Friday, December 7, 2018

A Tip on Photo Dating

Emma Sarah Fallows, c. 1900-1910
More than once, I've come across people who seem to think that if a particular trend was in fashion during a certain era, it means people didn't wear anything else! This is definitely not true. Just like today, there was often more than one trend popular at the time, and not everyone wore the most trending fashion, at least not all the time.

Recently, I saw a group photo (shown below right, used with permission from owner Ashley McQuillen, who asks relatives to contact her by email) including several women wearing the popular light colored shirtwaists with darker skirts, which were popular around 1898-1910, apart from one woman who was wearing a darker colored blouse. An assumption was made by someone that because light shirts were popular at the time, the only exception to this would be if someone was in mourning and therefore wearing black.

Please, don't go down this path of tunnel vision.

The photo, which subsequent discussion inspired this post.
The Oliver family of Cumberland Valley, Bedford County, PA
Back row, left to right: Susan Wertz Oliver, her husband
Patterson Oliver, unknown woman, Francis Morgan Oliver,
his wife Jane Gillum Oliver. Front: unknown woman,
Owen Ash Oliver, Ida Oliver Mock, 2 unknown women,
Hosea Hudson Oliver
Just because lighter blouses were popular at the time doesn't mean the only possible exception would be someone wearing black for mourning. I am not saying the woman wearing darker colors couldn't have been wearing black, or couldn't have been in mourning, just that you can't make that assumption, partly because that wasn't the only exception, and partly because we don't know it's black. Remember, in a black and white photo, light colors will often appear white, and dark colors will often appear black. It's not as though no other colors were worn before color photography was available! People wore a variety of colors, both light and dark, even during eras when one or the other was more popular.

In this historical clothing dating guide, you'll see if you scroll down all the way to the bottom of the 1900-1910 page, a group of women riding bicycles, all in light colored blouses except one. However, the one in a darker color is clearly not wearing a black shirt, as it's obviously a lighter color than her skirt. So she is not wearing black, which means she's probably not in mourning, but she is wearing a dark color, proving that not all women wore light colors all the time during this time period.

Consider also the impracticality of always wearing light colored shirts for a span of about ten years and trying to keep them clean in an era before the convenience of washing machines. In the same way that men of different stations in life would wear "blue collars" vs "white collars" depending on the type of work they did, so too would it have been impractical for certain women to always wear white or pastels. Even women of luxury probably still wore darker colors for certain activities, at least. In the cycling photo from the clothing dating guide (which I don't want to paste here because the copyright ownership is unclear), it seems that riding a bike would be one activity where it might be smart to wear a darker color.

Above (top left) is an image of my great grandmother, Emma Sarah Fallows (1888-1954). This was probably taken around 1900-1910, for a number of reasons. Her hair style, a typical Gibson girl style, was popular at this time, as was the bell shaped skirt she's wearing. It's a candid taken at her parent's home which was built in 1900, so it can't be before that year. The fact that it's a candid means it was probably taken with a Kodak Brownie, the first "snapshot" camera available/affordable to the general public, first released in 1900. But her clothing does not yet have the straighter waistlines that became popular for women in the 1910s, so it's probably pre-1910. As you can see, despite lighter blouses being more popular during this decade, she is wearing a darker shirt. Below are a couple more photos probably from the same day (she is wearing a cardigan but you can tell it's the same shirt, or in any case, it's a dark shirt). Note how her mother (Mary Ann Rorer) is wearing a lighter shirt. Same day/era, one woman wearing a light shirt, the other a dark shirt. There were no deaths in the family around this time, so no reason Emma would be wearing black for mourning, and even if she were, her mother likely would be as well. So don't get tripped up by thinking a popular trend meant no one wore anything else! That's not how fashion has ever really worked.



Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Dating Old Photographs: Example #3

A carte de visite from my own collection, featuring one of my ancestors. I am fortunate to know who these children are, from left to right are brothers John Henry "Harry" Fallows (b. 1862), George Fallows (b. 1867), and William Fallows (b. 1863).

Estimated Date: about 1868.

Many of you may already be familiar with the fact that boys under a certain age were typically clothed in dresses in history. They were usually "breeched" (began wearing breeches/trousers) anywhere from age 2 to 8. So the fact that George is in a dress here is not unusual and does not mean he must be a girl. Even the pink tinting of the skirt is not proof of gender. The main way to tell girls from boys when boys are still in skirts is the hair part. Girls parted their hair in the middle, boys on the side. Here, although George doesn't have much hair, you can see an attempt to part it on the side, certainly not in the middle. More importantly, the Fallows boys had no sisters.

The trouble with photos of children is that their clothing tends to be difficult to date. Men and children's clothing generally changed much less drastically and quickly than women's clothing did. The upside to photos of children is that because they grow so quickly, it's usually fairly easy to judge their approximate age. I'm estimating Harry is about 6 years old here, George is around a year, and William is about 5. That would be consistent with this photograph being taken approximately 1868. Certainly, it can't be before 1867, and most probably it isn't later than 1869.

In addition to the ages, there are other elements that tell us a lot about the time period, which may help when your photos aren't labelled. The tinting or coloring was most popular in the 1860s. Although that doesn't narrow it down much here, it may for other photos so it's worth mentioning. The borders are very noteworthy; the use of one thin inner line and one thick outer line was seen from 1864 to 1872. The lack of a tax stamp also suggests it's from after 1866 (from August 1864 until August 1866, photographs were taxed to help pay for the civil war - of course it could also be from before 1864, but given everything else, that's unlikely in this case). The plain background and square corners make it most likely pre-1870. All of that fits with this being from circa 1868.

Another dating aid is the size of the card and the image on the card. While the size of the card itself didn't change much (carte de visites are normally around 2 3/8" x 4 1/4" and only varied by about 1/4"), mine is 2 1/2" x 4" and in the book '19th Century Card Photos KwikGuide' it tells us this exact size came into use in the late 1860s. According to Phototree, image sizes started out small and continued to get larger over time until they filled the whole card and were finally superseded by larger cabinet cards. Phototree says the following:

Image Size:  Less than 3/4" . . . . . . . . 1860-1864
Image Size:  About 1" . . . . . . . . . . . . 1862-1867
Image Size:  Between 1 1/2" - 1/3/4"  1865-1872
Image Size:  Fills Complete Card . . . 1874-1910

The trouble with this is that my image size is about 2 1/4" x 3 5/8". I'm assuming Phototree is going by width, but even so there's no listing for 2 1/4", yet it does not completely fill the card. I don't know why Phototree doesn't have details on this size, but given that image sizes got larger as time went on, I'm guessing this size was found in the late 1860s or early 1870s.

The only thing perhaps not consistent with this being around 1868 is the fact that the back of it is blank. In '19th Century Card Photos' it says carte de visites with blank backs were typical of 1858-1861. There must have been some photographers who didn't imprint the backs of their cards later on too, because all the other elements suggest late 1860s. I would imagine that having your cards imprinted may have been more expensive for the photographer so some may have opted not to include it, regardless of the time period.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Review of AncestryDNA's New Ethnicity Estimate Update (Beta) - Continued

My paternal grandfather's new AncestryDNA ethnicity map
Previously, I went over my new, updated results with AncestryDNA's ethnicity estimate and detailed what's different in general and with my personal report. I was mostly disappointed with my update because although the regions were more specific areas, it became less accurate in comparison with my tree, but now I want to get into the results of the other kits I manage because a couple of them are excitingly very accurate.

My theory is that the update seems to work best for people who are less mixed. Unfortunately, this doesn't bode well for most Americans since most of us are fairly mixed and come from multiple backgrounds. I believe this is why my report became less accurate with the update - I am a mixture of Italian, British, German, Norwegian, and a little bit Dutch and French. But my paternal grandfather, on the other hand, isn't very mixed at all. He's basically around 60% German and 40% Scottish or Scots-Irish, and although his results don't exactly match his tree, the new update is much more accurate than it was before.

My paternal grandfather's original AncestryDNA ethnicity
His original results (also see image right):
Great Britain 67% (range 43-87%)
Europe West 15% (range 0-35%)
Caucasus 10% (range 5-16%)
(Low Confidence Regions)
Italy/Greece 5% (range 0-14%)
Scandinavia 1% (range 0-7%)
European Jewish 1% (range 0-4%)
Iberian Peninsula < 1% (range 0-4%)
Europe East < 1% (range 0-3%)

With the update (also see map above):
England, Wales & Northwestern Europe 67% (range 62-100%)
Germanic Europe 23% (range 22-23%)
France 6% (range 0-9%)
Ireland and Scotland 4% (range 0-5%)

Remember, as I pointed out before, even though the category is now called "England, Wales, & Northwestern Europe, it covers the same area as before, including Scotland. The update is still leaning more towards his British background when his tree suggests he is more German, but the loss of all those low percentages in regions that didn't match his tree make it much more accurate than before. They also eliminated the unexpected 10% Caucasus, which wasn't even a low confidence estimate and so simply dropping that has made it much more consistent with his tree. Also, keep in mind that while we inherit 50% from each parent, we do not inherit exactly 25% from each grandparent, or 12.5% from each great grandparent, etc. So when I say my grandfather's tree suggests he's 60% German and 40% Scottish, that is very much an estimate because it's based on simply dividing each generation by half, which isn't actually how inheritance works. It's entirely possible he inherited more DNA from his Scottish ancestors than his German ones, even though he had more German ancestors than Scottish, and therefore the lean towards British over German in his ethnicity report could be entirely accurate.

My paternal grandfather's new AncestryDNA ethnicity
You may notice something weird about his new ranges though. As far as I know, they are still calculated by running 40 different analyses and than averaging out the results to get your final percentage, with the range showing the lowest and highest scores you got out of those 40 analyses. For England/Wales, my grandfather's range is as high as 100%, but that means every other category must have a range as low as 0%, and they don't. For Germanic, his range is 22-23%. It seems as though AncestryDNA are excluding the 0% in Germanic as an outlier - which I wouldn't have a problem with, but if they are going to do that, it means they should also be excluding the 100% England/Wales outlier too. Granted, it is still supposed to be in beta mode, so this could change as they continue to tweak things.

My husband is even less mixed than my grandfather. He is from England, born and raised, with a Catholic Irish father and Protestant English mother (which apparently caused quite the problem in their family when they married). On his mother's side, he actually has a Scottish branch and another Irish branch if you go back far enough, so he's about 60% Irish/Scottish and 40% English, and of course 100% British Isles.

Husband's update and comparison with old report
Here's his old results:
Ireland/Scotland/Wales 67% (range 50% - 79%)
Scandinavia 12% (range 0% - 27%)
Europe South 9% (range 1% - 16%)
Europe West 6% (range 0% - 23%)
Low Confidence Regions:
Iberian Peninsula 5% (range 0% - 13%)
Great Britain 1% (range 0% - 8%)

And with the new update:
Ireland and Scotland 61% (range 45% - 76%)
England and Wales 38% (range 34% - 38%)
Benin Togo 1% (range 0% - 1%)

Wow! Apart from that weird 1% in Africa, which is obviously just noise, the new results are almost exactly what his tree says and support the idea that the less mixed you are, the more accurate the update may be for you.

Here again, were seeing inconsistencies with the ranges. How can one category range by 31% when the only other two categories only range by 1% and 4%? In order to have gotten 45% as the lowest score for Ireland/Scotland, the rest of his categories must have added up to 55% to make 100%, but neither of them have that high of a result as their maximum in the range. This again suggests that they are sometimes excluding outliers, but oddly aren't doing it consistently. I will be eager to see more details when they finally release them. Understandably, they have not given us much information (none at all, really) on their methods for the update because it's still in beta mode.

Dad's update and comparison with old report
My dad's new results are aren't quite as accurate because he's still seeing a number of low percentages in various regions. His background isn't hugely mixed, but is 50% Italian, and his other half is about 30% German and 20% British (again, Scottish/Scots-Irish).

Previously:
Italy/Greece 44% (range 31-55%)
Europe West 19% (range 0-43%)
Great Britain 15% (range 0-35%)
Ireland 7% (range 0-19%)
Low Confidence Regions:
Middle East 5% (range 0-10%)
Scandinavia 4% (range 0-16%)
Caucasus 4% (range 0-10%)
Finland/Northwest Russia 1% (range 0-5%)
Asia South < 1% (range 0-2%)

Updated:
Italy 44% (range 43-58%)
England and Wales 24% (range 23-24%)
France 12% (range 0-13%)
Ireland and Scotland 10% (range 0-10%)
Germanic Europe 3% (range 0-27%)
Greece and The Balkans 3% (range 0-3%)
Sweden 2% (range 0-2%)
Turkey and the Caucasus 2% (range 0-2%)

It's good to see his Italian/Southern Europe results didn't change, considering mine changed so drastically (and wrongly). His are still 44% and now narrowed down to Italy, not just Europe South. And the 24% England/Wales is fairly accurate too considering, again, that despite the name it does primarily include Scotland as well. But they did fail to identify much German and he's still getting several noise-level results. Noteworthy though is the fact that if they were still using the old low confidence regions, everything apart from Italy, England/Wales, and Germanic Europe would be in low confidence, which is consistent with his tree. The criteria for it is described as:

"When an ethnicity has a range that includes zero (meaning that in at least one of the 40 tests, that ethnicity didn’t appear) and doesn’t exceed 15%, or when the predicted percentage is less than 4.5%, the ethnicity is included in an estimate as a low confidence region." - Full article here

So despite his low average for Germanic, the range is as high as 27% and that would be above the criteria for the low confidence regions. Looking at it that way, his new results for mainly Italy, England/Wales, and Germanic are actually kind of accurate.

My mom's previous AncestryDNA ethnicity report
Lastly, we come to my mom's new results. Her background is more mixed than my dad's, so it's not surprising that her update isn't quite as accurate. She is approximately 50% British (English and Scots-Irish), 25% Norwegian, 20% German/Swiss, and possibly a tiny 2-3% Dutch and 2-3% French.

Her previous results (show left):
Great Britain 46% (range 10-81%)
Scandinavia 29% (range 2-57%)
Europe West 16% (range 0-44%)
Ireland 4% (range 0-14%)
Italy/Greece 3% (range 0-8%)
Iberian Peninsula 2% (range 0-7%)

With the update (shown below):
England, Wales & Northwestern Europe 45% (range 43-52%)
Norway 40% (range 38-40%)
Ireland and Scotland 11% (range 0-12%)
Sweden 4% (range 0-4%)

My mom's new AncestryDNA ethnicity report
Her British results haven't changed much, but her Norwegian/Scandinavian results are now much, much higher than before, a drastic deviation from the fact that she only had one Norwegian grandparent. While the amounts we inherit from a grandparent may vary, it's unlikely to be as high as 40%, much less 44% if you add in the Swedish results. But most importantly, where did her German ancestry go? The update definitely seem to be underestimating German results in general, at least for my family. At least my dad got small results in Germanic - but none at all for my mom?

The ranges are generally smaller than they used to be, which suggests better confidence or more consistency in the results, but is that because in some cases, they are excluding outliers? Hard to say until we get more information on their methodology.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Review of AncestryDNA's New Ethnicity Estimate Update (Beta)

My new results
As discussed previously, there is an update in the works for AncestryDNA's Ethnicity Estimate, currently still in beta mode, you may be able to manually access it as detailed here. Three out of my five kits were able to update - but are the new results actually better, or more accurate? In some ways, yes, and for certain people, yes. But in other ways, and for certain people, a definite no. It seems to work best for people who are less mixed. For example, if your ancestry is entirely English, versus someone who is English, German, Italian, etc then you very well might be finding that the new results are more consistent with your tree. It seems for those of us who come from various backgrounds, the ethnicity report can be a little bit all over the place, and not in a way that is consistent with our known ancestry.

My old results
I'll start with myself. As I'm sure I've mentioned many times, I am a mix of British, German, Italian, and Norwegian (and a little bit of Dutch and French Huguenot, but that may be from too far back for the ethnicity report to be relevant). The new update (shown above) seem to be a bit thrown off from my variety of admixture.

Granted, they do seem to have dropped most of the results from outside Europe I had before (see right), which is more consistent with my tree. I am now 99% European and only 1% Turkey/Caucasus, whereas before I only had 95% in Europe.

However, I'm still getting a lot of low percentages in areas surrounding where my ancestry comes from (2% Spain, 2% Greece/Balkans, etc), they are just now mostly in Europe instead of outside it. I also notice that AncestryDNA have done away with labeling "low confidence regions", which were previously defined as "when an ethnicity has a range that includes zero (meaning that in at least one of the 40 tests, that ethnicity didn’t appear) and doesn’t exceed 15%, or when the predicted percentage is less than 4.5%". Now, results which fall into this are no lower identified as such, suggesting that AncestryDNA are much more confident about even low percentage results/ranges. Sadly, I'm not convinced they have earned that confidence.

Due to the fact that my paternal grandfather tested, I know I share 18% of my DNA with him, rather than the "expected" 25% (this is normal), which means I inherited 32% from my Italian paternal grandmother. Before the update, AncestryDNA estimated my Europe South component at almost exactly what it should be: 31%, so I should have known that any deviation from this was going to be a step in the wrong direction, but the mere 12% Italian was still somewhat of a shock. Even if I add up the small amounts in surrounding areas for a Southern European total, I'm still only up to 17%. Not only was AncestryDNA's original prediction consistent with my tree, it was also very consistent with most other companies. FTDNA gave me 33% in Southern Europe, 23andMe had me at 29.5% Southern Europe, and LivingDNA at 30.2%. The only outlier was MyHeritage at 41.6%, which is partly why I felt MyHeritage's reports were less reliable than everyone else. But now, AncestryDNA must join the ranks of MyHeritage. My Northern vs Southern European ancestry has always been easy for most companies to tell apart so this seems like a big step in the wrong direction for me.

There are, of course, other discrepancies between the new report and my tree, but they are less severe. Although AncestryDNA is attempting to narrow regions down to more specific areas, it's not always reliable. I do not have as much French ancestry as they are suggesting at 18%, but if you add it together with Germanic, another 18%, you get 36%, which isn't that far off what I estimate from my known ancestry (about 21% German/Swiss/Dutch). So in some cases, I think we still need to look at broader areas and combine neighboring regions despite AncestryDNA's attempt to break them down.

Great Britain - old ethnicity map
Of little consolation is the fact that my 7% in Norway is a little closer to what I might expect to have gotten from my one Norwegian great grandfather, and my England/Wales results are exactly what I estimated my tree to be, 32%, whereas before it was a bit overestimated at 55% Great Britain.

This brings me to the point I want to make about the new regional names of the British Isles. Despite the name change, we're not actually seeing any difference in the areas these groups primarily cover.

Previously, Great Britain (map shown above/right) was defined as:
Primarily located in: England, Scotland, Wales
Also found in: Ireland, France, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Italy

England, Wales, and NW Europe
new ethnicity map
And now "England, Wales, and Northwestern Europe" (map shown right) is defined as:
Primarily located in: England, Scotland, Wales
Also found in: Ireland, France, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg

So despite the name change, they both primarily cover England, Scotland, and Wales - the only change was to a couple of the secondary regions it might cover (no more Italy and Austria, but Luxembourg was added).

The same is true for what was previously called "Ireland/Scotland/Wales" (map shown below):
Primarily located in: Ireland, Wales, Scotland
Also found in: France, England

Ireland/Scotland/Wales - old
ethnicity map
And now the new "Ireland and Scotland" (map shown below/left):
Primarily located in: Ireland, Wales, Scotland
Also found in: France, England

As you can see from the descriptions, it's exactly the same coverage.

So don't let the new names fool you, "England, Wales, and NW Europe" doesn't cover mainland Europe any more strongly than it did before, and it doesn't mean ancestry from Scotland (or even Ireland) can't still turn up under this category. I do not know why they are adding "Northwestern Europe" to the title of this group when it is not listed under the locations it's primarily found in. I expect this will undoubtedly be confusing to some people. Likewise, Wales may have been dropped from the now named "Ireland and Scotland" but you can see from the description and maps that it's still included in this group as a primary location. This is why it's so important to look at the details and not just go off the category title.

As you can see from the coverage maps I've also included, those haven't changed much either. They appear to have only changed the maps to better reflect the descriptions, not because the descriptions have changed. For example, previously Great Britain didn't list Norway in it's description of "also found in", yet the map did cover the southern tip of it, whereas now it does not. Previously, the map for Ireland, Scotland and Wales did not cover France even though it was included in the description, but now it does. So although the maps have changed slightly, it's not because the category is primarily covering any different areas.

It should be noted that although the regions these groups cover haven't changed, that doesn't mean your results in those categories won't. AncestryDNA have significantly updated their reference panel from 3,000 to 16,000, so we are seeing changes to the genetic make up of these groups in the reference panel, which will very likely reflect changes to the percentage you get in those categories.

Obviously, mainland Europe is seeing significant changes to the breakdown and coverage of different regions. Europe West, previously "primarily located in": Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and "also found in": England, Denmark, Italy, Slovenia, Czech Republic is now broken down into "France" and "Germanic Europe", which respectively cover:

Primarily located in: France
Also found in: Andorra, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Spain, Switzerland

Primarily located in: Germany
Also found in: Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark

Unfortunately I don't have the room or time to detail every new region, especially with maps, but you can see from the completely list how different the breakdown for Europe is now:

Europe
  • Baltic States
  • Basque
  • Eastern Europe and Russia
  • England, Wales & Northwestern Europe
  • European Jewish
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germanic Europe
  • Greece and the Balkans
  • Ireland and Scotland
  • Italy
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • Sardinia
  • Spain
  • Sweden

And for the rest of the world:

Africa
  • Africa South-Central Hunter-Gatherers
  • Benin/Togo
  • Cameroon, Congo, and Southern Bantu Peoples
  • Eastern Africa
  • Ivory Coast/Ghana
  • Mali
  • Nigeria
  • Northern Africa
  • Senegal
America
  • Native American—Andean
  • Native American—North, Central, South
Asia
  • Balochistan
  • Burusho
  • Central and Northern Asia
  • China
  • Japan
  • Korea and Northern China
  • Philippines
  • Southeast Asia—Dai (Tai)
  • Southeast Asia—Vietnam
  • Southern Asia
  • Western and Central India
Pacific Islander
  • Melanesia
  • Polynesia
West Asia
  • Iran/Persia
  • Middle East
  • Turkey and the Caucasus

Unfortunately, Africa and Pacific Islander don't see any further breakdown but that doesn't mean you won't see changes to your percentages or regions. America only see the addition or distinction of Andean, and West Asia sees a two part area now split into three. The biggest changes aside from Europe have happened in Asia, and it's about time. Ancestry's previous Asian groups only covered three very large regions: Asia Central, Asia East, and Asia South. Now there's 11 regions! I frequently used to recommend East Asians wanting to take a DNA ethnicity test to go with 23andMe, not AncestryDNA, but now I don't have to.

It should be noted that the update does not influence your Genetic Communities or Migrations. You might find some of them are now organized under a new parent region due to the new breakdown of the regions, but that's the most of it. The Genetic Communities/Migrations are determined through different methods using a different reference dataset (which is precisely why I still believe they shouldn't have been merged as sub-regions as though they are the same) so they aren't going to change with this update.

I think that covers enough for now. I will detail the changes to my other kits in another article.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

How to get the AncestryDNA Ethnicity Report Update (Beta)

AncestryDNA's new breakdown of Europe - now 16 regions
Many of you may have noticed a lot of talk about the update in the works for AncestryDNA's ethnicity estimate. Some of you may have already received it. It is currently still in beta testing, which means only certain tests are included and Ancestry are still tweaking it based on the feedback they're getting. We are at Ancestry's mercy for who gets updated and when.

Or are we? Here's a secret, shhh: many of you may be able to "force" the update. It apparently doesn't work on all tests (at first I thought it only worked on tests from the V1 chip, since both my kits on V2 didn't work, but then I got feedback it was the opposite for some people), but it doesn't hurt to try.

Open your ethnicity estimate or "DNA Story" page. In the URL bar, remove everything in the URL after the "code", the long string of numbers and capital letters. Once you've removed all that, it should look like this (with a different code, of course - this is mine and shouldn't work for you since you're not logged into my account - at least, you shouldn't be!):

https://www.ancestry.com/dna/origins/A9BA4988-54FA-4823-A9CB-7CF2C9355AD1

Now, at the end of the URL, add "/transition" (without the quotation marks, of course). So now it looks like this:

https://www.ancestry.com/dna/origins/A9BA4988-54FA-4823-A9CB-7CF2C9355AD1/transition

What happens when it doesn't work - blank results
This will generate a survey on your expectations of your ethnicity report. When the survey is complete, you'll be able to see a preview of your new, updated ethnicity report and a comparison with what it previously was. You won't be able to click any of the categories or regions to see the details, but scroll down and below all that you will find a button that says "Keep Update". If you're happy with the update, you can click this button and your report will be officially and permanently updated, and then you can click on the groups to see more details (and your previous results will still be visible if you click "Up to date" but not in as much detail).

Like I say, it does not work for everyone. 2 out of my 5 kits showed completely blank results at the end of the survey (nothing on the map, and only previous results listed on the side - show above) and clicking on "Keep Update" did nothing (the spinning circle just kept spinning).

In a couple days, I will be detailing my own results and exploring whether the update was worth it or not.

UPDATE 08/22/2018: AncestryDNA have now added a message saying "Still processing results" for kits that the transition option doesn't work on. It's unclear whether they are actually processing them or whether they've just tossed this message up to appease people, or when the update will ever be available for them.

UPDATE 08/24/2018: It's become clear that AncestryDNA have shut this loophole down completely and anyone who wasn't able to access it and click "keep update" beforehand is now getting this "still processing" message. According to a statement they made on Facebook: "That process was not an official way to get the updated regions." Makes you wonder how it was even accessible to begin with if that's the case. Anyway, in the same statement, they say "If you haven't received the DNA ethnicity update yet, you should receive it very soon!" Considering it took them about 3 years to bring the Family Group Sheets back like they promised, I'm betting "very soon" means something different to them than it will to most users.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Ancestry's "We're Related" App

We're Related app
My relationship to Stephen Amell
is confirmed
As many of you may know already, Ancestry.com has an app available called "We're Related". It's a fun little app that looks at Ancestry's vast database of user created family trees and attempts to find common ancestors between you and famous people, both of today and in history. It probably goes without saying that you should be careful about accepting the authenticity of the connections the app makes, given that it's based on user created trees and we all know how error-filled they can be, but that doesn't mean it can't be accurate sometimes.

Out of curiosity, I set out to determine how many of the famous people it's claiming I'm related to are actually accurate. Admittedly, I haven't gotten very far because most of the common ancestors the app finds are colonial, meaning they can be difficult to research. That doesn't mean the app is wrong, just that a lot of them can't be confirmed or denied either way. But so far, I have been able to confirm one link, and deny another.

I started with the ones who had common ancestors I recognized because they were already in my own tree (the app will extend on your tree to find common ancestors even further back than you've researched). That way, I at least knew my own descent from that common ancestor was accurate, and only had to research the path from the common ancestor to the famous person in question.

So the first famous person I've been able to confirm my relation to is Stephen Amell (shown above). For those of you who don't watch the TV show "Arrow" based on the D.C. Comic's superhero Green Arrow, Stephen Amell is the star of the show (also, you're missing out). He's not exactly an A-lister but it's still pretty cool. Additionally, although the app doesn't mention it, Stephen Amell's cousin is Robbie Amell, who had a brief part in the corresponding TV show, The Flash, and it's their shared ancestry which I also share so I'm related to both of them. Our shared ancestors are Jacob C Gottschalk, who was the first Mennonite bishop in America (not to be confused with the first Mennonite minister in America, the more famous William Rittenhouse), and his wife Aeltien Symons Hermans. My path to Jacob is well documented, since he was a somewhat well known historical figure, at least among Mennonite history, his descendants are well documented, which made researching down to Stephen and Robbie Amell fairly easy as well. Jacob was my 7th great grandfather and Stephen's 9th great grandfather, making us 8th cousins twice removed.

App shows the path from alleged
common ancestor to the Cole
family
Sadly, not all the connection are this easy to confirm, nor are they always so accurate. I went after another suggested relation, Nat King Cole (shown right). The app seemed to think we shared ancestors Peter Schumacher and his wife Sarah Hendricks. Again, these ancestors were already in my tree so I knew they were accurate and only needed to research down Nat King Cole's side. On his path, the app suggested that Peter and Sarah's daughter was Fronica or Frances Schumacher, which indeed she was and I already had her in my tree. The next step showed Fronica's son Peter Van Bebber b. 1695, which was again correct according to the research already in my tree. But next it claimed that Peter's daughter was an Esther Van Bebber b. 1707 who I had no record of and anyone with any kind of observation skills will immediately notice that it's highly unlikely Peter had a child when he was only 12 years old. So I don't know who has this lineage in their tree that the app is picking up, but it's probably incorrect and it's a good thing I checked it before accepting it as fact. Looks like I'm probably not related to Nat King Cole after all. Bummer.

The good thing about the app is that it does use words like "Possible Common Ancestor" so hopefully people don't take it too seriously without researching and confirming connections. Additionally, at the bottom of each pathway (either from you to the ancestor, or the famous person to the ancestor), it asks "Does this path look correct to you?" and offers a thumbs up or thumbs down (shown below). Unfortunately, it doesn't offer any kind of comment box for you to detail what looks wrong about it if you thumbs-down it, but it's better than nothing.


Also noteworthy is the one I found in which the pathway from me to a common ancestor who is in my tree may have been wrong. When looking at the suggestion for my relation to Elizabeth Montgomery, we allegedly share known ancestors of mine, Robert Cobbs and Rebecca Vinckler - however, when I open up the pathway from myself to Robert, there is a very noticeable inconsistency with my own tree on Ancestry.com. In my tree (which the app is supposed to be working off of), Thomas Cobbs Jr is obviously the son of Thomas Cobbs Sr, who is the son of the Robert Cobbs in question, but in the app, it bizarrely has the mother of Thomas Cobbs Jr as Susanna Moon, who is then the daughter of Mildred Cobbs, the daughter of Robert.

Now, I supposed it's not impossible that the pathway in the app is correct and I just have yet to discover it, which would mean I am descended from Robert Cobbs in two ways. But that would also mean Susanna Moon married her uncle, and that sounds kind of gross and highly unlikely. I know it's not uncommon for 1st cousins to marry, but uncle and niece? It's not something I've ever come across (except in royalty/nobility, but that's different). Given the unlikeliness of this situation to begin with, and the fact that I have no record of Robert having a daughter named Mildred, I think this pathway is probably inaccurate. Even assuming for a moment it's correct, it's still strange that the app went with a pathway which is not in my tree instead of the one which is. So make sure you look at each pathway, even if the common ancestor is already one in your tree who you've confirmed. Don't just assume since the ancestor is correct, the pathway to you is as well. Regardless though, I am descended from Robert Cobbs, and so if Elizabeth Montgomery is as well, then we are indeed related, even though the pathway is wrong.

Although I have some criticisms of the app, it does give me a lot to do when I'm stuck on brick walls in my normal research. This gives me something different to explore, while still working on my family tree. Hopefully, as I carry on with it, I can continue to confirm or deny more and more relationships to famous people.

(Note: when you first set up the app, it will take a few days to look for and start generating people you're related to, and it will continue to update and add more and more people to the list over time.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Making the Most of Your DNA Matches

One of the more frustrating aspects of AncestryDNA is how few people have a family tree available, and when they do, it's often private or a tree so small you might think you can't get any use out of it. Of course, I would encourage everyone to contact their DNA matches with private trees and politely ask for an invite, and I would also encourage people to contact their matches who have no trees, as they might know enough about their ancestry to make a connection between you even if they didn't add it to a tree. But often times, people don't respond to our messages, or they decline our invite request. Dead end after dead end, right? Well, there are a few ways around these dilemmas. Although some a little specific to AncestryDNA, they can often be utilized with other companies too.

1. Look for a family tree, even if one isn't attached.
When you open the match details page, if there is a family tree available but not attached to the DNA test, it will have a drop down menu where you can select the tree to preview (shown above and left). In the screenshot above, it shows how initially, it looks like this DNA match has no family tree, but they do have one unattached to their DNA results. Selecting it from the drop down menu brings up a preview. It's a small tree, but enough to identify our most recent common ancestor, since their grandfather was the brother of my great grandmother.

This one you do need to be careful with because while sometimes, people simply forget to attach their tree to their DNA test, it's also possible that the family tree doesn't belong to the person whose test you match (or the tree may belong to that person but they are not the "home person" for the tree, as is automatically selected). For example, one of my close cousins has taken the test, but his wife is managing it. His wife has started her family tree, but not his, and I only know this because I know them well enough to know whose tree it is. To anyone else who doesn't know them, they could mistake the wife's tree for his own. In this case, there is a good reason the tree wasn't attached to the test. So definitely look for those unattached family trees, but don't make too many assumptions about them.

Don't dismiss a tree like this!
2. Build a tree from their shrubs.
Don't dismiss trees that seem too small to make any use of. As long as they have deceased ancestors in their tree (whose details are therefore public) you can do what genealogists do best: research! Build on that tiny shrub of a tree, researching further back than the tree owner did until you find your common ancestor.

In the example above/left, you might look at this family tree and think there is not enough information to find the most recent common ancestor, but you'd be wrong. This person's father is a descendant of my 4th great grandparents John Hendricks Godshalk and Barbara Kratz. How do I know? Because I took this tiny tree and I researched the ancestors until I connected it to my own tree.

3. Build downwards on your own tree.
Research all the descendants of your known ancestors, as far down as you can. It really helps when you're trying to make a connection with a small 'shrub' of a tree such as discussed above. You won't have to research your match's tree back very far if you've already done the work on your own tree.

This is especially useful for trees with endogamy - for example, I have a branch of Mennonites on my tree and after tracing many other descendant lines of my ancestors, it quickly became clear there are a number of surnames that are strongly associated with the colonial Mennonites who settled in Pennsylvania, especially when more than one appears in a tree. So if I see names in someone's tree like Oberholtzer, Funk, Detweiler, Bergey, etc, even though none of these are my ancestors, I immediately know they are likely from my Mennonite branch just from seeing the surnames. In fact, in the screenshot above the match's father's name was Detwiler, immediately suggesting I should follow that side back until it linked to my own tree, and it did. Even on branches without endogamy, it can still be useful, just not as immediately apparent.

Notes always showing in list allows me to quickly see
which ancestors I share with matches I have in common
with someone
4. Look at your Shared Matches.
If there really is no tree whatsoever you can make use of, and the person won't respond to your messages, all you can do is look at the DNA matches you have in common with each other. If any of them are matches you've already determined your shared ancestry with, then it's possible this match is also descended from the same branch. If more than one are descended from the same branch, then it's very likely this person is too. The more shared matches who descend from the same branch or ancestor, the more likely the person with no tree does too.

This process can be sped up greatly by using a Chrome extension called MedBetterDNA. It has the option to "always show notes", which means any notes you make on a DNA match will show up in the list of matches, including the list of Shared Matches. In other words, every time you identify the shared ancestor of a DNA match, make a note of that ancestor in the notes section, then every time that match is a Shared Match with someone else who doesn't have a tree, you will know it without having to open up additional match's details. See the screenshot example above. I can't not stress enough how much more efficient this has made my workflow.

5. Use the Search option for private trees.
It's frustrating to see all those private trees, especially when the owner doesn't respond. But you can get an idea of what surnames are in their tree by using the search option. That doesn't mean your shared ancestor is definitely from that surname, but it is especially useful for private trees you have a Shared Ancestor Hint with. Knowing you do have a shared ancestor with that match makes it much more likely a shared surname is the source of that ancestor. This method is a little tedious though, since you have to randomly search for surnames from your tree and hope you get a hit for the match you're looking for, but you should theoretically get there eventually if there is a Shared Ancestor Hint. However, be aware that the search function isn't hugely reliable and often misses people who definitely have a surname you're searching for in their tree. I think it's a site indexing issue. So it doesn't always work, but when it does, it's helpful. It is also useful in combination with the above tip (a surname search result plus Shared Matches who are confirmed from the same branch as that surname is very good evidence your Shared Ancestor Hint is from that branch).

6. Test other family members.
Testing family members, especially parents, is beneficial because you can at least see which of your matches also match those family members, and therefore which side or branch of your tree the shared ancestor is likely from. No tree? Won't respond to messages? No shared cousins who have been identified yet? Well, at least I can see whether they match my mom, dad, paternal grandfather, or any of my known, close cousins on either side who have tested.

Be aware that the Shared Matches feature only includes high confidence (or higher) matches who are estimated 4th cousins or closer, but if you manage any of your family member's kits, you can see which matches you have in common at any level/degree by opening that match's profile. In the example above, you'll see my dad (Jim) matches Agnes and two other kits she manages, even though they do not meet the criteria of "Shared Matches". So when I look at Agnes or her other kits in my match list, it won't show my dad as a shared match to them, even though you can see here by opening Agnes' profile, they are a match to my dad. So not only testing other family members, but getting permission to manage their test is also very beneficial to at least figuring out which side/branch someone is connected to.

7. Search the internet for your DNA match
This one may seem a little intrusive to some, but the data is public and it's out there, so why not make use of it? There are certain websites like familytreenow.com, truepeoplesearch.com, and pipl.com where you can search for people by their real names, or sometimes by a username. Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org has some public records of living people too. Even just a Google search can yield results; some people use their real names on AncestryDNA - so search for it. Sometimes, you can find them on Facebook or other contact details. Sometimes, you can find out their parents names, and from there, build a tree and connect it to your own. I know these sites can be controversial to some who feel they are a violation of privacy, but they are using public data and not violating any laws. If you are concerned, you can request your information be removed from these sites.

Even when people use anonymous usernames, sometimes they post on Ancestry's message boards with info on their tree and you can find them by Googling the username. Sometimes they use the same username on other websites and you can get in touch with them that way.

It is important to remember that not everyone has as great an interest in genealogy and DNA as we do. Many (perhaps even most) people take the test only for the ethnicity report and may never return to the site after seeing them. Others might be adopted and not know anything about their biological ancestry, and in some cases, there are individuals who might have died after taking the test and not given any family members access to their account. There are many reasonable explanations for why people don't respond to our messages, so try not to get too frustrated by it. Focus and work with what you have, and don't let the rest get to you or you'll drive yourself crazy!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Which DNA Company is the "Best" for Ethnicity?

It frequently gets asked which DNA company is the "best", especially based on the ethnicity report alone. It's important to know that the ethnicity report is only ever an estimate, and they can vary greatly among the different companies, but which one is more accurate can also depend on the individual. ISOGG rate 23andMe the highest for ethnicity accuracy, and Nat Geo the lowest, but they don't include LivingDNA in that comparison, and I know from social media, not everyone feels the same way about each company. So I was curious to see what the majority would say if given a survey (if there even is a majority).

Well, here it is. If you've tested with even one of the companies included in the survey (23andMe, AncestryDNA, FamilyTreeDNA, LivingDNA, MyHeritage, and Nat Geo's Geno 2.0) please consider contributing your findings, it will only take a few moments (there are a max of only 13 quick questions, fewer if you haven't tested with every company - it merely asks "have you tested with this company?" and if you answer yes, it asks how accurate you felt the results were): "Best" DNA Company for Ethnicity Survey

Results will be posted once there's enough data collected.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

23andMe's New Sub-Regions

My new sub-regions from 23andMe
Recently, 23andMe rolled out 120+ new regions in their ethnicity report (Ancestry Composition), but they are actually sub-regions that don't include a percentage (they also aren't included in Chromosome Painting). They are calculated much the same way Genetic Communities at AncestryDNA are, which begs for a comparison.

My initial feelings on 23andMe's new sub-regions are that although they have fewer of them than AncestryDNA's 300+ Genetic Communities, it does seem as though one is more likely to get sub-regions at 23andMe than they would be to get GC's from AncestryDNA. 23andMe correctly identified that my "British & Irish" results are actually from the UK, and my Scandinavian results are from Norway. I also have a sub-region of "Italy" under my existing "Italian" results (see left) - that probably sounds rather obvious, but when you look at the list of all sub-regions, you see that there's also an available sub-region of Malta listed under "Italian" - so once again, they've correctly identified my Italian ancestry and not mistaken it for Maltese.

No European GC's at AncestryDNA
Meanwhile, over at AncestryDNA, I have zero Genetic Communities in Europe (I have one for Pennsylvania Settlers though) - see the screenshot to the right. My dad does get one for Southern Italy because he's half Italian, but no such luck for me. AncestryDNA offer 13 GC's in Great Britain, 17 in Scandinavia, and 14 in Europe South, but I get nada for any of them. 23andMe offer measly 2 sub-regions under British & Irish (UK and Ireland), and only 4 in Scandinavia, but since I actually got sub-region results, I can't complain. AncestryDNA may have more sub-regions, but if there's fewer people getting results in them, then they aren't as useful. 23andMe have certainly just raised the bar a little bit.

It is a little bit of a shame 23andMe weren't able to identify my German ancestry, separate from France and other sub-regions in this group. So far, LivingDNA were the only ones to accurately accomplish this, and it was with percentages.

If you click on "See all tested populations" at the bottom of your 23andMe Ancestry Composition, you'll be able to see that each sub-region, although having no percentage, does show how strongly you match that group with a 5 dot system (shown below). The more dots, the more strongly you match that population. Only if you have 2 or more dots does the group show up on your Ancestry Composition page, but when you click on "See all" you may find you match additional groups with only 1 dot. For example, I have 1 dot for Sweden, but I have no Swedish ancestry and because it's only 1 dot, it doesn't show on my Ancestry Composition unless I click "See all". My existing sub-regions for Italy, United Kingdom, and Norway each have 2 dots, which is why they all show up on my Ancestry Composition page.

Dots showing the strength of my
connection to these groups
You may note that none of your 23andMe percentages have changed, that's because the new regions don't include a percentage. They are calculated differently from the ethnic percentages and use a different reference database. Also, don't assume that having results in a sub-region means they are saying the entire percentage from the parent region is coming from that sub-region. In my case, it's true because I know my family history, but for example, if I also had Irish heritage, the results aren't saying all 17.2% British & Irish is coming from the UK, it could also be coming from Ireland, I just didn't get results for that. I don't actually have Irish ancestry that's not Scots-Irish though.

My previous 23andMe results
for comparison
You may have also noticed that the names of a few populations have changed. This is simply to better reflect the areas they cover, it does not mean the data has changed. Instead of "Middle Eastern" it is now "Western Asian" and "North African" is now "North African & Arabian". What was "Central & South African" is now being called "African Hunter Gatherer" (I'm not entirely sure that's a better description for the newcomers to DNA). Also, "Oceanian" is now called "Melanesian". Originally "Mongolian" is now "Manchurian & Mongolian", and "Yakut" is now "Siberian". Additionally, they appear to have removed the parent categories that once showed the accumulative percentages of some sub-continental regions. For example, it used to group my Northwest European results together - so added up (British & Irish, French & German, Scandinavian, and Broadly NW European) it was 63.3% (show left). That's hasn't changed, if you add up those groups, it's still the same percentage, they are simply no longer showing it so I have to add them up myself. Not a huge loss, but a bit of a shame that I can no longer easily see the divide between my North and South European DNA (which has always been very distinctive).

Here's a complete list of the new sub-regions:

Original 23andMe's populations for comparison
  • European
    • Italian
      • Italy, Malta
    • French & German
      • Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland
    • British & Irish
      • United Kingdom, Ireland
    • Scandinavian
      • Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland
    • Iberian
      • Portugal, Spain
    • Sardinian
    • Balkan
      • Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia
    • Finnish
    • Eastern European
      • Belarus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine
    • Ashkenazi Jewish
    • Broadly Northwestern European
    • Broadly Southern European
    • Broadly European
  • Western Asian & North African (formerly Middle Eastern & North African)
    • North African & Arabian (formerly North African)
      • Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
    • Western Asian (formerly Middle Eastern)
      • Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Uzbekistan
    • Broadly Western Asian & North African
  • Sub-Saharan African
    • West African
      • Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria
    • East African
      • Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan
    • African Hunter-Gatherer (formerly Central & South African)
    • Broadly Sub-Saharan African
  • South Asian
    • Broadly South Asian
      • Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Mauritius, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka
  • East Asian & Native American
    • Japanese
    • Korean
      • North Korea, South Korea
    • Siberian (formerly Yakut)
    • Manchurian & Mongolian (formerly Mongolian)
      • Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia
    • Chinese
      • Hong Kong, Mainland China, Taiwan
    • Southeast Asian
      • Cambodia, Guam, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam
    • Native American
      • Argentina, Aruba, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Venezuela
    • Broadly East Asian
    • Broadly East Asian & Native American
  • Melanesian (formerly Oceanian)
    • Broadly Melanesian
      • American Samoa, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga

You can also view a list of populations available from each DNA company here and see how 23andMe compares with other companies.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Dating Old Photographs: Example #2 (Crayon Enlargement)

This is one I found in an antique store recently. It is actually a crayon enlargement, which was an enlarged copy made of a cabinet card or carte de visite. The trouble with enlargements of such photos was that the results often weren't very clear, so the artist or photographer would then enhance it by drawing over it with other materials like charcoal or pastels. Sometimes, such as in this case, it would be colorized, but that was not always the case, there are many black and white crayon enlargements. Either way, the effect of the enhancement typically makes the image look almost more like a drawing or painting than a photograph, but at the same time, certain elements appear too realistic to not be a photograph. That's because it's basically both.

Known date of colorized enlargement: 1882. Estimated date of original photograph: about 1880-1882.

I didn't purchase this one and didn't have a measuring tape with me, but it was probably something like 11x14, though they can be even larger. Attached to the back, there was a torn piece of paper with the date as October 2, 1882. Although the date of this one is known, the Library of Congress says crayon enlargements were available from the 1860's to the 1920's. There is a second date written along the side of the paper, November 14, 1882 - most likely, this is the date it was finished, which means it took little over a month to complete. The paper, as you can see below, includes information about what colors should be used. Much of it is missing, but it looks like the beard was described as "light brown but very grey". Something else, perhaps his hair, was "very brown and not so grey". I'm guessing the "(very?) black but very grey" was meant to be his eye color. Unfortunately, the price is not included, though there is a space for it on the form, and there's no company name surviving.

Excuse my fingers, I had to hold down a torn
and curling piece of the paper
The enlargement may be from 1882, but the original photograph could theoretically be from almost any time before that. They were typically made from carte de visites (1860s-1870s) and cabinet cards (1870s-1890s) so that means we're not looking at anything before the 1860's. Looking at the clothing and hair, men's fashion tended to evolve much more slowly and subtly than women's fashion but there are a few things to take note of. The facial hair style of a mustache connected to the muttonchops with a clean shaven chin (known as friendly muttonchops, face shelf, or hulihee) was popularized by Ambrose Burnside, and is where the term "sideburns" comes from. At the time Burnside introduced the style in the early 1860s, it was considered unusual, so it probably didn't become popular until a little later, and examples of it can be seen into the 1880s. That doesn't narrow down the original photo much more, probably around 1865-1882. The thing that really helps narrow it down is the fact that the man in the crayon enlargement is wearing a high buttoned, single breasted waistcoat with this style of lapels, which (according to History in the Making) was most popular around 1880-1910. That strongly suggests the original was from not much longer before the enlargement was made in 1882.