On this page we hope to facilitate the use of various genealogical tracking and DNA testing services to connect Riehle relatives, both near and distant. We will discuss these services generally and will look more closely at several of them.
Some of the services that one might want to considered here include:
- Ancestry.com – discussed below
- 23andMe – discussed below
- FamilySearch – Heard good things but have not used and cannot comment further
- FamilyTreeDNA – discussed below
- GEDmatch – discussed below
We welcome comments on any of these or other services. We would especially like to get comments on FamilySearch (family tree functionality) and FamilyTreeDNA’s Family Finder (atDNA testing) as we have no experience with either. Please comment below!
Those with little or no prior understanding of the science related to DNA may want to follow the Ancestry.com link (right) for a simple introduction into the underlying science. Of course Wikipedia and many other sources can provide a much deeper dive into the topic.
Many of the above listed services provide similar features while others specialize to a greater or lesser extent. Several provide health related DNA insights. In my case I had a specific question and knew 23andMe (only health service I used) would address that question, which they did satisfactorily. For wider DNA health screening it is generally recommended that you discuss this with your doctor to identify a specialized DNA testing service, the results of which he or she will then want to review with you.
A major ploy for the promotion of the various DNA testing services is the potential to trace ancestry to specific geographic regions. While this may have some limited accuracy in suggesting broad geographic patterns, in terms of any level of precision we have not been impressed.
We have quite a few DNA matches with relatives using the various services and have been able to use these to confirm DNA ancestry within the Wagshurst Riehle family using autosomal DNA (atDNA) back to Johannes Riehle, born in 1756. Of course in addition to our namesake male lineage we have made numerous relationship confirmations along other family lines. The most useful service for this work in our experience has been Ancestry.com for reasons discussed below.
In addition, we have Y-Haplogroup data providing confirmation of male ancestry back to Mathias Riehle, born in Wagshurst in 1697, and back down another branches of the Wagshurst line to a distant cousin. We were able to get an initial indication of this relationship with 23andMe data and are quite happy to have been able to do so (Ancestry.com does not provide mtDNA or Y-DNA haplogroup information). However the precision of the Y-DNA analysis at 23andMe can only provide evidence of a Y-DNA connection with a level of precision that falls short of certainty. For that reason we did additional testing with Family Tree DNA where more precise (and expensive) testing is available.
As indicated above, a valuable feature of 23andMe testing is the inclusion of mtDNA and Y-DNA haplogroup information. Although the depth of mutation data (subclade information) is limited, it does provide a starting point from which to assess the benefits of more in-depth testing.
Beyond mtDNA and Y-DNA, from what we have learned from 23andMe “DNA Relative” matching (primarily dependent on atDNA) we would encourage those who use this service to update your settings to show as much information as you are comfortable providing. This is done using the “DNA Relatives” settings. Here it is helpful to enter “Riehle” under the option labeled, “What are your ancestors’ family names”. This will make it easier for others who are identified as DNA Relatives to connect with you through a search using “Riehle” as the keyword. Of course it is probably also desirable for you to identify such other surnames as are of interest to you. Birthplaces for your grandparents and other ancestral locations are also useful for other users trying to understand the relationship of a genetic match.
23andMe also does a better job than Ancestry.com at showing the chromosomal details of your match with connected relatives (i.e., those who have agreed to a connect-request, with the resulting sharing of data). Especially interesting are the “Advanced DNA Comparisons” that shows segments of identical DNA along each chromosome.
For those using Ancestry.com, maintaining and linking to a public family tree on their site will be very helpful for establishing the line of connection between yourself and other users. The more generations of direct ancestry you can show, the more helpful it will be. This is especially valuable when using their ThruLines(TM) feature.
Keep in mind that these matches are only as accurate as the trees upon which they are based and if, as often happens, bad data has been copied from one tree to another, ThruLines(TM) might show a match based on the erroneous data.
This risk is present with any service that allows the sharing of family trees and if you are serious about the process your must assess the information offered and look for various sources in order to verify that information. That said, I will often add information from other trees to my own after only a quick sanity check of the information. If I ever want to truly rely on a connection I do a deeper dive into the copied information. This often becomes less challenging however when I have documented DNA connections through the individual in question or a close family member. If an ancestor or sibling of an ancestor that goes back only a few generations does not show any DNA connections the relationships become more doubtful and require more effort to verify. This can also reflect an adoption or a “paternal anomaly.”
Family Tree DNA (FTDNA)
For the testing of mitochondria DNA (mtDNA) and Y-Chromosome DNA (Y-DNA) we are increasingly impressed with the detailed analysis and haplogroup matching capabilities available at FamilyTreeDNA. Their services do much deeper dives into these types of DNA than most others so if you are interested enough and can afford to do the testing, it provides all the detail you might want about the DNA that defines your all-maternal and all-paternal lineages.
We are working to discreetly collect Y-Haplogroup data from the various branches of the family in order to explore genetic and thus familial variations and connections. As we find high-level haplogroup matches between any two distant Riehle lineages, the testing regime at Family Tree DNA can provide the means to verify the certainty and timing of such ancestral links, or disprove them entirely. Moreover, the tools available at FTDNA can provide insights related to the migration patterns of your male lineage and those with which it is closely associated. We encourage participation in this program by any and all Riehle males so please check out the above link.
Finally, while a website that explores a given surname is likely to demonstrate an obvious affinity to exploring the related Y-DNA lineages, the process of exploring mtDNA is just as fascinating and FTDNA has excellent resources for this. We are happy to share our experience is this regard and welcome your questions and comments.
This service uses downloads of tests conducted by other services to match with similar “kits” and provides detailed DNA comparisons and analyses similar to some of the features available with 23andMe’s “Advanced DNA Comparisons”. I have used this to build a DNA profile for my deceased father but have been disappointed by the limitations, despite recruiting numerous DNA testers among my sibs and his. Still, there are other interesting features that I have enjoyed using and still others I have not adequately explored.
References and Final Comments
While there are a number of references on the topic of testing DNA for matching to relatives and ancestors, one which we would recommend is The Family Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blain T. Bittinger. Since this is several years old you may wish to gather information online about the book and the extent to which it has been kept current versus other available texts. This and/or other references can serve as an introduction and review of testing options but it also provides strategies for more thorough genetic analysis, services which provide a wider opportunity for discovering matches, and various tools which can be used to explore these. If you are assessing atDNA matches, Bittinger also does the DNA Painter website which I use frequently for that purpose.
Again, please leave your comments and question regarding DNA services, testing and analysis below, especially if you have additional insights into any of the services mentioned here.