Archive | May 2015

New DNA Relationship Statistics from Blaine Bettinger

The question I often see is are we really 2nd or 3rd or 4th cousins? The answer is usually “maybe.” A 2nd-4th cousin designation by your testing company is purposefully vague. Best to look at the amount of shared cMs in segments greater than 7cM, number of segments, and the sizes of those segments; plus, of course, who else this new DNA relative matches!

DNA inheritance gets more and more random the further away the relationship is. The amount of DNA you share with someone more distant than a 3rd cousin is impossible to predict and even those 2nd and 3rd cousins seem highly variable. So the statistical study conducted by genetic genealogist Blaine Bettinger is deeply appreciated by all of us hunting down the relationships with our DNA connections.

Shared DNA statistics from Blaine Bettinger

Shared DNA statistics from Blaine Bettinger, used by permission

Blaine has created this beautiful chart. His blog has several posts explaining the study which is the source of these new statistics. See for all his posts on this study. I had previously discussed his project when recruiting people to add their statistics; apparently he is still taking in statistics so click here to add yours.

Would you like to hear me talk?

If you would like to hear me talk, I am doing two presentations in the San Diego area this weekend. One is genealogy related and  the other is on Jewish DNA.

OWOTOn Saturday morning at 10:30, I am giving my talk about The Advantages of Working with a One World Tree  for the Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego  which meets over on the campus of UCSD, University of California, San Diego. Click on the image to get to my online slide deck. The notes and handout for this talk are in my downloads area.

I will explain why I think the best way to preserve your wonderful genealogical research is to contribute it to a One World Tree. Then I will tell you what I love about the trees at GENI, WikiTree, and FamilySearch, as well as what can be improved at each. Click on this link for more details:

The other talk is on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 pm at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in La Jolla.  It is on a subject I find fascinating and difficult: how to use DNA testing for genealogy when you have Jewish ancestry. I will lead in with some basics about DNA testing. See the San Diego Jewish Genealogy web site at for more details.

Frankly those of us that have even one Ashkenazi grandparent, like myself, look like a 4th or 5th cousin to almost every other person of European Jewish descent. This makes it very hard to work with these tests.

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Happy Mothers Day to my mother’s mother’s mother’s …

On mother’s day it seems most appropriate to celebrate my mother’s maternal line; that is all the female ancestors who passed down their H11a mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)* to me and my cousins. As far as I know it, there was only one woman born in each generation until my grandmother, who had three girls. Each of her daughters had exactly one girl, but only one of us three had any more girls. Fortunately for the continuation of our mtDNA line, my cousin’s two daughters each have a little girl of their own now.

The furthest back maternal line ancestress that I have found is my great-great-great-grandmother Veronika Ebner (nee Engl) of Winklarn, Bavaria, born sometime around 1800. She had my great-great-grandmother Karolina Wittmann (nee Ebner)  born 1831 in Eslarn, Bavaria.

Next we get to the women that I know something about and have pictures of.

My mtDNA ancestors

Retta Reiner, Fanny Thannhauser, Thannhauser daughters

My great-grandmother Margarette Katherina Reiner (born Wittmann) is on the far left on her wedding day the 3rd of February, 1889. In the middle is my grandmother, Franziska Thannhauser (born Reiner) in her youth and on the far right her three daughters as children.

My favorite blogger, Roberta Estes of DNA explained, did a post celebrating her maternal DNA which inspired this post. Thank you Roberta.

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Looking for Ashkenazi DNA Success Stories

A week from Sunday I am doing a presentation on the value of DNA testing for Jewish genealogists at a local group, the San Diego Jewish Genealogical Society. I have a nice talk planned, but it is missing a key ingredient, some success stories from my own research.

SDJGSsiteSmllThanks to some of my friends and fellow genetic genealogists I have a few good stories to share but if any of my readers have a success to contribute, please use my contact form to send it along!

While I have found over 30 new cousins on my Norwegian side with DNA so far, I have no confirmed cousins on my German and half Jewish side. It seems that genetic testing is not very popular in Germany. As my mother’s family came here in 1935, that is where most of my non-Jewish matches would be.

The problem with the Jewish side is that Ashkenazim share so much genetic material from past cousin marriages and population bottlenecks, that we tend to look like 4th and 5th cousins to each other in our DNA. Even though I am only 25% jewish (actually 28% at 23andme), I share some DNA with my Galician Ashkenazi husband with whom I doubt I have any common ancestors for many hundreds of years. I have blogged about these issues before, just click the tag Ashkenazi to read a few of those posts.

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