Archive | 2017

DNA makes a Merry Christmas

Yesterday was a very very happy day. Thanks to DNA testing, an 82 year old man who thought he had no kids, now has two wonderful adult children plus grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Merry Christmas Billy (my pseudonym for him)! Here is the story.

An accomplished and successful Florida business woman, let’s call her Cheryl, discovered at her father’s funeral that he was not her biological dad. His relatives told her and were not particularly nice about it. Cheryl knew that her dad, let’s call him Larry, had married her mom when she was three months along, but Cheryl had not known that Larry had a paternity test done and knew that she was not his child. He loved her mom very much, so chose to love and cherish Cheryl as his daughter. They were always quite close.

Her mother was long gone and could not be asked. In disbelief, Cheryl took the Ancestry DNA test to confirm or deny this tale. She also got her half brother, her mother’s son from an earlier marriage, to test. That way she could separate out the matches on her mother’s side from those from her Dad’s line.

Her DNA results had no matches to anyone in Larry’s family, which disappointed her, even though it was not a surprise now. However she found what looked to be a half brother, let’s call him Joe, an adoptee born and raised in Australia. Her other paternal side matches, two second cousins, and several third cousins, all had roots in a small town along the Mississippi River. Surprisingly. the second cousins had no ancestors in common with any of the others. So Cheryl contacted me for help back in early October.

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GENESIS from GEDmatch: the new chip

Technology never stands still. The latest change affecting all of us who love using DNA for genealogy is a new chip from Illumina. The past six or so years of autosomal DNA testing have shown that the current chip is great for testers with European ancestry, but does not have enough SNP coverage to figure out the details of the ethnic make up for people from other parts of the world. Many more and different SNPs are tested in this new GSA chip.

All the 23andMe tests done since this past July use that chip, as does Living DNA (highly recommended if you have British ancestry since it does local regional breakdowns). I imagine eventually the others will follow along. The bad news is that there is not that much overlap between this chip and the previous ones, which affects cousin matching.

Debbie Kennet wrote a blog post describing the new chip at

Because the SNPs are so different the DNA results from these kits cannot be uploaded to GEDmatch, however our friends there have built another site to handle these new kits called GENESIS. They have come up with a whole new algorithm for relative matching that works with lower SNP counts.

At the recent conference (videos coming in February), I gave a presentation on what’s new at GEDmatch, the second part of it went into much detail about GENESIS, starting with this slide:

The functions available at GEDmatch are being gradually implemented at GENESIS. Most of the key ones are there now. Plus there is some new functionality. One major addition is the showing of the number of SNPs actually overlapping between kits. Very important to know since the overlaps can be as small as 108,000 SNPs or as large as 580.000.
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More Sales, a Conference, and a Card Game

The sales are crazy! Black Friday and now Cyber Monday. Maybe you should buy a few kits on sale for relatives at the same company you already tested with. If you still have not done a DNA test, what are you waiting for? I have my thoughts on testing at this page – – with links to other pages discussing this. One point though for those of you who have already tested, if you have British ancestry, you might really benefit from the detailed regional breakdown offered by LivingDNA briefly on sale for $89.

If you have not yet registered for the i4gg genetic genealogy conference in San Diego the weekend after next, do so soon. Last year it sold out. The full schedule and speakers are now listed on the web site. [UPDATE: 4 Dec 2017 – the conference is now sold out]

Last but not least, I told all my clients I would be on vacation this week. It is not exactly a vacation, the National Bridge Championships are in San Diego this week. Yes the card game, my favorite game, and I will be competing, so do not expect timely replies to your comments this week nor will you see me on facebook much at all.

If you are a social bridge player you might consider a visit to the tournament to see what it is like. You would qualify to play the beginner events if you do not yet have an ACBL ranking or at least not a high one. See the second page of this pre-bulletin for some details –

How to get your ancestry match to respond

Most of the time when you send a message to a DNA match at ancestry you get no response. I used to assume that their membership had lapsed or that they had not logged in and seen their messages, but it turns out, that may not be the reason at all.

The real reason is that many people are using the Ancestry App on ipads, tablets, or smartphones and the Ancestry App does not show your messages. I was shocked when I finally got this response today from a match.

The last date that someone has logged in shows on the match page and I had seen that this person was logging in regularly, but it was from their tablet! So everyone who uses the app please complain to customer service at Ancestry.

So how did I get his attention? I left a comment on an ancestor on his tree with a link to the find-a-grave entry! The next day I got the message above. Leaving a comment always generates an email which finally gets their attention.

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More Sales And More News

Both DNA and Family Tree DNA have now started their Holiday sales, joining the group that started last week (MyHeritage, LivingDNA, and 23andMe). So buy your family members tests for Christmas at whichever company you used for your own test so you can compare with them easily. Of course there is always the GEDmatch site to compare tests from different companies.

If you haven’t tested yet then click here to read my lengthy discussion of which company might be best for you. It includes links to several other such discussions.

Jessica Taylor of Legacy Tree Genealogists (yes I am an affiliate) celebrated her birthday by listing one thing she had learned for each year. What a clever idea! I took number 14 to heart “Podcasts are great for drive time” and listened to one of my favorites, Scott Fisher of Extreme Genes, interviewing me the other day about chromosome mapping (podcast number 214, I start at 9:10) as well as a few other people. Now to figure out the bluetooth connection in my new car so my phone can play it through the speakers.

If, like me, you are a genealogist in addition to doing genetic genealogy, you might enjoy this interview discussing how I organize my work on the Janine Adams blog in her “how they do it” series: which includes my CLUB acronym for genealogy work: Cite, Log, Understand, and Backup. There are many other interviews in the group, all of which I have learned from.

I am way more organized electronically than with my paper files. As soon as my office space is under control I will post a newer picture than this one from 2015.