DNA Buys the Truth

true-straight

Recently, George Doe, clearly a pseudonym, a man with a PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology, a professional stem cell and reproductive biologist, related his story to Julia Belluz.  Vox published the resulting article titled, “With Genetic Testing I Gave My Parents the Gift of a Divorce.”  The original rather unflattering and somewhat derisory article by Julia is here, titled Genetic Testing Brings Families Together and Sometimes Tears Them Apart.

In these articles, Dr. Doe tells us that last year, in a class he was teaching, he used the 23andMe test to demonstrate how to collect a spit sample.

In fact, he was so excited that he bought kits for his parents as well:

“I had spent many years looking at the genes of other animals — particularly mice — but I never looked at my own. Because I was so excited about it, I got two 23andMe kits for my mom and dad as gifts. It’s a lot more fun when you can incorporate your family because you can trace not just the chromosomes but individual alleles on the chromosome so you don’t just see them, but where they came from. Also, I felt I had a good handle on my family’s medical history so I was very interested in confirming any susceptibility to cancers that I heard had run in my family, like colon cancer. I wanted to know if I had a genetic risk.”

But Dr. Doe found more than he anticipated.  He found a half brother, an adoptee, sired by his father.

“When I saw that I share about 22 percent of my genome with a person, I thought, “That’s huge.” It took a bit of time to realize Thomas and I actually share the same genome with my father. This is how it happened: when you share around 25 percent genetic similarity with someone, that means that either it’s your grandfather, uncle, or half-sibling. 23andMe listed Thomas as a grandfather, which was confusing to me. I called my dad. All I had was his name, Thomas, and the fact that he’s male. I just asked my dad, “Does this name sound familiar?” He said no. He logged into his account, and Thomas wasn’t showing up at all. I was so confused. We figured out that at the very bottom of your profile, there’s a little box that says “check this box if you want to see close family members in this search program.”

Dad checked it, and Thomas’ name appeared in his list. 23andMe said dad was 50 percent related with Thomas and that he was a predicted son.”

Given Dr. Doe’s next comments, one can surmise that this child was not conceived before Dr. Does’ parents married, nor was Dr. Doe’s father a sperm donor.

“Years of repressed memories and emotions uncorked and resulted in tumultuous times that have torn my nuclear family apart. My parents divorced. No one is talking to my dad. We’re not anywhere close to being healed yet and I don’t know how long it will take to put the pieces back together.”

Correction Note:  CeCe Moore provides information that Doe’s half-brother was conceived prior to the marriage, as reported by Belluz.  However, we don’t know that the conception was outside of the time span of the relationship of the parents.  CeCe also states that “both Neil Schwartzman and I were misquoted/misrepresented in the article. Neil says that he never told her it was a negative experience for him. (Some of my quotes have been changed – with no correction noted interestingly, but there is still some misrepresentation of our conversation.) So, this does make me wonder if Ms. Belluz got Doe’s story exactly right as well. Ms. Belluz clearly had an agenda and twisted the “truth” to support it.”

At this point, I felt really bad for the Doe family, and I still do.  But Dr. Doe’s next paragraph bothered me when I first read it and it bothers me now.

Instead of laying the blame for this problem where it clearly resides, at the feet of his father, he is unhappy instead with the testing company, in this case, 23andMe.

“After this discovery was made, I went back to 23andMe and talked to them. I said, “I’m not sure all your customers realize that when they participate in your family finder program, they’re participating in what are essentially really advanced paternity tests.” People find out that their parents aren’t who they think they are. They have nearly a million people in the database. If there happens to be anyone in there you’re related to, they’ll find your match. This is a solid science.”

Dr. Doe goes onto say;

“I don’t want to say if I knew that I wouldn’t have participated. But I’m really devastated at the outcome. I wrestle with these emotions. I love my family. This is nothing I ever would have wished. My dream would be to introduce Thomas to dad, to incorporate a new family tradition, to merge families. We all get to broaden our horizons and live happily ever after. At least right now, that’s not what happened. I still hold out hope that in time we can resolve things. But I also worry that as these transitions happen there may have been some permanent emotional damage that may not be able to be undone.”

Dr. Doe goes on to say that 23andMe isn’t doing enough to protect the public from themselves, in essence.  23andMe did and does have a special box to click to indicate that you DO want to see close relatives.  Most people have no idea that this box even exists, let alone that they need to click it.  In fact, the mere fact that you have to click the box, and it’s not front and center, makes your results unreliable because you believe that you’re seeing all of your results, when you aren’t.  He even describes how this option confused his father and his father could not see his children.  His father isn’t the only one.  This option has caused more panic among families that “should” match until someone explains this hidden “Opt In” option and where they have to click.

Now, I’ve been quiet all week, mulling this situation over.  While I was mulling, 23andMe, who had previously announced that they were going to make seeing close relatives an “opt out” instead of an “opt in,” announced they had changed their mind.  Coincidence?  Doubtful.  In fact, Vox, who published the original two articles also published 23andMe’s announcement and stated that the announcement was a result of their original articles.

I find this stance personally abhorrent.  I believe that the people who test have the right to the truth – all of it – and not just if they happen to discover that all of their results are not being displayed.  They are adults.  They choose to take, or not take the test.  If you take the test, you have every right to expect you’re seeing all of your results.

Dr. Doe, of all people, has absolutely no right to complain.  He, of all people, a PhD in this field, knew exactly what he could discover.  The problem is that the truth is sometimes inconvenient and ugly, especially if you don’t expect to discover that your father cheated on your mother, or vice versa.

Dr. Doe – the problem is not that 23andMe did not protect you from yourself.  You, admittedly, clicked right through the options, believing of course, that it “couldn’t be me.” The problem is your family’s choices, perhaps then, and certainly now.

23andMe’s reversal on their policy will do nothing, absolutely nothing, to protect people like Dr. Doe from himself.  The only policy that will do that is the French policy of making DNA testing illegal to “protect the family unit.”  God forbid that we ever become that paranoid.

What 23andMe’s policy does it to continue to obscure the truth from unsuspecting testers.  Unfortunately, even if they put a big red box dead center in the screen today that says “If you don’t click here, you won’t see close relatives including sons, daughters……,” many people will never see it, because many people never sign on again after receiving their initial results.  In other words, many of their clients’ data would remain dark.  The only way to solve that problem is to do what 23andMe announced they would do and were preparing to do, to shift the option from “Opt In” to “Opt Out,” until Dr. Doe created a publicity nightmare because he couldn’t handle the results of his own test, AFTER, he intentionally and with full knowledge, clicked the “Opt In” option.

Furthermore, Dr. Doe could have discovered the same thing if he had found his father’s old journals, for example.  He could have discovered an old letter from a sweetheart.  He could have found the letter telling his father that the child would be put up for adoption.  What would he have done then?  Who would he complain to that no one protected him from himself?  The company that created the paper and the ink???  The post office because they might deliver a letter with disturbing information inside?

I don’t mean to be insensitive here, but it’s vastly unfair to make hundreds of thousands of people pay the price for Dr. Doe’s family issues.  The timing of this article with the much anticipated 23andMe change has created the perfect media storm.  Dr. Doe whined, loudly, and publicly, and 23andMe doesn’t want to create even more negative publicity.

If you think that I’m speaking from an ivory tower, or a vacuum, so to speak, I’m not.  Let me explain about infidelity and betrayal.  After my former husband’s massive stroke, when I was in my late 30s and he was in his late 40s, I found pictures of him with another female, with the sailboat that I bought him.  Yep, he was on vacation, with another woman, while I was staying home and working.  I felt terribly, horribly betrayed…not to mention gullible, stupid and naïve…oh yes, and angry.

I found those pictures a month or two after his stroke, when he was so terribly incapacitated that he couldn’t even speak, sit up, or eat, let alone answer any questions.  Really, there was nothing he could have said anyway – the pictures, multiple pictures, over multiple summers….were all the evidence I needed.  But I wanted them, I so wanted them to not be true.  But they were.  Staring back at me in living color.

The truth was ugly and painful and devastating.  But it was also freeing.  It freed me from the pain of loss of something I never had – a loving and loyal husband.  I only thought I did.  At the time it was horrifically painful.  Today, I’m incredibly grateful that I didn’t spend my entire married life with a cheating, lying scoundrel.

I also know about infidelity within a family when we discovered that my half-brother through my father was not my father’s child.  I lived through the pain of that too, and I can tell you that my brother, Dave, who wasn’t my biological brother, and I were far closer than many biological family members.

DNA does not tear families apart, people do.  Infidelity does.  Poor choices do.

My grandfather, about 1910, recently married to my grandmother, was present in his mother-in-law’s kitchen the day that a young man knocked on the back door.  His mother-in-law, Nora Kirsch Lore had recently been widowed after being married to Curtis Benjamin “CB” Lore for more than 20 years.  The young man asked for CB, by name.  Nora asked him to come inside and figured he was one of the young men who had worked for CB in his construction and racehorse business.  That’s not at all why the young man was looking for CB Lore.  CB Lore, according to the young man’s mother, was his father.  Let’s just say that it was a very awkward day in that kitchen as Nora asked the young man what year he was born.

In 1910, there was no way to prove, or disprove, this allegation.  Today, there is – DNA.  Nora too was devastated by her husband’s indiscretion, to put is softly, or outright betrayal to call it what it was.  But she was not without a hint – he had always been somewhat of a playboy.  Had she known specifically about this woman?  No, but it didn’t entirely surprise her either.  It only confirmed, or at least potentially confirmed, what she suspected happened when he traveled.  It certainly was not this young man’s fault for showing up to find his father.  Just like it isn’t DNA’s fault today.

Dr. Doe is not responsible for “outing” his father.  His father obviously made his own choices.  So did his mother.

Dr. Doe did not buy his parents a divorce, his parents did.  Pure and simple.  Their choice.  Sounds like that divorce was, perhaps, years overdue.

What Dr. Doe gave his mother was possibly the gift of truth and freedom.  Mrs. Doe obviously had the option of discussing things with her husband.  She didn’t.  Dr. Doe himself said it brought up repressed memories, and they obviously were not pleasant.  This was only a festering scab and he, unfortunately, was the one who bumped up against it and knocked it off.

I’m glad Dr. Doe is getting help.  I hope the entire family is getting help.

As I tell people, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.  If you don’t want the truth, don’t DNA test.  Period.

The culprit in this story is not Dr. Doe, is not 23andMe, but is very clearly Dr. Doe’s father’s original behavior combined with current family dynamics.

Sadly, the people that are ultimately paying the price for Dr. Does’ family turmoil are the hundreds of thousands of people that now continue to have their results obscured because of 23andMe’s abrupt change of policy.

That’s not right either.

23andMe lives and dies not on genetic genealogy or on the revenue from the tests themselves, but on their customers allowing them to use their results to compile for medical studies and to sell.  If you want to make your feelings known, you can personally opt out of allowing 23andMe to utilize your results for those types of endeavors.  In other words, 23andMe will no longer be able to make money from your DNA.

Perhaps 23andMe will hear and understand that message.  Companies understand dollars.

To remove your consent for 23andMe to utilize your DNA, or to at least review the consent form, sign on and click on the down arrow beside your name.

23andme consent

Then click on “Privacy and Consent.”

23andme consent2

Scroll down to the bottom of the page to “Basic Research Consent.”  If you have given consent, this is what you will see.

23andme consent3

Click in the green box on “view/change consent.”  You will then see the consent document.

23andMe consent4

Scroll down again.  You will see that the “give consent” box, in green, has been clicked already.

23andme consent5

Underneath that box, click on the blue “click here to change your consent.”  You will then see a green and a red box with your consent options.

23andme consent6

You can see that I’ve selected “I am this person and I don’t give consent,” in the red box.  Then click on the green “Save” button.

The change takes place imediately for any future projects or initiatives, but does not affect any studies or data sales that have previously taken place.

Furthermore, e-mail 23andMe’s Human Projects Administrator at hpa@23andMe.com and tell them why.

You have a voice in this matter.  Use it.

10 Things to Do With Your DNAPrint, renamed AncestrybyDNA, Test

birdcage

Please note, AncestrybyDNA is NOT the same as the AncestryDNA test sold by Ancestry.com.  Both CeCe Moore and David Dowell have written about this in their respective blogs.

Back in 2002 (no, that is not a typo,) a new product called DNAPrint was introduced by a company then called DNAPrint Genomics.  It provided you, in percentages, your percentages of 4 ethnic groups: Indo-European, East-Asian, Native American and African.  Family Tree DNA remarketed this test for just over a year but ceased when they realized there were issues.

It was the first of its kind of test ever to be offered commercially, and version 2.0 utilized a whopping 71 ancestrally informative markers, according to the user’s guide delivered with the product.  The next version of the test, 2.5, titled AncestrybyDNA included 175 markers, and a third version, which I don’t believe was ever released, was to include just over 300 markers.

In 2002, this was a baby step in a brand new world.  We, as a community, were thrilled to be able to obtain this type of information.  And of course, we believed it was accurate, or relatively so.  However, the questions and ensuing debate started almost immediately and became very heated.

The company’s representatives indicated that East-Asian and Native American could be combined for those without a “Chinese grandpa” and that would have given me a whopping 25% Native American.  Even then, before pedigree analysis, I thought this was a little high.  My East Asian was shown as 15%, Native American at 10% and Indo-European at 75%.  For reference, my real Native results are probably in the 1-3% range.  Keep in mind that we were all babes in the woods, kind of stumbling around, learning, in 2002 and 2003.

Interestingly enough, I found the answer recently, quite by accident, to one of the burning questions about Native American ancestry that was asked repeatedly of Tony Frudakis during that timeframe, then a corporate officer of DNAPrint, and left unanswered.  In Carolyn Abraham’s book, The Juggler’s Children, which is a wonderful read, on page 55, the answer to the forever-hanging question was answered:

“When I finally reached Frudakis, that’s how he explained the confusion over our Native ancestry result – semantics.  The Florida company had pegged its markers as being Native American to appeal to the American market, he told me.  But it was accurate to consider them Central Asian markers, he said, that had been carried to different regions by those who migrated from that part of the globe long ago – into the Americas, into East Asia, South Asia and even southern Europe – finding their way into today’s Greeks, Italians and Turks.  ‘We may do ourselves a favour and change the name of this ancestry [component] in the test,’ he said, since apparently I wasn’t the only one baffled by it.”

So, now we know, straight from the horses mouth, via Carolyn.

Of course, since that time, many advances have occurred in this field.  Today, Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, Ancestry.com and the Genographic Project utilize chip based technology and utilize over half a million markers to achieve ethnicity predictions.  If DNAPrint, renamed AncestybyDNA was the first baby step, today we are teenagers – trying to refine our identity.  Today’s tests, although not totally accurate, are, by far, more accurate than this first baby step.  Give us another dozen years in this industry, and they’ll be spot on!

For 2003, when I ordered mine, DNAPrint was an adventure – it was exciting – it was a first step – and we learned a lot.  Unfortunately, DNAPrint under the name AncestrybyDNA is still being sold today, currently owned by the DNA Diagnostics Center.  If you are even thinking about ordering this product, take a look first at the Yelp reviews and the Better Business Bureau complaints.

I don’t regret spending the money in 2003.  Spending money on this outdated test today would be another story entirely – a total waste.  The results are entirely irrelevant today in light of the newer and more refined technology.  Unfortunately, seldom a week goes by that I don’t receive an e-mail from someone who bought this test and are quite confused and unhappy.  The test has been marketed and remarketed by a number of companies over the years.

So, here are some suggestions about what might be appropriate to do with your DNAPrint or AncestybyDNA results if you don’t want to just throw them away:

  1. Line the bottom of the birdcage.
  2. Use to light the BBQ grill or camp fire.
  3. Use under boots in the hallway in the winter.
  4. Shred, then use as confetti.
  5. Cut into strips and use as bookmarks.
  6. Use as scratch paper.
  7. Use in the garden between rows to minimize weeds.
  8. Make into a paper airplane.
  9. Roll, along with other excess paper, into logs for the fireplace.
  10. Frame, and display along with your other antiques.

Yes, it’s really that old and outdated!

Transfer DNA Results or Retest at Family Tree DNA?

confusionThe recent announcement by Ancestry.com that they are discontinuing their Y and mtDNA products and associated data bases, combined with the opportunity to transfer your Y and autosomal Y DNA results to Family Tree DNA has raised the question of whether it’s best to transfer or retest.  Let’s look at the various options, pluses and minuses, for each product involved.  As it turns out, one size does not fit all.  In other words, it depends…

Autosomal

The cost of an autosomal test transfer to Family Tree DNA is $69 and you can transfer either Ancestry.com’s autosomal test results or 23andMe’s v3 results to Family Tree DNA for that price.

However, the cost of retesting at Family Tree DNA, utilizing the Father’s Day sale, and yes, it’s valid for females too, not just men, is just $79.

So, should you transfer existing results or retest?

  1. If you retest at Family Tree DNA, you’ll have the added benefit of having your DNA archived there, available to you for other tests in the future. Archiving is free and is part of the service.
  2. If you retest at Family Tree DNA, you don’t have to deal with downloading files from Ancestry or 23andMe and then uploading them to Family Tree DNA. If you’re not a techie, this is a benefit.
  3. Ancestry has never been known for quality, so in terms of Ancestry, for a $10 difference, I would certainly retest.
  4. At 23andMe, if you tested either early (the v2 chip) or since November/December of 2013 (the v4 chip) you have no choice but to retest, because the results aren’t compatible.

In a nutshell, for a $10 difference, my vote would be to retest, unless, of course, the person isn’t available to retest then by all means, transfer the results.

If you’re going to retest, do it now while the price is still $79.  The sale ends on 6-17-2014.

Don’t forget, the Big Y, which is a nearly full sequence of the Y chromosome, is also on sale for Father’s Day for only $595.  The newly announced SNP matching in addition to the regular marker matching promises to add a second tool to those who are trying to determine family lineages.  I suggest that someone from each of your primary family surname lines take this test.  Mutations are being found every 90-150 years so this test holds great promised in combination with regular STR (37, 67 and 111 marker) testing.

Y DNA

You can transfer your Ancestry Y DNA results to Family Tree DNA for $19, and then upgrade to the Family Tree DNA standard marker test for another $39, for a total of $58.

If you transfer Ancestry’s 33 marker results, the $58 upgrade price buys you an upgrade to the 25 marker test.  If you transfer Ancestry’s 46 marker test, the upgrade buys you a standard 37 marker test.  Both of these upgrades include DNA matching to other participants.  The $19 transfer alone, does not, just the ability to join projects.

The standard 37 marker test at Family Tree DNA today costs $169 without the transfer, so transferring is definitely the way to go on Y DNA.  You save $111.  Plus, with the upgrade, you will have the added benefit of having your DNA archived at Family Tree DNA.

For Y DNA, a transfer with the upgrade is definitely your best value.  Don’t forget to do this before Sept. 5th because the Ancestry data base disappears that day.  In fact, the sooner, the better, because some of Ancestry’s DNA data base features have already been discontinued.

Mitochondrial DNA

Ancestry’s mtDNA test results weren’t compatible with Family Tree DNA’s, so you don’t have a transfer option.  The mtDNA plus at Family Tree DNA which provides you with your haplogroup and matches in the HVR1+HVR2 regions is $59, but the full sequence mitochondrial DNA test is only $199.  The full sequence test provides you with fully sequenced mitochondrial DNA results, about 10 times more locations than the HVR1+HVR2 regions, a full haplogroup designation and matching at the highest level.  It’s definitely the best value and then you’re done with mtDNA because there are no upgrades beyond the full sequence.

My recommendation would be to purchase the Full Sequence test for $199 as the best value.

The Net-Net

In short, here’s what we have:

  • Autosomal – you can retest at Family Tree DNA for $79, $10 more than the $69 transfer price, which has several benefits.
  • Y DNA – the transfer plus upgrade for $58 is your best value, saving you over $100.
  • Mitochondrial DNA – there is no transfer option, so retesting is necessary.

Click here to order.

Drunken Sailors and a Porcupine

I should have known when I heard the ship groaning in the night as it shifted from side to side.  But I knew unquestionably when I sat up in the morning and began to sway back and forth.  I remembered someone telling me once about falling out of the shower on a cruise ship.  I doubted it at the time, but as of this minute, I believe that entirely.

One crew member said that it’s always cold in these northern British Isles ports, even in summer, often wet and the water in the fall especially is “choppy.”  If this is just choppy, I’d hate to see worse.

So today, I’ve gained an appreciation for drunken sailors.  You see, they may not be drunk at all, simply seasick and staggering around trying to find and maintain their footing – or the closest bathroom.  Last night, John, the cruise director said he can always tell the drunks when it gets rough.  The people who are normally sober are all staggering around, but the drunks, they are all walking in a straight line, referred to, appropriately, as “the line of experience.”  Obviously, I simply don’t drink enough!

In any case, it’s been an exceedingly rough day at sea. I spent the morning staring out the window at the horizon trying to keep the Dramamine down.  I called the spa to cancel my “happy birthday to me” massage for today since I “wasn’t feeling well.”  When I called, they told me that acupuncture cures seasickness, right after they told me that the cancellation charge was the same amount as the original spa charge.  I had my doubts, believe me, but I was so sick and miserable I was willing to try just about anything, so off to the spa I staggered – plus I was paying for it whether I went or not – so why not try acupuncture.  I couldn’t feel much worse.

Actually, I had my husband deliver me.  The wind was blowing so hard they had the outside decks closed.  The wind is howling like an unhappy banshee in the deepest Michigan winter blizzard.  That’s on the inside, sheltered deck with the open roof that can’t be closed over the pool area.  The outside is worse and unsafe, which is why it’s closed. The spa is on the other side so you have to walk through the open roof area.  If I was going to blow away, I wanted him to be with me.  I figured two of us stood a much better chance of hanging on and well, we were much heavier together and more difficult to get aloft like giant inflatable kites.

These ships were not made for winter, in fact, they have no heaters for the rooms.  You can have A/C or “regular air” which is whatever the air temperature is, recycled.  It’s in the 50s today.  I’ve taken to sleeping in my sweatshirt and wool socks with the bathrobe thrown on top of the blankets for extra warmth and I was finally warm enough last night.  If they were selling parkas, they would make a fortune because it wouldn’t matter how much they cost.  I swear to you, I saw a crew member today wearing gloves.

Tell me why I’m doing this again???  Oh yes, it’s a DNA trip, to find my ancestor’s lands and share their experiences.  And yes, some of them were mariners.  Probably, knowing my family, the ones walking in a straight line.  Ugh.  I could have passed on this particular shared experience, but no, this had to be authentic.

So after arriving at the spa, off with most of the clothes (brrrr) and in with the acupuncture needles.  There were needles in my face, in my ears and in my hands and feet including between my eyebrows and between my toes.  As I lay there, looking like a distant relative of the porcupine family and afraid to move for fear of impaling myself, the thought crossed my mind that not only did I do this of my own choosing, but worse yet, I’m paying for the opportunity.  I tried to fall asleep, which is difficult with a bunch of needles sticking in your skin.  Basically, they poke you like a pin cushion, turn the lights off, come back in about an hour and collect money for doing so.

Now the good news is that I did and do feel better.  I’m still staggering around like a drunken sailor, or what I previously thought was a drunken sailor, but I’m not sick. By mid-afternoon, after my spa treatment, food even sounded good, so I went up to the lounge deck with floor to ceiling windows and had a snack.  Yes indeed, things are improving for the old porcupine.  But the sea is quite rough again as we have left the shelter of the Isle of Skye and other islands off Ireland and are in the open North Atlantic now.  It may be rough, but it’s still exceedingly beautiful.

rough seas

This reminded me of another time, years ago, when my kids were young and we had saved enough to take everyone salmon fishing in Lake Michigan.  We chartered a boat for the day, and we invited my Mom and (step)Dad to join us.  For my Dad, who loved to fish, this was a wonderful opportunity he had never enjoyed before – and maybe he’d catch something more interesting than catfish and bluegill in the farm pond at home.

We spent the night before in a local bed and breakfast and got up early to begin our much-anticipated adventure.  I gave everyone in the family Dramamine, everyone that was, except my mother.  She refused, saying that she didn’t get sea sick.  I encouraged her to take it anyway, but she would have none of that.

You know what happened don’t you?  She turned green as pea soup – and not only was she miserable – so were the rest of us.  It’s hard to have fun when someone is so ill.  So we went back to shore, Mom and Dad departed for home, despite our protests, and the rest of us went fishing.  We caught and froze some salmon for Dad, but it just wasn’t the same as catching those fish himself.

However, this made me wonder – is motion sickness hereditary?  I have suffered with it all of my life.  My first memories of it are riding in a car when I was quite young, pre-school.  I still suffer from this same problem.  Mine is much worse than Mom’s was.

According to 23andMe, indeed motion sickness is hereditary.

In a paper presented at the 2012 ASHG Meeting, they state that:

Roughly one in three individuals is highly susceptible to motion sickness; the remaining two-thirds of the population may experience motion sickness if the conditions are extreme.

It’s estimated that up to 70% of a person’s risk for motion sickness is due to genetics, but the genetics of motion sickness has been very poorly understood … until now.

23andMe scientist Bethann Hromatka presented results from a genetic study of nearly 37,000 customers who were surveyed about motion sickness. The analysis identified 14 genetic associations with motion sickness that fall into a few different biological categories. Three genetic variants are involved in development, including development of the eye and ear. Other variants are involved neurological processes and glucose/insulin regulation.

Aha, I knew it. I get to blame my mother, and maybe my father for this unfortunate inherited trait – but I’m guessing my Estes mariner ancestors didn’t carry it – or they wouldn’t have been mariners.  But, according to Mother, she wasn’t motion sick, she simply had “an inner ear problem.”  Uh, yea, Mom, you did.  A rose by any other name…

Now, I wonder why acupuncture helps relieve the symptoms?  The crew, who also take these treatments because they have to keep working, says that one acupuncture treatment works for days too.  Although truthfully, I don’t care why.  I’m just glad that it does.  Given that the condition is genetic, I’ll probably be blessed with it the rest of my life so it’s nice to have a tool, any tool.

During the rest of the day, we were treated to a rainbow several times.  The end of the rainbow always seemed to wind up in the restrooms on the lower decks.  Not sure what to make of that pot-o-gold.  I guess it was near the casino.  The rainbow didn’t photograph well through the glass, but you get the idea.  It was pleasant and hopeful to see after not feeling so well.

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Our towel guy tonight has, what else…no, not acupuncture needles, although that certainly would have been appropriate.  Ginger snaps to help with seasickness, Bonine (which also costs far more on this ship than an outfit at Kohl’s) and chocolate covered strawberries – the last 3 on the ship.  Well, after all, it was my belated birthday present.  Acupuncture, ginger snaps and chocolate-covered strawberries. Who could ask for more!

Tomorrow, solid ground again.  We’re going to Urquhart Castle.  Hope you’re coming along!

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Finding Native American Ethnic Results in Germanic People

I’m often asked about the significance of small percentages of autosomal DNA in results.  Specifically, the small percentages are often of Native American or results that would suggest Native admixture.  One of the first questions I always ask is whether or not the individual has Germanic or eastern European admixture.

Why?

Take a look at this map of the Invasion of the Roman Empire.  See the Huns and their path?

Hun map

It’s no wonder we’re so admixed.

Here’s a map of the Hunnic empire at its peak under Attila between the years 420-469.

Hun emplire

But that wasn’t the end of the Asian invasions.  The Magyars, who settled in Hungary arrived from Asia as well, in the 800s and 900s, as shown on this map from LaSalle University.

magyar map

Since both the Hungarians and some Germanic people descend from Asian populations, as do Native Americans, albeit thousands of years apart, it’s not unrealistic to expect that, as populations, they share a genetic connection.

Therefore, when people who carry heritage from this region of the world show small amounts of Native or Asian origin, I’m not surprised.  However, for Americans, trying to sort out their Native ethnic heritage, this is most unhelpful.

Let’s take a look at the perfect example candidate.  This man is exactly half Hungarian and half German.  Let’s see what his DNA results say, relative to any Asian or Native heritage, utilizing the testing companies and the free admixture tools at www.gedmatch.com.

He has not tested at Ancestry, but at Family Tree DNA, his myOrigins report 96% European, 4% Middle Eastern.  At 23andMe in speculative view, he shows 99.7 European and .2 sub-saharan African.

Moving to the admixture tools at GedMatch, MDLP is not recommended for Asian or Native ancestry, so I have excluded that tool.

Eurogenes K13 is the most recently updated admixture tool, so let’s take a look at that one first.

Eurogenes K13

 JK Eurogenes K13 v2

Eurogenes K13 showed 7% West Asian, which makes perfect sense considering his heritage, but it might be counted as “Native” in other circumstances, although I would certainly be very skeptical about counting it as such.

However, East Asian, Siberian and Amerindian would all be amalgamated into the Native American category, for a combined percentage of 1.31.

jk eurogenes k13 chart

However, selecting the “admixture proportions by chromosome” view shows something a bit different.  The cumulative percentages, by chromosome equate to 10.10%.  Some researchers mistakenly add this amount and use that as their percentage of Native ancestry.  This is not the case, because those are the portions of 100% of each individual chromosome, and the total would need to be divided by 22 to obtain the average value across all chromosomes.  The total is irrelevant, and the average may not reflect how the developer determines the amount of admixture because chromosomes are not the same size nor carry the same number of SNPs.  Questions relative to the functional underpinnings of each tool should be addressed to the developers.

Dodecad

I understand that there is a newer version of Dodecad, but that it has not been submitted to GedMatch for inclusion, per a discussion with GedMatch.  I can’t tell which of the Dodecad versions on GedMatch is the most current, so I ran the results utilizing both v3 and 12b.

jk dodecad v3

jk dodecad v3 chart

I hope v3 is not the most current, because it does not include any Native American category or pseudocategory – although there is a smattering of Northeast Asian at .27% and Southwest Asian at 1%.

Dodecad 12b below

jk dodecad 12b

The 12b version does show .52% Siberian and 2.6% Southwest Asian, although I’m not at all sure the Southwest Asian should be included.

HarappaWorld

jk harappaworld

jk harappaworld chart

Harappaworld shows .09 Siberian, .27% American (Native American), .23% Beringian and 1.8% Southwest Asian, although I would not include Southwest Asian in the Native calculation.

In Summary

Neither Family Tree DNA nor 23andMe find Native ancestry in our German/Hungarian tester, but all 3 of the admixture tools at Gedmatch find either small amounts of Native or Asian ancestry that could certainly be interpreted as Native, such as Siberian or Beringian.

Does this mean this German/Hungarian man has Native American ancestry?  Of course not, but it does probably mean that the Native population and his ancestral populations did share some genes from the same gene pool thousands of years ago.

While you might think this is improbable, or impossible, consider for a minute that every person outside of Africa today carries some percentage of Neanderthal DNA, and all Europeans also carry Denisovan DNA.  Our DNA does indeed have staying power over the millennia, especially once an entire population or group of people is involved.  We’ve recently seen this same type of scenarios in the full genome sequencing of a 24,000 year old Siberian male skeleton.

Our German/Hungarian man carries 2.4% Neanderthal DNA according to 23andMe and 2.7% according to the Genographic Project, which also reports that he carries 3.9% Denisovan.  The European average is about 2% for Neanderthal.

The net-net of this is that minority admixture is not always what it seems to be, especially when utilizing autosomal DNA to detect small amounts of Native American admixture.  The big picture needs to be taken into consideration.  Caution is advised.

When searching for Native admixture, when possible, both Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA give specific answers for specific pedigree lines relative to ancestry.  Of course, to utilize Y or mtDNA, the tester must descend from the Native ancestor either directly paternally to test the male Y chromosome, or directly matrilineally to test the mitochondrial line.  You can read about this type of testing, and how it works, in my article, Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA.  You can also read about other ways to prove Native ancestry using autosomal DNA, including how to unravel which pedigree line the Native ancestry descends from, utilizing admixture tools, in the article, “The Autosomal Me.”

Ethnicity Percentages – Second Generation Report Card

Recently, Family Tree DNA introduced their new ethnicity tool, myOrigins as part of their autosomal Family Finder product.  This means that all of the major players in this arena using chip based technology (except for the Genographic project) have now updated their tools.  Both 23andMe and Ancestry introduced updated versions of their tools in the fall of 2013.  In essence, this is the second generation of these biogeographical or ethnicity products.  So lets take a look and see how the vendors are doing.

In a recent article, I discussed the process for determining ethnicity percentages using biogeographical ancestry, or BGA, tools.  The process is pretty much the same, regardless of which vendor’s results you are looking at.  The variant is, of course, the underlying population data base, it’s quality and quantity, and the way the vendors choose to construct and name their regions.

I’ve been comparing my own known and proven genealogy pedigree breakdown to the vendors results for some time now.  Let’s see how the new versions stack up to a known pedigree.

The paper, “Revealing American Indian and Minority Heritage using Y-line, Mitochondrial, Autosomal and X Chromosomal Testing Data Combined with Pedigree Analysis” was published in the Fall 2010 issue of JoGG, Vol. 6 issue 1.

The pedigree analysis portion of this document begins about page 8.  My ancestral breakdown is as follows:

Geography Pedigree Percent
Germany 23.8041
British Isles 22.6104
Holland 14.5511
European by DNA 6.8362
France 6.6113
Switzerland 0.7813
Native American 0.2933
Turkish 0.0031

This leaves about 25% unknown.

Let’s look at each vendor’s results one by one.

23andMe

23andme v2

My results using the speculative comparison mode at 23andMe are shown in a chart, below.

23andMe Category 23andMe Percentage
British and Irish 39.2
French/German 15.6
Scandinavian 7.9
Nonspecific North European 27.9
Italian 0.5
Nonspecific South European 1.6
Eastern European 1.8
Nonspecific European 4.9
Native American 0.3
Nonspecific East Asian/Native American 0.1
Middle East/North Africa 0.1

At 23andMe, if you have questions about what exact population makes up each category, just click on the arrow beside the category when you hover over it.

For example, I wasn’t sure exactly what comprises Eastern European, so I clicked.

23andme eastern europe

The first thing I see is sample size and where the samples come from, public data bases or the 23andMe data base.  Their samples, across all categories, are most prevalently from their own data base.  A rough add shows about 14,000 samples in total.

Clicking on “show details” provides me with the following information about the specific locations of included populations.

23andme pop

Using this information, and reorganizing my results a bit, the chart below shows the comparison between my pedigree chart and the 23andMe results.  In cases where the vendor’s categories spanned several of mine, I have added mine together to match the vendor category.  A perfect example is shown in row 1, below, where I added France, Holland, Germany and Switzerland together to equal the 23andMe French and German category.  Checking their reference populations shows that all 4 of these countries are included in their French and German group.

Geography Pedigree Percent 23andMe %
Germany, Holland, Switzerland & France 45.7451 15.6
France 6.6113 (above) Combined
Germany 23.8014 (above) Combined
Holland 14.5511 (above) Combined
Switzerland 0.7813 (above) Combined
British Isles 22.6104 39.2
Native American 0.2933 0.4 (Native/East Asian)
Turkish 0.0031 0.1 (Middle East/North Africa)
Scandinavian 7.9
Italian 0.5
South European 1.6
East European 1.8
European by DNA 6.8362 4.9 (nonspecific European)
Unknown 25 27.9 (North European)

I can also change to the Chromosome view to see the results mapped onto my chromosomes.

23andme chromosome view

The 23andMe Reference Population

According to the 23andMe customer care pages, “Ancestry Composition uses 31 reference populations, based on public reference datasets as well as a significant number of 23andMe members with known ancestry. The public reference datasets we’ve drawn from include the Human Genome Diversity ProjectHapMap, and the 1000 Genomes project. For these datasets as well as the data from 23andMe, we perform filtering to ensure accuracy.

Populations are selected for Ancestry Composition by studying the cluster plots of the reference individuals, choosing candidate populations that appear to cluster together, and then evaluating whether we can distinguish the groups in practice. The population labels refer to genetically similar groups, rather than nationalities.”

Additional detailed information about Ancestry Composition is available here.

Ancestry.com

ancestry v2

Ancestry is a bit more difficult to categorize, because their map regions are vastly overlapping.  For example, the west Europe category is shown above, and the Scandinavian is shown below.

ancestry scandinavia

Both categories cover the Netherlands, Germany and part of the UK.

My Ancestry percentages are:

Ancestry Category Ancestry Percentage
North Africa 1
America <1
East Asia <1
West Europe 79
Scandinavia 10
Great Britain 4
Ireland 2
Italy/Greece 2

Below, my pedigree percentages as compared to Ancestry’s categories, with category adjustments.

Geography Pedigree Percent Ancestry %
West European 52.584 (combined from below) 79
Germany 23.8041 Combined
Holland 14.5511 Combined
European by DNA 6.8362 Combined
France 6.6113 Combined
Switzerland 0.7813 Combined
British Isles 22.6104 6
Native American 0.2933 ~1 incl East Asian
Turkish 0.0031 1 (North Africa)
Unknown 25
Italy/Greece 2
Scandinavian 10

Ancestry’s European populations and regions are so broadly overlapping that almost any interpretation is possible.  For example, the Netherlands could be included in several categories – and based up on the history of the country, that’s probably legitimate.

At Ancestry, clicking on a region, then scrolling down will provide additional information about that region of the world, both their population and history.

The Ancestry Reference Population

Just below your ethnicity map is a section titled “Get the Most Out of Your Ethnicity Estimate.”  It’s worth clicking, reading and watching the video.  Ancestry states that they utilized about 3000 reference samples, pared from 4245 samples taken from people whose ethnicity seems to be entirely from that specific location in the world.

ancestry populations

You can read more in their white paper about ethnicity prediction.

Family Tree DNA’s myOrigins

I wrote about the release of my Origins recently, so I won’t repeat the information about reference populations and such found in that article.

myorigins v2

Family Tree DNA shows matches by region.  Clicking on the major regions, European and Middle Eastern, shown above, display the clusters within regions.  In addition, your Family Finder matches that match your ethnicity are shown in highest match order in the bottom left corner of your match page.

Clicking on a particular cluster, such as Trans-Ural Peneplain, highlights that cluster on the map and then shows a description in the lower left hand corner of the page.

myorigins trans-ural

Family Tree DNA shows my ethnicity results as follows.

Family Tree DNA Category Family Tree DNA Percentage
European Coastal Plain 68
European Northlands 12
Trans-Ural Peneplain 11
European Coastal Islands 7
Anatolia and Caucus 3

Below, my pedigree results reorganized a bit and compared to Family Tree DNA’s categories.

Geography Pedigree Percent Family Tree DNA %
European Coastal Plain 45.7478 68
Germany 23.8041 Combined above
Holland 14.5511 Combined above
France 6.6113 Combined above
Switzerland 0.7813 Combined above
British Isles 22.6104 7 (Coastal Islands)
Turkish 0.0031 3 (Anatolia and Caucus)
European by DNA 6.8362
Native American 0.2933
Unknown 25
Trans-Ural Peneplain 11
European Northlands 12

Third Party Admixture Tools

www.GedMatch.com is kind enough to include 4 different admixture utilities, contributed by different developers, in their toolbox.  Remember, GedMatch is a free, meaning a contribution site – so if you utilize and enjoy their tools – please contribute.

On their main page, after signing in and transferring your raw data files from either 23andMe, Family Tree DNA or Ancestry, you will see your list of options.  Among them is “admixture.”  Click there.

gedmatch admixture

Of the 4 tools shown, MDLP is not recommended for populations outside of Europe, such as Asian, African or Native American, so I’ve skipped that one entirely.

gedmatch admix utilities

I selected Admixture Proportions for the part of this exercise that includes the pie chart.

The next option is Eurogenes K13 Admixture Proportions.  My results are shown below.

Eurogenes K13

Eurogenes K13

Of course, there is no guide in terms of label definition, so we’re guessing a bit.

Geography Pedigree Percent Eurogenes K13%
North Atlantic 75.19 44.16
Germany 23.8041 Combined above
British Isles 22.6104 Combined above
Holland 14.5511 Combined above
European by DNA 6.8362 Combined above
France 6.6113 Combined above
Switzerland 0.7813 Combined above
Native American 0.2933 2.74 combined East Asian, Siberian, Amerindian and South Asian
Turkish 0.0031 1.78 Red Sea
Unknown 25
Baltic 24.36
West Med 14.78
West Asian 6.85
Oceanian 0.86

Dodecad K12b

Next is Dodecad K12b

According to John at GedMatch, there is a more current version of Dodecad, but the developer has opted not to contribute the current or future versions.

Dodecad K12b

By the way, in case you’re wondering, Gedrosia is an area along the Indian Ocean – I had to look it up!

Geography Pedigree Percent Dodecad K12b
North European 75.19 43.50
Germany 23.8041 Combined above
British Isles 22.6104 Combined above
Holland 14.5511 Combined above
European by DNA 6.8362 Combined above
France 6.6113 Combined above
Switzerland 0.7813 Combined above
Native American 0.2933 3.02 Siberian, South Asia, SW Asia, East Asia
Turkish 0.0031 10.93 Caucus
Gedrosia 7.75
Northwest African 1.22
Atlantic Med 33.56
Unknown 25

Third is Harappaworld.

Harappaworld

harappaworld

Baloch is an area in the Iranian plateau.

Geography Pedigree Percent Harappaworld %
Northeast Euro 75.19 46.58
Germany 23.8041 Combined above
British Isles 22.6104 Combined above
Holland 14.5511 Combined above
European by DNA 6.8362 Combined above
France 6.6113 Combined above
Switzerland 0.7813 Combined above
Native American 0.2933 2.81 SE Asia, Siberia, NE Asian, American, Beringian
Turkish 0.0031 10.27
Unknown 25
S Indian 0.21
Baloch 9.05
Papuan 0.38
Mediterranean 28.71

The wide variety found in these results makes me curious about how my European results would be categorized using the MDLP tool, understanding that it will not pick up Native, Asian or African.

MDLP K12

mdlp k12

The Celto-Germanic category is very close to my mainland European total – but of course, many Germanic people settled in the British Isles.

Second Generation Report Card

Many of these tools picked up my Native American heritage, along with the African.  Yes, these are very small amounts, but I do have several proven lines.  By proven, I mean both by paper trail (Acadian church and other records) and genetics, meaning Yline and mtDNA.  There is no arguing with that combination.  I also have other Native lines that are less well proven.  So I’m very glad to see the improvements in that area.

Recent developments in historical research and my mitochondrial DNA matches show that my most distant maternal ancestral line in Germany have some type of a Scandinavian connection.  How did this happen, and when?  I just don’t know yet – but looking at the map below, which are my mtDNA full sequence matches, the pattern is clear.

mitomatches

Could the gene flow have potentially gone the other direction – from Germany to Scandinavia?  Yes, it’s possible.  But my relatively consistent Scandinavian ethnicity at around 10% seems unlikely if that were the case.

Actually, there is a second possibility for additional Scandinavian heritage and that’s my heavy Frisian heritage.  In fact, most of my Dutch ancestors in Frisia were either on or very near the coast on the northernmost part of Holland and many were merchants.

I also have additional autosomal matches with people from Scandinavia – not huge matches – but matches just the same – all unexplained.  The most notable of which, and the first I might add, is with my friend, Marja.

It’s extremely difficult to determine how distant the ancestry is that these tests are picking up.  It could be anyplace from a generation ago to hundreds of generations ago.  It all depends on how the DNA was passed, how isolated the population was, who tested today and which data bases are being utilized for comparison purposes along with their size and accuracy.  In most cases, even though the vendors are being quite transparent, we still don’t know exactly who the population is that we match, or how representative it is of the entire population of that region.  In some cases, when contributed data is being used, like testers at 23andMe, we don’t know if they understood or answered the questions about their ancestry correctly – and 23andMe is basing ethnicity results on their cumulative answers.  In other words, we can’t see beneath the blanket – and even if we could – I don’t know that we’d understand how to interpret the components.

So Where Am I With This?

I knew already, through confirmed paper sources that most of my ancestry is in the European heartland – Germany, Holland, France as well as in the British Isles.  Most of the companies and tools confirm this one way or another.  That’s not a surprise.  My 35 years of genealogical research has given me an extremely strong pedigree baseline that is invaluable for comparing vendor ethnicity results.

The Scandinavian results were somewhat of a surprise – especially at the level in which they are found.  If this is accurate, and I tend to believe it is present at some level, then it must be a combined effect of many ancestors, because I have no missing or unknown ancestors in the first 5 generations and only 11 of 64 missing or without a surname in generation 6.  Those missing ancestors in generation 6 only contribute about 1.5% of my DNA each, assuming they contribute an average of 50% of their DNA to offspring in each subsequent generation.

Clearly, to reach 10%, nearly all of my missing ancestors, in the US and Germany, England and the Netherlands would have to be 100% Scandinavian – or, alternately, I have quite a bit scattered around in many ancestors, which is a more likely scenario.  Still, I’m having a difficult time with that 10% number in any scenario, but I will accept that there is some Scandinavian heritage one way or another.  Finding it, however, genealogically is quite another matter.

However, I’m at a total loss as to the genesis of the South European and Mediterranean.  This must be quite ancient.  There are only two known possible ancestors from these regions and they are many generations back in time – and both are only inferred with clearly enough room to be disproven.  One is a possible Jewish family who went to France from Spain in 1492 and the other is possibly a Roman soldier whose descendants are found within a few miles of a Roman fort site today in Lancashire.  Neither of these ancestors could have contributed enough DNA to influence the outcome to the levels shown, so the South European/Mediterranean is either incorrect, or very deep ancestry.

The Eastern European makes more sense, given my amount of German heritage.  The Germans are well known to be admixed with the Magyars and Huns, so while I can’t track it or prove it, it also doesn’t surprise me one bit given the history of the people and regions where my ancestors are found.

What’s the Net-Net of This?

This is interesting, very interesting.  There are tips and clues buried here, especially when all of the various tools, including autosomal matching, Y and mtDNA, are utilized together for a larger picture.  Alone, none of these tools are as powerful as they are combined.

I look forward to the day when the reference populations are in the tens of thousands, not hundreds.  All of the tools will be far more accurate as the data base is built, refined and utilized.

Until then, I’ll continue to follow each release and watch for more tips and clues – and will compare the various tools.  For example, I’m very pleased to see Family Tree DNA’s new ethnicity matching tool incorporated into myOrigins.

I’ve taken the basic approach that my proven pedigree chart is the most accurate, by far, followed by the general consensus of the combined results of all of the vendors.  It’s particularly relevant when vendors who don’t use the same reference populations arrive at the same or similar results.  For example, 23andMe uses primarily their own clients and Nat Geo of course, although I did not include them above because they haven’t released a new tool recently, uses their own population sample results.

National Geographic’s Geno2

Nat Geo took a bit of a different approach and it’s more difficult to compare to the others.  They showed my ethnicity as 43% North European, 36% Mediterranean and 18% Southwest Asian.

nat geo results

While this initially looks very skewed, they then compared me to my two closest populations, genetically, which were the British and the Germans, which is absolutely correct, according to my pedigree chart.  Both of these populations are within a few percent of my exact same ethnicity profile, shown below.

Nat geo british 2

The description makes a lot of sense too.  “The dominant 49% European component likely reflects the earliest settlers in Europe, hunter-gatherers who arrived there more than 35,000 years ago.  The 44% Mediterranean and the 17% Southwest Asian percentages arrived later, with the spread of agriculture from the Fertile Crescent in the middle East, over the past 10,000 years.  As these early farmers moved into Europe, they spread their genetic patterns as well.”

nat geo german

So while individually, and compared to my pedigree chart, these results appear questionable, especially the Mediterranean and Southwest Asian portions, in the context of the populations I know I descend from and most resemble, the results make perfect sense when compared to my closest matching populations.  Those populations themselves include a significant amount of both Mediterranean and Southwest Asian.  Looking at this, I feel a lot better about the accuracy of my results.  Sometimes, perspective makes a world of difference.

It’s A Wrap

Just because we can’t exactly map the ethnicity results to our pedigree charts today doesn’t mean the results are entirely incorrect.  It doesn’t mean they are entirely correct, either.  The results may, in some cases, be showing where population groups descend from, not where our specific ancestors are found more recently.  The more ancestors we have from a particular region, the more that region’s profile will show up in our own personal results.  This explains why Mediterranean shows up, for example, from long ago but our one Native ancestor from 7 or 8 generations ago doesn’t.  In my case, it would be because I have many British/German/Dutch lines that combine to show the ancient Mediterranean ancestry of these groups – where I have many fewer Native ancestors.

Vendors may be picking up deep ancestry that we can’t possible know about today – population migration.  It’s not like our ancestors left a guidebook of their travels for us – at least – not outside of our DNA – and we, as a community, are still learning exactly how to read that!  We are, after all, participants on the pioneering, leading edge of science.

Having said that, I’ll personally feel a lot better about these kinds of results when the underlying technology, data bases and different vendors’ tools mature to the point where there the differences between their results are minor.

For today, these are extremely interesting tools, just don’t try to overanalyze the results, especially if you’re looking for minority admixture.  And if you don’t like your results, try a different vendor or tool, you’ll get an entirely new set to ponder!

What Does “Sharing Genomes” at 23andMe Mean?

underpantsOne of the comments to my posting about 23andMe Producing a 10% Response Rate when contacting matches mentioned that the phrase “share genomes” was really an “overly dramatic, scary and inaccurate phrase.” I never really thought about that before, but that commenter is right. And fear of the unknown is likely frightening some people. Comments since then have conveyed the same concerns. Are people you “share genomes” with going to see you in your genetic underpants???

I’ve condensed another commenter’s statements below:

“I would like to know in advance how much of my info will be available to strangers. The process needs to be better explained to newbies, to reassure us about what is public and what can be kept private, while still participating in the sharing. A bridge is needed between the DNA-for-dummies introductory videos apparently made by the producers of Sesame Street, and the over-our-heads fine detail in the white paper. There’s a wide gap there.”

I agree, and so I’d like to show the basics of what “sharing genomes” means.

Big caveat and disclaimer – I don’t’ work for 23andMe nor do I have any relationship with them other than as a consumer and as a consultant who has recommended their tests in the past generally relative to health and sometimes for ancestry. I have no inside information. This is accurate, to the best of my knowledge, but 23andMe could change their website and/or internal processes at any minute and it might not be accurate anytime in the future. Furthermore, I could have missed something. If so, and if it is brought to my attention, I will update this information.

The titles for each of these sections indicate the various series of clicks you’ll need to do to access the data shown below the title.

When you choose to share your genome with someone, they will be able to see the following information about you, arranged by tab at 23and Me. Note that their tabs for Ancestry information show up in two areas:

My Results, Ancestry Overview 

Sharing genomes 1

Family and Friends, then DNA Relatives and Family Traits

sharing genomes 2

Several of these are rather frivolous.  Gene Comparison has been obsoleted/removed.  However,  there are a couple that are very important to genealogists.

My Results, Ancestry Overview, Ancestry Tools

Countries of Ancestry

Countries of ancestry shows where you match someone whose 4 grandparents were from the same location.

Sharing genomes 3

23andMe provides the following caveat about your data.

sharing genomes 4

If you elect to download the data for the person you’ve selected, it looks like this.

sharing genomes 4.1

As you can see, many people remain anonymous. This is a list of the people who match this person selected, and the segments that are listed as entirely Spanish, or UK, for example. This could be useful to you if you find the names of some of your matches, or if you would decide to include this information in your matching spreadsheet. I don’t utilize this information in my spreadsheet, because I don’t feel that grandparents living in one location is terribly useful, although at least one of my matches is utilizing this information. This does not mean that your ancestors or the DNA you inherited in this location (on half of the chromosome in question) is from this location, but it could provide a clue. I can say without a doubt that in the case of some of the Netherlands segments, those did come from my mother’s Dutch lines. Please note that these measurements are in mega-base pairs, NOT in centiMorgans, and will not match up with your spreadsheet segments exactly for that reason.

My Results, Ancestry Overview, Ancestry Tools

Family Inheritance: Advanced (FIA)

This is the primary tool utilized by genealogists.

Utilizing the FIA tool, you can see how up to three different people’s DNA compares against yours. Below, my half-sister’s granddaughter on my father’s side (blue) is compared with my first cousin (once removed) on my mother’s side (green). Of note, they both share with me on some of the same segments, specifically chromosome 5, 7, 11 and 17. That’s not unexpected, because both halves of my chromosomes are showing here, Moms and Dads.

Sharing genomes 5

To see if they actually do match each other, or if their matches are to me on Mom’s and Dad’s side, separately, we check to see if they also match each other.

They do, on one segment, suggesting that they may share a common ancestor that is likely not shared with me. How do we know this? Because their match to each other is on chromosome 19, and their matches in common to me are not on chromosome 19. This means that their matches to me on common chromosomes are simply because one is matching me on Mom’s side and one on Dad’s. Their match to each other on chromosome 19 would need to be investigated separately. As it turns out, I did notice a surname in common in both of their trees, a line that is not shared with me.

Sharing genomes 6

From the above screen, you can’t see segment start and stop numbers, but utilizing the www.dnagedcom.com utility, below, you can download your matches segments to each other by entering your name in the profile (exactly including capital letters) and the person you want to see in the FIA match field. This means you will see all of the matches of your matches to each other. You will NOT see matches for this person outside of those they match in common with you and only for those who are sharing their genomes. You will NOT see anyone who is not sharing genomes.

sharing genomes 7

My cousin’s downloaded match file looks like this, minus the green shading, and plus full names, which I’ve redacted.

Sharing genomes 8

This is extremely useful because it allows me to see exactly where on the segments that my matches match each other. These are shaded green. This allows me to compare exactly where they match each other, and me. If they match each other, and me, on the same segment, that indicates that we share a common ancestor at that location. So, in this case, my cousin, whose FIA record this is, matches me, William and Diana on a common segment of chromosome 4. She matches me, Sean and Sheila on 5. They don’t have to match exactly, just on some overlapping piece.

Note that this tells us that the segments that I colored green are true matches, as my cousin matches both me and these other individuals at these locations, indicating we share a common ancestor. In some cases, based on genealogy or knowing the person in question, I can tell you exactly from looking at the common matches which lines the people who match come from. This is the goal and the power of chromosome mapping.

My Results, Ancestry Overview, Ancestry Tools

Global Similarity Map

You can see the Global Similarity Map of the people you are sharing genomes with.

sharing genomes 9

My Results, Ancestry Overview, Ancestry Tools

Neanderthal Ancestry

Your matches can, gasp, see your percentage of Neanderthal ancestry.

Sharing genomes 10

Maternal Line, Paternal Line and DNA Relatives Page

People with whom you share can see your haplogroup on both the maternal and paternal line, page (under the My Results, Ancestry Overview tab,) and they can also see it on the DNA Relatives main match page (under the Family and Friends tab.) Mine is shown below, but if I were a male, it would also include the Y haplogroup. One useful feature on the Maternal and Paternal pages is that you can see your matches sorted by haplogroup which in some cases, especially with a rare haplogroup, maybe a clue as to how you are related, either matrilineally or patrilineally.

Sharing genomes 11

Family and Friends, Family Traits

You can see if you match someone by selecting between traits, such as bitter taste, circadian rhythm, endurance, etc. to see if you share any of the genes for a specific trait such as bitter tasting ability, circadian rhythm, endurance, female fertility, immune system compatibility, non-bitter tasting, pigmentation and weight/body mass index or any set of genes you enter specifically by number.

This shows me compared to my sister’s granddaughter for weight/BMI.

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23andMe Discusses Genome Sharing

What does 23andMe have to say about genome sharing? Here are links

How does genome sharing work? https://customercare.23andme.com/entries/21242872

Learn more and what should I know? https://23andme.zendesk.com/entries/21251933

Family and Friends, Manage Sharing

You can see who you are sharing with. I never share health reports, although I would consider it if someone had a good reason for asking.

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You can manage your sharing by clicking on the green “share your genome” button in the upper right hand corner or by simply accepting a share request.

In Summary

I hope this quick spin-through of “sharing genomes” at 23andMe has been helpful. There is nothing frightening about sharing your genome at 23andMe and if you want to be able to make a sound genealogical connection, it’s necessary. You’re not sharing your entire genome, or your raw data, only selected parts where you match people with whom you are related.

The most frightening part of genetic genealogy is if you discover that you’re related to someone you wish you weren’t, or you’re not related to someone you thought you were. But if you’re playing in the genealogy field, especially the genetic genealogy field, that is a constant consideration and one we’re all aware of.

Happy Ancestor Hunting through genome sharing.