About Me

Roberta Estes has been a professional scientist and business owner for 25+ years, (BS Computer Science, MBA, graduate work in Geographic Information Systems), as well as an obsessed genealogist since 1978. 

In 2005, reflecting her interest and expertise in genetics for genealogy, she formed DNAeXplain, a company providing individual analysis of DNA results and genealogical assistance.  Please visit the web site at www.dnaexplain.com

In 2009, DNAeXplain and Family Tree DNA teamed to jointly offer Personalized DNA Reports for customers.  http://www.dnaxplain.com/shop/features.aspx

In 2000, thanks to FamilyTreeDNA, the infant scientific field of DNA for genealogy emerged, allowing DNA to be used to trace individuals to common ancestors.  With traditional genealogical records already researched to no avail, and several brick walls needing to fall, Roberta was one of the early DNA surname administrators and pioneer adopters of DNA analysis for genealogy.  

Roberta manages over 20 surname projects and is the founder of the Lost Colony DNA research projects.  Her regional Cumberland Gap Yline and mitochondrial DNA projects have several thousand participants.    She also co-administers several Native American and African DNA projects and serves in an advisory capacity for the Melungeon project and other groups. 

Roberta speaks and writes widely about DNA and genealogy, including the Native Heritage Project at www.nativeheritageproject.com.

383 thoughts on “About Me

  1. I’ve been using DNA painter to map out cousins listed at MyHeritage. On chromosome 15 I noticed 35 cousins starting at 20,004,966 with short matches between 15 – 25 cM. What could that mean?

    • In some cases, they may be accurate, and in some cases they maybe noise. It’s helpful to test other family members to see if they have the same occurrence on the same chromosome which increases the likelihood that it’s accurate.

  2. Hi Roberta, I’ve made some tests at FTDNA (waiting for the BigY now) and I’d like to fully (or nearly) understand all the mechanics of haplogroups and SNPs. I see that there are many groups with many associated SNPs (R1b-M269 has 97 or so). A haplogroup should be defined by one SNP, right? Having so many SNP means that all but one correspond to groups further down the tree that are not yet defined, right? But … 97? It’s a bit confusing to me.
    Can you shed a little light on this subject please? Thanks in advance.

    • Earlier SNPs that were thought to be unique branches were not, so they are still listed (instead of obsoleted) but now along with M269. In some cases, different labs named the same SNP.

  3. Hi Roberta,
    Your articles have been a recent godsend as I’m quickly learning as much as I can to address a family situation. I’m wondering if you know how accurate transfers from Ancestry DNA to Family TreeDNA are? My father was contacted by a woman who believes he is her father as she matched with his uncle (apparently he matched as her great uncle but this is not yet confirmed) on AncestryDNA. To confirm we had her upload her raw data to Family Tree DNA where my father already had an account and results. According to Family Tree DNA her and my father are 3rd-5th cousins with Shared Centimorgans(cM): 102, and Longest Block(cM): 15. Does this confirm that he is not her father? Wouldn’t they share roughly 3600cMs? This was not sufficient evidence for her, and we are concerned about it being a potential scam(ish) attempt.

    Thank you for any help or insight!

    • Generally, the match would be closer, but the tests at Ancestry after May of 2016 are only about 20% compatible. This doesn’t sound plausible, especially if she tested before that time. If she tested later, on the V4 chip, I would suggest that she retest on the Family Tree DNA platform. I still think it sounds very unlikely.

  4. I am perhaps a bit on the dense side here and think that I will ask what sort of approach would be best in terms of my goals. I have the DNA results, on GEDmatch, for my three siblings and a niece of my father.

    I would like to do two things: 1) combine the DNA of all the children of my parents so that I don’t have to do multiple searches to find matches….as in one stop shopping and 2) separate out the DNA from both parents because my mothers family has been in the country since the colonial days while my fathers line entered the US in 1850. That seems to result in my being swamped with maternal matches….but I am not sure of that. Thus, I want to rule out my maternal line matches all in one fell swoop.

  5. Do you know the name of the program or the website it’s on that let’s you compare two scenarios of how someone is related to you after you enter match details? It tells you the probability between them.

  6. Roberta,

    Love the blog and the work you do, and am a frequent visitor.

    I had a question regarding IBD Segments. Is it possible to get a segment of DNA Say (20-30 CM) on the same chromosome from the same relative and it be IBD even if the segments don’t overlap?

    I was comparing my DNA on DNA painter with 2 other relatives who apparently I share a 2nd great grandfather with. (half 3rd cousins. 74-80 total CM shared respectively). We share large segments on chromosome 14, but they are in different positions.

    I had read in some places on forums people saying that the segments had to overlap to prove IBD or Triangulation, but I’m looking for clarification from someone who I respect in this field of study. Thanks so much……MIKE

  7. Hi Roberta

    Apologies first for using this comment stream but I can’t find an email address for yourself. Understandably.

    Can you advise me on a problem that must have affected other genealogists? I have a family tree on MyHeritage, rather like casting a fly on the water. Some time ago I was advised that several apparently very good matches had been made with my tree. After long analysis I discovered that the source of matching data was a lady who had assumed that my great grandfather was the same person as a gentleman born the same year and of similar name in her tree. She had then simply transferred the subsequent information into her tree.

    I have communicated with her and explained the situation – both gentlemen had produced different children – but my great grandfather’s ancestors and his wife have now been incorporated into this other tree. I have received no reply from the lady in question.

    I am now receiving matches from MyHeritage from other correspondents, who are genuine members of the ‘false’ tree, but who have no connection at all with me. Perhaps genuine connections with me are being turned away because of the recorded data on the ‘false’ tree?

    I have tried unsuccessfully to discuss this with MyHeritage but their contact system relies on multi-choice selection and I receive no reply whichever I select. This problem must have occurred with other genealogists and on other online sites – what does one do in this situation?

    Joe Connell from the UK

  8. MADE THIS POST EARLIER, BUT SEEMS NOT HAVE POSTED PROPERLY, SO I’LL TRY AGAIN.

    I just read your blog dealing with indentured servants. I have a proverbial brick wall involving an indentured servant, and thought perhaps you might have some ideas of how to go about trying to bust it. In a nutshell, about 15 years ago we used FTDNA to trace the Y-DNA of several Denbow and Denbo men in North America, the Caribbean and England. In NA we found that all the various clans, excluding one in Maine, had the same paternal haplotype, originally designated J2F, but latter refined to a specific Jewish tribe (believe it or not). However, the Maine clan, as well as the two English Denbow men all had a male haplotype of R1B, which is very common in Europe.

    Now comes the part about the indentured servant. Prior to the DNA testing, my Ohio clan, which traces back to a Maryland clan, had discovered that we apparently traced back to an indentured servant, John Denboe, who came to the Crown Colony of Maryland in 1664. We have found record of his indenture and know who he was indentured too — one Thomas Thurston, a renegade Quaker.

    The other NA Denbo(w)s, with the exception of the Maine clan, also trace back to this same indentured servant. How do we know this? Another Denbow (James, professor of archaeology and anthropology at the University of Texas), a member of our Iowa Clan, and I were perfect Y-DNA matches out to over 60 markers, proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Iowa clan and the Ohio clan both come off the same Maryland stem, although we’ve been unable to unearth the paperwork to prove that in the conventional way.

    We have not found any references to this John Denboe in English records. He appears on the Maryland shores, originally Cecil County, then Harford County, as an indentured servant of said Thurston. We have speculated that he may have been the son of a Denbow woman and Jewish man, and then was given his mother’s name, much as the situation you described with indentured female servants who became pregnant while still serving their time in bondage. However, in this case, if this theory is correct, the pregnancy and birth would have occurred in England, prior to John’s indenture.

    The other possibility is that there is somewhere in England a small group of Denbows who have the J2F haplotype and that the female line cross-over occurred at any earlier date. I personally tend to doubt this possibility, because if it was the case it probably would be easier to find reference to John in English records.

    At any rate, I just thought you might have some insights into this kind of problem since it has some common elements with your blog on indentured servants and you seem to have some expertise on that subject.

    Thanks for any help you might be able to give.

    Carl

    • Have you considered an adoption of a haplogroup J baby boy in England?? by a haplogroup R family.[maybe by remarriage of his widowed mother to the R Denbow man]…and the adopted boy or his descendant was indentured to serve in Maryland??

  9. I would like to find out whether my half sister and I share a mother or a father. We are adopted and do not have any other relatives to test. We found each other because friends told us we look alike! What’s our best bet test at FTDNA? At this time, confirming our relationship through autosomal testing (we tested with a private company) and trying to learn which parent we share is our only interest.

  10. Hi Roberta,
    I have very little information about my mother’s parents, other than her father. And I suspect that my mothers lied on my birth certificate about my biological father whom I have never known or met, though I have seen pictures of him & been told my other family members he was my father.
    I would like to have a full report done on all of my ancestors – from both : my mother’s side & my father’s side of my family.
    Can you please advise me on which report would be best & help me to do this.
    Many thanks in advance!

  11. I have a “brick wall” in my husband’s tree. Edward G Estes born in TN, lived in Salem, Marion County Illinois. My husband refused to submit a DNA sample, but my daughter did. There are DNA matches to Estes families that connect to the Abraham lines but I have not been able to find how Edward is related to them. Any suggestions how I can resolve this?

  12. Hi Roberta, I’ve really enjoyed reading through your posts and responses. You help make the complex much easier to comprehend — something we need when it comes to genetics (and much else!). I have a question. I’ve been involved in an effort to unravel a lot of “wishful thinking” about the origins of the Cochran(e) family and have specifically undertaken to locate Cochran(e) men with known County Londonderry, NI ancestors and use y-chromosome tests to validate family lore about our exact origins of our family. It’s worked beautifully as I’ve arranged over 30 111 marker y-DNA tests and have a whole flock of genetic cousins we never could be sure of before (and by the way excluded seven other Cochrane lines that cannot possibly be related to us in the male line). But now I’m down to the nitty-gritty of things. I have isolated a group of Cochran(e) men that vary by a genetic distance of 0 to 3 and the majority of them vary on the basis of the allele value of STR marker DYS442 — it’s either 13 or 14 among this group. My question is simple — are there any general rules to say which way these STR marker mutations go — higher or lower from an “original value” of any given allele? I have tracked the Irish ancestors of these men down to a townland level — an amazing feat — and am trying to grapple with which of these ancestral lines might have led to another. I won’t be disappointed to learn that it’s all random up or down movement of STR allele values, but don’t want to overlook the possibility of inferring something important from the results I’ve seen. I’d be grateful to hear what you have to say. Thank you. RMC- Big Rapids, Michigan.

    • Generally it’s lower to higher, BUT, we have a significant number of back mutations AND your situation would not necessarily be the norm. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t know of any publications on this matter. Let me poke around a bit and see what I can determine. It’s a very interesting question and the answer now that we have a lot more data might be different than what we thought we knew previously.

  13. I believe I am a descendant of the Edward Mercer b. 12 Dec. 1704 in Frederick, VA. One of the sons of Edward and Ann Coats was a Moses Mercer (1732) who was the father of Edward (1776 also in Frederick). Edward and spouse Mary Ellis had a son Edward, Jr. born in PA in 1801. he married Jane Tweedy in Ohio in 1826 and one of their children was my great, great grandmother Sarah Jane Mercer who married David Watkins. Many from that branch went to Bureau Co., IL

    • I would live to know if you match any of the Crumley descendants. If you have taken the Family Finder year at Family Tree DNA, please join the Crumley surname project.

  14. Roberta, thank you for sharing your extensive research and findings; I have seen more on my maternal Haplogroup D1f1 here than anywhere on the internet. I always felt Native inside and had no way to know being adopted. thanks again! M, Tallahassee, FL

  15. There is a wonderful article about a doctor tracing ALS through the Cumberland Gap area.
    STAT: Rick Berke

  16. Roberta,

    What is your policy on the reposting of your posts? I am a member of a forum where someone reposted your post, “Proving or Disproving a Half Sibling Relationship Using DNAPainter” verbatim with the following disclaimer at the top of their post;

    From dna-explained.com – https://dna-explained.com/ – Standard disclaimer from dna-explained.com says they are affiliated with FTDNA (DUH! 😵

    They never once mention who you are.

    Jeff

    • My preference would clearly be accreditation. If they posted the words and not the link, meaning the article itself, that’s a copyright violation unless they ask and receive permission. Also, the comment about affiliation with FTDNA is a bit misleading in that I have relationships with various companies as almost all prominent bloggers do. I state that at the bottom of every article so I’m wondering about the purpose of stating one. Perhaps they don’t understand copyright law.

      • Well, they do have the link. I was curious about that comment too. I thought it implied that you are somehow an employee of FTDNA or something like that. As I did say that they do NOT mention or state your name. Should I say something to the owners of the forum?

        • I am not an employee of Family Tree DNA. I do have a contractual relationship with them as well as the other companies listed at the bottom of my articles. I’m glad they posted the link and not the words. You might ask what the purpose of their comment. Do they do that when they post other links too? I’m glad for the link to be posted. The rest is curious. Maybe just a comment that I freely disclose at the bottom of each article and not limited to FTDNA would suffice.

  17. Roberta,

    I believe that the problem is solved. Overnight, the person removed everything save the title and URL for every blog post that they “borrowed.” Btw, they had reposted articles from you and several other people that you would know. I think that this “incident” is over.

  18. Hi . I been searching 4 days after I receive my y male Y chromosome test but I couldn’t find where can i find matches result or relative can you help me please

  19. Hello, According to a 1827 church record from the Oberstedten, Hesse Lutheran parish my 4th grandfather was a v. Hammerstein from Britain . So far I have no DNA proof yet ! My mothers kit # T714363 and mine # T568598 have some weak connections with other kits here on this forum. But this might also come through other related emigant families from our Hesse region to USA/Canada … Curiously we have quite strong matches with kits who have REBER families from Reading/Manheim Pennsylvania in their trees …

  20. I have tested with all three and have no close matches. Also with Igenea, swiss company. Istill have no real close matches. Adopted in 1960 from a French woman in Morocco by american couple. 3rd to 5th cousins, mostly French. I am not convinced that my adoptive dad is not my birth dad. Would a male second cousin once removed ( hopefully i got that right) have some common dna with me ? I have no natches with adoptive father’s relative who have done the tests. What is the liklihood that he coukd still be my birth father? Thanks.

  21. Is it possible for two men with an MRCA of 6 on Ancestry’s Y-DNA test (2012) to not share enough autosomal DNA to show up as matches to each other on Ancestry’s Autosomal DNA test? Also, if two men were identical matches for each of the 46 markers on Ancestry’s Y-DNA, does that mean they share the same father? Thank you for any info you can provide on this. I’ve been trying to solve find an answer to each question for the past 5 years.

    • Yes, it’s possible with a difference of 6 to share no autosomal DNA. A difference of 6 probably signifies many generations difference. And no, even if the Y DNA matches identically, it does not mean one is the father. I have some people in my projects who share an ancestor 8 or 9 generations ago and still match identically. Another line descending from the same ancestor has several mutations in the same number of generations. If the people can retest at Family Tree DNA, including the Y and Family Finder, that would be most useful.

  22. My parents had their DNA tested by AncestryBy DNA in 2006 before the company folded. They are now deceased and this was their only DNA test. Is it possible to transfer their data to any of the Big 3? Thank you.

    • They didn’t exactly fold. They are still there. I don’t believe they retain the original sample, but it would be worth a phone call. The answer to your question about a transfer is no. Did they have the Y or mitochondrial test done?

      • It looks like they had the standard 176 marker test to generally gauge racial ancestry percentages and did not do mitochondria or Y tests. I will try and track down a phone number and see what is possible. Thanks for the quick response, and your story on Jacob Lenz was fascinating!

        • That’s the old DNA Print test that has been obsolete for 15 years. Ethnicity tests from the major vendors use about 700,000 markers. It’s too bad they didn’t test any other markers, but at least you know.

  23. I recently signed up for DNA Explained. I read the latest one today (
    Dorothea Catharina Wolflin (1755-?), Despair in the Abyss of the High Sea – 52 Ancestors #215) and I really enjoyed it. I am a descendant of German grandparents so I recognized places etc. Thanks for keeping me entertained this afternoon.
    —> Anne Grimm

  24. I participated in autosomal DNA testing with Ancestry and FTDNA approximately 5-6 years ago. I have been impressed with MyHeritage and their emerging tools and international database (I have already uploaded my results to the site). Knowing that testing methods are sometimes tweaked and can differ somewhat between vendors, I was wondering if I should take a new test (MyHeritage has a great seasonal deal ongoing)? If there would be any advantage to doing so, I wouldn’t mind spending the money. Any expert input would be appreciated!

  25. Hi Roberta, I have a puzzle I was hoping you could help me with. My friend did his DNA at 23 and Me and discovered he was only 1/2 Jewish, instead of 100% Jewish. He also had a very close match 1632 cm/25 segments. I offered to take a look at it for him and he contacted the close match. The match told him that he was donor conceived from a clinic close to where my friend’s family lived when he was conceived.

    And so that’s the mystery apparently solved except for one thing: they don’t share the same paternal haplogroup. They don’t share the same maternal haplogroup either nor any x material. My friend’s paternal haplogroup is I-L1498 and his match’s paternal haplogroup is I-M423. Is it possible for them to be half brothers and not share the same paternal haplogroup?

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