Why Y?

Father’s day is always an occasion for the DNA testing companies to offer discounts on their kits and this year is no different. Give Dad a DNA kit is the message. Why should you? Well his autosomal DNA might find cousins you had lost track of, discover ethnicity you were curious about, or solve an unknown parent mystery. After all, he is one generation closer to your ancestors. I tested my late father long ago and am grateful to have that information. Click here for my evaluations of the different autosomal testing companies.

Dad and I in about 1953 (he was in the Air Force)

Only men have a Y chromosome and there are tests for just the Y. Those tests can give you information about your surname and your deep father line ancestry. Family Tree DNA is the place to test just the Y although both LivingDNA and 23andme will give you a high level Y haplogroup, plus there are tools to determine the haplogroup from an AncestryDNA or MyHeritage test (discussed at the end of this post).

If you know what a Y haplogroup is you can skip this paragraph … The 23rd pair of chromosomes is an XX for a woman and an XY for a man. The problem or benefit is that there is no second Y for that Y to recombine with. Thus unlike the other 22 chromosomes a man’s parents give him, the Y is unchanged from his Dad’s and his Dad’s and his Dad’s and so on, except for mutations. Those little changes accumulate over thousands of years and allow scientists to catalog the Y and trace the migration of mankind around the globe. Each set of Y mutations is assigned to a haplogroup, and subgroup, which can tell you where your ancestors came from thousands of years back. Here is the latest diagram from the
wikipedia article on Y

Y haplogroup world expansion – start at the big Y in Africa (A was the first haplogroup) -image from wikipedia by Maulucioni [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

If you are of European origin then click here for the Eupedia articles on each haplogroup.

Continue reading

Another Unusual DNA Adoptee Case

Janice was searching for her biological father. Her Ancestry DNA test had found what looked to be an aunt or half aunt, “ Sally,” and also a half uncle, “Trevor,” who did not match each other, both about 20 years older than Janice. So likely each of them was related to one parent of the unknown father. This could be easy! But wait…

Display from Ancestry Beta match view: Note that the common ancestor with Sally came after adding her tree

Notice the difference in matching DNA and that they are both listed as 1st-2nd cousins. Yet both are in the range for half aunt/uncle (500-1446 cM). Although other relationships, like first cousin were possible, they did not fit the known facts or the matching to common relatives. Trevor’s second cousins shared with Janice were all showing as third or fourth cousins to her, suggesting one generation of difference. The same was true for Sally’s closer cousins: her firsts were coming up as Janice’s seconds.

Trevor, born 1945, had just discovered via his Ancestry test that the father who had raised him was not his biological dad. His dad was actually his stepfather; he had adopted him when marrying Trevor’s mother. Sadly she was no longer available to tell Trevor who his birth father really was and the father of record did not fit the DNA evidence.

Sally knew that her mother had given birth to a boy in 1944 that had been adopted out. This child was not the son of the man she later married; his father was unknown. Sally had tested her DNA hoping to find her half brother and was excited to have found his daughter!

How Sally and Trevor are related to Janice

The problem here is that since Janice’s father is that adopted half brother, there may be no way to track him down. The best I could do for Janice was to find Trevor’s dad and Janice’s paternal grandfather via DNA. Since he had deep American roots it took less than four hours! That is of my time, but actually a day and a half of elapsed time.

Here is how it was done.
Continue reading

My 2019 Jamboree Roundup

Another wonderful Jamboree, the 50th birthday celebration, is over. This is my favorite conference not just because of the great weather and outdoor bar but also for the manageable size and a day for just DNA, not to mention the high quality of the presenters. So I was very sad to hear that it will not happen next year; they are reinventing themselves for 2020 – click here for the announcement on their blog.

Ask the DNA Experts: Brad Larkin, Kitty Cooper, Tim Janzen, Angie Bush, Dave Dowell, moderator Alice Fairhurst photo credit: Ann Schumacher

The DNA Experts Panel this year went particularly well. However when looking at one attendee’s evaluation form I saw that they had taken notes on their form (including my “read my blog!” refrain); so I include that image without the ratings (all good, yes we read what you say!) at the end of this post in case they did not make another copy.

My plan at a genealogy conference is always to attend a maximum of 2-3 talks a day (more is information overload for me) and otherwise hang out in the exhibit hall looking at what’s new from my favorite vendors. Plus spend time with friends over lunch and in the bar when the day is done. Thank you all for the glasses of wine!

When I get home after the conference, I like to watch some of the presentations that were streamed, particularly the early morning ones that I was not awake yet for. The genealogy ones are free online, thanks to Ancestry‘s sponsorship, until July 31. Go to https://webcastandbeyond.com/streaming/jamboree/ to get a login id.

Thomas MacEntee of Abundant Genealogy starting his streamed talk – screenshot from that archive

I really loved listening to Thomas MacEntee explaining how to you can do genealogy in 15 minute chunks. Like you, I said to myself, “No way!” But his presentation taught me a great deal about keeping track of my research, staying organized, and how not to chase those bright shiny objects (BSOs – this latter is my biggest failing!) by adding them to my to do list.

There is always news at these conferences.
Continue reading

Time for Jamboree 2019!

The Southern California Genealogical Society puts together my favorite conference every year in Burbank. This year is their 50th anniversary! In my next post I hope to share some of what I have learned here.

However since all the screens on the DNAgedcom client have changed I am too busy updating my presentation on Using DNA for Unknown Parentage Cases,  which will be live streamed tomorrow afternoon, to write a more complete article. Click the image to get to the Jamboree web site and learn more.

 

Please Opt In at GEDmatch

In these modern divisive times, even the genetic genealogy community has been torn into two camps. Is it modern nature to react with emotion rather than thought? With the “are you with us or them”? Is this what overuse of social media has done to us? I can see both sides of the issue. Some of you may wonder what I am even talking about ….

Cece Moore on Dr Phil explaining how she uses DNA to find criminals (click image to go to that site for the article and video)

The problem has arisen because Law Enforcement (LE) has been using DNA and genealogy databases to help find violent criminals and to resolve many old and cold cases like the Golden State Killer (GSK) case. They are using the techniques and tools that were developed for breaking genealogical brick walls and helping adoptees find their biological families. Personally, I applaud this usage and the closure it brings to the families of the victims. A dear 4th cousin of mine lived in fear during her adolescent years in Sacramento because of the GSK.

However the issues of concern for many genealogists are privacy and consent. Frankly, I think you should not test your DNA if privacy is a worry of yours. So many people have tested now that you can be easily identified if you do it too. My son and two nephews have chosen not test for that reason.

How about consent? Consider the site GEDmatch.com, which was developed to let people compare their DNA tests with testers from other companies, as well as provide many helpful additional tools. If you uploaded your DNA there in the past, had you given your consent for this usage? After the GSK case. I marked all the kits I control as research until each person had responded with permission to open it up. Most were happy with the thought that their DNA might out a distant cousin who was a criminal. Polls show that 90% of Americans are OK with this too.

I have been asking everyone again since GEDmatch now has an specific opt in on each kit for LE usage of those test results in comparisons. There is also an opt in for whether the link to your WIKItree compact tree should show. Both are important. Until many more people have opted in, the benefit of the database for LE is very limited.

Why the opt in now? Why is the genetic genealogy community so divided? What happened?
Continue reading