Phasing the X Chromosome

The X chromosome lives a genetic and genealogical life all of its own because of its unique inheritance properties which vary depending on whether you are a male and inherit the X only from your mother, or a female an inherit an X chromosome from both parents.  Because of this, it’s a great, and often untapped, resource for genealogists.

I covered how this works in my blog titled X Marks the Spot.  Jim Owston, however, has gone another step further and documented how to phase that X chromosome, meaning how to assign pieces of it to specific ancestors.  This is a great educational piece and tool for us genealogists, so please, take a look:

http://linealarboretum.blogspot.com/2012/11/phasing-x-chromosome.html

Great work Jim!!!

2012 Top 10 Genetic Genealogy Happenings

2012 has been a very busy year for genetic genealogists.  There have been lots of discoveries and announcements that affect everyone, now and in the future.  The watchwords for 2012 would be “churn” and “explosive growth.”  Let’s take a look at the 10 most important events, why they are important and what they mean for the future of genetic genealogy.

These items are in what I think are relatively good order, ranked by their importance, although I had a very difficult time deciding between number 1 and 2.

1. The New Root – Haplogroup A00

At the Family Tree DNA conference in November, Michael Hammer, Bonnie Schrack and Thomas Krahn announced that they had made a monumental discovery in the age of modern man known as Y-line Adam.  The discovery of Haplogroup A00 pushes the “birth” of mankind back from about 140,000 years ago to an amazing 338,000 years ago.  Utterly amazing.  The DNA came from an American family from South Carolina.  This discovery highlights the importance of citizen science.  Bonnie is a haplogroup administrator who recognized the potential importance of one of her participants’ DNA.  Thomas Krahn of course is with Family Tree DNA and ran the WTY test, and Michael Hammer is at the University of Arizona.  So you have the perfect blend here of participant, citizen scientist, commercial lab and academia.  What was never thought possible a decade or so ago is not only working, it’s working well and changing the face of both science and humanity.

http://dna-explained.com/2012/11/16/the-new-root-haplogroup-a00/

http://www.haplogroup-a.com./

2. Geno 2.0

Geno 2.0 is the Nickname for the National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project version 2.0.  That mouthful is why it has a nickname.

This amazing project has leveraged the results of the past 7 years of research from the original Genographic project into a new groundbreaking product.  Geno 2.0, utilizing the GenoChip, a sequencing chip created specifically for Nat Geo, offers the most complete Y tree in the world today, expanding the SNP tree from just over 800 SNPs to over 12,000.  They are in essence redrawing the Y chromosome tree as I write this.  In addition, the person who purchases Geno 2.0 will receive a mitochondrial DNA haplogroup assignment.  Over 3300 new mitochondrial mutations were discovered. A brand new anthropological “percentages of ethnicity” report is featured based on over 75,000 Ancestry Informative Markers, many only recently discovered by the Genographic project.  Additionally, participants will receive their percentage of both Neanderthal and Denisovan ancestry based on 30,000 SNPs identified that signal interbreeding between the hominids.  A new website will also facilitate social networking and uploading information to Family Tree DNA.

The wonderful news is that there is a massive amount of new information here that will change the landscape of genetic genealogy.  The difficulty is that we are struggling a bit under the load of that massive amount of information that is just beginning to descend upon us.  It’s a great problem to have!

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/25/national-geographic-geno-2-0-announcement-the-human-story/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/26/geno-2-0-qa-with-bennett-greenspan/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/30/geno-2-0-answers-from-spencer-wells/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/31/geno-2-0-wty-mtdna-full-sequence-participants-and-more/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/10/14/what-to-order-geno-2-0-vs-family-tree-dna-products/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/10/16/geno-2-0-the-kit-arrives/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/12/11/geno-2-0-results-first-peek/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/12/12/geno-2-0-results-kicking-the-tires/

3. Reconstructed Sapiens Reference Sequence (RSRS)

In July, Family Tree DNA implemented the RSRS that in effect reconstructs the genetic profile of Mitochondrial Eve and bases the comparison of our DNA today against the RSRS sequence as opposed to the Cambridge Reference Sequence (rCRS) created in 1981 that is or was the current standard.  The RSRS is a result of the watershed paper published in April 2012 by Dr. Doron Behar and 8 other authors titled “A “Copernican” Reassessment of the Human Mitochondrial DNA Tree from its Root.”  A complementary research website, www.mtdnacommunity.org, accompanies the paper.

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/14/what-happened-to-my-mitochondrial-dna/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/15/the-crs-and-the-rsrs/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/16/the-mtdna-community/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/12/02/little-a-big-a-mitochondrial-dna/

4. Full Genome and Exome Sequence Offered Commercially by Gene by Gene

It was announced at the November DNA conference that Gene by Gene, the parent company of Family Tree DNA, through their division titled DNA DTC is offering full genomic sequencing for the amazing price of $5495 for the full genome and $695 for the exome.  This is a first in the consumer marketspace.  Today, this doesn’t have a lot of application for genetic genealogy, but as the price continues to drop, and utilities are built to process the full genomic data, certainly a market and applications will emerge.  This is an important step forward in the industry with a product that still cost 3 million dollars in 2007.

http://dna-explained.com/2012/11/30/gene-by-gene-announces-landmark-dna-dtc-full-genome-sequence/

5. Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA

It’s official – they did it.  Yep, they interbred and well, they are not them anymore, they are us.  Given that everyone in Asia and Europe carries a part of them, but not people from Africa, it would appear that two populations admixed rather thoroughly in Eurasia and/or the populations were small.  The amount of Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA will continue at approximately the proportions seen today in Europe (2% Neanderthal) and Asia unless a significant amount of admixture from a population (Africa) that does not carry this admixture is introduced.  So if you’re European, you carry both Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA.  They are your ancestors.  The good news is that you can find how much of each through  the Geno 2.0 test.  23andMe results give you the percentage of Neanderthal, but not Denisovan.

http://dna-explained.com/2012/08/31/denisovan-dna-tells-a-story/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/12/12/geno-2-0-results-kicking-the-tires/

6. Ancestral Genome Reconstruction Begins,  Led by Falling Autosomal Prices and the Ability to Fish in Multiple Ponds

2012 has been the year of autosomal testing price reductions and a great deal of churn in this marketspace.  Companies are playing leap-frog with one another.  However, sometimes things are not all that they seem.

Initially, 23andMe opted for an initial payment plus monthly subscription model, which they abandoned for a one time payment price of $299 in early 2012.  Family Tree DNA was slightly less, at $289.

Ancestry led the price war by giving away kits, then selling them for $99, then $129 plus a subscription as an entrance into this market.  However, looking at the Ancestry consent form hints at possible reasons why they were selling below the cost of the tests.  You are in essence giving them permission to sell your DNA and associated information.  In addition, to gain full access to your results and matches, you must maintain some level of subscription to Ancestry.com, increasing the total effective price.

Next came Family Tree DNA’s sale where they dropped their autosomal price to $199, but they were shortly upstaged by 23andMe whose price has now dropped to $99 permanently, apparently, a result of a 50 million dollar investment in order to reach 1 million customers.  They currently have about 180,000.  23andMe has always been in the medical/health business, so their clients have always understood what they were consenting to and for.

Not to be outdone, Family Tree DNA introduced the ability earlier in 2012 to upload your data files from 23andMe to FamilyTree DNA for $89, far less than a second test, which allows you to fish in a second pond where genealogists live for matches.  The challenge at 23andMe is that most of their clients test for the health traits and either don’t answer inquiries or match requests, or know little about their genealogy if they do.  At Family Tree DNA, matches don’t have to answer and allow a match, testers are automatically matched with all participants who take the Family Finder test (or upload their 23andMe results) and testers are provided with their matches’ e-mail address.

Of course, Geno 2.0 was also introduced in the midst of this, in July, for $199 with the additional lollipop of new SNPS, lots of them, that others simply don’t have access to yet.

The good news is that consumers have benefitted from this leapfrogging, I think.  Let’s hope that the subsidized tests at Ancestry and 23andMe don’t serve long term to water down the demand to the point where unsubsidized companies (who don’t selling participants genetic results to others) have problems remaining viable.

Personally, I’ve tested at all of these companies.  I’ll be evaluating the results shortly in detail on my blog at www.dna-explained.com.

The tools provided by most testing companies, plus GedMatch, and multiple ponds to fish in are allowing the serious genetic genealogist to “reconstruct” their genome, attributing segments to specific ancestors.  Conversely, we will also be able to “reconstruct” specific ancestral family lines as well by identifying autosomal segments in multiple descendants.  This new vision of autosomal genetic genealogy will allow much more accurate ancestral line matching, and ancestor identification in the not-so-distant future.

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/01/family-tree-dna-now-accepting-23andme.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/05/23andme-eliminates-subscription-model.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/10/clarification-of-what-is-available-to.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/12/23andme-receives-50-million-and-drops.html

http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/2012/12/26/23andme-and-labcorp-sued-for-patent-infringement/

7. Ethnicity Tests Mature – Minus 1

The good news is that the various ethnicity tests (known as BGA or biogeographical ancestry tests) that provide participants with their percentages of various world populations are improving.  The bad news is that there is currently one bad apple in the card with very misleading percentages – and that is Ancestry.com.

23andMe introduced a new version of their ethnicity product in December, expanding from only 3 geographic categories to several.  The Geno 2.0 test results are just beginning to be returned which include ethnicity predictions and references to several base populations.

Family Tree DNA finally has some competition in this arena where for years they have been the only serious player, although opinions differ widely about which of these three organizations results are the most accurate.  All four are Illumina chip based, using hundreds of thousands of locations, as compared with the previous CODIS type tests which used between 15 and 300 markers and are now outdated.  All companies use different reference populations which, of course, provide somewhat different results to participants.  All companies, except Ancestry, have documented and shared their reference population information.

Outside of these companies, Doug McDonald offers a private analysis and Gedmatch offers a series of BGA comparisons written by third parties.

While this industry continues to grow and mature, I’m thinking about just averaging the autosomal ethnic results and calling it good:)

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/21/ethnicity-finders/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/10/24/ancestrys-mythical-admixture-percentages/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/12/07/new-worldview-at-23andme/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/09/09/doug-mcdonald-on-biogeograpical-analysis/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/12/11/geno-2-0-results-first-peek/

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012_12_01_archive.html

8. Finding Your Roots PBS Series with Henry Louis Gates

PBS sponsored a wonderful series in the spring of 2012 hosted by Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, the chair of African American Studies at Harvard.  This series followed a lesser known 2010 series.  The 2012 inspirational series reached tens of thousands of people and increased awareness of genetic genealogy as well as sparked an interest in genealogy itself, especially for mixed race and African American people.  I was disappointed that the series did not pursue the Native American results unexpectedly obtained for one participant.  It seemed like a missed opportunity.  Series like this bring DNA testing for genealogy into the mainstream, making it less “strange” and frightening and more desirable for the average person.  These stories were both inspirational and heartwarming.  I hope we can look forward to similar programs in the future.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finding_Your_Roots

CeCe Moore covered this series in March and April on her blog.

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/03/finding-your-roots-with-henry-louis.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/04/finding-your-roots-with-henry-louis.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/04/finding-your-roots-with-henry-louis_09.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/04/finding-your-roots-with-henry-louis_16.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/04/finding-your-roots-with-henry-louis_23.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/04/finding-your-roots-with-henry-louis_30.html

9. Ancestry, GeneTree and Sorenson

GeneTree, a for profit company and Sorenson, a non-profit company were both purchased by Ancestry.com.  This was about the same time as Ancestry introduced their autosomal AncestryDNA product.  Speculation was that the autosomal results at Sorenson might be the foundation for the new autosomal test comparisons, although there has been no subsequent evidence of this.

Ancestry initially gave away several thousand kits in order to build their data base, then sold thousands more for $99 before raising the price to what appears to be a normalized price of $129 plus an annual ancestry subscription.

While GeneTree was never a major player in the DNA testing marketspace, Sorenson Molecular Genealogical Foundation played an important role for many years as a nonprofit research institute.  There was significant distress in the genetic genealogy community related to the DNA contributed to Sorenson for research being absorbed by Ancestry as a “for profit” company.  Ancestry is maintaining the www.smgf.org website, but no additional results will be added.  Sorenson has been entirely shuttered.  Many of the Sorenson/GeneTree employees appear to have moved over to Ancestry.

The initial AncestryDNA autosomal product offering is poor, lacks tools and the ethnicity portion has significant issues. It’s strength is that many people who test are already Ancestry subscribers and have attached their trees.  So you can’t see how you connect genetically to your matches (lack of tools), but you can see the trees, if they are attached and not marked as private, of those with whom you match.  Ancestry provides “hints” relative to matching individuals or surnames.

Eventually, if Ancestry improves its products, provides tools and releases the raw data to consumers, this may be a good thing.  It’s an important event in 2012 because of the massive size of Ancestry, but the product is mediocre at best.  Ancestry seems unwilling to acknowledge issues unless their feet are held to the fire publicly as illustrated with a “lab error” erroneous match for an adoptee caught by the consuming public and ignored by Ancestry until CeCe Moore exposed them in her blog.  Whether Ancestry ultimately helps or hurts the genetic genealogy industry is a story yet to be told.  There is very little positive press in the genetic genealogy community surrounding the Ancestry product, but with their captive audience, they are clearly going to be a player.

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/05/ancestrycom-buys-genetree-and-launches.html

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/12/did-you-test-at-genetree/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/08/30/is-history-repeating-itself-at-ancestry/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/18/the-trouble-with-ancestry-com-matches/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/08/14/y-dna-family-tree-dna-vs-ancestry/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/08/16/ancestrys-consent-form-for-ancestrydna-autosomal-test/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/09/10/ancestry-autosomal-results-are-back/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/10/15/ancestrys-dna-survey/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/10/23/ancestry-to-release-array-data-in-2013/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/10/24/ancestrys-mythical-admixture-percentages/

http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/2012/06/19/problems-with-ancestrydnas-genetic-ethnicity-prediction/

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/08/ancestrydna-confusing-relationship.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/08/follow-up-on-ancestrydna-and-adoptees.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/09/23andme-says-no-match-for-adoptees.html

10. GedMatch

GedMatch, www.gedmatch.com, created by John Olson and Curtis Rogers, isn’t new in 2012, but it’s maturing into a tool that is becoming the defacto workhorse of the serious autosomal community.  People who test at either 23andMe or Family Tree DNA download their raw results and other match information and then use a variety of tools at GedMatch to look at results in different ways and using different thresholds. GedMatch is currently working to accept the newly arriving Geno 2.0 data files.  Ancestry does not at this time allow their customers access to their raw data files, so there is nothing to upload. The bad news is that not everyone downloads/uploads their information.  Only the most savvy users, and the download/upload is not always a smooth process, often necessitating several attempts, a magic wand and some fairy dust for luck.

GedMatch is a volunteer effort funded by donations on the GedMatch site.  The magnitude of this project came to light when they needed new servers this year because the amount of traffic disabled their internet service provider.  It may be a volunteer effort, but it has mainstream requirements.  Therefore, while occasionally frustrating, it’s easy to understand why it’s light on documentation and one has to poke around a bit to figure things out.  I would actually prefer that they make it a subscription site, clean up the bugs, add the documentation and take it to the next level.  It would also be very nice if they could arrange something with the major players in terms of a seamless data transfer for clients.  All told, it’s an amazing contribution as a volunteer site.  Hats off to Curtis and John for their ongoing contribution to genetic genealogists!!!

www.gedmatch.com

http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2012/08/12/gedmatch-a-dna-geeks-dream-site/

Unattaching Ancestry’s Self-Attaching Trees

I had really come to really dread the e-mails from people who say they are going to invite me to view their family tree at Ancestry.com.  It’s not because I don’t want to see the tree, I do.  It’s because Ancestry does me the huge favor of “attaching” that tree to my account like a very large parasitic blood-sucking leach.  They’ve assumed that every tree I look at is “family,” and that my attachment to that tree is “forever.”  And better yet, every time someone does something, anything, to that tree, I receive a message that says “New content has been entered to your family tree.”  Well, Ancestry, it’s not MY family tree and I NEVER asked you to do me any favors by attaching some random tree I’m looking at to me.  In fact, I specifically don’t want you to do that, but like normal, I don’t get to vote.  This is called “too much help” and anyone who has ever loved a 2-year-old knows all about “too much help.”

So, the random tree is firmly attached to me.  Now the question is how to remove the parasite.

First of all, I need to determine if I really do want the tree attached, meaning it is a tree I might want to reference, or if I simply want to detach it.  For DNA project administrators, most of the time, you simply want to detach them from your own personal records.

However, if you want to retain the connection to the tree, you can simply disable the notifications.  Those constant notifications are the part that will make you crazy, and the more trees you have attached, the crazier the notifications will make you.  Disabling notifications is relatively straightforward.  You need to go to your name in the top right of your screen and in the drop-down menu select “My Alerts”.

ancestry trees 4 v2

You can then change the delivery notification for each tree you have access to. The options are off, daily and weekly.  Yes, it’s a pain to have to do this to disable something you never wanted in the first place, but it’s only once (per tree) and it removes the bombardment of unwanted e-mails.

ancestry trees 5

Discovering how to remove the trees is more tricky.  However, once you’ve figured out how to do this, it’s relatively easy.

Fly your cursor over the Family Trees tab.

Ancestry trees 1

Some have a “More” option.  If so, click on it.  Mine didn’t.  If not, then click on the olive Family Trees Tab itself, not the drop down options.  You’ll then see “My Trees” and “Trees shared with me.”  Click on Trees Shared with me.  There is it, the blessed “remove from list” button.  Click and they are gone.

Ancestry trees 3

This is a frustrating dilemma because genealogists do want to share their information but it shouldn’t become a burden to either party.  It’s too bad Ancestry doesn’t give you the option to “save the link” or simply, by default, just look.

Debbie Kennett suggests that if people want to make their tree available online to their matches she finds MyHeritage is a much better alternative than Ancestry. You can upload a tree for up to 250 people free of charge. The big advantage of MyHeritage is that anyone can see your tree without needing to have an Ancestry subscription or
an invite. You can see her tree here:

http://www.myheritage.com/site-132966791/cruwys-family

Thanks to Ann Turner, Debbie Kennett and Jim Owston for their assistance with figuring out how to get rid of these self-attaching trees.  Once you know how to do this, it’s not difficult, but figuring out the procedure was anything but straightforward.

Lost Colony DNA Project Makes The Scientist Magazine List of Top 20 Stories for 2012

Lost colony dnaThe Lost Colony DNA project, sponsored by the Lost Colony Research Group, www.lostcolonyresearch.org, found themselves featured at number 15 in The Scientist Magazine’s Top 20 stories for 2012.

http://www.the-scientist.com/TheScientist/emails/daily/2012/12/26a.html

Original article, published on January 1st, 2012, is found at this link. http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view%2FarticleNo%2F31423%2Ftitle%2FLost-Colony-DNA-%2F

It’s also of note that Kerry Grens, the author of the story was honored by the North Carolina Society of Historians with an award for this article this past October.

Anne Poole (at left), my partner and Research Director, are screening for artifacts in the photo at one of our excavation sites.  Anne and I seldom are actually able to do something together at the same time, as there are lots of logistics and challenges to work on every minute of every dig with 20-40 people in the field.  Please note that my t-shirt says “Well behaved women seldom make history.”  It’s my motto, and I’ve never been accused of being well behaved!

Thanks everyone for your participation and interest.  Let’s make 2013 a great year with lots of research and let’s find those colonists!!

All I Want for Christmas is my Moore Wall to Fall

I remember my old Hoosier farmer step-Dad used to say that a person’s luck was in direct proportion to the amount of elbow grease they expended.  I used to find his tidy little sayings quite irritating, but as I grew up, the deep seated truth behind them became evident and they are often with me in the recesses of my mind today – ever popping forth from time to time.  I always smile and think of Dad:)

It’s true, about the luck and elbow grease.  Partly because the more work you do, the more prepared and ready you are for “luck” to grace you, and because the more you focus on one thing, the more likely you are to “see” something you didn’t notice before.  And then sometimes, a little magic happens and a genealogy gift is bestowed upon you. Synchronicity.

In genetic genealogy, it’s also because there are new and/or improved and better tools available each year and more people test who may just provide the answer to long standing questions.  Let’s hope that Santa’s sleigh is full of DNA kits for people this year!

Each year, I pick a family to work on.  Many of those brick walls have fallen, probably half as a result of DNA testing.  The other half due to traditional genealogy, and in many cases, “luck.”  I prefer to think that it’s our ancestors helping us and providing us with ‘clues’ we could never find without a bit of a boost from the other side.

My Moore family has proven particularly difficult.  Partly because there are so many Moores out there.  My Moore line is from Halifax County, Virginia, or at least that’s where I first found them, but they lived in Amelia, now Prince Edward, County before that.  James Moore first appears in a record in 1745 in Amelia County.  He married Mary Rice, the daughter of Joseph Rice, his neighbor.  We can’t find James, or a possible relative, William Moore, who lived adjacent, before these early Amelia County records.  By 1770, James and his family had moved to Halifax County, Virginia and settled on the second fork of Birches Creek, shown below.  William Moore and his wife, Margaret, sold their adjacent land and moved on, but we don’t know to where.

Older Henderson Cem

We found James Moore’s land, and the old Henderson Cemetery on land he once owned, on a trip to Halifax County in 2008.  We believe he is buried here with one of many fieldstones marking his grave.  This, the second fork of Birches Creek, is a land of beautiful, gentle rolling hills that often appear somewhat misty.  I stood where my ancestor stood, on the land he owned, and looked at the scene that was not much different than the one he saw 238 years earlier, except maybe for the gravel on the road.

Henderson cem 3

James Moore lived beside the Edward Henderson family and it’s believed that James’ daughter, Lydia, married Edward Henderson.  I have always suspected that James’ son, the Reverend William Moore, my ancestor, who married a Lucy may have married Lucy Henderson.  But the records don’t give us the answer.

There were several Moore families in Halifax County.  I was just sure that many of them were related.  Reuben Moore lived less than half a mile away from my James Moore, within sight of his farm.  Another James Moore family lived a few miles down the road.  One by one, we’ve tested most of these families, and one by one, they don’t match my Moore line.  For the most part, they don’t match each other either.  Moore was a much more common name than I thought and many Moore families were following the typical settlement and migrations patterns across Virginia and the Piedmont.

And worse yet, my Moore family doesn’t match any of the families that reach back earlier in time, and no Moore families from the British Isles.  So, in essence, we’re stuck.

So what do I intend to do about this?

First, I’m going to focus on this line. The Moore Worldwide project is the surname project for the Moore families.  In the past, the administrators, Marge Stockton and Julia French Wood, have grouped these families together and then using the research I’ve gathered over the years, I’ve written summaries for the various lines. I’m going to go back and revisit these lines, write about any new ones, and maybe, by process of elimination I can limit the possible Moore lines in colonial Virginia and Pennsylvania from which my Moores may have sprung.  They HAD to come from someplace!  Knowing which lines they did not come from, eventually, will lead to the ones they did come from.  I suspect it’s a line with only a few males, or we would find more Moores today, pardon the pun.

Secondly, I’m going to mine Ysearch, www.smgf.org and Ancestry once again to see if anyone new has popped up there.  I only have to check this one last time at Sorenson, as that data base isn’t being updated anymore.  Sometimes, I’ve had more luck tracing someone else’s records than my own.  If we know the Moore families match using Y DNA, then perhaps working on someone else’s genealogical lines will connect with the elusive colonial Moore family that is mine as well.

Third, I’m really going to focus on the autosomal matches for Moore.  Moore is the 33rd most common surname in the UK, according to Wikipedia, so yes, I know I have my work cut out for me, but I’m looking for patterns here.

Fourth, I’m going to look for related surnames among my autosomal matches.  We’re fortunate to know that James’ wife was Mary Rice.  I am also going to look for Henderson, since I suspect that William Moore’s wife, Lucy may be a Henderson.  Finding these names seperately or together in the surnames of my matches could well be very meaningful.

Fifth, I’m going to ask my ancestors to help out.  I need a little bit of Christmas synchronicity.  And hey, I’m not picky, I’ll take help in whatever form I can find it.

Happy Holidays everyone and here’s hoping Santa will bring you “fallen walls” in 2013!!

Walking in Bauke Camstra’s Shoes

Bauke 1I love what I do.  I really do.  But behind the scenes, there are very long days and very late nights working on everyone’s DNA/genealogy except my own.  I suffer from the “cobbler’s children” syndrome.

But every once in a while, fate is extremely kind to me and throws me a very big chocolate chip cookie.  I call those my “karmic cookies” and they inspire me in so many ways.

Remember in August when I had written about how to create a DNA Pedigree Chart and made what I thought was a throw away comment about my Dutch Genealogy being hopeless?  Yvette Hoitink responded that it wasn’t hopeless after all, and was she right.  I’d like to bring you along for the ride, or in this case, the walk, because this project is definitely going places.

I’ve hired Yvette as my own personal Dutch genealogist, so don’t get any ideas….you can’t have her just yet:)  Actually, I know I don’t keep her busy full time, but I do get dibs, OK???

My Ferverda/Camstra family is from Leeuwarden, in Friesland, in the Netherlands.  Yvette has been digging up all kinds of documents for me, but we reached the point where she needed to visit the local archives.

A couple days ago, she e-mailed me with the oddest coincidence.  Seems that the archives are located right on the land that my ancestors owned, where their “pleasure garden” was located.  Hmmm….now that is interesting.  She took her camera and promised to take photos.

Today, I received this exciting e-mail from Yvette.

“I just got home from a fabulous day at the Tresoar archives. I was able to photograph all of the priority 1 and 2 notarial records. I made over 400 photos in total.”

Ok, by now I was having heart palpitations.  In my mind, I hear the refrain from All I Want for Christmas…..but that wasn’t the best part, believe it or not.

“I also made two videos for you during my lunch break to show you what the area was like. As you can tell, I’m not a professional moviemaker but I thought it would be fun anyway!”

Oh, glory be, Merry Christmas to me!!!  There is no better gift for a genealogist.  And what a surprise.

So, come on, let’s go for a short walk with Yvette down the main street of old town Leeuwarden…

http://youtu.be/MW_nW-lK96k – Walking in Bauke Camstra’s shoes

http://youtu.be/JrRQN4gXTlc  – The fortifications/pleasure garden

Oant Sjen, (“see you later” in Frisian)

Bauke 2

Lost Colony, Hyde County and Lumbee Berry Families

I am very hopeful that one of our subscribers can help solve this mystery. As you will see, several members of the Lost Colony Research Group (via the Berry and Lost Colony DNA Project) are working on this puzzle, but we currently need Berry family members ancestral to both Robison and Hyde Counties in North Carolina to DNA test.

There are two Berry families who claim descent from the Lost Colonists of Roanoke Island in 1587, Henry and Richard Berry, who are presumed to be related to each other.

The progenitor of the first line is Henry Berry or O’Berry who is first found owning land in the 1730s in what is today Robison County, NC. This is the Lumbee Berry line. Priscilla Berry Lowery, the unconfirmed sister of Henry Berry/O’Berry reportedly talked about her family’s oral history of descending from Henry Berry, the colonist. I began writing a report about the various pieces of oral history and documentation that surround this legend and that is what started this Berry comparison project. That report is lengthy and will be published in a future Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter as well as on www.nativeheritageproject.com.  The newsletters are free and online for everyone at www.lostcolonyresearch.org although some are currently offline in the process of being reformatted, so check back if one you want to see is missing right now.

We do have two people who believe they descend from this Lumbee Berry line and their DNA does match. We are working with the Berry Family DNA project. This is the group known as the English Colony Berry’s by the Berry family DNA project. Scroll down on this link to find “English Colony Berry Family” — there are seven men in this group, Berry project ID #43, 61, 107, 112, 138, 140, 181.  http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~langolier/BerryDNA/family_dna_results.html

We do not have a Berry from the confirmed Lumbee line, but one of our members is attempting to find one. I do believe this is the correct line. We have one person from Craven County where Henry Berry’s son inherited his land and one from SC where other families from this group were known to have moved.

A second Berry line carries a very strong oral history of descent from Richard Berry, the second Berry colonist. This family is from the New Bern/Hyde County, North Carolina, region. Researcher Faye “Mary” Fulford Moore descends from this line. This family was introduced in 1937 when the Lost Colony play opened as the living descendants of the colonists. Unfortunately, Mary has no living Berry people to test. However, her father used to go to Hyde County when she was young and visit the Berry family there whom he claimed to be related to. One of them was a mortician. Mary’s father also duck hunted with a Mr. Stotesbury whom he also referred to as “cousin.”

Sharron Brace’s father was a Berry, also from Hyde County and this line has DNA tested.

In the Berry DNA project, this is known as the Spartanburg line and it does not match the English Colony Berry Family line to which the Lumbee Berrys are assigned. http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~langolier/BerryDNA/Family_yAncestry/spartanburg_co_sc_yancestry.html

Sharron tracked down the line of the mortician’s family and she cannot prove that this line descends from or is related to her line using documentation alone. We need someone to DNA test that we can prove is genealogically connected to the same line as the mortician, whom Mary’s father said they were related to.

Here is what Sharron found about the mortician’s genealogy:

“The funeral director in Swan Quarter in 1944 was Dan Berry. In the 1930 census I found Daniel Berry, age 44, living on Main Street in Swan Quarter with his wife Noi. At that time he was a general store merchant. He died in September 2, 1959. His father was listed in the death record as James Edward Berry Sr. and his mother was Evelyn Benjamin Williamson. According to Jim Berry’s website, James Edward Berry Sr. is the son of John Berry Jr. and Sally Stotesbury.  John Jr. is the son of John Berry Sr. and Rebecca Benson.  John Berry Sr. born in 1778 is the son of William Berry and Sarah Green.”

The John Berry born in 1778 may or may not be the brother of Sharon Brace’s ancestor, William Berry born in 1786-88 so we still don’t know if the two Berry lines were related.

So, we need a Berry male to take the DNA test who descends from John Berry born in 1778 through any of his son’s lines. I expect this line will match Sharron’s line, but it may not.

If Henry Berry and Richard Berry, the colonists, were indeed brothers or from the same paternal line (like uncle/nephew, etc.) their DNA will match each other, and their descendants DNA will match each other as well.

Sharron’s Hyde County line does not match that of the Henry Berry Lumbee line. The John Berry 1778 Hyde County line could match Sharron’s line, or could match Henry Berry’s line, or could be a completely different line.

What we need is someone to test from the John 1778 line. Because we know that Faye “Mary” Fulford Moore’s Berry family claimed to be related to this Berry line, the person who tests from the Swan Quarter John Berry (1778) line is representing the Richard Berry “potential colonist” line.

Solving this mystery is quite within reach if we can just find and test the right people.  Here’s hoping that the key lies with one of you!

Britains DNA – Caveat Emptor

Recently, a client contacted me who had tested with both companies, Britains DNA and GeneBase, and couldn’t figure out what to make of his results or if the two even connected with each other.

When I saw what he sent me, I immediately understood why, and I felt very badly for him.

I often wonder how people make decisions regarding DNA testing and the companies they choose.  In some cases, I know.  For example, Ancestry has a lot of subscribers, so subscribers make up the majority of their customers.  But that’s not always the case.

I hadn’t actually been able to see results from Britains DNA before, so this was a great opportunity, but I am sorely disappointed.

While I was in this evaluation process, the following article titled  “Exaggerations and Errors in the Promotion of Genetic Ancestry Testing” was published which I found extremely concerning.

http://www.genomesunzipped.org/2012/12/exaggerations-and-errors-in-the-promotion-of-genetic-ancestry-testing.php

Let’s take a look at what you actually receive from Britains DNA.

For 170 pounds, which equates to about $266 US, in a 3 page boilerplate report, you learn the identity of 4 of your haplogroup SNPs.  They tell you that “Your Fatherline is Berber” and “Your YDNA markers are M35+M81+,” and that’s it for customization, other than your name and one line on page three that says “These are the markers we tested which define your group:  M96+  P29+  M35+ and M81+.”  The rest of the three pages is entirely a boilerplate story.  And what a “story” it is.

The first thing you see is a map, but not until the last paragraph of page 3 does it tell you that the map shows where “your group” is found today, but what is meant by “your group” is unclear.  I’m presuming here that the map is either showing M35 or M81.  For $266 dollars, the customer should not have to presume.

britains dna map

Part of the ensuing “story” is questionable.  For example, describing the after-effects of the eruption of Mount Toba in 70,000 BC, “Only in east-central Africa, in the shelter of the great rift valleys, did tiny remnant bands of people survive where perhaps as few at 5000 outlived the sunless summers.”

What is stated here as fact is assuredly one of the theories, but it’s far from an established scientific fact and is highly controversial.  There are no words here like “may have been” or “are believed by some” – just the recantation of a story using the tone one might use to tell a fanciful bedtime story to a believing child. Except these people are adults and paid a lot of money to receive a scientific explanation of their DNA results, not something that reads like a modern day fairy tale.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toba_catastrophe_theory

Another example is their introduction of marker M81.  “Men with your marker, with M81, made a dramatic entry into recorded history.  Led by one of the greatest generals the world has seen, Berber cavalry fought in the Carthaginian army as it struggled with Rome in the 3rd century BC for control of the Mediterranean.”

Really?  That was their introduction?

Arredi et al in 2004 in the paper, “A Predominantly Neolithic Origin for Y-Chromosomal DNA Variation in North Africa” linked M81 with the spread of Neolithic food producing technologies.  So if M81 existed in the Neolithic, which began about 10,000 years ago in the Middle East, it clearly wasn’t introduced in the 3rd century BC with the unnamed Berber general, or the Carthaginians.  Maybe the story of the Carthaginians was just a more interesting tale.  The problem is that it’s misleading and inaccurate.

Reading this “story” from the perspective of one experienced with genetic genealogy, I feel like this was written for an audience they felt was unable to comprehend the “complicated truth.”  Except, the truth isn’t all that complicated.  People can understand it just fine, thank you, and I find that approach very insulting.

Near the end of the story, in the “marker” section, they say that  “SNP is another word for marker” and that these markers are unique events in human history showing you where your ancestors were in the past and where your “group” is found today.  There is no further explanation.

Personally, I found this entire 3 pages arrogantly condescending.  Judging from that article, I’m not alone.  Moreover, this high priced, low value, fanciful product worries me because I’m concerned that genetic genealogy will all be painted and tarred with the same brush once the consuming public catches on and the word gets out.  You know, that bad apple thing.  I hope that Britains DNA will either improve their product or exit the marketplace before they damage an already nervous European population relative to DNA testing.  And what’s worse, this is Brits preying on other Brits when they will likely attempt to invoke a trust relationship with potential buyers.  “Buy from us, we’re Brits and we’re local.”  To put this in perspective, the cost of 4 SNP markers at Family Tree DNA, the only company who tests SNP markers boutique style, is $29 each, for a total of $116.

My client, not knowing quite what to make of all this, then tested at Genebase.  For another $119, he obtained STR markers for 27 locations.  He had no idea how to tie this together with the results from Britain’s DNA, or what to do with these markers.  He wanted to know if the two tests supported each other, or if they were different, and what they told him.  That’s when he found me.

I did best I could for him with what I had to work with by using Whit Athey’s haplogroup predictor, YSearch and the haplogroup project for E-M35.  Thank you, Whit and Family Tree DNA for these tools.

In the end, what I finally told him, among other things, is that he needs to spend another $119 so that he can test at Family Tree DNA.  I hated to do this, because with my fee added, this man has now paid over $400 US.  Testing at Family Tree DNA would get him 37 markers, a personal page, a haplogroup and provide him the ability to join an Italian project, a surname project and a haplogroup project.  He needs to be able to work with haplogroup project administrators to determine if he needs deep clade (or similar) SNP testing. He needs to be able to look at the haplogroup origins page, the ancestral origins page, and the matches map to see where his own people were both further back in time and more recently.  He needs matches, and to be able to contact his matches to see if he can make connections and discern trends.  He needs a community.

Never, until today, until I saw this man’s piecemeal results, fanciful boilerplate story and his desire to patch it all together, did I fully appreciate all that Family Tree DNA provides, in one place, integrated, through their products and webpages, and charitably, through the foundation they provide for their project administrators, Ysearch, Mitosearch and the support of other clients and volunteers who guide people through the discovery process.

A very, very big thank you to Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfeld, founders of Family Tree DNA, and to all of those unnamed volunteers and project administrators who work together and separately to make all of this possible.

For my client, though, and others like him, I’m not quite sure what to say or how to prevent this in the future.  I guess the words “buyer beware” also have to be applied to purchasing genetic genealogy products.  As with any other items where consumers are drawn to purchase something, if there is money and demand, there will be scam artists and less than ethical people looking to take advantage of a naïve consuming public.  For me, it’s personally painful when those people fall into the category of “scientists” because like doctors, that professional label alone engenders trust.  This product certainly trembles on the line of betrayal of that trust.  Some would say it crosses that line.  Perhaps it is a fine line.  The customer did discover his “fatherline” and receive a story, even if the story was more fluffy than scientific and the price exorbitant for what he received.

Caveat emptor!

Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA

Every day, I receive e-mails very similar to this one.

“My family has always said that we were part Native American.  I want to prove this so that I can receive help with money for college.”

The reasons vary, and not everyone wants to prove their heritage in order to qualify for some type of assistance.  Some want to find their tribe and join to reclaim their lost heritage.  Some want to honor their persecuted and hidden ancestors, undoing some of the wickedness of the past, and some simply seek the truth.  Regardless of why, they are all searching for information lost to them.

I’d like to talk about three topics in proving Native Ancestry.  First, I’d like to do some myth-busting.  Second, I’d like to talk a little about conventional research and third, I’d like to discuss what DNA can, and can’t, do for you.

As you read this blog, please click on the links.  I’m not going to repeat something I’ve already covered elsewhere.

Myth-Busting

Myth 1 – Free College

There is no free college for Native Americans.  There are sometimes scholarships and grants available, mostly by the individual tribes themselves, for their official members.

Myth 2 – Joining a Tribe

Many people think that if they can only figure out which tribe their ancestor descends from, they can join.  This is untrue.  Each tribe is a sovereign nation, and they get to determine their criteria for membership.  Most tribes require a specific percentage of Native “blood,” called blood quantum, in addition to being able to document which tribal member you descend from.  Some tribes require as much as 25% Native heritage, and most require at least 1/16th Native heritage, which is one great-great grandparent.  If you don’t know who in your family was a tribal member it’s unlikely that you would be able to meet the blood quantum requirement.

Myth 3 – DNA Testing Will Reveal my Tribe

Generally, DNA testing does not provide us with the information needed to determine a tribe, although it can clearly tell, using y-line or mitochondrial DNA testing, whether your direct paternal or maternal line was or was not Native.  Sometimes you will be able to infer a tribe based on your matches and their documented history, but the definition of tribes, their names and locations have changed over time.  We are working on improving this ability, but the science simply isn’t there yet and the number of Native people who have tested remains small.

Simply put, most federally recognized tribes aren’t interested in more tribal members.  More members mean a smaller piece of the pie for existing members.  The pot of resources, whatever resources you’re discussing, is only so large and it must be shared by all tribal members.

What is a Tribe?

Tribes in the US fall into two categories.  When most people think about tribes they are talking about federally recognized tribes.  Those are tribes that have some continuity with the past, such as they have always been a tribe, or they still retain tribal lands, etc., and the federal government recognizes them as such.  These are the tribes that qualify for government programs and many own casinos.  As you might imagine, with the influx of casino money, the desire to join a tribe has increased significantly.

The second category is non-federally recognized tribes.  Some are state recognized and others, not at all.  State recognition does not in any way guarantee federal or state funding and there are no universal standards for state recognition.  In other words, your mileage may vary, widely.  Non-federally recognized tribes are often run as non-profit entities.  In many cases, these tribes will help people research and document their genealogy and may be more open to tribal membership for those connecting with their Native heritage.

Be aware that some “tribes” that fall into the non-federally recognized category may be less than ethical.  Some tend to come and go.  In one case, to apply to join, one had to provide information such as social security numbers and a complete family pedigree including your children. In some cases, membership is very expensive, hundreds of dollars, but is available to almost anyone for the right price.  When evaluating tribes that are not federally recognized, if something sounds fishy, it probably is.  Caution is the watchword.

In general, the federally recognized tribes do not feel kindly towards the non-federally recognized tribes and view them as “fake,” interlopers trying to get part of that pie.  Of course, the non-federally recognized tribes feel differently; that they are reclaiming their heritage denied them.  Native American politics is nothing new and is fraught with landmines.

No federally recognized tribes, to the best of my knowledge, have considered DNA testing as a criteria for membership.  No federally recognized tribe has endorsed or participated in DNA testing that I’m aware of.  This does not mean that individuals have not privately tested.

Traditional Genealogy Research

Given the criteria for membership in federally recognized tribes, traditional genealogy is the only way to obtain the type of information required.  If your family history includes a tribal name, and east of the Mississippi, that most often is Cherokee, contact the various Cherokee tribes to inquire about membership criteria.  If the membership criteria is 25% blood quantum, and you must live on the reservation, you’re toast…..no need to continue that line of research if your goal is to join the tribe.

If your goal is simply to find your Native ancestor, that’s another matter entirely.  Begin by using the traditional research tools.

First, look at where your ancestor or that family line was located.  Did they migrate from elsewhere?  How were they listed in the census?  Was someone listed as other than white, indicating mixed race?  Check the records where they lived, tax records and others to see if there is any indication of non-European heritage.  Remember that your non-white ancestor would have retained their “darker” countenance for at least 2 generations after being admixed.  Many Native people were admixed very early.

So first, check the normal genealogy records and look for hints and traces of non-European ancestry.

Second, turn to Native resources that might reflect the Native people in the areas where your family is or was found.  The Access Genealogy site is absolutely wonderful and has an amazingly complete set of records including searchable tribal rolls.  In addition, I add information almost daily to the Native Heritage Project at www.nativeheritageproject.com, which is searchable.  There are many more resources including several collections at Ancestry.com.

Hopefully, these records will help narrow your focus in your family tree to a particular person or two, not just a general branch.  Family rumors like “Grandma was a Cherokee Princess” are particularly unuseful.  What they more likely mean is that there was indeed some Native ancestry someplace in her line.  Cherokee has become a generic word like Kleenex.  It may also have meant that Indian heritage was claimed to cover much less desirable African heritage.  Institutionalized discrimination existed against any people of color in pre-1967 America, but Indians generally retained some rights that people of African ancestry did not.  Laws varied by state and time.  Take a look at my blog about Anti-Miscegenation Laws and when they were overturned.

Now, let’s look at DNA testing to see what it can do for you.

DNA Testing to Prove Native Ancestry

There are three types of DNA testing that you can do to prove Native Ancestry.  Two are very focused on specific family lines, and one is much more general.

  • Mitochondrial for your direct maternal line.
  • Y-line for your direct paternal line – if you are a male. Sorry ladies.
  • Autosomal to test your ethnic mix and one direct marker test for Native ancestors.

On a pedigree chart, these genealogical lines look like this:

adopted pedigree

You can see the path that the blue Y chromosome takes down the paternal line to the brother and the path the red mitochondrial DNA takes down the maternal line to both the brother and the sister.  Autosomal tests the DNA of all of the 16 ancestral lines shown here, but in a different sort of way.

Let’s look at each type of testing separately.

Y-Line DNA – For Paternal Line Testing for Males

The Y-line testing tests the Y chromosome which is passed intact from father to son with no DNA from the mother. This is the blue square on the pedigree chart. In this way, it remains the same in each generation, allowing us to compare it to others with a similar surname to see if we are from the same “Smith” family, for example, or to others with different surnames, in the case of adoption or Native heritage.  Native American genetics isn’t terribly different than adoptees in this situation, because different English surnames were adopted by various family members, into the late 1800s and sometimes into the early 1900s, depending on the location.

Y-line DNA can tell you whether or not you descend from a common male genealogically when compared to another testing participant.  Small mutations do take place and accumulate over time, and we depend on those so that we don’t all “look alike” genetically.  It can also tell you by identifying your deep ancestral clan, called a haplogroup, whether or not you descend from early Native Americans who were here before contact with Europeans.  For that matter, it can also tell you if you descend from those of African, European or Asian ancestry.

Scientists know today that there are only two primary haplogroups indicating deep ancestry that are found among Native American males who were here prior to contact with Indo-Europeans, and those haplogroups are C and Q3.  It is not accurate to say that all C and Q3 individuals exist only in the American Native population, but the American Native population is part of the larger group worldwide that comprises C and Q3.  We find some haplogroup C and Q3 in Europe but none in African populations, although we do learn more every single day in this infant science.

This sometimes becomes confusing, because the single most common male haplogroup among current Cherokee tribal members who have tested is R1b.  How can this be, you ask?  Clearly, one of three possibilities exists:

  1. The Cherokee (or those tribes who were assimilated into the Cherokee) adopted a European male into the tribe or a European male fathered a child that was subsequently raised as Cherokee.
  2. The R1b ancestor was not adopted into the tribe, maintained their European/American identity but married a Cherokee individual woman and their descendants are recognized as Cherokee today.
  3. There is some level of R1b admixture in the Native population that preceded contact with Europeans that we have not yet identified.

Because of the unique haplogroups for Native Americans who preceded European contact, Y-line is the only way to positively confirm that a specific line is or is not of Native American descent.  This obviously applies to all of the individuals in the pedigree chart who directly descend from the oldest known ancestor in this paternal line.

Y-line testing does not indicate anything about the contributions of the other ancestors in this family tree.  In other words, you could be 3/4th Native, with only the direct paternal line being European, and this test would tell you nothing at all about those other three Native lines.

When ordering DNA tests at Family Tree DNA, which is where I recommend that you test, everyone is encouraged to join projects.  There are several types of projects, but to begin with, you should join your surname project.  Not only does this group you with others whom you are likely to match, but this also assures that you receive the project based discounts.  I blogged about how to find and join relevant projects.

You can test at 12, 25, 37, 67 or 111 marker “locations” on the Y chromosome. I generally recommend 37 or 67 to begin which gives you enough to work with but isn’t terribly expensive.  At Family Tree DNA, you can always upgrade later, but it’s less expensive in total to test more initially.  Right now, 37 markers cost $119 and 67 markers are $199, but a sale is currently underway.

After your results are returned, you can then upload or manually enter your results at www.ysearch.org (upload directly from your Family Tree DNA matches page), www.smgf.org and www.ancestry.com. You can then check for matches at these sites as well. Not all of these other sites test as many markers as Family Tree DNA, but the comparison is free and useful.  Even if your haplogroup is not Native American, you may match others with a similar heritage story for their paternal line.

Family Tree DNA also provides significant tools for Y-line DNA as well as Mitochondrial DNA. You can see both Family Tree and Ancestry Y-line results compared on this blog, which shows you how to use both companies’ tools. At Family Tree DNA, for all their tests, you are provided with the e-mail addresses of your matches. At Ancestry and 23andMe, you contact matches through their internal message system. My experience has been that direct e-mails have a better response rate.

The person looking for Native Heritage will be most interested in their haplogroup designation.  If your haplogroup is either Q or C, you’ll want to join your haplogroup project, minimally, as well as other relevant Native American projects, and work with the administrators for further testing.  Remember, neither haplogroup Q nor C are always Native, so deeper testing may be in order.  You may also match others with confirmed Native heritage, including a tribe.

If the haplogroup is not Native, then you’ll have to take a look at possible reasons why.

One can never interpret non-Native haplogroup results of any one line to answer the much broader questions of, “do I have Native heritage”, “how much” and “where?”  What you can do at that point is to continue to test other lines in order to discover the identity of your Native American ancestor.

Obviously, the Y-line test is only for males. Ladies, I feel your pain. However, these next tests are for both sexes.

Mitochondrial DNA – For Direct Maternal Line Testing for Both Sexes

Mitochondrial DNA is inherited by all children from their mother only, with no admixture from the father. Women obtain their mitochondrial DNA from their mother, who got it from their mother, on up the line into infinity. This is the red circle on the right hand side of the pedigree chart. Like Y-line DNA, mitochondrial DNA is passed intact from one generation to the next, except for an occasional mutation that allows us to identify family members and family lines.

Unfortunately, it does not follow any surname. In fact the surname changes with every generation when women marry. This makes it more challenging to work with genealogically, but certainly not impossible. Because of the surname changes in every generation, there are no “surname” projects for mitochondrial DNA, per se, but there are other types of projects.  For example, the Mothers of Acadia project is using mitochondrial DNA to reconstruct the Acadian families including those of Native American heritage.

There are three levels of testing you can take for mitochondrial DNA at Family Tree DNA, which is where I recommend that you test. The mtDNA, the mtDNAPlus and the Full Sequence. The mtDNA test is a starter test that will provide you with a base haplogroup, but will leave people searching for Native ancestry needing a more complete test for full haplogroup identification confirming Native ancestry. I strongly recommend the full sequence test, but if the budget just won’t allow that, then the mtDNAPlus will do until you can afford to upgrade. Family Tree DNA is the only major lab that tests the full sequence region, plus, they have the largest matching data base in the industry.

To put this in perspective for you, the mtDNA and the mtDNAPlus tests both test about 10% of your mitochondrial DNA and the full sequence test tests all of your 16,569 mitochondrial locations. You can then compare them with other people who have taken any of those 3 tests.  Pricing for the mtDNAPlus is currently $139 and the full sequence is $199.

MtDNA testing is not as popular as Y-line testing because it’s more difficult to use genealogically as last names change every generation.  When you look at your matches, you have no idea whatsoever if you might be related to these people in a genealogically relevant time frame by looking at their last names.  Those who have invested the effort to collaboratively work on their mtDNA matches, assuming a full sequence match and a shared geographical history as well, have been pleasantly surprised by what they’ve found.

A haplogroup assigning deep ancestry is provided through mitochondrial testing, so like the Y-line, depending on the haplogroup assigned, you will know if your ancestors were here before European contact.  Maternal haplogroups that indicate Native heritage include A, B, C, D and X.  Like Y-line DNA testing, none of these haplogroups are exclusive to Native Americans, so a full sequence level test will be required to confirm a Native American subgroup.

After you receive your results, you can enter the mtDNA and mtDNAPlus portions into public data bases. There are no public data bases for the full sequence segment because there may be medical implications in some of those mutations, so they are not displayed publicly although they are compared privately within the Family Tree DNA data base. You will want to enter your data and check for matches at www.mitosearch.org (upload directly from your matches page at Family Tree DNA), www.smgf.org and www.ancestry.com, although beware of Ancestry’s accuracy issues.

Testing the Y-line and mitochondrial DNA individually gives us a great deal of very specific information about 2 lines in your pedigree chart.  The best method of identifying Native American ancestors is indeed to test as many lines on your DNA pedigree chart using this methodology as possible.  Let’s take a minute to look at how to create a DNA pedigree chart.

DNA Pedigree Chart

If your Y-line and mitochondrial DNA have proven not to be Native, that doesn’t mean that the rest of your lines aren’t.

Let’s take a look at how to create a DNA pedigree chart so that you can focus your Y-line and mitochondrial DNA testing for other lines.

The purpose of a DNA pedigree chart is to provide guidance in terms of inheritance and also to provide a way of documenting your progress.  My chart is shown below, as an example.

DNA Pedigree

You can see the Y-line of my father and the mitochondrial line of my mother, on both ends of the pedigree chart.  At the top of each line, I have recorded the haplogroup information for each family.  Color coding each line helps in tracking descendants who would carry the DNA of the ancestor of that line.  For example, my mother’s father’s mother’s line is the yellow Miller line.  I need to find a daughter of my grandfather’s sisters, or their children, or their daughter’s children, to test for that mitochondrial DNA line.  Which reminds me, I need to call my cousin.  Family reunions, picnics and holidays are great for this type of thing.  Sadly, so are funerals.

I blogged about how to put together your own DNA pedigree chart.  You can get a free copy and instructions on my website too, at www.dnaexplain.com under the Publications tab.  If you’re Native and adopted, then refer to the adoptee blog instead, or in addition.

But sometimes, we can’t find the right people in order to test, so we move to autosomal testing to help us fill in the blanks.

Autosomal Testing – For Both Sexes – The Rest of the Story 

Autosomal DNA testing tests all of your 23 pairs of chromosomes that you inherit from both of your parents. You get half of each chromosome from each parent. You can see this pattern on the pedigree chart, represented by all of the 16 genealogical lines. Therefore, as you move up that tree, you should have inherited about 25% of your DNA from each grandparent, about 12.5% of your DNA from each great-grandparent, as have all of their other great-grandchildren.

Therefore beginning with your parents, you carry the following approximate amount of DNA from each of these ancestors. I say approximate, because while you do receive exactly 50% of your DNA from each parent, there is no guarantee that their parents DNA was admixed in your parents such that you receive exactly 25% from each grandparent, but it’s close.  You can see the percentages in the chart below.

Generation Relationship % of Their DNA You Carry

1

Parents

50

2

Grandparents

25

3

Great-grandparents

12.5

4

GG-grandparents

6.25

5

GGG-grandparents

3.125

6

GGGG-grandparents

1.56

7

GGGGG-Grandparents

0.78

Given this chart, if the Native percentage is back beyond 6 generations and drops below the 1% threshold, it’s extremely difficult to discern today.

Autosomal testing will pick up relationships reliably back to about the 6th or 7th generations, and sporadically beyond that.

Autosomal testing provides you minimally with two things.  First, with a list of “cousin matches” by percentage and estimated relationship.  Second, percentages of ethnicity.  It’s this second part that’s most important for the person seeking to prove Native American heritage.

Percentages of Ethnicity

As the field of genetic genealogy has moved forward, research has begun to indicate that certain autosomal markers are found in higher or lower frequencies in different ethnic populations.

For example, if someone has the Duffy Null allele, or genetic marker, we know they positively have African admixture.  We don’t know how much African admixture, or from which line, or when that individual with African admixture entered their family tree, but we know for sure they existed.

Attempting to determine the population frequency of varying markers and what that means relative to other populations is the key to this analysis.  Few markers are simply present or absent in populations, but are found in varying frequencies.  Some populations are widely studied in the research literature, and others are virtually untouched.  Thousands have only been recently discovered as part of the National Geographic, Genographic project.

The process of compiling this information in a meaningful manner so that it can be analyzed is a formidable task, as the information is often found in nearly inaccessible academic and forensic research publications.  It’s difficult to determine sometimes if the DNA analysis of 29 individuals in a small village in northern Italy is, for example, representative of that village as a whole, of northern Italy, or more broadly for all of Italy.  Is it representative of Italy today or Italy historically?  These and other similar questions have to be answered fully before the data from autosomal testing can be useful and reliable.

Having said this, the recent release of the National Geographic, Genographic Project version 2.0 holds great promise.  It’s one of 4 autosomal tests on the market today that provide next-generation chip based wide spectrum testing which replaces the older CODIS type testing.   The difference between the old and new technology is using 15 or 20 markers versus a half a million or so.  They aren’t even in the same ballpark.  If you want to see a comparison of the older type tests, read my paper titled Revealing American Indian and Minority Heritage Using Y-Line, Mitochondrial, Autosomal and X Chromosome Testing Data Combined with Pedigree Analysis.

Let’s take a look at all 4 of the contemporary autosomal tests and what they have to offer.

Genographic 2.0

Of the 4 tests, the Geno 2.0 is the newest and appears to reach back the deepest in time, meaning it may well be picking up anthropological results, not just genealogical results.  We don’t know exactly how the analysis is done, but we do know, in general, that if you evaluate segments, you will get results closer in time than if you evaluate individual ancestry informative markers (AIMS).

You can take a look at the results of a man with Native ancestry on both his paternal and maternal sides.  You can also take a look at the reference populations used by National Geographic in this overview of their test results.

If you want to order this test visit www.genographic.com.  The price is $199.  You also receive your Y-line and mtDNA haplogroups, but no marker values for comparison to others. However, the Y haplogroup testing is the most advanced in the world.  You can see why in the Geno 2.0 announcement here.

I have found the Geno 2.0 test to be somewhat more sensitive autosomally than others, but it’s still very new and I have not yet been able to do a complete comparison.  Results have only been coming back for a couple of weeks.

Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA sells the Family Finder test. Right now it is priced at $199 or bundled with attractive pricing with either the Y-line or mitochondrial DNA tests. I often like to use this tool in conjunction with the Y-line and mitochondrial DNA tests to see, if you match someone closely, whether you are actually related to them in a recent timeframe or if it is further back. Family Tree DNA is the only one of the autosomal testing companies that has the ability to do this type of advanced comparison.  Compared to 23andMe and Geno 2.0, they are the only ones to offer traditional Y-line and mitochondrial DNA testing which provides individual marker results and matches.

In addition to a list of autosomal matches, you will receive your breakdown of ethnicity, by percent.  The results below are for the same man with Native ancestry whose Geno 2.0 results are shown in the Geno 2.0 – First Peek blog.

native pop finder

You can read more about the Family Tree DNA autosomal product on their FAQ.

23andMe

Another company that sells autosomal testing is www.23andme.com. In addition to a list of cousins, you also receive admixture percentages, and their specialty, health traits.  You also receive a paternal and maternal haplogroup, but with no markers for personal comparison.  These Y-line and mitochondrial results are not as accurate at the Geno 2.0 nor the Family Tree DNA Y-line and mitochondrial DNA full sequence tests.

Be aware that while people who test at Family Tree DNA are interested in genealogy, the typical person at 23andMe tested for the health portion, not the genealogy portion, and may not answer contact requests or may know very little about their family history.

Right now, their test is $99, and you can download your results and upload them to Family Tree DNA for an additional $89, making the total price similar to the Family Tree DNA test. However, you need to be somewhat technically savvy to complete the download/upload process.

23andMe recently released a new version of their software which added quite a bit of resolution after years of being woefully behind.  Native American wasn’t even a category previously.  You can take a look at the new format here.

Ancestry

Ancestry.com recently introduced an autosomal test.  You receive matches and ethnicity percentages.  However, their ethnicity percentages have significant issues and I would not recommend them at this time.  Their cousin matches come with no analysis tools.  So for now, just skip Ancestry and concentrate on the other resources.

One Last Autosomal Test

One marker value in particular, known as D9S919 is present in about 30% of the Native people.  The value of 9 at this marker is not known to be present in any other ethnic group, so this mutation occurred after the Native people migrated across Beringia into the Americas, but long enough ago to be present in many descendants.  You can test this marker individually at Family Tree DNA, which is the only lab that offers this test.  If you have the value of 9 at this marker, it confirms Native heritage, but if you don’t carry 9, it does NOT disprove Native heritage.  After all, many Native people don’t carry it.

To order this test, for existing Family Tree DNA clients, click on the “Order Upgrade” orange button on the right hand side of your personal page, then on “Advanced Test”, then enter “autosomal” in the drop down box, then you will see the list below. D9S919 is the last one and it costs $15.  There may be a $10 one time transfer fee as well if your DNA sample is not in the Houston lab.

native d9s919 order

Swimming in Many Pools

As you can see there are lots of tools available to you that can be used individually or in conjunction with each other.  Like anything else, the more work and effort you are willing to devote to the search, the more likely you are to be successful.

Most people test their Y-line and mitochondrial DNA, not just for Native ancestry, but to learn more about the lines they can test for themselves without reaching out to other family members.

Use your DNA pedigree chart to plan who to ask in your extended family to test for which lines.

Plan to test with multiple autosomal testing companies.  Autosomal testing in particular is still in its infancy. I like to use the results of multiple companies, especially when you are dealing with small amounts of admixture.  They use different markers, combinations, analysis tools and reference populations, so you can expect slightly different results.  One company may pick up slight minority admixture while another may not.  This has happened repeatedly with both my Native and African minority admixture.

GedMatch

After you obtain your results from either Family Tree DNA or 23andMe, you’ll want to download your raw data results and then upload the file to www.gedmatch.com. This is a privately run “donation” site, not associated with any of the testing companies, meaning there is no subscription or fee to use the tools, but they do appreciate and are funded by donations.

After uploading your results you can utilize several admixture tools to compare and contrast your results.

Getting Help

If you’re struggling with working through your family possibilities for who to test, I do offer a DNA Test Plan service.

If you would like a Personalized DNA Report for Y-line or mitochondrial results, those are available as well.

If you have what amounts to a quick question that I can answer in less than an hour, including prep, I offer the Quick Consult service.

For more extensive consulting, contact me.  You can see my services here.

In Summary

Finding our Native ancestors is a way to pay homage to their lives and to the culture that was stripped from their descendants, ironically, by using their own DNA that has been gifted from them to us.  Native people, after contact with Europeans were marginalized, and that’s the best that can be said.  Many were killed, either intentionally or by European diseases, or enslaved.  The results are that Native people left few if any individual records and those that might be available often can’t be identified or linked to them personally.  For those who cannot unearth their Native ancestry using conventional genealogical means, genetic testing is the last hope left.  Fortunately, the tools and our knowledge improve every day.  We’re making great strides with what we can do, enlarging what was a pinhole into a keyhole, allowing us to peer into the past.  So, click your heels, order your tests and let’s see where your DNA takes you.

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I’m Adopted and I Don’t Know Where to Start

This is one of the two most common querys that I receive.

I’ve addressed some of the adoptee resources in a previous blog, but in this one, I’m going to be very specific about which tests do what, what to expect, how to use them, where to purchase the tests and how much they cost in general terms.  Remember when reading this, it’s meant as a guideline and you should always check current products and prices before purchasing.

We all begin with genetic genealogy to answer questions, but adoptees have a special circumstance wherein they generally know nothing at all about their birth parents.  Today’s query told me that her birth certificate doesn’t even include a race.

First, all adoptees need to read my post on Adoptee Resources.  I’m not an expert on how to deal with all of the bureaucratic and paperwork nightmares involved, which of course vary by state, but there are people who specialize in this and they have groups to help.  Take advantage of them.  Also, throughout the rest of this blog, be sure to click on the links.  I’m not restating things that I’ve already covered elsewhere.

Now, let’s look at the 3 kinds of DNA testing that can benefit adoptees and just how they might use the results.

There are three kinds of DNA testing that you can do.

  • Mitochondrial for your direct maternal line.
  • Y-line for your direct paternal line – if you are a male.  Sorry ladies.
  • Autosomal to test your ethnic mix and to find cousins related to you on any line.

On a pedigree chart, these genealogical lines look like this:

adopted pedigree

You can see the path that the Y chromosome takes down the paternal line to the brother and the path the mitochondrial DNA takes down the maternal line to both the brother and the sister.  Autosomal tests the DNA of all of the 16 ancestral lines shown here, but in a different sort of way.

Let’s look at each one separately.

Y-Line DNA – For Paternal Line Testing for Males

The Y-line testing tests the Y chromosome which is passed intact from father to son with no DNA from the mother.  This is the blue square on the pedigree chart.  In this way, it remains the same in each generation, allowing us to compare it to others with a similar surname to see if we are from the same “Smith” family, for example, or to others with different surnames, in the case of adoption.  Small mutations do take place and accumulate over time, and we depend on those so that we don’t all “look alike.”

The good news is that using comparison tools, we can determine a genetic surname in about one third of the cases.  That’s pretty good odds for someone who started with no information at all.

Looking at the Estes surname project as an example, you can see in this colorized version that there are mutations shown, in color, even within family groups.

You can test at 12, 25, 37, 67 or 111 marker “locations” on the Y chromosome.  In order to look for strong results you’re going to need to test at a minimum of 37 markers, preferably 67 or 111.  At www.familytreedna.com, which is where I recommend that you test, you can always upgrade later, but it’s less expensive in total to test more initially, plus you may well need the information to know who you match at the highest levels.  Right now, 37 markers cost $119 and 67 markers are $199, but a sale is currently underway.  You can also join the adoptee project to obtain the best pricing by joining a project.

After your results are returned, you can then upload or manually enter your results at www.ysearch.org (upload directly from your Family Tree DNA matches page), www.smgf.org and www.ancestry.com.  You can then check for matches at these sites as well.  Not all of these other sites test as many markers as Family Tree DNA, but the comparison is free and useful.

Family Tree DNA also provides significant tools for Y-line DNA as well as Mitochondrial DNA as well.  You can see both Family Tree and Ancestry results compared on this blog, which shows you how to use both companies’ tools.  At Family Tree DNA, for all their tests, you are provided with the e-mail addresses of your matches.  At Ancestry and 23andMe, you contact matches through thier internal message system.  My experience has been that direct e-mails have a better response rate.

You can also order a DNA Report from my company, DNAeXplain, or directly from your personal page at Family Tree DNA, if you need assistance understanding either Y-line or mitochondrial DNA results and wringing every possible tidbit from the available tools.

Obviously, the Y-line test is only for males.  Ladies, I feel your pain.  However, these next tests are for both sexes.

Mitochondrial DNA – For Direct Maternal Line Testing for Both Sexes

Mitochondrial DNA is inherited by all children from their mother only, with no admixture from the father.  Women obtain their mitochondrial DNA from their mother, who got it from their mother, on up the line into infinity.  This is the red circle on the right hand side of the pedigree chart.  Like Y-line DNA, mitochondrial DNA is passed intact from one generation to the next, except for an occasional mutation that allows us to identify family members and family lines.

Unfortunately, it does not follow any surname.  In fact the surname changes with every generation when women marry.  This makes it more challenging to work with genealogically, but certainly not impossible. Because of the surname changes in every generation, there are no “surname” projects for mitochondrial DNA, but the Mothers of Acadia project is using mitochondrial DNA to reconstruct the Acadian families.

There are three levels of testing you can take for mitochondrial DNA at Family Tree DNA, which is where I recommend that you test.  The mtDNA, the mtDNAPlus and the Full Sequence.  The mtDNA test is a starter test that will only leave adoptees needing more.  I strongly recommend the full sequence test, but if the budget just won’t allow that, then the mtDNAPlus will do until you can afford to upgrade.  Family Tree DNA is the only major lab that tests the full sequence region, plus, they have the largest matching data base in the industry.

To put this in perspective for you, the mtDNA and the mtDNAPlus tests both test about 10% of your mitochondrial DNA and the full sequence test tests all of your 16,569 mitochondrial locations.  You can then compare them with other people who have taken any of those 3 tests.  For adoptees, you’ll need the power of the full sequence test.  Pricing for the mtDNAPlus is currently $139 and the full sequence is $199.

After you receive your results, you can enter the mtDNA and mtDNAPlus portions into public data bases.  There are no public data bases for the full sequence segment because there may be medical implications in some of those mutations, so they are not displayed publicly although they are compared privately within the Family Tree DNA data base.  You will want to enter your data and check for matches at www.mitosearch.org (upload directly from your matches page at Family Tree DNA), www.smgf.org and www.ancestry.com, although beware of Ancestry’s accuracy issues.

If you match someone on either the Y-line or mitochondrial DNA, you may want to do some additional testing to see if you are closely related or if you are related back in time many generations.  The good news is that autosomal testing is what you need and there are three autosomal pools to swim in, increasing your chances of a “hit.”

Autosomal Testing – The Rest of the Story – For Both Sexes

If there was a DNA test created for adoptees, this is it.  This test can be used alone or in conjunction with the Y-line or mitochondrial DNA testing at Family Tree DNA.  They are the only lab to have this advanced matching capability.

Autosomal DNA testing tests all of your 23 pairs of chromosomes that you inherit from both of your parents.  You get half of each chromosome from each parent.  You can see this pattern on the pedigree chart, represented by all of the 16 genealogical lines.  Therefore, as you move up that tree, you should have inherited about 25% of your DNA from each grandparent, about 12.5% of your DNA from each great-grandparent, as have all of their other great-grandchildren.

So, if you were to take an autosomal test, and another one of your grandparents grandchildren tested, you would match them at some predictable percentage of your DNA.  You can see the “cheat-sheet” we use below, courtesy of the ISOGG wiki.

You can see that your grandparents other grandchildren are your first cousins, and you share approximately 12.5% of your autosomal DNA with them.  Therefore, if you match someone at 12.5%, you are either first cousins, great-grandchildren/great-grandparents or another relative with 12.5 in their “box” below, as compared to you.

adopted cheat chart

For an adoptee, this is the literal Holy Grail.  You can match someone at the 25% level, or even the 50% level.  Yes, siblings have found each other this way, although not to misset your expectations, it’s rare.  Much more common are matches at smaller percentages, but even so, if you match someone who is cooperative, it’s not too difficult to work with their pedigree chart to get some idea who your parents might be.  And even if you can’t figure that out, you know you are biologically related to them, something most adoptees have never experienced before aside from their own children.

The adoptee group and others are working on tools and standard procedures for adoptees, as there are ways to work with this information.  I have also blogged about the basics of what autosomal DNA gives you, and how to use it.

There are three testing companies that sell autosomal DNA testing.  I strongly suggest that you use all three of them, plus download your results to www.gedmatch.com and learn to use those tools, or work with someone on your behalf.

Family Tree DNA sells the Family Finder test.  Right now it is priced at $199 or bundled with attractive pricing with either the Y-line or mitochondrial DNA tests.  For adoptees, I often like to use this tool in conjunction with the Y-line and mitochondrial DNA tests to see, if you match someone closely, whether you are actually related to them in a recent timeframe or if it is further back.  Autosomal testing will pick up relationships reliably back to about the 6th or 7th generations, and sporadically beyond that.  In addition to a list of matches, you will receive your breakdown of ethnicity, by percent.  The admixture portions are improving, but just use them as a guideline, especially for percentages below 10%, and that goes for all three companies, in general.

Another company that sells autosomal testing is www.23andme.com.  In addition to a list of cousins, you also receive admixture percentages, and their specialty, health traits.  For adoptees, this may be particularly important as well.  Be aware that while people who test at Family Tree DNA are interested in genealogy, the typical person at 23andMe tested for the health portion, not the genealogy portion, and may not answer contact requests or may know very little about their family history.  However, that doesn’t negate the possibility that you may find a very close match and you’ll never know if you don’t test.  Right now, their test is $99, and you can download your results and upload them to Family Tree DNA for an additional $89, making the total price similar to the Family Tree DNA test.  However, you need to be somewhat technically savvy to complete the download/upload process.

The third company is www.ancestry.com.  Compared to either Family Tree DNA or 23andMe, their tools are sorely lacking, but they too offer a list of matches and ethnicity.  I suggest that you simply ignore their ethnicity calculations at this point in time as they are quite misleading.  The good news about Ancestry subscribers, which is who you’ll be matching, is that they too are quite interested in genealogy.  Unfortunately, you don’t have the data tools you’ll need to see how you match.  Again, that does not negate the importance of a close match, so I recommend fishing in this pool even though it certainly doesn’t stand up to either of the other two companies.  Their price fluctuates but is floating someplace around $129.  Also be aware to access the full feature set of matches including trees, you will need to subscribe to Ancestry as well in some capacity, so the test price is not the only cost involved.  Be sure to read their fine print first.

After you obtain your results from either Family Tree DNA or 23andMe, you’ll want to download your raw data results and then upload the file to www.gedmatch.com.  This is “donation” site, meaning there is no subscription or fee to use the tools, but they do appreciate donations.  Ancestry does not provide your raw data, but has stated that they will sometime in 2013.

While this suite of tools does not replace that missing information locked away in a file someplace, or worse, it does provide adoptees with hope where none may have existed before.  Various kinds of DNA testing can provide answers, and relatives, both close and distant.  You can also work with these tools with other adoptees and those who specialize in genetic genealogy to unlock those doors.

Remember, the longest journey begins with a single step.  Bon Voyage!