Archive | 2017

Do my genes suggest I should drink less coffee?

Whenever a new study is published linking a specific gene or SNP to a particular trait or health risk I go rushing to my DNA results to see what I have, so I thought I would share how I do that.

My latest worry is my coffee drinking habit.

There are so many coffee and caffeine studies that I am totally confused about what I should be doing. One caveat is that most of these studies are far from comprehensive and all of them need to be taken with a grain of salt. Have they really factored out all the other possibilities that could cause this result? Let’s face it, it’s early days yet in understanding what specific genetic variants do.

Personally when I read one of these articles, the first thing I do is google that gene name to find the associated SNP’s “rs” number so that I can find that variant in my results. For example let’s look at  rs762551, a SNP involved in the metabolizing of coffee.

While it is easy to look up a gene or SNP if you have tested at 23andMe or GENOS by using their browse raw data functions, what if you have only tested at Ancestry.com? Or Family Tree DNA, which has deliberately chosen not to test health related SNPs?

It’s actually pretty easy to look up a SNP in your raw data if you have downloaded it.

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Another Wonderful Jamboree is Over

What makes the SCGS Jamboree so special? For me it is DNA day and all the attention paid to DNA at a first rate local genealogy conference. Of course we genetic genealogists also have the I4gg conference, which is returning to San Diego this coming December 9-10.

Daniel Horowitz of MyHeritage and Kitty

This year at Jamboree I made sure to go to presentations from the two newest DNA testing companies: MyHeritage (the European answer to ancestry.com) and LivingDNA. I also visited their booths and talked with both groups.

I also enjoyed finally meeting DNA expert Debbie Kennett and listening to her talk (both the lovely British accent and the presentations).

Daniel Horowitz made a convincing case for the future DNA features at MyHeritage (chromosome browser, family tree matching, etc), so yes get your DNA results uploaded there while it is still free! If your recent ancestors are not from North America, it might make sense to use that site for your tree and DNA testing. Plus the test is a cheek swab which is easier for old folk. Yes, GEDmatch takes uploads of the DNA results from MyHeritage and I just saw my first kit starting with an H in a one-to-many.

On the other hand, if you have British roots, LivingDNA may be the test for you and it is also a cheek swab. They have built on the academic research for the people of the British Isles, so can pinpoint the areas of Britain and Ireland that your ancestors came from. They are gathering more data from other countries but currently my Norwegian and German ancestors seem to have a large presence on the British and Irish coasts (think vikings and Saxons) but I will save those results are for a future blog post.

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My Adoption workshop and a success with GWorks

Next Friday I am doing a workshop at the SCGS Jamboree in Burbank on using the tools at DNAGedcom and GEDmatch to solve unknown parentage cases. Since I like to have slides that are screenshots for my attendees, I decided to grab a few images using the latest and greatest GWorks on a missing father search case whose maternal half brother’s results were just in.

The basic technique for finding an unknown parent is to search the trees of close DNA matches looking for an ancestral couple shared among many of them. Build the tree down from that couple until someone is in the right place at the right time. The more you know about the unknown person(s) the easier this is. See the top of this post of mine for a summary – http://blog.kittycooper.com/2017/01/a-jewish-adoptee-finds-his-birth-family/

It has been a while since I used DNAGedcom. Why? Because now that Ancestry.com DNA has over 4 million testers, many adoptees get lucky and as soon as their DNA results are posted, they have enough good matches to figure out who at least one birth parent is. Also the use of a mirror tree with a second cousin’s information can often identify the family branch they are looking for (see http://www.borninneworleans.com/how-to/what-is-a-mirror-tree/ for that technique).

However when there are only third and fourth cousin matches, the remarkable tools at DNAGedcom.com can help you solve your mystery, but it is not intuitive or easy. It works best for folk with deep American roots, since that is the most tested population at Ancestry.com.

GWorks is a tool at DNAGedcom designed to automate comparing the people in all the different trees of your DNA matches. With an inexpensive subscription, you can use their “client” to aggregate the results from each different testing site and the people in the trees at ancestry. You can also manually upload Gedcoms which are easy to generate from ahnentafel lists (for that technique see http://blog.kittycooper.com/2016/10/text-to-Gedcom-using-ahnen2ged/ ). Then you get GWorks to compare all those trees looking for common people.

Much to my amazement, as I took screenshots of the GWorks process using my case, I was suddenly able to solve it! And he had NO good paternal side matches! It was all from the trees of fourth cousins. And done in two days using GWorks. (OK, once I saw that I had it, I stayed up until 2:00 am building the tree, I admit it, still…)

So how did I do this?

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Norwegian or English? DNA ancestry predictions

My third cousin Irene (found with DNA) complained to me via email that her ethnicity results at 23andMe were very different from Ancestry; what was going on? Irene’s recent ancestry is known to be half Norwegian (my side) and half Scottish with some Irish (about 6% expected) mixed in.

Ancestry’s predictions are on the left, 23andMe’s estimates are on the right

So I looked and saw that 23andMe (above right) has a very low estimate for Scandinavian for her, while the British and Irish (her Scottish) is fine. Ancestry DNA (above left) has the Scandinavian predicted correctly but calls her Scottish both Irish and Western European. At least it includes her in a Scots genetic community which is correct and very cool.

Family Tree DNA’s predictions

Since I had also uploaded her DNA results to Family Tree DNA, I checked there and saw that they correctly predicted 49% Scandinavian. However the Scottish shows as 36% British Isles followed by some traces including 9% East Europe? No one else saw that!

One of the problems is that our Viking ancestors visited and even settled in various parts of the British Isles making it hard to tell British from Scandinavian. Also there was more migration within Europe many hundreds of years back than we might realize. Finally each company uses different reference populations and techniques for their ethnicity estimates.

Predicting where your ancestors originated based on your DNA test is just not that accurate yet. The broad strokes are pretty good, but since the actual percentages vary quite a bit from company to company it is easy to see that there is much improvement needed.

Somewhat alarmed that 23andMe, which I had always thought was the most accurate of the three, did not predict Irene’s Scandinavian correctly, I decided to double check the predictions for my Norwegian-American Dad, as well as my brother who is tested at all three of the main companies.

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Getting a Simple Text Pedigree from Ancestry.com

Did you know that you can get a nice text pedigree tree at Ancestry.com to send to your relatives? Recently a new cousin, who had tested her DNA elsewhere, sent me a screenshot of her tree at Ancestry. That really wasn’t very useful because it showed just names and years, no places or exact dates.

For many, exporting a GEDCOM and sending that is best, but if you do not have the software to privatize or export just a section of your GEDCOM, try sending a text pedigree. Your closer DNA relatives might prefer that anyway as it is easy to scan for common surnames.

Here is how to do this.

First go to your tree at Ancestry.com on your computer, not your tablet or phone.

Find the person whose ancestors you wish to share with your new cousin. Click on the name or photo in the tree and a box will appear with more about them that includes several buttons along the bottom.

Click the button with the tools icon. That gets a little menu which includes the item “View her family tree.” Click that.  The example above shows the box and the menu. Note that you will not get this menu item if you are already viewing the tree from the person of interest, in that case just continue with the next step.

If you are not already using the pedigree view, click the pedigree icon at top of the icon strip on the left side of your tree to get it.

Next click the print icon at the bottom of that icon strip. Now you will be on a page with a nice simple looking text pedigree that has all the information a relative would want, as in the example below. Continue reading