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What is FTDNA's Opinion of Ancestry's "Timber"?

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  • What is FTDNA's Opinion of Ancestry's "Timber"?

    What do the geneticists at FTDNA think of Ancestry's "Timber" hypothesis?

    My mother just got her closest match yet (beyond known family). Her 1st cousin also just got her closest beyond known family. These two new matches are not the same person. My mother and her cousin both have both of these new matches, but one is closer in my mother's case and the other in her cousin's. One, at least, is an Ancestry transfer, and this match doesn't match my mother at all at Ancestry because the segment of DNA they all four share is considered timber at Ancestry.

    So what am I to think? Am I to consider the matches meaningless? Or am I to conclude that, since FTDNA still counts this segment, they are of the opinion that Ancestry is wrong? Or do they think Ancestry is correct, but they just haven't gotten around to readjusting their matching criteria yet?

    Also, is there any way to tell which matches are transfers from Ancestry? I'm wondering why these extremely close matches showed up within days of each other, if the transfer process is picking up more and/or longer segments.

  • #2
    Somewhere on her blog Roberta Estes discussed what happened when Ancestry changed the method of assigning matches about a year ago.

    She lost a small number of known (but distant) relatives because they were "timbered out" (my words) for being "too matchy" (her words).


    • #3
      I had a paper trail proven 2nd cousin at Ancestry. Before the change to Timber a year ago, he was correctly estimated to be a 2nd cousin. Since Timber became incorporated into their algorithm, he's been downgraded to an estimate of 3rd-4th cousin.

      Also, I have a paper trail proven 3rd cousin there whose estimated relationship by Ancestry is 4th-6th cousin.

      I've read that others are reporting that paper trail proven cousins were downgraded from their true relationship after the Timber analysis. I can understand adjusting their algorithm to discard false positives, but it seems that Timber is too conservative at times in estimating closer cousin relationships.


      • #4
        Ancestry does seem to have an issue with underestimating matches but that's happening with many of my actual 3rd and 4th cousins who have common ancestors from an area with heavy emigration to the US. There are a lot of sticky genes that I share with those matches. On Gedmatch I can see many other matches Ancestry is filtering. So I can see why Ancestry is discounting those matches.

        The main impact of Timber was losing all of my matches on Ancestry who were European Jewish.

        On FTDNA, I have a handful of real matches and about 95% of my matches are from a few small segments I share with what seems like every person of Ashkenazi origins who has tested with FTDNA. Actually finding my real matches is difficult since I have to check the chromosome browser. I wish I could delete them.

        I wasted so much time when I first got my FTDNA Family Finder results assuming my birthfather must be Jewish and it all ended up being irrelevant results which Ancestry now filters as noise.
        Last edited by CuriousAdoptee; 5 April 2017, 09:19 PM.