Newsletter update - 10th November 2017 offer HALF-PRICE subscriptions ONE DAY ONLY

Free access to military records at ENDS MONDAY

Latest DNA offers

MASTERCLASS: What to do with your autosomal DNA results

Downloading your DNA results - and uploading them to other sites

In the next full issue….

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The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous newsletter (dated 8th November) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search below (it searches ALL of the newsletters since February 2009, so you don't need to keep copies):



Whenever possible links are included to the websites or articles mentioned in the newsletter (they are highlighted in blue or purple and underlined, so you can't miss them). If one of the links doesn't work this normally indicates that you're using adblocking software - you need to make the LostCousins site an exception (or else use a different browser, such as Chrome).


To go to the main LostCousins website click the logo at the top of this newsletter. If you're not already a member, do join - it's FREE, and you'll get an email to alert you whenever there's a new edition of this newsletter available! offer HALF-PRICE subscriptions ONE DAY ONLY

For just 24 hours, from 9pm Pacific time (5am next day London time) on Friday November 10th until 9pm Pacific time on Saturday November 11th, are offering a 50% discount on all of their subscriptions (it doesn't, sadly, apply to current subscribers). This is an incredible offer - Ancestry are not renowned for their generosity, so if you've been biding your time waiting for an opportunity, this is it!




The discounted price only applies to the initial period, so clearly there's no point taking advantage of the offer unless you're going to buy a 6 month subscription. Your subscription will renew automatically at the standard price, not the discounted price - but you can cancel your subscription at almost any time during the first 6 months (you'll still get what you've paid for, of course). I say almost any time because if you cancel in the first 30 days they'll cancel your subscription and give you a refund, which clearly isn't what you want having secured such a very special discount!


A World Explorer subscription gives you access to all the records of Ancestry's worldwide records - indeed you can log-in to any of Ancestry's sites if, like me, you find it more convenient (the quick links on the home page vary from one country to another).


Note: the prices quoted do not include local taxes.


Click this link to take advantage of this incredible offer (and support LostCousins).





Free access to military records at ENDS MONDAY

Until Monday November 13 is offering free access to millions of UK military records - to search the records or see a list of all the included record sets follow this link. Note that you'll need to log-in (or register if you haven't done so previously) but you won't be required to provide credit card or bank details. Some of the indexes may link to images at the Fold3 website - my email from Ancestry didn't say that these are included in the offer - indeed, Fold3 isn't even included in Ancestry's World memberships, you need an All Access membership (as shown in the image above) - but one member has reported that her email read differently, though she did have to register separately at the Fold3 site.


Tip: you can also get free access to Findmypast's more extensive collection of military records, but only until Sunday - see this article from the last newsletter. The Findmypast offer includes US, Canadian, and Australian records as well as British records going back to 1760.



Latest DNA offers

Ancestry in the US have also announced a DNA Sale, with tests priced at $79 (down from $99) between Monday November 13 until Thursday November 23. But will they have an even cheaper price for Black Friday?


Other big news in the DNA world comes from 23andMe who are now offering ancestry-only tests in the UK, priced at £79 (previously UK customers could only buy a £149 test which included health-related information). And in the US 23andMe have an amazing offer when you buy 2 of their ancestry tests - they're just $49 each!


Please use the links below so that you can support LostCousins - in return I'll do my best to support you by continually updating them so that they take you to the best offers I can find:


Ancestry DNA (UK residents)

Ancestry DNA (US residents)

Ancestry DNA (Canada residents)

Ancestry DNA (Australia & New Zealand residents)


FamilyTreeDNA (worldwide)


Living DNA UK

Living DNA US

Living DNA Canada

Living DNA EU

Living DNA Australia


23andMe (UK residents)

23andMe (US residents)



MASTERCLASS: What to do with your autosomal DNA results

I'm repeating this article from three months ago because when it was first published I was swamped by emails from members telling what amazing results they had achieved by following the simple strategies outlined - and over a million more people have tested in those 3 months.



No matter how much experience you might have as a family historian, it would be understandable if, when the results of your DNA test came through, you were completely flummoxed about what to do next. There's a simple reason for this - we're used to working backwards from what we already know, so there's a clearly defined path, ie: find our ancestor's baptism in order to discover (or confirm) who their parents were, then find the parents' marriage, then find the baptisms of the parents and so on, working back a generation at a time.


The challenge

But when we're matched with a genetic cousin, someone who appears to have inherited an identical segment of DNA, we're faced with a very different challenge. Most of the matches we make with DNA cousins will be many generations, since we have many more distant cousins than we do close cousins. The final column of the table below indicates roughly how many cousins you might expect to find if you and they all took the Ancestry DNA test:




Based on Table 2 from: Henn BM, Hon L, Macpherson JM, Eriksson N, Saxonov S, Pe'er I, et al. (2012) Cryptic Distant Relatives Are Common in Both Isolated and Cosmopolitan Genetic Samples. PLoS ONE 7(4): e34267. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034267

Revised using Ancestry DNA estimates for the chances of detecting cousins and the expected number of 1st to 6th cousins for those of British ancestry; the numbers for 7th to 10th cousins are my own guesstimates


Of course, in practice only a small fraction of your cousins will have tested - even Ancestry, the biggest providers of autosomal tests, have only sold 6 million tests - but you can nevertheless reckon that the cousins you're matched with will be distributed roughly in proportion to the figures shown above. In other words, over 99% of your matches will be with relatives who are at best 5th cousins, and could well be 8th cousins or even more distant.


Tip: Ancestry won't show any of your DNA matches as more distant than '5th to 8th cousin', but it's very likely that amongst them there are many who are more distant - possibly as many as half of them. Once you get beyond 3rd cousins the length of the shared segment(s) is only a very rough guide to how closely you are related - you could share a 7cM segment with a 10th cousin, but no detectable DNA with a 5th cousin.


You and your 5th cousin share the same great-great-great-great grandparents. Now, I don't know about you, but I certainly can't say who all of my 4G grandparents were - indeed, I don't even know for sure who all my 3G grandparents were. I've got several 'brick walls' in the last 5 generations - and most researchers, including my DNA cousins, are probably in the same situation. Go back another generation and there are even more gaps - and it just gets worse from then on.


In other words, most of the ancestors who link us to our DNA cousins are on the other side of a 'brick wall' - and this could be a 'brick wall' in your own tree, in your cousin's tree, or even in both trees. What a challenge!


The reward

At this stage it's important to remind ourselves why we took a DNA test! Surely the primary reason we tested was to knock down 'brick walls' that conventional research couldn't breach? If our 'brick walls' have resisted our efforts for years (or even decades), the opportunity to knock them down using DNA is surely well worth grasping - even though it will mean that we have to adopt a new and unfamiliar strategy, and utilise somewhat different techniques?


How to process your DNA matches

I'm going to assume for the purpose of this article that you tested with Ancestry - but don't stop reading if you tested elsewhere because I'll be covering techniques you can use at Family Tree DNA and GEDmatch.


At Ancestry you'll typically have 5000 to 15000 matches with cousins, and of those all but about 1% will be with 'distant' cousins, ie where the estimated relationship is 5th cousin or more distant. So the obvious strategy is to focus on the 1% on the basis that if you can't make head or tail of those matches, your chance of resolving the more distant matches is negligible. However, that 'obvious' strategy would be wrong - and here's what you should do instead......


Strategy 1: search by surname

My experience has shown that a much better approach is to search the trees of your matches by surname, in the hope of identifying cousins who have the same surname in their tree as one of your 'brick wall' ancestors. Here's how to go about it:



Strategy 2: search by birthplace

As you will have discovered when working through your list of surnames, most of the time the surname of the ancestors you share with a DNA cousin doesn't appear in both trees - indeed, it's quite possible that the surname of your common ancestor doesn't appear in either tree!


The problem is, when your female ancestors married they generally took their husband's surname. This makes it more difficult to research female ancestors whose children were born before the commencement of civil registration, since baptism registers don't usually give the mother's maiden surname - usually the only solution is to find the marriage. (By contrast you can continue researching your male ancestors even if you can't their marriage.)


Of course, this problem doesn't simply affect you and your research - it affects your cousins too; most researchers' tree become increasingly sparse with each generation. If you've only identified 10% of your 256 6G grandparents and your cousins have only identified 10% of theirs, the odds of finding out how you're related to a 7th cousin simply by comparing the names in your trees are pretty remote.


Another way to figure out how you are related to your DNA cousins is to look for geographical overlaps - and here's how to go about it:



Strategy 3: look for overlaps with the more unusual components of your ethnicity

Most readers of this newsletter have mostly British, Irish, or western European ancestry. But some of you will have Jewish ancestors, or ancestors from outside Europe, and whilst ethnicity estimates can be quite misleading, they do provide another way of analysing your matches.


Here's what Ancestry show for one of my DNA cousins:



If Ancestry had detected a Jewish component in my own ethnicity this would be one of the matches I'd be looking at very closely.


Strategy 4: look for the 'elephant in the room'


Because we all have 'brick walls' in our trees there are parts of our ancestry that are a closed book - yet there will inevitably be clues amongst our matches, if only we look for them. For example, if - like me - you don't know of any Irish ancestors, but have lots of matches with cousins who do, you might begin to wonder whether one of your 'brick walls' is concealing a connection to Ireland.


I can't provide you with a step-by-step guide - it's all about awareness (Louis Pasteur said that "chance favours the prepared mind").


More tips




Downloading your DNA results - and uploading them to other sites

Although more people have tested their autosomal DNA with Ancestry than all of the other companies added together, everyone can find more matches by uploading their results to the free GEDmatch site, and those who tested with Ancestry can also upload them to Family Tree DNA.


Downloading your results from one site and uploading them to another is a remarkably simple process - just so long as you know where to start. Ancestry users seem to have the most problems, though I can never figure out why - all you need to do is log-in, go to your DNA home page, then click SETTINGS at the top right. On the next page you'll see DOWNLOAD RAW DNA DATA at the right - click this button, then enter your password on the pop-up and tick the box below, and then click CONFIRM.


Within the next couple of minutes you'll receive an email with a link 'Confirm Data Download' - click this link and you'll be taken back to the Ancestry site. Finally click DOWNLOAD RAW DATA to download the Zip file. Where this file ends up depends on your browser settings, but mine can be found in the Downloads folder, so I'd suggest looking there first.


Tip: if your email from Ancestry doesn't arrive check your spam folder; the address it is sent from is so you could try adding that address to your address book.


Uploading your data to GEDmatch is very easy - simply log-in (or register if you haven't already done so) then click the Generic Upload link on their home page:



The only difficult part is waiting for them to process your data - it could take a day or two before you are able to search for matches. However if your initial aim is to look more closely at a match you've found at Ancestry, you don't have to wait - just so long as your DNA cousin has uploaded their results and told you their kit number (this is allocated by GEDmatch).


I'll be writing more about GEDmatch in future newsletters, but there's lots of guidance on the GEDmatch site, and you’re not going to break anything if you experiment. One word of warning: not all GEDmatch pages have a link to take you back to the home page, so you might need to use the browser back button (or else you could open GEDmatch in other tab).


Tip: GEDmatch are currently working on GEDmatch Genesis, which is in the beta testing stage (so you can try it out); currently GEDmatch Genesis offers the only way for those who tested at Living DNA to search for cousins, although will be offering cousin matching very soon.


In the next full issue….

I've rushed out this update to make sure that nobody misses out, But there are some great articles coming up in the next issue, including a case study featuring discrepancies between birthdates recorded in the baptism register and birthdates shown on birth certificates. I suspect that some of you will be surprised by the conclusions of the investigation!


Stop Press

Update 11.50pm (London time): the starting time of the Ancestry sale was originally notified as 9am but has just been corrected to 9pm (Pacific time) - Ancestry have apologised for any confusion.



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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2017 Peter Calver


Please do NOT copy or republish any part of this newsletter without permission - which is only granted in the most exceptional circumstances. However, you MAY link to this newsletter or any article in it without asking for permission - though why not invite other family historians to join LostCousins instead, since standard membership (which includes the newsletter), is FREE?