Category Archives: How To

Ancestry . com Shaky Leaf Algorithm & the Suffix

In Ancestry.com can we use the name suffix to display DNA haplogroup values (like for Y-DNA or Mitochondrial) without upsetting the Shaky Leaf or Manual Searching software?
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Is the name Suffix used by Ancestry.com for anything?

A member of our DNA Interest Group told me how she displays haplogroups for people in her tree at Ancestry.com ==> she puts the haplogroup code into the suffix of the person’s name!

You know, the suffix is where things like Jr. or Sr. or Dr. are put. Instead of something like George Robeson, Jr. she would have George Robeson, I1a-A13294.

You can always document the “suffix” elsewhere as alternate names.

Given how Y-DNA and Mitochondrial DNA is inherited, I could see how this would add value to the tree when displayed. It is easier to see the person’s code than putting it into the NOTE field or the DNA Marker. (She suggested that perhaps this was used in her private trees, not certain here.)

But, I have to admit that it makes me nervous to do this. The reason is that I do not know if Ancestry uses the suffix in their Shaky Leaf or Searching algorithms. The Hint feature in Ancestry, called the Shaky Leaf, is one of the most powerful tools within Ancestry. The computer is constantly look for “source” records for your people. And “source” records are most important for proof and validation that your person is legitimate.  Sure, sometimes the system gets it wrong, but hey, it has found lots of good things for me, and I would hate to break the Hint functionality.

So my question for the group is: Is the name Suffix used by Ancestry.com for anything? I can’t find where the Shaky Leaf or Manual Searching are documented. Does anyone know? If you do know, for sure, please contact me, and I will update this post. Thanks


Laminated DNA Cards

My office had a small laminating machine to create protected sheets of instructions, always 8 1/2 x 11 sheets.  Then I turned 65 and got into Medicare. The ID card they provide is paper, yuk. Flimsy is the word. Staples sells small packets of 2 1/4 x 3 3/4 laminating paper that can, with just a bit of shaving, “cover” Medicare cards perfectly. My Medicare card has been safe in my wallet ever since.

One day I realized I could type up my car’s specs, VIN, license plate, color, etc. and make a credit card sized laminated copy of it which I also carry in my wallet. It is useful when the motel wants to know my license plate #!

Once in a while, perhaps at our DNA sig meetings, I get asked about my haplogroup codes. There was the time someone wanted to see if we were related in Gedmatch and I could not remember my kit #. You could see the light bulb flash…

Yup, I created a laminated card of my DNA test data (haplogroups, FTDNA kit #s, Gedmatch kit #s, YFull ID), with my wife’s data on the other side, which I now carry in my wallet. Go ahead, ask me about my Y-Dna terminating SNP —- I am ready for you. 🙂


”The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.” – Jim Barksdale


Marking DNA in Ancestry . com Trees

It has been suggested that humans are only capable of having 150 good friends at a time, see Dunbar’s Number. My AncestryDNA page tells me that I have over 669 4th cousins or less who have tested with Ancestry! How am I possibly going to become BFF with that many people?

“Finding the correct ancestral line for each piece of your DNA is a difficult process. Researching and documenting your family Tree is a difficult process. But these are the tasks we accept in genetic genealogy.” by Jim Bartlett

But that doesn’t mean that I will remember a 3rd or 4th cousin who lives in a distant state who I’ve never met with whom we solved our MRCA after a few emails. Even if the aging process was not at work, 150 does seem to be my limit. (Besides, I picked up new friends when joining MoCoGenSo so some old ones got booted!)

I hate to research lines previously solved. So I have taken to flagging cousins I place in my tree via a DNA match with pictures and text, similar to pebbles left by Hansel and Gretel. I want these pebbles to be visible and permanent in that they can be transferred by gedcom or syncable by software, not like breadcrumbs that are easily lost. Documentation that I can actually find later is critical.

For DNA confirmed Cousins

In the Profile of the person:

• Click into Gallery section and upload an icon similar to this. Then click into the Face display and make that icon default picture. 

• Click “View Notes” in upper menu bar beneath name. Create a note similar to this:
DNA match to Jim 189 cm / 9 segs

• In the Fact display, click on “Add” to add a Fact or Event. Scroll into the Event Type list to the DNA Markers item and click it. Ignore Date and location. Update the Description field with the same line as above Note.

When a Gedcom is downloaded from Ancestry, the Note will come across as type NOTE, the Marker will come across as type _DNA. Only the Note will be transferred when synching with RootsMagic, as the DNA Marker is not yet added to the Ancestry API. RootsMagic does pull the images. (Most programs will ignore the _DNA type gedcom record too. But I keep using it in case they ever do update the Gedcom standard!)

For Ancestors

For ancestors who are MRCA confirmed by DNA, click into Gallery section and upload an icon similar to this. Then click into the Face display and make that icon the default picture.

Note: for persons for whom we have a real face photo, always use it instead of these “marker” icons.
Note note: These are just personal views. Icons not required! But Notes are good. 🙂


“Have a healthy disregard for the impossible.” – Larry Page


Dates in FamilySearch

A new FamilySearch tool personalizes dates in history for you. The Calendar of Ancestral Moments lets you see what important events happened in your family history on particular calendar dates.

To get started, simply visit www.familysearch.org/campaign/calendar, and log in to your FamilySearch Account. Your ancestor calendar should appear. Starting at the beginning of the year, the calendar finds events from your ancestors’ lives for each calendar date.

This is kinda fun! There is also a downloadable one-year calendar. It is loaded with “adverts”, but a good PDF editor could fix that issue.

You can also link to FaceBook Messenger, but I am not interested in that. The system can send daily notes to the Messenger app. For more information, go to the FamilySearch blog: www.familysearch.org/blog/en/calendar-ancestral-moments/


Another way to get dates out of a Gedcom of your tree is to use the program Oxy-Gen. This program is totally free. It is also sorta primitive. But, it is great in that it does not get “installed” into your Windows system. The software comes in a ZIP file and you just unzip it! Then find the EXE file and run it! Just be careful where you unzip it as it creates a few sub-folders.

You feed the program a Gedcom and have it create a CSV file. Then open the CSV in Excel or LibreOffice. The program can output into many other file formats, but I am interested in CSV so I can create a list of dated events, like birth dates.

Find the program here www.oxy-gen-soft.net/index_en.php for the English page. Or search for “oxy-gen gedcom”. Or come to the Monterey FHC on Friday mornings with your Gedcom and I will run it for you! 🙂


>“How can you think and hit at the same time?” – Yogi Berra


Noting DNA in Family Search Tree

Remembering that the FamilySearch tree is a “one-world tree”, it wouldn’t be possible to record cousin autosomal relationships, as there would be too many for everyone. And most autosomal matches are living people anyway.  But, the haplogroups for Y-DNA and MITOCHONDRIAL DNA should remain fixed for given individuals.  In fact, knowing the haplogroup values for people is one way of disproving possible relationships.  (It can’t prove them.)

To record a given haplogroup, create a “Custom Fact” under “Other Information” for your given ancestors.  Custom Facts are viewable by all.  For the Title, make it “DNA Values”, in the Description field put the actual haplogroup code, and in the “Reason This is Correct” field, put who the haplogroup belongs to with the testing company.

Similar to this:

I think it would be reasonable to record haplogroups for one’s direct paternal and maternal ancestors out to the point where a given autosomal match has shown the ancestor to be a MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor).  Going beyond that ancestor is not verifiable without the given autosomal sourced trail.

The above comments are my personal opinions .

Free Spreadsheet Programs

One of the big things in the genetic genealogy world these days is “clustering”. Basically this is a way to group matches you have into family groups to make it easier to figure out how the unknown match relates to you. Two of the popular ways are DNA Gedcom and Genetic Affairs. The beginning of this fad and still the easiest and cheapest way to cluster is to do it yourself using the Leed’s Method. A really good explanation is given by Dana Leed herself at her blog.

But, all of these methods presuppose that you have a spreadsheet! Not everyone has a spreadsheet: perhaps you just got a new computer for Christmas; perhaps you don’t like the rental paradigm that Microsoft is using. The point of this post is to remind everyone about the FREE spreadsheet programs provided by LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice. In both cases, you can download and install either just a spreadsheet program or a suite that includes a spreadsheet, word processor, power-point equivalent and database. They really are free, never any strings attached. You just have to install one or the other. They come in 3 flavors: Windows, Mac, Linux.

The Monterey Family History Center has the LibreOffice Suite installed on all computers if you want to see it in action before you get it yourself. We had OpenOffice on the older computers, but LibreOffice came preinstalled (by the SaltLake FHC) on our new machines.

Don’t let the lack of a spreadsheet keep you from building a Leeds Cluster! Get thee over to Dana Leed’s blog and follow her along. Then you can come to one of the DNA Interest Group meetings and tell us how it worked! Or you could do a show-n-tell at one of the MoCoGenSo monthly meetings!


“Just because you have grown up with the Internet does not mean that the Internet is grown up.

ISOGG is Special

The Director of ISOGG, Katherine Borges, taught 4 classes at the DAR Ancestor Roundup last Saturday. Her presence made me curious, I have known about the ISOGG website for a long time, it’s reputation in the genetic genealogy world is excellent. I used to browse the Y-DNA tree quite often. ISOGG stands for International Society of Genetic Genealogy. It was founded in 2006! But I had grown complacent. smug really, over the years believing I had gone “beyond” ISOGG. After all, I had taken my first DNA test at National Genographic in January 2006! Boy was I wrong.

I went to the ISOGG web site the other day just to find out about this “director” person. While there, I began to poke around the various pages they maintain. I had forgot that they have hundreds of pages, but you have to poke around to find them. Their site is really a goldmine of data about genetic genealogy, and they have volunteers maintaining the system who really care about this hobby of ours.

You need to start your visit to ISOGG by starting at the front door, of course. Click isogg.org to get there. The initial presentation reminds me of meeting Clark Kent, who would ever imagine this was actually Super Man!

The “meat” of the site is in their Wiki pages. Click ISOGG Wiki to get there now, but the Wiki is also at the top of their Home page.

To see Super Man, though, you have to go to this next page. This page lists all of their pages, but they are RANKED by number of times read, eg. popularity! Popular Pages. This page is marked “Special”, so I don’t know if it is a permanent page or not. You best try it soon. This page is useful for ALL levels of expertise.

I will leave this post with a link to one of my favorites pages in ISOGG, the Autosomal SNP comparison chart.

Trust me, if you are interested in DNA coupled with genealogy, you need to visit ISOGG and take the time to prowl around.. It doesn’t matter if you are a newbie or an “old pro”, you will find things stored there that will be useful.


“Why do people say tuna fish but don’t say beef mammal or chicken bird?” – Reddit