It has been two months since my husband died and I am still not back but there is so much interesting genealogy and DNA news that I am making the effort to blog today. Forgive my lack of original thought; my brain is not working well yet, other widows call it “grief brain.”
DNA expert panel at the 2019 SCGS Jamboree: L to R: Brad Larkin, me, Tim Janzen, Angie Bush, David Dowell, and the organizer Alice Fairhurst
First of all, my favorite local conference, the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree has been restructured as a two weekend virtual event. This coming Friday and Saturday are about DNA and yes I managed to record a talk on finding cousins which explains some of my favorite techniques at the major sites. Next weekend is the Genealogy portion, again on Friday and Saturday. Plus, as always, there are some free events; for example, Monday next week has virtual round tables and I will be hosting one. Click this URL for more information about all this conference: genealogyjamboree.com
23andme has come out with an interesting report on the genetic basis for why some people lose their sense of smell with COVID. Click here to read it (it requires you to log in)
Finally GEDmatch has released their updated prettier site. You have the option to use the new site which still has a few small bugs or the old, familiar, but clunky site. Yes the changes are mainly cosmetic and making help more available. As soon as I have some energy I will blog about them. In the meantime be sure to try the new site and send bug reports to firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday April 25 is DNA Day. Every major company is having a sale to celebrate. Family Tree DNA is even having sales on the upgrades to their various Y tests. This is a great opportunity to get that done. Click here for their price list.
DNApainter is sending out a free monthly newsletter, the most recent had information about a couple of new releases. Go to that site and click the green banner at the top of the homepage to sign up if you’re interested.
It is time to update my recommendations on dealing with Ashkenazi Jewish DNA, the DNA of those who are Jewish of Northern European origin, often abbreviated AJ. The usual goals of DNA testing are to find out where your ancestors were from, to find cousins who might have good family stories, to confirm your paper genealogy, and perhaps to check on health issues. There are some special considerations for AJ DNA.
First, for Ashkenzi Jews, the ethnicity results are usually not very useful as they look like this:
Typical Ashkenazi Jewish DNA Origins as shown at Ancestry.com
Of course for some with a larger than 2% non-Jewish percentage, it can confirm a non-Jewish ancestor.
This means the Shared Matches feature at Ancestry is useless to us because it does not show how the two matches are related to each other and that can be quite distant. Both MyHeritage and 23andme are kind enough to show how the shared matches are related to each other.
GEDmatch.com is about to get a face lift. Many have complained that it is not intuitive and does not offer enough help for a newcomer. The new site hopes to correct some of that; I am helping with the beta test now; it sure is prettier!
Why use GEDmatch and what is it? Well it’s a free 3rd party site of tools where you can upload your DNA test results and compare them with those from people who have tested at other companies. Plus there are many analysis tools, some available nowhere else. These include GEDCOM (family tree) comparisons, including yours to your DNA matches.
Sometimes testing the Y chromosome can help when you are looking for a missing father, grandfather, or further back as long as you have a tester descended on the male only line. Remember the Y is passed father to son, so any changes are rare and are caused by mutations not recombination. Typically a man would start with a Y 37 STR marker test at Family Tree DNA to see if this avenue is worth pursuing. A STR test gets the most recent changes rather than the haplogroup, thus can suggest a surname. Click here for my article explaining Y testing.
The Y results will not help if no other men from that Y lineage have tested unless you have a theory. In that case you need to test someone else descended on the male only line from the presumed ancestor.
Y testing can be very useful when the unknown parentage occured many generations ago, such that autosomal testing may not be able to solve it.
If your ancestors have been in the USA for some time then a Y 37 STR marker test may find a probable last name. In that case there may be a surname project with other Y testers at Family Tree DNA. I recommend contacting the admins of that project as they can often be a great help in your quest. However if you are from a population group which has only had inherited surnames for two hundred years or less, quite likely you will have no luck. Continue reading →