Identify Your Ancestors – Follow Nested Ancestral Segments

I don’t suppose that we actively take into consideration our DNA segments as nested ancestors, like Russian Matryoshka dolls, however they’re.

That’s precisely why phase data is essential for genealogists. Each phase, and each portion of a phase, has an extremely necessary historical past. In truth, you can say that the additional again in time we are able to monitor a phase, the extra necessary it turns into.

Let’s see the best way to unveil nested segments. I’ll use my chromosome 20 for instance as a result of it’s a smaller chromosome. However first, let’s begin with my pedigree chart.


Click on photos to enlarge.

Earlier than we discuss nested segments that originated with particular ancestors, it’s necessary to try the closest portion of my maternal pedigree chart. My DNA segments got here from and thru these individuals. I’ll be working with the primary 5 generations, starting with my mom as era #1.

Technology 1 – Mother and father

Within the first era, we obtain a duplicate of every chromosome from every guardian. I’ve a duplicate of chromosome 20 from my mom and a duplicate from my father.

At FamilyTreeDNA, you possibly can see that I match my mom on all the examined area of every chromosome.

Subsequently, all the size of every of my chromosomes is assigned to each mom and father as a result of I obtained a duplicate from every guardian. I’m lucky that my mom’s DNA was in a position to be examined earlier than she handed away.

We see that every copy of chromosome 20 is a complete of 110.20 cM lengthy with 17,695 SNPs.

In fact, my mom inherited the DNA on her chromosome 20 from a number of ancestors whose DNA mixed in her mother and father, a portion of which was inherited by my mom. Mother obtained one chromosome from every of her mother and father.

I inherited just one copy of every chromosome (On this case, chromosome 20) from Mother, so the DNA of her two mother and father was divided and recombined in order that I inherited a portion of my maternal chromosome 20 from each of my maternal grandparents.

Figuring out Maternal and Paternal Matches

Associating matches together with your maternal or paternal facet is simple at FamilyTreeDNA as a result of their Household Finder matching does it mechanically for you for those who add (or create) a tree and hyperlink matches that you may establish to their correct place in your tree.

FamilyTreeDNA then makes use of that matching phase data from recognized, recognized kinfolk in your tree to place individuals who match you each on at the very least one significant-sized phase within the right maternal, paternal, (or each) buckets. That’s triangulation, and it occurs mechanically. All it’s a must to do is click on on the Maternal tab to view your triangulated maternal matches. As you possibly can see, I’ve 1432 matches recognized as maternal. 

Another DNA testing corporations and third-party instruments present phase data and numerous kinds of triangulation data, however they aren’t automated on your complete match record like Family Finder matching at FamilyTreeDNA.

You may examine triangulation in motion at MyHeritage, here, 23andMe, here, GEDmatch, here, and DNAPainter, which we’ll use, here. Genetic Affairs AutoKinship tool incorporates triangulation, as does their AutoSegment Triangulation Cluster Tool at GEDmatch. I’ve compiled a reference resource for triangulation, here.

Each DNA testing vendor has individuals of their database that haven’t examined anyplace else. Your finest technique for locating nested segments and figuring out matches to particular ancestors is to check at or switch your DNA file to each vendor plus GEDmatch the place individuals who take a look at at Ancestry generally add for matching. Ancestry doesn’t present phase data or a chromosome browser so that you’ll generally discover Ancestry testers have uploaded to GEDmatch, FamilyTreeDNA  or MyHeritage the place phase data is available. I’ve created step-by-step download/upload instructions for all vendors, here.

Technology 2 – Grandparents

Within the second era, that means that of my grandparents, I inherited parts of my maternal and paternal grandmother’s and grandfather’s chromosomes.

My maternal and paternal chromosomes may be divided into two items or teams every, one for every grandparent.

Utilizing DNAPainter, we are able to see my father’s chromosome 20 on high and my mom’s on the underside. I’ve beforehand recognized segments assigned to particular ancestors that are represented by totally different colours on these chromosomes. You may learn extra about how to use DNAPainter, here.

We will divide the DNA inherited from every guardian into the DNA inherited from every grandparent based mostly on the timber of individuals we match. If we take a look at cousins from both sides, assigning segments maternally or paternally turns into a lot, a lot simpler. That’s precisely why I’ve examined a number of.

For the remainder of this text, I’m focusing solely on my mom’s facet as a result of the ideas and strategies are the identical no matter whether or not you’re working in your maternal facet or your paternal facet.

Utilizing DNAPainter, I expanded my mom’s chromosome 20 with the intention to see the entire individuals I’ve painted on my mom’s facet.

DNAPainter permits us to color matching segments from a number of testing distributors and assign them to particular ancestors as we establish widespread ancestors with our matches.

Based mostly on these matches, I’ve divided these maternal matches into two classes:

  • Maternal grandmother, that means my mom’s mom, bracketed in crimson bins
  • Maternal grandfather, that means my mom’s father, bracketed in black bins.

The textual content and arrows in these graphics consult with the colours of the brackets/bins, and NOT the colours of the segments beside individuals’s names. For instance, for those who have a look at the massive black field at far proper, you’ll see a number of individuals, with their matching segments recognized by a number of coloured bars. The totally different coloured segments (bars) imply I’ve related the match with totally different ancestors in a number of or numerous ranges of generations.

Technology 3 – Nice-grandparents

Inside these maternal and paternal grandparent segments, extra nested data is out there.

The black Ferverda grandfather segments are additional divided into black, from Hiram Ferverda, and gold from his spouse Eva Miller. The identical idea applies to the crimson grandmother segments which at the moment are divided into crimson representing Nora Kirsch and purple representing Curtis Lore, her husband.

Whereas I’ve solely been in a position to assign the primary 4 segments (on the high) to at least one particular person/ancestor, there’s a complete group of matches who share the grouping of segments at proper, in gold, descended by means of Eva Miller. The Miller line is Brethren and Mennonite with a lot of testers, so it is a widespread sample in my DNA matches.

Eva Miller, the gold ancestor, has two mother and father, Margaret Elizabeth Lentz and John David Miller, so her segments would come from these two sides.

Technology 4 and 5 – Fuschia Phase

I used to be in a position to monitor the phase proven in fuschia indicated by the blue arrow to Jacob Lentz and his spouse Fredericka Ruhle, German immigrant ancestors. Different individuals on this similar match (triangulation) group descend from Margaret Elizabeth Lentz and John David Miller – however that fuschia match is the one which exhibits us the place that phase originated. This permits us to assign that complete gold/blue bracketed set of segments to a particular ancestor or ancestral couple as a result of they triangulate, meaning they all match me and each other.

Subsequently, the entire segments that match with the fuschia phase additionally monitor again to Jacob Lentz and Fredericka Ruhle, or to their ancestors. We would wish individuals who descend from Jacob’s mother and father and/or Fredericka’s mother and father to find out the origins of that phase.

In different phrases, we all know all of those individuals share a standard supply of that phase, even when we don’t but know precisely who that widespread ancestor was or after they lived. That’s what the method of monitoring again discovers.

To be very clear, I obtained that phase by means of Jacob and Fredericka, however a few of these matches who I’ve not been in a position to affiliate with both Jacob or Fredericka could descend from both Jacob or Fredericka’s ancestors, not Jacob and Fredericka themselves. Connecting the dots between Jacob/Fredericka and their ancestors could also be enlightening as to the even older supply of that phase.

Let’s check out nested segments on my pedigree chart.

Nested Pedigree

Click on to enlarge.

You may see the development of nesting on my pedigree chart, utilizing the identical colours for the brackets/bins. The black Ferverda field on the grandparent degree encompasses all the paternal facet of my mom’s ancestry, and the crimson contains her mom’s complete facet. That is equivalent to the DNAPainter graphic, simply expressed on my pedigree chart as a substitute of my chromosome 20.

Then the black will get damaged into smaller nested segments of black, gold and fuschia, whereas the crimson will get damaged into crimson and purple.

If I had extra matches that may very well be assigned to ancestors, I might have much more nested ranges. In fact, if I used to be utilizing all of my chromosomes, not simply 20, I might be capable of return additional as effectively.

You may see that as we transfer additional again in time, the bracketed areas assigned to every colour develop into smaller and smaller, as do the precise segments as considered on my DNAPainter chromosomes.

Segments Get Progressively Smaller

You may see within the pedigree chart and phase portray above that the segments we inherit from particular ancestors divide over time. As we transfer additional and additional again in our tree, the segments inherited from any particular ancestor get smaller and smaller too.

Dr. Paul Maier within the MyOrigins 3.0 White Paper offers this informative graphic that exhibits the discount in segments and the variety of ancestors whose DNA we stock reaching again in time.

I consult with this as a porcupine chart.

Finally, we inherit no segments from crimson ancestors, and the items of DNA that we inherit from the distant blue ancestors develop into so small and fragmented that they can’t be positively recognized as coming from a particular ancestor when in comparison with and matched with different individuals. That’s why distributors don’t present small phase matches, though totally different distributors make the most of totally different phase thresholds.

The talk about how small is simply too small continues, however the reply just isn’t merely phase measurement alone. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all reply.

As segments develop into smaller, the likelihood, or probabilities that we match one other particular person by likelihood (IBC) will increase. Proof that somebody shares a particular ancestor, particularly when coping with more and more smaller segments is a operate of a number of components, similar to tree completeness for each individuals, shared matches, parental match affirmation, and extra. I wrote about What Constitutes Proof, here.

Within the Family Finder Matching White Paper, Dr. Maier offers this chart reflecting IBD (An identical By Descent) and IBC (An identical By Likelihood) segments and the related false positivity price. Meaning how possible you’re to match somebody on a phase of that measurement by likelihood and NOT since you each share the DNA from a standard ancestor.

I wrote Concepts: Identical by Descent, State, Population and Chance that can assist you higher perceive how this works.

Within the chart beneath, I’ve mixed the generations, relationships, # of ancestors, assuming no duplicates, delivery 12 months vary based mostly on an approximate 30-year era, p.c of DNA assuming precisely half of every ancestor’s DNA descends in every era (which we know isn’t exactly accurate), and the typical quantity of complete inherited cMs utilizing that very same assumption.

Word that starting with the 7th era, on common, we are able to anticipate to inherit lower than 1% of the DNA of an ancestor, or roughly 55 complete cM which can be inherited in a number of segments.

The quantity of actual cMs inherited in each generation can vary widely and explains why, starting with third cousins, some individuals gained’t share DNA from a standard ancestor above the assorted vendor matching thresholds. But, different cousins a number of generations eliminated will match. Inheritance is random.

Parallel Inheritance

With a view to match another person descended from that 11th era ancestor, BOTH you AND your match might want to have inherited the precise SAME DNA phase, throughout 11 generations EACH with the intention to match. Which means that 11 transmission occasions for every particular person might want to have taken place in parallel with that equivalent phase being handed from guardian to youngster in every line. For 22 rolls of the genetic cube in a row, the identical phase will get chosen to be handed on.

You may see why all of us must work to show that distant matches are legitimate.

The additional again in time we work, the extra components we should consider, and the extra confirming proof is required {that a} match with one other particular person is a results of a shared ancestor.

Having mentioned that, shared distant matches ARE the important thing to breaking by means of brick-wall ancestors. We simply must be certain we’re chasing the true deal and never a crimson herring.

Thrilling Prospects

Essentially the most thrilling risk is that some segments are literally handed intact for a number of generations, that means these segments don’t divide into segments too small for matching.

For instance, the 22 cM fuschia phase that tracks by means of generations 4 and 5 to Jacob Lentz and Fredericka Ruhle has been handed both intact or practically intact to all of these individuals who stack up and match one another and me on that phase. 22 cM is certainly NOT a small phase and we all know that it descended from both Jacob or Fredericka, or maybe mixed segments from every. In any case, if somebody from the Lentz line in Germany examined and matched me on that phase (and by inference, the remainder of these individuals too), we’d know that phase descended to me from Jacob Lentz – or at the very least the half we match on if we don’t match on all the phase.

That is precisely what nested segments are…breadcrumbs to ancestors.

A part of that 22cM phase may very well be descended from Jacob and half from Fredericka. Then of Jacob’s portion, for instance, items may descend from each his mom and father.

This is the reason we monitor particular person segments again in time to discern their origin.

The Promise of the Future

The promise of the longer term is when a gaggle of different individuals triangulate on a fairly sized phase AND know the place it got here from. Once we match that triangulation group, their recognized phase could effectively assist break down our brick partitions as a result of we match all of them on that very same phase.

It’s precisely this system that has helped me establish a Womack phase on my paternal line. I nonetheless haven’t recognized our widespread ancestor, however I’ve confirmed that the Womacks and my Moore/Rice household interacted as neighbors 8 generations in the past and certain settled collectively in Amelia county, migrating from japanese Virginia. In time, maybe I’ll be capable of establish the widespread Womack ancestor and the hyperlink into both my Moore or Rice strains.

I’m hoping for the same breakthrough on my mom’s facet for Philip Jacob Miller’s spouse, Magdalena, 7 generations again in my tree. We all know Magdalena was Brethren and the place they lived after they took up housekeeping. We don’t know who her mother and father had been. Nevertheless, there are literally thousands of Miller descendants, so it’s doable that ultimately, we will break down that brick wall by utilizing nested segments – ours and individuals who descend from Magdalena’s siblings, aunts, and uncles.

Whoever these individuals had been, at the very least a few of their descendants will possible match me and/or my cousins on at the very least one nested Miller phase that would be the similar phase recognized to their ancestors.

Family tree is a crew sport and fixing puzzles utilizing nested segments requires that somebody out there’s engaged on figuring out triangulated segments that monitor to their widespread ancestors – which will likely be my ancestors too. I’ve my fingers crossed that somebody is engaged on that triangulation group and I discover them or they discover me. In fact, I’m working to triangulate and establish my segments to particular ancestors – hoping for a gathering within the center – that much-desired bridge to the previous.

By the point you’ve run out of different data, nested segments are your final likelihood to establish these elusive ancestors. 

Do you will have genealogical brick partitions that nested segments may remedy?


Comply with DNAexplain on Facebook, here or follow me on Twitter, here. You can too subscribe to obtain emails once I publish articles by clicking the “Comply with” button at

You’re at all times welcome to ahead articles or hyperlinks to mates.

You Can Assist Out and It’s Free

I obtain a small contribution if you click on on among the hyperlinks to distributors in my articles. This does NOT enhance the value you pay however helps me to maintain the lights on and this informational weblog free for everybody. Please click on on the hyperlinks within the articles or to the distributors beneath in case you are buying merchandise or DNA testing.

Thanks a lot.

DNA Purchases and Free Uploads

Family tree Merchandise and Providers

My E-book

Family tree Books

Family tree Analysis