Tag Archives: DNA

DNA Testing – But Which Test and Which Company?

Many people ask me about DNA testing. My first response is to try to determine why they want to test. Looking for cousins? Looking for medical information? Looking for ancestral origins? There’s actually a test for each a fact that surprises some people and may complicate the decision making process. Taking the wrong test can be a waste of time and money.  Some companies offer a wide variety of choices and others have a very simple offering.

So, where to start. The International Society of Genetic Genealogy has posted a highly informative grid of the 4 major testing companies, what each offers and how much their services cost.

Here’s the link: https://isogg.org/wiki/Autosomal_DNA_testing_comparison_chart

The information you find there should help just about anyone who is considering testing. It’s very easy to order the wrong test and ultimately cause frustration. Decide what your goals are first and then select an appropriate test from an appropriate company.

Good luck! Feel free to get in touch with me if you’d like more details. Use dave@oldbones.info. to reach me directly.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the upcoming New England Regional Genealogical Conference taking place in Springfield, Massachusetts starting April 26th and running until April 29th, 2017. Over 70 highly respected genealogists delivering 135 presentations, workshops, Ancestor Road Show, and an Exhibit Hall with approximately 75 vendors. The public is free to explore the Exhibit Hall while attendance to any of the programs requires registration.  Click here for dates, times, featured speakers, luncheons, banquets, historical tour of Springfield founded in 1636, a tour of the Museum of Springfield  History and Archives and about 1,000 fellow genealogists to rub elbows with. Featured speakers include Warren Bittner, a nationally acclaimed genealogist specializing in German research; Thomas MacEntee, another highly respected expert in multiple genealogical pursuits; and Kenyatta D Berry, co-host of the PBS program “Genealogy Road Show.”

Missed RootsTech?

RootsTech is the largest genealogical conference in the world. In 2017, more than 30,000 genealogists of all stripes attended what has been described as a phenomenal event. Their website describes the event: “RootsTech is a global family history event where people of all ages learn to discover, share and celebrate their family connections across generations through technology. At RootsTech, there is something for everyone, no matter your experience in family history or your skill level in technology.”

But, of course, most of us missed it for a variety of reasons. Well, there’s good news!

RootsTech has put up most of the presentations that anyone can view. BUT!! It’s only for a limited time.  I’ve searched around the site and there’s no indication as to how they define “limited time” so my advice is to check out the website and view what you can while you can. You won’t regret it as the conference was chock full of presentations by the best in the business. As far as subjects are concerned…best to check out the website!

Click here RootTech to access the home page and read about the conference itself and plans for RootsTech 2018 and RootsTech 2019 in the FAQ’s section accessible from the menu in the upper right-hand corner. Or just click here: Frequently Asked Questions.

And since we’re talking about genealogy conferences, don’t forget about NERGC 2017 being held this year in Springfield, Massachusett from 26 April to 29 2017. Wednesday the 26th  is “Library and Teacher’s Day with a track on Technology. Thursday through Saturday is the main event with 130 presentations, workshops, lunches and banquets.  NERGC takes place in venues around New England on the odd numbered years. Organized by the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium, the event is quite a bit smaller than RootsTech with a usual attendance of approximately 1,000. However, with 70 speakers, there is no shortage of quality presenters and with 130 presentations, no shortage of subjects covered.

Interested? Early bird registration ends on 28 February 2017!

 

Saved in El Salvador – A Brave Adoption Story – A Brave DNA Story

Double Helix - Red and Blue with BandsOne of the many people I’ve met while mentoring researchers at the Chicopee Library’s Genealogy Department is a 76 year old woman who has never married but has an adopted daughter. Taking on a 10 year old daughter while single is in and of itself a large challenge. But that’s just the surface of the story which I plan to write about over the next few weeks. About 35 years ago, this woman flew to El Salvador by herself to finalize the adoption and take her daughter home. Now, the daughter is interested in a DNA test to determine if any siblings or other family members got out safely. For historical perspective, just a few weeks after they came back to the States, several Catholic nuns were murdered and left by the roadside. Not a fun place to be. So the story will take a while to cover as she won’t be sending in her sample for a couple more weeks and then she’ll have to wait for results.

I mentioned to her that AncestryDNA might be the best place to start. This is not a case of research first then use DNA to verify the paperwork. This is starting from dead ZERO. We have no information to go by. Anything she can find will be a blessing to her. Hopefully, she’ll order this evening from www.dna.ancestry.com. I hope there’s a sale going  on!

I hope she has more patience than I do!

Stay tuned!

Strawberry DNA

Here’s a neat article I found in my Feedly posts today. Click “Imagination Station” for a simple explanation of the DNA extraction process. They’re using strawberries in the video, but, as you’ll see, you could try it on just about any living matter…including yourself.

The problem, of course, is other than having a dish of cloudy material as in the video, actually seeing the DNA you extract is a completely different story!

Have you done any DNA testing? Three major companies are in the DNA business: FamilyTreeDNA,  23andMe and AncestryDNA. Which test you take will be driven by the purpose of taking the test in the first place.  The short story is this: The most popular test today is the Autosomal DNA test or atDNA test. All three companies do this test. Keep in mind that there are 23 chromosomes in every nucleus of every cell in your body. One of those chromosomes is the sex chromosome which is either X-X or X-Y. This chromosome determines whether your are female (X-X) or males (X-Y).DNA_animationThat leaves 22 that are made up of a recombination of the DNA from your father (roughly 50%) and your mother (roughly 50%). It’s the recombination process that determines which of your father’s traits you will inherit and which of your mother’s. That’s also why siblings can either vary a great deal in their appearance or, if their appearances seem quite similar, one may have red hair and the other brown.

Logically, if you’ve got 50% of your mother’s atDNA and she received 50% from each of her parents, you can only have 25% from each of her parents. The same holds true with your father’s atDNA and that what makes up the 50% you inherited from him, 25% of which is from his father and 25% from his mother. The farther back you go up your family tree while applying the fact that the 50% gets halved at each generation. You’ll have 12.5% from each of your 8 great-grandparents, 6.75% from each of your 16 2nd great-grandparents.  Then take into account the billions of possible ways that each recombination can produce, it gets a little tricky to go very far beyond 5 or 6 generations. We refer to it as a “cousin finder.” Ethnicity can be inferred to some degree and in broad generalities: Northern European, Sub-Saharan African,  Ashkenazi Jew and so forth.

The second and third types of tests will take you deep into the genetic histories of your direct maternal or paternal lines. Only men have and thus can pass along Y-DNA. A man gets his from his father who got his from his father and so on. So to trace a paternal line, the Y test is quite useful for 2 reasons. It’s biologically impossible to get a Y chromosome from a male ancestor other than from your direct line. And it mutates at a very slow rate meaning that it stays relatively intact for thousands of years, unlike atDNA which “melts” in each generation.

The third test is for mitochondrial DNA, the mother’s unique contribution to the equation. Unlike the Y, mitochondrial or mtDNA is in everyone’s cells. For the lack of a more scientific answer, it is what powers the cells, allowing them to live, divide and recombine so that life can go on.  But, only the mother passes the mtDNA even though both she and the father have it.

Here’s the reason. Mom has her Mom’s mtDNA and Dad has his Mom’s mtDNA. At the point of conception, the ovum contains mom’s mtDNA as she supplied the ovum containing it. Dad supplied the sperm but the mtDNA is in the tail. Picture your science books where the sperm wiggles its way to its destination. At the moment of conception, the tail falls off and thus the mtDNA from the father is no longer a factor. It’s a lot like a space rocket. Once the rocket clears earth’s atmosphere, the boosters fall away. They’ve done their job!

The mtDNA will take you backwards to your mother, her  mother and her mother’s mother and so on.

Both Y and mtDNA can give you reasonably accurate description of your genetic background. But it is important to say that as far as family research is concerned, DNA tests do not replace standard research practices. It will only help to prove or disprove what you’ve discovered.

For a more detailed explanation of DNA and the various types and tests, there are some excellent bloggers whose backgrounds in the science is much deeper than my own:

That should be more than enough to get you started! Good luck!

Visit Old Bones Genealogy of New England at www.oldbones.info

AncestryDNA versus “AncestrybyDNA”

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA...

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA. The bases lie horizontally between the two spiraling strands. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hard to notice the difference in the name, isn’t it. Considering that one of the services is selling their test for $69, our eyes seem to glaze over when it comes to the name. AncestryDNA has certainly had its ups and downs, but for the last several months or even a couple of years, they’ve improved their testing techniques, modified the “algorithms” that produce the results and can now be highly recommended. And to be sure, I’m not talking about “AncestrybyDNA.” Be careful to notice the differences in the name!

As a matter of fact, AncestryDNA tests over 700,000 markers to arrive at their results. That fact, combined with the extraordinarily large database of family trees, they are able to make some dramatic “cousin matches.” They are not without their faults as none of the companies are. But their batting average has improved exponentially

AncestrybyDNA, on the other hand is a horse of a different color. In case you didn’t notice, the name is ANCESTRY BY DNA. Where did that “by” come from? It seems that AncestrybyDNA feels that the hidden “by” is enough to distinguish it from the vastly more effective tool for genealogists, AncestryDNA, the one with no “by” in their name.

Groupon is a company that sells products and services such as restaurant deals, clothing deals, vacation deals and lately, DNA testing deals. Keep you eye on the by!

AncestryDNA, FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe are the 3 companies that should be at the top of your list. Check them out. AncestryDNA tests ONLY autosomal DNA, often referred to as the “cousin finder.” FamilyTreeDNA offers a whole spectrum of tests with a variety of packages and prices. Very reputable. Then there’s 23andMe which has also had it’s ups and downs, but that’s another story. Let’s just say that there’s nothing to worry about with the legitimacy  or integrity of 23andMe or any of these three.

To read a bit more about this from someone who is vastly more experienced than I am, check out Judy G. Russell’s incredibly informative blog,  The Legal Genealogist. You may even consider following her. It’ll be worth it!

FamilyTreeDNA

FamilyTreeDNA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is a Utah Mormon the Real King of England?

There’s an interesting DNA case that has been developing in Britain. There is a dispute involving

Stitchill, Roxburghshire, Scotland

Stichill, Roxburghshire, Scotland

the 13th century Pringle of Stichill, with Stichill being a town and civil parish in the county of Roxburghshire in Scotland. Described in the article as a “bitter dispute,” 2 lines of Pringle men are battling out the true and rightful heir to the title.  Both have spent a great deal of money in the courts to sort it all out. And it all started with a simple family tree project!

Invoking DNA evidence, the case is now to be decided by the highest courts in Great Britain. The Queen herself had to make the decision to send the case to the 7 judges of the Supreme Court based on a little used law called the “Judicial Act 1833.”

Here in the Daily Mail article, you can read the details of that case and also the potential case of Mormon lawyer James Ord. He “joked” that if  DNA evidence is ruled to be admissible evidence, he may be able to make a claim to the throne. It seems that George IV sired a bevy of illegitimate children (I’ll pause for the collective gasp) and Mr. Ord may be a distant cousin of one of those offspring, an American seaman.

The Royal Family has only been subjected to DNA testing once. The case of Richard III and the DNA results from that test could prove catastrophic to the current Royal line inasmuch as it would call into doubt the lineage of Henry VII who seized the throne from Richard.

Genealogists may want to subscribe to the Daily Mail to follow these stories.

Sure, Ancestry.com wants to share my health report with everyone! Well, no thanks!

Ancestry Health? Yes, Ancestry Health

This is a little bit disturbing in my opinion.  Maybe even creepy.  But Ancestry.com is diving into the health data field which, on the surface, sounds a bit like what the FDA prevented 23andMe from doing, at least in its original form.  But that’s another story!I refer everyone to the most excellent DNA blog by scientist and genealogist, Roberta Estes.  If you have any interest in DNA whatsoever, her blog provides an excellent resource.  She speaks “English” in her blog rather than “Scientist.”  Well, she does for the most part!  Some of the entries get a little long and have a tendency to cause my eyes to glaze over, but I’m always able to get the gist of her knowledge and manage to read most of the information.  Then there’s the comments…hundreds of comments from researchers everywhere.

But I digress!  Here’s the link where she explains with reasonable clarity the ins and outs of the beta program: DNA-Explained which should be a heads-up for anyone who may be tempted to jump right into the Ancestry Health pool.

She also references Judy G Russell, a very accomplished genealogist who happens to be a lawyer, a former prosecutor in fact.  That’s another blog I would strongly recommend.  You can read and subscribe to her clever, informative, sometimes personal and often humorous words published daily at The Legal Genealogist.

Needless to say, I subscribe to both.  Some posts I have no interest in reading but most of the others and their comments are an education in and unto themselves.

Happy researching!

In closing, I had to share this Father’s Day “card” from my kids.  Matthew, Mark and Kimi collaboratively colored this cartoon for a long ago Father’s Day sometime around 1995.  They’re a prescient group as I recently discovered through 23andMe that I am, in fact, 3% Neanderthal!

neanderthal-dadThanks kids!

NERGC

English: Old print in Darłowo Castle with gene...

English: Old print in Darłowo Castle with genealogical information about King Eric the Pomeranian of Scandinavia, as released by image creator Ristesson; Place: Darłowo, Poland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re all talking about NERGC here in the North East.  NERGC?  So what’s NERGC?  It’s the acronym for the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium.  NERGC orchestrates a biennial conference at strategic cities here in New England.   Now it’s not RootsTech..nowhere near the size.  I believe RT had approximately 30,000 registrants this year, give or take 10,000.

No, NERGC is quite a bit smaller but of no less significance or importance to the genealogical community here.  Speakers, sponsored luncheons and dinners, workshops, society meetings, exhibitor hall with unopposed exhibit hours, speakers with national, regional and local recognition… NERGC has it all.

I can tick off a list of reasons why I took 4 days out my own very busy schedule to attend.

First, the opportunity to network with people who I know well, but only via social media: Facebook, Google Communities, Webinars, Google Hangouts on Air, the whole spectrum! I can tell you that it’s one thing to communicate virtually, but there’s nothing like looking across the table with a genealogy friend and sharing a meal or just a cup of coffee.  It’s what I would call a mini-conference.  There were mini-conferences going on all day, every day.

Second, I’d have to count the sessions that were held on all aspects of genealogy, family research and technology.  As a matter of fact, the entire first day was devoted to librarians, teachers and technology.  Not a bad place to be on Wednesday!  And I know that those who attended would agree.

Next, I’d count the individual specialty programs such as the “Ancestor Road Show.” This program is well attended and by reservation only!  A busy time for the NERGC volunteers,

And on the subject of volunteers, there are dozens of devoted genealogists at all levels of knowledge and experience in every field, volunteers who spend hours and hours in the planning and execution of each conference.

The Exhibition Hall was jam packed with representatives from many vendors and societies. The

The coat of arms of the Committee on Heraldry ...

The coat of arms of the Committee on Heraldry of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

genealogy website  MyHeritage was represented as well as the American-French Genealogical Society, Heritage Books, Lisa Louise’s Genealogy Gems, the Gravestone Girls, New England Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists, New England Historic Genealogical Society, citation software vendor Evidentia, and many, many more.

So now we all have to wait until April of 2017 for the next NERGC conference which will be held at the MassMutual Center

in Springfield, Mass.

See you there!

Switched at Birth—Really!

Today I want to share with you a blog, “The Legal Genealogist” by Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL who writes an amazing amount of information, all of which is useful and interesting to genealogists.  She is a lawyer, but speaks and writes in English, not “lawyer” so she’s easy to understand.  She is also a very accomplished genealogist with expertise in a variety of areas including DNA.  She lectures all over the country and is quite busy.  So I don’t know where she finds the time for all of this!

As a matter of fact, I invited her to speak at the February 2015 meeting of the Western Massachusetts Genealogical Society (WMGS) in a virtual, interactive format (Google+ Hangouts on Air) which was not only very successful, but very informative.  She was in her office in New Jersey and our meeting was held in Agawam, MA.

So that’s why I’m going to recommend that after you visit this her blog, that you subscribe.

Here are the links to a remarkable story.

The Legal Genealogist: What DNA Can Tell Us

A Strange Kind of Pilgrimage 

Switched at Birth: Unraveling a Century-Old Mystery with DNA

English: The structure of DNA showing with det...

English: The structure of DNA showing with detail showing the structure of the four bases, adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine, and the location of the major and minor groove. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

a cold morning in Alberta! February 3, 1913 “Lest We Forget”

Today I start transcribing again. The past few weeks had already been transcribed so posting was as simple as a copy/paste with a few comments. Here are the comments from the January 3rd entry, one hundred years ago!

Monday, February 3, 1913
We got up at 6 30 and the weather was much colder than Sunday. After breakfast and I got ready to go to Lemon on the rail change notes. We left at 9 30 and got to Lemon at 12 oclock sharp and had dinner. We did not start back till about 2 oclock because we did not want to get to early we would make the walks longer. We thought 22 miles iwas enough for one day. We got back about 4 00

Well, there you go! Walk 22 miles round trip for dinner??? In January??? In the CANADIAN WILDERNESS!!! And we worry about getting a parking spot right outside the entrance to the mall so we can wander around in a temperature controlled environment! I’ll be honest, I’ll take the mall over a walk in the woods to a place called “Lemon”….