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The Genealogue

Louis KesslerLouis Kessler's Behold Blog

the Development of my Genealogy Program named Behold

Using Behold as a Data Viewer for a WikiTree GEDCOM

2021. április 14., szerda 0:58:40

It’s been a while since I’ve put my full effort into getting Behold to that next level that would include GEDCOM export and editing. In fact, I have to admit that I really haven’t made a lot of changes to Behold except for bug fixes and a 64-bit executable since 2017.

What I did start doing in February 2018 is working on my own family tree again after maybe a 15 year hiatus. I chose MyHeritage as my primary online platform and I add my information through both their online system and through MyHeritage’s Family Tree Builder software that stores its database locally on my computer. The two fully sync to each other very nicely with private data about living people only stored on my computer. I keep up with all the Record Matches and Smart Matches that MyHeritage generously provides from its huge record collection and its millions of family trees. There’s very little need for me anymore  to manually search for Census records, vital records or cemetery stones. Most are sent to me without any effort on my part.

MyHeritage also automatically searches the main one-world collaborative trees  to help me locate my relatives in those trees. These include FamilySearch, Geni, and WikiTree.

The one difficulty in using MyHeritage, FamilySearch, Geni, WikiTree (and also Ancestry), or using desktop programs like Family Tree Builder, RootsMagic, Family Tree Maker, etc., is seeing what data you have. All these program let you enter your data on forms that contain some of the data in fields. But for extra details and to see more of the data, you need to press buttons to open additional windows. Some programs don’t let you open more than window form at a time. Your data is compartmentalized and you never can see everything at once.

Maybe the programs have reports you can run, but each report is usually for a specific purpose, and rarely is there an “everything” report for you. I’ve never been satisfied by this, and that’s one of the reasons why I built Behold.

Dear Myrtle and WikiTree

A few weeks ago, Pat Richley Erickson aka Dear Myrtle, was a genealogy guest star for the WikiTree Challenge. Pat writes in her blog post: Thank-you WikiTree Volunteers:


Pat concludes that post by saying:

Now perhaps you understand what a great deal of work I have to do correlating new findings with my current genealogy database.

Over the next week, Pat went to work. She downloaded a GEDCOM of her WikiTree relatives and loaded it into RootsMagic 7. She wanted to compare side by side what was in WikiTree’s version of her tree, and what she had already compiled in RootsMagic. Pat had a Mini-Myrt session to describe what she had done:

I was very interested in seeing how Pat was going to do this, and she ran into problems. She could not see all the data from WikiTree all together as she hoped it would be. Pat saw I was in attendance and asked me if I use software that does show all the data. And I said yes, my own software Behold.

So Pat arranged that I return for her next MiniMyrt session and demo how Behold displays her WikiTree data. I did and Pat wrote up about this in her blog post: MiniMyrt - Behold Software and Myrt’s WikiTree GEDCOM File

This is what Pat’s GEDCOM from WikiTree looked like when loaded into Behold:


Each of her earliest ancestors was shown in the treeview on the left. Pat could easily see her brick walls broken by looking through that list for ancestors she did not recognize. Thomas Player was one of those ancestors.

The GEDCOM includes a link to Thomas Player on WikiTree. Behold displays this as a hyperlink that will open that page in your browser. Also included as a hyperlink is an image on WikiTree which is a picture of Parish Banns and that as well can be opened from Behold with a single click.

Most importantly, the WikiTree user profile is included as a Note. You can read what the WikiTreers added as Thomas Player’s profile and that includes the sources they used. They will allow Pat to check the sources and verify for herself that this Thomas Player indeed does (or does not) belong as a new ancestor at the top of her tree.

When trying earlier to load the GEDCOM into her RootsMagic program, this is what Pat could see for Thomas Player


Very little information is shown on the person page itself. The “Note” button can be clicked to bring up the WikiTree note which is good, but that is an extra step. However that Note window is modal, meaning you can’t do anything else in RootsMagic or look at anything else until you close it again.

RootsMagic does import the link to Thomas Player on WikiTree. It does so as an address and you have to click the “Address” button (opening another modal window) to see it: And the link is not a hyperlink, but you can click on the “Visit website” button to open it in a browser.


The Parish Banns object is included in RootsMagic as a Media item. You have to click on the “Media” button to bring it up in another modal window. And the url in this case is not clickable. You’ll have to copy and paste it into your browser.


RootsMagic also shows 3 unidentified reference numbers that puzzled Pat:


RootsMagic does not show the value of the GEDCOM TYPE tag, whereas looking at them in Behold shows them for what they are:


Once you know what they are and realize they are pretty useless, you can hide them in Behold.

A week later (on April 14), Pat had another Mini-Myrt session where she showed how she’s using Behold to help her with her find the new ancestor information that was added to WikiTree so that she could verify it.

Pat may continue to discuss this work on future Mini-Myrt sessions each Wednesday. Here’s the Mini-Myrt registration form if you would like to attend.

Thoughts and Ideas

My goal from Behold’s Everything Report is to make all your data available to you in the most useful way possible. I add relevant family events to each person’s information, include helpful checks and extras such a list of living and deceased relatives at death for verifying with obituaries.

What I’ve noticed though is that the GEDCOMs from the online family trees, specifically MyHeritage, Ancestry, FamilySearch, WikiTree and Geni, have a lot data included with their owne tags and embedded formatting that don’t follow the GEDCOM standard. As a result, many programs will not read, interpret or display a lot of that data correctly.

A program that does understand the data can present it much better, and a program like Behold is designed to display all the data, more conveniently and all together. Behold can allow a WikiTreer to see all their data, rather than just one page or one person at a time. I personally find Behold’s data display very useful whenever I work with my WikiTree data, and I expect others would as well.

As part of my development of Version 1.3 of Behold, I’ll be putting in a bit of effort to make WikiTree’s notes look better. WikiTree does not have formally specified sources, but includes them in their notes as “ref” values or as bulleted free-form text in a sources section. I should be able to extract these to allow the sources to be included in the Sources section that Behold displays.

For Version 1.3, I’ll also be working on including customizations to make Behold better display customized data from MyHeritage, Ancestry, FamilySearch and Geni as well. It should be fun.

Update: Apr 15, 2021:  Pat has now posted the corrected video and I’ve embedded it above. She also had a follow-up Mini-Myrt session and I’ve added info about it above.

No Genealogist Should Miss the WikiTree Challenge

2021. március 5., péntek 1:43:33

@WikiTree #WikiTreeChallenge

Wikitree with over 25 million profiles, is the 3rd largest collaborative family tree, after FamilySearch Family Tree and Geni. As the name suggests, the site is designed like a wiki, giving all users ability to contribute and change (preferably with sources) and collaborate about the contents of any page.

The goals of the site is to strive for accuracy through collaboration.

But I’m not here to tell you about the site. You can go to WikiTree and find out that for yourself.

What I wanted to tell you about is one absolutely amazing activity that the WikiTreers thought up and are taking 2021, their Year of Accuracy. This don’t-miss event is their WikiTree Challenge.

Each week, they focus on one guest star who is very well known in the genealogical world. Previous to appearing, this special guest has his/her ancestors entered onto WikiTree. The guest appears Wednesday evening in a live kick-off event where Sarah Callis acts as host and is joined by Eowyn Langholf, Mindy Silva and the team captain for the week who do the work to coordinate the event. They review the guest’s family tree together asking the guest about his/her challenges and brick walls.

Then dozens of volunteer WikiTreers work all week on the guest’s tree. They collaborate with each other to find new sources, make the tree more accurate and even break down a few brick walls finding new ancestors and relatives that the guest didn’t know about.

The next Wednesday, Sarah and gang are back with the guest to review what was done, what information was uncovered and to get the guest’s reactions to all this new research.

It is impressive how much the diligent WikiTeam uncovers. They summarize each week with a scoresheet that lists all the researchers involved and how much each has added to the guest’s tree. That’s the “Challenge” part.

This event will be taking place all year, with a new guest almost every week.

WikiTree Challenge deserves your attention and publicity!

Think of it. Where else can you find your genealogy super-stars talking about their own genealogy? Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is noted for presenting the genealogies of his special guests on Finding Your Roots on PBS. It was so much fun to hear Dr. Gates talk about his own ancestry, and then a week later in the big reveal, was provided with information about his own family that was new to him. At one point he had to call his wife over to show her what was discovered.

All the shows are taped. You can go back and watch them if you missed them. But it is so much more fun to go there while its live and join the chat.

Here’s a list of the challenges they’ve had already, and a link to the videos so you can watch:

WikiTree Challenge Week 1 A.J. Jacobs

Week 1: January 6
      - AJ Jacobs (Journalist & everyone’s cousin): Kickoff, January 6

Week 2: January 13
      - AJ Jacobs (Journalist & everyone’s cousin): Reveal
      - CeCe Moore (The Genetic Detective): Kickoff

Week 3: January 20
      - CeCe Moore (The Genetic Detective): Reveal
      - Jonny Perl (DNA Painter): Kickoff

WikiTree LiveCast featuring CeCe Moore and Jonny Perl for the WikiTree Challenge

Week 4: January 27
      - Jonny Perl (DNA Painter): Reveal
      - Jen Baldwin (Ancestral Journeys): Kickoff 


Week 6: February 3
      - Jen Baldwin (Ancestral Journeys): Reveal
      - Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Finding Your Roots): Kickoff

Week 7: February 10
      - Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Finding Your Roots): Reveal
      - Judy Russell (The Legal Genealogist): Kickoff

Week 8: February 17
      - Judy Russell (The Legal Genealogist): Reveal
      - a break for all the WikiTreers

Week 9: February 24
      - Thomas MacEntee (High-Definition Genealogy): Kickoff

Week 10: March 3
      - Thomas MacEntee (High-Definition Genealogy): Reveal
      - Katherine Willson (Social Media Genealogy): Kickoff

Katherine will have her reveal next week on March 10. Look who is also scheduled for March:

- Pat Richley-Erickson (Dear Myrtle)
- Rob Warthen (DNAGedcom)
- Dallan Quass (RootsFinder)
- Ellen Thompson Jennings (Family History Hound)


And following that, April has been announced:

- Tim Janzen (Genetic Genealogy expert)
- Cheri Hudson Passey (Carolina Girl Genealogy)
- Connie Knox (

Do make sure you check out this WikiTree LiveCast recorded Feb 27 as a RootsTech Special, recapping the first 7 weeks of the Challenge.

The Challenge is going to be continuing all 2021, so expect many more great guest stars to be revealed.

In addition to the Wednesday LiveCasts, they also have a weekly recap every Saturday, discussing how research is progressing for the guest of the week. For all of their past LiveCasts, see the WikiTree Video list on YouTube.

For information on upcoming LiveCasts, follow @WikiTreers on Twitter or go to the WikiTree page on Facebook.

If you want the challenge of working with others to break through the brick walls of your genealogy heroes, then join WikiTree (it’s free) and sign up for some future challenges.

Here’s a great presentation prepared for WikiTreers who want to take on the WikiTree challenge and work to improve the profiles of the guest stars.

This is fantastic stuff. It’s so much fun to join in the live chat every Wednesday night. Hope to see you there.

My Highlights at RootsTech Connect 2021

2021. február 28., vasárnap 8:04:22

Like hundreds of thousands of you, I had been looking forward to this year’s version of #RootsTech2021,  which is completely online and free to everyone.

I have attended RootsTech in Salt Lake City three times in person, in 2012, 2014 and 2017. I couldn’t go from 2018 to 2020, but those years RootsTech had started live streaming their keynotes and one track of their talks, so there was lots I was able to enjoy from home. They also introduced the RootsTech App which helped to know what was going on. Those of us not there were still live tweeting with the hashtag: #notatrootstech

This year, due to the circumstances, RootsTech Connect has been forced to be all online. It was very different. I’d like to go over the parts of the conference that I enjoyed the most.

Road to RootsTech

The RootsTech site wasn’t available until Wednesday. But the people behind the conference got together about a week before and produced a series of videos called the Road to RootsTech. They were well produced, fun and information. It was great to see all the people behind the conference telling us what was coming. We sa even got a sneak peek of the website from Bryan Austad, the main programmer behind the site who was working 24/7 right up to Wednesday to be sure it would be ready.


The Website Itself

Once the website activated Wednesday morning, it was quite a beautiful site to take in. The choice of colors and graphics were very well done.


You had access to descriptions of the hundreds of sessions available, information about all the speakers, and later that day, the expo hall opened where you could visit the virtual booth and get information about and even chat with the 80 or so vendors. And you could build your personal Playlist of all the sessions you wanted to see.

DNA Sessions

DNA topics are a big interest of mine. I have been to a lot of webinars about DNA over the past year, so I was looking for something a bit different or new to me this time around.

Alison Wilde presented a session on her SCREEN Method – Alison described her structured way to record your notes on each of your DNA matches. I thought that was really innovative and well thought-out.


Also see Alison’s other video on YouTube on her advanced note taking system called AP-Screen and her website:

The other DNA topic that was of most interest to me was Leah Larkin’s two sessions: When Your Tree is a Banyan: Untangling Endogamy, where Leah explains the difference in endogamy between different groups of people:

See Part 1 and Part 2. Leah is also asking for more shared match data for her Endogamy study. If you are interested in helping her out, check Leah’s blog post: Contribute to the Endogamy Study.


A month ago, I started taking an hour every night to digitize all the stuff I have in the boxes in my closet and basement, the binders in my bookshelves, and the folders in my filing cabinets. The most interesting sessions for me on that were the series of 3 sessions by Maureen Taylor, Christopher Desmond and Nancy Desmond called Unlocking the Shoebox.


Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.  Lots of great hints, tips and ideas.

I also noticed that ShotBox was a vendor with a virtual booth in the Expo Hall. I had heard about ShotBox several years ago, but now that I’ve actually started my digitization, I understand what types of items my sheet feeder scanner, my flat bed scanner, and my hand-held digital camera phone cannot handle well.

ShotBox had a show special on for RootsTech so I went for it.


My ShotBox should be arriving in about a week.


Only a week prior to RootsTech, it became known that FamilySearch was going to announce a release candidate for GEDCOM 7.0, to replace the over 20 year-old standard that currently is in use. Because my program Behold is a GEDCOM reader, I’ve always been involved with GEDCOM and was very interested in hearing what was going to be presented. Gordon Clarke of FamilySearch had two sessions about this. I watched the two sessions Wednesday night.

But inexplicably, the sessions were removed from RootsTech on Thursday, and all information about GEDCOM 7.0 was taken down. For a timeline of what happened, see my blog post: GEDCOM 7.0.


A genealogical conference isn’t a genealogical conference without socializing. RootsTech Connect provided the ability to chat with other attendees and speakers. I was able to get in touch with a few people I knew from past conferences and have some enjoyable live chats with them.

There were also two other sessions I very much enjoyed.

One was the Family History Fanatics RootsTech Connect 2021 Recap that was on Friday afternoon. 


There were over 70 of us watching live and we were all involved very actively in the live chat that was happening while the webinar was going on.

Then on Saturday, I attended my first ever Dear Myrt After Party. My flight time home had always prevented me previously from attending her After Party which she hosted at her home. But this time, I didn’t have to fly home.

It was a lot of fun. Rather than a webinar, this was a full virtual meeting, so we were all full participants. We had about 60 people there.


Pat set up a game for us and we split up into breakout rooms to form teams to try to find the answer to research questions on FamilySearch, Ancestry and Trove.



Steve Rockwood closing RootsTech Connect. 

Well, RootsTech Connect technically isn’t over. The hundreds of sessions will be available to watch for a year at the RootsTech site. I have about 30 left on my list to watch, many to help with my own personal research.

At the end of the conference, FamilySearch updated their number of attendees:


A million of us. Wow!

Using a GEDCOM file to add to FamilySearch

2021. február 24., szerda 5:25:49

Today I got a newsletter from Elizabeth O’Neal, who runs the Heart of the Family site.  The newsletter was about “Getting the Most Out of RootsTech”. What caught my attention was her point 5: “Check your growing list of cousins.”

Elizabeth was talking about Relatives at RootsTech, which looks at your FamilySearch tree and sees if there are any of the over 320,000 attendees that you are connected to. Some people like Randy Seaver are connected to tens of thousands of people. Me: zero, zilch, nil, none.

I had already added all of my direct ancestors to FamilySearch, which amounted to about 31 people, and I connected them to anyone I could find at FamilySearch who was related, putting in the necessary intermediaries to connect us.

But what Elizabeth said that I did not know was that you can upload a GEDCOM file to FamilySearch. She gave this link to the FamilySearch article: How do I upload my GEDCOM file.

This does not upload your information to FamilySearch’s FamilyTree, but uploads it to their Pedigree Resource File (PRF) which “allows you to share your family history on FamilySearch without letting other people change it.”

One you’ve done that, then you can copy that information into FamilyTree. See the article: How do I copy information from my GEDCOM into Family Tree?

So I had to try that. Other than this possibly being a very good way to get my information into the tree, it might allow me to fairly quickly connect more of my branches to the main tree. And maybe I’ll result in finding some relatives who are also registered for RootsTech.

So let’s try it and see how it goes.

Initial Step:  Create GEDCOM

I have my main tree at MyHeritage. I use their free desktop program Family Tree Builder which keeps the two synced together. I’ll open Family Tree Builder and export my GEDCOM.


I’ll select all people and omit all living people and all people and data that I’ve marked private. I’m not sure if the photos I have of my relatives will transfer to FamilySearch, but I’ll export them in the hope that they will.

Checking the GEDCOM file with Behold, I can see I have 6413 people in the file. The GEDCOM includes all the living people in the file, so all the father/mother/child connections are there, but none of them have any information included, not even the NAME tag. I do want the tree to connect to me, so I find my INDI record in the file and add to it a new line:
     1 NAME Louis /Kessler/

Step 1: Upload my GEDCOM to FamilySearch

1. I sign into FamilySearch and click Search.
2. I click Genealogies.
3. I scroll past the search fields to the section titled What are Genealogies?
4. At the end of the section, I click Submit Your Tree.
5. I click Upload GEDCOM File.


I chose my file, entered a tree name and description and clicked Upload.

In very little time (less than a minute), my tree was uploaded and ready to compare.


Step 2: Compare My File to FamilySearch Family Tree

So now I press the Compare button in the screenshot above. The word “Comparing…” appears as the Status while this takes place. After about 15 minutes, the Status changes to “Ready”.

I press the View link that now appear where Compare used to be. The results flash for a second and then I get taken to this:


I go back and try again but this keeps happening. I try it in Edge, Google Chrome and Firefox. It’s a problem in all browsers. The page before does stick around long enough that I can do a screen capture:


So there’s a glitch here that FamilySearch should fix, but it looks like the processing worked. I had 2128 non-living people in my GEDCOM of which 680 are already in Family Tree, 42 are potential matches and 1406 that I can add to Family Tree.

Step 3: Review the Potential Matches List

(*** NOTE:  I learned after the fact that it might be better to do Step 5 before doing steps 3 and 4.  See Step 5, below)

Aha! If I go back and click on “Potential Matches” before it transforms to the “Oops, I did it again” page, the Potential Matches page does appear. Glitch workaround success!!  I get this:


Below the summary, on the left are my 42 potential matches. The first potential match is shown on the right comparing my GEDCOM to what’s on Family Tree. Now I can select in the top right either “Not a Match” or “Yes”. This one is a “Yes”.

After clicking “Yes”, I get this screen:


I can now decide to replace some of the information for this person in the tree with the information from my GEDCOM. I’m going to be very conservative here, and not transfer anything that is different or suspect. If I don’t click on any of the “Replace” links, then the “Save” button doesn’t activate. 

If I do click on at least one replace link, and then click on “Save”, then the following Reason for Update box appears:


They do not, however, force you to enter a reason. You can just click “Continue” and it will be saved.

They gave me two potential matches for the following person, but neither was the correct one, so I clicked “Not a Match” for each one. That took me to this screen:


I now clicked “Add” to add this person to Family Tree.

The name of each potential match links to the Family Tree entry for the person, so when I’m in doubt, I can check in more detail what Family Tree shows.

Of the 42 potential matches, about half were the correct person so I merged them. And the other half were not the correct person, so I added them. 

I found some new information that I didn’t have before, as well as a few corrections which I then added to my MyHeritage tree.

It took a couple of hours to go through the 42 potential matches:  a very worthwhile effort.

I liked the way this procedure worked. It was nicely implemented by the FamilySearch people.

Step 4: Review the Add to Family Tree List

Here I have 1407 people. It appears they have to be added one at a time. It takes two clicks per person, one to add them, and one to navigate to the next person.

Looks like this will be grunt-work that I’ll save to do while I’m watching some RootsTech sessions.

Step 5: Review the Already in Family Tree List

This list now included the 680 people that were already in Family Tree, plus the people I added from Steps 3 and 4. If I were doing this, I’d review this list first before the others get added. 

It is nice to review the information that I have for each of these people versus what FamilySearch has. It is presented in the same format as shown in the “Already in Family Tree” graphic (above). You get the opportunity to replace information in Family Search if you’re sure (with evidence hopefully) that yours is correct.

Final Thoughts

I never realized that FamilySearch Family Tree had this capability to load a GEDCOM, compare it to the tree, and merge your information into it.

I was very impressed by how it worked. Family Tree already had 680 of my people in my tree, and this will allow me (after I do the grunt-work) to add 1448 more people, which is all the other people in my Family Tree Builder tree who are not living or private.

I don’t know when FamilySearch added this capability, but thank you Elizabeth O’Neal, for making me aware of it.

Hopefully the addition of so many new people will allow Relatives at RootsTech to find me a relative before the end of RootsTech.

Followup Feb 24:  I went through the 1407 people to be added and added them one at a time. About 10 of them ended up being duplicates because the name or a date was different than the person it should have matched. So I used FamilySearch tools to combine them. I’m sure there are a few others that I’ll have to find over time. Also, for some reason, FamilySearch gave me an error when trying to add 3 people, so I couldn’t add those three.

A few glitches, but I got the job done. I do see why they don’t want to blindly add people’s GEDCOMs en masse, as that would cause a mess.

Double Match Triangulator 4.0

2021. február 23., kedd 23:06:56

Yesterday, I released  new version of Double Match Triangulator. This took longer than I hoped, but finally it’s out.

In late November, GEDmatch changed the format of their segment match file and also made a change to their one-to-one report, so DMT needed to be updated to handle those.

Also in May 2019, MyHeritage changed their segment match files to include a unique ID for each person. DMT now uses the name plus part of that ID so that like GEDmatch, two people with the same name will be differentiated.

But the biggest changes are under the hood.  I reviewed most of DMTs internals and geared it to give you as much of the information and assumptions that you can make from your data.

DMT’s interface now looks like this:

The only change to the interface is the addition of a Male (1 X) / Female (2 X) selector. The selection will be reflected in the number of X chromosomes DMT includes in the results. DMT now knows that for males, ancestral paths on the mother’s side are the only one allowed. And it understands that no ancestral path on the X can go through two F (fathers) in a row.

I also found and fixed a bug that was causing the Map page to take 10 times longer to generate than it needed to.

DMT, Painting and Clustering

Double Match Triangulator works differently than all the other autosomal DNA tools. By comparing all the segment matches of two or more people, DMT determines every single triangulation between the people whose files you have.

The addition of user-entered Most Recent Common Ancestors (MRCAs) in DMT version 3 allowed DMT to take the next step and allow painting of ancestral paths to segments.  This is exactly what you do manually with DNA Painter, except that with DNA Painter, you are only adding single matches.  DMT used triangulations and makes use of the fact that segments that don’t triangulate likely are on the opposite parent as those that do triangulate.

DMT also calculates all possible inferred matches, where Person B matches Person C but Person A does not. Basically, these refute the ancestral line towards the more distant MRCA of Persons B and C. .

Put those together, and you can get most of your genome painted fairly easily.  DMT will create a file for you that you can input into DNA painter. For example, if you know 11 MRCAs and have their segment match files, this is what the results might look like when uploaded to DNA Painter:

Other autosomal analysis tools that do clustering have become available in the past few years. DMT does clustering as well. It does so by using the most common ancestral path of a person’s segments to be the cluster for the person.

With those 11 MRCAs in the above example, DMT places people into the following clusters:


In this example, almost half the people got assigned to a cluster on either the father (F) or mother (M)’s side. For people who you don’t know your relationship to, this will be a great clue as to which ancestral line you should look at first.

DMT is Available at:

The new version 4 of DMT can be found on the DMT website:

For those of you who have already purchased DMT ($40 USD) it is as it always will be a free upgrade. Simply download and install it.

For those who haven’t, please feel free to try the program. The download is fully functional but only shows you results for chromosome 1. That should be enough to give you a good feeling for what it can do.


2021. február 19., péntek 21:17:27

**UPDATE** Feb 25: 
FamilySearch has removed all GEDCOM 7.0 content.
See Feb 25, 2021, below.  I’ll add more as I learn more.

It appears that a GEDCOM Version 7.0 Release Candidate will be announced at RootsTech Connect on February 25.

This will likely take place in the session by Gordon Clarke titled:
”GEDCOM is Alive and getting Smarter” –> See Feb 24, 2021, below.

The home for GEDCOM 7.0 appears to be:


The current Release Candidate 7.0.0-rc1 appears to be available:

As a web page:

As a PDF:


I’m going to keep track on this blog post of anyone writing about GEDCOM 7.0. Please let me know of any new articles you find and I’ll post them here:

Feb 19, 2021:

Feb 20, 2021:

Feb 21, 2021:

Feb 22, 2021:

Feb 23, 2021:

Feb 24, 2021

Feb 25, 2021

  • Gordon Clarke’s two presentations inexplicably no longer are available from RootsTech Connect.  The YouTube videos at the links above (Feb 24) are unavailable as well.
  • The site also became inaccessible.
  • The three blog posts on James Tanner’s Genealogy’s Star personal blog have been removed. (see above, Feb 19, 20, 23)
  • The GEDCOM Standard page at has removed the “What can we expect in the future?” and “What is GEDZip?” paragraphs that referenced GEDCOM 7.0 and GEDZip. (See Feb 19)

Feb 27, 2021

  • Markus Henn tweeted:  Answer from @RootsTechConf staff: @FamilySearch has determined to not publish information regarding #GEDCOM standards at this time. This includes some content intended for #RootsTechConnect 2021. We apologize for any inconvenience. Thank you for your patience and support.”

Feb 28, 2021

GEDCOM Should NOT Allow Extensions

2021. január 18., hétfő 23:54:45

The GEDCOM standard for transferring genealogical data has been in use basically unchanged for over 20 years now. Just about every genealogy software program can export (some of) its family data to a GEDCOM file, and can import (some of) the family data in a GEDCOM file into its database.

The issue is the “(some of)” qualifier that I put in.

We want our programs to export all their family data so that a user can transfer that data to another program or website. For the most part, the basic name-birth-marriage-death-date-place information transfers reliably. It’s everything else, facts, events, sources, repositories and even notes that often don’t make the crossing.

The blame is usually put solely on GEDCOM, accusing it of being unable to represent the data.

I disagree. I put just 10% of the blame on GEDCOM, and 90% of the blame on the programmers of genealogy software who have, for whatever reason, decided not to use some of the GEDCOM tags and constructs but rather use their own inventions instead.

Why Data Doesn’t Transfer

Several obvious reasons:

  1. The exporting program doesn’t export some of its data. You can’t import what’s not there.
  2. The exporting program sometimes exports its own custom GEDCOM tag or construct rather than use what’s in GEDCOM. An importing program can’t import what it doesn’t understand.
  3. The exporting program exports some of GEDCOM incorrectly. Hard to import anything that isn’t correctly exported.
  4. The importing program doesn’t import everything. Usually it won’t import what it doesn’t export.
  5. The importing program doesn’t recognize certain standard GEDCOM tags and constructs when it uses its own custom GEDCOM tags and constructs in their place for its own export. So for these tags and constructs, it will only import its own data again.
  6. The importing program imports some of GEDCOM incorrectly. It may lose some data as a result.
  7. GEDCOM does not have a construct for storing a certain type of data, so it can’t be transferred. Many people think this is a worse problem than it is. There’s not much family data that GEDCOM cannot transfer.
  8. GEDCOM allows developers to use their own custom tags or extensions, so the developers do use their own. Other programs will not understand anything a developer does that’s not in the standard unless they do custom programming specifically to handle that developer’s custom tags and extensions. Allowing this was a mistake.

What is the Problem?

The number one problem is that developers for whatever reason, are not taking the time to ensure that they understand the GEDCOM standard and try to export their data the way GEDCOM is telling them to.

Too often, they are jumping to the conclusion that there is no way to export their data to GEDCOM, so they take what they think is the easy way out, and they invent their own tags and constructs for their data.

What harm in that? – they think. After all, their program will export their data, and their program will be able to import it again. Do they really care if another program can?  (They should, but I won’t get into that in this article.)

An Example

I recently had an online conversation with a very experienced genealogy software developer who was wondering how strict a genealogy program should be with respect to GEDCOM support.

He gave this example of how he wanted to export information extracted from a marriage licence and add it as part of the MARL (marriage license) tag in GEDCOM.  


The MARL tag is valid. GROO, BRID and RECR are not. Source information is being included in an MARL fact under the GROO and BRID tags, when it should be in GEDCOM’s SOURCE_CITATION structure instead.

Other than the program creating this, no genealogy program will be able to read and load this data as intended into its database.

So how should this case be handled?  This was my answer:

Converting your MARL event to valid GEDCOM (adding illegal indentation for clarity) would give this:


The birth places and ages could also be documented, but they shouldn’t be done under the marriage license event. They should be under the individual’s birth event:


What GEDCOM is saying regarding Evidence and Conclusions is this: Evidence should be in the DATA portion of the SOURCE_CITATION. Conclusions are the Events/Facts that you enter.

The TEXT information can be included as it is in the document and needn’t have to be pigeonholed into real or imaginary tags like GROO or RECR


As I see it, two very bad things happen when developers do not follow GEDCOM as intended:

1. They will export GEDCOM that other programs will not understand.

2. They will not bother to implement some GEDCOM constructs that they are not using, so their program will not be able to import and properly interpret those valid GEDCOM constructs from other programs.

People think GEDCOM is the main reason why data doesn’t completely transfer between programs. False. It is the inconsistent implementation of GEDCOM for both import and export that is the primary cause of data loss.

Future enhancements to GEDCOM should require that only GEDCOM tags and constructs be used. No developer tags or constructs should be allowed.

Requiring compliance with no exceptions is the only hope we will ever have for all our genealogy data to one day be able to transfer correctly from program to program.

Further Reading

From 2015: Complete Genealogy Data Transfer
From 2015: Is GEDCOM Good For Sources?
From 2013: Nine Necessities in a GEDCOM Replacement

Setting Up an IIS Webserver for Local Website Development

2021. január 7., csütörtök 4:07:42

Windows 10 comes with its own webserver called IIS (Internet Information Services). By default, IIS is not enabled because most people don’t need a webserver on their Windows computer. But if you want a copy of your website on your computer and want to be able to view your local copy and use it to test updates to your site prior to sending them up to your live site, then you’ll need your own webserver.

IIS is not your only choice on Windows. I have looked at WAMP and XAMPP as alternatives, but I am personally most familiar with IIS and have previously used it successfully for my websites, and I’m happy continuing to do so.

In March, my SSD on my computer crashed. That was my C drive with my operating system and all my software. My data was all on my 2 GB internal D harddrive and it was fine. And besides, I had all my data backed up.

I had set up full working local copies of my websites for development on my old computer when I purchased it in 2014. The setup procedure is relatively simple, but is full of gotcha’s, so I thought I’d document my efforts this time around.

I’ll give you the steps that I needed to get IIS working on my new Windows 10 desktop so that a copy of all my websites would work locally on my own machine.

Enabling IIS on Windows 10

In the Windows search bar, I entered: “Turn Windows Features on or off”. That  opened a window with all the neat stuff Windows 10 has that you never knew about.

I found the line that says “Internet Information Services” and checked the box.


I clicked on the plus sign to the left to expand it. That shows the various options available. Most of those needed are enabled already. In my case, I knew I needed server-side includes, so I opened up “Application Development Features” and checked the box beside “Server-Side Includes”. This will allow the .shtml pages I have on my to work.


I clicked OK and IIS was activated. Now I could type “IIS” in the Windows search bar, and the Internet Information Services Manager would open.


On the left Connections pane, I clicked on “Default Web Site”. Then on the right pane under “Actions”, I clicked on “Browse *:80 (http)” and the default web site called “localhost” would appear in my default browser which for me is Microsoft Edge.   

There! I’ve installed a webserver on my computer.

Adding Security, i.e. https

Most websites now use the https protocol, which adds an extra level of security over the http protocol. Browsers now will warn you of potential insecurities that a website might have. Website developers want to minimize these warnings and in so doing, maximize the security for their visitors so that the connection will be private for their personal information and passwords and for doing e-commerce.

The technology of doing this involves obtaining a certificate that confirms the validity of the site. The site passes a private key that verifies it is the site that the visitor is talking to, and not some other site intercepting the visitor’s keystrokes.

I should have done it earlier, but finally last May, I converted my live web sites to use the https protocol. My webhost Netfirms made this simpler than I expected. They provide a free SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificate from the company Let’s Encrypt. With the selection of just one setting, they do almost everything required automatically. There were some “mixed content” issues due to images I was linking to in other sites and 3rd party links that I needed to fix, as well as some minor WordPress changes. There was also a redirect I had to add into my .htaccess file so that all http requests would become https. But overall, it went quite smoothly.

Now I needed to add the same https protocol for my local sites.This took me a number of days to figure out how to do.

IIS gives you an ability to create a self-signed certificate. Browsers do not normally trust self-signed certificates, because they technically are not secure. But the real purpose here is to simulate the security, so that my development environment on my computer will include the https protocol that my live sites have and will act similarly.

To create the self-signed certificate, I opened IIS and double clicked on the “Server Certificates” icon. Then in the Actions panel, I clicked on “Create Self-Signed Certificate…”  Specify a friendly name for the certificate, e.g. mycert and click OK. Without any delay, the certificate was created and was now listed.


It is important to notice who the certificate was issued to. In my case it was issued to Z420. That’s the name I gave to my computer when I booted it for the first time.

Now we’ll create an https version of the Default Web Site using the certificate. In the Connections panel of IIS, I drilled down to the Default Web Site and selected it. In the Actions panel, I clicked on “Bindings…”. In the “Site Bindings” window that opened, I clicked on “Add…”.  In the “Add Site Binding” window, under “Type”, I selected “https”. Then I entered the name of the computer as the Host name and selected “mycert” as the SSL certificate.


After clicking OK, I saw that https was added to the Site Bindings window.


I closed that window and looked over in the Actions panel and saw there there were now two entries under “Browse Website”.


I clicked on the second one to bring up the “secure” https version of my Default Web Site:


Sure enough, the Microsoft Edge browser shows this as secure with the small lock symbol on the address bar.  Google Chrome also shows https://z420 as secure. Firefox however does not, but says the certificate is not trusted because it is self-signed:


Firefox will not relent on this, but you click on  “Accept the Risk and Continue”  and this big box won’t come up every time again. Firefox will still show a tiny warning symbol on top of the lock symbol on the address line, but that’s really of no consequence if you’re just doing local testing.

Installing PHP

PHP is a programming language used on many websites. It is the language WordPress is written in. I don’t use PHP on my website (I use Server Side Includes – see above), but my other 3 sites are all PHP pages.

To install PHP to work with IIS, you can do so manually, downloading the Windows Non Thread Safe version of PHP from and then manually change the settings as required for IIS. Or you can download Microsoft’s Web Platform Installer (Web PI) and let it install PHP for you. I decided to use Web PI.

After Installing Web PI, I selected “Product” and “Frameworks” and all the different Frameworks that Web PI has available appeared. I wanted to install version 7.4 of PHP. I have a 64-bit Windows Operating system, so I wanted the x64 version. I’m using full IIS, not IIS Express, so I choose PHP 7.4.1 (x64) and then clicked on “Add”.


After I did so, in the bottom left it said “3 items to be installed”. Clicking on that displayed:


I close that window, click on the “Install” button and let it go.


Alas, this is one of the complaints about WebPI. It doesn’t always go smoothly and may install other packages it didn’t tell you about. So the PHP Manager and Windows Cache Extension installs failed. And it included CGI and another earlier version of PHP that I didn’t ask for.

This turns out to be okay. My desired version of PHP did get installed.. And the earlier version will prove to be needed while I’m converting my live websites from PHP 5.6 to PHP 7.4, allowing me to test in both. And CGI is a required IIS component for PHP. I’d have to manually include it (using “Turn Windows Features on or off – see above) if Web PI didn’t do that for me.

PHP Manager is useful to have because it will allow me to easily change PHP settings and switch between versions. Downloading and installing the PHP Manager for IIS from its website is a simple process. This adds a new icon to the IIS window that brings up a nice way to check the PHP configuration, change settings, and change the PHP version.


PHP Manager suggested two minor recommendations for the PHP configuration which I accepted to remove the warning.

Adding My Websites

The Default Web Site directory was set up by IIS to be c:intpubwwwroot.

I’ve already got local copies of my websites set up in my D:Documentswww folder. I want them to stay in my D:Documents folder so that Windows File History will continue to automatically back them up for me.

I originally tried setting my websites up with IIS virtual directories. But that had the problem that internal links referencing the home folder would think that localhost was the home directory, resulting in missing images and incorrect links, e.g. below should have been a graphic, and it linked to localhost/index.php when it should have been to localhost/dmt/index.php.


There did not appear to be a simple solution to this. If there was, this would have been my preferred solution because Edge and Chrome both considered all my virtual directory sites to be fully secure.

So instead of using virtual directories, I created full websites in IIS. What I lose by doing this is that the secure versions of the sites are no longer subordinate to https://z420, so Edge and Chrome no longer think they are secure with my self-signed certificate. I looked for a solution to this as well, and could not find anything simple for this either.

So I was in a catch-22. Either virtual directories with full security but links that don’t work, or full websites with working links but security warnings.

Since this was on my local machine for development purposes and only I would be accessing it, I needed the links to work and the security wasn’t as important so I went with full websites.

To create a full website in IIS, in the Connections window I clicked on Sites, and then in the Actions pane I clicked on Add Website.


In the dialog, I entered a short site name and host name to clearly differentiate it from my live site ( and make it easy for me to bring up my local site in my browser just by typing “dmt” into my browser’s address bar. Since I only need to develop the secure version of my site, I select the https binding and pick the self-signed certificate I created earlier in this post that I named mycert.

Browsing my local site now gives this:


I clicked on “Advanced”, and then on “Continue to dmt (unsafe)” and despite it looking ugly with the “Not secure” warning in the address bar, it displays my site correctly and the links work.


Somewhere/how I need a certificate that claims it is from the site “dmt” and then Edge will display my local page without the warning. I’ll keep looking for a simple solution to this.

I did the same thing for my other 3 sites as well, giving me this in IIS:


Redirecting HTTP to HTTPS in IIS

Typing “dmt” in the browser window by default looks for the http version of the site. I want to simply type my abbreviated site names without needing the https:// before it to get to my secure local site. The solution to that is redirection.

I used Web PI again and find the URL Rewrite module. I clicked on “Add” and then “Install”.


That added a “URL Rewrite” button to the Features view in IIS.


In IIS I next clicked on URL Rewrite. I click on “Add Rule(s)…” and followed the instructions given in: Best way to redirect all HTTP to HTTPS in IIS.

I found I did have to access each site once with the preceding http, e.g. as in: “http://lk” which will get redirected to https://lk. But after I do that once, then entering just “lk” in my browser will redirect to my https site.

Set up the MySQL database and phpMyAdmin

WordPress stores all its posts and comments in a MySQL database. I decided to use Web PI to install MySQL:


That was simple and went well. All I had to do was give it the password I wanted.

Web PI surprisingly does not include an option to download the phpMyAdmin tool, which is a browser-based MySQL database tool that most MySQL database Admins use. So I loosely followed the instructions given by Cyril Kardashevsky.

I downloaded the latest version 5.0.4 from It comes as a zip file. I unzipped it and copied the contents into its own folder where my websites are: D:Documentswwwphpmyadmin. Then I set it up as a website just as I did my other websites.

Next step was to open my browser and go to phpmyadmin/setup in my browser. 


I clicked on “New server” which takes me to a server settings page. I left all the options as default, and then clicked “Apply”. It created a server called localhost and returned me to the above window. I pressed “Download” and that created a “” file that I moved to my phpMyAdmin folder. I edited the config file, entered the password I wanted, and saved the file.


Now I went back to my phpMyAdmin site, to see the phpMyAdmin login:


I entered the user as “root” and the password I specified and pressed “Go” and phpMyAdmin opened and I could see the new database in the left panel:


Revisiting Self-Signed Certificates

Up above, I wrote:

Somewhere/how I need a certificate that claims it is from the site “dmt” and then Edge will display my local page without the warning. I’ll keep looking for a simple solution to this.

Well, before I even finished this blog post, I ran across the solution as outlined here: How to Create Self-Signed SSL Certificates in Windows 10, and it’s pretty simple.

Type “PowerShell” in the Windows search bar, and then click on “Run as Administrator”. That brings up a PowerShell window where I entered (as one line):

New-SelfSignedCertificate -CertStoreLocation Cert:LocalMachineMy –DnsName "dmt" -FriendlyName "mycertdmt" -NotAfter (Get-Date).AddYears(30)

What this does is produce a self-signed certificate for domain “dmt”, which is the very short domain name I use for on my computer for my local version of my site.  Note that I don’t use a suffix like “.com” for my local domain, but if it had a suffix, I’d have to include that in the command shown above.

This is what it looks like in PowerShell and the response after entering the command:


I ran this 4 more times, changing the two dmts in “dmt” and mycertdmt, to bho and mycertbho, to gsr and mycertgsr, to lk and mycertlk, and to phpmyadmin and nycertpma,  Those were for my other 3 websites and the phpmyadmin site I created.

After running those 5 commands, I typed “Computer Certificates” into the Windows search bar and clicked on “Manage computer certificates”. That opens the Microsoft Management Console to it’s Local Computer Certificates window. Then I opened the Personal folder and then the Certificates folder. It shows the 5 certificates that I just created, as well as the original Z420 self-signed certificate I created from within IIS.


Now I select the 5 certificates I created, right-click and choose “Copy”. I go to the left panel and expand “Trusted Root Certification” and right-click on “Certificates which is under it and choose “Paste”. That copied the 5 certificates to the Trusted Root Certification folder.

Then I opened IIS and in the Connections panel selected my dmt website. In the Actions panel I clicked on “Bindings…”. I selected the “https” binding. I clicked on “Edit”. The “SSL certificate” selection had all the self-signed trusted certificates I just created:


I selected the appropriate one for dmt, and clicked OK. But I got the message:


To prevent that message and to use individual bindings with each certificate, I had to go back and simply check the “Require Server Name Indication” box that’s under the “Host name”.

And sure enough, I’ve now got the secure lock symbol on my local site and no ugly warning:


This works in beautifully in both Edge and Chrome.

Firefox still does not like the self-signed certificate and requires you “Accept the risk” one time as described earlier in the post. After you do, you’re left just with a caution sign on the lock symbol which isn’t too intrusive:


Reloading my MySQL databases

I lost my local copy of my MySQL databases when my computer crashed in March. Those aren’t really important, because they really are just a backup of my WordPress database that I have online. In effect, I just lost my backup.

But, in order to get WordPress going again locally, I had to copy my data down from my online site.I’ do this anyway from time to time to backup my online data.

To get the data, I login to my account at my webhost Netfirms, I load their version of phpMyAdmin, and I export the database:


At the bottom left, you can see it downloaded to a .sql file.

Now I can go to my local phpmyadmin site, login, click on the Import tab, choose the file, and click on “Go”.


However, the maximum files size is set at 2 MB, and my file is 7.5 MB.

So I’ll open IIS and open PHP Manager. In the PHP Settings section, I’ll select “Manage all settings" and I’ll find and increase the upload_max_filesize setting. The setting actually resides in the PHP configuration file known as php.ini.


And now the sql statements get executed and the database gets imported:


That was my GenSoftReviews database.

Now that I did that, all the WordPress code should just work. Does it?

Not with PHP 7.4, but when I use PHP Manager to downgrade back to PHP 5.3, then yes! My local copy of my GenSoftReviews site does work, with all the latest content that I just copied from my live site:


Then I did the same with my Behold blog and forum database. The SQL download for that was 50.5 MB, and I got this error:


I tried one suggestion to increase the PHP post_max_size setting. That didn’t work. I tried another one that suggested increasing the IIS Configuration setting  uploadReadAheadSize that is under system.webServer/serverRuntime. That didn’t work either.

The solution that worked for me was changing the IIS Configuration setting: maxAllowedContent length:


I changed it from 30000000 (30 million) to 500000000 (500 million). My 52 MB exceeded the 30 million value.

I wasn’t out of the woods yet. Loading the file I got this:


Unknown collation: ‘utf8mb4_unicode_520_ci’.  But I see on the left that it did create the 2nd mySQL database and some of the tables were successfully created. It failed on my “wp_commentmeta” table. 

I opened my SQL download file and saw that other collations in the file were ‘utf8mb4_unicode_ci’, i.e. without the “_520”. So I took out the “_520” from the 4 instances and saved the file. Then from phpMyAdmin, I selected that database, went to the Operations tab, and clicked on the red text: Drop the database to delete the database. Then I tried the Import again.


Again I switched back to PHP 5.3. It’s a little awkward having to switch to PHP 7.4 for phpMyAdmin and then back to PHP 5.3 to get my blog going. I may be doing more of this switching between PHP versions until I get everything working in 7.4. It’s a good thing PHP Manager makes this switching easy.

In PHP 5.3 with my blog and forum database now loaded, lets see if it works.


Nope. Not yet.

After an hour of debugging (I won’t go into the gory details), I determined that there was something wrong locally with one of the WordPress plugins I was using. By changing the name of the plugins folder to “notplugins”, WordPress would not find any of the plugins and hopefully load my site properly without plugins. That worked. The local copy of Behold blog now appeared and was loaded with my latest live data that I was loaded into my local mySQL database:


  And my forum worked as well:


Compare with my live site and you’ll see there is no login line in either case, because that was from a plugin, but none-the-less:  Taa daa!

Adding the plugins back one by one allowed me to find the one that failed. The culprit was a plugin called “maxblogpress-ping-optimizer” which I don’t really need anyway. I copied back all the other plugins and everything worked including my login line.

I should also add that there is just one difference between my WordPress code on my live website and my local site. It’s in my wp-config.php file. I set up a variable $whereami to say which site the file belongs to:  my live site (Production) or my local site (Test). And the only difference in the two files is which whereami statement is first and which is second, the second one being the value used:



All of the above took several weeks. Some of the steps took me a dozen tries before I got it right, and many required web research to find out how to fix or get around something. I didn’t ever get to the point of frustration where I had to resort to asking a question on StackOverflow, since I did manage to find a solution to all my problems, sometimes resorting to answers already on StackOverflow.

This blog post acts as my reminder to myself of what I did, and will help me remember what to do again when I get my next computer, hopefully no less than 5 years from now. I doubt if anybody will have to do exactly what I have done here, but I hope this post will help a few people with a specific problem when their web search brings them here.

My site seems to work fine with PHP 7.4 except for my blog, forum and GenSoftReviews which use old versions of WordPress and bbPress. My next step will be to get the latest versions of WordPress and bbPress working with my own customized theme. I may have to replace plugins that are no longer available, and look at what custom modifications I made that are still necessary and find a way to implement them without hacking the WordPress code directly as I did before. Then in the future, I should be able to keep PHP, WordPress and bbPress up-to-date and not run into a forced upgrade again.

If what I described in this blog post sounded difficult, I expect my upgrade of WordPress and bbPress won’t be any easier. But maybe I’ll be surprised.

2020 GenSoftReviews Users Choice Awards

2021. január 1., péntek 21:49:09

Happy 2021 everyone! This is the 12th year of the awarding of Users Choice Awards to genealogy software that users have rated highly.


Since 2008, GenSoftReviews, has had users write 5,874 reviews for the 1,041 different genealogy-based programs listed at the site.

Of these 1,041 programs:

  • 498 run on Windows
  • 133 run on a Mac
  • 114 run on Unix
  • 127 are for handheld devices
  • 408 run online (i.e. from a website)
  • 365 are full-featured for recorded your family tree
  • 532 are free
  • 235 are no longer supported by the author, but many are still in use

To receive a Users Choice Award each year, a particular program must:

  1. Have an end-of-year user rating of at least 4.00 out of 5.
  2. Have at least 10 user reviews.
  3. Have at least 1 user review during that year.

GenSoftReviews uses an exponential rating algorithm. Every user rating will have double the weight of a rating from one year earlier. So more recent ratings will have more influence on the overall rating.

A complete list of all the 2020 winners and previous winners can be found on the GenSoftReviews awards page, with their rank, rating, and a link to their descriptions and reviews.

Summary for 2020

27 programs were awarded a Users Choice Award in 2020.

Sixteen programs won last year and won again this year:

  • Brother’s Keeper, winner since 2009
  • Personal Ancestral File (PAF), winner since 2009, unsupported
  • Reunion, winner since 2009
  • The Next Generation (TNG), winner since 2009
  • Ancestral Quest, winner since 2011
  • Family Historian, winner since 2011
  • Family Tree Maker (up to Version 16), winner since 2011, unsupported
  • Ahnenblatt, winner since 2012
  • Famberry, winner since 2013
  • Genealogie Online, winner since 2015
  • webtrees, winner since 2015
  • Family Book Creator, winner since 2016
  • Generations,winner since 2016, unsupported
  • The Master Genealogist (TMG), winner since 2016, unsupported
  • GedSite, first-time winner in 2019
  • Second Site for TMG, first-time winner in 2019

Seven programs worked their way back into the winner’s category this year:

  • Aldfaer, who previously won in 2016,
  • Ancestris, who previously won in 2017-2018,
  • Clooz, who previously won in 2012-2018,
  • Familienbande, who previously won in 2015-2018,
  • Oxy-gen, who previously won in 2018,
  • RelativelyYours (unsupported), who previously won in 2016-2018, and
  • Rootstrust, who previously won in 2018.

Four programs became an award winner for the first time:

  • Centurial, evidence-based software by Acoose.NET (Fouke Boss)
  • MacFamily Tree, a full-feature program for the Mac by Synium Software
  • My Family Tree, a free full-featured Windows program from Chronoplex Software (Andrew Hoyle)
  • ScionPC, a free “Genealogical Management System” by Robbie J Atkins of New Zealand. During the year the program became unsupported.

Programs that Did Not Repeat from 2019

There were four award winners from 2019 who failed to win again this year:

Two programs who were award winners in 2019 slipped below the required 4.00 value this year:

  • MyHeritage, who was an award winner from 2014 to 2019, and
  • Mundia, an unsupported program that won for the first time in 2019.

Two programs who had the required 4.00 rating, but did not receive at least one review during 2020:

  • iFamily for Mac
  • Ultimate Family Tree (unsupported)

Wishes for the Future

The goal of GenSoftReviews is to encourage developers to build genealogy software that their users like. Congratulations to the award winners. You have a majority of users who are willing to praise you for your software.

Developers winning a GenSoftReviews award should feel free to place their award badge on their site and encourage their users to review their software.

To those developers who did not win an award (and even to those who did), I encourage you to look at your program’s reviews and ratings and to use them as constructive criticism to make changes that can improve your users’ opinions of your software.

Averting Blog Disaster

2020. december 12., szombat 7:58:14

Yesterday, I logged into my account at my webhost Netfirms and I was met with a somewhat alarming message:


That was not pleasing to me. I knew what that meant. Likely I’d need to make major revisions to my website to get my Behold blog and my GenSoftReviews site to work under the new version of PHP.

My Behold blog and GenSoftReviews sites are 12 years old. I developed them both myself with WordPress. GenSoftReviews uses a WordPress plugin called WP Review Site that I purchased and then customized to my liking. My Behold Forum uses bbPress version 0.8 that was able to integrate with WordPress.

I spent many months customizing my blogs and forum to my liking, starting with the Behold style that I created to make my blog and the forum completely match the rest of my site. I added a user database for my Behold and DMT trials and purchases and automated the sending out of trial keys and recording of purchases. I created an integrated login system so people could post comments on my blog and messages in my forum. I added sophisticated spam filters to prevent the multitude of spam from getting onto my page. I added my newsletter system into the framework. Almost every single thing is tweaked and customized exactly to my liking.

The programming language for this is PHP and the database is MySQL. I had never used either of them prior to this endeavor, so it was a trial by fire. I’m proud of what I created and it has worked almost without a hitch for the past 12 years. That is of course without upgrading the underlying versions of WordPress and bbPress that I was using. I couldn’t upgrade them, really. The customizations I had done were extensive and some of the plugins that I was using were no longer available and were not being upgraded to work with new versions of WordPress.

Flipping the PHP Switch

I knew what would happen when I selected a PHP version 7 or greater: My blog would stop working. I tested it out and sure enough, only an error message appeared where my blog should be.  I changed it back, and it worked again.

I spent the next couple of hours adding PHP 7.4 to my computer. I went back to my live blog and tried a few things. I flipped the PHP switch on my live site again and got the error again. I flipped it back to 5.6 and … oh oh, I still had the error.

This was no ordinary error. This was the dreaded Error 500 – Internal Server Error, that told you absolutely zip, zero, zilch about what was going on:


So how do you figure out what’s causing an error when no information is given? Into my Wordpress PHP code I went. For the next 3 hours, I was debugging it live online, line by line, putting in “here I am” statements and tracing to find what line is causing the error. I found out it was the line that was trying to initialize the MySQL database.

    $wpdb = new wpdb(DB_USER, DB_PASSWORD, DB_NAME, DB_HOST);

I spent two hours trying to get WordPress to initialize the database and tried everything including setting up test programs, and scanning the web and StackOverflow for this type of problem and solutions. I almost went as far as changing the password on the database. The funny thing that I noticed was GenSoftReviews was still working, but what that meant didn’t yet register on me.

It was now 1 a.m. I used Netfirms Support chat and got help from one of their support people. I was trying to figure out from the support person why the PHP change and then changing back now resulted in my blog not working. We tried a number of things and finally I was given a ticket where a Technical Specialist would contact me in 24 to 48 hours.  It was 2:30 am and I went to bed.

The next morning I was right back at it with some new ideas. I tried various things and continued debugging. Overnight and for much of the day, I had a sad little message posted on my blog and forum:


After a few hours working through it all, I checked my email and I had got this message:


Umm. What!?. This is an automated message from WordPress to me. Sure enough, lots of WordPress files were missing on the server.  And there were extra files as well. What I had on my computer which was supposed to be a working copy was different than what was online.

So I used BeyondCompare to mirror the tens of thousands of files on my computer in my blog directory back onto my website at Netfirms. When that completed a half an hour later, my blog appeared and worked fine!

An earlier email from the morning said this:


What had happened earlier that I didn’t realize was that WordPress on my website updated itself to its latest version. That I knew would crash my blog just as would the PHP upgrade. It should have twigged on me that because GenSoftReviews still worked. It couldn’t have been the PHP upgrade and downgrade that caused the problem since that would have affected GenSoftReviews as well.

Phew. Problem solved. But no images were being displayed in my blog. Another whoops. The images were uploaded from my blogging program Open Live Writer. Open Live Writer updates the blog posts into my blog’s MySQL database at Netfirms, but the images are put into the wp-content/upload folder with the WordPress code. I had never thought of syncing those images back to my computer.  So I inadvertently deleted them when I mirrored up my files.

Another support chat with Netfirms and they were able to restore that folder for me from their backup.

By the way, I was very pleased with the Netfirm support chats. There was no waiting and the support person at the other end was very courteous and knowledgeable and helpful!  It was not like this 5 years ago at Netfirms. They have really upped their game impressively.

Upgrade Necessary

I was still being presented with this message::


This is a window I was now getting when I try to go into Admin mode for my blog. Prior to last night, I had never seen this message before. I don’t know what triggered this message to start happening, but I did notice it at some point last night and dismissed it as something I can’t do and not to worry about. 

Maybe I accidentally hit that “Upgrade WordPress link”, or maybe WordPress itself may have detected an error in the plugin when I switched to PHP 7 – I’m not sure which. But something caused Wordpress to merrily start upgrading itself in the background. That’s why the database wouldn’t open. That’s why all the files were different. That might have initiated those emails.

That “Database Upgrade Required” message prevents me from getting into the Admin mode in Wordpress. I tried using the:
      define(‘WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE’, false);
directive that is supposed to turn the display of the message off, but it didn’t for me. So instead I just hacked the WordPress code and commented out the calls to the routine:

Netfirms is forcing its users to upgrade to PHP 7. As I result I will also have to upgrade WordPress and bbPress. I guess after 12 years of smooth sailing, it’s come to this and I’ll finally have to bite the bullet and update everything.

Sigh! That’s not what I wanted to have to do now. I’ve got an updates to both DMT and Behold that I’m working on. But neither of those will be of use if I don’t have a working website to present them.

I’ve got an adventure ahead of me. It will be a lot of work, and a lot of learning, but it should be interesting and fun as well.

Fiction versus Fact

2020. december 1., kedd 5:51:03

In my last post, I discussed a methodology that I could quickly put together an ancestors-only tree for my niece at MyHeritage.

I was able to get back to about 3rd great-grandparents on most of her lines. But it was her mother’s father’s mother’s side that started to get interesting.

My niece’s mother’s father’s mother was Emma Blanche (Smith) Graham (1883-1976). Now you can instantly spot that I’m in for a challenge with a maiden name of Smith. Smith of course is one of the most common surnames there are. So how can I ensure I get the correct John Smith out of two million John Smith’s?


Following one of Emma’s ancestral lines I assembled at MyHeritage, it led me back through Smiths of Niagara Peninsula (Upper Canada) in the 1800’s to a Wilcox line in the 1700’s that led to Elizabeth Cooke (1641-1715) who was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Hmm. Plymouth was where the Mayflower arrived in 1520.


Her father was Jean John Cooke. One of the Record Hints that MyHeritage gave me was this one from WikiTree:


Jean John Cooke was born in Leiden in The Netherlands. Instantly, I recognized that as the city where the passengers on the Mayflower lived before their voyage in 1520. This year is the 500th anniversary of the Mayflower’s arrival! Might the picture WikiTree has for Jean John Cooke be the Mayflower? Could my niece be one of the 35 million Mayflower descendants?

I visited Leiden in 2014 for the Gaenovium Conference. What a beautiful city! And I had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with Tamura Jones, who just happens to be an expert with regards to Mayflower descendants. 

I sent off an email to Tamura asking him if this Jean John Cooke might have been on the Mayflower. Tamura confirmed for me that Francis Cooke was on the Mayflower along with his eldest son John who was a boy a the time. His wife Hester and other children came later.

This Jean John Cooke was the son who was on the Mayflower. Eureka! I can say now that it’s a fact that my niece is a Mayflower descendant, right?

Not so fast. Tamura then told me that he could not find the Wilcox line I supplied him in the lists of descendants he had. He said I should check that line.

So I went to our friend Google and came up with this: I2742: Daniel WILCOX (1631 - 2 Jul 1702) ( It’s from an obviously well researched and sourced genealogy of the Needham Family.

It indicates that Daniel Wilcox (1656 – bef 1730) was the son of Daniel Wilcox (1631 – 1702) and NOT Jean John Cooke’s daughter Elizabeth Cooke, but a previous wife, possibly: Susanna Thompson.

So Daniel Wilcox and his full brother Samuel Wilcox, are not descendants of Elizabeth Cooke and thus not descendants of John Cooke or Frances Cooke.

The extensive references at the bottom of the page talk about this and indicate that “there is no evidence that Elizabeth was the mother of his sons Daniel and Samuel”. 

I immediately scratched out the fiction of Elizabeth Cooke being an ancestor and replaced her with the fact of it being possibly Susanna Thompson.

So much for my niece being a Mayflower descendant, at least on that line.


We did get a not-so-small consolation prize out of it though. If you take a look at that Daniel Wilcox link I have above, at the bottom of the page in the references it states:

The Churchill Centre, "Mayflower Ancestry: For and Against"
"No genealogies have been more carefully prepared, or reach a higher standard than, the Mayflower Society genealogies. There is solid evidence that Daniel Wilcox married a first wife prior to his marriage to Elizabeth Cooke, granddaughter of Francis Cooke. There is no evidence that Elizabeth was the mother of his sons Daniel (Churchill’s ancestor) and Samuel. There is circumstantial evidence that she was not. In genealogy, absence of evidence means absence of conclusions."

Checking out Sir Winston Churchill’s ancestry, he does in-fact connect to Emma (Smith) Graham’s line.


Sir Winston was in fact a 5th cousin of my niece’s great-grandmother, making my niece a 5C3R (5th cousin, 3 times removed) to the British Prime Minister.

Just the Facts

The Needham Family site is a fantastic resource. You can see the numerous references at the bottom of each individual. It would take years to redo that work.

So I decided to go through his site and cross reference the ancestors I had collected and change any information I had to what he had. As I did that, Needham pointed me to another excellent study that was of Benjamin Wilcox by John Blythe Dobson, and I cross referenced and changed my information for my people from that study as well.

Of the 129 ancestors I had found for Emma (Smith) Graham, Needham had information on 84 of them, and Dobson had 32 of them.

I put the information in my spreadsheet so that I could quickly visualize and access the information at Needham and Dobson’s sites:


Notice the people in orange. They were fiction I obtained from other people’s genealogy.

Dobson stated:

"We know of no basis for the recent claim that she was a Sarah Hart or Hort, b 16 Apr 1684 at Dartmouth, daughter of Thoas Hart or Hort and Margaret. Not only is any such person absent from the town’s vital records, but …". Needham states "Some claim she was Sarah Hort, daughter of Thomas Hort. I have seen no definitive proof of this claim."

which negated the Hort name and Sarah’s parents and grandparents.

And Needham only gives Susanna Swift as “Susanna” with a 1612 birth date, not the 1622 that I had. So the Susanna that married Ralph Allen, likely wasn’t Susanna Swift. So scratch her parents. Needham also didn’t give a surname for Rachel Sherman, so I removed that as well.

There could, of course, be later scholarly research that updates what Dobson or Needham have found, but I’d like to see it with extensive references that can be followed before I’ll believe it.

Prime Minister?

Notice the Borden ancestors in the spreadsheet above. Needham pointed me a site with the Descendants of Richard Borden. That site pointed me to information about Sir Robert Borden (1854-1937), who happened to be the 8th Prime Minister of Canada.

So now I can assuredly add this Prime Minister as well to my niece’s cousin list. He would have been her 7C5R (7th cousin, 5 times removed).


One other connection I managed to make. While searching to verify the fiction or fact of a “Thomas Bloomfield” ancestor, I came across Amanuensis Monday - Post #286: 1684 Will of Thomas Bloomfield (1615-1686) of Woodbridge, N.J. by the incredible genealogist Randy Seaver on his Genea-Musings blog.

Randy’s genealogical work is also of the gold standard that I would 100% trust.

Searching his site for more information, I found his page Genea-Musings: Surname Saturday - BLOOMFIELD (England > colonial Massachusetts > New Jersey) and from that page I was able to tell that Thomas Bloomfield was Randy’s 10th great-grandfather.

He’s also my niece’s 10th great-grandfather. So that makes Randy and my niece 11th cousins.


I’m sure there will be more connections that will come up for my niece. Once a genealogy gets back this far to Colonial America and England, there’s much more to be found.

These first discoveries are exciting for me. My own genealogy by comparison heads back to Romania and Ukraine in the early 1900’s, so I’ve never really got to experience these sorts of family connections the way so many other genealogists do.

And I feel much better knowing that these connections are not fiction, but fact.

Tracking Just Ancestors at MyHeritage

2020. november 28., szombat 21:37:05

A few months ago, I decided it would be interesting to investigate my niece’s genealogy.

I entered information about her parents and grandparents into a new tree at MyHeritage and let MyHeritage’s Record Hints and Smart Matches go to work. It wasn’t too long before I had a couple of hundred people representing a lot of her relatives out to about 2nd cousins.

There were a few enticing hints on her mother’s father’s side that attracted me. I started following them and they’d each add another 30 relatives and take me back another generation. In very little time, MyHeritage had 80 source suggestions for me with over 1000 matches and every time I analyzed and confirmed a suggestion, the numbers would continue to grow.

I’m the type of person who likes a clean email in-box, as well as a clean MyHeritage hint list. I saw that I’d soon have thousands or even tens of thousands of people in my niece’s tree, and I really didn’t have the time to build that and resolve the multitude of hints that would result.

So I took a step back and thought about what I was doing. My niece had a few lines that were going back to Southern Ontario in the early 1800’s, and they got there from New Jersey where they were in the 1700’s and previously England. Now I’m in the realms of early America, and I realized these are genealogies that many genealogists connect to. A lot of research has already been done on these individuals and the same people are in the trees of many genealogists.

I had never had this problem with my own genealogy, since all my ancestors arrived in North America between 1900 and 1930 and I’ve never had to deal with early America and English roots. That really looks so interesting.

But I concluded it would be a waste of my time to redo all the research others have done. It’s all out there already. I just needed some way to connect to those people.


I decided what was best was, after allowing inclusion of my niece’s relatives out to her 2nd cousins, would be to only add her direct ancestors to the tree.

At MyHeritage, that ended up being fairly simple to do. I checked the Smart Matches by person and found those that gave additional spouse or parent information for any of the direct ancestors.

Matthew Borden is one of my niece’s lines that traced back to England. I currently have that his wife’s name is Joan, but I don’t have her maiden name. Getting her maiden name, birth date and death date and place might lead to finding her parents.

MyHeritage has 78 Smart Matches for Matthew, and the Smart Match summary indicates that there is new spouse information.


Clicking on the "Review 78 matches” button reveals the 78 matches with other people’s trees at MyHeritage ordered first by the ones that provide the most additional information:


I check to make sure that my birth year and death year and places match, that the wife is listed as a partner, and that the son is listed as among the children. Since I am doing just the pedigree, I only have one child included.

Then I take a look at the partners, and see if the partners listed for the 78 matches all agree.  This is what I found:

  • Joan Reeder (51 times)
  • Joan Glover Reeder (9 times)
  • Joan Mary Reeder (1 time)
  • Joan (6 times)
  • no partners listed (11 times), but 5 of these listed Joan Reeder as Matthew’s mother (presumably incorrect)

So they all seem to agree that the maiden name is likely Reeder. The Glover was sometimes in parenthesis, so I’m thinking it might the surname of her spouse of a previous or later marriage. With only 1 entry of a middle name of Mary, I’m not going to believe that until I get further evidence.

If I would have had conflicts here, then I would have gone off to our good friend Mr. Google and see if there’s something on her. I could look up “Matthew Borden” “Joan Reeder” and see what pops up. I’d be looking, not for a genealogy containing the two people, because I’ve already got plenty of those from MyHeritage’s Smart Matches, but for some scholarly work detailing the ancestry WITH SOURCES!!  The sources will show that it was detailed first-person research. Another family tree is NOT considered a source.

Here’s what Google gives:


The third link has nice information, specifically that source at the bottom:


So what I’ll now do now is Review the first Smart Match of Matthew Borden, confirm it, and mark the data in my tree I want to update. 


I may want to also update Matthew’s information if it’s better (e.g. birth and death date and place, occupation), and add his parent’s information if I don’t have it.

I was originally going to use Matthew’s parents as the example in this post, showing how conflicting information can be resolved, but this case is more complicated and his mother is still an unknown with several different people possible, so I chose to use Matthew’s wife instead.

The only people I will accept information for is Matthew, his wife, his parents and possibly his son Richard who is the direct line ancestor we are interested in. I will not select information about Matthew’s other children or siblings. By not selecting that information for inclusion, those other people will not be added to my niece’s MyHeritage tree and it will remain pedigree-only at this generational level.

I’ll then go down to the bottom of the Smart Match. I’ll be sure NOT to press the “Extract all info” button, but just click “Save to tree”.


Now I’ll go back to Matthew Borden’s Smart Matches. I’ll check the next few to see if they might have useful additional information. Once I’ve got most of the information I want, I’ll go up to the “More actions” dropdown and tell MyHeritage to confirm all the remaining matches.


However, I will not save any of the confirmed information to my tree. The confirmation simply makes them available in my profile of Matthew Borden, and removes them from my list of Smart Matches so that I can now concentrate on the next person.

I then simply continue this same procedure for each of the Smart Matches until I’ve exhausted them.

I’ll report on the results of this in an upcoming post.

My DNAweekly Interview by Ditsa Keren

2020. november 9., hétfő 19:46:39

Two weeks ago, I was interviewed on Zoom by Ditsa Keren for an article that was published on DNAweekly today.


DNAweekly publishes an interesting blog with a wide range of articles about consumer-based DNA tests that extend into their use by genealogists. They reach out and look for third-party software that might be of interest to DNA testers and found me and asked me if I was willing to be interviewed.

On their Blog page, they give an example of some of the recent DNAweekly blog posts:


The website’s primary focus is comparing, reviewing and rating DNA tests and include some FamilyTree based sites in their reviews. I currently count 58 different services in their review list.

They classify companies into these categories:  Ancestry, Family Tree, Health & Wellness, Diet and Nutrition, STD, Pets.  They give each company a rating from 1 to 10, provide for each a User Score of 1 to 5 stars, and then link each to a complete review of that product.

The product reviews are quite detailed and seem to be done very objectively. The company is obviously making money from affiliate links by you clicking and then purchasing the product, but that does not seem to be biasing their reviews in my opinion. They have some coupons available for some products towards the end of their review. Finally, at the bottom of their review, they allow you the user to write your own review on the product and give your star rating. The author of each review is shown with a brief biography.

All in all, a very nice review site for DNA, family tree and health testing services.

Ancestry’s Timber Algorithm is Better Than You Think

2020. október 30., péntek 2:04:24

Ancestry has recently made changes to its display of the amount of DNA you match with someone. The amount is shown in cM (centimorgans). Most DNA testers using their DNA for genealogy purposes know what cM are and what they represent.


Your DNA match list shows the Shared DNA you have with each of your matches.

The change Ancestry made that I’d like to talk about is the addition of “Unweighted shared DNA”. When you click on the “Shared DNA” link, you’ll be shown information containing this unweighted segment value:


Here you’ll see a “Shared DNA” value of 91 cM and an “Unweighted shared DNA’” value also of 91 cM.  When the shared DNA value is 90 cM or more, the unshared value is always the same.

But when the shared DNA value is less than 90 cM, then the unweighted value can be more, and usually is.  The unweighted value can be as high as 89 cM.


Ancestry uses what they call their Timber algorithm to filter out pieces of DNA that it figures should not be considered when deciding if two people are related.

A lot of people, including myself, have been critical of Timber believing it removes segments that it shouldn’t and they were very happy with the new information that now shows the pre-Timber amount. You can’t easily get this amount for all your matches. You do have to click through each match one by one to get that match’s unweighted value. You cannot see them all on your DNA Matches page like you can the post-Timber values.

Comparing Average Shared Values

The research work I’m currently doing on one branch of my wife’s family with her cousin Terry Lasky includes some lines where we do not know if the ancestors are brother, half-brothers or first cousins. We have descendants of two ancestors who DNA tested that we can compare.  Those who are 3 generations down would be 3rd cousins if the ancestors are brothers, half 3rd cousins if they are half-brothers, and 4th cousins if the ancestors are 1st cousins. 

All of our family includes endogamy. Terry and I have been worried about the effect of endogamy on our cM shared values, and on the effect that the Ancestry Timber algorithm would have on our cM values.

Terry has 32 DNA testers from this branch who tested at Ancestry. Among the testers he had 138 pairs of them where he knew for sure how they were related and did not know of a second way they might be related, other than through endogamy.

Parent/child are 1 generation apart. At Ancestry DNA, parent/child pairs match with 3476 cM. Children are two generations apart (up to parent, down to other child). Their average match at Ancestry DNA should be 3/4 of a parent/child match or 2607 cM.  An uncle/aunt/nephew/niece is 3 generations apart, and an average match at Ancestry DNA in theory should average half of a parent/child match and be 1738 cM. From there on, every extra generation halves the cM matching. What we are doing is counting meiosis which is the number of times the cells recombine. Meiosis 6 for example can be 2nd cousins, 1st cousins twice removed, half 1st cousins once removed, or great-great-great-great grandparent/child and many other relationships. But they all should have the same theoretical average cM at Ancestry DNA and that should be 217 cM.

So what I did is averaged Terry’s known pairs by meiosis and compared them to what the theoretical average cM should be at Ancestry. It resulted in this table:


This very much surprised me when I first saw it. I had thought that Terry’s Ancestry numbers would be considerably higher than the theoretical averages due to endogamy. But Terry’s pairs averaged only 5 cM higher than the theoretical values. That is extremely close.

I scratched my head wondering why. These are the post-Timber values which had some segments removed by TImber. I decided to separate out the Timber affected numbers from those unaffected and divided the above table into >= 90 cM and < 90 cM.


Again I was surprised. The meiosis 7 and 8 have average differences of +29 and +76 for >= 90 cM.  They have average differences of -70 and -26 for < 90 cM.

It seems Ancestry optimized their 90 cM cutoff for Timber to get the averages in the meiosis levels to be close to the theoretical. What this seems to show is that it is not a good idea to separate out the two or to try to correct for their Timber algorithm.  Their numbers with Timber seem to be best.

Just to check, I averaged out the Ancestry unweighted values for Terry’s pairs:


Meiosis 8 corrected is okay, but meiosis 7 has and average difference of -51.  Compare that to an average difference of 7 in the original raw values with Timber.  So I wouldn’t want to use these unweighted. Using Ancestry’s values with Timber seems best.

It seems that the Ancestry genetic scientists knew what they were doing with Timber. They seemed to have optimized it so that each meiosis level will average out very close to it’s theoretical value.

Blaine’s Shared cM Version 4.0

Well that was really good to know. Now I wanted to know how much Blaine Bettinger’s Shared cM Project v4 varied from the Ancestry theoretical averages. Surely Blaine’s would be different. His numbers were based on submissions of people who got cM values not just from Ancestry, but also from 23andMe, Family Tree DNA, GEDmatch, MyHeritage and others. Not all companies report exactly the same way. Family Tree DNA includes small segments down to 1 cM and will usually report higher shared cMs for the same two people. 

So here was a second surprise:


Blaine’s values are actually very close to the Ancestry theoretical value for the closer relationships.  Even meiosis 6 to 9 isn’t that far away. I attribute the slightly larger differences for the more distant relationships being due to some reported pairs being related an additional way that is adding to the amount. It isn’t much, just 12 to 21 cM,

None-the-less, Blaine’s numbers match up well with the Ancestry theoretical and that’s good to know.


Ancestry did Timber for a reason. It seems to me that they may have calibrated TImber so that the average cM for a given relationship would be the same as the theoretical average. Even if they didn’t do that calibration on purpose, it sure worked out well.

My recommendation is to use the Timber-based numbers, especially when comparing to Blaine’s shared cM project.

Don’t worry about the new unweighted Shared DNA values, and stop complaining so much about Timber.

Using WATO for Unknown Ancestral Relationships

2020. október 26., hétfő 23:25:53

Big update Oct 27:  Much easier way to do this than in my post below.  Leah Larkin informed me that I can do all 3 scenarios at once like this:


So all three hypothesis indeed can be included at once.

And the results with WATO Version 2 come out as:


Showing Hypothesis 1 (Brother) is 37 times more likely than Hypothesis 2 (Half-Brother) which is 2481 times more likely than Hypothesis 3 (1st Cousin).

Much simpler! Many thanks to Leah and Andrew Millard on the WATO Facebook group for letting me see the light. 

I’ll leave my post below to show my original thinking.

Original Post:

In yesterday’s post, I wanted to see if the What Are The Odds (WATO) tool at the DNA Painter site would work for endogamy, and I came out satisfied that it does, for either Ancestry DNA numbers or Family Tree DNA numbers, with the < 7 cM matches removed from the latter.

WATO is designed to help you have a DNA match with someone where you don’t know for sure how that person is related to you. You build your tree in the WATO tool and add positions where you think your match might be. You set those positions to be Hypothesis.

Well, I’ve got a slightly different problem. We’ve got a bunch of DNA matches and I know where the fit in the tree.  What I don’t know is how the people at the top of the tree are related.

Let me start with the tree that I used as an example yesterday:


So these are all the relevant descendants of Moshe. The DNA testers are shown shaded. The Hypothesis 1 is a known tester who we simply used as a hypothesis.

Now there happens to have been a man named Gedalia who has the same last name as Moshe and came from the same town in Ukraine. We know of a few of Gedalia’s descendants who DNA tested and they are matches to the descendants of Moshe. What we don’t know and want to figure out is the relationship between Moshe and Gedalia. Could they be brothers? Half-brothers? First cousins?

Are Moshe and Gedalia Brothers?

So what I’ll do is expand the tree. I’ll add Gedalia to the tree as a brother to Moshe. I’ll add the descendants and mark the one we will use in this example as the Hypothesis: Now I’ll enter the cM shared between this descendant of Gedalia and each of the testers under Moshe.  I’ll used filtered Family Tree DNA numbers since those worked best yesterday:


This gives us a score of zero, saying this is not possible.

So let’s take a look at the score calculation:


It’s saying that Rob is way too high at 263 cM to be a 3rd cousin.

But wait a minute! That is saying that Rob is related more closely than 3rd cousin to our Hypothesis person, who we’ll call: Hyp.  We know from the diagram above that through Moshe and Gedalia, he cannot be closer than 3rd cousins.  Since Rob’s cousin Sha and 1C1R Ala don’t have the same problem, they are okay. That must mean that Rob’s mother is related to Hyp, adding extra cMs to Rob and his sibling And. In fact, And is higher than all the rest at 145 cM, but not high enough to make being a 3rd cousin to Hyp an impossibility.

Since Rob and And are related another way to Hyp, what I’ll do is remove their shared DNA amounts from being included in the WATO calculations and run it again:


That’s better and now the Hypothesis shows up as possible. Here’s the score calculation:


It’s the same as the above for the listed people, except that the Combined odds ratio is now 1.00.

Are Moshe and Gedalia Half-Brothers?

Let’s now do the same thing and just change Moshe and Gedalia to be half-brothers. WATO lets us do this and indicates they are halves with the coloured dotted lines to the left of their boxes:


All of the scores have changed, but this scenario is still a possibility:


Are Moshe and Gedalia First Cousins?

Well, let’s delete Gedalia’s side and add him back in as a first cousin:


Once again, this is said to be possible. Here are the scores:


So Which Is More Likely? Brother? Half? Cousin?

WATO has a wonderful mechanism for comparing different Hypotheses. When you include more than one hypothesis in a scenario, it tells you which of the three is most likely and how many times more likely it is than the next. (See yesterday’s post for an example).

But here, I have three different trees each with only one Hypothesis. WATO won’t compare them for you.

Well I think I see what WATO is doing.  I may be wrong, but it looks like it is multiplying the probabilities together and comparing the results between the scenarios. So I can easily do that myself in a spreadsheet:


I have highlighted the most likely scenario for each match. Half-Brother wins this comparison with 7, versus 1st Cousin with 3 and Brother with just 2.

The line at the bottom contains the product of the 9 values above it. The highest value is Half-Brother which is 9 times larger, meaning it is 9 times more likely a possibility than 1st Cousin. 1st Cousin is 3 times more likely than Brother. And Brother is 25 times less likely than Half-Brother.

So there you have it. We haven’t proved anything, but at least we now know that all scenarios are possible and that half-brother is most likely.

Hint, Hint, Leah and Jonny

WATO is a wonderful tool to help you hypothesize where your DNA matches fit into your tree. That was what it was designed for.

But wouldn’t it be nice if WATO could also help you test different ancestral scenarios as well, as I have just done?  Well it can, if you follow the above procedure and do the comparison yourself,

WATO-Ancestors could be set up to make it easier for you by remembering the results of each of your scenarios, and then comparing them for you, so that you won’t have to yourself.

Update (80 minutes later): I didn’t realize when I was doing the analysis that I was using Version 1 of WATO. Version 2 includes new probability numbers taken from an update to Ancestry’s paper. See Leah’s article: Improving the Odds. The main improvement is that it now has much more detail for small matches.

You can switch from Version 1 to 2 very easily, so I did and I recalculated. Here’s the revised table:


To tell the truth, it really changed the results. Now the conclusion is that Brother is the most likely relationship and that scenario is 37 times more likely than Half-Brother.

So make sure you use Version 2 of WATO to get the best probabilities.

Additional Idea: If you have more than one tester on the other side of the tree, you can calculate all the match values for each scenario for each of them, and then simply multiply out (or geometric mean) the “Product” line for each of them.

For example, in the above table, if I had a second person that gave Product numbers of 0.0000385 for Brother, 0.0000655 for Half-Brother and 0.0000073 for 1st Cousin, then

GMean(Brother) = (0.0000033505 * 0.0000385) ^ (1/2) = 0.0000114
GMean(Half-Brother) = (0.0000000901  * 0.000655) ^ (1/2) = 0.0000024
GMean(1st Cousin) = (0.0000000 * 0.0000073) ^ (1/2) = 0.0000000

If you don’t know what a geometric mean is, then just use a simple average which should still tell you which scenario is most likely.

Does WATO work well with Endogamous populations?

2020. október 26., hétfő 2:05:46

I’ve been quiet lately because I’ve been enjoying doing some research with my wife’s cousin Terry Lasky on one branch of their common families. Terry has got several dozen of his relatives on that side of the family to do DNA tests.

One aspect of what we are doing led to Jennifer Mendelsohn suggesting to me that we try WATO – the What Are the Odds tool built by Leah LaPerle Larkin and Jonny Perl.

I was concerned that the endogamy in our matches might add too much to the shared cM of two people. And I was also worried that the shared cM values that Family Tree DNA gives which are higher than the Ancestry DNA’s numbers would cause additional problems.

If WATO would not work for our known relationships, then we should not use it for our unknown relationships, meaning a test is required first.

Family Tree DNA data for a Known Relationship

So first step is to test WATO on a relationship which includes endogamy for a a person that has just one known pair of common ancestors with the other people. So there’s no other close multiple relationships that we know of other than the distant endogamy.

I took one of our starting ancestors, Moshe and Wife 3, who had three children. We have 14 DNA testers who between the children are 2C, 2C1R and 3C to each other. I took the 14th and made him the hypothesis and I created this with the WATO tool:

 WATO Tree for Endogamy(click on the image above to expand it)

So I created 11 hypothesis. 1, 2 and 3 are descendants of a child of Grace. 4, 5 and 6 are descendants of a child of Grace who is a half-sibling of Grace’s other children. 7, 8 and 9 are descendants of a full sibling of Grace, and 10 and 11 are descendants of a half sibling of Grace.

Each line of hypothesis is a half generation further away than the previous. And interestingly enough, the possible hypothesis marked in green move up a generation to compensate for this difference.

WATO’s gives you the calculated probabilities of each hypothesis:


So this is staying that Hypothesis 5, that this person is a child of a half-sibling of Grace’s other children is the most likely and is 52 times more likely than Hypothesis 2. Three other are possible and the rest are not statistically possible.

I love the detailed score calculation that Leah and Jonny put together. It gives you everything you’d ever want to know about each relationship in each hypothesis. And you can see how the probabilities were arrived at:


Now can you guess which Hypothesis is the correct one?  (spoiler below)

Family Tree DNA data stripping out small < 7 cM Matches

I had thought that WATO was based on the numbers from Blaine Bettinger’s Shared cM project. As I was calculating and writing the above, Jonny Perl responded to one of my posts on Facebook and said:

“The probabilities are actually separate from the shared cM project. In WATO v1 they’re from Ancestry’s white paper on matching and in v2 they are extrapolated from the probabilities AncestryDNA displays in the popup when you click on the cM amount.”

So I asked Jonny if it might be better to use Ancestry shared cM with WATO than to use Family Tree DNA data with it.  He said yes, and pointed me to his Individual Match Filter tool (IMF) to strip Family Tree DNA  matches back to a certain threshold (default is 7 cM).

Well Terry had done most of this work already for me and had many of the Family Tree DNA shared cM values already stripped back to only include 7 cM or larger values. I’m sure Terry would have liked to have known about Jonny’s tool as it would have saved him a lot of time.

I plotted Terry’s filtered numbers versus the non-filtered and got this relationship:


Notice this is a pretty strong relationship, and you can see that the trend line gives a pretty good estimate of what the filtered Family Tree DNA shared cM should be. The equation is basically saying that subtracting 50 cM from your unfiltered value will give you a decent filtered value. It should work okay for values greater than 100 cM, but obviously won’t be as good for smaller values.

Now I’ll use the filtered Family Tree DNA values in WATO instead of the unfiltered and we’ll see what happens:

WATO Tree for Endogamy (1)

This gives 5 feasible hypotheses with Hypothesis 2 coming on top being 8 times more likely than Hypothesis 5.


Ancestry DNA data for the same Known Relationship

Jonny’s comment also prompted me to try our Ancestry DNA matches. 11 of our 14 people above had originally tested at Ancestry DNA and those tests were later uploaded to FTDNA, so we still have 10 people we can compare with our 11th.

Putting in the Ancestry DNA shared cM values, we get this:


The Ancestry cM values we put in were actually not too different than the filtered FTDNA values. In fact, the biggest difference between them was 35 cM  The conclusion is the same with Hypothesis 2 being ahead of Hypothesis 5, but only being about 2 times more likely.


The Answer and Some Observations

The correct hypothesis is Hypothesis 2.

So it does seem that WATO is doing a good job and picked the correct Hypothesis with both the filtered FTDNA data and the Ancestry data.

Even though there are a few choices of possible valid Hypothesis, adding the known generational level of the tester and/or their age, will help to invalidate some and make one more likely.

I was worried that the endogamy would be a factor, but it seems not to be. Only the unfiltered FTDNA did not pick the correct answer on its number one hypothesis, and that is due to the many extra segments (about 50 cM worth) included in those numbers. As a result, it preferred to pick the hypothesis which was a half generation higher.

So this tells me that you needn’t worry about endogamy when using WATO. Just be sure to use either filtered FTDNA data (eliminating matches less than 7 cM) or use Ancestry DNA shared cM.

DNA Short Snappy Opinions

2020. augusztus 22., szombat 21:06:22

Lots has been happening on the DNA analysis front in the past few months. Lots of very divergent opinions on a whole bunch of issues.

Here are my opinions. You are free to agree or disagree, but these are mine.


  • Ancestry has had performance issues. Couldn’t they have been more honest to say performance is the reason for their cease and desist orders to the 3rd party screen scrapers who have been providing useful utilities.
  • I just hate the endless scrolling screens. Bring back paging, please.
  • The 6 and 7 total cM matches that Ancestry will be deleting definitely include people who have a higher probability of being related, but not because of the small DNA match which is likely false and too distant a match to ever track.
  • The 6 and 7 total cM matches are also being deleted because of their performance issues.   
  • I in no way trust Ancestry’s Timber algorithm, especially with the longest segment length being labeled as pre-Timber to explain why it’s longer than the post-Timber total cM. Now none of their numbers make sense.
  • Longest segment length is not as helpful if you have to look at it one by one. Why didn’t they show it in the match list and let us sort by it?
  • Let us download our match list, please.
  • Thinking Ancestry will ever give us a chromosome browser is a pipe dream.


  • I love that they show your ethnicity on a chromosome map. This is in my opinion, a very underutilized feature by DNA testers.
  • Their Family Tree generated from just your DNA matches is a fantastic innovation.
  • A month ago, some people were able to add any of their DNA matches to that family tree. They’ve never announced this and it still hasn’t rolled out to me yet. What’s the problem here? Release it, please!
  • If my matches don’t opt in, I don’t want to know that. Please give me 2000 matches rather than 1361 matches that I can see and 639 that I can’t.


  • Lot’s of innovation that they don’t get enough credit for, e.g. their assignment of Paternal / Maternal / Both to your matches based on the Family Tree you build.
  • Keeps your DNA for a looooooong time! Will be useful for future tests that don’t exist now on your relatives who passed away.
  • Best Y-DNA and mtDNA analysis for those who can make use of it.
  • Take advantage of their Projects if you can!
  • Nobody should see segment matches down to 1 cM, or have them included in your match totals. Pick a more reasonable cutoff, please.

MyHeritage DNA

  • I hate, hate, hate, did I say hate, imputation and splicing.
  • As a result of the aforementioned, I believe MyHeritage has the most inaccurate matching and ethnicities of the major services.
  • Showing triangulations on their chromosome browser is their best advanced feature that no one else has. 
  • I love that you are working with 3rd parties, and include features that others won’t such as AutoClusters.
  • How about some features to connect your DNA matches to your tree, like Ancestry and 23andMe and Family Tree DNA have?

Living DNA

  • They’ve missed out on a golden opportunity. They had the whole European market available.
  • Three years ago they launched and promised shared matches and a chromosome browser, which they’ve still not implemented.
  • Your ethnicity in no way works for me unless you add a Jewish category.


  • I feel so sorry for GEDmatch’s recent troubles. They are trying so hard.
  • Great tools. Love the new Find Common Ancestors from DNA Matches tool that compares your GEDCOM with the GEDCOM files of your matches. Would love it more if I had any results from it.
  • They let you analyze anyone’s DNA, but don’t let you download your own tool-manipulated raw data.  Doesn’t that seem backwards?
  • Over 100 cold cases have been solved using DNA to identify the suspect. I loved CeCe Moore’s Genetic Detective series. I can’t figure why more people won’t opt-in their DNA for police use.

ToTheLetter DNA and KeepSake DNA

  • C’mon guys. We all want the stamps and envelopes our ancestors licked analyzed. This sounded so promising a couple of years ago. What’s taking so long?

Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS)

  • Sorry, but today’s WGS technology will never improve relative matching the way some people think it will. Current chip-based testing already does as good a job you can do when you’re dealing with unphased data.
  • Today’s WGS short read technology is too short. Today’s WGS long read technology is too inaccurate.
  • The breakthrough will come once accurate long reads can sequence and phase the entire genome with a single de novo assembly (no reference required) for $100.
  • PacBio is leading the way with their unbiased accurate long read SMRT technology that is not subject to repeat errors. It just needs to be about 100 times longer and remain accurate and we’re there. Optimistically: 5 years for the technology and 10 years for the price to come down.

Proof or Hint?

2020. július 19., vasárnap 18:05:07

Have you heard the big hubbub going on in genetic genealogy circles?  Ancestry will be dropping your 6 and 7 cM matches from your match list.


In my case, I have 192,306 DNA matches at Ancestry. Of those, 54,498 matches are below 8 cM meaning Ancestry will drop over 28% of the the people on my match list.

The Proof Corner

Many of the DNA experts understand that a 6 or 7 cM segment is small and is rarely useful for proof of anything. That is totally true. As Blaine Bettinger states, small segment are “poison”. They are often false matches. When they are not, those segments are usually too many generations back to be used as “proof” of the connection.

I am not talking about Y-DNA or mtDNA here. Those have provable qualities in them. I’m talking about autosomal matching, you know, the DNA where the amount of DNA you share with a cousin reduces with each generation and you can be a 3rd cousin with someone and not share anything.

The only reasonable way to use autosomal segment matches as a “proof” is to use the techniques Jim Bartlett developed for Walking an Ancestor Back. This technique uses combinations of MRCAs on the same ancestral line, e.g. a 2C, a 3C, a 5C and a 7C all matching on the same segment who are on the same line. Jim has been able to do this successfully only because he has an extensive family tree and has rigorously mapped all his matches into triangulation groups over his whole genome. This is something that 99.9% of us will never attempt.

Note that Jim only includes matches that triangulate that are at least 7 cM. He is also aware that small segments may be false even when triangulated, so he excludes them.

But too often, people find through a DNA match a new 7th cousin, and find a family tree connection to them, and then claim that the DNA match proves the connection. This is so untrue on so many fronts.

Or people find two relatives who have a segment match that starts and/or ends at the same position as another DNA match. They then use this as proof of their connection to Charlemagne. Now doesn’t that sound ridiculous?

The Hint Corner

So why the worry of eliminating these mostly false, poison matches that can’t prove anything from your Ancestry DNA match list? It’s because they are hints.

As genealogists, we are using our DNA matches to find possible relatives that have common ancestors with us. We do that to extend our tree outwards and up. Any person who may have researched a part of our tree and have information about our relatives and ancestors that we don’t have is a very welcome find. (Hopefully they’ll respond to our email!)

So of my 192,306 matches, the closest 1% are the best candidates for me to research and see if I can connect them.

What about the other 99%? Surely, some of them might turn up to be a closer cousin than expected, or be along a line that I have researched deeper.

Obviously, none of us can spend the rest of our lives researching 190,000 matches one by one. So what do we do. We filter them to get interesting candidates, via:

1. A match who shares a common ancestor.

2. Match name who matches a surname in our tree

3. Surname in matches’ tree who matches one of ours

4. Birth location in matches’ tree that is a place our ancestors were from, or our relatives now live.


5. Shared matches who match with some of our DNA matches who we already have in our tree.

6. ThruLines, which compares the trees of our DNA matches for us and gives us possible family connections that we can investigate.

The people we find through any of these 6 methods (and other similar methods) is a way to take an unmanageable list of 192,000 people and select a subset for us to look at. Our hope (we don’t know this for sure) is that this will include more people who we’ll be able to connect to our family, and exclude the ones who are less likely.

So what most people are lamenting is not the loss of 28% of their DNA matches, but a loss of 28% of the hints they might be able to use.


If you want, there are ways to save some of the 6 and 7 cM matches that Ancestry will soon be eliminating. I won’t describe them here since many others already have. See Randy Seaver’s summary.

But please, don’t spend the next few weeks robotically marking the tens of thousands of small matches so that you don’t lose them. Yes, maybe one of them will turn out to be a hint one day. But you’ve got all your other matches to work with as well. You won’t run out of things to do, I guarantee it.

Addendum:  July 29, 2020:

If small DNA matches of 6 or 7 cM at Ancestry DNA cannot be used to prove a connection, because they are either false matches, or are too many generations back to confirm their ancestral path, then why can they be used as hints?

Answer: Simply because if you take a random selection of, say, 20,000 DNA testers at Ancestry, some of them will be relatives of yours. They may not actually share DNA with you, since 3rd cousins and further need not, but they could be people whose family tree connects to yours.

Basically, Ancestry DNA is giving you hints by simply giving you a large random selection of DNA testers. Their filtering tools (surname, place) may narrow those down to possible relatives, who don’t necessarily share any actual DNA with you.    
But these hints are better than just random hints. They will likely be people who share more ethnicity with you than a random DNA tester at Ancestry would.

For example, Ancestry has me at 100% European Jewish. If I compare myself with my first 6 cM match at Ancestry, I get this:


This 6 cM match of mine also has 100% European Jewish ethnicity.

To see if this was generally the case, I took my closest 20 matches, and my first 20 matches at 40 cM, at 20 cM, 15 cM, 10 cM, 9 cM, 8 cM, 7 cM and 6 cM. I marked down what percentage of European Jewish they had. Then I sorted each group of 20 highest to lowest. I get this:


Of the 180 matches I checked 179 had some European Jewish Ancestry. Over half of the matches also had 100% European Jewish ethnicity and many of them have 50% or more.

There is a much greater chance that I might find a connection to someone with European Jewish ancestry than someone without any, so these are good hints. Using ancestral surname and place filtering tools, I might find that some of these people are relatives and they can help me extend my family tree.

Does that mean that we share DNA?  Not necessarily. The matches, especially the small ones, may be false matches.,

Or we may actually share DNA. but the segments we share may not be coming from the common ancestor we found, but may be from another more distant line that we’ll never find, or it may be (especially in my case) general background noise from distant ancestors due to endogamy. We don’t know and cannot tell.

None-the-less, these matches are hints that might connect you to a relative.

Revisiting 23andMe’s Family Tree

2020. július 10., péntek 7:18:28

A very exciting day for me today, as most of you reading this will relate to. A second cousin of mine who I know showed up on my 23andMe match list. She matched me with 3.1% = 234 cM on 19 segments, which is exactly where she should be according to The Shared cM Project tool.

I have 9 other cousins who have have tested at 23andMe and match me. What makes this newly tested cousin different from the other 9 is that she’s on my mother’s side! All my previous known matches at 23andMe were on my father’s side.

So now I can finally get some maternal information from my 23andMe matches. A second cousin is perfect because we share great-grandparents and she will allow me to cluster my maternal matches into my mother’s father’s side, the side she is on.

23andMe’s Family Tree

I last looked at 23andMe’s Family Tree last September in my article: 23andMe’s Family Tree Beta.

My tree as calculated by 23andMe back then included 13 of my DNA matches. It placed 8 on my father’s side and 5 on my mother’s side.

My automated tree today has two more of my matches included, so there are now 15. The 8 circled matches at the left are on my father’s side. The 7 circled matches at the right are on my mother’s side. The people circled in blue are the 5 relatives in the tree that I know how I’m related to. One is a 1C1R who is the granddaughter of my uncle, so she shares both my paternal grandparents with me and I show her above the “F”. The other 4 are all on my father’s father’s side, and they are in the “FF” section. I do have a few relatives on my father’s mother’s side that tested, but 23andMe decided not to include them in my automated tree. There are 10 matches that I don’t know how they are related to me. But the tree hypothesizes that 1 is on my father’s father’s side, 2 are on my father’s mother’s side, and 7 are on my mother’s side. (Click the image below for a larger version)


23andMe has not yet included my new mother-side match on my tree. They only recalculate the tree from time to time and I’d have to wait until they do it again to see if they add my cousin to it.

Of those 7 people hypothesized to be on my mother’s side, 3 are with one parent and 4 are with the other. So once my cousin is added, presumably the group of 3 or the group of 4 would be with her on my mother’s father’s side and the other group would be on my mother’s mother’s side.

But then I saw that I don’t have to wait for 23andMe’s recalculation.

At the top left of the tree is this symbol:

When I click on it, it brings up this box with unplaced relatives:


I have 5 people shown at the bottom. You have to scroll to the right to see the other two. The person on the left is my newly tested cousin. The other 4 are people I don’t know how I’m related to.

Clicking on the little info symbol next to the “Unplaced Relatives” text gives:


Clicking on the “Learn more” link gives:


Well 5 minutes doesn’t sound so bad. Let’s see what happens when I reset my tree.

Recalculating the 23andMe Family Tree

I press the “Yes, delete my edits and recalculate my tree” button, and it gives this:


Okay. 5 to 10 minutes isn’t so bad either.  Back at the tree, they actually show progress:


Now it’s saying less than 1 minute. Sheesh!  After about what turns out to be 3 minutes, I get this message:


I’m doing this on a Thursday evening at 7 p.m. CDT. Is this a busy time?

I wait a couple of minutes and of course I don’t believe them and don’t want to wait until tomorrow, so I go back up to the 23andMe main menu, and under Family & Friends, select “Family Tree”


Sure enough, I didn’t have to wait a day. It displays my new tree:


Now it only shows 6 of my DNA matches. Pressing the symbol in the top left, it now shows this:


So it moved 9 of my previously placed matches into the Unplaced Relatives list. That list now has those 9 plus the 5 that I had before I had them recalculate the tree, plus the 8 non-tested relatives (e.g. my parents, grandparents, uncle, cousin, etc.) that I had previously manually added to my tree.

The recalculation placed some of my paternal cousins at the wrong generational level. But that’s no problem. Since the beta 10 months ago, 23andMe has added the ability to move people in the tree, and even move a whole branch of the tree:


The link the often show that says “View our guide:” takes you to 23andMe’s illustrative guide of How to build and edit your Family Tree, which is worth a read. In there, you’ll see that you not only can add people to your tree, but you can include their date and place of birth and death and add a photo. I’m not sure why entering the birth and death information is currently useful, since that information doesn’t show up in the tree. But maybe 23andMe has planned a use for it that they’ve not implemented yet.

Unfortunately, the one person I really wanted automatically added, my new DNA testing relative on my mother’s side, was not placed. That would have separated out my maternal sides. But now it wouldn’t have helped anyway, because the 7 people they previously placed on my maternal side were now all with the Unplaced Relatives. So placing my 2nd cousin without those 7 on the tree no longer will allow me to divide them up into my MF and MM sides. Sad smile

My New 23andMe’s Family Tree

I can easily add my new cousin, because I know where she goes. But I can’t add the people that the recalculation removed from the tree because I don’t know how I’m related to them. It would have been nice if 23andMe could have left them in. The algorithm must have changed somewhat. Maybe those people were previously placed inaccurately.

So be aware. You may lose some of 23andMe’s theories if you recalculate. Make sure you record how everyone is connected before you get it to do the recalculation.

Now my tree has 6 DNA relatives whose relationship I know. There is only one theory remaining. My tree now looks like this, with my father’s side now being on the right side.


I’ve circled in green the 6 relatives I have that I know are placed correctly. Circled in red is the one relative that remains as 23andMe’s theory.

23andMe has left me with 13 people in my Unplaced Relatives that I cannot place.

I also have 5 relatives among my matches that I know how I’m related, but 23andMe’s Family Tree chose not to include them. I could add them to the correct place on 23andMe’s Family Tree. But they would not be connected to their DNA match information. It would be nice if 23andMe would allow you to select people from your match list. I think I’ll suggest that to them via their survey at the bottom of Your Family Tree page.

Updating My Double Match Triangulator 23andMe Results

I last tried DMT on my 23andMe data last October:  Using DMT, Part 1: My 23andMe Data. Since I only had paternal matches back then, DMT couldn’t do much with my maternal side other than classifying which matches it calculated were maternal. What it gave me back then was this:


So now I’ll just do this exercise again. I’ll use DNAGedcom Client to download a new set of segment match files from 23andMe (see DMT’s help file for how to do this).

The segment match files I’ll download will be for myself and the 10 relatives I know how I’m related to. Each takes about 10 minutes for DNAGedcom to gather, so I’ll do them while I’m working on something else.

Two Hours Later

I put the 11 segment match files into a folder. I start DMT and select my own segment match file as File A. I have DMT create my People file with all my matches. Now I go through and add the MRCA for my 10 known relatives (9 of which are shown below):


Now I set Folder B to the folder containing all the match files and I let ‘er rip.

Double Match Triangulator clusters my matches into these groups. Compare this to the table above:


I have 199 more matches than I did last October.  The percentages are about the same as they used to be with the exception that DMT was able to pick out 201 of the maternal matches and associate them with my mother’s father’s cluster, due to their segment matches with my newly tested cousin.

Also, last October, I was only able to paint grandparents or further over 46.1% of my paternal DNA and none of my maternal side.  Now with my new data including my newly tested cousin, I’m able to paint 46.8% of my paternal side and 25.6% of my maternal side as well.

Uploading the DNA Painter file that DMT produces with this latest run into DNA Painter now gives this:


This is very similar to what I got 10 months ago, but now a significant amount of my maternal grandfather’s side (MF, in red) also gets painted. That’s a nice chunk of additional painting that DMT was able to add.

That one person whose relationship that I don’t know that 23andMe added to my tree (see the last tree above, red circle, far right) they included as a second cousin once removed on my father’s father’s mother’s side. DMT puts that person in my FF (father’s father’s) cluster. DMT cannot work this any further back because I don’t have any cousins tested who I know are on either my FFF or FFM side for it to use. So 23andMe’s estimation of FFM is a good theory and could be correct. Now I’ll just have to trace his family tree and see if we can connect. Smile

VGA Webinar: “Your DNA Raw Data & WYCDWI”

2020. július 6., hétfő 2:21:15

In just over a week, on Tuesday July 14, 2020 at 8:00 pm EDT, I’ll be giving a live online talk for the Virtual Genealogical Association @VirtualGenAssoc

2020 07 14 Kessler (002) 

The description of my talk is:

Presenter Louis Kessler explains those mysterious files that we download from DNA testing companies, helps us to understand what’s in them, and shows us the ways we can make use of them. He will also discuss whether Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) tests are worthwhile for genealogists.

I hope you come and join me for this.

To register for my presentation, you’ll need to be a member of the Virtual Genealogical Association. Annual Dues are only $20 USD, and that gives you free registration for a year to any of their regular webinars as well as handouts and other benefits. Upcoming webinars include:

  • Tuesday, July 14 at 8 pm EDT - Louis Kessler presents
    “Your DNA Raw Data & What You Can Do With It”
  • Sunday, July 26 at 1 pm EDT - Sara Gredler presents
    “Successfully Searching the Old Fulton New York Postcards Website”
  • Saturday, August 1, 2020 EDT - Jessica Trotter presents
    “Occupational Records: Finding Work-Related Paper Trails”
  • Friday, August 7, 2020 at 8:00 pm EDT - Ute Brandenburg presents
    “Research in East and West Prussia
  • Tuesday, August 18, 2020 at 8:00 pm EDT - Caroline Guntur presents
    “Introduction to Swedish Genealogy”
  • Sunday, August 23, 2020 at 1 pm EDT - Julie Goucher presents
    “Researching Displaced People”
  • Saturday, Sept 5, 2020 at 11:00 am EDT - Sara Campbell presents
    “Using Historic Maps of New England and Beyond”
  • Tuesday, Sept 15, 2020 at 8:00 pm EDT - Tammy Tipler-Priolo presents
    “Simple Steps to Writing Your Ancestors’ Biographies”
  • Sunday, Sept 20, 2020 at 1:00 pm EDT - Tamara Hallo presents
    “How to Get the Most Out of”
  • Friday, Sept 25, 2020 at 8:00 pm EDT - Annette Lyttle presents
    “Finding & Using Digitized Manuscript Collections for Genealogical Research”
  • Saturday, Oct 3, 2020 at 11:00 am EDT - Patricia Coleman presents
    “Beginning with DNA Painter: Chromosome Mapping”
  • Sunday, Oct 11, 2020 at 1:00 pm EDT - Kristin Brooks Barcomb presents
    “Understanding & Correlating U.S. World War I Records & Resources”
  • Tuesday, Oct 20, 2020 at 8:00 pm EDT - Christine Johns Cohen presents
    “Lineage & Hereditary Societies: Why, Where, When, What & How?”
  • Sunday, November 22, 2020 at 1:00 pm EST - Judy Nimer Muhn presents
    “Researching French-Canadians in North America”
  • Tuesday, November 24, 2020 at 8:00 pm EST - Marian B. Wood presents
    “Curate Your Genealogy Collection – Before Joining Your Ancestors!”
  • Tuesday, Dec 1, 2020 at 8:00 pm EST - Diane L. Richard presents
    “The Organizational Power of Timelines”
  • Friday, Dec 4, 2020 at 8:00 pm EST - Nancy Loe presents
    “Using Macs and iPads for Genealogy”
  • Sunday, Dec 13, 2020 at 1:00 pm EST - Jean Wilcox Hibben presents
    “Family History Can Heal Family Present”

Notice they vary the day of the week and the time of the day to accommodate people all over the world with different schedules.

If you are unable to attend a talk live that you wanted to, members have access to recordings of the last six months of webinars. Some of the past webinars that you can still access if you join now include:

  • Pam Vestal presented
    “20 Practical Strategies to Find What You Need & Use What You Find”
  • Mary Cubba Hojnacki presented
    ”Beginning Italian Research”
  • Alec Ferretti presented
    ”Strategies To Analyze Endogamous DNA”
  • Renate Yarborough Sanders presented
    ”Researching Formerly Enslaved Ancestors: It Takes a Village”
  • Megan Heyl presented
    ”Road Trip Tips: Don’t Forget To…”
  • Lisa A. Alzo presented
    ”Finding Your Femme Fatales: Exploring the Dark Side of Female Ancestors”
  • Lisa Lisson presented
    ”How To Be A Frugal Genealogist”
  • Michelle Tucker Chubenko presented
    ”Using the Resources of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum”
  • Cheri Hudson Passey presented
    ”Evidence: Direct, Indirect or Negative? It Depends!”
  • Kate Eakman presented
    ”William A. James’ 30 May 1944 Death Certificate”

While you’re at it, clear off your calendars from Nov 13 to 15 for the VGA’s annual Virtual Conference. Many great speakers and topics. There is a $59 fee for members and $79 for non-members. If the Conference interests you, then why not join the VGA right now for $20 and enjoy a year of upcoming webinars and 6 months of past webinars for free!


I’ve been a member of the Virtual Genealogical Association since it started in April 2018. They are always on the lookout for interesting speakers with interesting topics. If you would like to propose a talk, they are now accepting submissions for 2021 webinars and the 2021 Virtual Conference. Deadline for submission is August 30, 2020.