Tuesday, April 16, 2019

DNA Web Site of My Dreams (*does not yet exist)

I am a tech geek but my normal environment is system configuration and security. I can install and configure systems, make a given system work and can suggest configuration changes that will help secure it. I am not a developer. When it comes to writing code, I can do html (web) and basic scripting. I cannot develop a full program or web page. While I can't write a program, I do understand what goes into it and can estimate the difficulty of implementing a given feature. Hearing about the updates to various DNA testing company tools, it made me think, "This is a good update. This should help. But why can't they do...." and I started listing off various things that I would think should be relatively easy to accomplish. Then I thought, why not put it in a blog post and maybe a developer at one of these testing companies might read it and start working on some of these wish list features. I will include a few features that already exist but they don't exist on every service so I'm going to include them. So here we go!

Browse a match's posted tree - How can Ancestry show you a match but not allow you to see the tree this match posted without paying for a monthly subscription?Family Tree DNA has the ability to browse trees without additional fees, which is great but their implementation is pretty kludgy.

Chromosome Browser - This is a no-brainer. Why Ancestry doesn't have one is beyond me.

In-common with and not in-common with. Family Tree DNA has both of these. Ancestry only gives you the ability to search for matches that you have in common with another match. If I had my mother tested through Ancestry, I wouldn't have the ability to search for matches that don't match her like I do at Family Tree DNA. This is the simplest way to see who matches me on my father's side since his DNA was not tested.

Automated Clustering - Automatic clustering is available through Genetic Affairs and My Heritage. This is a great tool that should seriously help virtually all genetic genealogists. Every DNA testing service should have this feature. I'd add in the ability to notate the different clusters with what you know about their in-common ancestry.

Cluster tags in DNA match lists - In addition to allowing you to view your clusters, the clusters your matches belong to should be automatically (but optionally) color-coded onto their entry in your match list. This will allow you to tell at a glance who in your list a given match may be related to.

Ancestor/Branch color tagging - Users should be able to add a colored tag based on what branch the user has determined this match is related on. This would be similar to Ancestry's advanced matches feature. This way, you can look at your match list and see what branch a given match is related to you on and, in combination with the cluster tags mentioned above, could allow you to see members of a cluster that are related to a match that you know the branch you are related on.

DNA Painter - I'd love to have the ability to use a DNA Painter type of tool that allows me to customize my chromosome browser by labeling different parts of my DNA with color-coded segments that I've determined came from specific ancestors and, at the same time, show me who matches on those segments.

Notes visible from match list - You don't need to see the entire note but a snippet of the beginning of a note sure would help.

Auto-conversion and normalization of place names to historical names and cross-check with matches' place names - With any given place name, there are a myriad of ways to spell it, write it out and differences in place names in different historical times so that any two given genealogists might document their ancestor's place of birth differently, even if it is the exact same place. One example is the place of my great-grandfather, Aloys Panther's birth. Officially, today, I believe you'd want to document this place as Mösbach, Ortenaukreis, Baden, Germany. However, when he was born, it would more accurately be known as Mösbach, Baden since Germany didn't even exist until 1873. An alternative spelling for this village is Moesbach and others may, less accurately, spell it as Mosbach, and thus confuse it with another larger town in Baden. Many people don't add the district Ortenaukreis, just like many people in the US don't write their county after their city. Google can take any number of different place names and find them on Google Maps and Google Earth. I believe the DNA testing companies should also be able to cross-reference these locations and show me when my matches have the same place names or even nearby place names for their ancestors.

One or more customizable check boxes on your match list. You could create a few check boxes based on your own checklist. Maybe one for "Reviewed" meaning you've looked at this contact's posted tree. Maybe one for "Contacted" meaning you've emailed this person. Maybe one for any given bulk task you are working on.

Corrected and Updated ThruLines - Ancestry's ThruLines is great in concept but not so great in execution. The biggest problem I see is where a relative might have someone in their tree in the correct spot but there are big errors in it. For example, I have someone that has my grandfather, Benedict Panther in their tree, but has the name incorrect. They have his correct birth, marriage and death dates but list his name as Benjamin Panther. Even though it's a similar name, it is a different name and one that I know that he hated. My mother told me stories that her dad hated it when someone called him Benjamin. I should have the ability, once I review any documentation and position in their tree, to stop seeing this incorrect information. I realize this is someone else's tree but it's wrong and I know it's wrong. It's not a matter of personal opinion.

And how about the ability to hide or notate ancestors in ThruLines so if there's nothing new there, I don't have to dig into it to see that this is the case. At any given time that I want to verify there are no new connections through ThruLines, I have to browse into each of my ancestors and compare it to what I've already seen.

The ability to search matches' surname and location list at the same time. Seeing that I have a dozen people that have Miller as an ancestral surname doesn't help me any. Miller is so common I'd bet that close to half of the population of European descent has Miller somewhere in their ancestry. The problem is that they are not related to my Millers. In fact, given such a common name, you'd be shocked how few Millers I'm actually related to. I'm aware of my siblings and their children and one first cousin. I believe I'm related to a few Mullers of this same yDNA line that changed their last name slightly differently than my branch did. That's it. I'd bet that I'm related to less than twenty individuals with the surname of Miller or Muller in the United States. Being able to search a surname list for Miller or Muller in New York City or Esslingen, Germany would be much more helpful.

I'm sure there are many more features I'd like that I just can't think of at the moment. What features would you like to see in your DNA analysis web site that you'd like to suggest to the DNA testing companies?



  1. Have you tried the tools on Rootsfinder yet? What I have seen of them would make another excellent addition to your perfect website. They take the test results from most of the major DNA testing sites and have triangulation tools and other ways to play with the results that are very interesting.

    1. I have not tried the tools on Rootsfinder yet. Triangulation between matches from all major testing companies would be huge! GEDMatch sort of does this but only for those that purposefully download their raw data and upload it to GEDMatch. Of course, this tool would need to pare down that list to get rid of duplicates since many people, especially genealogists, test with multiple companies. That is a great addition to this list. Thank you!

  2. Hi, I do support for RootsFinder.com. You have an intriguing list. Much of this we already do--filtering, automatic clustering, McGuire Charts, Rings, Chromosome browser,tagging to your tree, and color coding. We pride ourselves on being responsive to user suggestions and needs. I will forward the rest of your list to our programming staff.