23andMe Ethnicity Update

If you’ve tested at 23andMe, have you checked out your ethnicity results lately? 

In a recent post[1], Judy Russell mentioned 23andMe’s latest ethnicity update, which somehow I missed completely!

Naturally, I had to go check it out, fearing a bit that my ethnicity percentages might be “messed up”.  Even though I know they are estimates, 23andMe has for some time had the percentages closest to what would be expected by my family narrative.  My dad is “all Irish”; my mom is “half Italian” due to her father being from Italy.  Et cetera, et cetera.


Very little has changed in my ethnicity percentages.   Here, I’ve noted in an Excel spreadsheet my former ethnicities per 23andMe (as of November 2018) and my current ones as of today when I reviewed the changes.

What is interesting, though, is that they seems to have taken a page from Ancestry’s “genetic communities” playbook, and zeroed in on specific areas in Ireland, Britain and Italy where my ancestors possibly lived in the past 200 years.

Let’s take a look.  We’ll start with Ireland.  On my paper trail, both my dad’s parents have Irish roots.  My paternal grandfather’s family left Ireland, depending on the branch of his tree, around the time of the Famine and shortly after – say, the 1850 to 1865 range.  My great-great grandfather, Patrick Dempsey, reportedly came from Kings County (now Co. Offaly) – per his obituary.  I don’t have more details than that.  His wife Hanora Hurley (or is it Hanora Riordan) – whom he married in the U.S. — may have come from anywhere in southern Ireland.  Best guess is Co. Cork or Co. Limerick.  On my grandfather’s maternal line, her father’s Lamburth ancestors likely came from England, while her mother Eliza (Landrigan) Lamburth came from the town of Garryrickin, Windgap Parish, Co. Kilkenny.[2]

My paternal grandmother’s father came from Athea, Co. Limerick, as did his father, while his mother came from Cooraclare, Co. Clare.  My grandmother’s mother came from Athea, Co. Limerick, as did her father, with her mother coming from Beale, Co. Kerry.[3]

In sum, my Irish heritage on my Nana’s side is from the province of Munster, specifically southwest of Ireland, around the River Shannon, while my Grandpa’s Irish heritage is from the province of Leinster, specifically Co. Kilkenny and Co. Offaly.

And 23andMe’s ethnicity determination – for the moment at least – largely agrees.[4]


County Kerry, County Clare, County Limerick and County Kilkenny are all in the top 10.

As far as Great Britain/the U.K. is concerned, I have no idea where my ancestors came from.  My paternal grandfather’s Lamburth line, here in the U.S. since at least 1800, likely came from England but none of us researching this line have yet “crossed the pond”.  My mother’s maternal grandmother’s Wright line has been here in the U.S. since at least 1730 or so; researchers on this line have not yet crossed the pond either.  Here is what 23andMe estimates[5]:

23andme_ukethnicityPerhaps these areas could be clues, but it would be silly to jump ahead of myself and start researching Wrights and Lamburth/Lamberts over in England without knowing more about the family here in the U.S. in the 18th century.  The references to Scotland surprise me a bit, but could be related to the Gaelic / Celtic heritage of my Irish side.

With respect to Italy, my grandfather’s parents came from the province of Marche.  My great-grandfather was from Fano, and my great-grandmother was from Sant’Elpidio a Mare[6].  Some of us in my family have even gone to Marche and met our living cousins – that’s a story for another blog post.

Here is what 23andMe estimates[7]

23andme_marche_ancestryPretty wild, huh?  Marche!!  Still have to take it with a grain of salt – my brother’s estimated places of origin in Italy are completely different from mine – but still, right now, today, it “fits”.



[1] Judy G. Russell, “And still not soup…,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 27 Jan 2019 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 28 Jan 2019).

[2] For sources, see cathymd, “Dempsey Family Tree“, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/tree/17377380/family : accessed 26 Dec 2018).

[3] Ibid.

[4] 23andMe, Inc., “Cathy, your DNA suggests that 56.8% of your ancestry is British & Irish”, 23andMe.com (https://you.23andme.com/reports/ancestry_composition_hd/british_irish/ : accessed 29 Jan 2019).

[5] 23andMe, Inc., “Cathy, your DNA suggests that 56.8% of your ancestry is British & Irish”, 23andMe.com (https://you.23andme.com/reports/ancestry_composition_hd/british_irish/ : accessed 29 Jan 2019).

[6] For sources, See cathymd, “Serafini_Diamantini1“ tree, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/tree/19505554/family : accessed 29 Jan 2019).

[7] 23andMe, Inc., “Cathy, your DNA suggests that 12.6% of your ancestry is Italian”, 23andMe.com (https://you.23andme.com/reports/ancestry_composition_hd/italian/ : accessed 29 Jan 2019).

NodeXL Clustering for Mom’s Ancestry matches

I posted my dad’s NodeXL clustering results a few weeks back (here).  As promised, now I am posting my mom’s NodeXL clustering results, focusing on just a few of the most intriguing (puzzling?) aspects.  (You can read a step-by-step how-to on using NodeXL to cluster your Ancestry matches here, at Shelley Crawford’s blog.)

Mom’s matches for this clustering exercise were limited to those with 15 cM or greater shared; it simply gets too cluttered if I include everybody down to 6 cM.

Also in the photo below I have turned off the display for all clusters with less than 4 people.  (NodeXL’s algorithms will cluster in groups of two, while other algorithms like Jonathan Brecher’s Shared Clustering tool use three as a minimum.)  


Let’s look first at “Group 13”, the cluster at the bottom in navy blue that looks like 2 separate clusters to me.  (I don’t fully understand how the algorithm works.)  Below is group 13, zoomed in and with inter-group links turned off so you can look at the cluster itself more closely.  Clearly, only one match links to both halves of this group.  So, they’re not related as closely as one might think.  


The additional photos below bear out that theory.  On the left, “Cousin X” is highlighted; you can see that “X” shares a match with only 2 people (in addition to my mom).  On the right, “Cousin B” is highlighted.  “Cousin B” only matches others in the one subcluster, and nobody in the other subcluster.

Another group that looks intriguing is one to my mom’s cousin “Sally Sue” (alias) who is fairly closely related to Mom.  (You can tell she is more closely related to my mom by the size of the blue square.  These matches look like a hub and spokes.  “Sally Sue” is in the middle with the largest square; the others are more distantly related to my mother.  (As an aside, the option to size the squares or dots by the shared cM amount is available in the NodeXL tool, but is not automatic.)

“Sally Sue’s” group, shown below with the outside links removed, is one in which she matches every single person in her cluster, but each of them only matches her (or, not shown, at least one person in a different cluster.)  

mom_clustering_hub and spokes

The last cluster that is intriguing is shown below.  This cousin, let’s call her Jane, appears to be in the “wrong” cluster.  While she does have matches in her own cluster, she has many more matches in a different cluster. 


One reason this might happen is that Jane and Mom could share DNA on, say, chromosome 1 (possibly with others in her group); the cousins in the other cluster could share DNA with mom on, say, chromosome 9, and then share DNA with Jane on chromosome 4.  We don’t know for sure, since we don’t have segment info.

However, since clustering my mother’s matches in NodeXL and starting the draft of this post, I used Jonathan Brecher’s Shared Clustering tool, which groups “Jane” with the cluster where she has most of her matches. 

On the face of it, that makes more sense.  However, seeing “Jane” in a separate group (as below) could be useful for realizing that she may be connected on a different ancestral to my mother than the bulk of her matches.  This suggests I need to be careful in analyzing Jane’s tree and ancestral surnames, vis-a-vis the matches in the other cluster.  

In fact, I am finding that it is useful to cluster your shared DNA matches with more than one tool, as each uses different algorithms.  (More on other clustering methods in a later post.)

Feline Fridays — with a twist of DNA

I did a DNA test for my cat Simba back in 2017 (available here for a nominal fee), and below are the results of Simba’s ethnicity.[1]  He is descended from Western European cats!  

Now, the real reason I did a cheek swab on Simba — he was less than impressed with being swabbed, by the way — was to donate his genome to science.  At the time I had read (somewhere, can’t remember now where) that there were many more samples of canine genomes than feline genomes for scientific research, so I decided to contribute on Simba’s behalf.

simba ancestry

Below is Simba with his best buddy Leo. Both were adopted as “teenagers” (over 6 mos. old but less than 1 year) from the local city shelter in December 2013, shortly after our long-term feline companion Rory died.

imag4093 - copy

[1] Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine,
“Cat Ancestry [Report] Simba”, case CAT92330; (https://www.vgl.ucdavis.edu/services/cat/ancestry/ : accessed 1 Mar 2017).


Ancestry, Ancestry, how does my garden (of DNA matches) grow?

At the end of each month, I use the DNAGedcom client to download my matches from Ancestry, as well as those of my father, my mother and (one of) my sibling(s).

Here are our 4th cousin level (generally, 20.0 cM or more total  DNA shared) and our total match counts as of December 30, 2018.   My dad has nearly twice as many total matches as my mom, likely because of his 100% Ireland/British Isles ancestry, while mom’s father, a 1st-generation American hails from the Marche region of Italy.  Not much DNA testing going on with that side of her family.


Notice, however, that even though my mom’s total matches is roughly half that of dad’s, she has almost as many 4th cousin level matches as he does.

Let’s take a look at a few of the numbers, percentage-wise.   You can see that my dad and my sibling are tracking at the same ratio of 4th cousin level matches to total matches.  My percentage is a bit smaller, but mom’s 4th cousins are just over 3% of her total matches.


I suspect the reason for Mom’s higher percentage of 4th cousin matches is due to the fact that she has 4 great-great grandparents whose ancestors have been in the United States since the 18th century.  Dad, on the other hand, has only 2 great-great grandparents who have been in the U.S. since the 18th century.

How fast have the numbers grown over the years?  It will vary for each person who does a DNA test with Ancestry.  In general, if you are of European heritage, and you have many colonial ancestors, you will have a lot of matches, and a lot of matches at the 4th cousin level or closer.   On the other hand, if you have ancestors that immigrated to the U.S. in the 20th century (as I do, and my mom does), you’ll have proportionately fewer matches.

That said, the number of my matches increases daily!  I’ve been averaging more than 17 new matches per day in the last 3 years.  My dad (not shown here) is averaging over 31 new matches per day in the last 3 years.  I suspect those with extended colonial roots have an even greater number of matches coming in, as more and more people test.


Have you taken a recent look at your match totals?


Pictures Really ARE worth a thousand words (or more!)…

I’ve been struggling to make sense of — or, more accurately, wisely use — my dad’s matches at Ancestry to extend some of his lines.  Dad has one great-grandparent who was born in the U.S.; the others were all born in Ireland (where all but three remained throughout their lives.)  So, I’ve long thought most of my dad’s matches are not easily assignable to one of his great-grandparents because there is much I don’t know about the aunts/uncles/first cousins of those ancestors.

Now, that may still be the case to some degree, but I did have an eye-opener when I used the NodeXL template with Excel to cluster my matches.  NodeXL is a template for graphing your networks (often in reference to social media)  — see here. I found about the tool from reading Shelley Crawford’s blog Twigs of Yore; she has an entire step-by-step series on how to create visual networks of your Ancestry DNA matches using NodeXL and Excel. (An indexed version is here.)

So, I downloaded my dad’s matches at year-end from Ancestry using DNAGedCom, and loaded the data into the NodeXL template.  I limited the number of matches to those who share at least 17 cM with my dad; I also did not include my brother or me as matches, nor my paternal 1st cousin.

The reason you want to exclude close matches is  because they will match so many people you (or your target person) that there will be connections all over the graph, and you won’t be able to discern any useful information.

For this same reason, I also excluded children and grandchildren of matches, for those cases I know about.  (As a disclaimer, just to be clear, with Ancestry’s matches, I have no way of telling if match A and match B are, say, child/parent to each other — unless I personally know A and B, or unless I’ve “met” online regarding our shared matches, and they’ve shared that with me.)

That’s the context; here is the first picture of Dad’s top 1,000 (or so) matches clustered into the top groups.


The bigger dots represent the closest genetic connections to my dad.   Big dots exist in the navy dot group (upper left), the turquoise group (lower left) and the kelly green group (upper right).

The grey lines denote connections, both within groups and between groups.  In one easy glance, one can determine that the group most tightly related to each other is the group on the top row with dark green dots.  It looks like a web.

As far as inter-group connections go, the turquoise dot group seems to have the most connections with other groups.

So, when I highlight the turquoise group, what do I find?  Connections to most every group of matches my dad has — except for the navy blue group.   Which is kinda cool — but so what?  Unless you know something about the matches within the group.

dad_ancestry_match_lamburthcluster_all her lines

So, the matches in the highlighted group above are all kin to my dad’s great-grandfather, Archibald Lamburth (born c. 1833 Tennessee – died 1909 San Francisco).  He has the distinction of being my dad’s only great-grandparent born in the United States.  Given that the bulk of Ancestry’s DNA customers are U.S.-born, and that many with colonial ancestry say they have many thousands of matches, I suspect most of these connections will tie back to 18th-century U.S. and the colonies should I ever break this “brick wall”.

My second surprise was looking at the navy blue group.  Other than the one outlier I have yet to explore, all the matches are intra-group matches.  This group includes known close relatives of my dad’s maternal side.

dad_ancestry_match_nanacluster_all her lines

My dad has matches to his maternal grandfather‘s side (and his parents AND grandparents), as well as to his maternal grandmother‘s side (and her parents), the clustering algorithm does not distinguish between the two lines — at least based on the current population of matches used.

I may need to do a separate analysis on these particular matches — perhaps bringing down the filter to 15 cM — to see if I can break out that group into Maternal Grandfather and Maternal Grandmother.

Right now, the only useful information is that my dad’s mother’s matches and my dad’s father’s matches are separate.  They weren’t related to each other, based on the information we currently have — the above graphs, plus the genealogy I’ve already done.

The next picture, below, shows how some close genetic relatives (> 275 cM shared, in this case 1st cousins 1 generation removed), share matches with other groups.  This cluster could be a Dempsey cluster, with ties to Lamburth kin.  Which makes sense in my family tree since a Dempsey married a Lamburth.

dad_ancestry_match_bartjones billydodge cluster_their daughters_dempseylamburthlandriganhurley

Notice also that the group is somewhat open, like a child’s scribble.  Not everyone within the group is closely connected to everyone else in the group.

An example of a tightly-connected group is below. This is the group with dots in chartreuse green. Right now, I have no idea how they fit into the family tree.  It’s pretty much a self-contained group, with minor ties to the Lamburth (dad’s paternal grandmother’s side) group, but nothing significant.   Yet.


That was a look at my dad’s clustered Ancestry matches; sometime in the near future, I’ll take a look at my mom’s clustered Ancestry matches using the NodeXL tool.


Clustering your Ancestry DNA matches with Excel (and DNAGedcom)

There are more and more good visualization tools available for clustering your DNA matches with the intent of discovering a new ancestor.  Recently I’ve been using a clustering tool created by Evert-Jan Blom at Genetic Affairs (more on that tool in an upcoming post). 

The DNA Color Clustering method used by Dana Leeds clustering methodology is straightforward, and especially effective for those persons who have many 2nd and 3rd cousin matches on Ancestry — which I don’t.  (Although it actually works quite well for more distant cousins, in my opinion, especially if you’ve been working on clustering your matches for several years!)  You can find out more about Dana’s method here.

Despite these cool clustering methods — and others — in the end, I keep returning to my trusty Excel spreadsheet and my list of “ICW” (In Common With) matches from Ancestry.com which I download using the DNAGedCom client tool (available here via a yearly subscription).

I’m sharing my way of clustering my matches — or, more specifically, my mother’s matches and my father’s matches — because the “best” method is the one that makes the most sense to you, or seems the most “intuitive”.


Some of Mom’s shared matches with “Cousin B”, on Ancestry

Let’s say I’m working with my mother’s DNA matches from Ancestry.com.  Using the DNAGedcom Client tool, I will download a list of all her matches, and then download a list of all her “ICW” matches into CSV format. 

Default ICW file

This is a sample of the default ICW file, before I combine it with the default Match file.

Default Match file

This is an abbreviated sample of the default match file.  The columns of interest are “Range” and “SharedCM”.

Once I have the two files, I use the VLOOKUP tool in Excel to associate (Cousin) Range and SharedCM to the primary match, and then to the In Common With matches.  The result is a combined file like that below.  The combined columns are highlighted in green.

Combined File

The “Mtch cM” and “Mtch Cousin” columns associate to Cousin B; the “icw cM” and “icw Cousin” associate to the ICW match: me, my brother, and cousins C, D, E, F, G, and H.  Shared cM (centiMorgans) = shared DNA; see my previous post here for more on centiMorgans. 

For purposes of clustering, though, all we really care about is that in general, the more DNA you share, the closer you are related — at least in the case of 2nd cousins or closer.  You can see that to some extent with Ancestry’s predicted ranges in the green highlighted columns.

The In-Common-With (ICW) list is basically a subset of your matches list.  My mom’s paternal first cousin — let’s call her “B” — has also tested at Ancestry.  So, Mom’s ICW list for “B” would include me, my brother, and six other cousins: C, D, E, F, G, H.  (Mom’s father was a first generation American, and “B”‘s father was born in Italy — not a lot of our Italian side, many still residing in Italy, have tested their DNA on Ancestry.  Hence, we don’t have a lot of matches.)  The critical point is that C, D, E, F, and G as well as my brother and I would show up on Mom’s match list AND on B’s match list — we are the “in common” matches.

So, if Mom and cousin “B” are first cousins, their Most Recent Common Ancestor(s) (MRCA) would be their shared set of (Italian) grandparents: Guiseppe Diamantini and Maria Bolognesi.  Obviously that same couple would be the great-grandparents of my brother and me.  But my brother and I are not the interesting cousins in the ICW cluster.  Cousins C, D, E, F, G and H are the key here. 


Let’s look at the example above.  I “cluster” my mom’s DNA matches by adding two columns (shown here highlighted in red).  Because I know my mom and Cousin B share the same set of grandparents, I put the MRCA couple’s name in the “Mtch MRCA” column for each row where there is an In Common With cousin.  (Note that, despite Ancestry’s prediction that my mom and Cousin B are 2nd cousins, they are in fact 1st cousins.)

The amounts of DNA shared, shown in the “Match cM” column and the “icw cM” column are the amounts Mom shares with these cousins.  We cannot determine from the information shown here how much, if any, “B” shares with “F”, or “C” shares with “D”.   We only know C, D, E, F, G, H not only share DNA with Mom, but MUST also share some amount with Cousin B because Ancestry has given us that information.

I then look at each of the ICW cousins: that is, my brother and I, plus cousins C through H.  I note that my brother and I are children, which means our DNA amounts won’t have any new information to determine cousin clustering — because whatever we share, we inherited from Mom.  (You can always exclude known children of a DNA match when you’re working with clustering, because they will always be a subset of their parents — if you have your parents or grandparents tested.)

Cousins C and D are two people whose place in my mother’s family tree I already know — therefore I include their MRCA information (Fortunato Camillucci and Maddelena Serafini).  They are my mother’s cousins on her Diamantini line.  Since the Diamantini line is my mother’s paternal line, I shade it blue for male.

Cousins E, F, G and H are unknown to me.  In this case, none of them have trees on Ancestry which might give me more detailed information as to how they relate to my mother.  The amount of DNA shared is fairly small, so it is possible the Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) with Mom is quite a few generations back.  So I note them as “Diamantini or Bolognesi” (as I don’t yet know whether they share on the Diamantini line or the Bolognesi line) and also shade the cell in blue.  I leave those notes unbolded, since I’m not certain of how the cousin actually fits into our tree.

I then do the same thing with each of the other cousins listed here.  Below is a screen shot of the In-Common-With listing for Mom and Cousin C.  Note that there is some overlap with the In-Common-With listing for Mom and Cousin B, but there is one person who shares DNA with Mom and Cousin C, but who does not share with Cousin B.  I labeled that person Cousin J (highlighted in bright yellow.)

Bree_DNAGedCom_Example1Because the Most Recent Common Ancestor between Mom and Cousin C is the Camillucci & Serafini couple, I then use those names to populate the cell in the icw MRCA column, as shown below.


Mom doesn’t have that many matches on Ancestry.com to her paternal side, in part because her father was a 1st generation American.  A better example of the clustering is shown below, with one of her 4th cousins.  The shared Most Recent Common Ancestor between Mom and cousin “K D” is Jacob Copple and Margaret Blalock.

Cousin KD

I have hidden the names of the In-Common-With cousins, but you can see the amount of DNA they share with my mother.   What this screenprint shows is how the different In-Common-With cousins have different Most Recent Common Ancestors with Mom.  But all of them are related in some way to either Jacob Copple or Margaret Blalock.  Philip Copple and Patsy Wright, for instance, are the presumed parents of Jacob Copple.  Patsy Wright’s presumed grandparents are Richard Wright & Ann.  Ben Copple is the son of Jacob Copple & Margaret Blalock, while Nicholas Copple & wife are the likely paternal grandparents of Jacob’s father Philip.

A different cousin of Mom’s who also descends from Jacob Copple & Margaret Blalock possibly inherited some of Margaret (Blalock) Copple’s DNA.  You can see that in the ICW MRCA column below, where some of the In-Common-With cousins (names are whited-out) appear to have Blalock / Blaylock lineage.  One of the cousins who shares DNA with both Mom and “M M” is fairly closely related to Mom; you can tell that by the amount of DNA shared (140.4 cM) and the MRCA = Sam Englehart and Libby Copple.  Libby Copple is the granddaughter of Jacob Copple & Margaret Blalock.

Cousin MM

All in all, this is just one more method of using color coding and Most Recent Common Ancestor information to figure out how your unknown matches may be related to you.  It’s not an absolute — it’s just a hint.  But it gives you something to work with.

Jacob Copple and Margaret (Blalock) Copple… Data Viz of their DNA-tested descendants

My Copple line was one of my “brick wall” lines, meaning I did not know the identities of  my great-great grandmother Libbie (Copple) Englehart’s parents, not to mention the fact I did not know for certain Libbie Englehart was even a Copple!  Thanks to DNA testing, it appears that the family oral history that Libbie was in fact a Copple appears to be true.

Below is a chart which shows Libby’s likely paternal grandparents Jacob and Margaret (Blalock) Copple, her father Ben and some of his siblings who have living descendants who have DNA-tested AND who match my mom.

I say “likely” paternal grandparents, meaning they are the best possible candidates for her grandparent

This particular data visualization is called the “McGuire Method” after Lauren McGuire, who developed it; her explanation of the chart can be found here.


What does this chart tell us?  It gives us an straightforward visualization of how the various descendants of Jacob and Margaret, my 4th great grandparents, relate to my mother and to me.

Jacob and Margaret are listed at the top, and are shown as the parents of Ben F Copple, Sarilda Copple, Jacob W Copple, and Sanford H Copple.  (Jacob and Margaret had 5 other children who reached adulthood, but those children either don’t have any descendants alive today, or don’t have descendants who have tested AND match my mom.)  Matching my mom is critical, if we are to use the DNA matches to validate the “paper trail” of documentation for the ancestors back to Jacob and Margaret.

Ben Franklin Copple is my 3rd great-grandfather, and the eldest son of Jacob and Margaret.  He was married twice — first to Phoebe Harvey, the mother of his 4 (possibly 5) daughters, and then to Susie, the mother of his 3 sons.  Libbie, my great-great grandma, and her sister Mary have descendants alive today who have gotten their DNA tested and match my mother and me.  In addition, a descendant of Ben’s son Nathan has tested and matches my mom.

Ben’s sister Sarilda has a descendant who has tested (called “M” on the chart), as does Ben’s brother Jacob Washington Copple.  Ben’s brother Sanford Howard Copple has numerous DNA-tested descendants, not all of whom are shown here.  Tested matches include descendants of Sanford’s daughter Margaret and Sanford’s son William. 

The two lines at the bottom of the chart are the key to the “McGuire Method” of visualization.  The first line shows the amount of DNA (in total centiMorgans) that my mom “A” shares with the tested cousin(s).   What is a centiMorgan?  The most simplistic explanation is that it’s a logical — not physical — unit of length of an unbroken sequence of the bases (adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C), and guanine (G)). 

Your longest unbroken string of base sequences for each of your chromosomes would be shared with your mom and your dad — that is, from one end of each chromosome to the other.  More distant relatives, like 3rd cousins, may share only one or two segments of DNA — or none at all.   (For more detail on centiMorgans, see here, here and here.)

Amounts of shared DNA highlighted in yellow on this chart are based on the AncestryDNA test; amounts highlighted in purple are based on FamilyTreeDNA’s test.  Below the centiMorgan (cM) amounts is the relationship (e.g., “4C” = 4th cousin, “2C1R” = 2nd cousin one generation removed).

Below my mother’s shared DNA amounts is my own shared amounts with those same cousins.  With certain matches, I inherited less than half of mom’s shared DNA; in other cases, I inherited essentially all of it.

Since I first created this chart, a descendant of another of Ben Copple’s sons — brother to Nathan shown on the chart — has had their DNA tested and shares DNA with my mom.  In addition, at least one descendant of a third child of Ben’s brother Sanford has tested, and they, too, are a match.   As additional descendants test — and match — my mother, this strengthens the case I am making (based on the paper trail) that this is Libbie (Copple) Englehart’s family — her dad, her paternal aunts and uncles, and her paternal grandparents.  And hence my mother’s family and my own as well.


Mapping your DNA segments to your ancestors


What is this picture telling us?  It is from a tool called DNA Painter (https://dnapainter.com/)  I am focusing on a specific set of segments on chromosome 2 on my mother’s side (hence the wide bar for chromosome 2 and the pink color for the chromosomes shown.)

Before using this tool, I had already gotten my DNA tested, as had both my parents, 2 of my siblings, and numerous known 1st, 2nd and 3rd cousins.  (Second cousins share a pair of great-grandparents; third cousins share a pair of great-great grandparents.)  In addition, I’ve already worked on determining who is the Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) between my DNA match and me, using census records, vital records (marriage, birth, death), land deeds, and so on.

Based on my “paper” research and my DNA matches, each cousin (represented by a single color bar, except for cousin K in purple who has two bars) matches me, matches my mom, and matches each other.  This is known as triangulation (if A = B and B = C, then A = C) and is indicative of a shared ancestor (or ancestors) at some point back in time.  The paper research points to Richard Wright and his wife Ann (maiden name unknown) being the MRCA for all of us.

For some of the cousins above, the MRCA couple for them and me is Anna Patsy Wright and her husband Philip Copple (key = turquoise).  For other cousins, the MRCA couple is Richard Wright and his wife Ann (maiden name unknown) (key = orange).  Anna is the granddaughter of Richard and Ann, so in actuality, the segments assigned to her are segments she inherited from Richard or Ann.  (Thus, all the turquoise segments could in fact be colored orange.)

The point of using both turquoise and orange is to show that some of the people who match me are also descendants of Anna Wright, and other cousins (whose MRCA with me is Richard and Ann, rather than Anna and Philip) are descendants of someone other than Anna – specifically, from one of her paternal uncles or aunts.  (If they had descended from one of Anna’s own siblings, then the MRCA would not have been Anna’s grandfather but instead her father Amos Wright.)

Cousin K is being highlighted in purple to emphasize K’s two segments shared with me.  (If I were keeping to the color coding, one segment of K’s would be chartreuse, and one would be turquoise.)

Notice how the segments seem to be staggered; their starting ends line up.  These represent crossover points, here indicated by the vertical dark lines.  Since I inherited the entire segment from my maternal grandmother, it’s more likely these crossovers occurred sometime in the past, and represent segments inherited by her from different ancestors on the Wright line.


The teal segments, representing matches who have a Wright ancestor from Buncombe County, North Carolina, are unexpected matches.  Meaning, my maternal Wright line has no (apparent) tie to Buncombe County, NC –that’s too far west of where “my” Wright line lived.  That being said, because they match me and match the other cousins who are known to be Patsy Wright’s descendants and/or Richard Wright descendants, they must be relatives.  Our common ancestor likely goes back further than Richard – the fact that the segments are shorter than the others would seem to confirm that assumption.  (That being said, due to the randomness of DNA inheritance, there is not always a correlation between length of segment and distance of relationship.)


The as-yet-unknown ancestor segment is in chartreuse, and represents the segment of chromosome 2 from the first crossover (vertical line) to the second crossover.  I’ve labeled it “Waymire or Wright” in the legend, as it likely relates to my Wright line, and cousins who share this segment have Waymire/Wehmeyer ancestors in their tree.  And that matters because the Waymire and Wright families lived right next door to each other in Randolph County, NC circa 1770’s.  It’s the tiniest of clues to go on, and may not be accurate; more research, and more cousins tested, is needed to solve the puzzle.

The red arrow points to the “Richard Wright and Ann” segment.  What’s important to mention here is that I call it the “Richard Wright and Ann” segment because that’s as far back as I can determine.  Therefore, it’s a convenient label.  However, it may not actually have been inherited through the Wright line.  If the segment was passed down through Richard, but he inherited it from his mother, then it would technically be a “Becraft” segment, as Richard’s mother was Esther Becraft.  If the segment was passed down through Richard’s wife Ann, it wouldn’t be a Wright segment at all – but we don’t have a surname for Ann, so it’s easier to label this segment on chromosome 2 as a “Wright” segment.

The fun of mapping segments, though, is that it assists you in quickly figuring out how your DNA match may be related to you.  If I get a new match tomorrow, say, on MyHeritage, and they match me maternally on one of the segments shown above, I know they are related to me through my Wright line, and how far back is really the only question.  I don’t need to consider any of my other maternal ancestors.

Mapping can be done at a much closer level – assigning your 4 grandparents to segments of each of your chromosomes (1 – 22, and the X). You’ll need your siblings to test with you.   I will cover that in a later post.