Archive | 2016

Holiday Sales and Specials

This is a wonderful time of year for DNA testing because both DNA testing and Family Tree DNA have great holiday sales. The DNA testing sale does not start until midnight EST Thanksgiving day and lasts only until the 28th. See the banner below. What’s more, if you have already tested DNA, you can upload to and perhaps receive a full genome test for Christmas (see the read more).

myftdnaholidayIn addition to the great bargain prices, Family Tree DNA has special coupons for existing users which are new every Monday. You have to log in to see yours. Click the green box marked Holiday Reward (like the image to the left here) located just above your matches on your home page there.

And let’s not forget that MyHeritage has also entered the DNA testing arena with a holiday sale price of $79. My understanding is that the Family Tree DNA lab is doing their testing so your results should be transferable to Family Tree DNA for more matching sometime in the future. Note that the National Geographic deep ancestry project is transferable already.

Also we have been promised another Christmas present, any day now, Family Tree DNA will be able to take uploads of DNA data from the new chips at ancestry and 23andme for only $39.

So give the gift of DNA testing this year … Happy Holidays all!

and for the information on the holiday gifting …

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My German Second Cousin’s DNA Results are In!

Second cousin DNA tests are my favorites. You share enough DNA with a second cousin to be really useful for genetic genealogy. When someone matches your second cousin, you know which of your four pairs of great-grandparents they are related to, so it identifies the family line they are on.


Benedict Reiner in the 1880s

Of course not all second cousins are created equal. Due to the vagaries of DNA inheritance some may have inherited more from the mutual great-grandparents and some less. For example, my Dad shares 608 cMs with my second cousin John from his mom’s side and only 389 cMs with my second cousin Dick from his Dad’s side. I discussed this variability in a recent post about how to tell the relationship from the shared DNA.

I thought I had no chance of a second cousin on my maternal side because my German-born mother’s parents were both only children, or so I thought. When I started researching my family history back in the 1990s, by asking questions of my aunts, I found a family secret or at least a story I had not known before. My great-grandfather Benedict Reiner had gotten the innkeeper’s daughter pregnant and then left town; he moved to Munich and a few years later married my great-grandmother. Further discussions had revealed that the child’s name was Xavier and he had visited occasionally so the families had been in touch. This was not enough information to find him or his family, since he had his mother’s surname, but thanks to, I found them by accident. That story was a blog post earlier this year –

Now for even more good luck, my brother had a trip to Germany scheduled for a few months later so he was able to take a day off and actually meet our newly found cousins. Here is the picture.

Our German Second Cousins

Katharina, Brigitte, Shipley (my brother), Edeltraut

Even more exciting for me, we convinced them to test autosomal DNA at Family Tree DNA. We tested the oldest, my half second cousin Edeltraud, the grandmother of my correspondent Katharina. Today the results came in and I am so very happy!

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Back to Basics, My DNA talk this weekend

The Genealogy Society of San Diego is having me give two talks this coming Saturday, one about DNA basics for genealogists and the other about how I broke some brick walls with DNA testing in my own family.

Talking about using DNA for genealogy is something I love to do. While I have lots of posts and pages here, there is nothing like being able to discuss it in person. The questions I get teach me what is difficult to grasp about this shiny new tool in our genealogy kit so that I can better help others.


After the talk, I will put the links to my slides at the end of this article, but they have very few words so they are less useful if you were not there. All my presentation slides are at and the handouts that go with them are in my downloads area here.

If you cannot make it Saturday, here are a few of my articles on DNA basics, all of which are listed under the DNA testing tab in the top menu above:

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An elusive 2nd cousin match at Ancestry DNA

When you are a genealogist with an extensive family tree and you get a 2nd cousin match at Ancestry DNA, you expect to be able to find the relationship fairly easily. Never mind that this is my 2nd cousin’s once removed MM’s kit and that the new match has no tree, surely such a close match will want be in touch and know more?


The second cousin match (red arrow is mine showing where to click)

So I clicked on the View Match button. Sometimes there is is tree or two listed on the full match page that is just not connected to the DNA kit. No luck. Next I clicked on Shared Matches tab to see the matches MM had in common with this new cousin named A. The more relatives you have identified at AncestryDNA, the more useful this feature is.


Red arrow added by me to show where Shared Matches is

MM has my brother and a number of known Goodsell relatives in her match list at ancestry. MM’s paternal grandfather, Charley Wold, is the brother of my Wold great-grandmother Maren. He married MM’s grandmother Martha Goodsell, among a number of other wives. We have lots of Wold relatives who have tested their DNA, but all at other companies.

The shared matches showed that the new 2nd cousin A was in common with several Goodsell relatives but not a match to my brother’s kit. Now I lost interest since A was most probably not my relative. A second cousin on the Goodsell side would be descended from the parents of Martha, so I put this match aside for another day. However it is best to contact treeless folk as soon as possible after their data comes in, while they are still logging in and looking at their results.

There are a few reasons people don’t have trees. The main two are that they are adopted or that they did the test just to see their ancestry composition. So I always craft a careful message that lets an adoptee know that I am willing to help, but hopefully does not scare off those less interested in genealogy.

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When an Ancestry DNA green leaf is wrong

By Richard Weiss, Director of Programs, does a great job of finding common ancestors between DNA matches when both parties have trees. The layout is easy to navigate, intuitive, and well integrated, but sometimes the WRONG person or couple is shown as providing the shared DNA. This problem can occur when you share multiple common ancestors with a match but you or your match have have not yet found all of them.

Let’s look at an example of this.

In September 2016, I received a new match at AncestryDNA – B41. Based on a comparison of B41’s tree and my tree, Ancestry provided a “Shared Ancestor Hint” indicating that Barnabas Pratt was our common ancestor and that we were 5th cousins three times removed (5C3R) as shown below.


Figure 1: Ancestry’s “Shared Ancestor Hint”

Note that Ancestry’s “Shared Ancestor Hint” in the above image indicates that B41 and I match through my paternal side.
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