An Endogamous Success Story

It is difficult to solve adoption cases in endogamous communities because everyone will share the same 4th and 5th grandparents, often multiple times, so the methodology for finding a birth parent from 3rd and 4th cousin matches just does not work. You have to wait for a few second cousin or closer matches.

Tessa was looking for her unknown biological father. Her mother had given her a name, Rudy Padilla, and said he was perhaps Mexican. I ran a GWorks for her which I showed in my lecture about unknown parentage at the SCGS Jamboree. This is the full story.

The Compare Trees at DNAgedcom from GWorks for Tessa

I had never seen ancestors who were in 30-40 trees before! How can that be? Perhaps endogamy? Then I looked at the names and recognized many of the surnames. These are the Spanish soldiers who were among the earliest European settlers of New Mexico.

New Mexico in 1824 from Wikipedia, click image for the article (see *map credits)

These soldiers who came to the Southwest in the 1600s and 1700s mostly had to take Pueblo women as brides or not get married. A few brought wives with them from Mexico of presumed Spanish descent. For many years these Spanish “first families” of New Mexico hid the native part of their roots. Now many are proud of this heritage. Click here for an article about that which mentions the New Mexican woman in those Ancestry ads who discovered her Native American roots with DNA. By the way, Tessa shows 17% Native American at Ancestry.

I told Tessa that success finding her dad could take a very long time since she would need to wait for close matches, but to please upload to MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA to look for more relatives. She had tested at both 23andMe and Ancestry DNA.
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Getting Started with GEDmatch

If you and a relative have tested your DNA at different companies, you can compare your results at a free third party site – GEDmatch.com – which also has many additional, useful tools for analyzing your DNA and looking at match lists. Learning to use those tools may take some time as they are not intuitive, so I am writing this post to help a friend, Barbara, start to use them.

The GEDmatch site can be intimidating for the less computer savvy. Like most any place on the web, you have to register by creating a username (your email) and password . Click here for more details on registering in my GEDmatch Basics presentation starting on slide 2. Please do not be put off by the extensive new Terms of Service you have to agree to. GEDmatch has to meet the current EU requirements plus they need to warn you that your DNA could be used to identify a victim or catch a criminal among your relatives.

Once you have a username and password and log in, you are presented with a home page which, again, is not very user friendly. The first task, which we already did Barbara, is to upload your DNA test data. Start with this slide https://slides.com/kittycooper/gedmatch-10-13#/9 for the details of how to upload and manage your DNA results, known as kits, to GEDmatch.

The image to the left shows the big blue box, called “Analyze Your Data,” which you can find on the right side of your GEDmatch home page. I have put a red box line around the functions that I find the most useful. One of the first things I do for a newly uploaded kit is check if the parents are related (yours were not Barbara, nor Martin’s).

Once your kit is uploaded, it still has to be “tokenized” which you can think of as being put into chunks for the template they use for comparisons; this can take 24 hours or so. While you wait to be able to use your kit to look for matches, you can play with the ethnicity tools. Please remember that figuring out the groups you descend from is a science still in its infancy and far from accurate yet, other than in the broad strokes.

Start with Admixture (heritage). For most Europeans, the Eurogenes calculator is best and the default K13 is fine, but for those of us with mainly Northern European ancestors, K12 is better. I have a whole presentation on just these calculators at https://slides.com/kittycooper/gedmatch#/

Although its creator has disavowed the Eurogenes Jtest calculator for listing your Jewish percentage (click here for his article), I find that if you add up all the obvious ethnicities: Ashkenazi, Western_Med, Eastern_Med, West_Asian, and Middle_Eastern, it is not that far off. The Jtest image above is from Martin, the only person I have ever seen AncestryDNA call 100% European Jewish; most of my jewish friends come out between 87% and 98% there.

Click here for the creator, Davidski’s Eurogenes blog posts on Gedmatch. Two important take-aways for me are that his ancestral clusters are much further back than the main companies and any ethnicity of 1% or smaller is likely noise.

Once your kit has tokenized, you can start using the most important tool, the One-to-many compare function which will compare your kit to all the kits in the database and then list your closest DNA relatives.

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Can DNA tell me my mutt’s ancestral breeds?

She used to scramble up my car to try and prevent me from leaving

My lovely dog Kyndra is NOT a labrador retriever! I was so sure she was some sort of lab/border collie mix. She is very loving, playful, smart, and even likes to swim. I can no longer let her off leash on the local river trail because there is a hole in the fence to the golf course and twice she has treated the water hazard there as her very own swimming hole! How can she not be a lab?

Smaller than a lab at 52 pounds but about the size of a border collie with the short glossy black hair of a lab, the face shape of a collie, and the flag-like upcurling tail of a shepherd. Her eyes are so dark that they look black.

Searching online, I find many sites which discuss the lab/border collie mix. I think this “borador” description is a very accurate description of her personality: http://www.spockthedog.com/mixed/borador/ plus the pictures of boradors look just like her with just a bit more hair. “Most often the body of a Borador has the build of the Collie and the colors of a Retriever,” as that site says and as she does to my eyes.

The DNA results from Kyndra’s Wisdom Panel Test

The idea of DNA testing your mutt is to know what breeds she is descended from. That way you know what health issues to watch out for. To be honest, it was really just to satisfy my curiosity. My husband did not see why we should do this, so I put the Wisdom Panel 3.0 Breed Identification DNA Test Kit on my Amazon wish list and I was delighted when a grateful reader got it for me! Thank you Pauline!

Lounging on the couch, you can see her few white patches: feet, chest, privates

However DNA results show no lab at all! At least they include 25% border collie. The other breeds are hard to see in her. German Shepard tail? Bulldog body shape? Rottweiler eyes? Hair growing backwards on her spine from the Airedale? Maybe the answer is that she is just so many generations from any known breeds that it is hard to be accurate. She is a rehome from Jamul (not far from the Mexican border) born to the neighbor’s black dog, father unknown.

Or perhaps the breed composition has the same basic built in inaccuracies as the DNA ethnicity tests for people: just not a big enough database to draw from yet.

I found some wonderful sites which explain the genetics of canine looks:
One in plain English: http://www.doggenetics.co.uk/black.htm
based on the work here: http://homepage.usask.ca/~schmutz/dogcolors.html
Sadly the wisdom panel results do not include a download of the raw data.

I decided to research the history of dog breeds some more.

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MTHFR – hype or a problem?

There have been so many claims in the alternate medicine arena about health problems caused by variations in the MTHFR gene that I was not surprised to get this request from a favorite cousin:

Could you please check to see if there is information in my Ancestry test that tells you whether I have a bad version of the MTHFR gene?

Like many genes, the MTHFR is made up of a long DNA chain including many SNPs (Single-nucleotide polymorphisms), pronounced “snip.” SNPs are places where a single letter in the DNA code often changes to another letter. Since these can vary from one person to another they are useful for figuring out ethnicity. However some variations can have health effects. Typically you would need more than one variation to greatly increase your risks of specific diseases, but not always.

MTHFR location on chromosome 1 from the NIH page about it

So what does the MTHFR gene do? It has the instructions for making an enzyme critical to turning the amino acid homocysteine to another amino acid, methionine, a building block for making proteins. That is a simplification; click here for the full explanation from the National Library of Medicine (NIH).

One health condition, known as homocystinuria, causing blood homocysteine levels to be too high, is caused by variations in this gene. However that can easily be addressed with certain vitamin B supplements. Geneticist Charis Eng discusses why a DNA test is not needed to diagnose or treat this at https://health.clevelandclinic.org/a-genetic-test-you-dont-need/

Selection Panel on right at Promethease

The genetic cause is not simple, according to the NIH at https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/MTHFR#conditions – “At least 40 mutations in the MTHFR gene have been identified in people with homocystinuria, a disorder in which the body is unable to process homocysteine and methionine properly.”

So can I answer my cousin’s question? There are several SNPs in the MTHR that have been intensely studied, maybe these were tested in her Ancestry.com test.

My advice to her was to upload to Promethease.com which will analyze this nicely for her. When you look at the report, type MTHFR in the box labeled Genes (outlined in red in my image here) and let it tell you your risks.

Of course I still had to figure out whether I could find the most interesting MTHFR SNPs in the raw results. If they are not there, then Promethease will not be much use.

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Jamboree Round Up

The SCGS Jamboree is perhaps my favorite genealogy conference because there are so many DNA talks. Of course the i4GG conference, which is coming back to San Diego on December 8-9, is all DNA so I love that one even more.

It was great to meet so many of the people I only knew via the internet, particularly the DNAadoption crew for whom I have written several tools. Here we all are last Thursday night (thank you Leah Larkin for taking the photo!)

Front: Rob Warthen, L to R: Gale French, Barbara Rae-Venter, Pam Tabor, Barbara Taylor, Richard Weiss, Karin Corbeil, me, Don Worth, Kaitlin Mueller (Rob’s stepdaughter)

A shout out to all who came to my Triangulation talk, the slide for MyHeritage triangulation is now included. Those slides are online at https://slides.com/kittycooper/dna-triangulation-8-8-26#/

My presentation about using GWorks with unknown parentage cases went very well. This pleased me since I had worked so hard to try and make this tool understandable. I did this by showing how I used it on a few cases. Here is my favorite slide:


The idea is that you can usually find the ancestral couple to build down from on a second cousin match’s tree by using GWorks alone. Look at the top ancestors in the GWorks compare all trees to see if any of them are on the second cousin’s pedigree tree.  In the image above the tree is on the left and the top GWorks matches on the right. Do you see any names in both places? Click the image to go to the slide, then click the forward > to see the answer highlighted.

All the conference videos and audios are available for sale (Click here). There were talks I did not get to in time to get a seat, and others that conflicted with each other, so I will probably buy a few myself.

One of the things I have been thinking about a lot recently is how to get my younger family members interested in family history and perhaps even DNA.
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