My husband Steve died Tuesday morning of his advanced prostate cancer. It went to his brain and his bone marrow, making further treatment futile. The last few months have been very difficult.
I just cannot imagine life without him. Click here for the obituary I wrote for him on the Bridge Winners web site.
I truly love this work with DNA and genealogy but it takes brain power, of which I have very lttle at the moment. So I am going on hiatus for a while. I hope to be back in a month or two.
Steve and Kitty at her son’s wedding in 2010
It is time to update my recommendations on dealing with Ashkenazi Jewish DNA, the DNA of those who are Jewish of Northern European origin, often abbreviated AJ. The usual goals of DNA testing are to find out where your ancestors were from, to find cousins who might have good family stories, to confirm your paper genealogy, and perhaps to check on health issues. There are some special considerations for AJ DNA.
First, for Ashkenzi Jews, the ethnicity results are usually not very useful as they look like this:
Typical Ashkenazi Jewish DNA Origins as shown at Ancestry.com
Of course for some with a larger than 2% non-Jewish percentage, it can confirm a non-Jewish ancestor.
Another deep ancestry goal for the Jewish male is to confirm or look for Cohanim or Levite roots. If your Y haplogroup belongs to one of those (see below) then best to do full Y testing over at Family Tree DNA which has projects for Levites and various Cohen groups. 23andme gives you your high level haplogroup but the other testing companies do not. If you tested elsewhere, click here and scroll end of this article to learn how to get your Y haplogroup: Why Y?.
Slide on Jewish Y Haplogroups – image from a Y haplogroup crative commons image at wikipedia, no longer available
Finding relatives is difficult because all of us Ashkenazim are related multiple times, both way back when and more recently. Most AJs look like 4th or 5th cousins to each other even when that is not the case. Cousin marriages, uncle-niece marriages, and other close family marriages abound in our trees. In my own family, on my Jewish line, my great grandmother fixed up her sister with her husband’s brother to get that dowry for the family business so I have double third cousins. Click here for my article from back in 2014 that suggested that we are all descended from 350 people in the 1300s.
This means the Shared Matches feature at Ancestry is useless to us because it does not show how the two matches are related to each other and that can be quite distant. Both MyHeritage and 23andme are kind enough to show how the shared matches are related to each other.
The excitement is building… RootsTech, the largest yearly genealogy conference, has gone virtual and what’s more it’s free this year! Over 400,000 people from all over the world have registered for RootsTech Connect. It starts this Thursday February 25–27, 2021, at rootstech.org [UPDATE 23-Feb-2021: Due to time differences, in the USA it starts the evening of Wednesday the 24th: the Expo Hall officially opens at 5pm Mountain time and the main stage and classes at 9 pm Mountain time… and yes I updated the number of attendees and will continute to do that].
Many companies have sales or specials at the time of Rootstech. One of the most exciting ones is that DNA uploads of tests from other testing companies will get the DNA tools for free this week at MyHeritage (click here to learn more). Be sure to go to the virtual Expo Hall, once it is open, to check out all the other specials.
Title slide from one of my presentations. Photo by Anne Call House from a past RootsTech. Click image for my speaker page
My own talks are a two part series on unknown parentage, as well as a presentation on one world collaborative trees: FamilySearch, GENI, and WIKItree. I saw a really large number of talks in my areas of interest: DNA, Norway, Jewish, and Germany. Fortunately the talks will be available long after the conference ends. There are far too many for me to manage in just three days!
How are they going to handle the online conference?
GEDmatch.com is about to get a face lift. Many have complained that it is not intuitive and does not offer enough help for a newcomer. The new site hopes to correct some of that; I am helping with the beta test now; it sure is prettier!
Why use GEDmatch and what is it? Well it’s a free 3rd party site of tools where you can upload your DNA test results and compare them with those from people who have tested at other companies. Plus there are many analysis tools, some available nowhere else. These include GEDCOM (family tree) comparisons, including yours to your DNA matches.
Recently I gave a talk for the Family History Fanatics at their Winter of DNA conference where I demonstrated how to use GEDmatch without worrying about segments. An approach that gets a lot out of the site without having to be a geek like me. The slides are here: https://slides.com/kittycooper/gedmatch-basics-2021
Here is a step by step of that very basic approach as outlined in the syllabus for my FHF presentation
1. Create a User ID and Upload a DNA raw data file, aka a “kit”
Click the image above to go to the video from Andrew Lee, of FHF, which shows you how to create a user id and upload your DNA raw data to GEDmatch.
Or read this blog post of mine which also has links to my other GEDmatch posts
2. Once Logged in, your Dashboard Page is not Intuitive
The tools are in the right hand column and the resources you have uploaded are listed on the left. You can upload more than one DNA kit and multiple GEDCOMs. There is a help section on the top right.
This post from Jim Bartlett is a useful explanation of the home page, as is my basics post listed above.
And here is what my beta test Dashboard looks like, an improvement? I think so.
Sometimes testing the Y chromosome can help when you are looking for a missing father, grandfather, or further back as long as you have a tester descended on the male only line. Remember the Y is passed father to son, so any changes are rare and are caused by mutations not recombination. Typically a man would start with a Y 37 STR marker test at Family Tree DNA to see if this avenue is worth pursuing. A STR test gets the most recent changes rather than the haplogroup, thus can suggest a surname. Click here for my article explaining Y testing.
The Y results will not help if no other men from that Y lineage have tested unless you have a theory. In that case you need to test someone else descended on the male only line from the presumed ancestor.
Y testing can be very useful when the unknown parentage occured many generations ago, such that autosomal testing may not be able to solve it.
If your ancestors have been in the USA for some time then a Y 37 STR marker test may find a probable last name. In that case there may be a surname project with other Y testers at Family Tree DNA. I recommend contacting the admins of that project as they can often be a great help in your quest. However if you are from a population group which has only had inherited surnames for two hundred years or less, quite likely you will have no luck.