One Chromosome, Two Sides, No Zipper – ICW and the Matrix

ZipperThe questions I’ve received most often since the release of the new Family Finder Matrix from Family Tree DNA has to do with matches.  Specifically, what the “In Common With” feature is telling you versus what the Family Finder “Matrix” is telling you and how to utilize all of this information together.  At the bottom of this confusion is often a fundamental lack of understanding of how matching occurs and what it means in different contexts.

Let’s talk about this, step by step.

The “in common with” function (called triangulation for a few weeks, but now labeled “run common matches” ) shows you every person that you and one of your matches, match with in common.  I’ll be running this option for my matches with cousin David, shown below.

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Here’s an example of my matches in common with my cousin, David.

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The Family Finder Matrix takes this information a bit further and shows you whether or not the people involved with this match, match each other as well.

In this case, I happen to know that my cousins Harold, Carl and Dean will match each other on my father’s side, as will my cousin David.  Warren doesn’t have firm genealogy, but from this, we can tell that he is indeed connected to this family group because he matches me, David, Harold and Carl, but not Dean and not Nova.  We have no idea how Nova connects to this line, if she does.  Notice that Nova does not match any of the other people in this group in the matrix below.  That means that my and David’s common ancestor with her is likely not from this same ancestral line shared by Harold, Carl and Dean.

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From this point forward, I would drop back to my trusty downloaded full match spreadsheet that I maintain to see if indeed any of these people match me and my known cousins on the same segments.  If so, that confirms a family/ancestor relationship.   On the snipped from my spreadsheet below, you can see that Warren indeed matches both Buster and David and I, but not on the same segments.  Nova didn’t match any grouping on the same segments.  However, Buster and David both match me on the same portion of chromosome 19, so this confirms that we do share a common ancestor.  In this case, we also know, from our genealogy that the common ancestor is Lazarus Estes and wife, Elizabeth Vannoy.  Based on our multiple cousin matches, we can say that Warren is somehow connected to this line, but we can’t say how.

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I’ve had comments like “I have everything I need on my spreadsheet – I can see where all of my matches match me.”  And indeed, you can, but it’s not everything you need.  Here’s why.

Without additional information, you can’t tell, by just looking at your spreadsheet whether two people who match you on the same segment are matching on your Mom or Dad’s side.  For example, above, I know that both David and Buster are from my Dad’s line, but if I didn’t know that, one of them could be from Mom’s line and one could be from Dad’s, and while they are both related to me, on the same chromosome, they would, in that case, not be related to each other.  So, my spreadsheet of matches tells me clearly THAT people match me, and where, but it doesn’t tell me HOW or on which side.  For that, I need additional tools like ICW, the Matrix and plain old genealogy research.

This is the fundamental concept of matching and in a nutshell, why it’s so difficult.

Every Chromosome Has Two Sides

There are two sides to every chromosome, Mom’s side and Dad’s side.  Except nature has played a cruel trick on us and not installed a zipper.  There are no Mom and Dad labels.  There is no dividing that DNA or those matches in half magically, except by determing who they match, and how they do or don’t match each other.

When we match ourselves against our parents, for example, we then know immediately which half of our DNA came from which parent, but if you don’t have any parents available to match against, then you have to use genealogy or cousin matches to figure that out.

I talk about that in the Chromosome Mapping aka Ancestor Mapping article.

I’m going to use spreadsheets as examples here.  It think they are easier to see and understand, plus, I can manipulate them easily to reflect different situations.

Example 1 – The Very Basics of Matching

At each DNA location, or address, you have two alleles, one from each parent.  These alleles can have one of 4 values, or nucleotides, at each location, represented by the abbreviations T, A, C and G, short for Thymine, Adenine, Cytosine and Guanine.  That’s it, you’re done with all the science words now, so keep reading:)

On any given chromosome, from locations 1-20, you have the following DNA, in our example.

From Mom, you received all As and from Dad, all Cs.  You know that because I’m telling you, but remember, the matching software doesn’t know that because there is no zipper in your DNA.  All the software sees are that you have both an A and an C in location 1 and either an A or C is considered a match.

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In fact, this is what the software sees.  Be aware that in this case, AC=CA.

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Easy so far, right?

Example Two – Mom’s Known Cousin and Dad’s Known Cousin

Now you have two cousins, Mary and Myrtle.  You know, from having known them all of your life and sharing lots of Thanksgiving turkey that they are your family and you know clearly which side of your family they descend from.  Both of your cousins, Mary and Myrtle match you at the same locations on this chromosome, from 5-15.

But Mary is your mother’s cousin, and Myrtle is your Dad’s cousin.  So even though they both match you on the same exact chromosome and the same location, they do not match each other.  Well, let’s put it this way, if they also match each other, then you have an entirely different family genetic genealogy problem, called endogamy, and yes, you might be your own grandpa…but I digress.  But we’re going to assume for this discussion that your mother and father are not related to each other and do not share common ancestors.

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Still easy, right?

Example Three – An Unknown Cousin

Next, we have Martha.  You don’t know Martha, and you don’t know how she is related, but she obviously is.  Martha matches you, but she does not match Myrtle at all, and she doesn’t match Mary on enough overlapping chromosomes to be considered a match to her.  You can see their common match here between Mary and Martha in location 5.  In this case, as it turns out, Martha IS a cousin to Mary on Mom’s side, but we can’t tell that from this information because they don’t match in enough common locations to be above the matching threshold.  With this information, you can’t draw any conclusions.  You will have to wait to see who else Martha matches and look on your spreadsheet to see if Martha matches any of your known cousins and you on common segments which would confirm a common ancestor.  Your download spreadsheet will contain much more detailed information because once you match on any segment above the match threshold of about 7.7cM (plus a few other factors,) all matching segments of 1cM or above are downloaded – so you have a lot of information to work with.

But using both the ICW and matrix tools, Mary might cluster with other cousins on Mom’s side which would provide us with clues as to her relationship.  In fact, the first thing I’d do is to run an ICW with Mary and then utilize the Matrix tool to further define those relationships.

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Still not difficult.

Example Four – A “False Match”

Next we have Jeremy who is also a match to you.

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If you look at how Jeremy matches, you can see that he is actually matching on both sides, Mom’s and Dad’s side, but randomly.  Technically, he is a match to you, because he does match one or the other of your nucleotides at each location, A or C, but without a zipper, we have no idea HOW that DNA is divided in you between Mom and Dad.  In other words, the software doesn’t know that Mom was all A and Dad was all C, unless we’ve phased the data against your parents AND the software knows how to utilize that information.

However, if your parents are one of your matches, you can immediately see which side the match falls on, if either.  In this case, Jeremy doesn’t fall on either side because he is simply a circumstantial match, also known as a match my convergence or a false match.  This is also called IBS, or identical by state, as opposed to IBD, identical by descent.  The smaller the segment you show as a match, especially if there is no clustering, the more likely the match is to be IBS instead of the genealogically desirable IBD.

When people ask how someone can match a child but not a parent, this is the answer.  He matches you on 11 segments, circumstantially, but he only matches your parents on 5 and 6 segments, respectively, which often (but not always) puts him under the matching threshold.  Jeremy may also match Mary, depending on the thresholds.

This is also how someone can match in the “in common with” tool, but not be a match to anyone on the match list in the Matrix.  In fact, this is the power of these multiple tools.

This also doesn’t mean this match is entirely useless, because you DO match.  It may simply not be relevant genealogically.  In “The Autosomal Me” series, I’ve utilized very small match segments that in fact very probably ARE reflective of a common population and not of recent ancestry.  In my Native American research, this is exactly what I was looking for.  You may not be able to utilize this information today, but don’t entirely discount it either.  Just set it aside and move on to a more productive match.

Example Five – Common Matches, Different Ancestors

This situation provides clues, but no proof.

Mary and Joyce both match me on Mom’s segments, but they do not match each other.  They don’t match me on the same segments, so this indicates that they are probably from different ancestors in my Mother’s lines.  As more matches appear, the clusters of people and their genealogy will make this more apparent.

In order to determine which ancestors, I’ll need to work on the genealogy of both Mary and Joyce and see who else they also match on the same segments.  Sometimes the secret of the genealogy match is in the genealogy research or descent of your matches.

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Example Six – Clusters of Cousins

In this example, no one matches Dad, so he’s just out for now.  Susie and Mary match mom on the same segment, which proves that the three of these people share a common ancestor.  Mom and Joyce match each other too, but Joyce doesn’t match Mary and Susie, so they won’t cluster together on the matrix.  However, on the ICW tool, all three women, Joyce, Mary and Susie will match me and Mom.

Using the ICW tool if I were to ICW with Mom, you would see this list:

  • Joyce
  • Mary
  • Susie

The question then becomes, are Joyce, Mary and Susie related to each other, or not.  If so, and to me and Mom, then that indicates a common ancestor within the match group, like me, Joyce and Mom.  The second group doesn’t match the first group – me, Mary, Mom and Susie.  Using these tools together, these people clearly fall into two match groups, the green and blue on the spreadsheet below.  But remember, the match routine doesn’t know which side your As and Cs came from.  All it knows is that you match these people.  But based on these groups and my download spreadsheet common segment matches, I can tell that I’m working with two ancestral lines.

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My matrix for these people would look like this:

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My master matching spreadsheet would now look like this.

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When we started, all I would have been able to see is that all of these people matched Mom and Dad and I on the same segments. By utilizing the various tools, I was able to sort into groups and eventually, subgroups.

In fact, you can see below that within Mom’s pink group, there is also the smaller cluster of Mary, Susie, me and Mom.

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For Jeremy and Martha, we can’t do any more right now, so I’ve recorded what we do know and set them aside.

Here, you can see the matches sorted by chromosome, start and end segment.

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It looks a lot different than where we started, shown below, when all we had was a list of people who matched each other with no additional information.  We’ve added a lot!

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In Summary – Creating the Zipper

So, where are we with this?

By utilizing all of the tools at your disposal, including the ICW tool, the Family Finder Matrix, your matching spreadsheet and your genealogical information, you’re in essence creating that zipper that divides half of your DNA into Mom’s side and Dad’s side.  Then into grandma’s and grandpa’s side, and on up the pedigree chart.

Each of these tools can tell you something unique and important.

The ICW tool tells you who matches you and another person, in common.  It doesn’t tell you if they also match each other.  This tool can provide extremely important clustering information.  For example, if I see unknown cousin Martha clustered with a whole group of known Estes descendants, then that’s a pretty good clue about how I’m related to Martha.  If, on the other hand, I find Martha clustered with people from both sides of my family, well, my Mom and Dad just might be related to each other or their ancestors went to or came from the same places.

By utilizing the Matrix tool, I can tell which of my matches are actually matching each other too, so that puts Martha in a much smaller group, or maybe eliminates her from certain groups.

By then utilizing my downloaded match spreadsheet, on which I record every known tidbit of genealogy information, even generalities like, “family from NC” if that’s the best I can get, I can then see where Martha matches me and others on the same segments, and based on the information in the ICW and the Matrix and my genealogy info, I may be able to slot Martha into a family group.  On a great day – I’ll be able to be more specific and tell her which family group – like we were able to do with my newly found cousin, Loujean.

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed learning how to install a chromosome zipper.  Now you can happily go about unzipping all of that genealogy information held in your DNA, that piece by piece, we’re slowing revealing.

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Neuroarchaeologists Uncover Iberian Origin of Unusual Alzheimer’s Gene Mutation

Alzheimers in IberiaNeuroarchaeologists, a term I haven’t heard before, but one we’ll likely hear into the future.  Genetics, neurology, genealogy, population genetics….they are all becoming intermixed today solving puzzles that are so complex that just a few years ago, there would have been no prayer of solving them at all.

Take early onset Alzheimers, for example.  Keep in mind that this type of Alzheimer’s is only one of several, and much about this disease remains unknown, but for this particular kind of Alzheimer’s disease, this breakthrough is monumental, as is the fact that they can trace it to the Iberian peninsula in the 16th century.

The history of our ancestors truly is in our genes.

This research was performed at the University of California at Santa Barbara and published this month in Alzheimer’s and Dementia, the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.  Unfortunately, the academic article is behind a paywall.

Researchers tested more than 100 family members who have the disease.  While many predictably showed onset signs of the disease as expected about age 45, some appeared to be protected by as much as a decade.  The question was what was protecting these people and does that protective mechanism have relevance for the rest of the people afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease.  The answer isn’t yet evident, and research continues, but the process they used to identify this mutation is fascinating.

The team worked with historians and genealogists and using records as old as 1540, managed to track this family, along with their mutation, to a single individual from the Iberian peninsula about the time that Spanish Conquistadors were colonizing Columbia in the early 1500s.

They may call this new field neuroarchaeology, but I think it’s more neurogenealogy, unless they’re excavating graves someplace.  But I bet they think neuroarchaeology just sounds more scientific.  So, want to get assistance with your genealogy….having a dread disease, or being a politician….either one will help immensely.

Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder Match Matrix Released

Wow, today is a great day in genetic genealogy-land.  After the conference in Houston, which ended just a month ago today, a small group met with the Family Tree DNA team and explained what we, as users, need, and why.  We walked through lots of scenarios and everyone did a lot of explaining.  The whiteboard was full.  We were hopeful.

Bennett made a commitment, publicly, at the conference, to do whatever it took.  However, I never expected this feature, the Family Finder Match Matrix, which was very high on the priority list, to make it out the door this soon.  Less than one month later.  Hats off to the Family Tree DNA team!  YOU ROCK!!!

Why is this so important?  Because you have two halves to your chromosome, and there is no magic zipper to divide Mom’s half from Dad’s half.  So you’re going to match with people who come from Mom’s side, Dad’s side, and some who just happen to match because of random recombination.  The best way to figure this out is to see which of your matches match each other as well.

So, in a nutshell, here’s how this works.

  • If your matches match you, but not your other matches as revealed in the “In Common With” feature, they are questionable matches.  To find who you match in common with one of your matches, use this crossover icon on your matches page:

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  • If your matches match you and each other, then they are very likely important genealogical matches.
  • If your matches match you and each other, and you can identify the lineage based on which of your cousins or other family members they match, you’ve got a hugely valuable piece of information.  I discussed this in yesterday’s article, Chromosome Mapping aka Ancestor Mapping.

Here’s the release today from Family Tree DNA.  And even better news, they have promised to keep us apprised on new features to come ON A WEEKLY BASIS!!!

From Family Tree DNA:

Today, we are happy to release our new BETA Family Finder – Matrix page. The Matrix tool can tell you if two or more of your matches match each other. This is most useful when you discover matches with wholly or partly overlapping DNA segments on the Family Finder – Chromosome Browser page.

Due to privacy concerns, the suggested relationship of your two matches (if related) is not revealed. However, we can tell you whether they are related according to our Family Finder program. To use it, you select up to 10 names from the Match list on the left side of the page and add them to the Selected Matches list on the right side of the page. A grid will populate below the lists. It will indicate whether there is a match (a blue check mark) or there is not a match (an empty white tile).

You access the BETA Family Finder – Matrix page through the Family Finder menu in your myFTDNA account.

matrix 1

The page starts out with two list areas: Matches and Selected Matches. You add Matches to the Selected Matches list by clicking on a name and then on the Add button.

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Here is a screenshot of the BETA Family Finder – Matches page with a few matches added to the Selected Matches list.

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You can change the order of names in the matrix by clicking on a name and then either the Move Up or the Move Down button.

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To remove someone from the Selected Matches list, click on their name and then the Remove button.

Chromosome Mapping aka Ancestor Mapping

This article really should be called “Identifying Prodigal Great-Grandpa by Ancestor Mapping Your Chromosomes,” because that’s what we’re going to be doing.  It’s fun to map your ancestors to your chromosomes, but there is also a purpose and benefit to be derived.  So you can have guilt-free fun because you’re being productive too!  Oh, and yes, you can work on finding Prodigal Great-Grandpa.

I constantly receive questions similar to this:

“How can I find the identity of my mother’s mother’s father?  My great-grandmother went to her grave with this secret.  That’s one eighth of my ancestry.  What can I do?  How can I find out?”

The answer is that it’s not easy, but it is sometimes possible.  Note the word sometimes.  A good part of the definition of “sometimes” is how willing you are to do the requisite work and if you are lucky or not.  Luck favors those who work hard.  And let’s face it, you’ll never know if you don’t try.  I mean, Prodigal Great-Grandpa is not going to text you from the other side with his name and date of birth.

What we’re going to do is basically work through a process of elimination.  The term for what we are going to do is called chromosome mapping your ancestors or more simply, chromosome mapping or ancestor mapping. In essence, you are going to map your own chromosomes based on which ancestor contributed that part of your DNA.

I have simplified this process greatly in order to explain the concept in a way you can easily follow.  I’m going to use my own pedigree chart as an example.  We’ll pretend we don’t know the identity of Curtis Benjamin Lore.  And yes, for those of you wondering, all of these people are deceased.

Mapping pedigree chart

I realize that you are going to have more than the 32 autosomal matches shown on my example spreadsheet.  You’re also not going to be able to find common ancestry with many of your matches due to things like dead ends, incorrect ancestry, segments identical by state (IBS) or DNA that comes from older ancestors that is not recognizable today after name changes in many generations when descended through females.  There are lots of reasons why you might not be able to find genealogy matches.  It’s the other matches, the ones where you can decipher and determine your common ancestor that help a great deal, and that is where we’ll focus.  These are the ones that matter and the keys to identifying Prodigal Great-Grandpa.

In my example here, we live in a perfect world.  We are looking to map the DNA of my 8 great-grandparents in order to figure out the identity of mother’s mother’s father.  Of course, there is no Y-DNA to test in this instance, so we must rely on autosomal DNA.  Ok, so maybe it’s not such a perfect world.  In a perfect world, you’d be a male trying to find the identity of your father’s father’s father and you could test your own Y-DNA – but then we wouldn’t have a good story nor would we need autosomal DNA.  And most people aren’t that fortunate.

Three generations isn’t that far back – or four – if you count yourself as the first generation.  If you’re quite lucky, you can test one or both of your parents, and maybe even a grandparent or great-aunt or uncle.  Failing that, you should be able to find some cousins from your various lines to test.  This entire exercise will be much MUCH easier for you if you can test multiple people descended from each of the 4 couples involved because you’ll be able to tell which lines your matches do, and don’t, match based on which cousins they also match.  Take DNA test kits to family reunions!

Obviously, you won’t be able to test anyone directly descended from your unknown great-grandfather, except perhaps his children.  The more of his children you can test, either directly or through their children, if deceased, the better your chance of identifying your Prodigal Great-Grandfather because each child inherits some different DNA from their parents.  In my case, we’re going to presume that there are no other known children, other than my grandmother.  So how do we find Prodigal Great-Grandpa?

First, download all of your matches with corresponding segment data from your testing vendor, either 23andMe or Family Tree DNA, into a spreadsheet.  Ancestry does not allow you to do this, which is a significant drawback in terms of testing at Ancestry.  You can do this today at 23andMe and at Family Tree DNA most easily by utilizing www.dnagedcom.com download software.  You can also do this directly at Family Tree DNA on the Chromosome Browser page.

Your spreadsheet will look something like this, but without the colors.  That’s what you’ll be adding, along with the Common Ancestor column.

Mapping spreadsheet

Step 1 – Identify a common ancestor with those individuals you match on common DNA segments.  This is really two steps, the common ancestor part, and the common DNA segment part.  If these people are on your match list, we already know you have a common DNA segment over the vendor’s match threshold.  The presumption here is that if you have 3 people that match on the same segment from the same ancestor, that’s a confirmed “yes” that this particular DNA segment is descended from that ancestor.  You can also label these with only two confirmed descendants from the same ancestor, but I like to see three to be sure, especially if here is any doubt whatsoever that you’re dealing with the same ancestral family.  For example, if you are dealing with 2 people who carry the same surname from the same location, but you can’t quite find the common ancestor – you’ll need 3 matches to identify this segment.

In this case, I was able to test cousins so I know that on chromosome 1, Sue, Joe and John all match me on the same segment and they are all descended from Lazarus Estes.  I know this because one of them descends from Lazarus Estes and his wife, Elizabeth Vannoy, but the other two, Joe and John descend from an Estes upstream of Lazarus, let’s say, his father, John Y. Estes, through another child, which allows me to positively identify this segment as coming not just from the couple, Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy, but from Lazarus specifically.

I’ve colored this segment mustard to represent Lazarus and so that you can visually see the difference between the 8 ancestors we’re working with.

2.  Repeat the same process with your other matches, hopefully utilizing cousins, to identify DNA segments of your other ancestors.  I’m only showing a very small subset of all of my DNA on my spreadsheet, and all matches are the exact same 10,000 cM blocks and only on one chromosome, for illustration purposes, but as you work through your matches, you’ll be able to color more and more of your DNA and assign it to different ancestral couples.  Each of your chromosomes will have different colors as different parts of each chromosome come from different ancestors.

Kitty Cooper released a tool to utilize AFTER you do this hard grunt-work part that paints a pretty picture of your ancestors mapped on to your various chromosomes.  Here’s her example.  Notice that each chromosome has 2 sides, Mom’s and Dad’s inheritance side.  We’re going to use that to our advantage and it’s one facet of how we’re going to find Prodigal Great-Grandpa .

mapping kitty cooper

In my case (not this example), I have several segments that I can’t identify to a particular couple, but I can assign it to a group.  This is my Acadian group and is terribly admixed because of extensive intermarriage.  I also have a “Mennonite” segment labeled in the same way for the same reason.  So while I don’t know specifically who, I do know where and that helps a lot too.  But in our perfect world in our example, we don’t have any of that.

3. Now that I have most of my genome colored in and assigned to ancestors, except for Prodigal Great-Grandpa, I can see where all new matches fall.  Let’s say I get a new match on chromosome 1 in the segments between 10,000 and 20,000 and they also match Sue, Joe and John.  Even if the new match is an adoptee and has no genealogy, I can tell them which line they descend from.  And let me tell you, there is no greater gift.  This is exactly how we told new cousin Loujean she descended from the Younger line.

However, if someone matches me on this chromosome 1 segment but NOT Sue, Joe and John, since Sue,Joe, John and I all match on the entire segment from 10,000-20,000, then the new match has to be matching me on my other parent’s side (or is IBS – identical by state, a circumstantial match.)  Never forget that you have two “sides” to each chromosome – Mom’s and Dad’s (except for the X chromosome in males which we are not addressing here.)

4.  The only part of my match spreadsheet left uncolored, since this is a perfect world, would be the part that would probably come from my Prodigal Great-Grandfather.  So let’s look at chromosome 8 and map it.

What we don’t know, and have to determine, is whether or not some of these parts of chromosome 8 really belong to ancestors identified in color above.  However, remember that we are dealing with fairly close matches, only 3 generations, and in some cases, only 2 generations, depending on which cousins tested.  So let’s say you found several cousins to test because grandma had a large family.  Based on the test results of several of your aunts and uncles along with other people descended from great-grandma’s ancestral lines, you are able to map most of the DNA of your great-grandmother.  In this case, we mapped this segment of chromosome 8 to my three cousins, Derrell, Darrell and Daryl.  (Yes, I really do have those cousins.)

The result is that now I have 8 matches that do match me, and based on other cousin matches, do descend from Great-Grandma/Great-Grandpa but don’t match the Derrell trio indicating Great-Grandma’s line.  What this tells me is that the people who aren’t assigned, because they don’t match my cousins Derrell, Daryl and Darrel, or any other distant groups, must then be from Prodigal Great-Grandpa’s side or are “problem matches.”  Problem matches are those that are IBS (Identical by State) or have a technical issue and we’re not going to deal with that here, because this is a perfect world and we’re only concerned with people whose genealogy we have and that match each other.  By this definition, problem matches are automatically eliminated.  So let’s look at the 8 people above who don’t match me or the Derrell cousins on Great-Grandma’s/Great-Grandpa’s side, beginning with Bobbi and ending with Isabel.

5.  Now we turn to genealogy.  We know that these 8 people all share a common ancestral line with Prodigal Great-Grandpa, we just don’t know who that is.  Let’s say that of this group, we discover that Bobbi, Harold and Buster are all related to each other, and glory be, they all know who their common ancestor is, or at least the common ancestral line.  Let’s say that Bobbi and Buster are first cousins in the Lore line and that Harold matches them closely as well, but he is descended from a Lore ancestor further upstream from Bobbi and Buster.  Therefore, we can now say, positively, that Prodigal Great-Grandpa descended somehow from the Lore line.

We still don’t know how Sarah, Ronald, Garret, Nina and Isabel connect to Prodigal Great-Grandpa, and that’s OK.  We can simply leave them uncolored for now.  We can select a color for Bobbi, Harold and Buster and assign then to Prodigal Great-Grandpa who descends from the Lore line.

Mapping PGG Lore

6.  Now it’s time for that luck to kick in.  We don’t know that Prodigal Great-Grandpa carried the surname Lore.  His mother could have been a Lore, or any of his ancestors.  All we have is a common surname and a common ancestor between three people who all match me on the same segment.  So, let’s assemble a tree of our cousins to see if we can narrow the scope of maybe who and where and then let’s get busy with the census and other records.  Geography is important.  Begatting requires proximity and many times, we can find the begatter in the neighborhood.  Also, check your genealogy software data base for this surname.  You may find the surname in an allied line.  Remember, families married their neighbors and often intermarried as well.

Sure enough, look there, in our perfect world, we discover that Nora Kirsch is working in her parents inn named the Kirsch House on the Ohio River in 1880.  The Kirsch House was also a boarding house, and a restaurant and pub.  One of their boarders in 1880 was none other than Benjamin Lore.  Hmmm.  Surely makes you wonder.  Further research on Benjamin Lore shows that he was a wildcat oilfield well driller working in the county where Nora lived and became something of a local legend for discovering the “Blue Lick” water well.  Well, now we have a name, proximity and maybe an opportunity.

7.  Well, peachy, but what next?  Further research on Benjamin Lore shows that he was married in the census, but where was his wife?  In previous census records, we find Benjamin Lore in Warren County, PA with his parents.  In the Warren County records, we find that he married Mary Bills, and additional research shows in 1880 a Mary Lore with 2 children, but no husband.  Court records show they later divorced, with 4 children.  Find those children!!!  They are the key to confirming the identity of Benjamin Lore as Prodigal Great-Grandpa.  If Benjamin’s other children had children about the same time as grandmother, each line should have 3 generations between Benjamin and the current generation.  Benjamin’s great-grandchildren through his first wife would be half-second cousins to me which would be the same as second cousins once removed.  They of course would be a generation closer to my mother whose DNA I also happen to have.

ISOGG has a wonderful Autosomal DNA Statistics page, and here you can see that second cousins once removed would share about 1.5% of their DNA in what is hopefully a large enough segment to match some of the cousins that have already tested.   My mother’s generation, first cousins once removed would share approximately 6.25%.

Mapping cousin chart

Benjamin’s descendants through his first wife may not match all of my cousins, but they will, hopefully, match some of the descendants of Prodigal Great-Grandpa, confirming, as best we can, that Benjamin Lore was grandmother’s father.  The best litmus test of course is how closely they would match the closest generations, like mother or great-aunts/uncles, if they were living.

Full Disclosure Note:  I used my own ancestors for purposes of illustration, even though Curtis Benjamin Lore (shown at right) was not prodigal in quite the way I portrayed in this article, well, at least not from my family’s perspective.  However, he was no saint Lore, CBeither and he may well have other descendants looking for him in this exact situation.  Aside from what we do know, there is the rumor of an illegitimate son showing up on his widow’s doorstep looking for him, albeit, a little too late.  We know that Curtis Benjamin (known as C.B.) Lore did marry Nora Kirsch in Dearborn County, Indiana, in 1888.  These photos are their “wedding photos” but interestingly, there is no photo of them together.

We also know that Curtis Benjamin Lore married Mary Bills in Warren County, PA., had four Lore children, 3 males (Sid, John Curtis and Herbert Judson Lore) and one female (Maud who married a Hendrickson), none of whom we have never been able to find.  Also, Curtis Benjamin Lore was not divorced from Mary until, ahem, after he was married to Nora Kirsch when Mary filed for divorce on the grounds of desertion.Kirsch, Nora

Apparently, his marriage to Nora Kirsch (pictured at right) fell, literally, according to the secret family story, into the “shotgun” category, so one has to understand that his choice of marriage versus death was fairly defensible.  I’m sure Nora’s father, a crusty old Civil War veteran, had no idea that he was already married or Curtis Benjamin would have been on the business end of that shotgun and marriage would not have been a choice.

The family took great care that this “uncomfortable” shotgun marriage situation never be discovered, to the point of falsifying the marriage date in the family Bible and also by “adjusting” the birth of the child by a year, also recorded incorrectly in the family Bible.  Were it not for the fact that I checked the church records in Dearborn County, I would never have discovered the discrepancy.  A child cannot be baptized months before it is born.  I might note that it was only AFTER this discovery that my mother was forthcoming with the “family secret” about the shotgun wedding.  Birth certificates were not issued at that time and my grandmother’s delayed birth certificate was issued based on the falsified family Bible information.

Benjamin probably would not have been bothered by this revelation at all, given what we know about him, but I’m sure Nora’s parents rolled over in their grave once or twice when I made the discovery and now that I’m, ugh, discussing it, and publicly at that.

Rogues and handsome scoundrels.  They are colorful and interesting aren’t they and provide a great amount of spice for family stories.  Hopefully these tools will help you find yours!!!

23andMe Produces about 10% Response Rate for Genealogy

helix graphicI recommended a couple of days ago that everyone contact their matches at 23andMe and make sure, at least, that they have your e-mail in light of the current situation with the FDA deadline occurring about mid-month.  It looks like the genealogy data is safe for the time being, hopefully, but I didn’t know that when I started.

I wrote a nice message, including at least some genealogy information of course, and set out to do the same thing, and it has taken the better part of 4 days.  No, I’m not kidding.  I have 1030 matches.  Let me say, this was not fun.

The most frustrating part for me is that it really doesn’t have to be this difficult.  Think of it this way, all of this effort was just to get to the point where you start out with Family Tree DNA matches.

FTDNA FF Match

When you receive a match at Family Tree DNA, you can contact them without sending a request to match, and you already have their e-mail (the blue envelope box by the pink graphic, above,) and they already have yours.  So the effort expended this past 4 days, just in case 23andMe’s messaging system (i.e. entire website) disappears in light of 23andMe’s FDA issues was spent to get to common ground with Family Tree DNA.  Until I had 1030 people to contact, this difference didn’t seem terribly important, but believe me, it is, especially when those 1000 matches are whittled to one third that number by non-responses.  At Family Tree DNA, 1000 matches are 1000 matches, not 1000 maybes.  As you can see below, at 23andMe, many, many introduction requests go unanswered.  Those would be reflected in all of the blank spaces above “male” and “female” where a name shows after an introduction has been accepted, shown below.

23andMe Match

If you have already invited people to communicate with you at 23andMe, and they haven’t replied, you have to go through the extra steps of cancelling that first invitation and then re-inviting them.  Public Matches?  You have to invite them differently.  So let’s look at it this way, every invitation is a minimum of 5 clicks, that’s if you don’t have to look at anything else in the process, and 1030 people times 5 clicks is 5150 clicks and then another hundred or so that I have to be uninvited to be invited, so maybe another 500 clicks.  Public matches are another 5 clicks, so that’s another 1270 for a total of almost 7000 clicks.    Let’s just say this system was never designed with the genealogist in mind, or even with anyone nearby with any genealogical experience.  The more I use it, the more I dislike it.

There is, however, a good news aspect.  I did contact everyone – which I should have done before, and now they have my e-mail if they want it, now or in the future.  The bad news is that the response rate is just painfully low, which is why I got frustrated and stopped contacting people several months ago.

So let’s look at some raw data.

23andMe cuts off your matches at 1000, meaning your lowest matches fall off the list, unless you have outstanding invitations or communications.  In that case, those people who would otherwise fall off the list if they weren’t sharing or had some form of communications are preserved.  Hence, my 1030 matches instead of 1000.

Of those, 683 matches received first time new invitations, along with about 100 or so re-invitations and 254 Public Match invites.  I had last invited new matches in August.  It’s worth noting that I had not received any match invitations myself in this timeframe.

When someone receives an invitation, they can do one of 4 things.

  1. Ignore it and do nothing (this is what most do)
  2. Decline the invitation (they could simply opt out of genealogy matching instead)
  3. Accept the invitation for contact, but not share any DNA information
  4. Accept the invitation with DNA sharing

I only have 4 outright declines, but 14 people accepted the intro, but declined to share any DNA information.  Clearly their goals are not connecting through genealogy/genetics.

I currently have 365 people sharing in total.  Of those, 254 are public matches, meaning 111 others actually accepted a contact request and are sharing genomes, about 10%.

It appears that Public Matches are already sharing genomes with you, because there is no link to invite them to do so, but they aren’t.  You have to invite public matches in an entirely different, and not obvious, way.

To invite a Public Match to share, click on their name, in this case the name is “My Uncle.”.

23andMe my uncle

You will then see their profile page.  At the top, you’ll see one of two messages.  One is “Why can’t I invite this user to share genomes?” and the other is “Invite My Uncle to share genomes.”  If you get the invite message. click and invite.  If you get the “why can’t I” message, you’re dead in the water.  By the way, the answer to why can’t I is because either you’ve invited them before and the invitation is still outstanding, you’re already sharing (duh) or they have blocked all share requests.  Many Public Matches have blocked share requests.

23andMe my uncle 2

In total, between public matches and those who have opted to accept a share invitation, I can actually send a message to about 35% of my matches, but only hear from or share with less than one third of those, or about 10%..

Of those 365, I’ve actually received a reply message from 91 people, or about 25%.  I’m not counting another 10 people or so who are my close cousins, which would bring the total to just over 100.  I communicated with them before they tested.  In total, that also is about 10% of the total matches.

I sent a different, individual message to each of the people already sharing with me, depending on what we have previously discussed.

Of my 1030 matches, there are about 100 people, 10%, that actually communicated with me after hours and hours of inviting.   This includes all communications, from 2009 through today, not just new contacts.  This tells me that most people at 23andMe simply are not interested in genealogy and of those who are, most are just minimally interested..

Several people were very nice, but simply said that they didn’t know much about their family or were adopted.  I tried to help these folks as much as I could.

I have to laugh, several said they had to ask their mother, and a few more said they had to ask their grandmother.  My grandmothers were born in 1874 and 1888, respectively, but I digress…..

The 23and Me crowd is clearly not the normal genealogy crowd, but that’s exactly why we fish in different pools.  Maybe we can recruit some new genealogists!

I did have some genealogy success.  One woman has done genealogy for 54 years, and although we did not connect our family lines, working with her was a breath of fresh air.  I also ran into two seasoned genetic genealogists that are well known in the community who provided information on their family members.

I do have a half dozen positive connections where we were able to identify a common ancestor or a common line, and a few more that I think would be positive if we could nail down their genealogy, based on location.  In total, about 1% of the matches with a 2% potential with some added elbow grease.  My very endogamous Brethren, Mennonite and Acadian ancestors continue to haunt me by providing me with connections that are traceable to those groups, but not to individual ancestors.  That’s what happens when people intermarry for generations and just pass the same DNA around and around.  But even so, knowing that much is helpful.

So, is it worth 4 days of time to communicate with 90 people you’re related to, and to try to communicate with another 900+ that you’re related to but who aren’t interested in genealogy?  I guess that depends on your goals.  For me, yes, because if this opportunity disappears (meaning if the 23andMe database disappears,) I now have as much information, for the most part, that could be retrieved out of this resource at this time.  Hopefully it won’t disappear, but if it does, I’m ready, or as ready as I can get under the circumstances.  Having said that, 23andMe made the process much more difficult than it had to be and the actual success rate of 1-2% is terribly low for the amount of effort expended.

And maybe, just maybe, since I’m apparently a glutton for punishment, now that I’m finished with this,  I’ll go over to Family Tree DNA and send e-mails to the rest of my 490 matches there.  That might be useful.  At least I don’t have to send invitations first.

Or better yet, I could practice self-flagellation by going over to Ancestry where there is another message system and no genetic tools and try to contact my 5,950 cousins, only six of which are third cousins, none closer, and the rest of which are more distant.  Nah…..I think I’d rather clean the bathroom….

23andMe Suspends Health-Related Genetic Tests

23andme suspends health

We seem to have part of the answer as to what 23andMe will be doing in the short term.  Tonight when I went to the 23andMe site, I was greeted with this message.

In case it’s too small to read, it says:

Welcome to 23andMe.

At this time, we have suspended our health-related genetic tests to comply immediately with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s directive to discontinue new consumer access during our regulatory review process.

We are continuing to provide you with both ancestry-related genetic tests and raw genetic data, without 23andMe’s interpretation.

If you are an existing customer please click the link below and then go to the health page for additional information. If you are a customer that purchased before 11/22/13, you will still have access to your health-related results.

We remain firmly committed to fulfilling our long-term mission to help people everywhere have access to their own genetic data and have the ability to use that information to improve their lives.

Upon entering the site, please confirm you understand the new changes in our services.

I understand that 23andMe only sells ancestry reports and raw genetic data at this time. I understand 23andMe will not provide health-related reports.  However, 23andMe may provide health-related results in the future, dependent upon FDA marketing authorization.

I clicked on “I Understand” and was then taken to the normal sign on screen where their test kit is marketed solely as a genetic genealogy kit, with all mention of health removed.

23andme suspends 3

After signing on, the health button on the main page is gone, but by clicking on “My Results” I can still see the Health Overview and proceed from there.  They mentioned additional information on the Health page, but I did not see anything additional.  Perhaps more is yet to come.

23andme suspends health 2

I do notice that the Research Surveys, Health Profile, and Key Health Recommendations are still present and the health reports/interpretation portions are still there in my account.  I was a customer prior to November 22, 2013.  But still, I’m surprised that all of the health surveys and questions remain.  They are clearly still data-gathering with their existing clients, so obviously hopeful about the FDA resolution.

23andme suspends 4

It appears that the genetic genealogy portion is “safe,” for now, although we don’t know what the future holds for 23andMe as they move through the regulatory process with the FDA.  I also wonder if the genetic genealogy marketspace, which has never been a priority to them, can financially sustain them long enough to complete the FDA process.  Part of that answer would likely rest upon how long the process takes and the depth of their pockets.  So far, they are 5 years and counting, but we don’t know how far along they are in the process.  Perhaps additional information will be forthcoming as the deadline of December 13, 15 or 16, depending on how you count, approaches.

I would still suggest downloading your information, just in case, and I wouldn’t wait until the last minute.  No matter how well intentioned they are, they may find themselves in a situation where they cannot provide extensive notification about impending changes.

400,000 Year Old DNA from Spain Sequenced

Atapuerca Cave Remains

Talk about record shattering.  400,000 year old DNA has now been sequenced, and that quite handily breaks the previous 100,000 year old record.  The only problem is that these ancient and archaic people weren’t staying where they were supposed to.  Well, that’s “supposed to” according to the story we thought we knew.  Obviously, we didn’t know, and ancient DNA is only beginning to tell the story, which isn’t at all like we thought it would be.

Before now, Neanderthals were thought to have settled in the west, meaning Europe primarily, and Denisovans in the East, in Siberia.  This is due to where bones have been found and the DNA sequenced from just a few.  However, this new find from a cave in Atapuerca, Spain changes all of that.  These people were not closely related to Neanderthal, who were later found in Germany, but instead are related to the Denisovans, their remains found some 4000 miles east, per mitochondrial DNA, meaning their direct matrilineal line.  However, even though they are related, they are distantly related.

Yesterday the mitochondrial sequence appeared on GenBank, after the release of the paper.  According to Ian Logan, this new sequence has just over 500 mutations, about half of which can be matched with Denisovan and the other half are unique.  So while the Denisovan and this new sequence do share a maternal ancestor, they are many, many generations distant.  Of course, that would be expected, because they are about 350,000 years apart too in terms of time, or a meager 14,000 generations.

What does this mean?  The scientists don’t know for sure.  Perhaps these Atapuerca Cave people were the ancestors of Denisovans and Neanderthals.  Perhaps the Denisovan mitochondrial DNA “washed out” over generations in the Neanderthal or maybe not enough Neanderthal remains have been located and sequenced.  Neither Neanderthal nor Denisovan mitochondrial DNA has been found in any living humans or relatively contemporary burials, meaning not outside of Neanderthals and Denisovans.  In short, we need more skeletons and more DNA to reveal more information about our ancient ancestors.  It opens the possibility that modern humans are but a small sprig on the larger and quite ancient Denisovan/Neanderthal Eurasian tree.  We don’t know where modern humans fit in all of this, but according to autosomal genetic results, everyone with either European or Asian heritage carries some of them in all of us, just not the mitochondrial line.  We are just beginning this journey of discovery.

For more, access the Science article, Dienekes Anthrolpology Blog and John Hawks blog.  The academic article in Nature, A mitochondrial genome sequence of a hominin from Sima de los Huesos, by Meyer et all is behind a paywall.

Family Tree DNA Listens, and Acts

During and after the 9th Conference hosted by Family Tree DNA in Houston, TX November 8-10, several administrators collectively submitted a list of “wants and needs” that the genetic genealogy community felt could improve their experience and Family Tree DNA’s product.  A small team worked diligently together afterward to refine the plans and help prioritize.  Today, the fruits are already ripening on the tree.  Thank you Family Tree DNA!!!

During the conference, Bennett Greenspan said he was committing “whatever resources it takes,” followed by a groan (his), and the statement “I can’t believe I just said that.”  Of course, all of us heard it…and Family Tree DNA is indeed coming through, very quickly.  Two weeks ago there were some changes and additions, and again, today, more.

I’m personally very glad to see the common matches ”crossover” link on the main screen now as well as the much requested,”download all matches,” item 6 below.

ftdna 12-4

Here’s a note from Bennett Greenspan about today’s six new features.

Today we are releasing some great updates that were requested during our 9th International Conference on Genetic Genealogy.  Here is a quick summary with some screen shots of what to expect.

1. The timeout for myFTDNA has been increased from 30 min to 2 hrs.  This will benefit everyone but will especially be appreciated by our Group Admins when they are impersonating into a kit.

2. Changed the word “Triangulation” to “Common Matches” for Family Finder matching.

ftdna 12-4 2

3. Instead of using the word “Steps” on the matching pages we will now use “Genetic Distance.”  This will effect both the Y-DNA and mtDNA matching pages.

ftdna 12-4 3

4. Fixed the Interactive Tour.  It was getting stuck at the Family Finder section but will now complete.

ftdna 12-4 4

5. Updated the Profile Pop up on matching pages with a new design and restored the “About Me” section and badges.  This profile is available on all matching pages:  Y-DNA, mtDNA, Family Finder, and Advanced Matching.

ftdna 12-4 5

6. Added the ability for a user to download chromosome browser data for all of their matches.  This new option is towards the top right side of the chromosome browser page and will be in Excel format.

ftdna 12-4 6

Downloading and Uploading 23andMe Files – v2 vs v3

Some days, it seems nothing is as simple as it should be.

If you recall, I in my article, “Now What, 23andMe and the FDA,” one of my suggestions was to download your raw data file from 23andMe.  You can then upload it to both www.gedmatch.com and to Family Tree DNA.  This gives you the added benefit of fishing in multiple ponds, regardless of what happens to 23andMe relative to the FDA situation.

I also mentioned that I was having a customer support nightmare with 23andMe trying to figure out what was wrong with 3 of my 5 files that I downloaded.

GedMatch had not been accepting new file uploads for a couple weeks, so I couldn’t upload there, but I did attempt to upload them to Family Tree DNA, unsuccessfully.  I checked today, and they are accepting files again now.

I subsequently discovered that the problematic files were short a significant amount of data.  In some cases, in the past, the upload problem has been that the file in question was a build 36 file that had been downloaded earlier.  The solution, in that case, is easy, simply redownload the file from 23andMe and it will be in the current built format.

However, this was not the problem with these three files.  They were build 37 as confirmed by the header records in each file.

build 37

You can see in an earlier file, downloaded in 2009, my data was in build 36 format.

Build 36

Finally after 2 very frustrating weeks working with their customer support, 23andMe confirmed that indeed, the 3 files in question were not the same length as the other 2 files, and that they were an earlier version of their product, known as v2.  This information, unfortunately, was not reflected in their product revision history, shown below.

August 9th, 2012. We updated our database to report SNP positions using the NCBI Build 37 (also known as Annotation Release 104) genome assembly. Users will see changes in their raw data positions. Read more here.

September 29th, 2011. Analysis of our data has allowed us to improve the interpretation of several SNPs. In the next week, customers may see changes in their raw data.

January 13, 2011. We updated our database to incorporate data from a more recent build of dbSNP. Some rsids have changed location and/or flanking sequence in dbSNP such that our probes are no longer meaningful to assay them. The names of these rsids have been changed in the raw data to internal ids starting with “i499…”. We have also improved the interpretation of a number of SNPs and removed others that had poor data quality. In the next couple of days, customers may see changes in calls for those SNPs.

March 25, 2010. Analysis of our data has allowed us to improve the interpretation of several dozen SNPs. A portion of the SNPs are on the mitochondrial chromosome. In the next couple of days, customers may see changes in calls for those SNPs.

October 8, 2009. Analysis of our data has allowed us to improve the interpretation of over 1500 SNPs. A portion of the SNPs are on the mitochondrial chromosome. In the next couple of days, customers may see changes in calls for those SNPs.

June 4, 2009. Analysis of our data has allowed us to improve the interpretation of over 500 SNPs. Most of these SNPs are on the Y chromosome. In the next couple of days, customers will see calls for SNPs that previously had a no-call or appeared not genotyped.

April 9, 2009. Analysis of our data has allowed us to improve the interpretation of 10 SNPs: rs4420638, rs34276300, rs3091244, rs34601266, rs2033003, rs7900194, rs9332239, rs28371685, rs1229984, and rs28399504. In the next couple of days, some customers will see calls for SNPs that previously had a no-call or appeared not genotyped.

In late 2010, 23andMe added functionality to their product that included, among other things, Alzheimer’s risk information.  I was particularly interested in this information, so even though I had tested on an earlier platform, v2, at that time, I updated to the v3 test.

In December 2010, 23andMe began using the v3 chip, so everyone who tested after December 2010 will be on the v3 chip platform.  If you tested in December 2010, you might be on either one.   If you’re on the v3 chip, no worries.  If you are on the pre-December 2010 v2 chip, your data will not be able to be uploaded to Family Tree DNA because of compatibility issues.  Family Tree DNA utilizes significantly more SNP locations, over 700,000 in total, which is 125,000 more than the v2 23andMe file.

However, GedMatch continues to accept v2 files according to site creator, John Olson.   Keep in mind that GedMatch is a free (donation based) volunteer site run by two project administrators, so when they get overwhelmed with file uploads, they shut the gate for a week or two as a means of preserving their sanity.  They are accepting files again as of today.

For me, this means I have two files uploaded to GedMatch, an earlier v2 file and now a later v3 file as well.  It will be interesting to see the differences between the matches to the two files.

In any case, if your results are v2 at 23andMe, you will have to retest to join the Family Tree DNA customer pool because the earlier 23andMe files can’t be used.

It’s relatively easy to tell whether your file is v2 or v3..  After downloading your file from 23andMe, if your zipped file is about 5K or smaller, it’s v2, while v3 files will be about 8K.  If you open the files and download them from Notepad to Excel, a v2 file will have about 575,000 rows in the spreadsheet, where the v3 file will have about 950,000.

Now that we’ve said all of that, we’re not even going to speculate about what the v4 chip that 23andMe is planning will do.  It’s not getting larger, it’s getting smaller again…so compatibility bets are off…that is….if there is a v4.  If 23andMe doesn’t get squared away with the FDA, it’s a moot point, which brings us back to why we were downloading our files in the first place.

23andMe Pulls Affiliate Marketing Program

alarmYou know those ads you see everyplace on the internet for 23andMe?  Well, you won’t anymore.  23andMe has cancelled their affiliate marketing program according to an e-mail sent to affiliates yesterday.

23andMe Affiliate Program Update

We are writing to let you know that 23andMe is suspending its affiliate program at this time.

We appreciate all the work you have done with us and sincerely hope we will be able to work together again in the future.

Today we have set all our publisher accounts, including yours, to expire from our Commission Junction program. After the standard 7 day grace period, you will stop receiving commission.

We ask you to remove any 23andMe links and promotions from your site.

Please let us know if we can answer any questions.

We appreciate your understanding and cooperation.

Best,

CJ Swenson, Online Marketing Manager

For a company whose entire business presence is electronic, this doesn’t bode well for the future.  It’s obvious that 23andMe is working to comply with the FDA’s 15 day cease and desist mandate.  It’s equally obvious that the resolution is not going to be simply another extension of time to comply with the FDA requirements while business continues as usual.

You know, last week, when I said that I wasn’t an alarmist and I really felt that 23andMe would pull through this and be OK….well, I’m not so sure anymore.

So, folks it’s time to start copying health results, downloading files and contacting your matches to be sure they have your e-mail.  Remember, your only way to contact them is through the 23andMe system, and 23andMe’s longevity is in grave doubt today.

Yep, I’m sounding the alarm.  The 15 business day grace period given to 23andMe by the FDA, depending on how you count the Thanksgiving holiday ends either on Friday the 13th (no joke) or on Monday or Tuesday, the 16th or 17th.  It’s time to get busy, just in case.