Archive | May 2019

Time for Jamboree 2019!

The Southern California Genealogical Society puts together my favorite conference every year in Burbank. This year is their 50th anniversary! In my next post I hope to share some of what I have learned here.

However since all the screens on the DNAgedcom client have changed I am too busy updating my presentation on Using DNA for Unknown Parentage Cases,  which will be live streamed tomorrow afternoon, to write a more complete article. Click the image to get to the Jamboree web site and learn more.

 

Please Opt In at GEDmatch

In these modern divisive times, even the genetic genealogy community has been torn into two camps. Is it modern nature to react with emotion rather than thought? With the “are you with us or them”? Is this what overuse of social media has done to us? I can see both sides of the issue. Some of you may wonder what I am even talking about ….

Cece Moore on Dr Phil explaining how she uses DNA to find criminals (click image to go to that site for the article and video)

The problem has arisen because Law Enforcement (LE) has been using DNA and genealogy databases to help find violent criminals and to resolve many old and cold cases like the Golden State Killer (GSK) case. They are using the techniques and tools that were developed for breaking genealogical brick walls and helping adoptees find their biological families. Personally, I applaud this usage and the closure it brings to the families of the victims. A dear 4th cousin of mine lived in fear during her adolescent years in Sacramento because of the GSK.

However the issues of concern for many genealogists are privacy and consent. Frankly, I think you should not test your DNA if privacy is a worry of yours. So many people have tested now that you can be easily identified if you do it too. My son and two nephews have chosen not test for that reason.

How about consent? Consider the site GEDmatch.com, which was developed to let people compare their DNA tests with testers from other companies, as well as provide many helpful additional tools. If you uploaded your DNA there in the past, had you given your consent for this usage? After the GSK case. I marked all the kits I control as research until each person had responded with permission to open it up. Most were happy with the thought that their DNA might out a distant cousin who was a criminal. Polls show that 90% of Americans are OK with this too.

I have been asking everyone again since GEDmatch now has an specific opt in on each kit for LE usage of those test results in comparisons. There is also an opt in for whether the link to your WIKItree compact tree should show. Both are important. Until many more people have opted in, the benefit of the database for LE is very limited.

Why the opt in now? Why is the genetic genealogy community so divided? What happened?
Continue reading

My Grandfather’s Letter

Try to imagine starting over in a different county whose language you barely speak at the age of 50 when at the height of a successful career. That is what my grandfather, my “Opa,” had to do. He was a distinguished German medical doctor and scientist, a university professor and famed diagnostician. The University at Freiburg had constructed a clinic for him to entice him to head up their internal medicine department at their Medical School. But only a few years after his move to Freiburg came the dismissal of all jewish professors as part of Hitler’s new policies.

Opa teaching during rounds in the clinic in Frieburg, he is all the way to the left

My Catholic grandmother “Oma” urged him to leave Germany and accept one of the offers he had from various universities in America and Turkey. My Opa thought the antisemitism would pass as it had in the past, after all he had an iron cross for his bravery in World War I and a flourishing private practice. She eventually convinced him it would be better for their three daughters if they left until it blew over. They never returned.

Oma and Opa on the boat to America

I had not realized how difficult this move must have been for him nor understood why he never went back to Germany even for a visit. However recently I read a translation of a letter he wrote in 1946 to his former colleagues when he was invited to return. This is thanks to my cousin’s son Sam Sherman, an artist living in New York City, who has been travelling in Germany doing research as part of his MFA graduate studies at CUNY Hunter College. When in Freiburg he found much of interest in the University archives, including this letter.

These words my Opa wrote really struck me:I cannot return, the wound is too deep, it will never heal. The disappointment of my trust in the good in German people, in the honesty of my friends was too great. The years that I can still work productively belong to the country that took me in during my deepest anguish and supported me.”

The letter includes poignant descriptions of leaving Germany and of learning new ways of teaching and approaching medical research in America.

All of the following italicized words are from his letter of 1946:

Leaving Germany

“ The train that my family and I would take to the ship gasped in the Freiburg train station. Hundreds of schoolchildren surrounded my three girls, and women, including wives of my former faculty colleagues, brought my wife to the car compartment. Few men were present. They had avoided seeing and greeting me for months. I was alone. “Must I leave, must I then leave the city,” the schoolchildren sang. I believed the world was sinking under my feet. Everything I did, what I loved, my wonderful clinic that I was allowed to build, my friends – everything was lost.”

[UPDATE from my brother] In those days it took 15 minutes for a steam engine to get ready to go (build up a head of steam) so it was customary to see important people or loved ones off at the train station. Thus the fact that the men were not there was a big snub. Also the folk song Muss i’denn is about a young man leaving his beloved one home forever due to larger events in the world beyond his control. So the choice of the women to sing this harmless folk song is perhaps a veiled criticism of the Nazi regime.
Continue reading

More Clustering Tools!

There are many new ways to make those beautiful cluster diagrams of how your DNA relatives are related to each other. Both MyHeritage and Gedmatch GENESIS (tier 1) now have clustering tools (Thank you Evert-Jan Blom). These charts give you an easy way to see your family groupings and can help you figure out a new match since each cluster typically represents a common ancestral couple. Click here for my previous posts on clustering which is based on the Leeds method.

My Dads Clusters at Gedmatch GENESIS

The GENESIS cluster diagram shown above includes the total cM each match shares with you as well as their name and kit number. Click on the “i” in a circle for a pop up box with the user information which includes an email address and whether a GEDmatch tree is linked to this kit. Any of the colored boxes on the graph can be clicked to open a window for a one to one comparison between those two people. Plus you can check the boxes in the select column for any number of matches and then submit them to the multi kit analysis using the orange “Submit to Multi Kit Analysis” button above the name column on the left. To get this clustering tool all you need is a Tier 1 membership and a kit number. It is listed at the bottom of the Tier 1 tools. Personally I like to raise the thresholds to a top 200 and a minimum of 20, but try the defaults first and see what is best for you.

One of the nice things about the cluster output from Genetic Affairs is that it lists all the cluster members in groups below the graph with the number of people in each tree (clickable) and any notes you made on the Ancestry profile. The MyHeritage version also has those cluster lists with your notes and the tree sizes; and of course they are clickable to the match (which may even have a theory of family relativity for you!) and the match’s tree. The down side is that you cannot select the parameters for the clustering yourself, they are preset. Possibly only power users care about that!

Extract from my list of matches in each cluster at MyHeritage

An exciting new feature for those looking for one unknown parent or grandparent is the ability to cluster just your starred Ancestry matches when using the clustering tool at Genetic Affairs.  Click here for my previous post about that tool. There now is a checkbox on the page where you select your parameters for getting a cluster analysis.

Newat Genetic Affairs is the checkbox for only starred matches when starting a cluster analysis

It is a common practice to star (mark as favorites) the matches that seem to be from the family of an unknown parent or grandparent at Ancestry. Usually these are determined by looking at who matches or doesn’t match a close relative like a half sibling or else by eliminating matches from the known side. Sometimes you can use ethnicity. I am currently helping someone where the known side is Jewish and the unknown side is Italian and those are easy to separate.

Continue reading