Ancestry’s Ethnicity Inheritance Chromosome Painter and Jonny Perl’s new tool

The latest genetic genealogy features and tools bring excitement and potential for new insights. The combination of Ancestry’s Ethnicity Inheritance Chromosome Painter and Jonny Perl’s ACPS (Ancestry Chromosome Painter Segments) tool allows comparison of Ancestry data with information from other testing companies. Jonny’s new tool uses the information from Ancestry to grab <<gasp>> segment data <<gasp>>. It’s not the segment data you’ve been hoping for (segments shared with matches) but it’s fun and potentially useful depending on your situation.

Several months ago, Ancestry released ethnicity results with “Side View” technology. Side View allows you to see which ethnicity you received from each of your two parents. Unless you’ve had a parent tested or recognize which parent is which, the two parents are simply labelled “Parent 1” and “Parent 2.” You can label them yourself.

Here’s my mother’s ethnicity split into the contributions from her two parents.

Ancestry Ethnicity Inheritance Overview Showing ethnicity for each parent of my mother

Ancestry is now rolling out the beta feature of a chromosome painter for ethnicity, catching up with 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA who already offer this feature.

My mother’s results on Ancestry look like this:

Ancestry’s Ethnicity Inheritance Chromosome Painter for my mother

Each numbered pair represents my mother’s chromosomes, 1-22 (chromosome 23 is the chromosome that determines biological gender and Ancestry does not show the results of chromosome 23.) One chromosome of the pair is from my mother’s dad and one chromosome from her mother. The different colours represent different ethnicities, which refer to geographic locations. As you can see, my mother’s ancestry is primarily European, and largely from England and Northwestern Europe. As of this moment, I don’t know which of the two (upper or lower chromosome) is my maternal grandfather and which is my maternal grandmother. My mom has three segments labelled “Indigenous Americas-North” and one labelled “Southern India.”

My maternal uncle’s Ancestry Ethnicity Inheritance Chromosome Painter results look like this:

Ancestry’s Ethnicity Inheritance Chromosome Painter for my maternal uncle

Notice the colours in the key are not stable, which is a shortcoming of the Ancestry Chromosome Painter and their ethnicity results in general. It would be useful for Norway to be the same colour no matter whose DNA test I am looking at. Norway is blue for my mom and purple for my uncle. And then there are the two shades of purple that are similar – Norway and Indigenous Americas for my uncle. And all the shades of green, aqua, blue, darker aqua… more variety would be helpful. I’m grateful for the information and I can edit the colours when I move the segment data to DNA Painter using Jonny’s new tool. My uncle has four segments labelled Indigenous Americas. They are on chromosomes 3, 4, 6, and 12.

Here is my maternal aunt:

Ancestry’s Ethnicity Inheritance Chromosome Painter for my maternal aunt

My aunt has a new category, Germanic Europe, and two Indigenous America’s segments. When comparing the three images, it’s important to remember that Ancestry randomly assigned Parent 1 (upper chromosome) and Parent 2 (lower chromosome). My mother’s seems to be reversed from her siblings since the “Indigenous Americas” segment on chromosome 3 is Parent 1 for my mom and Parent 2 for my uncle and aunt.

Jonny Perl’s new tool allows me to copy and paste the data that creates the Ancestry image and make a file I can manipulate at DNA Painter. (To learn how to use DNA Painter, there are several good webinars with demonstrations and resources here.) Jonny used known information about DNA to approximate the start and stop points from the Ancestry chromosome images to make this work.

Ethnicity results can be compared across the companies. Remember my uncle who had several chromosomes with Indigenous Americas on Ancestry? Here I’ve uploaded his FamilyTree DNA ethnicities on the same DNA Painter diagram as his Ancestry ethnicity. I’m showing the detail for chromosomes 3 and 4.

FamilyTree DNA and Ancestry Ethnicity results compared for my maternal uncle

FamilyTree DNA results for both maternal and paternal chromosomes are mapped to “Shared or Both” because I don’t know which chromosome is maternal and which is paternal. Ancestry DNA chromosomes are artificially labeled maternal and paternal. FamilyTree DNA uses fewer ethnicity labels than Ancestry. Nearly all of my uncle’s DNA is labelled “Western Europe” and shows up as a darker pink bar. Ancestry separates “England & Northwestern Europe” shown in green and Scotland in aqua. FTDNA’s “Americas” segments in green are not as extensive as the approximated “Indigenous Americas-North” from Ancestry via Jonny Perl’s new tool. This may change if Ancestry ever allows a real download of raw ethnicity data. The Indigenous Ancestry is a small percentage of my uncle’s DNA but seeing it detected by both companies increases my confidence in the segments.

The segment on my mother’s chromosome 5 that is attributed to Southern India caught my attention. I’ve painted matches from GEDmatch, MyHeritage, and FamilyTreeDNA to DNA Painter. (My mom is not on 23andMe, which is the other testing site with segment data.). I was curious to see if there were any matches corresponding to that unusual segment.

Chromosome 5 ethnicity and matches for my mother

Remember that the Ancestry ethnicity segments which are imported as maternal or paternal could be the other way around. In this case, there is an unknown maternal match for SC (in bright pink) that does seem quite similar to the Southern India segment. I will keep an eye on this, it could be helpful in the future.

I’m encouraged by the new developments and hope they unlock mysteries for you.

Learning WikiTree

For the past couple of months, I’ve had the opportunity to introduce members of the Linked Descendants Working Group of Coming to the Table to the U.S. Black Heritage Project at WikiTree.

Coming to the Table (CTTT) is a U.S. non-profit “working together to create a just and truthful society that acknowledges and seeks to heal from the racial wounds of the past, from slavery and the many forms of racism it spawned.” The Linked Descendants Working Group includes CTTT members who “want to know the truth about their ancestors, discover their connections, maybe even heal a bit of the wounded past.” Members descend from enslavers and enslaved and some are connected through slavery and some as family. Members discuss how to make connections including genealogical research methods, practical matters regarding communicating with potential linked descendants, and the emotional aftermath of slavery. Members descended from enslaved people are searching for their family history. Other members seek to share the information they’ve uncovered about enslaved people through researching their own family history. That’s where the U.S. Black Heritage Project comes in.

The U.S. Black Heritage Project’s mission is shown below.

Mission of the U.S. Black Heritage Project

The similar interests of the two groups have provided me an opportunity to support the Linked Descendants to begin using WikiTree. Once they feel comfortable with WikiTree, they can join the many projects within the U.S. Black Heritage project (such as the Plantations Project, or the one I am involved with the Heritage Exchange Profile Improvement Team.)

If you would like to know more about using WikiTree to support your family history, including your Linked Descendant journey, I’d be happy to share resources if you contact me. An introductory video I created is available via the Virtual Genealogical Association.

Ordinary People

“The reality is that most of our ancestors were nobodies. Most of them died without fame or fortune, most of the people in the past could not read or write and they didn’t leave all those wonderful records that historians can find for the elite. And yet, their lives have merit. They have more ability in my view to teach us about the past than we will learn from the lives of the rich and famous.”

Elizabeth Shown Mills, 13 June 2022, Coddington Award of Merit, New England Historical and Genealogical Society Lecture

On June 13, 2022, Elizabeth Shown Mills received the Coddington Award of Merit from the New England Historical and Genealogical Society. The award “recognizes the highest standard of excellence in American genealogical scholarship and lifetime achievement in the field.”

Mills’ lecture addressed the value genealogical research holds for society. Lessons we learn from every life provide insight into history. Elizabeth Shown Mills goes beyond sharing genealogy and history through scholarly work. She also wrote a historical novel based on the history she discovered.

A novel by eminent western author Wallace Stegner reminds me of my paternal family’s history. In Big Rock Candy Mountain, described as a semi-autobiographical account of the author’s life, Stegner recounts the Mason’s family boom and bust relocations throughout the west. Stegner’s story parallels the lives of my grandparents, Edna (Workman) Davis and Walt Davis, although our family’s story has a happier ending. My grandmother taught me more about the Great Depression than a history book ever could. Her memoirs describe her marriage to my grandfather in 1931 and the farms and businesses my grandfather and grandmother started and failed at before they finally found financial security in the crop-dusting business. Their story of following a dream, hopes being dashed, and moving again is the real story of the middle of the last century.

I share my family’s history through their profiles on WikiTree. It’s one way I can contribute to history, one person at a time, preserving the past.

A tribute to the Lydia Judah, teacher, Freedmen’s Bureau

The greatest success of the Freedmen’s Bureau lay in the planting of the free school among Negroes, and the idea of free elementary education among all classes in the South. 

W.E.B. DuBois, The Freedmen’s Bureau

While delving into the Freedmen’s Bureau records for a client, I came across the “Teacher’s Monthly School Report” for June of 1867 in Richmond, Virginia. The locations of the schools caught my eye: “16th st. near to creek,” “cor 3rd And Leigh,” and “All[e]y bet Clay & Marshall.” The roster named each teacher, the date the school opened, the ethnicity of the teacher (most in Richmond were “colored”), the number of students, and other data reporting the students’ progress. Two hundred and seventy-seven students were tallied on the page.

Teacher’s Monthly School Report, Freedmen’s Bureau, Richmond, Virginia, June 1867

Third and Leigh street, Google informed me, now hosted a bus stop. Google street view came through, including the bus. Passers-by walk the street where the teacher of the Third and Leigh Street school supported the dreams of students. Her name was Lydia Judah.

Third and Leigh Streets, Richmond, Virginia

Who was Lydia?

Lydia Judah’s school opened at Third and Leigh street in October of 1866.[1] In June of 1867 she taught ten male students and twenty-one female. Lydia reported that twelve students were early readers and twelve were advanced.

Lydia Judah, the daughter of Benjamin W. Judah, and was born free in Virginia in about 1838.[2] A court record from 1841 attested to the free status of the Judah children.

Richmond City Court Minutes

Benjamin was a shoemaker. Lydia grew up in a large and family.[3] The household in 1850 may represent Lydia’s parents, Benjamin and Judith, an older sister, Pocahontas, married to Patrick Cross, another older sister, Augustine, and younger sisters Frances and Sarah. [Note the surname Cross was erroneously provided as the surname of the Judah children.]

Benjamin Judah household, 1850 US Census, Richmond, Virginia

By 1860, Lydia was the eldest child in the family, and three young children with the Cross surname complete the household. The family fortune had declined between 1850 and 1860.

Benjamin Judah household, 1860 Census, Richmond, Virginia

The Confederate government oppressed free blacks during the Civil War and more hardship likely confronted the Judah family. At the war’s end, Lydia stepped up to provide an education to those who had previously been deprived of an education.

Lydia Judah died of consumption in Philadelphia in August of 1868.[4]

Lydia B. Judah death, 10 August 1868

Lydia and the other schoolteachers of the Freedmen’s Bureau contributed to the cause of freedom.

For more about the Freedmen’s Bureau schools, see Scott Britton Hansen, “Education for All: The Freedmen’s Bureau Schools in Richmond and Petersburg, 1865-1870,” Virginia Commonwealth University, Thesis, 2008.

[1] “Virginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 25 June 2022); “Teacher’s Monthly School Report,” June 1867, Richmond,  Virginia; citing NARA microfilm publication M1913, roll 168.

“United States, Freedmen’s Bureau, Records of the Superintendent of Education and of the Division of Education, 1865-1872,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 27 June 2022); “Monthly Education Report, Virginia,” 20 February 1868, page 5; citing NARA microfilm publication M803, roll 32.

[2] “Richmond City, Virginia, Hustings Court Minutes, No. 14, 1840-1842,” 14 June 1841, page 354, regarding children of Benjamin W. Judah; digital image, FamilySearch ( accessed 27 June 2022), Film #008574656; citing County Clerk

[3] 1850 U.S. Census, Henrico County, Virginia, population schedule, Richmond, page 383 (stamped facing page), dwelling 671, family 778, Ben. W. Judah household; digital image, FamilySearch ( : accessed 27 June 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 951.

1860 U.S. Census, Henrico County, Virginia, population schedule, Richmond Second Ward, page 195 (penned), dwelling 1047, family 1187, Benj. W. Judah household; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.ora/ark:/61903/3:1:3357-8BF2.9L1 : accessed 27 June 2022); citing NARA microfilm publication M653,roll 1352

[4] Pennsylvania Department of Health, death certificate, Lydia B. Judah, Philadelphia, 10 August 1868; database with images, “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1903,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 27 June 2022); citing Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society.

A letter from 1867 arrives in 2022

Hawkins Wilson wrote a letter to the Freedmen’s Bureau searching for the family he was separated from as a 6-year-old. It was May of 1867. He described his mother, uncle, and siblings and their location in Virginia before his enslaver took him away to Galveston, Texas.

Watch the story of how his letter achieved its goal in 2022 in the exquisite video “A Dream Delivered: The Lost Letters of Hawkins Wilson.”

Well done, Ancestry, and thank you Anthony Anderson, Dr Henry Louis Gates, and Nicka Sewell-Smith for sharing this touching story.