Tuesday 27 June 2017

DNA Matches

I have had my DNA analyzed at 23andme, MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA (Y-DNA). My wife also did hers at 23andme.

Periodically we get emails about matches in their databases. The 23andme list alerted me to several cousins from my mother’s mother’s line. The highest match in terms of percentage of DNA was 11.1% on 31 segments and that was my first cousin who I know very well. Five of the next seven highest are his children.

My maternal haplogroup is H; the chart looks very much like my wife’s with branches spreading out through Europe. The one that runs through central Europe makes sense as I know we have German and likely French connections. Apart from the generalized depiction, it is not much use to me. My paternal haplogroup, R-P311, a subgroup of R-M269 which is the most common haplogroup in western Europe. Again it does not add much to our family history.

I contacted a few of the other cousins on the list and we found more about each other’s branches. I did not learn much more about the line that we did not already know from years of normal family history research, particularly that my aunt did in the 1970s. Nevertheless, having more contact with distant family members was interesting.

There have been no matches on my father’s side on any of the databases.

On my wife’s side, 23andme has provided no family contacts although there have been several individuals who think they are related. The highest shared match is 2.22% on eight segments, so this individual could be a cousin. A message sent to her has not received a reply yet. All the rest of the 1,277 “relatives” have less than 1% match which I think is within the margin of error and likely few are members of any family line. Her haplogroup, H3g, indicates her line came through Europe. One branch goes through the northern part of the continent which fits as all of her ancestors we have traced are from northern Scotland and the Shetland Islands.

From the FamilyTreeDNA database I have no hits. Not that I expected many. I know my male line back pretty far in Devon and I did not think there would necessarily be too many members of my Shepheard family that would have taken a Y-DNA test.

I did persuade a cousin from my mother’s family to take the Y-DNA test (the first cousin I mentioned above). We thought he would be best positioned to be able to reach members of our common 2nd great-grandfather (maternal to me, paternal to him) who had migrated to the US from Germany in the early 1800s. We have no information about where specifically this ancestor came from, when he arrived or who his immediate or ancestral families were. So far we have had no matches for our Miller line that go any further back than we do. My cousin died earlier this year but his daughter and I will continue to monitor his information on FTDNA to see if anyone shows up.

I get regular notices form MyHeritage about matches. There are 85 so far. They give you a range of relationships but they are generally so broad, such as “1st cousin twice removed to 5th cousin” that they seem either not reliable or not meaningful. Only three have more than 1% shared DNA, the largest 1.7%, which may only be within the margin of error and not a true familial match.

The ethnicity description has me all over the place with 97.3% as Europe (that works) and 61.2% of that as British or Irish (that works, too). That’s ok, but Sardinian at 8.3%? South Asian at 1.9%? Or Native American at 0.8%? I have doubts about those.

As I indicated I have sent messages to a few cousins. Some have replied; many have not. A few did not have a valid email address. There have been some messages sent by individuals who have absolutely no connection to our families. I always wonder why people have their DNA analyzed and then do not follow up with possible family members who share a significant amount.

I guess, overall, our experience is limited in learning about other lines of the family. We are still better off with information gleaned from the traditional sources through the normal research methods. But I hope we eventually make a breakthrough with the Millers. It will all have been worth it then.