Archive | 2022

A Longevity Gene?

​While there are probably many genes and lifestyle choices that will affect your longevity, there is one gene, FOX03, that has been identified as a major contributor to having a long life by a number of prominent scientists (click here for the abstract at NIH). I first heard about it when reading (or rather listening to) the book Lifespan by David A Sinclair.

​Having at least one C instead of a T in the FOX03 gene at location RS2764264 is associated with longevity. So of course I had to look it up in my DNA and that of my family. This is easy to do if you are tested at 23andme. If you have tested elsewhere you need to download the raw data from your DNA test and search it in a text editor or spreadsheet program.

At 23andme, click on your name or image at the top right of the page to get a menu that includes the words Browse Raw Data. Click that option. The next page has a white box where you can type in the name of a gene or SNP. In this case type RS2764264 and see something like the following:

I have highlighted the C/T for this lucky relative of mine who has one copy of the base pair associated with longevity. Some of my relatives have two Cs, but many others, like poor old me, have two Ts.

To find this SNP in your Ancestry DNA raw data that you have downloaded, you need to open it in a program that can handle a large file. Some text editors can do that, but I prefer to use a spreadsheet program and tell it that the data is tab delimited. This same technique will work for wherever you have tested your DNA, provided this SNP is included in the results. At least one of my cousins did not have this SNP in his Ancestry data, perhaps due to an older version of the test.
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Ancestry Breaks Down Your Ethnicity by Parent

Recently Ancestry came up with a tool to show your bio-ancestry by parent without even having a parent tested! Now they have taken it a step further and added a chromosome painting which shows you which segments of your chromosomes have what origins. Not everyone has this yet and for those whose parents are primarily one ethnicity, it is not very useful. However the more mixed your heritage, the more interesting it is.

The Sideview circles for an Australian woman with a half chinese Dad  (click here for that blog post)

This feature is part of your DNA story so go there from your DNA menu at Ancestry. Once on that page, scroll down until you see a box on the right side titled Ethnicity Inheritance like the one in the image on the left here. Click anywhere in that box to get to the page that breaks it down by parent.

The Sideview technology, previously released and shown above, has two circles next to each other, where the left one shows the expected ancestry of each parent and the right circle shows your own.

For those of us whose parents are from different parts of the world, it is easy to tell which parent is Parent1 and which is Parent2. Plus Ancestry gives you the option to label them Maternal or Paternal. To do that, scroll down past the circles to the section titled Detailed Comparison, then click on the pencil next to the words Edit Parents as shown below (red arrow added by me). Next you get a little window which shows you half your inheritance and lets you designate which parent it is from. As my Dad is 100% Norwegian-American and my mother a Bavarian and Jewish mix, this was easy for me to do.


Since my father is tested at 23andme, I decided to compare that result to the prediction from Ancestry. Both Ancestry and 23andme predict a little bit of Finnish in addition to the 98% Norwegian. Only Ancestry finds a bit of Irish which is likely backwards; those Irish matches more likely have some Norwegian. No sliver of Irish is found in my brothers’ results. Remember, as improved as these results are at Ancestry, unlike close relationship predictions, they are still not accurate science.

My circles of Ancestry Composition, note that I have designated which parent is which

If you have elected to Beta test new features (under Extras > Ancestry Lab), then you will also have the chromosome browser painting of the ethnicity. Although this feature looks to be slowly rolled out to everyone.

There is a tab at the top of the Ethnicities Inheritance page that lets you click over to the Chromosome Painter or you can click on those words from the initial box on the DNA story page.
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My talk about GEDmatch and more about GEDCOMs

Finally! The video of the GEDmatch basics talk I did on May 26 for Verogen is now available. Best to view it full screen at youtube in order to see the images well.

Click here for the slides for that talk

GEDmatch, a DNA tools site, was originally created to compare GEDCOMs, a function you can still use it for. A GEDCOM is a plain text file of your family tree formatted so that any genealogy program can understand it. Click here for the wikipedia entry explaining this in more detail.

In my talk I emphasized that it is best to upload a privatized GEDCOM with no more than 10 generations of ancestors then connect it to the DNA test for that person. This will help you use the relative matching tools. I promised in the presentation to explain how to create a GEDCOM. So here are a few of the many ways.

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How Did We Became Humans?

One of the great mysteries of prehistory for me is how intelligent apes became modern humans. There are many fascinating books on this topic; most of them just guessing as the scientific evidence is slim to non-existent. However in recent years, breakthroughs in analyzing ancient DNA have given us some tantalizing hints.

A chimpanzee in the San Diego Zoo (my photo)

First off, our closest ape relatives have 24 chromosome pairs while we have 23. Our chromosome 2 is a fusion of two chromosomes found in other primates. This is not as uncommon an occurrence as it might sound. All the same information is there, just repackaged. Thus the first 23 chromosome person could have children with a 24 chromosome mate. Wild horses and tame ones also have a one chromosome difference and can have offspring.. Plus there is wide variation in numbers of chromosomes among certain butterflies. Click here for an excellent article on this.

So how did having 23 chromosomes spread in the human population so that it became the norm? The answer is still unknown. Perhaps founder effect, genetic drift, or maybe there was an evolutionary advantage as yet undetermined.

So how did we start to think analytically, speak complex languages, and organize politically? Well a gene that is critical in language development was discovered a few years back – FOXP2. And the human one is different from apes. According to the wikipedia article (click here): “previous genetic analysis had suggested that the H. sapiens FOXP2 gene became fixed in the population around 125,000 years ago. Some researchers consider the Neanderthal findings to indicate that the gene instead swept through the population over 260,000 years ago, before our most recent common ancestor with the Neanderthals.” The sources for these statements are footnoted in the original article.

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Conferences Galore!

The largest genealogy conference in the world, Rootstech is virtual and free again this year. It starts in just a few hours!

For genetic genealogists, i4GG is on again for April 9-10 in San Diego in person, thanks to CeCe Moore. The East Coast is going to have its own genetic genealogy conference, now virtual, ECGGC on April 23-24. Click any name in the preceding to go to the conference site and yes I will be presenting at all of them.

For Rootstech, my recorded talk delves into the details of the case where I found a jewish sperm donor; click here for that or here for the blog post. My very basic talk on using DNA to figure out unknown parentage, which I did for them last year, is still on youtube (click here). Roberta Estes has written a number of helpful posts about Rootstech 2022 – one on how to navigate the website and find what you want (click here) and several on using the find your relatives app  (click here and here)

For i4GG I usually present what’s new at GEDmatch and sometimes more about the latest tools for finding unknown parentage. My 2020 live i4GG talks can still be purchased with all the other great ones from that wonderful last conference before COVID at

At the brand new East Coast Genetic Genealogy Conference (ECGGC), I will give some of my favorite and newly revised talks, live but virtual. The titles below link to the previous versions of my slides but I will make a note here when the slides are updated.

Getting the scoop on new GEDmatch features over lunch with Verogen’s Tom and Brett