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Ancestry Public Trees versus Private -an invited Referendum

Discussion in 'Comments on the latest newsletter' started by Bob Spiers, Feb 10, 2018.

  1. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    To quote from the Masterclass:

    "At Ancestry you'll typically have 10000 to 20000 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 you might think that the best strategy might be 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. Wrong, totally wrong!!!"

    If you don't follow the advice of those who have trodden the path before you're bound to be disappointed.
  2. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    Why do you think most men (emphasis MOST) rarely read manuals (that is if such exist); dislike asking for directions when driving in a strange place - and in my own case - pay scant regard to assembly instructions when assembling 'flat pack' items. Oh yes, I nearly forgot, failing to listen when one's wife is explaining how something should be done. ;) Possibly because they find trial and error the best teacher, backed up by a little common sense and an enquiring mind (and yes...that can mean sounding out others and the odd Google search from time to time).

    Of course I cannot dispute that failure to 'look before you leap' doesn't have consequences and some disappointments, but as life teaches, the most rewarding experiences come from occasionally getting out of depth, and making it back to the shore. (And yes before someone else points out, thinking, whilst drowning, I should have listened to the advice to wear water wings).

    Now back to further researching my wife's DNA results. (Or go outside and build a snowman...second thoughts stay indoors):)
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2018
  3. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Bob, nothing wrong with experimenting - but best not to parade your failures in public, otherwise the women will think we men are all stupid. Instead, do what I do - make the mistakes behind the scenes, then produce the answer like a rabbit out of hat. That really impresses the girls (or seems to - perhaps they're only pretending).

    More seriously, there is the risk that someone reading your earlier post will be discouraged from taking a DNA test, assuming that if a LostCousins Star can't figure it out, there's no hope for lesser mortals.
  4. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    No I would not want to do that (will say why in a minute) but most people - even if not put off by a simple cheek swab test - seem only to think it will provide ethnicity results that will confirm something they know (or think they know) already.

    Someone the other day (a family friend, not related or even given to family history research) asked me if a DNA test would confirm where they came from? Further enquiry elicited: ' would it for instance tell them their family came mostly from the Leicester area? I really did not know how to answer (and liked the person too much to be facetious), so I said as simply as I could, that that it was more about discovering what of our DNA makeup matched with our ancestors; like Grandparents and beyond. I could tell that that was not a spur to taking a test; for that person at least. I think Ancestry and other DNA testers are to blame for promoting 'ethnicity' but, at the same time, understand why they do it. It will after all be a spur for people to take the test and in the end that is good as it enlarges the gene pool.

    But in the land of those who actively research their family history, or even have intention to do so, I would certainly endorse taking an Ancestry DNA test. And, as you have said many times- and in your last newsletter repeated- best if done hand in hand with normal genealogical research. I have taken note of the rudiments of what you have written in your Newsletters and on the Forum, but it is not by any means easy to understand; although you do your best to make it so. But no gain without pain and all that stuff and the more one delves, the more one learns. If nothing else DNA results opens up new spheres of research, and that can't be bad.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  5. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    As a follow on to that, today I even got 'name unavailable' for each person showing. Clicking on each in turn did not change the status, but a 'refresh' as you mention, did indeed find all the names. (Likely a time-out problem)
  6. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    I realised today why I starred the items in the first place, it was because Ancestry showed them as 'HINTS' alongside the ubiquitous green leaf. When the results arrived I did not have time to check them over in detail but did take a peek at those showing the green leaf hint. I then starred them to remind me to get back to them later. I learned this from checking my own results last September.

    As well as adding 'stars' I also found the 'Add note' facility useful as a memory aid, especially when adding such comments as "ignore wholly US based".
  7. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    I now add a note when I send a message having discovered that Ancestry doesn't always save them (see discussion here).
    Why would you want to ignore your own cousins just because they haven't managed to trace back their ancestry to Olde Englande (or wherever)? By all means note that this is the case, but don't ignore them - it's not very charitable.

    For 15 years I tried to find out where my German ancestors came from. Thankfully the person I contacted in Germany didn't ignore me, he remembered me, and 18 months later, when he found the vital clue he emailed me. It turned out we were cousins.

    With DNA you start off with the knowledge that you're cousins - all the more reason not to denigrate the other person. And if you do choose to discriminate in this way, don't publish it on an open forum - you never know when it will come back to haunt you. Hope you're not planning any trips to the US......
  8. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    It has nothing to do with being uncharitable, discriminatory or insulting in any way (not my style). First off I use the name/place search techniques to short list trees of interest (If you like they are first division and get starred). Then I select my second division trees by checking individually for things that catch my eye...surnames/areas/dates of interest/marriage partners, and such like. A few still be starred or noted on a pad others passed by before moving on. Should I find a tree wholly outside these parameters -like the example given where the individuals are US born, bred and living(and I mean those in the trees not the tree owner) - then I make a note to this effect on the page.

    I strongly doubt any note I make would cause offence, even if it could be viewed by others. It is a note made as an aide memoire and should I later find by extra research that the (so called) US cousin has a base in the UK that relates to my Tree, then I will be the first to admit my first instinct was wrong.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2018
  9. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Bob, it can and has been viewed by others - you posted it on this forum. You may not have intended it to be insulting but it could certainly be interpreted that way, and it's not inconceivable that one of your US cousins might read it - Google sees everything.

    I completely understand why such a match is not high priority. But designating something as low priority and ignoring it altogether are not the same thing.
  10. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    Ahhhhh...on the Forum via the Google spy in the sky, now I understand what you mean. But that said, given the amount of back and forth banter (not all pleasant) on Twitter (Hashtags and all), and the assorted trivia (some useful some not) posted on Facebook and other social media too numerous to recall, I doubt I will lose sleep over it.

    I have made some good US contacts over time, one in particular helping me with my Bermuda family research right now, and at different times from Canada and Australia too, (many on the Forum). And yes (noting your own German comment) - a second cousin of a cousin brought up in Germany, going to University there and employed in post graduate work. Here the tables are turned and it is me helping her with her UK roots, having just lost her English born father, married to her German mother.

    That was an interesting link as I had not found that discussion previously. It might explain some Ancestry blips I too have experienced. I am now following the discussion.
  11. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    Agreed, and here I intended the 'ignore' to be of the moment, shelved for the moment not ignored for ever. Soon or later I am sure it will surface again and I will be able to view it in a different light.
  12. emjay

    emjay LostCousins Member

    Such ones as these make you have to wonder why they bothered to take a DNA test.
  13. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Clearly they must have taken their DNA test in 2014 or earlier and may well have done all the research they wanted to do at the time. Some people are looking to solve a particular mystery - not everyone wants to go back to their roots.

    Some may have lost access to their Ancestry account as a result of losing their password combined with a change of email address, perhaps when their computer died. And in some cases it may be the cousin who has died.
    • Useful Useful x 1
  14. CarolB08

    CarolB08 LostCousins Member

    I have also only just got around to testing for my DNA I have a tree for my parents ancestry, but if I was only doing a tree for my Fathers ancestry it would only contain 6 names and one of those would be my husbands, simply because that is all I know.
  15. jorghes

    jorghes LostCousins Member

    For some of your cousins, that might be enough, depending on how big their own trees are. I have several DNA links who have 6 names or fewer that I am still able to place in my tree with reasonable accuracy as at least one (sometimes two) of those names are already in my tree. (Occasionally all 6 are in them, in the case of a DNA cousin of my grandmother's who recently added some names - turns out his mother is my grandmother's first cousin).

    The opposite is also true - you could have upwards of 10,000 names on your tree and still have no idea where a certain person links in. (I have one of those examples too... still looking for the link, even though I know which side of the tree its from.)
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1
  16. CarolB08

    CarolB08 LostCousins Member

    I have carefully read each and every post in this interesting thread, although I am none the wiser which is the best option to have an open or private tree, and I have flirted with both on a regular basis and I can see the merits and pitfalls in both options. So I think at the moment where my DNA tree is concerned I will leave it private, mainly due to the increased personal information on my parents I have added to it. Can you wise and clever people confirm to me that although it is private (but still in the indexes ) it will show up to any prospective DNA matches I might get?
  17. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Your cousins won't be able to see your tree if it's private - only if it's public. But they don't need to see your tree - what matters is whether they can search your tree.

    In any case, what's most important is you being able to find them, not them being able to find you - all this requires is for them to have a tree - public or private, it doesn't matter.
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1
  18. Bryman

    Bryman LostCousins Superstar

    Does it really matter who can find whom? Surely the real importance is that contact is made. Whether A finds B or B finds A is not the point, as with the LostCousins site. If both have their own tree, regardless of whether they are public or private, then the likelihood of contact being made is increased.

    A cannot do anything to make B have a tree, and vice versa, but by having one's own tree does make a connection possible to be established in one direction at least.

    I would liken this to having a For Sale sign outside one's house. A potential buyer will then be alerted to the possibility of a purchase rather than neither party being aware of the other.
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1
  19. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Yes, it does in practice - because LostCousins members are much more knowledgeable than the average person who takes a DNA test. Most of the other 99% won't know what to do and will simply wait for others to contact them.

    In a house sale there is a seller and a purchaser, and the roles of each are well-established. When it comes to DNA matches both cousins are equal - there's no division of responsibilities.
    • Agree Agree x 1

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