very much the first impressions of a newbie! If I have something wrong, please correct me. I'm thinking aloud here and I don't intend to claim any expertise on this subject (at this time) whatsoever.

Ancestry Finder
The Ancestry Finder is tucked away in Ancestry Labs. It's more useful that it seems at first glance.

The blurb says that Ancestry Finder will help you find out which countries your Ancestors may have lived in, fueled by the "Where are you from?" survey - which I recommend that genealogists on 23andMe should complete so that they will appear in Ancestry Finder. There is a link to the survey on the Ancestry Finder page, if you haven't seen it elsewhere.

The default view looks at the countries that your matches have said all four grandparents come from, and colour codes a chromosome chart at the appropriate location. Matches who haven't completed the "Where are you from?" survey aren't included.

Default view
My default view looks like this:

23andMe "Ancestry Finder" on default settings

It's hard to get excited about this view. A relative who matches with me on chromosome one had four Norwegian grandparents. I've no Norwegian family connections that I'm aware of, but our common ancestor may have been (probably was) a very long time ago. There is also a match on my X chromosome with someone whose four grandparents are from Ireland. This not unexpected. Each of my parents' maternal lines have Irish connections.

Advanced controls
The view gets more interesting when you start to use the 'advanced' controls. The first setting I changed was the threshold for showing matches. I reduced it to the minimum allowed.

23andMe "Ancestry Finder" at the minimum threshold for matches
Now more matches show up. Scrolling the upper box I can see that in addition to matches with all four grandparents from the UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Poland, Norway and the Netherlands, I also have matches with grandparents from Iran, India, Iceland, Greece and Belgium.

The default view hides matches from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. When I allow matches with all four grandparents from those countries to show, the display looks like this...

23andMe "Ancestry Finder" at the minimum threshold for matches, including USA, Canada etc
Now I find that 17.9% of my genome (that part of it that is analysed by 23andMe) is known to be duplicated in distant relatives across the USA. If I allow matches with grandparents from different or unknown countries I find that the display gets busier still, and that well over a third of my genome is duplicated elsewhere - and this is just from the people who have tested with 23andMe and completed the "Where are you from?" survey! Suddenly I feel rather less unique!

The display is interactive. If I click or hover over a country in the legend the chart below will show only that country. If I hover over a coloured patch on the chart a box will pop up showing me the countries represented and the length of the match, in centimorgans. The pop up box in the image above relates to the uppermost match on my X chromosome. If the match happens to be a 'public' match, the pop up box includes their name, photo, and a link to their 23andMe profile. I imagine this would be very helpful if you are working on a theory involving a particular segment of DNA and you just want to be able to contact your matches at that location without having to send out 100's of introduction messages at the rate of 5 per day, and hope!

Data download
Another feature is the button that allows you to download a CSV file of your Ancestry finder match data. It includes names of public matches. Other matches are "Anonymous" with a number identifier. The file includes the start and endpoints of each match, so it's easy to sort by chromosome and start (or end) point and see where overlaps and clusters are. 

Here's an example line from the file. The location shown happens to be a "hot spot" where I have 33 very similar matches in Ancestry Finder. One of the people I have made contact with is in this "hot spot" and has directed me to some further reading on the subject - but at one week into the DNA journey it's a bit over my head. Perhaps by the time I'm ready to take it in someone will have worked out what it all means.

MatchName Anonymous0013
MaternalGrandmotherBirthCountry United States
MaternalGrandfatherBirthCountry United States
PaternalGrandmotherBirthCountry United States
PaternalGrandfatherBirthCountry United States
MaternalGrandmotherDeclaredAshkenazi FALSE
MaternalGrandfatherDeclaredAshkenazi FALSE
PaternalGrandmotherDeclaredAshkenazi FALSE
PaternalGrandfatherDeclaredAshkenazi FALSE
Chromosome 2
SegmentStartInMegaBasePairs 134.1
SegmentEndInMegaBasePairs 140.2
SegmentLengthInMegaBasePairs 6.1
SegmentLengthInCentiMorgans 5.3

While the Ancestry Finder download is useful, it doesn't include all the information that the Relative Finder does - such as predicted relationship and a list of surnames once you've made contact. 

The downloads from the two "Finders" also have different sets of people in them. Ancestry Finder includes more distant matches, but only identifies "public" individuals who have taken the appropriate survey. Not all Relative Finder contacts will have necessarily done the survey and you won't see their name, even if you are sharing genomes, if they are not "public". You can find the match data for contacts you are sharing with, but you have to get the information for then one at a time. 

The inability to just get the data that you have access one way or another in a combined format is not bothering me too much yet, but I'm sure it will. I've also sent off a kit to Family Tree DNA and will be very interested to see what I get back from them.


  1. Thanks Shelley! Obviously I haven't even scratched the surface yet, I'll have to go back in and have a good look around!

  2. Interesting stuff Shelley, only just getting into this myself.  Sure we're probly related...!