The Genealogy Society of San Diego is having me give two talks this coming Saturday, one about DNA basics for genealogists and the other about how I broke some brick walls with DNA testing in my own family.
Talking about using DNA for genealogy is something I love to do. While I have lots of posts and pages here, there is nothing like being able to discuss it in person. The questions I get teach me what is difficult to grasp about this shiny new tool in our genealogy kit so that I can better help others.
After the talk, I will put the links to my slides at the end of this article, but they have very few words so they are less useful if you were not there. All my presentation slides are at slides.com/kittycooper and the handouts that go with them are in my downloads area here.
If you cannot make it Saturday, here are a few of my articles on DNA basics, all of which are listed under the DNA testing tab in the top menu above:
You do not have to be an adoptee to benefit from a class on DNAadoption.com – they have several one day classes which are introductions, explaining how to use your results, tailored to each specific vendor. They also have a longer basics course and many more advanced courses.
Diane, Tim Janzen, and Kitty at the 2013 Rootstech
The inimitable Diane Harman-Hoog wrote a blog post today announcing the two year anniversary of their classes. Along with Karin Corbeil and Rob Warthen, Diane has taken DNA adoption searches into the electronic age with online courses and much more information available on that site. The many success stories bring tears to my eyes. A few are here – http://www.dnaadoption.com/index.php?page=reunions and more can be found in the archives of the DNAadoption yahoo group.
I got to meet Diane at the 2013 Rootstech conference along with expert genetic genealogist Tim Janzen and many other wonderful people I had corresponded with via email. Needless to say I keep going back to that conference; of course, the location next to the great genealogy library in Salt Lake City has something to do with that also!
Rob Warthen has written some wonderful tools that benefit all of us genetic genealogists that are hosted over at DNAgedcom.com and are linked to from the DNA adoption site.
Richard Hill is a very fine writer. I could not put down the story of his search for his biological parents, Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA, which reads like a mystery novel.
He has put together an e-book, Guide to DNA Testing: How to Identify Ancestors, Confirm Relationships, and Measure Ethnic Ancestry through DNA Testing, available from Amazon, which is a very simple guide to personal DNA testing. Normally $.99, it is free through 12/16.
It will help you choose which test to take and why. It is only about 30 pages. It is not comprehensive but it does answer your basic questions. It is meant for those totally new to DNA testing not for the experienced. Although if you have tested, but still have many questions, they may be answered by this book.
This may also make a nice gift for relatives who are thinking of doing DNA testing.
Some of my cousins and friends have tested at 23andme or familytreeDNA, due to my urging, and now they are asking me what to do next. I dedicate this post to them.
Autosomal DNA testing will not not magically find your ancestors. You will need to work at it and may have very little success if not enough of your known and unknown relatives have tested. It will give you many clues and hints about where your ancestors were from. Be sure to use some of the admix tools at GEDmatch.com on your results if that interests you, see my post on GEDmatch.
I suggest that if you are not familiar with DNA or DNA testing that you read my DNA basics page and if you have tested at 23andme also read my post on 23andme basics.
Assuming that you all do not want to spend the kind of time on this that I do (an hour or two most days for the last year); here is how to get the most for the least time input.
First you need to understand that an autosomal DNA test is nowhere near as definitive as a Y chromosome test, it can show you that you are related because you share runs of identical SNPs (referred to as segment matches from here on) with someone but not exactly how or even how close. After the 2nd cousin level the amount you will share with a relative gets more and more random. I have a few 9th cousins I share a one segment match with who like me have extensive trees and that is the closest match we have found. ISOGG has published the expected ranges of cMs and number of segments on their wiki that relatives share at different levels of relationship.
So what was your objective taking the DNA test? If it was just to satisfy your curiosity then my post on 23andme basics should answer your questions. If finding new relatives is of interest then read on.
Recently I convinced several cousins to test their DNA at 23andme since the price is now only $99 – 23andme is pushing to get one million subscribers. The idea is that by having a large enough database with subscribers that answer their health and trait surveys, correlations can be found with the genes responsible. 23andme has already contributed greatly to the current knowledge of DNA using this technique. So I feel particularly good about being a part of that. Click here for the list of correlations that they have so far.
What they do is not a complete genome sequencing, just the markers that are most likely to be different from one person to the next. Remember we share about 98.5% of our genome with chimpanzees and 99.9% with other humans. These tests use a microchip array that actually tests about .o2% of your genome.