11 December 2010

Family Tree DNA Holiday Sale


A quick reminder of the Family Tree DNA Sale for the Holidays! Family Finder is at a good sale price! This could be rare, so consider getting it while you can at this price.

Until December 31st Family Tree DNA will reduce the price of their YDNA37, YDNA67, mtDNAPlus, and Family Finder tests. See my blog posts for details on each test.

Price for NEW KITS:
........................Regular Price........Promotional Price

YDNA37 ..................$149 ........................$119
YDNA67 ..................$239 ........................$199
mtDNAPlus .............$159 .........................$129
Family Finder ..........$289 ........................$249

Orders must be in and paid for by Dec. 31, 2010, to receive this offer. Using a credit card is considered payment, although you won't have to actually pay for a while.

People tend to put off buying until the end of the sale and sometimes overlook the ending date due to the holidays. This sale will NOT be extended, so don't miss out!

Best wishes,

24 November 2010

Family Tree DNA Holiday Sale - One Week ONLY

The following message just arrived....

I would strongly guess that this will not be the December Holiday Sale, so grab this one now!

ALSO...understand that a 37 marker test gives you matches within good genealogical time (within about 350 yrs on the average), while anything below that puts the time to a common ancestor beyond genealogy records (600 yrs or longer ago).

FTDNA says:

As we enter Thanksgiving weekend, we would like to extend to you a one-week promotion for upgrades:

..............Current Group Price........SALE PRICE




To order this special offer, log in to your personal page and click on the special offers link in the left hand navigation bar. A link to the login page is provided below. ALL ORDERS MUST BE PLACED AND PAID FOR BY MIDNIGHT DECEMBER♠ 1st 2010 TO RECEIVE THE SALE PRICES.

To Login, Click: Family Tree

20 November 2010

Family Tree DNA's 6th International Conference, part 2

Sunday, October 31, 2011

met at 8:30 a.m. Katherine Borges, director of ISOGG, gave a presentation on the organization and its history. This non-profit society started in 2005 by a handful of people and without any funding. No dues are required and the only goal is to spread the word about Genetic Genealogy.

ISOGG recently developed the ISOGG wiki page and has many topics to assist researcher of all levels.

The ISOGG newsletter is distributed to about 4,400 members.

Several members staffed the booth last February at the Who Do You Think You Are? Conference in London, the largest genealogy convention in the world. Nearly 20,000 people attended that conference. Some administrators offered free DNA tests for anyone at the conference who was a male with the desired surname. At least five people received free tests. ISOGG will be manning a booth again this coming year. (February 25-27, 2011)

Dr. Bruce Walsh, Professor of Ecology and Evoluntionary Biology at the University of Arizona, presented The Math Behind Family Finder. Dr. Walsh uses the phrase “incorrectly ascertained paternity” instead of NPE (Non-parental event) which is more correct, actually.

He explained that one chromosome is contributed by each parent, but that chromosome is a combination of both of their parents. He states that autosomal DNA is sliced and diced, but the Y-chromosome does not recombine as there are never two copies in the cell. However, recombination of the X chromosome does occur because there are two copies. Since men have an X and a Y there is no recombination, but of course their X was a recombination of their mother’s two X chromosomes. The Mitochondrial DNA does not recombine, but is passed on as an identical block, except for random mutations.

Dr. Walsh also believes that the autosomal chips will have more than a million markers in 2-3 years. Current technology is about 500,000 markers.

The Family Finder test can reliably predict relationships for three generations (to the 3rd cousin level). However, fourth and fifth cousins are possible, but not as reliable. Each generation only gets 50% of the previous generations’ autosomal DNA. This means that that in only a few generations there is little to now autosomal DNA from the ancestors.

Bennett Greenspan, President and CEO of FTDNA, spoke on Reading Family Finder Results. He demonstrated how to use Family Finder test results to solve a 30-year mystery in his lineage. He used the chromosome browser portion of Family Finder to triangulate and determine whether a match is on the maternal or paternal side. Doing so does entail testing the correct level of family members. By testing close family members you can compare them with distant family members to see how where and how much the data overlaps. If you test a close on your paternal side and a close relative on your maternal side, you can compare a distant cousin to each and determine which side they are related.

He further explained that small block lengths (or centimorgans, aka cM) means that there is a more distant relationship even if the totally number of matching SNPs is large.

He clarified homozygosis and heterozygosis. Our DNA contains four chemical bases (adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine or ACGT). There are a pair of these bases at each location along the chromosome, but Family Finder cannot distinguish between them so you see two letters which are always given in alphabetical order. When looking at the raw data and comparing one person to another, the AA from one person matches an AT from another person and a TT matches an AT, but the AA does not match a TT. Therefore, if a person has the same chemical basis (i.e., AA or TT), this is called homozygous, and if the pair differ (i.e., AT) it is called heterozygous. If a person is heterozygous in an area they will tend to match more people, but if those people are homozygous, they will not match each other. That is, if you have an AT at a location and you match two people who are AA and TT, the people who are AA and TT will not match each other. This means you will have matches on your family Finder and those matches will not match each other if you are the one who heterozygous. These matches are usually on smaller segments of the DNA, but get everyone excited in that they are hoping that if everyone matched everyone, they could triangulate the lineages to more easily discover the common ancestor.

Bennett mentioned that the X-chromosome browser is being developed and may be available in March 2011.

Dr. Charmaine Royal’s, the lead author of the ASHG (American Society of Human Genetics) white paper entitled Inferring Genetic Ancestry: Opportunities, Challenges, and Implications. She is an Associate Research Professor in the Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy and the Department of African and African American Studies at Duke University. She stated that the reference populations in commercial databases are usually proprietary and pretty much unverifiable by other researchers. Therefore, a prediction by one company may be at odds with another and there is no way of understanding which information is correct since the databases are not public. She believes the term ancestry has multi definitions, that consumers and researchers are interested in genetic ancestry for a variety of reasons; that knowledge about human genetic diversity is incomplete; that various tools for assessing genetic and genomic ancestry, but provide limited information on origins of one’s ancestors; and that interpretation of individual DNA ancestry estimates by both scientists and consumers is sometimes unclear. There was more, but these seem to be general statements that assume the genetic genealogists in the group (some of which are scientists) do not understand that genetic diversity is incomplete; that limited information is provided, and there is a limit to information on origins. Let alone genetics, that is so in genealogy! All of this is on-going with only some of it easily predicted.

She was concerned that some people testing will not be prepared for the results or will become very concerned and emotional with unexpected results. Everyone in that room is beyond those issues and administrators do explain the possibilities of testing to customers…at least, those I know.

Members of the conference as well as Dr. Royal do agree that some companies are making poor predictions based on incomplete research. This hurts everyone and gives a bad name to companies who sell directly to consumers. She stated that the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t have enough time to do its current job, so she didn’t believe that they would place regulations on DTC (Direct To Consumer) testing.

She closed with some picky remarks regarding the Family Tree DNA website, stating that it is “one of best.” (As I have not seen one better, I beg her to show me THE best!) She called for a search engine which appears to be something that has been considered. There were minor wording changes she proposed to clarify information to customers who may have little knowledge of the subject.

I have a difficult time with someone standing in judgment of genetic testing when that person has not tested her genome. She seems to have no knowledge of how it does help genealogy and has helped many people find not only their ancestors, but their biological parents.

Elliott Greenspan in his presentation IT Roadmap gave us the future of Information Technology at FTDNA. He stated that they process about 1 terabyte per hour for customer support and analysis. By next year he forecasts that they will be processing 3.8 Petabytes (A Petabyte is one million Gigabytes). Mine boggling!

A new Gedcom viewer as well as new web pages for administrators, termed GAP 2.0, have been implemented. (GAP stands for Group Administrator Pages). GAP 2.1 will be available Spring 2011. These new pages give administrators much more flexibility in manipulating the information in a project.

Among other things there will be 110 markers available for testing on the Y-chromosome.

Thomas Krahn, Technical Laboratory Manager of Family Tree DNA’s Genomics Research Center in Houston, in his Walk through the Y Update, explained that this is a research program to find new SNPs on the Y-chromosome. At the cost of $750 per sample, they have processed 178 samples so far. In order to get this test now, you must be approved (i.e., be from an unusual haplogroup), and you must know the paternal county of origin. Ninety-six of the participants did not find a new SNP in their DNA, but 137 previously undocumented Y-SNP markers were found for G2, J1, Q, I, and R. Many “private” SNPs have been found at the family or genealogy level.

FTDNA has purchased the expensive “next generation” 454 sequencer which will allow a nearly full sequence of the Y.

Dr. Krahn suggested that one should do the Deep Clade test before doing the Walk Through the Y.

Dr. Krahn gave these SNP locations for various haplogroups:
1. The Irish Type III SNP is R-L226
2. L140 and L141 defines major branches in the G2 haplogroup
3. L222 is fond among Arab J1 groups
4. L161 is a significant branch downstream from I-M423
5. L245 defines a major branch downstream of Q-M378
6. L257 is the fourth largest branch below R-U106 and next to R-L8, R-L1 and R-U198

At the end of his presentation, Dr. Krahn raffled 18 mouse pads printed with the Yq11 Palindromic Region. I was a lucky recipient!

Again, there was a closing Panel for Questions and Answers.

Each participant received a new version of the Y-DNA Phylogenetic Tree.

With the 6th Annual International Family Tree DNA Conference at a close, everyone dispersed and many chattering about plans to attend the Who Do You Think You Are? Conference in London at the end of February.

Photos of Dr. Walsh and Dr. Krahn, courtesy of Family Tree DNA
Thanks to David Pitts for sharing his notes.

copyright November 2011

Family Tree DNA's 6th International Conference

6th International Conference on Genetic Genealogy
Houston, Texas
October 30-31, 2010

Once again Family Tree DNA held a very informative conference for its administrators. Although the size is always limited to about 200 participants or less, it becomes more and more International each year. This year representatives outside of the United States, included Canada, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Russia. It was wonderful to meet these International administrators and thank them for their dedication in promoting DNA testing for genealogy. AND, of course, it was grand seeing all those who have attended in past years. It is much like a family reunion.

Surprisingly, this year there were more new attendees than anyone had seen in recent years. This is absolutely wonderful, as it indicates our field is growing. On behalf of all Genetic Genealogists, I thank all of you for coming. The focus on genetic testing for genealogy grows by the grass root efforts of many individuals as well as the hard work of the members of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) in promoting this level of genealogy proof.

Friday night began with the usual Family Tree DNA hospitality suite. This year Alice Fairchild provided her wonderful Double Helix necklaces to many. I supplied some entertainment in honor of Halloween by creating a DNA Trick or Treat game. Attendees were asked to draw a number which corresponded to a sheet of questions. After answering the question, or attempting to do so (This is a teaching moment.), the person received a small chocolate bar of choice and a DNA Trick or Treat sticker. It was amazing to see how many could answer and who was struggling. These questions did pave the way for some of the topics being covered at the conference, so hopefully, the introduction to some of the terms lead the newbies to focus on the presentations even more. I hope everyone found it more fun than intimidating…everyone won. Emily and Elise

Registration began at 8:00 a.m. Saturday. We received a nice FTDNA bag, T-shirt and bag. After grabbing coffee, tea, and water, we found a spot at the tables where we would spend the next two days. Pads of papers allowed us to write our questions and suggestions which were collected after each presentation. If time ran out, those questions were answered in a Q and A period at the end of the day.

Max Blankfeld, Vice-President, welcomed us with some statistics on attendance ♠and asked for a show of hands for those who are new and those who have attended all six conferences. Each was well represented. Max introduced Bennett Greenspan, President and CEO, who added more facts and thanked us all as without us the company would not be where it is today.

As Charmaine Royal, PhD from the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) would be speaking on Sunday regarding the ASHG white paper Inferring Genetic Ancestry: Opportunities, Challenges, and Implications, Matt Kaplan, Project Lead of the Human Origins Genotyping Laboratory, and Taylor Edwards, an Assistant Staff Scientists, both at the University of Arizona reviewed the paper and the implications for Genetic Genealogy. We learned there is currently over forty companies doing testing, and that there are about 200,000 Y-DNA samples at the University of Arizona with 42,000 of them being at a 67 marker level. Interestingly, there are rare cases of where men have two X chromosomes and no Y, yet they are still men, and in this case a Y-chromosome cannot be tested, of course. Conversely, a woman could have a Y-chromosome. For more information on this situation see: Does having a Y chromosome make someone a man? (http://www.isna.org/faq/y_chromosome)

Matt and Taylor explained that customers and scientists have different goals regarding genetic ancestry. For the consumer, ethical issues of unresolved paternity, consent for testing, uncovering genetic disorders, and unexpected ancestry can affect a person, and we as advocates need to clarify this to a customer, but that customers have an obligation to understand the possible outcomes of their testing. They reminded us that the tools for genealogy testing came from population genetics and that many Direct To Consumer (DTC) customers are interested in extending and confirming their family genealogy, and for those who are looking for health information really need to be tested for health markers. Family Tree DNA focuses on genealogy.

Matt and Taylor also reiterated that …
1. if anyone is concerned with identity (i.e., illegitimate births), you may not wish to test. Unexpected ancestry can affect some people.
2. nuances of ancestry will dispel the notion of race and the practice of equating race with ancestry.
3. inferring information from a population that has not been well sampled is not safe (i.e., determination of a tribe for a Native American ancestor).
4. testing with a company for genealogical purposes may give you some unique results, such as men with no Y-chromosome; women with a Y-chromosome, Nulls (absence of marker result), etc., but for interpretation of these one might wish to consult a genetic counselor.

Dr. Michael Hammer, Biotechnology Research Scientist at the University of Arizona, spoke of building genome-wide SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) databases and methods to predict individual ancestry from these databases.

SNPs are used to determine haplogroups as they mutate once whereas STRs (Short Tandem Repeats) can multiply at random. The stability of testing SNPs allows the determination of haplogroups for various populations. When testing the Y-chromosome, the result is reported for STRs. A separate SNP test will determine your deep ancestry and link you to the Phylogenetic Tree (World Family Tree) which can then show you the migration pattern out of Africa.

Dr. Hammer stated that it is possible to predict ethnic and geographical groups and that the information collected from the extreme populations around the world is easier to predict, but that prediction gets more blurry as you test the non-extreme populations. Ethnic origins in some areas are not highly predictable, especially in some areas of the Middle East. Isolation, genetic drift, or low number of tested samples could be the issue in some areas.

This is a reason why testing does not give you as much accuracy below the Continental level. That is, there is high accuracy for assigning haplogroups for the Y-chromosome testing for these continental groups: Sub-Sahara, Oceania, Europe, East Asia and the Americas. Databases are being developed to deal with the interior of continental groups to create a regional population database.

A few interesting statistics from his presentation:
1. There are 3 billion base pairs in the entire genome and 99.9 % of them are identical.
2. There are 3 million SNPs per person.
3. Taking the HVR1 test for the mitochondrial DNA has a low accuracy rate for determining haplogroups. The Full Genome Sequence (FGS) test is highly accurate depending upon sample size. In this case you can get a longer string of letters and numbers for your haplogroup as in U5a1a). If you belong to a haplogroup which has few testers at this time, the details of the haplogroup are not as accurate; therefore, you may only receive a short haplogroup designation (i.e., HV).

Doron Behar, MD, PhD spoke on Summarizing and Anticipation the Next Decade with NRY, mtDNA and Autosomal DNA. He reviewed some history of the DNA molecule which was discovered in 1944. The double helix was discovered in 1953, and the first human genome project was completed after 13 years of research in 2003. In 2009 a complete genome analysis cost about $70,000. Dr. Behar thinks that the price may be reduced to $1,700. In 2004 the National Human Genome Research Institute issued a request entitled "Revolutionary Genome Sequencing Technologies: The $1,000 Genome for any interested company to sequence the entire genome for $1,000.

He clearly stated that although we have a common ancestor with the PAN chimps (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chimpanzee), we did not derive from them and gave us the following reminder that in 1987 the mitochondrial DNA from 147 testers form five geographic populations were analyzed. The conclusion was that all of these results came from one woman who is to have lived about 200,000 years ago, probably in Africa.

Just after lunch there were several breakout sessions where I desired to have several clones of me to attend. As my Talley DNA Project Co-administrator Cynthia Wells was conducting one on how Family Finder can assist Y-DNA Projects, I joined her to help explain what we have discovered in our project and to clarify information on heterozygosis and homozygosis, at least on the basic level. David Pitts, Administrator of the Pitt Y-DNA Project and member of my Talley DNA email list attended Whit Athey’s presentation on “Phasing of the Chromosomes of a Family Group.” Whit states using the raw data from Family Finder for at least three children can allow most of the autosomal raw data for both parents to be determined. Having one parent with the children is best. In some cases, data from a cousin can help, and he demonstrated how using this data can help determine on whether the match is on the maternal or paternal side. He mentioned that each SNP in Family Finder’s raw data is reported in alphabetical order.

Next Katherine Borges spoke on behalf of Susan Meates of the Guild of One Name Studies (GOONS). The presentation covered the origin of names which included toponymic (place), occupational, topographic, and physical appearance. Name changes occurred for a variety of reasons, including a change of clergy, the Great Vowel Shift, personal preferences and in some countries, like Ireland, families took in orphaned children who were given the families’ surname.

As usual a Question and Answer Panel was held the last hour of the day. What questions were not answered after each presentation were covered at this time. Of these,

1. Doug McDonald re-evaluated the 23andMe percentages for categorizing populations and improved on them. FTDNA bought the rights to his work for Population Finder.
2. The cost of the Family Finder test was due to the high cost of the Affy chip which is made only one company and who did not give Family Tree DNA a cost-break at this time.
3. For Family Finder, if you manage to keep the end blocks of a chromosome the odds are the segment will be larger.
4. Reconstructing the DNA of parents is possible IF there are enough children, but it can still be difficult.
5. FTDNA says that Family Finder is highly reliable up to the 3rd Great-Grandparents or five generations or about 125 years.

The conference ended around 5:00 p.m., but at 7:00 p.m. everyone started gathering in one of the executive meeting rooms for ISOGG’s hospitality suite. Everyone was invited and from the looks of the crowd most everyone came. There was more food and drink than all of us could consume and hours were spent talking about the day’s activities as well as catching up on what friends had been doing for the past year. I was able to meet three attendees who are matches with me on Family Finder. As I had brought my charts with me, we perused them for any clues of a connection without luck. Most of the speakers and FTDNA staff were on hand to chat as well. The room was overflowing onto the mezzanine and down the hall. This was definitely the largest ISOGG gathering to date at the yearly conferences.

Part 2 for Sunday's activities.
Thanks to David Pitts for his notes as well.

copyright November 2010

20 October 2010

Family Tree DNA Test Sale


Today Family Tree DNA announced a sale on their Family Finder Test for new testers along with a Y-DNA or an mtDNA test. The email states that it is a limited time offer, but does not give an ending date.

Family Finder + Y-DNA 12 marker test is regularly $388, but the Introductory Price is $299

Family Finder + mtDNA (HVR1) marker test is regularly $388, but the Introductory price is $299.

REMEMBER: This is only for NEW customers and is available for a LIMITED time.

Only credit card payments are accepted for this.

For those of you who do not know much about these tests (Family Finder, Y-DNA, or mtDNA), please see prior postings for this blog or email me at aulicino@hevanet.com

copyright 20 Oct 2010

27 September 2010

Family Tree DNA Announcement on Family Finder

Dear Family Tree DNA Customer,

By now you may have already heard of our newest test, which has received substantial exposure in the press: the Family Finder test.

Since several people who have seen the news about this test have approached us for more information, allow me to briefly give you the key elements of the Family Finder test:

You may find relatives on any of your lines within the past 5 generations!

It doesn't matter if you are male or female; your results will be compared to anyone who has taken Family Finder!*

You can test “suspected relatives” including aunts, uncles, parents, half-siblings, or cousins.

By ordering the Family Finder test, you will receive the new Population Finder test at no additional charge.

Population Finder determines the percentages of different ancestries that comprise your genetics by matching your DNA data from the Family Finder test against data from multiple populations from around the world**. Based on your DNA, Population Finder will assign your sample to 1-4 population groups, giving the corresponding percentages of your genetic makeup.

The Family Finder Test lets you:

Bullet Sort your matches by degree of relationships.
Bullet View the names of your matches and communicate via e-mail.
Bullet Share genealogical information with ease.
Bullet See the “location” on your chromosomes where you match and compare your matches with each other!
Bullet Determine the percentages of different ancestries that comprise your genetics by matching your autosomal DNA against data from multiple populations.

Special Note: The Family Finder test requires an untouched vial of DNA. If your kit does not have an extra vial on file, we will mail a collection kit for a new DNA extraction. After ordering you will be notified by email whether we are able to use a stored vial or will be mailing a new collection kit.

*Family Finder results can only be compared with other Family Finder results. The Family Finder test uses autosomal DNA which is different from Y-DNA or mtDNA.

**You will be able to see your basic ethnic makeup, broken down by percentage. This test is based on a comparison of your Family Finder sequences to data collected by population geneticists. Populations studies consist of a number of representative populations including: European, Native American, Asian, African, etc.

© All Contents Copyright 2001-2010 Genealogy by Genetics, Ltd.

22 September 2010

Comparing Family Finder and Relative Finder

Family Tree DNA and 23andMe are the major players in autosomal testing that helps genealogists. In many ways their features are very similar, but they are also greatly different. Most genealogists will tell you that if money is not an issue, you should test with both companies. However, you do need to know which company fits your goals, if you choose to test with only one.

My earlier post on how to choose a DNA testing company applies here as well. Please reread that article entitled Which DNA Company Fits Your Needs (May 2009).

I have tested with both companies, and without getting into the technical arena, the following may help you understand which testing company better suits your needs. Understand that each company uses a different chip to test your genes so there is an overlap, but not an exact comparison between the two sets of raw data. Each company scans around a half million locations in your genome. This, along with the fact that the clientele for each company differs, provides a different set of matches.


Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder

• Founded in 1999; services open to the public in 2000

• Primary focus: Genealogy

• FAQ focuses on using Family Finder exclusively and provides other FAQs for other tests and general information.

• Tests - Cheek swab
........Family Finder $289
Provides maternal, paternal, and autosomal (chromosomes 1-22) ancestry information. You can compare DNA information to other Family Finder customers. Currently Population Finder has been added, and in the future separate web pages for the X chromosome will be available.

Shipping and handling is $4 for the US and $6 Internationally, and you pay about $1 to $1.50 postage in the US to return the sample. If a former testing sample is on file and a complete vial is available, that vial can be used without you providing another sample. If there is not a complete vial, the company then sends you a kit for a new sample at no additional cost.

• The raw data can be downloaded. Family Tree DNA excludes scientifically known health markers in testing, so the data is basically free of health information.


• Founded in 2006; services were opened to the public in 2007.

• The primary focus: health related information; September 2009 they incorporated a genealogy aspect. The primary clientele are persons who tested to discover more about their medical aspects.

• FAQ leans toward health information.

• Tests - Saliva sample needed.
........23andMe Health Edition - $429
Provides information on genetic variations and mutations that may influence your risk for various conditions or affect how you react to certain medications. There are currently more than 150 reports available, and our scientists are adding new information all the time.
........23andMe Ancestry Edition - $399
Provides maternal, paternal and autosomal (chromosomes 1-22) ancestry information. Through Relative Finder you can compare DNA information to other 23andMe customers.
........23andMe Complete Edition - $499
Provides both the Health and Ancestry Editions, along with the ability to browse and download all of your genetic information.

Shipping and handling fees apply to each Edition.
The cost is $14.95 for the US and $70.00 for International. This includes the cost to return the sample. If you purchase the Health or Ancestry Edition and find that you would like to learn even more about your DNA, you can upgrade to the Complete Edition for an additional fee ($100 to upgrade from the Health Edition, $150 to upgrade from the Ancestry Edition). A second saliva sample will not be necessary.

• The raw data can be downloaded only if you have purchased the Health Edition. Purchasing the Ancestry Edition does not allow for you to download the raw data. Any download would include your health issues.

Test Processing Time

The standard sample processing time is up to 4 weeks for either company under normal circumstances. Of course the time depends upon any increase in demand for the service. Samples are processed in the order in which they are received.

Customer Service

23andMe does currently have the larger database, but that is a result of several factors. They have been offering this type of testing longer and they target various groups to obtain result for their health testing. Family Tree DNA, on the other hand, started their Family Finder testing in March 2009 and is geared toward genealogists.

Family Tree DNA rates higher in customer service in every way. It is easy to discover how to contact them. Their response time for inquires is within a day or two at the most. They listen to the customer and make service a priority.

On Family Tree DNA's home page in the upper right under Contact Us on their website, you will find:

Family Tree DNA
Genealogy by Genetics, Ltd.

World Headquarters
1445 North Loop West, Suite 820 Houston, Texas 77008, USA
Phone: (713) 868-1438
Fax : (832) 201-7147

The same page has a form to report problems or make suggestions.

At the bottom of any page click on Sitemap to see every aspect of the website.

On 23andMe's home page I do not see any way of contacting them. I found a couple of emails for various portions of their website.

Under Privacy Statement I found:

"How to Contact Us
Questions about this Summary, our Privacy Statement, or about 23andMe's handling of your Personal Information may be emailed to privacy@23andme.com, or sent to:

Privacy Administrator
23andMe, Inc.
1390 Shorebird Way
Mountain View, CA 94043"

AND, on the same web page, I found...

"Account Closure and Correction of Personal Information
If you no longer wish to participate in our Services, you may close your account by sending a request to Customer Support at help@23andme.com."

Under Consent Document, I found:

"How do I withdraw from this study?
At any time, you may choose to withdraw all or some of your Genetic & Self-Reported Information from 23andWe research by sending a request to the Human Protections Administrator at hpa@23andme.com."


"You may also discontinue participation by closing your Personal Genome Service(TM) account, as described in the Terms of Service. Requests for account closure must be made in writing to Customer Service at help@23andme.com."

These emails were not easy to find, and as a customer, I am unsure about using these emails to ask most questions. However, in desperation, I would use any and all emails to get a reply. I was told when I wrote the company that customers can contact them at: help@23andMe.com

That is good to know, but why isn’t it on the home page clearly posted?

In the past I have written both Family Tree DNA and 23andMe regarding their testing and found a much faster reply from Family Tree DNA on repeated occasions. In some cases, I never heard from 23andMe. I also know that the staff at 23andMe was reduced about a year ago and that could be the problem. Hopefully the customer service issue will be corrected.

Contacting Matches

For Family Finder, you receive the email and names of your matches whenever a match occurs as the database is updated daily. You can see on what part of which chromosome you share genomes with any of your matches. You simply email the match and discuss your lineages.

You can add your surnames and locations to your profile. Those surnames are automatically compared to those whom match you. If you and a person have the same surname, you will find that surname in bold. List variant spellings separately.

Relative Finder requires that you send an invitation to no more than five matches per day to request contact and to share genomes. The match could elect to decline your invitation or to make contact with or without sharing genomes. You have three opportunities to send invitations to each match. All correspondence goes through the website unless your matches wish to share their personal emails.

If your match chooses to share genomes, there are two levels: Basic and Extended. Basic allows you to see on what part of a chromosome you match a person. Extended allows you to see their health information. Basic is all that is needed for genealogy.

In a new feature you can make your profile public so others can see the surnames you have added to your profile.

DNA does not give you the name of the common ancestor nor when or where that ancestor lived. Contacting the match and sharing genealogical data is the only way to determine the common ancestor.


For Family Tree DNA, their Family Finder FAQ is quite extensive with charts and examples to explain the system and how it relates to genealogy.

For 23andMe, the FAQ focuses on explanations of various parts of the website. If you are interested in how to use the test results for genealogy, other than finding matches and comparing the various matching segments, the FAQ will not help you. I suggest that you read my blog and others like it which explains how to use this test for genealogy

The company encourages you to sign up for their free demo account to get a first-hand look at our service. The demo account contains both health and ancestry data for the sample family, The Mendels are the “fake family” you can explore to help you understand what this test can tell you.

Choose with Knowledge

We know that both of these databases will grow over time, and if money is no object, you can find different matches from each company. If genealogy is your interest and you can only afford on of these tests, you may wish to go with Family Tree DNA whose focus is genealogy as your matches would be other genealogists.

Regardless of your choice, understand the nature of this test before you buy. No genetic genealogist wants disgruntled customers, and with the various articles posted on this blog in the last three month, you should get a good understanding of how this test can help your lineage. Before you buy, write the companies with your concerns and join the International Society of Genetic Genealogists (ISOGG) and subscribe to the Newbie Email list. That group can answer questions on any DNA testing for you.

Emily Aulicino
© 22 Sept 2010

17 September 2010

Population Finder from Family Tree DNA

Do you know your ancestry? Are you Irish? Jewish? Japanese? African? Native American? It is possible that you do know, but our ancestors have traveled far and wide to bring us to where we are. You may be totally correct, but then you may be surprised at what you can discover with Family Tree DNA’s new addition to its Family Finder test called Population Finder.

Most of us determine our heritage based upon our knowledge handed down from the family. If our known ancestors lived in Ireland, we must be Irish. That is not always the case. Even those who feel they are totally European may not be. Those who are adopted may not have any idea of their heritage. Our ancestors’ migration has been immense over the last few hundred to a thousand years.

Population Finder compares your autosomal DNA results with populations from around the world and shows you the amount of shared ancestry you have with one to four of those populations. Family Tree DNA uses various populations based upon published scientific studies. This database will naturally grow over time so the information you receive now may vary and become more refined in the future. A list of the current populations and their subgroups can be found in the Population Finder FAQ.

As political boundaries do not determine genetic populations, Population Finder cannot determine in which country your ancestors lived. For example, Sicily was settled by at least twelve different cultures prior to it becoming part of Italy, and as this area was on a major trade route, there were other cultures that passed though, leaving a bit of their DNA among the locals. Anyone testing from that region could show a large variety of autosomal DNA from Africa, the Middle East, Europe, or other locations. Populations are determined to be in locations based on their frequency, and those locations do not have specific country names.

My husband would refer to himself as totally Italian. All four of his grandparents were born in either Italy or Sicily. Of the lines currently known, everyone lived in these areas. His Y-chromosome is R1b, and his mtDNA is HV. Both of these indicate Western Europe. However, remember that only the autosomal result is used for Population Finder and not the Y-DNA or mtDNA.

When viewing his autosomal results in either Population Finder's bar or pie graph option, we discover that he has 28.39% of his DNA matching populations from the Middle East and the rest from Southern Europe. That’s quite a bit from the Middle East for an all-Italian guy!

Interestingly, I have 100% European matches. All my known lines (in many cases back to the 1600s) are from Ireland, Wales, Scotland, England, and Germany. Although a bit boring as a graph, this large percentage indicates that my ancestors lived in these areas for a long time.

Our son Jason has 29.91% from the Middle East and the rest from Europe. (Well, I have made the comment that he is his father’s son!) To explain Jason having a higher percentage from the Middle East than Gary, Rebekah A. Canada, Genetic Genealogist and Graduate Student in Bioinformatics, states that “Southern Europe and Middle Eastern are very close. Some of the ancestry from Gary's Southern European ancestry is being picked up as Middle Eastern in Jason.”

The margin of error in Jason’s calculations is +/-17. 08% whereas Gary’s is +/-8.95% and mine is +/-0.01%. Family Tree DNA indicates that a high margin of error (+/-15%) exists when two populations are very close. This high margin of error indicates that Population Finder is not able to distinguish between two populations with great confidence, and this makes perfect sense as the history of this area is known to draw many diverse populations.

If your result has a high margin of error, you are asked to take the Population Finder Survey. It helps reduce the margin of error in your related populations. If you are uncertain of your ancestral origins, perhaps you are adopted or do not know among a couple of possibilities, you can choose None of the Above.

Gary and Jason fell into the rare 0.4% of participants who needed to take the survey. Rebekah A. Canada indicates Gary and Jason’s margin of errors remained higher because None of the Above was the option chosen since Italian is not a selection as you can see from the survey options below.

Gary's choices:
Middle Eastern
Middle Eastern/North African
None of the above

Jason's choices:
Middle Eastern
None of the above

After the common R1b Western European haplogroup and with the additional resource of Population Finder, I have a genetically exotic husband after all! ...And he has a very ethnically stable wife!

So…how does this help the genealogist?

Any genealogist who faces a brick wall within the most recent five to six generations and whose ancestry is likely to cross ethnic groups can benefit. Adoptees who are uncertain of their ethnic origins can find Population Finder helpful. In my opinion, any resource which provides new clues can be the one that helps us through those brick walls.

Population Finder is currently in Open Beta, meaning that if you have tested with Family Finder, you can experience this feature first hand before the general public.

More additions to Family Finder are being developed, so watch this blog for the latest.

Emily Aulicino
© 17 Sept 2010

09 August 2010

Creating a Family Finder Project

The idea of Family Finder Projects is being tossed around in genetic genealogy circles to determine how a Family Finder project could best serve the genealogy community. Some projects already exist. As I have said, we are in the pioneering stages with autosomal DNA testing, and the path not taken may be a great opportunity lost.

Although Family Finder test results can be incorporated in several DNA projects as mentioned in the previous blog, Family Finder projects are, by nature, family projects. They focus on particular families. A Family Finder Project focuses on the descendants of one set of ancestors. To ensure that many testers have relevant matches within the project, you should choose a couple no more than eight generations back.

Getting Started

A pedigree chart of known descendants should be posted on the project website or if there is a separate genealogy site for this information, post the link instead. The descendant chart should be continually updated as more information is available. The administrator would then seek eligible descendants to test from the known pedigree. Keep in mind that beyond second cousins it is reasonably possible that some known relatives will not share enough DNA to be detected by Family Finder. As more descendant lines are tested, the number of matches between cousins will increase.

Join Requests

As the common connection between project members is shared genealogical ancestry, a JOIN REQUEST would be required as well as a documented pedigree to the targeted ancestors for those who test independently of the project. Such a request is available for all Family Tree DNA projects and is merely a request to join the project. This gives the administrator control over the membership and surety that the members are related.

Suggested Descendant Project Goals

1. To gather all the descendants of the targeted ancestors.
2. To find cousins for the purpose of furthering this family’s lineages by combining research efforts.


We each have many ancestral couples five, six, seven, and eight generations back. Indeed, six generations back we have sixty-four great grandparents or thirty-two ancestral couples … too many couples to create projects for each. Not to become overwhelmed by project administration, it is important to select a couple that is of particular interest in your genealogical research and to recruit other Family Historians and Genealogists to help administrate the project. Those who face a road block more recently than five generations may wish to run a project on more recent generations.

To order a Family Finder test or create a project contact Family Tree DNA

Thank you Rebecca Canada for rewriting this topic to the point of authorship! You help and insight has been invaluable.

© Aulicino, 22 July 2010

29 July 2010

Autosomal Testing Helps Traditional DNA Projects

Many DNA administrators are looking at how to use new autosomal DNA (atDNA) testing products in their current projects. These projects include Y-DNA, Haplogroup, Geographic, Ethnic, and Adoption. But can they help and, if so, how?

Keep in mind the lack of resolution from current atDNA tests beyond the fifth cousin level as well as the possibility of pedigree collapse as you apply atDNA test results to various established DNA projects. See my former blogs for more details on these.

Surname (Y-DNA Based) Projects

The greatest advantage for Y-DNA projects having Family Finder testers involved is that women and men who do not carry a surname for a project can match those in the Y-DNA projects. All parties must have the Family Finder test, of course, but through atDNA testing women and the men with a different surname who cannot find a male surrogate to test can prove their connection to the Y-DNA project’s surname. It may also help those Y-DNA testers who cannot trace back to the common ancestor of their group to find new avenues for their research.

Four men in my Talley Y-DNA project recently tested with Family Finder as did four women and another male with a different surname. We knew that all had the surname Talley in their pedigrees except one woman whose male Y-DNA tester does not carry the Talley surname and he has not tested with Family Finder. This male tester matches the Talley surname, but has a known non-parental event (NPE), and does not match anyone with his surname at this time. Clearly, he is a Talley, and her testing reinforced his previous match with the Talley men.

In the first Talley group of testers, one Y-DNA tester traces his line to John Talley who died in Amelia County, Virginia. The other two men in the Y-DNA project have brick walls, but by comparing lineages with the women, they now have other counties to search.

From the second Talley group of testers, a man who carries a non-Talley surname matched a tested Talley. Their known lineage traced back to a common Talley ancestor. This confirms the Talley lineage of this man.

Thus, testing lines with an atDNA test expands the matching possibilities of a traditionally Y-DNA based project by allowing additional representatives (males without the surname and females) to participate.

Haplogroup Projects

Haplogroup projects are established for male haplogroups, female haplogroups, or maternal (mtDNA) lineages. These projects typically wish to explore the ancient history of the haplogroup and find differences within the group in order to discover new subclades. A few projects focus on the full genome sequence of the mitochrondria (Maternal Lineage Projects) and wish to determine if the members are closely enough related in genealogical time to locate a common ancestor. Family Finder testing can help in these situations.

For example, if an administrator has three identical genome results which have a new mutation not seen before, it is possibly a new subclade. However, one does not want to declare a new subclade based on what could be a genealogically (100 to 200 years) related group. By testing the autosomal lines through Family Finder the administrator can have more confidence these lines are not closely related before considering a new sublcade.

For those mtDNA projects that focus on the full genome sequence, administrators may wish to determine the closeness of the members to determine if the common ancestor could be found within genealogical time. For example, if two people share a mitochondria DNA (mtDNA) line, by taking the Family Finder test they may refine the time to common ancestor calculations. The match could be a 2nd or 4th cousin, thus making the connection since 1800.

My haplogroup is U5a1a1, and in my project by that name, ten of us match on the full genome sequence (entire mtDNA). Although we shared our lineages and many of us help the others, we have not been able to determine a common ancestor within genealogical time so far. Project members have begun testing with Family Finder to see if recent relationships are indicated. If Family Finder does not give us matches within our group, we know that the common ancestor may be prior to the fourth great-grandparents or too far back for genealogical purposes. However, it is possible that some group members may find matches in Family Finder even if they are not on the all female line. This could help testers research in new areas which could lead to finding the common ancestor. In time, as more people test both the full mtDNA and Family Finder, the likelihood increases that a common ancestor will be found within our group for some of the matches.

Geographic Projects

A Geographic Project focuses on location, and as it is often difficult for testers to find connections along the Y-DNA lineage or the mtDNA lines, many testers turn to this type of project hoping to find some additional clues. They know their family lived in the area and often there were name changes that are not apparent or easy to determine. The Family Finder test can help.

As many families live in the same region for years, they may be related along other lines of the pedigree. Having the geographical participants match each other using the Family Finder test, provides more information on related families within the geographic region.

Geographic projects have testers with a variety of surnames. Scotland, Ireland, Portugal, and Wales are a few countries with cultures that have unique surname patterns. Following the genealogy of these groups can be very difficult of not impossible, but by testing with Family Finder, more recent matches can be found and matches with others in the project. For example, if two men with a 67/67 match have different surnames they could match with Family Finder as 3rd cousins. This would allow them to look at 3rd gr-grandfather for their common ancestor.

Ethnic Projects

Some ethnic projects can have various levels of cousinship if the ethnic community married within their group based on social or ethnic norms, such as the Jewish, Mennonite, or Native American populations. Testing with Family Finder could help determine matches that are not apparent with other tests.

Adoption Projects

Family Finder can help locate close cousins who may have additional information for the adoptee either with a paper trail or through oral history. The matching person may have clues which can help the adoptee determine the missing pieces of the pedigree.

Numerous children were products of unwed mothers forced to give up their child by family and/or social services. In many cases both the parent and the child would like to find each other. Children often need to know their health history and many just want to know their roots. If the parents and grandparents of adopted children were encouraged to test and join the adoptees in a project, these families could be more easily reunited.

In Summary

Every way Family Finder can help projects has not been determined at this early stage. Some of the ideas presented here may not prove to be as useful as other suggestions, but as more administrators experiment, discover, and verify how this type of test can help their projects, the advantages of Family Finder will become more apparent, benefiting us all.

Family Finder can ...
1. Allow women and men with out the Y project surname to join Y-DNA Projects.
2. Help Haplogroup Projects administrators determine if those with a common haplotype are too closely related to declare a new subclade or not.
3. Determine if the time to the common ancestor for the full genome sequence in mtDNA Projects is within the 5th cousin range.
4. Assist Geographical Projects in finding connections between their members other than on the Y-DNA or mtDNA lines.
5. Assist Ethnic Projects in finding matches on autosomal lines.
6. Help adoptees find close family.
7. Help family members relocate adoptees.

If you find other ways autosomal testing helps DNA projects, contact me.

©Aulicino, 22 July 2010

08 July 2010


WOW....what a sale! I had to interrupt my series on Family Finder for this sale!!!

Family Tree DNA just posted this upgrade sale to the Administrators and current customers, and I must share it with you! This is the best upgrade sale I have seen, so if you had planned on testing more markers, this sale is for YOU!

Remember that any match you have on a
Y-DNA 12 test places your common ancestor before 600 yrs ago
Y-DNA 25 test places your common ancestor within the last 600 years
Y-DNA 37 test places your common ancestor within the last 300 years
Y-DNA 67 test places your common ancestor within the last 150-200 years

These time frames are based on an average probability and your particular family may be before or after that period. As an Administrator for several DNA projects, the best minimum test is the 37 marker, in my opinion. There are some good reasons to upgrade to the 67 marker and if money is not terribly important that would be good to do as we never know if or when another upgrade sale will happen.

Family Tree DNA's sale runs from July 8 to July 19, 2010.

Y12 to 25 Current Group Project Price $49; Sale Price $35
Y12 to 37 Current Group Project Price $99; Sale Price $69
Y12 to 67 Current Group Project Price $189; Sale Price $149
Y25 to 37 Current Group Project Price $49; Sale Price $35
Y25 to 67 Current Group Project Price $148; Sale Price $109
Y37 to 67 Current Group Project Price $99; Sale Price $79

To order, log in to your personal page and click on the SPECIAL OFFERS link in left hand navigation bar. Click on the login page below.

A credit card for your purchase constitutes a paid account, even if you don't pay the bill for a month.


copyright E. Aulicino, 8 July 2010

07 July 2010

Family Finder Testing Series: Expanding the matches; narrowing the search

Testing with the Family Finder test or other similar autosomal test can easily lead to hundreds of matches, giving us a multitude of cousins. However, with this test, the difficulty lies in finding where the common ancestor is on our pedigree chart. Although this type of testing is in its infancy, genealogists are greatly interested in increasing the number of matches, and they are scrambling to find easy ways of locating the common ancestor. Over time, more methods may develop, but for now, these can help.

Expanding the number of matches

As genealogists, we know that the more people you contact, the more likely you are to find someone with the information you are missing. The more cousins you match, the greater the possibility of adding more generations to your lineage. However, there are only two ways to expand the number of matches you have; either have people in your family test or wait for matches to appear on your website. The greater advantage is to have family members test.

Since each person inherits a different mix of DNA from their ancestors and since a minimum length of DNA is required to determine a match, testing more family members will result in more cousin matches. Many of your cousins may have already tested, but as you did not inherit enough of the same DNA segment, you will not match them. Your relatives may, however.

All of us are not fortunate enough to have the following list of relatives to test, but for each that you can test you are more likely to find additional matches. Every family member has inherited different DNA from the ancestors and will, therefore, match other testers.

· Parents and grandparents.
· Siblings of the parents and grandparents.
· Your siblings.
· First, second, and third cousins.

Not only will the above list increase the number of matches you can have on Family Finder, but testing these relatives will also help you more easily locate the common ancestor between you and your match.

Narrowing the search for the common ancestor

Finding a common ancestor given all the thousands of names we may have in our database can be daunting. Where do you begin? How can the hunt be narrowed to something manageable?

After determining the time period or range of ancestors where you are most likely to match your new cousin as outlined in the previous article Sharing Your Genealogy Research, you may wish to take an additional approach to reduce the amount of searching required in order to find that common ancestor. As each of us inherits different lengths of DNA segments from our ancestors, testing multiple family members can help you focus on which lineages you may have in common with a match. Although nothing is fool-proof, these ideas that can help you determine where to begin looking and improve your success rate for finding the common ancestor.

Testing Older Generations

Testing older generations is helpful because it narrows your search to fewer branches of your tree. When you and a grandparent match the same person you narrow your genealogical search to that grandparent’s line.

When your parents and grandparents are not available you may also test their siblings. Unlike testing your direct line though, you cannot use an aunt, uncle, great aunt, or great uncle to rule out a line. This is because they may have inherited different DNA from their parents.

Testing the older generations means you can find matches farther back on your lines as parents and grandparents have longer segments of ancestral DNA. A match with a grandparent will help you focus on particular lines to find the common ancestor. Again, these family members would have longer links than you would have for older generations, and the siblings would have inherited different mixes of the ancestors’ DNA, giving you other matches.

Testing Cousins

Testing cousins is a way to clarify which side of your family you share with your match. Unlike testing older generations it cannot be used to exclude a line, however. When you match someone, but a tested cousin does not, you may or may not be able to rule out that line for reasons beyond the scope of this article, but know that if your match matches a cousin you can narrow your search to that those related lines.

Testing first cousins on your father’s line as well as your mother’s line could determine which half of your lineage is related to your match. If your match shares a DNA segment with your maternal cousin, then all three of you share ancestry from your maternal line.

If you can only test one of the cousins, for example a son of your father’s brother, you can still benefit. If that cousin, you, and your match share the same DNA segment in the same location on the same chromosome, then the common ancestor is on your father’s line.

Again, the opposite is not always true. If your match does not have the same DNA segment with your paternal cousin, the possibility is that either the common ancestor is on your maternal side or your paternal cousin did not inherit enough DNA to be above the minimum amount needed to be declared a cousin. This can happen if the match is more distant than a first or second cousin. In these cases, the match could actually be on either parent’s line. Testing additional cousins may help as other cousins could have inherited enough of the DNA from that ancestor.

Testing second and third cousins is greatly beneficial as these relatives give you DNA segments you may not have. You can also narrow your search based on how those cousins are related to you.

In summary

1. Test older generations to include or exclude the main branches of your tree.
2. Test cousins on your paternal and maternal sides to determine which half of your lineage could hold the common ancestor.
3. Remember that if a relative does not match your matches, it means they did not inherit a long enough segment of the common ancestor’s DNA.

In posting my success stories for DNA testing on this blog and in discussions with others I know who have tested with Family Finder, I have found cousins who do not match me on my autosomal test. As stated, this is because both of us did not inherit enough of the same DNA segment. We have the same lineages and those lineages have been confirmed as accurate since other cousins did match me on those lines. In this way, autosomal testing gives great confidence to our genealogical paper trails as well as help us find new cousins with whom to research.

copyright: E. Aulicino, July 2010
Thank you R.

29 June 2010

Family Finder Testing Series: Sharing your genealogy research

I’ve tested with Family Finder…now what?

With the advent of Family Finder (FF) by Family Tree DNA, many genetic genealogists are scrambling to understand how to use this new test, how to locate cousins, how it can help their existing projects, and how to build Family Finder-specific projects. Those genealogists who are also interested in statistics and the genetics behind this powerful test are building databases to map who is on which chromosome as well as creating many other useful tools to compare the raw data.

Given that, it is important to clarify how this test can be helpful to the average genealogist as well as to project administrators. The following categories will be addressed in this series:

....Sharing your genealogy research
....Expanding matches; narrowing the search

....What is the advantage to Chromosome Mapping for the average genetic genealogist? For an Administrator? How necessary is it?

....How does Family Finder help projects?

....Creating a Family Finder project

Testing with Family Finder or with other autosomal tests designed to find cousin matches throughout your pedigree can be daunting to those of us who have come to rely on the ease and consistency of the Y-chromosome. It is time though to examine how to effectively use our genealogy to locate the common ancestor.

This type of test focuses on immediate family and back to fifth cousins, although more distant cousins can be located. Just what is a fifth cousin?

A Fifth cousin is seven generations from yourself, taking you back to your fourth great-grandparents. You have 64 fourth great-grandparents. Not many of us can claim that we know all of them. Also, there is the situation known as pedigree collapse as I mentioned in the previous article. That is, you are related to yourself on more than one set of grand-parents. Somewhere in your line you may have a connection to a set of grand-parents twice. This is the case when cousins marry each other so you do not have different people filling the roles of all the ancestors.

· Siblings have the same parents. (2)
· First cousins have the same grandparents. (4)
· Second cousins have the same great-grandparents. (8)
· Third cousins have the same great-great-grandparents. (16)
· Fourth cousins have the same great-great-great-grandparents. (32)
· Fifth cousins have the same great-great-great-great-grandparents. (64)

In autosomal testing, you receive a match at a certain cousin level. It is important to understand that the designated level is based on the amount of DNA you share with your match. As we know, each person inherits a mixture of DNA from his or her ancestors and as that mixture is unique to each person, the level of cousin-ship is more likely a range in reality. That is, the genealogical paper trail will indicate more accurately the cousin-ship, and it can be either side of the suggested cousin-ship. The listed cousin-ship is a good basis for determining where to begin sharing your lineage.

I have a match who was declared a third cousin, but is, in reality, a seventh cousin. The reason for this suggested match being so recent, but in actuality so far back, is that my great-grandparents were first cousins. I inherited more DNA on that mutual line than one would normally. It makes me appear closer than I really am.

On my other matches where a common ancestor has been found, I was listed as probably fifth to seventh cousins. Those matches proved to be ninth and tenth cousins.

When the reliability of the test requires that cousin-ship be listed as fifth to distant cousins, and the likelihood of finding that cousin is a low percentage, how is it that I have the common ancestor for four matches? The answer is simple. My matches and I inherited large enough segments of DNA from our distant ancestors, and our paper trails along the ancestral lines are very wide.

Sharing your genealogy research

Is your data deep and wide?

Deep? Yes. Do you have seven or more generations back from you on all your lines? Do you know all of your thirty-two fourth great-grandparents? Most people do not, but the farther back your lines reach, it is more likely you will find your common ancestor.
Wide? Yes. The more names (including spouses), dates, and places you have for the direct line, the siblings of the direct ancestors, and their children and grandchildren, the more likely you will find the common ancestor. A major reason I found my common ancestors is that not only did I have the lineage back to the late 1600s, but I had many descendants of the siblings of my direct line. In some cases, I have tried to bring the lines down to the present.

Share your data effectively.

After contacting your match, it is extremely important to share as much data as you can, but many people have thousands of names in their database. For this reason, it is wise to use some strategies to effectively target where the match could be.

After looking for surnames you may have in common, check locations. It is very possible that their ancestor married a sister or cousin of your ancestor, thus the surnames would be different until both lines work back to the common ancestor. A location may provide a clue to which lines could relate.

Compare your data in the range where you could share a common ancestor in actuality. That is, if you are slated as a 5th cousin, share lineage from your 3rd great-grandparents back to the 6th or 7th at least.

Sharing your data efficiently.

There are several ways to share your genealogy efficiently. Family Tree DNA allows you to upload your GEDCOM and/or list on your personal Family Finder pages your surnames with a location. It is important to list variations of the surname separately as the program is designed to highlight in bold print the surnames you have in common with your matches. Many people, however, are using the location area to list dates and details of that country or state. Remember testing is international and those you match outside of your country may not know where towns are or state codes.

Your own personal website is a great way to share your data. Send the URL to those you match for them to locate common names or places. Some people choose to create their own websites either through various genealogical sites which offer space for free or to pay for their own site. Some use Ancestry.com to post their information.

Additionally, using your genealogy program, you can compile a series of descendant reports of your fourth great-grandparents and store them either in your email program’s draft section or in your word processor. These can be easily sent to those you match.

Suggest and request that your matches send you the same information.

Personally, I find it easier to scan the information in an outline form rather than click on multiple “boxes” of some online pedigrees or GEDCOMs.

In summary:

1. Do your genealogy as far back as you can, and bring down as many of the siblings along those ancestral lines (siblings of your direct line, their children, etc.) closer to the present. Cover the time frame from 3rd cousins-10th cousins with these details. Do not forget spouses and the dates and locations of all events.

2. Use a website to post the information you wish to share, or prepare various descendant charts for major parts of your line that you can forward to your matches.

3. When you write your matches, send the info in #2 and ask if any names or places are shared.

4. Realize ... and let your matches know ... that the connection may not be on your direct lines; therefore, the marriages of children, their children and grandchildren are important as those are surnames that could trigger a starting point for finding the common ancestor.

5. Realize that if you look at your lineage at the 5th cousin level (7 generations back from you; 4th gr-grandparents), you or your match may have a lot of gaps. This is a major reason why you cannot locate the common ancestor.

6. Realize that the current technology has given us this tool to help with our family search, but there are no guarantees of easy or great success. Like any other DNA test, the paper trail is most important.

7. Realize that in time, we will work out how best to do this, just as we did when DNA testing for genealogy was first born. We are pioneers again, and sharing ideas is the way to conquer this task.

8. Understand that Family Tree DNA and 23andMe do not have the space to post large chunks of our lineage. Their purpose is to find us matches. I'm only speculating, but the arrangements for sharing lineage on FF (surname lists and/or your GEDCOM) could get tweaked at some point, or we could get more creative with how we use it. For example: List your surnames under SURNAME; give your URL for the chart of that line under COUNTRY. People who do name searches will look at the URL out of curiosity and find many more names there.

9. Share the above information with people you match. This is a new tool for genealogists and most are still learning what to do.

10. Have fun!

©Aulicino, 21 Jun 2010
Thank you R.

17 June 2010

Three DNA Tests for Genealogists, part 3 Autosomal

Family Finder Testing

This test by Family Tree DNA focuses on autosomal DNA (atDNA). Autosomal DNA is found in our 22 pairs of non-sex chromosomes. The atDNA represents the accumulated DNA inheritance from your ancestors. You inherit approximately fifty percent of your genes from your mother and the remainder from your father. In turn, each of them inherited about fifty percent from each of their parents, and so on. Autosomal markers recombine or restructure themselves differently for every person at conception. In other words, these are the markers which make you look like your family, but not exactly…unless you have an identical twin. These markers make you a unique individual. They give you your mother’s high cheek bones, your father’s nose, etc.

Family Finder tests SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms), for over 500,000 autosomal points.

Both men and woman can test their atDNA. This test finds matches for any of your cousins on your pedigree chart between the top line of the pedigree chart (Y-DNA) and the bottom line (mtDNA). However, the test has limitations as it requires a certain length of DNA in a continuous sequence to be handed down from the ancestor in order to match another tester with enough mathematical certainty to determine a level of cousin-ship. The longer the segments are that match a person, the closer the relationship. In the case of children, half-siblings, parents, uncles, aunts, first cousins, and other close relatives, there will be multiple long segments of matching DNA. With more distant cousins, those segments are much shorter. The test is most accurate in determining relationships up to the fifth cousin level. This does not mean you can only find fifth cousins or less. I have found seventh, ninth, and tenth cousins, but finding the common ancestor can be extremely difficult unless you and your match have extensive information on your lineage and not just for the direct line.

The determination of a cousin-ship is built on the amount of DNA inherited from your ancestors. As we all can inherit a different amount from each ancestor, the calculations are only mathematical probabilities which can give you a range of relationship. That is, your match may be listed as a fourth cousin, but in reality, the paper trail could show the match to be anywhere from a 3rd cousin once removed to a 6th cousin or more. The reason for this is multi-faceted, but, in general, it depends upon the amount of DNA inherited, the generational “half-steps” of being once or twice removed as well as a possibility of pedigree collapse.

Since each person inherits a different combination of their ancestors’ DNA, it can be prudent to have your parents, grandparents and cousins tested, as well. This will definitely help you narrow connection possibilities with matches. Testing the older generations will also help you find matches farther back in your lineage. As the test is able to confirm an approximate fifth cousin match, a fifth cousin for your parent or grandparent takes you farther back in time than a test for yourself. BUT, as we all inherit different amounts of autosomal DNA, you may have matches your sibling or cousin does not have. Testing more people in your extended family means a great chance for some different matches.

As all my parents and grandparents are dead, I tested myself, my son, and my paternal first cousin. The chart to the left is where my son (green) and my cousin (blue) match me. The dark sections are where no matches occurred as well as segments of the chromosomes which are not relevant to testing for genealogists.

If my cousin and I both match someone, I know the connection is on my father’s side. If only my son and I match someone, it is more likely that either the connection is on my mother’s line or that my cousin did not inherit enough of the DNA to connect with the match. Using your relatives in such a manner can narrow the hunt for your common ancestor.

However, just because you do not have a match with someone does not suggest you are not related. Gene segments recombine at random, and this means if you do not match a person you can still be related. You or your cousin did not inherited a large enough DNA segment in the same location to meet the minimum threshold to determine cousin-ship. For this reason, you will not be a genetic match to all of your genealogical cousins, should they test.

Family Finder (atDNA) summary:

· Males and females can test their atDNA in portions of the 22 pairs of chromosomes.
· The test gives matches anywhere on your pedigree chart.
· Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) are tested.
· The larger the segment you share with someone the closer your common ancestor.

In conclusion, it is clear that each type of test helps genealogy. Relatives can be located with any of them, but how those relatives are related to us depends upon which test is used. The Y-DNA test finds matches to the all male line which is usually the surname in most cultures. The mtDNA test finds cousins along the all female line, but is more informative about our ancient culture. The Family Finder test locates cousins everywhere else on our pedigree charts, but with confidence back to the fifth cousin although connections can be found beyond that.

With DNA testing, the genealogist can prove and disprove their paper trail, find cousins they have never met, share genealogies with the hope that the new cousins have more information, and gain new research partners. Finding genealogical cousins is the best reason to DNA test family members!

The next article will provide ideas on how best to locate the common ancestor for those you match.

copyright 17 Jun 2010, E. Aulicino
Thank you, R.