Please Help Get More Kits Opted In

I was heartbroken to learn that only about 200,000 of the more than a million kits at GEDmatch have opted in to helping law enforcement (LE). This means that most of the cases that were solved before the opt in requirement went into effect last year could not be solved today.


Dear reader, I am asking you to review the kits you have at GEDmatch and contact any cousins of yours who are not yet helping law enforcement. You might also ask relatives whose kits you do not manage if they are opted in. If you know of deceased relatives who would help if they could, send their obituary and kit number to support (there is now a form for that!) to opt them in.

Here is the email I am sending to all my hesitant cousins tonight and to many of my one-to-many matches whom I had been in touch with before. Feel free to use any of all of it in your own messages. [UPDATE: I have been accused of being too manipulative in the message below. Probably true, apologies to those I offended, but I do feel very strongly about this issue. Please reach out to your matches and relatives who have not opted in and use whatever words you prefer.]

Dear cousin —–,

I am writing to ask a favor of you. I am asking you to be a responsible citizen and bravely opt in to allowing law enforcement (LE) to compare the DNA of victims and criminals to your DNA kit at GEDmatch.com.  LE cannot see your actual DNA, only the parts that match, if there are any, to the person they are looking for. Since I manage your kit, I only need you to respond yes to this message and I will take care of it for you.

[replace that sentance with this one when you do not manage their kit]

To opt in you need to log into GEDmatch, accept the new terms, and then click the police icon next to your kit number; here is a blog post explaining how https://blog.kittycooper.com/2019/05/please-opt-in-at-gedmatch/ (towards the bottom).

It broke my heart to learn that cases like finding the killer of Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook, solving the identities of Jane and John Does (unknown deceased victims), or clearing a falsely imprisoned man like Christopher Tapp would probably not happen today because not enough people have opted in at GEDmatch  (click any underlined words to read more about those cases).

The rules have changed so that informed consent is needed before law enforcement (LE) can compare the DNA kits of victims or criminals to yours to see if they are related to you. If they are, the tools of genetic genealogy can be used to triangulate the pedigrees to identify the family of the person of interest. This is only treated as a tip. The actual DNA of the suspect is then collected by LE from their discarded trash and compared to the crime scene DNA. [UPDATED:] Your DNA test usually remains anonymous in this process.

If you have any family members who are violent criminals, do you really want to protect them? This consent is only for violent crimes: perpetrators and victims. Please say yes, and thank you again so very much for testing your DNA which has enhanced my family research enormously.

Love cousin Kitty

UPDATE: I did not make it clear in the above post that you need to click the police icon in your list of DNA kits to opt in to let law enforcement compare their kits to yours.

So if your kit listing in the left column looks like this, click the word POLICE if you want to opt in:

One further point is that you can look up the kits of your relatives in the DNA File Diagnostic Utility to check if they have opted in. If they have not, no browbeating please, gentle persuasion or accept their decision…

I4GG 2020 round up

My favorite yearly conference is the two days of talks that i4GG puts together for us serious genetic genealogists. Thank you CeCe and Lennart for doing this and for making the very professional videos, which are free to conference attendees and available for purchase by everyone else.

One of the highlights of the conference was hearing from Paul Fronczak and his daughter. Paul was the child returned to his parents after the famous Chicago baby-napping case in 1964. In 2012 a DNA test showed that he was not their child. His book The Foundling, about his search for his roots, his missing twin sister, and the real Paul Fronczak, is a terrific read. (click here for the BBC summary of the case)

I have just started using a great tool called Scapple, that I learned about from Michelle Trostler‘s talk. So far I love it! It is an inexpensive mind mapping package that makes it super easy to quickly put together possible family charts for clients. It is always pleasurable to hear about actual cases and how they were solved. Both Michelle and Carol Rolnick obliged.

Chaos ensued when Katherine Borges, the director of ISOGG (whose Wiki is my go to resource), told us about the FamilySearch app with “Relatives Around Me” on its menu towards the end of her epigenetics talk. Everyone was downloading it to their smartphones and running around finding their cousins. I discovered many 12th cousins, including Tim Janzen, from a dubious connection that needs more research, a Thomas Gray who went to Norway and became Graa. Sadly I never did find my real 8th cousin Dixie Hansen in the room!

I presented on What’s New at GEDmatch and also about Automated Tree Building Tools, focusing on DNA2tree, as Dana Leeds was covering Genetic Affairs (GA) which she did quite well. I do have a blog post on GA in progress, it now includes GEDCOMs with the tree building! As always my slides can be found at https://slides.com/kittycooper


The biggest take away from the conference for me was that we all need to be more diligent in getting our relatives to opt in to law enforcement (LE) usage on GEDmatch
. Many of the cases that have been solved with genetic genealogy could not be done today now that the usable database for LE investigations is down to about 200K from over a million before the opt in requirement.

Also perhaps we need a team to identify kits of people who are deceased. GEDmatch will opt them in if presented with an obituary.

I am also putting together a new email message to send to reluctant cousins appealing to their desire to be good citizens.

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How to Share Ancestry DNA Results

Sharing DNA results at Ancestry is very useful when you want to see how much your relative shares with other relatives. All that this sharing allows you is the ability to see their match list, their ThruLines, and their ethnicity results, not their raw DNA nor the ability to download it.

Being able to see a cousin’s ethnicity may help figure out which side of the family that Finnish DNA is from or whatever puzzling ancestry you are interested in. Seeing their match list can be extremely useful for solving a mystery or just for the fun process of collecting family data.

For years I have been referring my cousins to an old blog post kindly written by genetic genealogist Angie Bush which explained how to initiate a share. However by now the screen shots are long out of date, so here is a new step by step for this process created by sharing my results with my brother.

1. Go to your DNA home page by clicking on Your DNA Results Summary in the drop down menu under DNA in the top menu (see my pink arrow)

2. Click on Settings at the top right of the page (another pink arrow)

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Upcoming talks, i4GG, and a case solved using the latest DNA tools

Unknown parentage searches have changed dramatically over the last year thanks to a number of great new automated tools. I will be updating my presentation on this for the upcoming i4GG conference in Las Vegas in a few weeks, the first weekend in February. I will also probably talk about what’s new at GEDmatch as well as be on a panel there.

Plus I will present how to use these new wonderful tools to explore your cousin matches at the North County DIG meeting next Saturday, January 18.

Below is a screen shot of the final slide in my unknown parentage presentation where I list the steps, in order, that I currently go through on these searches. I need to add at the beginning another step, “check the ethnicity,” as it can be a huge clue when the two parents are descended from very different populations. Click here for a recent blog post on a case solved with ethnicity. Also I have found that the listed communities at Ancestry are pretty accurate so they can be quite useful too.

Finding an unknown father in a few hours with DNA has become much more common due to the large number of American testers. A neighbor, let’s call her Dede, noticed I was a genealogist on FaceBook, so contacted me for help late one evening in December. She asked if I could help figure out who her unknown Dad was from her DNA results. She was a bit discouraged because no one had answered her messages.

Dede was tested on Ancestry and although her mother was not tested, a known maternal first cousin happened to be in her match list. That would be useful for separating the maternal from the paternal matches. Dede’s ethnicity had a surprisingly high 47% German percentage while her first cousin had only 27% . Plus that cousin had no Eastern Europe (Dede 10%) or Baltic (Dede 3%) so perhaps Dede’s father was part Germanic and Slavic.

Dede’s ethnicity at Ancestry  – note the Kentucky community

I took a quick look at her Ancestry match list and saw several paternal 2nd and 3rd cousin matches so I told her that it would be pretty easy, then quoted her my discount rates and a estimate. The next day I sent her the wedding picture of her father’s parents. She and her family drove to Oregon after Christmas to get to know her half sister and Dad. What a magical Holiday it was for all!
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Great New DNA Tools in 2019

2019 was a great year for DNA. Many wonderful DNA tools were created by the testing companies as well as by a number of third parties. Throughout this article I will list my blog posts which discuss the tools from 2019.

I have found so many new cousins thanks to ThruLines at Ancestry plus the deployment of that to my DNA matches. My current process is to sort my matches by date and then filter for just 4th cousins or better (or 15cm or better) to catch new matches while they are still logging in and so might see my messages. Also once a week I check my matches that have common ancestors to see if any new ones have been connected in (since I note how people are related in the notes, anyone with blank notes is someone I have not yet seen the tree connection for):

MyHeritage‘s Theory of Family Relativity also makes it easier to find new cousins. Many of my Norwegian cousins have been found there. I even got a message from one this morning!

23andme may be finally trying to consider us genealogists. They added a build your tree from DNA feature (yet to be blogged about here) and connected to the FamilySearch tree. My wish for 2020 is that they combine those features!

My favorite new 3rd party tools in 2019 are DNA2tree, a game changer for unknown parentage cases, and the addition of trees to the automated clustering at Genetic affairs. I confess, I actually bought myself an iPad so I could use DNA2tree.

Automated clustering really took off in 2019 with GEDmatch, DNAgedcom, and MyHeritage all adding clustering.

2019 also saw the birth of a new public database for Y and mitochondrial results at https://www.mitoydna.org/ (to be reviewed soon).

I have yet to cover all the great new tools at DNApainter.com although I refer people to the online relationship calculator there regularly.

Other new tools sites that I need to review are Borland genetics tools and Your DNA Family

2019 has been a really great year for DNA tools!