Saturday, June 24, 2017

WikiTree for Genetic Genealogy, Part 1

I've been a WikiTree member since May 2013. During that time, the collaborative genealogy website has grown immensely. I'm not sure how many people were involved when I first joined, but today there are 433,449 genealogists managing 14,443,459 profiles for ancestors around the world.

Almost everyone involved with WikiTree is a volunteer. The site is free and promises to stay that way. Although the display and entry features could be considered a bit bare bones, it offers tremendous flexibility and the site is in the process of becoming a true genealogy powerhouse.

The WikiTree Honor Code asks that genealogists using the site follow a set of principles that honor: collaboration, accuracy (list your sources!), privacy, and respect for others. We constantly remind each other of the need for sources and accuracy. This emphasis on accuracy, supported by sources, will, we hope, make WikiTree the most accurate single-family tree available.

One way in which WikiTree is doing this is by offering a very different set of tools for folks who are using DNA to enhance their genealogy efforts. If you've gotten DNA tested, then you know that once your test results are complete, you get a list of matches and some numbers showing the approximate distance of your connection, but it can be really hard to figure out the exact links in that connection.

This is where WikiTree can be really useful. Adding your test IDs to your profile on WikiTree, and creating profiles for your ancestors and other relatives, can help you to discover distant cousins and to determine your MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor).

Before I go any further, I think I should mention that WikiTree does not do any genetic testing, nor do they post or share your test results. They come at this from the opposite direction. Who are your ancestors and which are likely to have contributed to your DNA?

The WikiTree method is an unusual and complementary approach to genetic genealogy, unlike the approach found on genetic genealogy testing sites. When someone enters their test IDs, WikiTree connects those tests to the profiles of other relatives who are in their direct line. This can be a big help in identifying the path between you and your family members. Here are the tests shown on my WikiTree profile, now.

Figure 1: DNA Connections for Pamela Lloyd
I've been able to confirm my connection to all of the people listed here. I did this through a combination of genetic genealogy, comparing my tests to theirs, and by traditional genealogy, discovering the paper trail (albeit through the use of online records, by and large). I also added the genetic test results to each of the profiles on WikiTree, recording my findings in support of our connections.

For example, my connection to my second cousin, Judy Stafford is noted in the source lists of our profiles and the profiles of our family member as shown below:

Figure 2: Connections Linking Judy and Me
What does all of this do for me?

Well, besides helping me to confirm my relationships, it also means that people who share any of my ancestors as relatives will be able to learn about their connection to me, and I to them. Connecting to cousins is a big goal for me, and I hope it is for you, too!

Right now, I know of 125 descendents of Alpheus and Ella, but they had seven children, six of whom lived to adulthood, and I haven't traced all those lines down to find all of my possible living relatives.

Now, consider that Alpheus and Ella are just two of my eight great grandparents, and that this process works for more distant relatives, as well.

Also, so far, I've only been working with autosomal DNA. One of my known relatives has had his Y-DNA tested, and I plan on upgrading my dad's DNA test to a Y-DNA test in the near future. I know that one of my paternal first cousins recently tested, so his results will contribute to the findings, as well. Since Y-DNA is useful much farther back than autosomal DNA, this means the potential pool of relatives will grow very quickly, and the likelihood of finding them on WikiTree will go up, too.

Let's look at Figure 1, again. Tests I entered on my profile connect to Judy, me, my father, and a first cousin once removed. In this case, we all knew about each other before we put the information up on WikiTree (although it was through our online genealogy that I connected with Judy and John, or perhaps I should say that Judy connected herself and John with me), but if someone I don't know about who is in my direct line tests and shares that information, their name and information about where they tested will show up, making it easier for me to connect with them.

Also, those tests populate to all of my direct line ancestors. Here's what's shown on my paternal grandfather's page.

Figure 3: DNA Connections for Elmer Bruce Lloyd
Notice that the list of connections here is different. My dad and I are still shown, but Judy and John aren't listed, because my connection to them is through my mother. More importantly, there's someone new, PJ. PJ and I are fourth cousins. PJ and I also "met" through our respective research, although I'm not sure now whether it was through WikiTree or Ancestry, because we are both active at both sites.

WikiTree makes it easy to see our exact relationship and to discover our MCRA. All I need to do is click the link to her profile and select Relationship to Me from the drop-down menus:

Figure 4: WikiTree Relationship Found Page for PJ and Pamela
I've covered a lot about how WikiTree can help expand your understanding of your genetic genealogy in this post. There's lots more, and I'm still learning about this, so I plan on discussing more of WikiTree's tools for DNA in future posts. I hope you've enjoyed this post and will join me for those future posts, as well.