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Touring the Family Tree DNA lab

Some people when visiting Houston might want to go see the butterflies or visit the art museum but not me. On my first day here my choice was to go over to Family Tree DNA and take a tour of their testing laboratory conducted by Bennett Greenspan himself. Sometimes there are benefits to being a well known blogger!

 The Tecan machine

Bennett points out the Tecan machine, which adds chemicals to extract the DNA

The lab is remarkable for its use of robotics. Bennett said something to us along the lines of “knowledge workers should be doing knowledge tasks and robots the repetitive tasks. Hard to compete with China any other way.” It was great to see all those automated pipettes. It would have been nice to have those in our science labs way back when.

All of us genealogists who are using DNA testing to solve family mysteries have Bennett Greenspan to thank for starting the personal genome testing revolution in 2000. All because he was a genealogist who wanted to know if he was related to some possible cousins in Argentina and could not find it with the paper trail. He also had time on his hands due to selling his photographic supplies business. Here is the story in an interview he did on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bq092MQUGQ

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Free transfer of DNA data from Ancestry to Family Tree DNA!

Finally a way to give our Ancestry.com cousins a chromosome browser! If you have not been able to convince them to use GEDmatch, perhaps it will be easier to convince them to transfer their data to Family Tree DNA – that wonderful and very reputable company which started the personal genome testing revolution. This is a more private way to compare data than at GEDmatch since only your DNA matches can see your information and compare where they match you. There is a free transfer which gives you an account with just your matches. Or for $19 you can transfer to a full featured account there with all your matches and ancestry composition (called MyOrigins).

DNAtransferSmll

This transfer is possible since you already have the raw data from the DNA test. The link for uploading your results from another company (including MyHeritage) is at the top left under DNATests  [update 30 sep 2017] .

To download the raw data from ancestry, you need to click on the settings button next to the person whose data you want on your DNA homepage. You can get the raw data for kits you manage or have been shared with you as an “editor.”

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IAJGS conference and talking with Greenspan

If this were a financial blog you would assume a different Greenspan than Bennett and in fact they may be related, but since Alan won’t do the DNA test, we may never know. Today at the annual IAJGS conference I spent some time chatting with Bennett in the Exhibition Hall.  I asked him if they could implement a triangulation feature where when two people match me on a specific segment I can check if they match each other on that spot. He said yes but gave me no time frame …

Selfie with Bennett Greenspan

Bennett Greenspan and Kitty Cooper

Bennett Greenspan is the founder of Family Tree DNA, one of the big three in personal DNA testing. This came about because a newly retired Bennett wanted to prove that the possible Argentinian relatives he had found were related when there was no paper trail showing this. He had read about Dr. Michael Hammer’s work with DNA and the cohanim Y chromosome marker and wondered why that sort of test could not be used for his case. Dr. Hammer laughed at him and said something like “If you knew how many crazy genealogists have been calling me … someone really ought to start a company.” The rest, as we say, is history.

Tomorrow at 1:45 Elise Freeman is going to speak about  “Understanding Your DNA Results in the Context of Ashkenazi Ancestry.” I can’t wait to hear her.

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MyOrigins name changes make better sense

Family Tree DNA has simplified the names of the population clusters in the myOrigins feature to better match the way we think of those areas. For example, “European Coastal Islands” is now called the more sensible “British Isles.”

NewMyOrigins

my origins: before on the left and after on the right

The full list of name changes is at this URL: https://www.familytreedna.com/learn/ftdna/introducing-new-population-cluster-names-myorigins/

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Another way to triangulate: using close relatives

I have been mainly working with my Dad’s Norwegian DNA at 23andme and at Family Tree DNA. Often he will have a match at one company and there will be a match to someone else on the same segment location at the other company. So how to tell if they match each other? Since one could have the DNA segment that Dad got from his mother and the other could have the segment Dad got from his father, the only way to be sure it is the same segment is if they also match each other on that segment. This is what is known as triangulation.

If they have both uploaded to GEDmatch, I can compare their two kits there and see if they match on that segment. Often however one or the other has not uploaded or the GEDmatch site is down. So I needed another way to figure this out.

It occurred to me that I could check if the new match also matches me there, since my results are at both web sites as well.

Obviously when they both match me on that DNA segment, I know they match each other. If one matches me and the other does not, then I know they are not a match. But what if they both do not match me? Then I must have inherited that segment from one of Dad’s parents and they are matching the DNA piece from his other parent.

In the case above, Dad has a 23cM match at Family Tree DNA with an adoptee at the same spot where he has many smaller matches over at 23andme. So do those folk match DM?

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