This month we were surprised a few times. We received the results for our DNA test with 23andme. Add to that our appearance in the WikiTree Challenge and you will understand why we are so pleased.
We took our first DNA test in 2017 when we were attending Who Do You Think You Are Live in Birmingham. It was our first international genealogy show. Little did we know, it was the last edition of this event. Three DNA companies drew our attention: FamilyTree DNA (or FTDNA), MyHeritage and LivingDNA. The latter was relatively new then. After talking to staff members of FTDNA and MyHeritage about the pros and cons of a DNA test, we decided to take our first autosomal test with FTDNA. Later we added a Y-DNA and mt-DNA test to it.
One year later we decided to take an autosomal test with Ancestry. The main reason? Ancestry does not allow uploads of raw material from other companies. Because we were curious about possible relatives in their database, we took their test. And this summer it crossed our mind that 23andme was the only (bigger) company that we had not tested with. Again, no uploads are allowed and thus we ordered a test. After about six weeks we received the results.
Do the results of the 23andme test differ from those of other companies? We would say so. First of all, the ethnicity estimates were definitely more accurate than what we had seen before. In this case almost all DNA was linked to the German/French area, including the Netherlands and Belgium (93.8%). What struck us even more was the prediction that our DNA is very common in the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant. Spot on! The vast majority of our ancestors were from the area between Hoogstraten (Belgium), Breda, Tilburg and ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
DNA tests not only give ethnicity predictions. The most interesting part are the matches, a list of people who tested with the same company and share either bigger or smaller pieces of DNA with you. You get predictions of where in your family tree these matches fit in. Some matches were automatically placed in the online tree. Other matches we could add manually, as well as our ancestors. We found new matches through 23andme. One was a pretty close relative: our great-grandparents were siblings. We sent each other a few emails and shared some family photographs. A wonderful experience.
Besides the 23andme experience July had another adventure in mind for us. In the beginning of the year we were asked by one of the WikiTree volunteers to be a special guest in their WikiTree Challenge. Obviously we were very pleased and said yes to this question.
WikiTree is an online platform where genealogists share their research results. Instead of just uploading results, WikiTree users are urged to first see whether a specific person is already in the tree. If yes, the profile is used. This way each person gets only one profile. WikiTree also expects users to add sources to the facts in each profile. Thus, the tree becomes more accurate.
The purpose of the WikiTree Challenge is to add new profiles and well-sourced facts to the bigger tree. In order to achieve this, a group of volunteers works every week on the family tree or pedigree of a ‘famous’ genealogist. In July it was our turn: from July 7th to 14th 25 WikiTreers worked on our pedigree. They used an existing tree, added new people, facts and sources.
How would we describe the results of this collaborative research project? We can divide them into three groups:
- Some persons were added to the public tree, who we never found before. Basically because we were not able to research each and every branch of our tree.
- Other persons we did know, but we never added them to (other) online family trees. They were in our desktop software database.
- A small group of persons was not added, because there was not enough proof that these people actually belonged to the group of my ancestors.
If you want to read more about our results, please take a look at the WikiTree page or watch the recording of the living presentation of the results.
The WikiTree Challenge added one very special present to the already cool party. One of the volunteers found a common ancestor for us and another Dutch professional genealogist. She and we already had found a link through DNA: we shared a very small percentage of DNA. Since both her maternal ancestors were – like most of my ancestors – from Noord-Brabant we knew of a shared past. WikiTree now added a name to the theory. We both are descendants of Walterus Simonis Cleijsens (born 1673).
One thing we are more convinced of now is that genealogy works best in a collaborative environment. Genealogists should work together on families and share their research results. This way we can help each other break brick walls, improve our trees and citations, and easier place DNA matches in our own tree.
Have you been working with others on the same family tree or pedigree? What are your experiences? Which websites have you used for a collaborative tree? Did these tree help you understand your DNA results?