442 Ancient Viking Skeletons Hold DNA Surprises – Does Your Y or Mitochondrial DNA Match? Daily Updates Here!

Yesterday, in the journal Nature, the article “Population genomics of the Viking world,” was published by Margaryan, et al, a culmination of 6 years of work.

Just hours later, Science Daily published the article, “World’s largest DNA sequencing of Viking skeletons reveals they weren’t all Scandinavian.” Science magazine published “’Viking’ was a job description, not a matter of heredity, massive ancient DNA study shows.” National Geographic wrote here, and CNN here.

Vikings Not All Scandinavian – Or Blonde

Say what??? That’s not at all what we thought we knew. That’s the great thing about science – we’re always learning something new.

442 Viking skeletons from outside Scandinavia were sequenced by Eske Willerslev’s lab, producing whole genome sequences for both men and women from sites in Scotland, Ukraine, Poland, Russia, the Baltic, Iceland, Greenland and elsewhere in continental Europe. They were then compared to known Viking samples from Scandinavia.

Not the grave where the sample was taken, but a Viking cemetery from Denmark.

One Viking boat burial in an Estonian Viking cemetery shows that 4 Viking brothers died and were buried together, ostensibly perishing in the same battle, on the same day. Based on their DNA, the brothers probably came from Sweden.

Vikings raiding parties from Scandinavia originated in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. At least some Viking raiders seem to be closely related to each other, and females in Iceland appear to be from the British Isles, suggesting that they may have “become” Vikings – although we don’t really understand the social and community structure.

Genes found in Vikings were contributed from across Europe, including southern Europe, and as afar away as Asia. Due to mixing resulting from the Viking raids beginning at Lindisfarne in 793 , the UK population today carries as much as 6% Viking DNA. Surprisingly, Swedes had only 10%.

Some Viking burials in both Orkney and Norway were actually genetically Pictish men. Converts, perhaps? One of these burials may actually be the earliest Pict skeleton sequenced to date.

Y DNA

Of the 442 skeletons, about 300 were male. The whole genome sequence includes the Y chromosome along with mitochondrial DNA, although it requires special processing to separate it usefully.

Goran Runfeldt, a member of the Million Mito team and head of research at FamilyTreeDNA began downloading DNA sequences immediately, and Michael Sager began analyzing Y DNA, hoping to add or split Y DNA tree branches.

Given the recent split of haplogroup P and A00, these ancient samples hold HUGE promise.

Michael and Goran have agreed to share their work as they process these samples – providing a rare glimpse real-time into the lab.

You and the Tree

Everyone is so excited about this paper, and I want you to be able to see if your Y or mitochondrial DNA, or that of your relatives matches the DNA haplogroups in the paper.

The paper itself uses the older letter=number designations for Y DNA haplogroup, so FamilyTreeDNA is rerunning, aligning and certifying the actual SNPs. The column FTDNA Haplogroup reflects the SNP Y haplogroup name.

Note that new Y DNA branches appear on the tree the day AFTER the change is made, and right now, changes resulting from this paper are being made hourly. I will update the haplogroup information daily as more becomes available. Pay particular attention to the locations that show where the graves were found along with the FamilyTreeDNA notes.

Goran has also included the mtDNA haplogroup as identified in the paper. Mitochondrial DNA haplogroups have not been recalculated, but you just might see them in the Million Mito Project😊

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Go to your Y or mitochondrial DNA results and find your haplogroup.

  • Do a browser search on this article to see if your haplogroup is shown. On a PC, that’s CTRL+F to show the “find” box. If your haplogroup isn’t showing, you could be downstream of the Viking haplogroup, so you’ll need to use the Y DNA Block Tree (for Big Y testers) or public haplotree, here.
  • If you’ve taken the Big Y test, click on the Block Tree on your results page and then look across the top of your results page to see if the haplogroup in question is “upstream” or a parent of your haplogroup.

click to enlarge

If you don’t see it, keep scanning to the left until you see the last SNP.

click to enlarge

  • If the haplogroup you are seeking is NOT shown in your direct upstream branches, you can type the name of the haplogroup into the search box. For example, I’ve typed I-BY3428. You can also simply click on the FTDNA name haplogroup link in the table, below, considerately provided by Goran.

click to enlarge

I don’t see the intersecting SNP yet, between the tester and the ancient sample, so if I click on I-Y2592, I can view the rest of the upstream branches of haplogroup I.

click to enlarge

By looking at the Y DNA SNPs of the tester, and the Y DNA SNPs of the ancient sample, I can see that the intersecting SNP is DF29, roughly 52 SNP generations in the past. Rule of thumb is that SNP generations are 80-100 years each.

How About You – Are You Related to a Viking?

Below, you’ll find the information from Y DNA results in the paper, reprocessed and analyzed, with FamilyTreeDNA verified SNP names, along with the mitochondrial DNA haplogroup of each Viking male.

Are you related, and if so, how closely?

I was surprised to find a sister-branch to my own mitochondrial J1c2f. J1c2 and several subclades or branches were found in Viking burials.

I need to check all of my ancestral lines, both male and female. There’s history waiting to be revealed. What have you discovered?

Ancient Viking Sample Information

Please note that this information will be updated on business days until all samples have been processed and placed on the Y DNA tree – so this will be a “live” copy of the most current phylogenetic information.

Link to the locations to see the locations of the excavation sites, and the haplogroups for the tree locations. Michael Sager is making comments as he reviews each sample.

Enjoy!

Sample: VK14 / Russia_Ladoga_5680-12
Location: Ladoga, Russia
Age: Viking 10-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: I-BY3428
mtDNA: J1c1a

Sample: VK16 / Russia_Ladoga_5680-2
Location: Ladoga, Russia
Age: Viking 11-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: I-M253
mtDNA: X2b4

Sample: VK17 / Russia_Ladoga_5680-17
Location: Ladoga, Russia
Age: Viking 10-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: T-Y22559
FTDNA Comment: Shares 5 SNPs with a man from Chechen Republic, forming a new branch down of T-Y22559 (T-Y138678)
mtDNA: U5a2a1b

Sample: VK18 / Russia_Ladoga_5680-3
Location: Ladoga, Russia
Age: Viking 10-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-YP1370
mtDNA: H1b1

Sample: VK20 / Russia_Ladoga_5680-1
Location: Ladoga, Russia
Age: Viking 11th century CE
Y-DNA: I-Z24071
FTDNA Comment: Splits the I-Z24071 branch, positive only for Y22478. New path = I-Y22486>I-Y22478>I-Z24071
mtDNA: H6c

Sample: VK22 / Russia_Ladoga_5680-13
Location: Ladoga, Russia
Age: Viking 10-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: I-A8462
mtDNA: T2b

Sample: VK23 / Russia_Ladoga_5680-9
Location: Ladoga, Russia
Age: Viking 10-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: I-M253
mtDNA: U4a1a

Sample: VK24 / Faroe_AS34/Panum
Location: Hvalba, Faroes
Age: Viking 11th century
Y-DNA: R-FGC12948
mtDNA: J1b1a1a

Sample: VK25 / Faroe_1
Location: Church2, Faroes
Age: Early modern 16-17th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-BY11762
FTDNA Comment: Splits the R-BY11762 branch, positive for 5 variants ancestral for ~14, new path = R-A8041>R-BY11764>BY11762
mtDNA: H3a1a

Sample: VK27 / Faroe_10
Location: Church2, Faroes
Age: Early modern 16-17th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-L513
mtDNA: U5a1g1

Sample: VK29 / Sweden_Skara 17
Location: Varnhem, Skara, Sweden
Age: Viking 10-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: I-S7642
mtDNA: T2b3b

Sample: VK30 / Sweden_Skara 105
Location: Varnhem, Skara, Sweden
Age: Viking 10-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-S2857
mtDNA: U5b1c2b

Sample: VK31 / Sweden_Skara 194
Location: Varnhem, Skara, Sweden
Age: Viking 10-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-L21
mtDNA: I4a

Sample: VK34 / Sweden_Skara 135
Location: Varnhem, Skara, Sweden
Age: Viking 10-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-BY111759
mtDNA: HV-T16311C!

Sample: VK35 / Sweden_Skara 118
Location: Varnhem, Skara, Sweden
Age: Viking 10-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-S5153
mtDNA: T2f1a1

Sample: VK39 / Sweden_Skara 181
Location: Varnhem, Skara, Sweden
Age: Viking 10-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: G-Z1817
mtDNA: T2b4b

Sample: VK40 / Sweden_Skara 106
Location: Varnhem, Skara, Sweden
Age: Viking 10-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-BY1701
FTDNA Comment: Shares 10 SNPs with a man with unknown origins (American) downstream of R-BY1701. New branch R-BY166438
mtDNA: T1a1

Sample: VK42 / Sweden_Skara 62
Location: Varnhem, Skara, Sweden
Age: Viking 10-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: J-FGC32685
mtDNA: T2b11

Sample: VK44 / Faroe_17
Location: Church2, Faroes
Age: Early modern 16-17th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-S658
mtDNA: H3a1a

Sample: VK45 / Faroe_18
Location: Church2, Faroes
Age: Early modern 16-17th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-CTS8277
mtDNA: H3a1

Sample: VK46 / Faroe_19
Location: Church2, Faroes
Age: Early modern 16-17th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-BY202785
mtDNA: H5

Sample: VK48 / Gotland_Kopparsvik-212/65
Location: Kopparsvik, Gotland, Sweden
Age: Viking 900-1050 CE
Y-DNA: R-FGC52679
mtDNA: H10e

Sample: VK50 / Gotland_Kopparsvik-53.64
Location: Kopparsvik, Gotland, Sweden
Age: Viking 900-1050 CE
Y-DNA: I-Y22923
mtDNA: H1-T16189C!

Sample: VK51 / Gotland_Kopparsvik-88/64
Location: Kopparsvik, Gotland, Sweden
Age: Viking 900-1050 CE
Y-DNA: N-L1026
mtDNA: U5b1e1

Sample: VK53 / Gotland_Kopparsvik-161/65
Location: Kopparsvik, Gotland, Sweden
Age: Viking 900-1050 CE
Y-DNA: I-CTS10228
mtDNA: HV9b

Sample: VK57 / Gotland_Frojel-03601
Location: Frojel, Gotland, Sweden
Age: Viking 900-1050 CE
Y-DNA: R-L151
mtDNA: J1c6

Sample: VK60 / Gotland_Frojel-00702
Location: Frojel, Gotland, Sweden
Age: Viking 900-1050 CE
Y-DNA: R-YP1026
mtDNA: H13a1a1b

Sample: VK64 / Gotland_Frojel-03504
Location: Frojel, Gotland, Sweden
Age: Viking 900-1050 CE
Y-DNA: R-BY58559
mtDNA: I1a1

Sample: VK70 / Denmark_Tollemosegard-EW
Location: Tollemosegård, Sealand, Denmark
Age: Early Viking Late Germanic Iron Age/early Viking
Y-DNA: I-BY73576
mtDNA: H7d4

Sample: VK71 / Denmark_Tollemosegard-BU
Location: Tollemosegård, Sealand, Denmark
Age: Early Viking Late Germanic Iron Age/early Viking
Y-DNA: I-S22349
mtDNA: U5a1a

Sample: VK75 / Greenland late-0929
Location: V051, Western Settlement, Greenland
Age: Late Norse 1300 CE
Y-DNA: R-P310
mtDNA: H54

Sample: VK87 / Denmark_Hesselbjerg Grav 41b, sk PC
Location: Hesselbjerg, Jutland, Denmark
Age: Viking 850-900 CE
Y-DNA: R-Z198
mtDNA: K1c2

Sample: VK95 / Iceland_127
Location: Hofstadir, Iceland
Age: Viking 10-13th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-S658
mtDNA: H6a1a3a

Sample: VK98 / Iceland_083
Location: Hofstadir, Iceland
Age: Viking 10-13th centuries CE
Y-DNA: I-BY3430
FTDNA Comment: Splits I-BY3430. Derived for 1 ancestral for 6. New path = I-BY3433>I-BY3430
mtDNA: T2b3b

Sample: VK101 / Iceland_125
Location: Hofstadir, Iceland
Age: Viking 10-13th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-BY110718
mtDNA: U5b1g

Sample: VK102 / Iceland_128
Location: Hofstadir, Iceland
Age: Viking 10-13th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-FGC23826
FTDNA Comment: Shares 3 SNPs with a man from Sweden. Forms a new branch downstream of R-FGC23826. New branch = R-Y96503
mtDNA: J1c3f

Sample: VK110 / Iceland_115S
Location: Hofstadir, Iceland
Age: Viking 10-13th centuries CE
Y-DNA: I-FGC21682
mtDNA: H10-x

Sample: VK117 / Norway_Trondheim_SK328
Location: Trondheim, Nor_Mid, Norway
Age: Medieval 12-13th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-S9257
mtDNA: H1a3a

Sample: VK123 / Iceland_X104
Location: Hofstadir, Iceland
Age: Viking 10-13th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-V1180
FTDNA Comment: Shares 17 SNPs with a man from the UAE. Creates a new branch downstream of R2-V1180. New branch = R-Y130994
mtDNA: J1c9

Sample: VK127 / Iceland_HDR08
Location: Hringsdalur, Iceland
Age: Viking 10th century CE
Y-DNA: R-BY92608
mtDNA: H3g1b

Sample: VK129 / Iceland_ING08
Location: Ingiridarstadir, Iceland
Age: Viking 10th century CE
Y-DNA: R-YP278
FTDNA Comment: Shares 3 SNPs with a man from Sweden. Forms a new branch downstream of R1a-YP275. New branch = R-BY154143
mtDNA: U5b1b1a

Sample: VK133 / Denmark_Galgedil KO
Location: Galgedil, Funen, Denmark
Age: Viking 8-11th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-Z8
mtDNA: K1a4a1a3

Sample: VK134 / Denmark_Galgedil ALZ
Location: Galgedil, Funen, Denmark
Age: Viking 9-11th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-BY97519
mtDNA: H1cg

Sample: VK138 / Denmark_Galgedil AQQ
Location: Galgedil, Funen, Denmark
Age: Viking 9-11th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-S1491
mtDNA: T2b5

Sample: VK139 / Denmark_Galgedil ANG
Location: Galgedil, Funen, Denmark
Age: Viking 9-11th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-BY32008
mtDNA: J1c3k

Sample: VK140 / Denmark_Galgedil PT
Location: Galgedil, Funen, Denmark
Age: Viking 9-11th centuries CE
Y-DNA: G-M201
mtDNA: H27f

Sample: VK143 / UK_Oxford_#7
Location: St_John’s_College_Oxford, Oxford, England, UK
Age: Viking 880-1000 CE
Y-DNA: R-Y13816
FTDNA Comment: Splits R-Y13816. Derived for 6 ancestral for 3. New path = R-Y13816>R-Y13833
mtDNA: U5b1b1-T16192C!

Sample: VK144 / UK_Oxford_#8
Location: St_John’s_College_Oxford, Oxford, England, UK
Age: Viking 880-1000 CE
Y-DNA: I-Y2592
mtDNA: V1a1

Sample: VK145 / UK_Oxford_#9
Location: St_John’s_College_Oxford, Oxford, England, UK
Age: Viking 880-1000 CE
Y-DNA: R-YP1708
mtDNA: H17

Sample: VK146 / UK_Oxford_#10
Location: St_John’s_College_Oxford, Oxford, England, UK
Age: Viking 880-1000 CE
Y-DNA: I-M6155
mtDNA: J1c3e1

Sample: VK147 / UK_Oxford_#11
Location: St_John’s_College_Oxford, Oxford, England, UK
Age: Viking 880-1000 CE
Y-DNA: R-Y75899
mtDNA: T1a1q

Sample: VK148 / UK_Oxford_#12
Location: St_John’s_College_Oxford, Oxford, England, UK
Age: Viking 880-1000 CE
Y-DNA: I-M253
mtDNA: H6a1a

Sample: VK149 / UK_Oxford_#13
Location: St_John’s_College_Oxford, Oxford, England, UK
Age: Viking 880-1000 CE
Y-DNA: I-M253
mtDNA: H1a1

Sample: VK150 / UK_Oxford_#14
Location: St_John’s_College_Oxford, Oxford, England, UK
Age: Viking 880-1000 CE
Y-DNA: I-FT4725
mtDNA: H1-C16239T

Sample: VK151 / UK_Oxford_#15
Location: St_John’s_College_Oxford, Oxford, England, UK
Age: Viking 880-1000 CE
Y-DNA: I-S19291
mtDNA: T2b4-T152C!

Sample: VK153 / Poland_Bodzia B1
Location: Bodzia, Poland
Age: Viking 10-11th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-M198
mtDNA: H1c3

Sample: VK156 / Poland_Bodzia B4
Location: Bodzia, Poland
Age: Viking 10-11th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-Y9081
mtDNA: J1c2c2a

Sample: VK157 / Poland_Bodzia B5
Location: Bodzia, Poland
Age: Viking 10-11th centuries CE
Y-DNA: I-S2077
mtDNA: H1c

Sample: VK159 / Russia_Pskov_7283-20
Location: Pskov, Russia
Age: Viking 10-11th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-A7982
mtDNA: U2e2a1d

Sample: VK160 / Russia_Kurevanikka_7283-3
Location: Kurevanikha, Russia
Age: Viking 10-13th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-YP1137
mtDNA: C4a1a-T195C!

Sample: VK163 / UK_Oxford_#1
Location: St_John’s_College_Oxford, Oxford, England, UK
Age: Viking 880-1000 CE
Y-DNA: I-M253
mtDNA: U2e2a1a1

Sample: VK165 / UK_Oxford_#3
Location: St_John’s_College_Oxford, Oxford, England, UK
Age: Viking 880-1000 CE
Y-DNA: I-S18218
mtDNA: U4b1b1

Sample: VK166 / UK_Oxford_#4
Location: St_John’s_College_Oxford, Oxford, England, UK
Age: Viking 880-1000 CE
Y-DNA: R-BY45170
FTDNA Comment: Splits R-BY45170 (DF27). Derived for 2, ancestral for 7. New path = R-BY67003>R-BY45170
mtDNA: H3ag

Sample: VK167 / UK_Oxford_#5
Location: St_John’s_College_Oxford, Oxford, England, UK
Age: Viking 880-1000 CE
Y-DNA: I-BY34674
mtDNA: H4a1a4b

Sample: VK168 / UK_Oxford_#6
Location: St_John’s_College_Oxford, Oxford, England, UK
Age: Viking 880-1000 CE
Y-DNA: R-Z18
mtDNA: H4a1a4b

Sample: VK170 / Isle-of-Man_Balladoole
Location: Balladoole, IsleOfMan
Age: Viking 9-10th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-S3201
mtDNA: HV9b

Sample: VK172 / UK_Oxford_#16
Location: St_John’s_College_Oxford, Oxford, England, UK
Age: Viking 880-1000 CE
Y-DNA: R-YP355
mtDNA: I1a1e

Sample: VK173 / UK_Oxford_#17
Location: St_John’s_College_Oxford, Oxford, England, UK
Age: Viking 880-1000 CE
Y-DNA: I-FT12648
FTDNA Comment: Splits I2-FT12648, derived for 5, ancestral for 7. New path FT13004>FT12648
mtDNA: U5a1b-T16362C

Sample: VK174 / UK_Oxford_#18
Location: St_John’s_College_Oxford, Oxford, England, UK
Age: Viking 880-1000 CE
Y-DNA: R-FGC17429
mtDNA: H1-C16239T

Sample: VK175 / UK_Oxford_#19
Location: St_John’s_College_Oxford, Oxford, England, UK
Age: Viking 880-1000 CE
Y-DNA: R-BY38950
FTDNA Comment: Shares 6 SNPs with man from Sweden down of R-BY38950 (R-Y47841)
mtDNA: H1a1

Sample: VK176 / UK_Oxford_#20
Location: St_John’s_College_Oxford, Oxford, England, UK
Age: Viking 880-1000 CE
Y-DNA: I-S18218
mtDNA: H10

Sample: VK177 / UK_Oxford_#21
Location: St_John’s_College_Oxford, Oxford, England, UK
Age: Viking 880-1000 CE
Y-DNA: R-BY220332
FTDNA Comment: Shares 3 SNPs with a man from Greece. Forms a new branch downstream of R-BY220332 (U152). New branch = R-FT31867
mtDNA: H82

Sample: VK178 / UK_Oxford_#22
Location: St_John’s_College_Oxford, Oxford, England, UK
Age: Viking 880-1000 CE
Y-DNA: R-BY176959
FTDNA Comment: Links up with PGA3 (Personal Genome Project Austria) and FTDNA customer from Denmark. PGA and FTDNA customer formed a branch earlier this week, VK178 will join them at R-BY176639 (Under L48)
mtDNA: K2a5

Sample: VK179 / Greenland F2
Location: Ø029a, Eastern Settlement, Greenland
Age: Early Norse 10-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: I-F3312
mtDNA: K1a3a

Sample: VK180 / Greenland F3
Location: Ø029a, Eastern Settlement, Greenland
Age: Early Norse 10-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: P-P226
mtDNA: J1c3b

Sample: VK183 / Greenland F6
Location: Ø029a, Eastern Settlement, Greenland
Age: Early Norse 10-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: I-F3312
mtDNA: T2b21

Sample: VK184 / Greenland F7
Location: Ø029a, Eastern Settlement, Greenland
Age: Early Norse 10-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-YP4342
mtDNA: H4a1a4b

Sample: VK186 / Greenland KNK-[6]
Location: Ø64, Eastern Settlement, Greenland
Age: Early Norse 10-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: I-Y24625
FTDNA Comment: Shares 3 SNPs with a man from Norway downstream of I-Y24625. New branch = I-Y79817
mtDNA: H1ao

Sample: VK190 / Greenland late-0996
Location: Ø149, Eastern Settlement, Greenland
Age: Late Norse 1360 CE
Y-DNA: I-FGC15561
FTDNA Comment: Splits I-FGC15561. Derived 11 ancestral for 6. New path = I-FGC15543>I-FGC15561
mtDNA: K1a-T195C!

Sample: VK201 / Orkney_Buckquoy, sk M12
Location: Buckquoy_Birsay, Orkney, Scotland, UK
Age: Viking 10th century CE
Y-DNA: I-B293
mtDNA: H3k1a

Sample: VK202 / Orkney_Buckquoy, sk 7B
Location: Buckquoy_Birsay, Orkney, Scotland, UK
Age: Viking 10th century CE
Y-DNA: R-A151
mtDNA: H1ai1

Sample: VK203 / Orkney_BY78, Ar. 1, sk 3
Location: Brough_Road_Birsay, Orkney, Scotland, UK
Age: Viking 10th century CE
Y-DNA: R-BY10450
mtDNA: H4a1a1a1a1

Sample: VK204 / Orkney_Newark for Brothwell
Location: Newark_Deerness, Orkney, Scotland, UK
Age: Viking 10th century CE
Y-DNA: R-BY115469
mtDNA: H1m

Sample: VK205 / Orkney_Newark 68/12
Location: Newark_Deerness, Orkney, Scotland, UK
Age: Viking 10th century CE
Y-DNA: R-YP4345
mtDNA: H3

Sample: VK210 / Poland_Kraków-Zakrzówek gr. 24
Location: Kraków, Poland
Age: Medieval 11-13th centuries CE
Y-DNA: I-Z16971
mtDNA: H5e1a1

Sample: VK211 / Poland_Cedynia gr. 435
Location: Cedynia, Poland
Age: Medieval 11-13 centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-M269
mtDNA: W6

Sample: VK212 / Poland_Cedynia gr. 558
Location: Cedynia, Poland
Age: Viking 11-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-CTS11962
mtDNA: H1-T152C!

Sample: VK215 / Denmark_Gerdrup-B; sk 1
Location: Gerdrup, Sealand, Denmark
Age: Viking 9th century CE
Y-DNA: R-M269
mtDNA: J1c2k

Sample: VK217 / Sweden_Ljungbacka
Location: Ljungbacka, Malmo, Sweden
Age: Viking 9-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-L151
mtDNA: J1b1b1

Sample: VK218 / Russia_Ladoga_5680-4
Location: Ladoga, Russia
Age: Viking 10-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-BY2848
mtDNA: H5

Sample: VK219 / Russia_Ladoga_5680-10
Location: Ladoga, Russia
Age: Viking 10-11th centuries CE
Y-DNA: I-Y22024
mtDNA: T2b6a

Sample: VK220 / Russia_Ladoga_5680-11
Location: Ladoga, Russia
Age: Viking 10-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: I-FT253975
FTDNA Comment: CTS2208+, BY47171-, CTS7676-, Y20288-, BY69785-, FT253975+
mtDNA: J2b1a

Sample: VK221 / Russia_Ladoga_5757-14
Location: Ladoga, Russia
Age: Viking 9-10th centuries CE
Y-DNA: I-Y5473
mtDNA: K1d

Sample: VK223 / Russia_Gnezdovo 75-140
Location: Gnezdovo, Russia
Age: Viking 10-11th centuries CE
Y-DNA: I-BY67763
mtDNA: H13a1a1c

Sample: VK224 / Russia_Gnezdovo 78-249
Location: Gnezdovo, Russia
Age: Viking 10-11th centuries CE
Y-DNA: N-CTS2929
mtDNA: H7a1

Sample: VK225 / Iceland_A108
Location: Hofstadir, Iceland
Age: Viking 10-13th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-BY92608
mtDNA: H3v-T16093C

Sample: VK232 / Gotland_Kopparsvik-240.65
Location: Kopparsvik, Gotland, Sweden
Age: Viking 900-1050 CE
Y-DNA: R-Y16505
FTDNA Comment: Speculative placement – U106+, but U106 (C>T) in ancient samples can be misleading. LAV010, NA34, I7779, ble007, R55 and EDM124 are all non-R ancient samples that are U106+. More conservative placement is at R-P310
mtDNA: N1a1a1

Sample: VK234 / Faroe_2
Location: Church2, Faroes
Age: Early modern 16-17th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-BY11762
FTDNA Comment: Same split as VK25. They share one marker FT381000 (26352237 T>G)
mtDNA: H3a1a

Sample: VK237 / Faroe_15
Location: Church2, Faroes
Age: Early modern 16-17th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-S6355
mtDNA: J2a2c

Sample: VK238 / Faroe_4
Location: Church2, Faroes
Age: Early modern 16-17th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-YP396
mtDNA: H3a1a

Sample: VK239 / Faroe_5
Location: Church2, Faroes
Age: Early modern 16-17th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-M269
mtDNA: H5

Sample: VK242 / Faroe_3
Location: Church2, Faroes
Age: Early modern 16-17th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-S764
mtDNA: H3a1a

Sample: VK244 / Faroe_12
Location: Church2, Faroes
Age: Early modern 16-17th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-CTS4179
mtDNA: H2a2a2

Sample: VK248 / Faroe_22
Location: Church2, Faroes
Age: Early modern 16-17th centuries CE
Y-DNA: I-M253
mtDNA: H49a

Sample: VK251 / Gotland_Kopparsvik-30.64
Location: Kopparsvik, Gotland, Sweden
Age: Viking 900-1050 CE
Y-DNA: R-M459
mtDNA: U5b1e1

Sample: VK260 / UK_Dorset-3735
Location: Ridgeway_Hill_Mass_Grave_Dorset, Dorset, England, UK
Age: Viking 10-11th centuries CE
Y-DNA: Q-BY77336
mtDNA: H1e1a

Sample: VK267 / Sweden_Karda 21
Location: Karda, Sweden
Age: Viking 9-11th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-L23
mtDNA: T2b4b

Sample: VK268 / Sweden_Karda 22
Location: Karda, Sweden
Age: Viking 9-11th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-M269
mtDNA: K1c1

Sample: VK269 / Sweden_Karda 24
Location: Karda, Sweden
Age: Viking 9-11th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-M269
mtDNA: H1e1a

Sample: VK275 / Denmark_Kaargarden 217
Location: Kaagården, Langeland, Denmark
Age: Viking 10th century CE
Y-DNA: I-BY74743
mtDNA: H

Sample: VK279 / Denmark_Galgedil AXE
Location: Galgedil, Funen, Denmark
Age: Viking 10th century CE
Y-DNA: I-Y10639
mtDNA: I4a

Sample: VK280 / Denmark_Galgedil UO
Location: Galgedil, Funen, Denmark
Age: Viking 9-11th centuries CE
Y-DNA: I-Y3713
mtDNA: H11a

Sample: VK282 / Denmark_Stengade I, LMR c195
Location: Stengade_I, Langeland, Denmark
Age: Viking 10th century CE
Y-DNA: R-CTS1211
mtDNA: H4a1a4b

Sample: VK287 / Denmark_Kaargarden Grav BS
Location: Kaagården, Langeland, Denmark
Age: Viking 10th century CE
Y-DNA: R-S22676
mtDNA: T2b

Sample: VK292 / Denmark_Bogovej Grav A.D.
Location: Bogøvej, Langeland, Denmark
Age: Viking 10th century CE
Y-DNA: R-M417
mtDNA: J1c2c1

Sample: VK295 / Denmark_Hessum sk 1
Location: Hessum, Funen, Denmark
Age: Viking 9-11th centuries CE
Y-DNA: I-Y4738
mtDNA: T1a1

Sample: VK296 / Denmark_Hundstrup Mose sk 1
Location: Hundstrup_Mose, Sealand, Denmark
Age: Early Viking 660-780 CE
Y-DNA: I-S7660
mtDNA: HV6

Sample: VK297 / Denmark_Hundstrup Mose sk 2
Location: Hundstrup_Mose, Sealand, Denmark
Age: Early Viking 670-830 CE
Y-DNA: I-Y4051
mtDNA: J1c2h

Sample: VK301 / Denmark_Ladby Grav 4
Location: Ladby, Funen, Denmark
Age: Viking 640-890 CE
Y-DNA: I-FT105192
mtDNA: R0a2b

Sample: VK309 / Sweden_Skara 53
Location: Varnhem, Skara, Sweden
Age: Viking 10-12th centuries CE
Y-DNA: R-YP6189
mtDNA: K1b1c

Sample: VK313 / Denmark_Rantzausminde Grav 2
Location: Rantzausminde, Funen, Denmark
Age: Viking 850-900 CE
Y-DNA: R-JFS0009
mtDNA: H1b

Sample: VK315 / Denmark_Bakkendrup Grav 16
Location: Bakkendrup, Sealand, Denmark
Age: Viking 850-900 CE
Y-DNA: I-Y37415
FTDNA Comment: Shares 1 SNP with a man from the Netherlands. Forms a new branch downstream of I-Y37415 (P109). New branch = I-Y98280
mtDNA: T1a1b

Sample: VK355 / Oland_1046
Location: Oland, Sweden
Age: Viking 847 ± 65 CE
Y-DNA: L-L595
FTDNA Comment: Joins 2 other ancients on this rare branch. ASH087 and I2923
mtDNA: U5b1b1a

Sample: VK382 / Oland_1132
Location: Oland, Sweden
Age: Early Viking 700 CE
Y-DNA: I-L813
mtDNA: H3g1

Update History:

  • 9-17-2020 – updated 3 times, approximately one-third complete
  • 9-18-2020 – updated in afternoon with another 124 analyzed

____________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

August Hot News: Ancestry Match Tagging Script, DNA Sales, DNAPainter Newsletter & More

August news.png

This wasn’t exactly how I had in mind to convey these news items, but you know that saying, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans,”? Well, let’s just say it’s one of those weeks/months and years.

So, this article is going to be short and sweet, and I promise a more detailed article in a few days.

However, you need at least some of this info ASAP, so here it is in its rather unrefined raw state.

  • Ancestry Tagging Script
  • Ancestry Acquisition Update
  • Summer Sales
  • MyHeritage Sale
  • FamilyTreeDNA Sale
  • DNAPainter Free Newsletter
  • New Ancient Ancestor

Ancestry Tagging Script (to Save Your Sanity)

A very nice person, Roger Frøysaa, has written a free javascript to group your Ancestry matches. Of course, I’m referring to your 6-8 cM matches that are subject to the upcoming purge later in August.  I’m using Roger’s gracious gift, but struggling because the script keeps timing out, or Ancestry’s backend keeps timing out, etc.

You might need to be at least somewhat comfortable with computers for this to work and it doesn’t work on a tablet or iPad, but does work on a Mac.

I have the latest version of both Chrome and Edge browsers installed on a relatively new computer with lots of memory. For me, the script works best on Edge and in the middle of the night when Ancestry’s servers are less busy. Still, I can’t seem to get below my 6.2 cM matches without the script or Ancestry bombing. It doesn’t help any that my internet service has been flaky this week too.

The author recommends Firefox. (Update. I’ve installed Firefox and it’s running like a champ.)

Here are the instructions: https://docs.google.com/document/d/100BqYdjeVdwmHaT9gTL3miknxm7bKik4KwcHaoUX72I/edit?fbclid=IwAR04u0VQaaVeG-6pkif-ILYmLPQgHTtCf13A0lW4EMPTm0QwOb1hDb9o7L4

Print these out, read them thoroughly, and follow them step by step.

Here’s a link to the script on GitHub: https://github.com/lrf1/ancestry_scripts/blob/master/ancestry_dnsmatches_grouptagger_v2.js

Here’s a YouTube video about how to use the script: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnqGChJL0kw&fbclid=IwAR04iTVzcaKF8YJx2ewX_2rMEXQFaFaNIW5YfPQMlJYG6yfd1U6NvCN47Vc

Individual tweaking is required.

In my case, I have named the group where I want my 6-8 cM matches saved “1saved.” I selected that name because the 1 locates it near the top and I’ll know what’s there.

August ancestry 1saved

Following Roger’s instructions, 1saved should be row 3, but I had to enter row “2” in the script to get the matches to save to the group 1saved.

// MODIFY THE FOLLOWING LINES AS NEEDED

var groupTitle = “1saved“;

var groupRow = 2;

Regardless, the script works, and truthfully, all I really care about is that these matches are preserved.

My biggest problem occurs after the script bombs the first few times, and it will – you’ll need to restart it. Until the script manages to work its way to the location in the file, which is increasing further down in the scrolling, where it discovers matches to be tagged, I must re-enter and re-enter the script to reinitiate the searching.

This is by NO MEANS a complaint because I’m very grateful for this free tool. It’s just an observation that I hope will help you too. Having said that, I can’t tell you how many surnames like Bolton, my grandmother’s birth surname, Estes and Vannoy by various spellings, my great-grandmother’s surname I’ve seen scroll past as they are being tagged. There’s gold in those matches.

Furthermore, many people are reporting successes now that they’re actually looking at these smaller matches. If half of these are identical by chance, or false positives, that means half are NOT false and you need to use your analytical skills to figure out which is which.

Someone asked me earlier if I know anyone who will run the script or tag on behalf of someone else. I don’t, but you could ask on any number of Facebook groups, specifically the AncestryDNA Matching group or the ISOGG group.

If you’re NOT going to use the script, I recommend the following methodology to save at least some of your highest quality matches that are most likely to be relevant.

Select both “Common Ancestors” and “Shared DNA.” Enter the levels of shared DNA you want to view, meaning 6-6 or 6-7 or 7-7, which will display all of your matches where a potentially shared ancestor has been identified (ThruLine.)

August ancestry common plus 6.png

This won’t save anyplace near all of your 6-8 cM matches, but it will save the potentially most beneficial.

I wrote the article, Ancestry to Remove DNA Matches Soon – Preservation Strategies with Detailed Instructions, here, and Ancestry Match Purge Update here.

Note that Ancestry has stated they are delaying the purge until “late August,” but I’m seeing multiple people report that their 6-8 cM matches are already gone, so if you want to save them, one way or another, don’t delay.

Ancestry Acquisition Update

Ancestry’s announced acquisition by Blackstone Group, which I wrote about here, has raised questions about privacy. An article this week in Vice quotes both an Ancestry and Blackstone spokesperson on the topic who say that Blackstone will not have access to user data nor will it be shared with Blackstone’s portfolio companies.

Summer Sales Have Arrived

Late summer always ushers in summer DNA sales.

Right now, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, and Ancestry are having sales.

AncestryDNA is on sale for $59, here.

MyHeritage is on sale for $49, here and has a significant customer base in Europe where most of my ancestors originated.

Of course, FamilyTreeDNA has Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA in addition to autosomal plus 20 years’ worth of testers in their database.

Regardless of where you’ve tested, having family members in the same database makes your own test so much more valuable because many of your matches will match family members too. I’m in all of the databases, and several of my family members are as well.

Remember, you can transfer tests for free to both MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA from other vendors. Instructions for each company can be found here.

MyHeritage Sale

The MyHeritage DNA kit is on sale right now for $49 and free shipping with 2 or more.

August myheritage

Don’t forget that if you’ve tested elsewhere, you can transfer to MyHeritage for free and pay just $29 to unlock the advanced tools, such as Theories of Family Relativity, or subscribe to the full records package and the unlock is free.

Family Tree DNA Sale

Family Tree DNA offers their Family Finder autosomal test, but additionally, they offer Y and mitochondrial DNA testing and matching which provide insights you can’t obtain with autosomal DNA testing alone.

  • Y DNA is for males only and tests the direct paternal (surname) line.
  • Mitochondrial DNA is for both men and women and tests your direct matrilineal line – your mother, her mother, her mother, etc.

If you’ve already tested at a lower level, you can upgrade.

august ftdna 2

If you know what you want, go right ahead and order.

This is a wonderful time to order tests for family members who represent Y DNA and mitochondrial lines that you can’t test for yourself.

Early in the week, I’ll publish an article that shows how to locate people at each testing company who are appropriately descended from your ancestor whose Y DNA or mitochondrial DNA results you’d like to have.

This sale runs through the end of August, so you have time to search out and find people to ask if they’d be willing to test. Of course, if you already know people appropriately descended, by all means, ask them and get a kit on order. I generally offer a DNA testing scholarship so that the $$ factor is removed from my request. It makes it easier for them to say yes. If they agree, I add a Family Finder test too. I believe in striking while the iron is hot.

If you’d like to read about the different kinds of DNA testing, the article 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy is great to share with others as well.

Free DNAPainter Newsletter

I received an email this week from Jonny Perl at DNAPainter, one of my favorite tools, and he’s now offering a free monthly newsletter with tips on how to use DNAPainter. You can sign up here. I certainly did.

I’ve written extensively about DNAPainter, here.

New Ancient Mystery Ancestor

Guess what, you may have a new mystery ancestor. How cool is this??!!

LiveScience reported this week that scientists have detected traces of an earlier human ancestor in Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA. That ancient ancestor existed 200,000-300,000 years ago, in Africa, leaving and intermixing with the Neanderthals then living in the Middle East or elsewhere outside of Africa, but before the move to Europe.

You can read the PLOS article, here.

I don’t know about you, but I find this absolutely fascinating.

TTFN

Enough news for now, although I’ve probably forgotten something.

Order a DNA test, find an ancestor, subscribe to the DNAPainter newsletter, and enjoy summer, safely.

I’ll see you later this week with an article about how to search for family members, in particular Y and mitochondrial DNA carriers that represent your ancestral lines. You never know what critical information is waiting just to be discovered.

_____________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Rare African Y DNA Haplogroup A00 Sprouts New Branches

In 2012, the great-grandson of Albert Perry, a man born into slavery in South Carolina, tested his Y DNA and the result was the groundbreaking discovery of haplogroup A00, a very ancient branch of the Y tree found in Africa.

The results were announced at the Family Tree DNA Conference in 2012 and published the following year.

Early Y DNA tree dating was imprecise at best. As the tree expands and additional branches are added, our understanding of the Y tree structure, the movement of peoples, and the evolution of branches is enhanced.

In 2015, two Mbo people from Cameroon tested as described in the paper by Karmin et al.

A00 tree.png

Click to enlarge

Those men added branch A-YP2683 to the tree.

In 2018, a paper by D’Atanasio et al sequenced 104 living males including a man from Cameroon which added branch A-L1149.

In 2020, the paper by Lipson et all found an ancient branch of A00 subsequently named A-L1087 that was added above A00, dating from between 3,000 and 8,000 years ago and believed to have been found among the remains of Bantu-speakers. Of course, that doesn’t tell us when A-L1087 occurred, but it does tell us that it occurred sometime before they were born.

How do you like the little skull indicating ancient DNA, as compared to the flags indicating the location of the earliest known ancestor of present-day testers? I’m very pleased to see ancient DNA results being incorporated into the tree.

A00 Lipson

What About Albert Perry’s Great-Grandson’s Y DNA?

The Y DNA of Albert Perry’s great-grandson had never been NGS sequenced with either the Big Y-500 or the current Big Y-700. NGS technology for Y DNA wasn’t yet available at the time. Is there more information to be gleaned from his DNA?

Recently, Albert Perry’s great-grandson’s DNA was upgraded to the Big Y-700, and two other descendants of Albert Perry tested at the Big Y-700 level as well.

The original 2012 tester, Albert Perry’s great-grandson, added branch A-L1100, and Albert’s great-great and great-great-great-grandsons split his branch once again by adding branch A-FT272432.

The haplogroup A Y DNA tree shows the new tree structure.

Looking at the Block Tree at FamilyTreeDNA, Albert Perry’s descendants are shown, along with the ancient sample at the far right.

A00 Perry block tree.png

Click to enlarge

Because so few men have tested and fallen into this line, the dark blue equivalent SNPs reach far back in time. As more men test, these will eventually be broken into individual branches.

The men who carry these important SNPs and their branching information will either be men from Africa or the diaspora.

I would like to thank the Perry family for their continuing contributions to science.

_____________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Honoring Veteran USMC William Tully Brown, Navajo Code Talker

Veteran USMC William Tully Brown, Navajo Code Talker

Veteran USMC William Tully Brown, 97-year-old Navajo Code Talker of North Cottonwood, Arizona, holding his DNA kit from Family Tree DNA after swabbing, photo courtesy Vee F. Browne-Yellowhair.

I can’t even begin to describe the honor I feel to be able to write a Memorial Day article honoring WWII USMC veteran, William Tully Brown, one of the few living Navajo Code Talkers.

I first became aware of William because he matches the Anzick Child in one of the DNA projects at Family Tree DNA that I administer. I reached out to his daughter Vee F. Browne-Yellowhair who has graciously facilitated communications with her father.

William is 100% Native American, Navajo, as confirmed by his autosomal DNA, family genealogy and tribal history.

If you’re wondering about how a Navajo man born on the Navajo reservation in Arizona might match the DNA of a child buried approximately 12,500 years ago in Montana, the answer is because they share a common ancestor very long ago from a highly endogamous population.

Neither Anzick Child nor William have any ancestors that weren’t Native American, so any DNA that they share must come from Native American ancestors. In other words, their DNA is identical by population.

The original group of individuals migrating across Beringia who would settle in the Americas, the ancestors of all of the Native people extending across North, Central and South America, is thought to have been very small. Of course, there were no humans living in the American continents at that time, so that founding population had no new DNA sources to introduce into the expanding population. All aboriginal people descended from the original group.

beringia map

By Erika Tamm et al – Tamm E, Kivisild T, Reidla M, Metspalu M, Smith DG, et al. (2007) Beringian Standstill and Spread of Native American Founders. PLoS ONE 2(9): e829. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000829. Also available from PubMed Central., CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16975303

It’s believed by some scientists that over time, additional migrations arrived from far Northeast Asia, in what is now Siberia, but that founding population in Asia is the same population that the original group left.

Today, we see fully Native people, including William, with ethnicity results that include North and Central America, Siberia and often, a small amount of East Asian, totaling 100%.

William’s DNA contributions are amazing, and we’ll cover them in a future article, but what I’d really like to do today is to honor his military service and incredible legacies. Yes, legacies, plural. When I think I couldn’t love and respect this man any more, he contributes selflessly again as he approaches the century mark. God Bless this man!

Let’s begin by talking about William’s incredible service with the Navajo Code Talkers.

The Navajo Code Talkers

Veteran USMC William Tully Brown, Navajo Code Talker WWII

William Tully Brown in a younger photo, courtesy Vee F. Browne-Yellowhair.

The Navajo Code Talkers, highly intelligent and incredibly brave men, were the heroes of WWII. The original group of Navajo Marines recruited specifically for their language skills to serve in the Pacific theater numbered 29 but had been expanded to more than 400 by the end of the war.

Only 7 Code Talkers are still alive today. William Tully Brown is 97 years old and is pictured at the beginning of this article in his Marine uniform, which he still loves, and above in a younger photo.

The great irony is that the Navajo had been forbidden as children to speak their Native language, practice their religion, arts or culture, raised often in boarding schools intended to assimilate them and rid them of their Native “ways.” It’s those same children, as men, who saved the very country that tried to “beat the Indian” out of them, teaching them to suffer in silence, according to now deceased Code Talker, Chester Nez.

We should all be incredibly grateful that the Navajo were so forgiving.

Navajo is a very complex language with many dialects, making it unintelligible to other language speakers. It was estimated that only about 30 non-Navajo individuals spoke or understood Navajo in 1942 – making it a wonderful choice for a secret code.

The Navajo language proved to be undecipherable, even by the best cryptographers, and remained so for decades. Meanwhile, the Code Talkers translated communications and tactical information to and from the Navajo language, utilizing radio, telephone and other communications on the front lines of the war. The work of the Code Talkers was essential to the Allied Victory of WWII, with Code Talkers being present at many important battles including Utah Beach and Iwo Jima.

At the Battle of Iwo Jima, Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer, had six Navajo code talkers working around the clock during the first two days of the battle. These six sent and received over 800 messages, all without error. Connor later stated, “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”

For many years, the humble Navajo men weren’t recognized, keeping their military secrets, even from their families. It wasn’t until 1968, a quarter century later, that the documents were declassified, resulting in recognition for the brave Code Talkers.

August 14th was designated as National Navajo Code Talkers Day in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan. In 2000, Bill Clinton signed a law which awarded gold medals of honor to the 29 men who developed the special Navajo military code, and silver congressional medals to all Code Talkers. You can view William Tully Brown’s name in the Congressional Record, here.

Their pride and loyalty remains unwavering.

You can read more about the Code Talkers here.

The Language of Our Ancestors

Veteran Code Talker, Kee Etsicitty said, ” We, the Navajo people, were very fortunate to contribute our language as a code for our country’s victory. For this, I strongly recommend we teach our children the language our ancestors were blessed with at the beginning of time. It is very sacred and represents the power of life.”

The Navajo language isn’t the only language and legacy that William Tully Brown will be remembered for. His DNA, yet another language, is a second selfless legacy that he leaves.

William Brown tested his DNA at Family Tree DNA which matches not only with the Anzick child, but with many other individuals who are Navajo or carry Native American DNA.

The Navajo history tells us that they migrated from the far north. Remnants of that journey remain in their oral legends. Archaeologists suggest that the migration from the northwest occurred around the year 1500.

The Navajo language roots confirms that connection.

Navajo is a Na Dene language, a derivative of Athabaskan which is also spoken in Alaska, in northwestern Canada, and along the North American Pacific rim.

This map shows the areas where the Na-Dene languages are spoken today.

The languages spoken in areas of the southwestern part of the US are referred to as Southern Athabaskan languages.

Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise that we find DNA matches to William Brown by several individuals whose ancestry is Native from and who still live in areas within the northern orange regions.

DNA is Forever

William Tully Brown’s legacy isn’t only in the Navajo code words he spoke in WWII, or his bravery, but also the code carried in his DNA that he has so generously contributed. William’s DNA has now been documented and will endure forever.

William’s genetic legacy reaches out to future generations, extending the connection to the ancestors through the threads of time, back to the Anzick child and forward for generations to come – drawing us all together.

Thank you Marine veteran William Tully Brown for your immense generosity, sacrifices and altruistic contribution of both life-saving and live-giving codes. How fitting that your heroism began 80 years ago with a war-winning language that would rescue both our country and democracy, as well as our Allies – and now, near your century mark, you are leaving a remarkable legacy by contributing your own genetic words, your DNA, for posterity.

Preserving our country then and our Native heritage now, uniting past, present and future. Gathering the generations together, lighting their way home.

_______________________

Attribution:

Thank you to Vee F. Browne-Yellowhair, the daughter of USMC veteran William Tully Brown, Code Talker, for permission to write this article, her generosity, and for his photos.

______________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some (but not all) of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

2018 – The Year of the Segment

Looking in the rear view mirror, what a year! Some days it’s been hard to catch your breath things have been moving so fast.

What were the major happenings, how did they affect genetic genealogy and what’s coming in 2019?

The SNiPPY Award

First of all, I’m giving an award this year. The SNiPPY.

Yea, I know it’s kinda hokey, but it’s my way of saying a huge thank you to someone in this field who has made a remarkable contribution and that deserves special recognition.

Who will it be this year?

Drum roll…….

The 2018 SNiPPY goes to…

DNAPainter – The 2018 SNiPPY award goes to DNAPainter, without question. Applause, everyone, applause! And congratulations to Jonny Perl, pictured below at Rootstech!

Jonny Perl created this wonderful, visual tool that allows you to paint your matches with people on your chromosomes, assigning the match to specific ancestors.

I’ve written about how to use the tool  with different vendors results and have discovered many different ways to utilize the painted segments. The DNA Painter User Group is here on Facebook. I use DNAPainter EVERY SINGLE DAY to solve a wide variety of challenges.

What else has happened this year? A lot!

Ancient DNA – Academic research seldom reports on Y and mitochondrial DNA today and is firmly focused on sequencing ancient DNA. Ancient genome sequencing has only recently been developed to a state where at least some remains can be successfully sequenced, but it’s going great guns now. Take a look at Jennifer Raff’s article in Forbes that discusses ancient DNA findings in the Americas, Europe, Southeast Asia and perhaps most surprising, a first generation descendant of a Neanderthal and a Denisovan.

From Early human dispersals within the Americas by Moreno-Mayer et al, Science 07 Dec 2018

Inroads were made into deeper understanding of human migration in the Americas as well in the paper Early human dispersals within the Americas by Moreno-Mayer et al.

I look for 2019 and on into the future to hold many more revelations thanks to ancient DNA sequencing as well as using those sequences to assist in understanding the migration patterns of ancient people that eventually became us.

Barbara Rae-Venter and the Golden State Killer Case

Using techniques that adoptees use to identify their close relatives and eventually, their parents, Barbara Rae-Venter assisted law enforcement with identifying the man, Joseph DeAngelo, accused (not yet convicted) of being the Golden State Killer (GSK).

A very large congratulations to Barbara, a retired patent attorney who is also a genealogist. Nature recognized Ms. Rae-Venter as one of 2018’s 10 People Who Mattered in Science.

DNA in the News

DNA is also represented on the 2018 Nature list by Viviane Slon, a palaeogeneticist who discovered an ancient half Neanderthal, half Denisovan individual and sequenced their DNA and He JianKui, a Chinese scientist who claims to have created a gene-edited baby which has sparked widespread controversy. As of the end of the year, He Jiankui’s research activities have been suspended and he is reportedly sequestered in his apartment, under guard, although the details are far from clear.

In 2013, 23andMe patented the technology for designer babies and I removed my kit from their research program. I was concerned at the time that this technology knife could cut two ways, both for good, eliminating fatal disease-causing mutations and also for ethically questionable practices, such as eugenics. I was told at the time that my fears were unfounded, because that “couldn’t be done.” Well, 5 years later, here we are. I expect the debate about the ethics and eventual regulation of gene-editing will rage globally for years to come.

Elizabeth Warren’s DNA was also in the news when she took a DNA test in response to political challenges. I wrote about what those results meant scientifically, here. This topic became highly volatile and politicized, with everyone seeming to have a very strongly held opinion. Regardless of where you fall on that opinion spectrum (and no, please do not post political comments as they will not be approved), the topic is likely to surface again in 2019 due to the fact that Elizabeth Warren has just today announced her intention to run for President. The good news is that DNA testing will likely be discussed, sparking curiosity in some people, perhaps encouraging them to test. The bad news is that some of the discussion may be unpleasant at best, and incorrect click-bait at worst. We’ve already had a rather unpleasant sampling of this.

Law Enforcement and Genetic Genealogy

The Golden State Killer case sparked widespread controversy about using GedMatch and potentially other genetic genealogy data bases to assist in catching people who have committed violent crimes, such as rape and murder.

GedMatch, the database used for the GSK case has made it very clear in their terms and conditions that DNA matches may be used for both adoptees seeking their families and for other uses, such as law enforcement seeking matches to DNA sequenced during a criminal investigation. Since April 2018, more than 15 cold case investigations have been solved using the same technique and results at GedMatch. Initially some people removed their DNA from GedMatch, but it appears that the overwhelming sentiment, based on uploads, is that people either aren’t concerned or welcome the opportunity for their DNA matches to assist apprehending criminals.

Parabon Nanolabs in May established a genetic genealogy division headed by CeCe Moore who has worked in the adoptee community for the past several years. The division specializes in DNA testing forensic samples and then assisting law enforcement with the associated genetic genealogy.

Currently, GedMatch is the only vendor supporting the use of forensic sample matching. Neither 23anMe nor Ancestry allow uploaded data, and MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA’s terms of service currently preclude this type of use.

MyHeritage

Wow talk about coming onto the DNA world stage with a boom.

MyHeritage went from a somewhat wobbly DNA start about 2 years ago to rolling out a chromosome browser at the end of January and adding important features such as SmartMatching which matches your DNA and your family trees. Add triangulation to this mixture, along with record matching, and you’re got a #1 winning combination.

It was Gilad Japhet, the MyHeritage CEO who at Rootstech who christened 2018 “The Year of the Segment,” and I do believe he was right. Additionally, he announced that MyHeritage partnered with the adoption community by offering 15,000 free kits to adoptees.

In November, MyHeritage hosted MyHeritage LIVE, their first user conference in Oslo, Norway which focused on both their genealogical records offerings as well as DNA. This was a resounding success and I hope MyHeritage will continue to sponsor conferences and invest in DNA. You can test your DNA at MyHeritage or upload your results from other vendors (instructions here). You can follow my journey and the conference in Olso here, here, here, here and here.

GDPR

GDPR caused a lot of misery, and I’m glad the implementation is behind us, but the the ripples will be affecting everyone for years to come.

GDPR, the European Data Protection Regulation which went into effect on May 25,  2018 has been a mixed and confusing bag for genetic genealogy. I think the concept of users being in charge and understanding what is happened with their data, and in this case, their data plus their DNA, is absolutely sound. The requirements however, were created without any consideration to this industry – which is small by comparison to the Googles and Facebooks of the world. However, the Googles and Facebooks of the world along with many larger vendors seem to have skated, at least somewhat.

Other companies shut their doors or restricted their offerings in other ways, such as World Families Network and Oxford Ancestors. Vendors such as Ancestry and Family Tree DNA had to make unpopular changes in how their users interface with their software – in essence making genetic genealogy more difficult without any corresponding positive return. The potential fines, 20 million plus Euro for any company holding data for EU residents made it unwise to ignore the mandates.

In the genetic genealogy space, the shuttering of both YSearch and MitoSearch was heartbreaking, because that was the only location where you could actually compare Y STR and mitochondrial HVR1/2 results. Not everyone uploaded their results, and the sites had not been updated in a number of years, but the closure due to GDPR was still a community loss.

Today, mitoydna.org, a nonprofit comprised of genetic genealogists, is making strides in replacing that lost functionality, plus, hopefully more.

On to more positive events.

Family Tree DNA

In April, Family Tree DNA announced a new version of the Big Y test, the Big Y-500 in which at least 389 additional STR markers are included with the Big Y test, for free. If you’re lucky, you’ll receive between 389 and 439 new markers, depending on how many STR markers above 111 have quality reads. All customers are guaranteed a minimum of 500 STR markers in total. Matching was implemented in December.

These additional STR markers allow genealogists to assemble additional line marker mutations to more granularly identify specific male lineages. In other words, maybe I can finally figure out a line marker mutation that will differentiate my ancestor’s line from other sons of my founding ancestor😊

In June, Family Tree DNA announced that they had named more than 100,000 SNPs which means many haplogroup additions to the Y tree. Then, in September, Family Tree DNA published their Y haplotree, with locations, publicly for all to reference.

I was very pleased to see this development, because Family Tree DNA clearly has the largest Y database in the industry, by far, and now everyone can reap the benefits.

In October, Family Tree DNA published their mitochondrial tree publicly as well, with corresponding haplogroup locations. It’s nice that Family Tree DNA continues to be the science company.

You can test your Y DNA, mitochondrial or autosomal (Family Finder) at Family Tree DNA. They are the only vendor offering full Y and mitochondrial services complete with matching.

2018 Conferences

Of course, there are always the national conferences we’re familiar with, but more and more, online conferences are becoming available, as well as some sessions from the more traditional conferences.

I attended Rootstech in Salt Lake City in February (brrrr), which was lots of fun because I got to meet and visit with so many people including Mags Gaulden, above, who is a WikiTree volunteer and writes at Grandma’s Genes, but as a relatively expensive conference to attend, Rootstech was pretty miserable. Rootstech has reportedly made changes and I hope it’s much better for attendees in 2019. My attendance is very doubtful, although I vacillate back and forth.

On the other hand, the MyHeritage LIVE conference was amazing with both livestreamed and recorded sessions which are now available free here along with many others at Legacy Family Tree Webinars.

Family Tree University held a Virtual DNA Conference in June and those sessions, along with others, are available for subscribers to view.

The Virtual Genealogical Association was formed for those who find it difficult or impossible to participate in local associations. They too are focused on education via webinars.

Genetic Genealogy Ireland continues to provide their yearly conference sessions both livestreamed and recorded for free. These aren’t just for people with Irish genealogy. Everyone can benefit and I enjoy them immensely.

Bottom line, you can sit at home and educate yourself now. Technology is wonderful!

2019 Conferences

In 2019, I’ll be speaking at the National Genealogical Society Family History Conference, Journey of Discovery, in St. Charles, providing the Special Thursday Session titled “DNA: King Arthur’s Mighty Genetic Lightsaber” about how to use DNA to break through brick walls. I’ll also see attendees at Saturday lunch when I’ll be providing a fun session titled “Twists and Turns in the Genetic Road.” This is going to be a great conference with a wonderful lineup of speakers. Hope to see you there.

There may be more speaking engagements at conferences on my 2019 schedule, so stay tuned!

The Leeds Method

In September, Dana Leeds publicized The Leeds Method, another way of grouping your matches that clusters matches in a way that indicates your four grandparents.

I combine the Leeds method with DNAPainter. Great job Dana!

Genetic Affairs

In December, Genetic Affairs introduced an inexpensive subscription reporting and visual clustering methodology, but you can try it for free.

I love this grouping tool. I have already found connections I didn’t know existed previously. I suggest joining the Genetic Affairs User Group on Facebook.

DNAGedcom.com

I wrote an article in January about how to use the DNAGedcom.com client to download the trees of all of your matches and sort to find specific surnames or locations of their ancestors.

However, in December, DNAGedcom.com added another feature with their new DNAGedcom client just released that downloads your match information from all vendors, compiles it and then forms clusters. They have worked with Dana Leeds on this, so it’s a combination of the various methodologies discussed above. I have not worked with the new tool yet, as it has just been released, but Kitty Cooper has and writes about it here.  If you are interested in this approach, I would suggest joining the Facebook DNAGedcom User Group.

Rootsfinder

I have not had a chance to work with Rootsfinder beyond the very basics, but Rootsfinder provides genetic network displays for people that you match, as well as triangulated views. Genetic networks visualizations are great ways to discern patterns. The tool creates match or triangulation groups automatically for you.

Training videos are available at the website and you can join the Rootsfinder DNA Tools group at Facebook.

Chips and Imputation

Illumina, the chip maker that provides the DNA chips that most vendors use to test changed from the OmniExpress to the GSA chip during the past year. Older chips have been available, but won’t be forever.

The newer GSA chip is only partially compatible with the OmniExpress chip, providing limited overlap between the older and the new results. This has forced the vendors to use imputation to equalize the playing field between the chips, so to speak.

This has also caused a significant hardship for GedMatch who is now in the position of trying to match reasonably between many different chips that sometimes overlap minimally. GedMatch introduced Genesis as a sandbox beta version previously, but are now in the process of combining regular GedMatch and Genesis into one. Yes, there are problems and matching challenges. Patience is the key word as the various vendors and GedMatch adapt and improve their required migration to imputation.

DNA Central

In June Blaine Bettinger announced DNACentral, an online monthly or yearly subscription site as well as a monthly newsletter that covers news in the genetic genealogy industry.

Many educators in the industry have created seminars for DNACentral. I just finished recording “Getting the Most out of Y DNA” for Blaine.

Even though I work in this industry, I still subscribed – initially to show support for Blaine, thinking I might not get much out of the newsletter. I’m pleased to say that I was wrong. I enjoy the newsletter and will be watching sessions in the Course Library and the Monthly Webinars soon.

If you or someone you know is looking for “how to” videos for each vendor, DNACentral offers “Now What” courses for Ancestry, MyHeritage, 23andMe, Family Tree DNA and Living DNA in addition to topic specific sessions like the X chromosome, for example.

Social Media

2018 has seen a huge jump in social media usage which is both bad and good. The good news is that many new people are engaged. The bad news is that people often given faulty advice and for new people, it’s very difficult (nigh on impossible) to tell who is credible and who isn’t. I created a Help page for just this reason.

You can help with this issue by recommending subscribing to these three blogs, not just reading an article, to newbies or people seeking answers.

Always feel free to post links to my articles on any social media platform. Share, retweet, whatever it takes to get the words out!

The general genetic genealogy social media group I would recommend if I were to select only one would be Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques. It’s quite large but well-managed and remains positive.

I’m a member of many additional groups, several of which are vendor or interest specific.

Genetic Snakeoil

Now the bad news. Everyone had noticed the popularity of DNA testing – including shady characters.

Be careful, very VERY careful who you purchase products from and where you upload your DNA data.

If something is free, and you’re not within a well-known community, then YOU ARE THE PRODUCT. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If it sounds shady or questionable, it’s probably that and more, or less.

If reputable people and vendors tell you that no, they really can’t determine your Native American tribe, for example, no other vendor can either. Just yesterday, a cousin sent me a link to a “tribe” in Canada that will, “for $50, we find one of your aboriginal ancestors and the nation stamps it.” On their list of aboriginal people we find one of my ancestors who, based on mitochondrial DNA tests, is clearly NOT aboriginal. Snake oil comes in lots of flavors with snake oil salesmen looking to prey on other people’s desires.

When considering DNA testing or transfers, make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions, where your DNA is going, who is doing what with it, and your recourse. Yes, read every single word of those terms and conditions. For more about legalities, check out Judy Russell’s blog.

Recommended Vendors

All those DNA tests look yummy-good, but in terms of vendors, I heartily recommend staying within the known credible vendors, as follows (in alphabetical order).

For genetic genealogy for ethnicity AND matching:

  • 23andMe
  • Ancestry
  • Family Tree DNA
  • GedMatch (not a vendor because they don’t test DNA, but a reputable third party)
  • MyHeritage

You can read about Which DNA Test is Best here although I need to update this article to reflect the 2018 additions by MyHeritage.

Understand that both 23andMe and Ancestry will sell your DNA if you consent and if you consent, you will not know who is using your DNA, where, or for what purposes. Neither Family Tree DNA, GedMatch, MyHeritage, Genographic Project, Insitome, Promethease nor LivingDNA sell your DNA.

The next group of vendors offers ethnicity without matching:

  • Genographic Project by National Geographic Society
  • Insitome
  • LivingDNA (currently working on matching, but not released yet)

Health (as a consumer, meaning you receive the results)

Medical (as a contributor, meaning you are contributing your DNA for research)

  • 23andMe
  • Ancestry
  • DNA.Land (not a testing vendor, doesn’t test DNA)

There are a few other niche vendors known for specific things within the genetic genealogy community, many of whom are mentioned in this article, but other than known vendors, buyer beware. If you don’t see them listed or discussed on my blog, there’s probably a reason.

What’s Coming in 2019

Just like we couldn’t have foreseen much of what happened in 2018, we don’t have access to a 2019 crystal ball, but it looks like 2019 is taking off like a rocket. We do know about a few things to look for:

  • MyHeritage is waiting to see if envelope and stamp DNA extractions are successful so that they can be added to their database.
  • www.totheletterDNA.com is extracting (attempting to) and processing DNA from stamps and envelopes for several people in the community. Hopefully they will be successful.
  • LivingDNA has been working on matching since before I met with their representative in October of 2017 in Dublin. They are now in Beta testing for a few individuals, but they have also just changed their DNA processing chip – so how that will affect things and how soon they will have matching ready to roll out the door is unknown.
  • Ancestry did a 2018 ethnicity update, integrating ethnicity more tightly with Genetic Communities, offered genetic traits and made some minor improvements this year, along with adding one questionable feature – showing your matches the location where you live as recorded in your profile. (23andMe subsequently added the same feature.) Ancestry recently said that they are promising exciting new tools for 2019, but somehow I doubt that the chromosome browser that’s been on my Christmas list for years will be forthcoming. Fingers crossed for something new and really useful. In the mean time, we can download our DNA results and upload to MyHeritage, Family Tree DNA and GedMatch for segment matching, as well as utilize Ancestry’s internal matching tools. DNA+tree matching, those green leaf shared ancestor hints, is still their strongest feature.
  • The Family Tree DNA Conference for Project Administrators will be held March 22-24 in Houston this year, and I’m hopeful that they will have new tools and announcements at that event. I’m looking forward to seeing many old friends in Houston in March.

Here’s what I know for sure about 2019 – it’s going to be an amazing year. We as a community and also as individual genealogists will be making incredible discoveries and moving the ball forward. I can hardly wait to see what quandaries I’ve solved a year from now.

What mysteries do you want to unravel?

I’d like to offer a big thank you to everyone who made 2018 wonderful and a big toast to finding lots of new ancestors and breaking down those brick walls in 2019.

Happy New Year!!!

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some (but not all) of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Female Viking Warrior Discovered Through DNA Testing

Hervor dying after the Battle of the Goths and Huns. A painting by Peter Nicolai Arbo, a Norwegian historical painter. Hervor dressed like a man, fought, killed and pillaged under her male surname Hjörvard.

Then the high-born lady saw them play the wounding game,

she resolved on a hard course and flung off her cloak;

she took a naked sword and fought for her kinsmen’s lives,

she was handy at fighting, wherever she aimed her blows.

The Greenlandic Poem of Atli (st. 49), The poetic Edda. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ancient DNA

I just love ancient DNA. Not only does it provide us a way to “view” long deceased individuals who we may be related to, one way or another (Y, mtDNA or autosomal), but it gives us a peephole into history as well.

Recently, a Viking warrior long presumed to be male has been positively identified as female through DNA analysis.

The paper titled A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics by Hedenstiera-Jonson et al provides details.

Oral history tells us of female Viking warriors, but mostly, those stories have been dismissed as mythology. But guess what – they weren’t.

A Viking warrior grave excavated in Birka, Sweden in the 1970s was originally identified as a female. That finding was initially dismissed in light of the extensive warrior burial artifacts. The skeleton was presumed to be a warrior male due to extensive funerary objects indicating a high ranking individual. Similar female warrior burials have been dismissed as well by saying that the warrior artifacts might have been heirlooms and don’t identify the burial as a warrior.

The warrior burial has now been indeed proven to be a female using DNA analysis.

From the paper’s authors:

This type of reasoning takes away the agency of the buried female. As long as the sex is male, the weaponry in the grave not only belong to the interred but also reflects his status as warrior, whereas a female sex has raised doubts, not only regarding her ascribed role but also in her association to the grave goods.

A great deal can be told about skeletal remains through their bones – and certain traits indicate males or females. In 2014, a scientist again suggested that the bones of this burial suggested the warrior had been a female, but that commentary was met with significant skepticism because of the warrior’s high rank based on the grave goods. DNA was determined to be the only way to resolve the question. Thank goodness this avenue was pursued and was productive.

From their abstract:

The objective of this study has been to confirm the sex and the affinity of an individual buried in a well-furnished warrior grave (Bj 581) in the Viking Age town of Birka, Sweden. Previously, based on the material and historical records, the male sex has been associated with the gender of the warrior and such was the case with Bj 581. An earlier osteological classification of the individual as female was considered controversial in a historical and archaeological context. A genomic confirmation of the biological sex of the individual was considered necessary to solve the issue.

From their results:

The genomic results revealed the lack of a Y-chromosome and thus a female biological sex, and the mtDNA analyses support a single-individual origin of sampled elements. The genetic affinity is close to present-day North Europeans, and within Sweden to the southern and south-central region. Nevertheless, the Sr values are not conclusive as to whether she was of local or nonlocal origin.

And their discussion:

The identification of a female Viking warrior provides a unique insight into the Viking society, social constructions, and exceptions to the norm in the Viking time-period. The results call for caution against generalizations regarding social orders in past societies.

The paper further states that over 3,000 warrior graves are known, with approximately 1,100 excavated. I have to wonder how many of those graves might be females too.

The Birka warrior was confirmed to be a female by the absence of a Y chromosome, but her mitochondrial DNA can tell us even more.

Mitochondrial DNA

Her mitochondrial DNA is haplogroup T2b.

Dr. David Pike is the administrator of the haplogroup T mtDNA project and the mtDNA T2 project at Family Tree DNA. He notified me of these results and offered the following information:

The list of mtDNA mutations in the supplement (namely those obtained from a canine tooth) are actually quite thorough (see page 15 of the supplement). They include all of the mutations that lead up to and including mtDNA haplogroup T2b. And then they go on to include two more that do not yet fit into any currently-named subgroup of T2b. These are T5774C and C16354T.

People who are curious about their own mtDNA can determine their status at position 16354 by a simple HVR1 test at FTDNA, but position 5774 requires a full mtDNA sequence test.

Within the T projects for which I’m an administrator, there are a few people with T5774C with none that have both of these two mutations. At least not yet… it would be nice to encourage more people to do full mtDNA testing.

If you have tested at a company other than Family Tree DNA that provides you with only a haplogroup, and it’s T, T2 or T2b, you might want to consider the mitochondrial test at Family Tree DNA to obtain a more definitive haplogroup and your actual mutations. Someone, someplace, may well match this Viking warrior woman.

Who is She Most Like?

The report indicates that the Birka female warrior showed autosomal genetic affinity to the following present-day populations:

  • British Island of England and Scotland,
  • North Atlantic Islands of Iceland and the Orkneys
  • Scandinavian countries of Denmark and Norway
  • Baltic counties of Lithuania and Latvia
  • Sweden from the south-central and southern region

The warrior was more like northern Europeans than southern Europeans, which shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Your Mitochondrial DNA

Mitochondrial DNA holds so many secrets and provides testers with information you can’t possible discover about your ancestors any other way. Males and females can both test. If you haven’t taken the full sequence mitochondrional DNA test, please consider doing so.

Want to know what you might discover? Please read the articles, Mitochondrial DNA – Your Mom’s Story and Jasmine’s Journey of Discovery.

You can click here to order the mtFull Sequence test or upgrade an existing test to the full sequence level.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Dublin – Heartbeat of the Emerald Isle

In the fall of 2017, I was privileged to spend 10 days in Dublin. I arrived a few days prior to my speaking engagement at Genetic Genealogy Ireland and planned to spend 4 days seeing Ireland, the home of my ancestors. Aside from losing a day to Hurricane Ophelia, I managed to stay on schedule, at least somewhat, with my preplanned tour schedule with my trusty tour guide, Brian O’Reilly.

Because of Hurricane Ophelia, no place, literally, was open on Monday and Tuesday was iffy and very wet. A hurricane is not a storm that ends shortly, but peters out as it moves on, which can take days. A few days later, the remains of Hurricane Brian (not to be confused with tour guide Brian) arrived too, but it was more like a normal (very) windy storm.

Therefore, I spent more time in Dublin itself than I had anticipated since a 12 hour roundtrip drive to either the Cliffs of Moher or the Giant’s Causeway didn’t seem terribly attractive in that weather.

Following the Genetic Genealogy Ireland conference, I spent another day in Dublin with a group of ISOGG volunteers and speakers. These are the folks who make this conference happen.

On our Monday ISOGG “day out”, among other places, we visited Trinity College at the University of Dublin including the Book of Kells and Dr. Dan Bradley’s ancient DNA lab before moving on to UCD (University College Dublin) where we visited a second ancient DNA facility, enjoying both tours and lectures .

I am combining these various adventures scattered over several days into one article.

I don’t know of any specific ancestors that lived in or near Dublin, but Dublin is a medieval city, established officially in 988, with humans having inhabited the area since before 140 AD when Ptolemy provided what is believed to be the earliest reference to a settlement where Dublin would one day be located.

In 841, the Vikings invaded followed by the Norman invasion of 1169, so needless to say, Dublin is a mixture of people that arrived from elsewhere.

Even the “native Irish” were a mixture beginning with Neolithic hunter-gatherers that settled and built the massive passage mounds more than 5000 years ago. Their descendants would have assimilated later with Celts who arrived about 500 BC as well as Anglo-Saxons who announced their arrival with a raid in 684 AD.

Dublin was the center of commerce and trade for eastern Ireland. If your ancestors lived anyplace in the area, they may well have traded here or transacted other kinds of business. One way or another, what happened in Dublin affected all of Ireland.

Ireland isn’t a large island. At its widest point, it’s 174 miles wide, 302 miles north to south and roughly equivalent to the size of the state of Indiana.

The Irish have a very different perspective of distance than people from the US.

Ireland may be small, but they have a rich and sometimes violent history – which makes genealogy research both enthralling and challenging. They also have some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, not to mention historical sites.

To preserve their heritage, Ireland has established the National Museum, which is actually a series of free museums, including The Museum of Archaeology where I discovered several archaeological and historical treasures.

National Museum

The National Museum is chocked full of wonderful items from throughout Ireland’s history.

For me, the most interesting artifacts were the bog bodies, the flint mace head excavated at Knowth and the Tara Brooch.

The front of the this carved flint mace head looks eerily like a face.

The side of the mace head had beautiful spirals, echoing the many spirals carved into the rocks at both Knowth and New Grange.

The bog bodies are in an incredible state of preservation, including hair. Much of Ireland, meaning the part not mountainous, is boggy.

Old Crogham Man’s leather armband survived.

This individual is nearly complete.

Unfortunately, DNA has not been able to be recovered from the bog bodies due to the conditions in the bog.

The Tara Brooch, in an incredible state of preservation, was found on a beach by schoolchildren and is believed by some, due to its incredible artistry, to have belonged to the High Kings of Ireland.

Just the day prior, I visited Tara, so finding the brooch in the museum was icing on the cake.

Dublina

I enjoyed visiting Dublina, a recreated medieval village of Dublin adjacent to Christ Church Cathedral. This exhibit would be excellent for children, complete with an archaeology lab and re-enactors demonstrating various parts of medieval life.

The information at Dublina and at the National Museum is duplicated somewhat, but presented differently. I actually preferred the Dublina approach, as the display cards in the Museum were wall-mounted with small print, not displayed in the cases with the artifacts, so the overall experience in Dublina was more enjoyable. Of course, the National Museum has most of the national treasures. Two unique places, both worth a visit.

In 841, the Vikings invaded Dublin, adding their DNA to the Celts and the original Neolithic people who had already settled in Ireland millennia before.

Can you write your name in the runic language?

I cheated and you can too, at this PBS link.

Vikings both owned and sold slaves, which might explain how Viking mitochondrial DNA came to be found in the British Isles.

Even the Vikings were concerned about toilet paper. Maybe it’s in their DNA, given Dublin’s fascination with toilet paper. You’ll see what I mean later!

In medieval Dublin, life was often short, with an average life expectancy of only 30 years. As you might imagine, sanitation in cities was problematic.

Guinness Storehouse

No trip to Dublin is complete without a tour of the Guinness Storehouse, a very popular tourist attraction. This wasn’t my favorite, but I can see why it is for many people.

While the Guinness Storehouse is now a museum, of sorts, Guinness brewing continues among a series of interconnected buildings. The Guinness family owns most of this portion of Dublin and has a 9000 year lease, issued in 1759 to Arthur Guinness who then established the brewery at St. James Gate. And no, that’s not a typo – it’s really 9000.

The Guinness Storehouse tour is self-guided, taking you through the history of beer-making in general, and of Guinness in particular.

I didn’t know that the word beer originated in the Anglo-Saxon language.

Nor had I ever seen hops before. In one area, the flavors in the beer are discussed and you can sniff each one, before tasting the Guinness itself. I always enjoy the science portions of tours.

The best part of the Guinness Storehouse is the top floor Gravity Bar with a panoramic view of all of Dublin where you’re also served a…wait for it…a Guinness. It wasn’t crowded when I visited, but be aware that the lines are often long and the top floor is glassed in and VERY HOT in the summer. Air conditioning is uncommon in Ireland.

The panoramic view is absolutely amazing.

The Wicklow Mountains are the source for the water used to brew Guinness.

Soda Bread

If you thought that potatoes were the staple food of Ireland, it’s not. It’s really soda bread, which is served with just about everything. You can always find soda bread along with tea. Sometimes soda bread, “just like grandma used to make,” is enjoyed with nothing, sometimes with butter and often with butter and some kind of jam.

Soda bread and tea just make everything better. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself.

Doors

Dublin is the city of colorful doors.

Because much of Dublin is historic in nature, owners can change very little of the outside façade, but they can customize their door color, and they do.

When you don’t have a large canvas, you have to be creative in a small space.

There’s an entire store devoted to door jewelry.

Door of the home of the Guinness family, founders of the Guinness empire.

Dubliners tell you about their doors, and stop so you can see either outstanding or remarkable doors, or the doors of the houses of famous people.

Pubs

Dublin is also a city of pubs.

Pubs are generally neighborhood establishments, local places, where people gather to eat, drink and socialize. After all, these people are Irish.

My flight arrived at 9 in the morning, on Sunday, and the hotel couldn’t get me into a room for another 6 hours. What was I to do? Take the hop-on-hop-off tour, of course. These tours are fun. You can stay on the bus and listen to the guide, get off and back onto a later bus, or whatever combination suits your fancy.

As luck would have it, the bus stayed in the starting location for about 40 minutes, parked immediately outside of a pub, Madigans. I know. I know. What luck.

I was hungry and needed to find a restroom, so I decided to have bowl of soup. With soda bread, of course.

Hence, I was introduced to the Irish pub in the nicest of ways. My only regret was that I wasn’t able to return for the traditional Irish music or the Irish step dancing at the Arlington Hotel, recommended by Brian.

Pubs are literally everyplace, on every corner, and often in-between too.

Think you might want to drive in Ireland? Think again! Look at those road signs. Merges, roundabouts and unusual traffic patterns are everyplace. And remember, the cars are coming from the opposite direction you expect when crossing the street.

If you can make it across the street, there’s a pub on the corner where you can take refuge!

Another historic pub that’s also a B&B, the Ferryman.  If crossing the street is dangerous sober, think about it with a couple Guinness under your belt. Aye, better to stay in the pub or at the B&B!!!

Pub grub is the best.

The food in every pub is unique and I failed miserably in my attempts to sample it all!

Some pubs are named after owners, former owners or something in the neighborhood. This pub, The Horse Show House, is located across from the Royal Dublin Society, an area devoted to rugby.

This small village pub in the Wicklow Mountains was extremely unique with its painted ceiling.

And then, some pubs are portable.

I so wanted to ask, but then…perhaps some things are best left unknown!

Toilet Paper

Dubliners are obsessed with toilet paper. Seriously. Remember the Vikings and their moss – I think that trait has descended to the current day population.

In particular, Dubliners are obsessed with getting a good price on toilet paper – to the point that there are pop-up toilet paper markets along the street and on corners. Thankfully I had Brian to explain this phenomenon to me, because I would have never figured it out otherwise.

Brian says that a Dubliner will save $5 on toilet paper and then go the pub and spend $100 the same night bragging about what a good deal he got on toilet paper. We saw a man carrying a large package of TP on his shoulder into the bar across the street. I kid you not.

I love experiencing the culture of different places. I mean, I can hear the negotiations now.

“But that’s only one ply and me fingers break through…”

“Well, yes, I could give it for Christmas, but only for half the price of the Charmin over there….”

Bridges

Old, new, large or small, Dublin has them all. Like all early settlements, Dublin was founded on a river which continues to be the city center. I was lucky to be graced with a beautiful rainbow as we crossed this bridge.

Even the older bridges are beautiful, but one of Dublin’s bridges is famous and shaped like a harp.

The harp is the much beloved national emblem of Ireland. The Brian Boru harp, having nothing to do with Brian Boru, bearing the O’Neill coat of arms and dating from the 14th or 15th century is displayed in the Long Room at Trinity College.

By Marshall Henrie – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32781748

In 2009,  a harp shaped bridge was designed for central Dublin in honor of Irish writer and poet, Samuel Beckett. Along with the contemporary design came unwelcome traffic restrictions which inspired an unpublishable Irish ditty about the bridge and inconvenience introduced by the bridge in a high-traffic and already congested area. Let’s just say that some of the words rhyme with Beckett and in Ireland, words are pronounced differently. For example, an equivalent sounding word for Beckett in the US would be Buckett.

You can view the bridge opening ceremony in 2014 in this You Tube video as water through firehoses “plays” the bridge cables like harp strings. It’s truly amazing and probably one of the most unique bridges on the planet.

Through the harp bridge, you can see Dublin’s new conference center which looks like it’s a bit tipsy and had one too many Guinnesses – a fate that has befallen more than one Irishman!

Royal Dublin Society

Genetic Genealogy Ireland was held at the Royal Dublin Society, known as the RDS, for three full days.

The schedule was chocked full of great speakers. The sessions were live streamed and can be seen in the Facebook group, Genetic Genealogy Ireland. The sessions, except for a couple that can’t be posted pending the publication of a paper, will all be available on Genetic Genealogy Ireland’s YouTube channel thanks to Maurice Gleeson. In the meantime, you can watch the sessions from the last 4 years. What a wonderful resource.

ISOGG volunteer, Emily Aulicino, at left, assists a visitor with which Family Tree DNA tests would be best to purchase for which relatives. Emily also had her book, Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond available for purchase.

My two presentations went very well, even with a challenging environment in terms of the acoustics in the facility.

If you’re a member of the Facebook group, Genetic Genealogy Ireland, you can see Autosomal Tips and Tools at Family Tree DNA and the second presentation, Autosomal DNA Through the Generations – but I’d actually suggest that you might want to wait until the Genetic Genealogy Ireland YouTube videos are released, because the audio will be better – or I surely hope so.

However, I just have to share something fun with you. This is me, just before my session, Autosomal DNA Through the Generations, where I compare the DNA of my granddaughters through three ancestral generations – including 3 of 4 grandparents and one great-grandparent. (Very big thank you to my family and my daughter-in-law’s family!)

Do you spot anything remarkable?  Hint – the dress. Now do you see it? If not, I’ll have an upcoming lighthearted article. Yes, yes, I know I’m very much a geek at heart!

Let’s take a quick look at a couple slides from other presentations that I found quite interesting.  As you probably know, I’m fascinated by ancient DNA, and we were extremely fortunate to have two presentations by scientists who work with ancient DNA in the lab.

I particularly enjoyed the ancient DNA presentations. Here, Dr. Eppie Jones from Cambridge University and Trinity College discusses Ancient DNA and the Genetic History of Europeans.

Dr. Dan Bradley from Trinity discussing Prehistoric Genomics at the Atlantic Edge.

You can see a few more photos of Genetic Genealogy Ireland, courtesy of Gerard Corceran, at this link.

I was so looking forward to visiting both Trinity College and UCD, including the genetics labs, so let’s go!!!

Trinity College, University of Dublin

One of the highlights of my visit was Trinity College, founded in 1592, and in particular, the ancient DNA lab. The wooden gate, above, opens into the plaza, below.

First, we had a delightful tour of the University of Dublin campus by this delightful philosophy professor, Joseph O. Gorman, sporting a charming green waistcoat making him appear something of a leprechaun.

If Joseph Gorman had been my prof, I might have paid more attention. He was excellent, a font of knowledge with a way of making everything interesting.

Here, the group of volunteers and speakers gathers, listening in rapt attention in the plaza inside the college gates. The wooden doored gate through which we entered is in the background, just to the left of professor Gorman’s head. The various college buildings on the campus are entirely inside the area walled by buildings and surround the plaza, an area once the location of the Priory of All Hallows where monks resided.

If you would like to view some very interesting videos about Trinity College and the historical buildings, click here and here for a lovely YouTube introduction including the charming Irish brogue.

Come on, let’s walk around the campus!

If it’s called a buttery, it can’t be bad. I love campuses with history!

The Trinity campus is just beautiful, with gardens polka dotted from place to place like living jewels.

Along with old trees growing in what was the cemetery from the monastery originally located here.

I could hardly wait to see the Book of Kells, created about 800 AD and eventually stored in the monastery in Kells, not far from Dublin and from where the book received its name, up close and personal.

Unfortunately, cameras weren’t allowed, although I certainly understand why.

On the second floor, above the Book of Kells exhibit on the main floor, we find is the infamous Trinity Library Long Room. I don’t think I’ve ever been in such an incredibly beautiful library.

In the library long room, this beautiful spiral staircase is still in use.

By Diliff – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42693401

This amazing room is full of artifacts as well, some of them books, some busts and  just this incredible room itself.  Just look at that ceiling!

Taken from across the green, the old Trinity Library building is actually very long, unheated and uncooled. Translated, it is very hot and very cold, depending on the time of year. The actual “long room” is on the second floor, with the Book of Kells exhibit on the bottom floor.

Past more gardens and on to the Smurfit Institute of Genetics.

Yes, I think this building should be blue!

Of course. Whoever thought we’d come so far from pea pods in 1866 to the discovery of DNA in 1953 and on to the human genome being sequenced in 2003.  And today, we visit the ancient DNA lab.

We didn’t get any closer than the hallway. They aren’t being rude.  Contamination is the bane of genetics, and especially ancient genetic extraction when samples are already contaminated and scientists have so little to work with in the first place.

However, we could peek in.

I think this is the neatest lab I’ve ever seen.

Irish humor is everyplace.

Ok, I can’t leave my trolley in the plants, but you didn’t say anything about my mops.

Not the ancient DNA lab where chances are few and mistakes are catastrophic, but geneticists in training in a more traditional lab.

James Watson, greeting students every day at the top of the stairs. Just think, this field is new enough that I bet Dr. Bradley knows James Watson.

Dr. Dan Bradley explaining how genetic research was done with gel plates when he first began. I think these are antiques now!

Dan explaining the discovery that the Petrous bone in the skull contains by far the best preserved DNA in ancient specimens. This groundbreaking research came out of this lab. The skull that Dr. Bradley is holding is a plastic model, not a real skull.

Here, a bovine Petrous bone with Dr. Bradley in the background.

Dr. Eppie Jones, the face of the future in genetics. All I can say is that I hope bright young women stay in STEM focused education and sit up and take notice of Eppie’s accomplishments!

On the way from Trinity to UCD (University College Dublin), we passed this wall art. DNA is finally mainstream.

You can view additional photos of Trinity, courtesy Gerard Corcoran, here.

University College Dublin (UCD)

UCD has an ancient genetics lab too.

The ancient DNA lab is vacant today.

We were treated to a presentation about the analysis of DNA, ancient and otherwise. With the advances in both DNA extraction and the analysis of those results, the science of genetics has now morphed into two segments, the actual technical part of the extraction and processing, and the subsequent analysis.

The Insight Center for Data Analytics specializes in the analysis process.

Now that we have the ability to gather huge amounts of genetic information, what can we do with the data, how we advance science and at the same time, make the results understandable?

In the genetics lab at UCD.

New, super fast, super expensive sequencing machine.

Dr. Sean Ennis with the Genomics Medicine Ireland project discussing the Irish Genome initiative. How are the Irish alike and different from others? What defines the Irish, genetically?

The Irish are 95% lactose tolerant, reaching nearly 100% in Western Ireland.

What more can we learn in the future? The project is undertaking sampling DNA of the Irish who have a disease and those who are healthy as well.

Genetic pathways, art in the UCD genetics building.

You can view additional (lovely) photos of UCD at this link, courtesy of Gerard Corcoran who arranged the day’s festivities.

The Irish Folklore Collection

While UCD is a tremendously modern research facility, that’s not all it has to offer. The library hosts the Irish Folklore Collection which has recently undertaken to digitize oral histories recorded in the 1930s, which reach back into the mid 1800s.

At this link, you can search the catalog by name, surname, location or keyword.

You can search by surname here as well.

In the schools collection, you can search by surname or location. It would be worth looking to see where your ancestral surname is found in the early 1900s because the same family may be found in the same location much earlier.

Dinner

Our day ended at a Chinese restaurant where the walls were literally tiles with quarter inch tiles, arranged in the shape of flowers.

This entire restaurant was tiled in this manner. Absolutely amazing!

And since we’re on the subject of art, let’s visit take a side trip!

Quilts, the Universal Language

When possible, I always try to find a quilt shop. Brian and I found 4 in or near Dublin. Two were closed, one was relatively small, although I did find a souvenir fabric, but the last shop, Apple Tree Crafts, held two beautiful quilts.

These stylized trees are each hand embroidered – putting thread to fabric in the creation of art.

Of course, these poppies spoke to me and said, “Take me home,” so I did! Not the whole quilt, just the poppy fabric.

If you’re looking for quilt shops in Ireland, check out this link from the Quilter’s Guild of Ireland and always, always call ahead.

Around the corner from the quilt shop, we found a florist decorated for halloween.

I guess it’s evident that Ireland celebrates Halloween too.

Bye to Dublin

Dublin is a wonderful city. I barely scratched the surface in my 10 days. Of course, I was distracted by the conference and the hurricane. Minor details.

I never realized before my visit how genuinely nice and helpful the Irish are. The language is delightful, both Gaelic and English with that wonderful brogue. I can hear some of that brogue in Appalachia where so many Scots-Irish were transplanted.

The Irish have a wonderful and charming sense of humor as well as being very difficult to upset. They have a permanent lemonade out of lemons attitude. Or more specifically, a trip to the local pub can fix anything, along with Guinness, soda bread and some cheap toilet paper.

How does life get better?

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Native American DNA Resources

Spokane and Flathead men circa 1904

I receive lots of questions every day about testing for Native American DNA, ethnicity, heritage and people who want to find their tribe.

I’ve answered many questions in articles, and I’ve assembled those articles into this handy-dandy one-stop reference about Native American DNA testing.

Where to Start?

If you are searching for your Native American heritage or your tribe, first, read these two articles:

Father’s and Mother’s Direct Lines

Y DNA is inherited by men from their direct paternal line, and mitochondrial DNA is inherited by both genders from their mother’s direct matrilineal line. You can read a short article about how this works, here.

If you’re interested in checking a comprehensive list to see if your mitochondrial DNA haplogroup is Native American, I maintain this page of all known Native American haplogroups:

Information about Native American Y DNA, subsets of haplogroup Q and C:

How Much Native Do You Have?

Estimating how much of your Native ancestor’s DNA you carry today:

Projects – Joining Forces to Work Together

Native American DNA Projects you can join at Family Tree DNA:

Regardless of which other projects you choose to join, I recommend joining the American Indian project by clicking on the Project button on the upper left hand side of your personal page.

News and How To

Some articles are more newsy or include how-to information:

Utilizing Haplogroup Origins and Ancestral Origins at Family Tree DNA:

I’ve written about several individual Native haplogroups and research results. You can see all of articles pertaining to Native American heritage by entering the word “Native” into the search box on the upper right hand corner of my blog at www.dna-explained.com.

Ancient Native Remains

Which Tests?

Family Tree DNA is the only vendor offering comprehensive Y and mitochondrial DNA testing, meaning beyond basic haplogroup identification. However, there are several levels to select from. Several vendors offer autosomal testing, which includes ethnicity estimates.

These articles compare the various types of tests and the vendors offering the tests:

Additional Resources

My blog, Native Heritage Project is fully searchable:

For other DNA related questions, please check the Help page, here.

______________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

The Sacred Boyne Valley – Knowth, New Grange and Tara – 52 Ancestors #171

These ancient sacred sites represent so much of Ireland’s distant past. Of course, if you have Irish heritage, Ireland’s ancient past is also your own. We’re beyond fortunate to have these sites, in any state of preservation today. The fact that they are open to the public is absolutely amazing!

What a glorious day.

First, I want to mention that these people were my ancestors, as proven by the work of Trinity College, in Dublin, and thanks to my McNiel cousin whose Y DNA we tested as a descendant of the Reverend George McNiel. The Y DNA from this McNiel line matches the signature attributed to Niall of the Nine Hostages, High King of Ireland, crowned at Tara. You can read more about Niall of the Nine Hostages genetic signature here, here and here, and how males can test at Family Tree DNA to see if you, or one of your male ancestral lines, descends from this noble lineage.

I wrote about Niall in the article about Rev. McNiel, but there is absolutely nothing like standing on that very site yourself, nearly alone, in the late afternoon, with the sun setting in the misty distance. Niall was with me, as he is with all of his descendants. I could feel his presence and that of those long gone, on that high hill, overlooking Ireland in all directions, surveying his domain.

Before I go on, if you have Irish genealogy, then it’s very likely that this is your history too, that Niall of the Nine Hostages or his relatives are your ancestors as well.  You may carry his blood in your veins, and possibly also in your DNA. After all, 3,500 years equates to about 875 generations. That’s 875 opportunities for a descendant to marry into your line – and chances are very good that they did, probably many times. So this isn’t just my ancestral journey, it’s yours too.

Make yourself a cup of coffee or maybe some fine Irish tea, complete with milk of course, in honor of being Irish, and come along on this great adventure of discovery!

Back to the Past

This, my third full day in Ireland is spent once again with Brian, my trusty personal tour guide, and what a wonderful day it has been.

I knew that this day wasn’t just about the history and mystery of Ireland, but about my own ancestral past – my personal connection to this lush green country.

The places we would drive and walk, my ancestors did too, for hundreds and thousands of years.

Their blood watered this soil. Their ashes remain a part of Ireland.

Morning Fog

The morning began with fog. Brian said this was somewhat unusual in this part of the country, but it created a bit of a dreamlike mystical aura to set the stage.

These historic sites are only about an hour or so out of Dublin, without traffic, but they literally inhabit another world. The added dimension of fog creates a sense of timelessness and transports us back to the time that Niall of the Nine Hostages lived.

The roads quickly shrank from those of a modern city to country roads without center lines because they are too small for two lanes simultaneously. However, traffic is still two-way and everyone is simply expected to be courteous and drive with some semblance of sanity. And they do – everyone – everyday – without the angry blaring of horns. Very, very different from the US. Paradigm shift.

Brian and I discovered this beautiful thatched roof house and adjoining barn in the morning fog, as the sun began peeking through.

Thatched roof houses still exist and are in relatively common use today in the countryside. They aren’t simply part of the past in Ireland. This thatched roof farmhouse in Ireland stands right alongside the road, where nearly all of the old buildings are located, and the barn, covered with vines, stands right in front of the house, separated by only a few inches, smack dab up against the wall which physically comprises the edge of the road. The road used to be the old cart path and before that, probably a footpath, trod by the very first settlers in this valley.

Roads and farms here are bordered with walls. In fact, walls are so common you don’t “see them” anymore. They serve multiple purposes, not the least of which is to keep livestock off of the roads.

Where rock walls don’t exist, hedges do the job as well.

The hedges are so dense that farmers install gates.

New Grange wasn’t far distant, winding down the road. I held my breath on some of those curves, driving on the “wrong side” of the road, but Brian knew exactly what he was doing and where he was going.

A spider spun her web on the sign at the entrance of the historical park at Knowth and New Grange.

Even the gate is beautiful, graced with ornamentation inspired by the carved stones at both sites.

We don’t know exactly why these Neolithic people constructed these mounds. It’s likely that they initially bore a spiritual significance and we do know that later, a group or groups of people lived on the mounds.

The megalithic tomb tradition began 6000 years ago in Brittany, France, 500 years or so before the first tombs established in Ireland.

It’s easy to speculate that the culture came with the people from continental Europe, and that may well be accurate. Professor Dan Bradley, in his presentation this week at Genetic Genealogy Ireland, speaking about ancient DNA and burials, said very clearly that the Ireland of prehistoric times is not, genetically speaking, the Ireland of today. When comparing the DNA of the earliest burials against modern populations, the ancient results map to the far north, an area Dr. Bradley jokingly called Valhalla, land of the mythical Norse “Heaven.” A second ancient burial maps to an area near Portugal. The only burials that map to the Irish of today occurred much later, after the Neolithic, after the Celtic influence and after the Viking invasions.

These mounds were created hundreds to thousands of years before people actually lived on the mounds as residents. Some dead are interred in the mounds, but not enough for the mounds to be a cemetery for the entire community, as we conceive of cemeteries today. But clearly, everyone died and the bodies had to be disposed of in some fashion.

By the time the tombs began to be catalogued and preserved, people had been “visiting” them for 260 years, so virtually everything above ground, meaning both artifacts and bones, had been disturbed, and who knows how much is missing.

Of course, water played a crucial role in the lives of our ancestors. These sacred sites were all established near the River Boyne, crossed by this contemporary bridge today along the walk from the Visitor Center to the bus that takes visitors to the Knowth and New Grange sites.

The River Boyne, giver of life, connects the sacred sites of Knowth, Dowth, New Grange and Tara.

The carved stones at these prehistoric sites are believed to have been transported from distances far away by barge, then log rolled uphill to the sites where they were installed. Of course, the bridge in the photo is modern, established for tourists to tread the ancestral path.

Whoever these ancient settlers were in the Boyne River Valley, they would probably have selected these sites for their elevation and would have looked over the valley and seen much the same scene as today, except that the hillsides would have originally been forested.

Knowth

Knowth is pronounced something like “note” by the locals, in an Irish brogue.

Most of the mounds, which are likely passage graves and sacred ceremonial sites, have not been excavated at Knowth, this first stop on our journey.

Some of these photos leave me breathless and speechless, and I feel they would be better served without narrative, but I need to let you know what you’re viewing. This is exactly what our ancestors would have seen on a similar misty foggy morning thousands of years ago, standing exactly where I was standing.

At one time, people lived on top of these mounds, farmsteads probably, and the first person to rise in the morning would have had this same view before the activities of the day began. Perhaps a goat bleated in the distance and a dog accompanied our early riser.

This mound has been excavated. The soil eventually covered these carved rocks after the site was abandoned, so the excavation exposed the rocks and the site was reinforced so that the stones remain within view.

The view of the countryside down the path between the mounds (left) and other sites (right).

More beautiful spider webs on the historical signage. The local people tell us that the problem with thatched roofs is that they attract spiders who love to nest there. Then again, spiders eat lots of other insects.

Beautiful carved stones. The carvings were created by picking or pecking at the stones with a hammer and chisel, or their Neolithic equivalent. All of the kurbstones, as they are known, are carved, although the carving is difficult to see on some today and nearly impossible in some light situations.

These stones are massive, weighing tons and about waist high on an adult.

Some stones are curved, as the mounds are round.

Many mounds, which served as homes, butted up against each other.

Some passageways functioned as entrances, some as souterrains, underground storage pits for food. Crawling would have been the only way in and out for most of these.

Some tunnels probably functioned as both. Claustrophobic? You wouldn’t want to be the person sent to retrieve whatever was kept there.

As I continued my walk around this mound, I noticed this rock which was very unusual and different from the rest. This rock has carving both on top and on the sides. Most don’t although the archaeological reports indicate that some stones are carved in areas that are not able to be seen, like on the bottoms and backs. The wheel-like carving on top of this stone may have been astrological in nature, perhaps a calendar of sorts.

This area in front of the two sided carved rock (above) is believed to be some type of sacred area. The white stones are original, and are not native to this region. I believe the guide said they were quartz and transported, one by one, from a site in the Wicklow mountains 90 km to the south. The black stones are granite and come from about as far away to the North, gathered and carried one by one up the hill from the River Boyne where they would have been transported by boat. Clearly, these stones were important and it’s thought perhaps that the white stones were ceremonial and may have represented the light and warmth of the sun.

This is one if my favorite stones. I have always had an affinity for spirals. The spiral is the oldest carving, with the undulating carving added later.

The guide said that the archaeologists can recognize the work of individual carvers.

The rock second from left is another absolutely amazing stone. This one, if you’ll notice, has a similar carving to the rock with the carving on top. Both resemble a wheel. These two images are surely somehow connected to each other as well as connected to whatever their religion was. No one would spend this much time and effort otherwise.

The stewards of this site have reconstructed an example of what they believe wooden henges would have been like just beside the mound.

Standing stones, and another entrance.

The most remarkable finding discovered in the archaeological excavations was a beautiful carved flint mace head. I saw the actual artifact the following day in the National Museum, but the position of the mace head in the case made it very difficult to photograph.

You can see additional photos here and here, along with the carved bowl from the passage tomb in New Grange.

These passage mounds at Knowth are not open inside to the public, but the one at New Grange is. That’s where we’re headed next.

Think of Knowth and New Grange as a neighborhood of sorts, not adjacent exactly, but within sight from the tops of the hills and dating from approximately the same timeframe.

New Grange

New Grange is a separate site from Knowth, today, but clearly the original inhabitants were part of the same culture and probably the same family grouping too. After all, the number of original settlers or inhabitants was probably small.

All of these sacred sites are located on hilltops, which could be a factor of both religion as well as defensive protection.

This was the entrance to New Grange in the late 1800s. The area had been largely overgrown. I couldn’t help but notice how clear the carvings were only 118 years ago as compared to today.

Standing stones mark the entrance to the tomb.

Because it is off season here (October), complicated by the weather (Hurricane Ophelia), with few tourists, I was able to get generally unobstructed photos, with few or no people.

This is the entrance to the New Grange passage tomb.  Above the entrance, the light enters through the “lightbox” above the top of the lintel stone at dawn on Winter Solstice, assuming no clouds or fog. The stone in front of that passage entrance is the most elaborately carved stone at the site sporting beautiful spirals. Notice that the stones above the lightbox are mostly the light quartz stones. Were they “guiding” the light on the solstice?

Just pretend this shivering park employee is one of the ancient holy priests!

Yes, it was COLD. But then it would have been cold on December 21st each year when the people who lived here celebrated the beginning of the cyclical warming of the earth – when mother earth begins to rejuvenate and come alive once again.

As we entered the small chamber, we walked through an increasingly smaller passageway until we reached the center some 40 feet inside, in the middle of the mound.  The chamber in the center holds about 25 people, so long as they are good friends and don’t mind being close.

Unfortunately, after this site was discovered in 1799, it was open to the curious for decades, until it became protected. By the time the first scientists documented the site, the human remains of at least 5 people had been scattered on the floor, so we don’t know how or exactly where in this mound they were interred. We do know that they were cremated, although some later burials, believed to be Celtic, found on this site but in another location, were buried, not cremated.

For those who are thinking about the next question, I’ll just answer it.

I asked if DNA extraction had been attempted, and the guide sidestepped the question twice, saying lots of information was as yet unpublished after for than 40 years of excavation. I visited the ancient DNA labs at Trinity College and UCD on the Monday following the conference, and was told there that yes, DNA has been extracted and is awaiting publication. However, they have not been successful, at least not yet, extracting DNA from cremains.

Professor (and geneticist) Dan Bradley who runs the ancient DNA lab at Trinity said that they have access to all skeletal remains in at the National Museum. I took that to mean there may be many publications in the future that will help us further understand the history of the Irish people.

Photos were not allowed inside the passage tomb, but here’s a great video on YouTube that shows approximately what the ancients would have seen at the Winter Solstice when the shaft of light entered the New Grange tomb.

The precision necessary 5200 years ago to engineer and construct this mound to achieve the Winter Solstice’s rising sunlight striking the back wall of the mound is absolutely mind-boggling to comprehend – especially given that the shaft enters above the opening, but strikes the wall at ground level – meaning that an incline in elevation is involved as well.

Amazingly enough, no water has ever penetrated the chamber in the center this mound, an incredible testimony to the original architects. Keep in mind this mound was built before the pyramids of Giza and that these builders had no cement or any substances except dirt and rock. This mound was watertight due to the angle of the stacked stones and layers of gravel and dirt on top of the mound.

From Knowth.com:

This chamber is roofed by a corbelled vault, which has remained intact and watertight without any conservation or repair. The cairn (stone mound) that covers the chamber is estimated to weigh 200,000 tons and is retained at its base by 97 massive kerbstones.

You can see photos of the vaulted ceiling, along with other artworks of New Grange, here. I must admit, I was just a tad nervous inside that chamber. Still, I wouldn’t have missed this opportunity for anything.

Knowth and New Grange have a few standing stones, but nothing like Stonehenge. However, like Stonehenge, the massive stones were all transported from quite some distance, as measured in many miles, not feet or yards, requiring massive manpower and coordination which implies a complex social structure. Both locations were somehow connected to the solstices as well, with other circles and locations marking the equinoxes. Whoever these people were, they were experienced skywatchers and expert architects.

Ok, indulge me with a selfie as I’m standing beside one of the standing stones. I didn’t come this far, survive a blood clot and a hurricane not to get a photo! Thank goodness for cell phones. It was quite windy on the top of this hill.

The outside of the New Grange passage mound is (re)constructed of the same white (quartz) and black (granite) rocks as were found outside surrounding the mound at Knowth. These are fist sized stones at this site, slightly smaller, and the black are interspersed with the white in the wall built above the carved stones.

This photo shows New Grange around 1900 after the overgrowth had been cleared away. These walls, shown before reconstruction, were in amazingly good condition, considering their age.

Walking around the mound, I noticed this beautiful stone building and of course, the sheep in the background. Sheep are everyplace in both Ireland and Scotland. The wall behind the structure has beautiful vines growing up and along the top. The wall is old but not ancient.

This is probably one of the most famous of the New Grange stones, and the one reproduced in the gates.

A lintel stone is found above this carved stone, and the sun is peeking over the mound. I can’t help but wonder how this stone is different and the significance of the lintel. What did this mean to the builders?

This looks to be a drainage area which is probably part of the reason this tomb has stayed dry for 5000+ years.

The top of the passageway mound.

The function of the free-standing rocks on the site is unknown.  None of the stones are native to the area.

Of course, this site is mowed today, but originally, goats, sheep or other domesticated animals would have been their lawnmowers. There may have originally been so many people that little vegetation grew, but today, these daisies have escaped the mower. They speak to me of the women who were obviously present.

Small standing stones.

The entrance to New Grange today, showing the wall, the stones and a few people in profile. I couldn’t help but think that this scene probably wasn’t too different from what our ancestors saw some 5000 years ago, in this exact same location. People walking between the stones to the entrance. Perhaps at that time, festivities and a procession would have surrounded the anxiously awaited solstice morning – or maybe the site was sacred – reserved only for the holy people who would report to the rest if the sun’s light once again struck the back wall in the chamber.

Did these people think that the solstice sun connected them with their ancestors, or perhaps that the solstice sun was a sign from the ancestors? A promise once again of the warming of the earth? Was this passageway also the passageway between worlds?

New Grange from a distance. The entrance to the passage tomb is to the right, by the standing stones.

I’m so grateful that this area remained undeveloped.

Rescue

And because my adventures in life never seem to be complete without rescuing something – a Goldcrest, the smallest bird in Ireland, flew into the window of the tourist center, which is actually a small building away from the mound. Poor thing. Another man, a young farmer from Virginia, and I rescued the bird and I explained to the employee what to do for the stunned bird.

For those who don’t know, I spent years as a volunteer (licensed) wildlife rehabilitator. For a stunned bird, with no obvious injuries, you simply put it into a dark place, like a grocery bag or box, and let it rest for an hour or so. Generally, they will recover enough to leave, or die, or will need treatment for injuries. The employee promised to do so, which was all I could do for the bird in that time and place. I hope it survived. Based on my experience, it stood a pretty good chance.

Interpretive Center

The visitor center for both Knowth and New Grange includes an interpretive center with a nice movie, restrooms, a snack bar and gift shop.

I’m not generally crazy about gift shops, but they do support the site and this one had some really unique offerings.

I loved this green man journal, but it was heavy! I needed something lighter, so I bought a scarf with the images of the stone carvings which I may use in a quilt.

In the interpretive center, I thought this display was simply beautiful. I would like to have those fabrics! Just saying!

This lovely artwork was created by students.

You really get to know someone after several days in a car together. Brian bought me three lovely gifts as he waited in the cafeteria area while I was traipsing around the sacred sites. Amazingly, exactly what I wanted – books – and a CD to watch when I get back home. Brian is not your typical tour guide. He purchased something else for a former client during our 4-day adventure, as well. I’ll be writing about Brian separately, so be sure to stay tuned.

Now, it’s off to Tara, about 45 minutes away, by car.

The Road to Tara

On the road to Tara, Brian knew of a wonderful quaint cottage type of farm. This farm is different than the rest, but every bit as interesting.

This person seems to like to collect old farm equipment. There are pumps and tractors and other things scattered about the place, creating a very unique ambience.

An older, thatched roof type of cottage adjoins a newer addition.

I particularly like the fact that they utilize the top of their rock wall as a planter.

Next, Brian and I stopped at the local pub for lunch. I’ve been subsisting on soup and bread since I arrived, by choice, as both are wonderful. Their vegetable soup here is much more creamy than ours and the vegetables in the soup are more or less pureed. However, in this case, those mushrooms with garlic dip just won the day.

Love these tables in this pub.

Brian asked me if I would be interested in stopping at a quaint little cottage type shop? He didn’t really need to ask. As if I needed convincing, he mentioned that the shop offered a lot of hand made items, and maybe she had quilt fabric too.

Unlike most older farmhouses, which are located within feet of the road, this house was down a long lane.

Look at that old tree which has probably stood sentinel for hundreds of years and seen many generations come and go.

I didn’t know quite what to expect.

This beautiful old home is packed to the gills with woven works and other items hand made by local artisans.

The owner, Mison Fullam, demonstrated weaving. I’ve always been fascinated by weaving, but quilters brains and weaver’s brains don’t work the same way – although both are fascinated by each other’s work.

There isn’t a sign, but the shop is Boyne Valley Wools and Mison told us the story of the Leck family homestead. This house belonged to her husband’s family for generations.

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and today was one of those days.

I walked up to an incredible piece of artwork, a limited edition print by Colette Gough (collettegough@hotmail.com), picked it up, and knew I had to have it. Thank goodness it was affordable. I would share, but it’s copyrighted.

I turned the print over, looking for the price, and noticed what was written on the back.

“Found on Bettystown beach by school children, the Tara brooch is believed to have belonged to the High King of Ireland as it is so ornate and also the elongated pin. It is now housed at the National Museum.”

The Tara Brooch. I had never heard of it before, but it was utterly stunning and perfect in every way, and the print looks like it belongs in the Book of Kells. Better yet, it seems to be associated with my ancestors. Something tangible that was actually theirs? Opinions vary – but regardless, both the art and the brooch are incredible.

I took the photo above, of the brooch itself, the next day after stumbling into it by accident at the National Museum. However, the sign below that I spotted when exiting the museum shows the colors much more vividly.

I can’t even begin to explain how utterly stunning this brooch is, nor how much I’d love to have a replica, maybe as a hair barrette?

Brian decided to wait outside and made a discovery of his own.

I walked outside of the shop and noticed that Brian was giving me the thumbs up sign. Curious, I walked over to see what he was looking at, and aside from sheep, an old cemetery was located behind the wall.

You know, I think this genealogy bug is infecting Brian too!

Private family cemeteries are rather unusual in Ireland, as most of the Irish are Catholic and Catholics are buried in consecrated land, in churchyards. This part of Ireland was (and is) heavily Catholic, with the Protestant faction being focused in Northern Ireland in the Ulster Plantation area.

Mison graciously invited us into the cemetery and gave us a tour.

The cemetery is in poor repair, although the family is working to remedy that situation. The sheep have actually helped immensely. It was previously overgrown with briers, and now you can at least walk relatively unobstructed.

This old tree reminds me of a Druid tree. What stories it must have. You can see some cut wood in the background. Hurricane Ophelia last week was not kind to the trees.

One person wrote their entire family history of this stone. Why can’t my relatives do this?

And of course, there has to be a mystery. In this case, a large crypt of a Finnegan man that the family has absolutely no idea why is buried here.

It was time to depart, but not before we noticed the bridge over…nothing, apparently.

On down the road, we noticed another wonderful stone house, with a miller’s stone, an antique car and geese. Those dogs are the friendliest watchdogs ever. One crawled through the fence to be petted. Don’t tell my grandpuppies I was cheating with another dog.

I guess those geese didn’t lay enough eggs today.

Remember the thatched roof house in the early morning fog? We passed it again, and I realized that the thatching was truly unique.

Can you see the pattern? Notice the woven bird on the top right of the crest of the roof.

Tara isn’t far down the road, another of the megalithic mound neighborhood built along the Boyne River, about 45 minutes by car from New Grange.

Thankfully, the site of Tara itself is somewhat protected, but beneath Tara a few shops celebrate the mystical origins of Tara itself.

The Tara gatekeepers, perhaps?

Tara

Before we get there, I have to warn you. Brian explained that Tara is not one of the most exciting sites for tourists. Many have expectations that Tara is much like New Grange, but it isn’t. For the most part, Tara is unexcavated and still in its original condition. The part that has been excavated has been returned to a natural state, so there are no passage graves that you can enter, interpretive center, walkways or anything like that.

In essence, it’s a very large field, albeit a very special field.

The 100-acre site is now government owned, and free, but also virtually unprotected with no government employee presence. That means it’s visually not as striking with little WOW factor, comparatively speaking. Therefore, many visitors are disappointed.

Brian was afraid I might be disappointed as well, but I attempted to convey to him the extent of my insanity as a genealogist.

Brian’s probably saying to himself, “Oy, no wonder her husband didn’t come with her!”

Well, Brian will have a few stories to add to his repertoire after this week too. I wonder if as I write this, on another continent, if Brian is regaling this week’s tourists with stories about the crazy Tara lady😊

This map created about 1900 by William Wakeman shows the layout of the site, including Rath-Laoghaire at the bottom which is the Niall of the Nine Hostages mound.

Beyond the mound, in the center of the barrows, stands the stone known as the Lia Fail, literally “stone of Ireland” in Gaelic, also known as the “stone of destiny,” where the High Irish Kings were crowned. It has previously been vandalized and is now cemented in place.

The stone is reportedly imbued with magical powers of various descriptions and is said to roar with joy when the rightful king puts his feet on the stone.

By Alison Cassidy – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50403087

This aerial photo shows the gift shop area in the bottom left, the church, and behind the church to the right, the mound of Niall of the Nine Hostages which is the oldest known structure of this type in Ireland.

Tara, like other sacred sites, is located on a vista, high above the surrounding countryside.

Unlike other sites, there are no visitor walkways or paths, except for those worn into the soil by the feet of visitors who enter through a gate and simply walk across a field and up a hill, past the church dedicated to St. Patrick.

It was very common for the early Christian churches to “adopt” Pagan sites in an effort to draw the pagan people into the church.

If that didn’t work, they hoped to disrupt their pagan sites and rituals.

A statue of St. Patrick holding a shamrock stands guard near the church today, as well, looking only slightly out of place.

Passing the church and statue, the vista of the open field greets visitors as they emerge from the treed area surrounding the church. The rolling hills, which aren’t hills at all but ancient earthworks, begin. The sides of the barrows are steep and the grass is long and slippery even without mist or rain. No mowing occurs here.

The first sacred site encountered is the mound of Niall of the Nine Hostages. In early times, rival kings, or those who wished to be king, would send one of their sons, preferably their first-born who was in line to be heir and therefore more “valuable” than the rest, to be a hostage. Hostage in this sense means that the son lived with the actual king instead of his parents in order to discourage the rival kings or king-wannabes from attacking the king, knowing their son lived there and would likely be killed.

Niall took hostages from all 9 of his (potential) rivals from the various provinces of Ireland, or Ireland and Scotland, depending on the source .

The inside of this passage mound does have spiral carved rocks at the entrance, but it’s not open to the public and would not be tall enough to enter upright.

I was able to obtain a photo by slipping the camera inside the grate. When excavated in the 1950s, this passage was full of human remains, nearly to the ceiling, with burials occurring contiguously for more than 1500 years.

The items above are a few of the things excavated in the tomb.

Leaving the mound and turning towards the field, you can see the stone of destiny standing in the distance, at left, on the horizon.

Tara is a massive site, and would have been crowded with people when a new king was crowned.

I followed the path, cut into the grassy plain by the pilgrims’ feet that came, and went, before me, in modern times.

The silence and remoteness today belies the hubbub of those ancient feast and festival days. If you listen carefully, you can hear their voices in the wind.

In the center of the plateau on top of the hill, among mounds and barrows, undulating like Neolithic snakes across the land, we climb to the highest point and the stone of destiny where the kings of Ireland were crowned.

I tried, but the stone didn’t speak for me.

Looking outward from the stone, you can see the valley in the distance as the sun drifts toward the horizon.

In the photo above, the Tara fairy tree is directly under the sun.

What’s a fairy tree?

Fairy trees, generally Hawthorne’s, represent a location for pilgrims to leave items or relics representing prayers in sacred places, often for healing.

Some of these are heartbreaking – in particular, things like prayers written on baby bibs tied to the tree.

Tara is large and it took quite a while to thoughtfully walk the entire area. It’s also very hilly, with steep barrows surrounding the higher areas. At one time, these barrow rings, would have offered protection.

Circling back, we see the Niall of the Nine Hostages mound again. On the horizon, you can see this mound from almost anyplace on the site, which means this mound has inadvertently become the gatekeeper. The church which does have a steeple is obscured in the trees when viewed from Tara and is located between this mound and the road. Thankfully the trees obscure almost everything modern.

As I turn to say goodbye to Tara, knowing I will never return to this land of my ancestors in my lifetime, I’m struck by the soft mysticism that connects this landscape with my bloodline, with my family DNA, with those who trod this land so long ago, pioneers on this timeless landscape. I am here because of these people. They are part of me. My history.

No Brian, I wasn’t disappointed. My heart sang. I leave part of my soul here on the hill of Tara.

I began the day in the mist and the fog, and I end it the same timeless way, with the sun descending over the Niall of the Nine Hostages mound – feeling the spirits of my ancestors speaking across more than 5500 years, on an emerald green grassy plateau in Ireland, far distant from modern life, yet inextricably connected through the silvery spider web of time.

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Which DNA Test is Best?

If you’re reading this article, congratulations. You’re a savvy shopper and you’re doing some research before purchasing a DNA test. You’ve come to the right place.

The most common question I receive is asking which test is best to purchase. There is no one single best answer for everyone – it depends on your testing goals and your pocketbook.

Testing Goals

People who want to have their DNA tested have a goal in mind and seek results to utilize for their particular purpose. Today, in the Direct to Consumer (DTC) DNA market space, people have varied interests that fall into the general categories of genealogy and medical/health.

I’ve approached the question of “which test is best” by providing information grouped into testing goal categories.  I’ve compared the different vendors and tests from the perspective of someone who is looking to test for those purposes – and I’ve created separate sections of this article for each interest..

We will be discussing testing for:

  • Ethnicity – Who Am I? – Breakdown by Various World Regions
  • Adoption – Finding Missing Parents or Close Family
  • Genealogy – Cousin Matching and Ancestor Search/Verification
  • Medical/Health

We will be reviewing the following test types:

  • Autosomal
  • Y DNA (males only)
  • Mitochondrial DNA

I have included summary charts for each section, plus an additional chart for:

  • Additional Vendor Considerations

If you are looking to select one test, or have limited funds, or are looking to prioritize certain types of tests, you’ll want to read about each vendor, each type of test, and each testing goal category.

Each category reports information about the vendors and their products from a different perspective – and only you can decide which of these perspectives and features are most important to you.

You might want to read this short article for a quick overview of the 4 kinds of DNA used for genetic genealogy and DTC testing and how they differ.

The Big 3

Today, there are three major players in the DNA testing market, not in any particular order:

Each of these companies offers autosomal tests, but each vendor offers features that are unique. Family Tree DNA and 23andMe offer additional tests as well.

In addition to the Big 3, there are a couple of new kids on the block that I will mention where appropriate. There are also niche players for the more advanced genetic genealogist or serious researcher, and this article does not address advanced research.

In a nutshell, if you are serious genealogist, you will want to take all of the following tests to maximize your tools for solving genealogical puzzles. There is no one single test that does everything.

  • Full mitochondrial sequence that informs you about your matrilineal line (only) at Family Tree DNA. This test currently costs $199.
  • Y DNA test (for males only) that informs you about your direct paternal (surname) line (only) at Family Tree DNA. This test begins at $169 for 37 markers.
  • Family Finder, an autosomal test that provides ethnicity estimates and cousin matching at Family Tree DNA. This test currently costs $89.
  • AncestryDNA, an autosomal test at Ancestry.com that provides ethnicity estimates and cousin matching. (Do not confuse this test with Ancestry by DNA, which is not the same test and does not provide the same features.) This test currently costs $99, plus the additional cost of a subscription for full feature access. You can test without a subscription, but nonsubscribers can’t access all of the test result features provided to Ancestry subscribers.
  • 23andMe Ancestry Service test, an autosomal test that provides ethnicity estimates and cousin matching. The genealogy version of this test costs $99, the medical+genealogy version costs $199.

A Word About Third Party Tools

A number of third party tools exist, such as GedMatch and DNAGedcom.com, and while these tools are quite useful after testing, these vendors don’t provide tests. In order to use these sites, you must first take an autosomal DNA test from a testing vendor. This article focuses on selecting your DNA testing vendor based on your testing goals.

Let’s get started!

Ethnicity

Many people are drawn to DNA testing through commercials that promise to ‘tell you who you are.” While the allure is exciting, the reality is somewhat different.

Each of the major three vendors provide an ethnicity estimate based on your autosomal DNA test, and each of the three vendors will provide you with a different result.

Yep, same person, different ethnicity breakdowns.

Hopefully, the outcomes will be very similar, but that’s certainly not always the case. However, many people take one test and believe those results wholeheartedly. Please don’t. You may want to read Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages to see how varied my own ethnicity reports are at various vendors as compared to my known genealogy.

The technology for understanding “ethnicity” from a genetic perspective is still very new. Your ethnicity estimate is based on reference populations from around the world – today. People and populations move, and have moved, for hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands of years. Written history only reaches back a fraction of that time, so the estimates provided to people today are not exact.

That isn’t to criticize any individual vendor. View each vendor’s results not as gospel, but as their opinion based on their reference populations and their internal proprietary algorithm of utilizing those reference populations to produce your ethnicity results.

To read more about how ethnicity testing works, and why your results may vary between vendors or not be what you expected, click here.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from testing, only to be sure consumers understand the context of what they will be receiving. Generally speaking, these results are accurate at the continental level, and less accurate within continents, such as European regional breakdowns.

All three testing companies provide additional features or tools, in addition to your ethnicity estimates, that are relevant to ethnicity or population groups.

Let’s look at each company separately.

Ethnicity – Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA’s ethnicity tool is called myOrigins and provides three features or tools in addition to the actual ethnicity estimate and associated ethnicity map.

Please note that throughout this article you can click on any image to enlarge.

On the myOrigins ethnicity map page, above, your ethnicity percentages and map are shown, along with two additional features.

The Shared Origins box to the left shows the matching ethnic components of people on your DNA match list. This is particularly useful if you are trying to discover, for example, where a particular minority admixture comes from in your lineage. You can select different match types, for example, immediate relatives or X chromosome matches, which have special inheritance qualities.

Clicking on the apricot (mitochondrial DNA) and green (Y DNA) pins in the lower right corner drops the pins in the locations on your map of the most distant ancestral Y and mitochondrial DNA locations of the individuals in the group you have selected in the Shared Origins match box. You may or may not match these individuals on the Y or mtDNA lines, but families tend to migrate in groups, so match hints of any kind are important.

A third unique feature provided by Family Tree DNA is Ancient Origins, a tool released with little fanfare in November 2016.

Ancient Origins shows the ancient source of your European DNA, based on genome sequencing of ancient DNA from the locations shown on the map.

Additionally, Family Tree DNA hosts an Ancient DNA project where they have facilitated the upload of the ancient genomes so that customers today can determine if they match these ancient individuals.

Kits included in the Ancient DNA project are shown in the chart below, along with their age and burial location. Some have matches today, and some of these samples are included on the Ancient Origins map.

Individual Approx. Age Burial Location Matches Ancient Origins Map
Clovis Anzick 12,500 Montana (US) Yes No
Linearbandkeramik 7,500 Stuttgart, Germany Yes Yes
Loschbour 8,000 Luxembourg Yes Yes
Palaeo-Eskimo 4,000 Greenland No No
Altai Neanderthal 50,000 Altai No No
Denisova 30,000 Siberia No No
Hinxton-4 2,000 Cambridgeshire, UK No No
BR2 3,200 Hungary Yes Yes
Ust’-Ishim 45,000 Siberia Yes No
NE1 7,500 Hungary Yes Yes

Ethnicity – Ancestry

In addition to your ethnicity estimate, Ancestry also provides a feature called Genetic Communities.

Your ethnicity estimate provides percentages of DNA found in regions shown on the map by fully colored shapes – green in Europe in the example above. Genetic Communities show how your DNA clusters with other people in specific regions of the world – shown with dotted clusters in the US in this example.

In my case, my ethnicity at Ancestry shows my European roots, illustrated by the green highlighted areas, and my two Genetic Communities are shown by yellow and red dotted regions in the United States.

My assigned Genetic Communities indicate that my DNA clusters with other people whose ancestors lived in two regions; The Lower Midwest and Virginia as well as the Alleghenies and Northeast Indiana.

Testers can then view their DNA matches within that community, as well as a group of surnames common within that community.

The Genetic Communities provided for me are accurate, but don’t expect all of your genealogical regions to be represented in Genetic Communities. For example, my DNA is 25% German, and I don’t have any German communities today, although ancestry will be adding new Genetic Communities as new clusters are formed.

You can read more about Genetic Communities here and here.

Ethnicity – 23andMe

In addition to ethnicity percentage estimates, called Ancestry Composition, 23andMe offers the ability to compare your Ancestry Composition against that of your parent to see which portions of your ethnicity you inherited from each parent, although there are problems with this tool incorrectly assigning parental segments.

Additionally, 23andMe paints your chromosome segments with your ethnic heritage, as shown below.

You can see that my yellow Native American segments appear on chromosomes 1 and 2.

In January 2017, 23andMe introduced their Ancestry Timeline, which I find to be extremely misleading and inaccurate. On my timeline, shown below, they estimate that my most recent British and Irish ancestor was found in my tree between 1900 and 1930 while in reality my most recent British/Irish individual found in my tree was born in England in 1759.

I do not view 23andMe’s Ancestry Timeline as a benefit to the genealogist, having found that it causes people to draw very misleading conclusions, even to the point of questioning their parentage based on the results. I wrote about their Ancestry Timeline here.

Ethnicity Summary

All three vendors provide both ethnicity percentage estimates and maps. All three vendors provide additional tools and features relevant to ethnicity. Vendors also provide matching to other people which may or may not be of interest to people who test only for ethnicity. “Who you are” only begins with ethnicity estimates.

DNA test costs are similar, although the Family Tree DNA test is less at $89. All three vendors have sales from time to time.

Ethnicity Vendor Summary Chart

Ethnicity testing is an autosomal DNA test and is available for both males and females.

Family Tree DNA Ancestry 23andMe
Ethnicity Test Included with $89 Family Finder test Included with $99 Ancestry DNA test Included with $99 Ancestry Service
Percentages and Maps Yes Yes Yes
Shared Ethnicity with Matches Yes No Yes
Additional Feature Y and mtDNA mapping of ethnicity matches Genetic Communities Ethnicity phasing against parent (has issues)
Additional Feature Ancient Origins Ethnicity mapping by chromosome
Additional Feature Ancient DNA Project Ancestry Timeline

 

Adoption and Parental Identity

DNA testing is extremely popular among adoptees and others in search of missing parents and grandparents.

The techniques used for adoption and parental search are somewhat different than those used for more traditional genealogy, although non-adoptees may wish to continue to read this section because many of the features that are important to adoptees are important to other testers as well.

Adoptees often utilize autosomal DNA somewhat differently than traditional genealogists by using a technique called mirror trees. In essence, the adoptee utilizes the trees posted online of their closest DNA matches to search for common family lines within those trees. The common family lines will eventually lead to the individuals within those common trees that are candidates to be the parents of the searcher.

Here’s a simplified hypothetical example of my tree and a first cousin adoptee match.

The adoptee matches me at a first cousin level, meaning that we share at least one common grandparent – but which one? Looking at other people the adoptee matches, or the adoptee and I both match, we find Edith Lore (or her ancestors) in the tree of multiple matches. Since Edith Lore is my grandmother, the adoptee is predicted to be my first cousin, and Edith Lore’s ancestors appear in the trees of our common matches – that tells us that Edith Lore is also the (probable) grandmother of the adoptee.

Looking at the possibilities for how Edith Lore can fit into the tree of me and the adoptee, as first cousins, we fine the following scenario.

Testing the known child of daughter Ferverda will then provide confirmation of this relationship if the known child proves to be a half sibling to the adoptee.

Therefore, close matches, the ability to contact matches and trees are very important to adoptees. I recommend that adoptees make contact with www.dnaadoption.com. The volunteers there specialize in adoptions and adoptees, provide search angels to help people and classes to teach adoptees how to utilize the techniques unique to adoption search such as building mirror trees.

For adoptees, the first rule is to test with all 3 major vendors plus MyHeritage. Family Tree DNA allows you to test with both 23andMe and Ancestry and subsequently transfer your results to Family Tree DNA, but I would strongly suggest adoptees test on the Family Tree DNA platform instead. Your match results from transferring to Family Tree DNA from other companies, except for MyHeritage, will be fewer and less reliable because both 23andMe and Ancestry utilize different chip technology.

For most genealogists, MyHeritage is not a player, as they have only recently entered the testing arena, have a very small data base, no tools and are having matching issues. I recently wrote about MyHeritage here. However, adoptees may want to test with MyHeritage, or upload your results to MyHeritage if you tested with Family Tree DNA, because your important puzzle-solving match just might have tested there and no place else. You can read about transfer kit compatibility and who accepts which vendors’ tests here.

Adoptees can benefit from ethnicity estimates at the continental level, meaning that regional (within continent) or minority ethnicity should be taken with a very large grain of salt. However, knowing that you have 25% Jewish heritage, for example, can be a very big clue to an adoptee’s search.

Another aspect of the adoptees search that can be relevant is the number of foreign testers. For many years, neither 23andMe, nor Ancestry tested substantially (or at all) outside the US. Family Tree DNA has always tested internationally and has a very strong Jewish data base component.

Not all vendors report X chromosome matches. The X chromosome is important to genetic genealogy, because it has a unique inheritance path. Men don’t inherit an X chromosome from their fathers. Therefore, if you match someone on the X chromosome, you know the relationship, for a male, must be from their mother’s side. For a female, the relationship must be from the mother or the father’s mother’s side. You can read more about X chromosome matching here.

Neither Ancestry nor MyHeritage have chromosome browsers which allow you to view the segments of DNA on which you match other individuals, which includes the X chromosome.

Adoptee Y and Mitochondrial Testing

In addition to autosomal DNA testing, adoptees will want to test their Y DNA (males only) and mitochondrial DNA.

These tests are different from autosomal DNA which tests the DNA you receive from all of your ancestors. Y and mitochondrial DNA focus on only one specific line, respectively. Y DNA is inherited by men from their fathers and the Y chromosome is passed from father to son from time immemorial. Therefore, testing the Y chromosome provides us with the ability to match to current people as well as to use the Y chromosome as a tool to look far back in time. Adoptees tend to be most interested in matching current people, at least initially.

Working with male adoptees, I have a found that about 30% of the time a male will match strongly to a particular surname, especially at higher marker levels. That isn’t always true, but adoptees will never know if they don’t test. An adoptee’s match list is shown at 111 markers, below.

Furthermore, utilizing the Y and mitochondrial DNA test in conjunction with autosomal DNA matching at Family Tree DNA helps narrows possible relatives. The Advanced Matching feature allows you to see who you match on both the Y (or mitochondrial) DNA lines AND the autosomal test, in combination.

Mitochondrial DNA tests the matrilineal line only, as women pass their mitochondrial DNA to all of their children, but only females pass it on. Family Tree DNA provides matching and advanced combination matching/searching for mitochondrial DNA as well as Y DNA. Both genders of children carry their mother’s mitochondrial DNA. Unfortunately, mitochondrial DNA is more difficult to work with because of the surname changes in each generation, but you cannot be descended from a woman, or her direct matrilineal ancestors if you don’t substantially match her mitochondrial DNA.

Some vendors state that you receive mitochondrial DNA with your autosomal results, which is only partly accurate. At 23andMe, you receive a haplogroup but no detailed results and no matching. 23andMe does not test the entire mitochondria and therefore cannot provide either advanced haplogroup placement nor Y or mitochondrial DNA matching between testers.

For additional details on the Y and Mitochondrial DNA tests themselves and what you receive, please see the Genealogy – Y and Mitochondrial DNA section.

Adoption Summary

Adoptees should test with all 4 vendors plus Y and mitochondrial DNA testing.

  • Ancestry – due to their extensive data base size and trees
  • Family Tree DNA – due to their advanced tools, chromosome browser, Y and mitochondrial DNA tests (Ancestry and 23andMe participants can transfer autosomal raw data files and see matches for free, but advanced tools require either an unlock fee or a test on the Family Tree DNA platform)
  • 23andMe – no trees and many people don’t participate in sharing genetic information
  • MyHeritage – new kid on the block, working through what is hoped are startup issues
  • All adoptees should take the full mitochondrial sequence test.
  • Male adoptees should take the 111 marker Y DNA test, although you can start with 37 or 67 markers and upgrade later.
  • Y and mitochondrial tests are only available at Family Tree DNA.

Adoptee Vendor Feature Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA Ancestry 23andMe MyHeritage
Autosomal DNA – Males and Females
Matching Yes Yes Yes Yes – problems
Relationship Estimates* Yes – May be too close Yes – May be too distant Yes – Matches may not be sharing Yes –  problematic
International Reach Very strong Not strong but growing Not strong Small but subscriber base is European focused
Trees Yes Yes No Yes
Tree Quantity 54% have trees, 46% no tree (of my first 100 matches) 56% have trees, 44% no tree or private (of my first 100 matches) No trees ~50% don’t have trees or are private (cannot discern private tree without clicking on every tree)
Data Base Size Large Largest Large – but not all opt in to matching Very small
My # of Matches on 4-23-2017 2,421 23,750 1,809 but only 1,114 are sharing 75
Subscription Required No No for partial, Yes for full functionality including access to matches’ trees, minimal subscription for $49 by calling Ancestry No No for partial, Yes for full functionality
Other Relevant Tools New Ancestor Discoveries
Autosomal DNA Issues Many testers don’t have trees Many testers don’t have trees Matching opt-in is problematic, no trees at all Matching issues, small data base size is problematic, many testers don’t have trees
Contact Methodology E-mail address provided to matches Internal message system – known delivery issues Internal message system Internal message system
X Chromosome Matching Yes No Yes No
Y-DNA – Males Only
Y DNA STR Test Yes- 37, 67, and 111 markers No No No
Y Haplogroup Yes as part of STR test plus additional testing available No Yes, basic level but no additional testing available, outdated haplogroups No
Y Matching Yes No No No
Advanced Matching Between Y and Autosomal Yes No No No
Mitochondrial DNA- Males and Females
Test Yes, partial and full sequence No No No
Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup Yes, included in test No Yes, basic but full haplogroup not available, haplogroup several versions behind No
Advanced Matching Between Mitochondrial and Autosomal Yes No No No

Genealogy – Cousin Matching and Ancestor Search/Verification

People who want to take a DNA test to find cousins, to learn more about their genealogy, to verify their genealogy research or to search for unknown ancestors and break down brick walls will be interested in various types of testing

Test Type Who Can Test
Y DNA – direct paternal line Males only
Mitochondrial DNA – direct matrilineal line Males and Females
Autosomal – all lines Males and Females

Let’s begin with autosomal DNA testing for genealogy which tests your DNA inherited from all ancestral lines.

Aside from ethnicity, autosomal DNA testing provides matches to other people who have tested. A combination of trees, meaning their genealogy, and their chromosome segments are used to identify (through trees) and verify (through DNA segments) common ancestor(s) and then to assign a particular DNA segment(s) to that ancestor or ancestral couple. This process, called triangulation, then allows you to assign specific segments to particular ancestors, through segment matching among multiple people. You then know that when another individual matches you and those other people on the same segment, that the DNA comes from that same lineage. Triangulation is the only autosomal methodology to confirm ancestors who are not close relatives, beyond the past 2-3 generations or so.

All three vendors provide matching, but the tools they include and their user interfaces are quite different. 

Genealogy – Autosomal –  Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA entered DNA testing years before any of the others, initially with Y and mitochondrial DNA testing.

Because of the diversity of their products, their website is somewhat busier, but they do a good job of providing areas on the tester’s personal landing page for each of the products and within each product, a link for each feature or function.

For example, the Family Finder test is Family Tree DNA’s autosomal test. Within that product, tools provided are:

  • Matching
  • Chromosome Browser
  • Linked Relationships
  • myOrigins
  • Ancient Origins
  • Matrix
  • Advanced Matching

Unique autosomal tools provided by Family Tree DNA are:

  • Linked Relationships that allows you to connect individuals that you match to their location in your tree, indicating the proper relationship. Phased Family Matching uses these relationships within your tree to indicate which side of your tree other matches originate from.
  • Phased Family Matching shows which side of your tree, maternal, paternal or both, someone descends from, based on phased DNA matching between you and linked relationship matches as distant as third cousins. This allows Family Tree DNA to tell you whether matches are paternal (blue icon), maternal (red icon) or both (purple icon) without a parent’s DNA. This is one of the best autosomal tools at Family Tree DNA, shown below.

  • In Common With and Not In Common With features allow you to sort your matches in common with another individual a number of ways, or matches not in common with that individual.
  • Filtered downloads provide the downloading of chromosome data for your filtered match list.
  • Stackable filters and searches – for example, you can select paternal matches and then search for a particular surname or ancestral surname within the paternal matches.
  • Common ethnicity matching through myOrigins allows you to see selected groups of individuals who match you and share common ethnicities.
  • Y and mtDNA locations of autosomal matches are provided on your ethnicity map through myOrigins.
  • Advanced matching tool includes Y, mtDNA and autosomal in various combinations. Also includes matches within projects where the tester is a member as well as by partial surname.
  • The matrix tool allows the tester to enter multiple people that they match in order to see if those individuals also match each other. The matrix tool is, in combination with the in-common-with tool and the chromosome browser is a form of pseudo triangulation, but does not indicate that the individuals match on the same segment.

  • Chromosome browser with the ability to select different segment match thresholds to display when comparing 5 or fewer individuals to your results.
  • Projects to join which provide group interaction and allow individuals to match only within the project, if desired.

To read more about how to utilize the various autosomal tools at Family Tree DNA, with examples, click here.

Genealogy – Autosomal – Ancestry

Ancestry only offers autosomal DNA testing to their customers, so their page is simple and straightforward.

Ancestry is the only testing vendor (other than MyHeritage who is not included in this section) to require a subscription for full functionality, although if you call the Ancestry support line, a minimal subscription is available for $49. You can see your matches without a subscription, but you cannot see your matches trees or utilize other functions, so you will not be able to tell how you connect to your matches. Many genealogists have Ancestry subscriptions, so this is minimally problematic for most people.

However, if you don’t realize you need a subscription initially, the required annual subscription raises the effective cost of the test quite substantially. If you let your subscription lapse, you no longer have access to all DNA features. The cost of testing with Ancestry is the cost of the test plus the cost of a subscription if you aren’t already a subscriber.

This chart, from the Ancestry support center, provides details on which features are included for free and which are only available with a subscription.

Unique tools provided by Ancestry include:

  • Shared Ancestor Hints (green leaves) which indicate a match with whom you share a common ancestor in your tree connected to your DNA, allowing you to display the path of you and your match to the common ancestor. In order to take advantage of this feature, testers must link their tree to their DNA test. Otherwise, Ancestry can’t do tree matching.  As far as I’m concerned, this is the single most useful DNA tool at Ancestry. Subscription required.

  • DNA Circles, example below, are created when several people whose DNA matches also share a common ancestor. Subscription required.

  • New Ancestor Discoveries (NADs), which are similar to Circles, but are formed when you match people descended from a common ancestor, but don’t have that ancestor in your tree. The majority of the time, these NADs are incorrect and are, when dissected and the source can be determined, found to be something like the spouse of a sibling of your ancestor. I do not view NADs as a benefit, more like a wild goose chase, but for some people these could be useful so long as the individual understands that these are NOT definitely ancestors and only hints for research. Subscription required.
  • Ancestry uses a proprietary algorithm called Timber to strip DNA from you and your matches that they consider to be “too matchy,” with the idea that those segments are identical by population, meaning likely to be found in large numbers within a population group – making them meaningless for genealogy. The problem is that Timber results in the removal of valid segments, especially in endogamous groups like Acadian families. This function is unique to Ancestry, but many genealogists (me included) don’t consider Timber a benefit.
  • Genetic Communities shows you groups of individuals with whom your DNA clusters. The trees of cluster members are then examined by Ancestry to determine connections from which Genetic Communities are formed. You can filter your DNA match results by Genetic Community.

Genealogy – Autosomal – 23and Me

Unfortunately, the 23andMe website is not straightforward or intuitive. They have spent the majority of the past two years transitioning to a “New Experience” which has resulted in additional confusion and complications when matching between people on multiple different platforms. You can take a spin through the New Experience by clicking here.

23andMe requires people to opt-in to sharing, even after they have selected to participate in Ancestry Services (genealogy) testing, have opted-in previously and chosen to view their DNA Relatives. Users on the “New Experience” can then either share chromosome data and results with each other individually, meaning on a one by one basis, or globally by a one-time opt-in to “open sharing” with matches. If a user does not opt-in to both DNA Relatives and open sharing, sharing requests must be made individually to each match, and they must opt-in to share with each individual user. This complexity and confusion results in an approximate sharing rate of between 50 and 60%. One individual who religiously works their matches by requesting sharing now has a share rate of about 80% of their matches in the data base who HAVE initially selected to participate in DNA Relatives. You can read more about the 23andMe experience at this link.

Various genetic genealogy reports and tools are scattered between the Reports and Tools tabs, and within those, buried in non-intuitive locations. If you are going to utilize 23andMe for matching and genealogy, in addition to the above link, I recommend Kitty Cooper’s blogs about the new DNA Relatives here and on triangulation here. Print the articles, and use them as a guide while navigating the 23andMe site.

Note that some screens (the Tools, DNA Relatives, then DNA tab) on the site do not display/work correctly utilizing Internet Explorer, but do with Edge or other browsers.

The one genealogy feature unique to 23andMe is:

  • Triangulation at 23andMe allows you to select a specific match to compare your DNA against. Several pieces of information will be displayed, the last of which, scrolling to the bottom, is a list of your common relatives with the person you selected.

In the example below, I’ve selected to see the matches I match in common with known family member, Stacy Den (surnames have been obscured for privacy reasons.)  Please note that the Roberta V4 Estes kit is a second test that I took for comparison purposes when the new V4 version of 23andMe was released.  Just ignore that match, because, of course I match myself as a twin.

If an individual does not match both you and your selected match, they will not appear on this list.

In the “relatives in common” section, each person is listed with a “shared DNA” column. For a person to be shown on this “in common” list, you obviously do share DNA with these individuals and they also share with your match, but the “shared DNA” column goes one step further. This column indicates whether or not you and your match both share a common DNA segment with the “in common” person.

I know this is confusing, so I’ve created this chart to illustrate what will appear in the “Shared DNA” column of the individuals showing on the list of matches, above, shared between me and Stacy Den.

Clicking on “Share to see” sends Sarah a sharing request for her to allow you to see her segment matches.

Let’s look at an example with “yes” in the Shared DNA column.

Clicking on the “Yes” in the Shared DNA column of Debbie takes us to the chromosome browser which shows both your selected match, Stacy in my case, and Debbie, the person whose “yes” you clicked.

All three people, meaning me, Stacy and Debbie share a common DNA segment, shown below on chromosome 17.

What 23andMe does NOT say is that these people. Stacy and Debbie, also match each other, in addition to matching me, which means all three of us triangulate.

Because I manage Stacy’s kit at 23andMe, I can check to see if Debbie is on Stacy’s match list, and indeed, Debbie is on Stacy’s match list and Stacy does match both Debbie and me on chromosome 17 in exactly the same location shown above, proving unquestionably that the three of us all match each other and therefore triangulate on this segment. In our case, it’s easy to identify our common relative whose DNA all 3 of us share.

Genealogy – Autosomal Summary

While all 3 vendors offer matching, their interfaces and tools vary widely.

I would suggest that Ancestry is the least sophisticated and has worked hard to make their tools easy for the novice working with genetic genealogy. Their green leaf DNA+Tree Matching is their best feature, easy to use and important for the novice and experienced genealogist alike.  Now, if they just had that chromosome browser so we could see how we match those people.

Ancestry’s Circles, while a nice feature, encourage testers to believe that their DNA or relationship is confirmed by finding themselves in a Circle, which is not the case.

Circles can be formed as the result of misinformation in numerous trees. For example, if I were to inaccurately list Smith as the surname for one of my ancestor’s wives, I would find myself in a Circle for Barbara Smith, when in fact, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that her surname is Smith. Yet, people think that Barbara Smith is confirmed due to a Circle having been formed and finding themselves in Barbara Smith’s Circle. Copying incorrect trees equals the formation of incorrect Circles.

It’s also possible that I’m matching people on multiple lines and my DNA match to the people in any given Circle is through another common ancestor entirely.

A serious genealogist will test minimally at Ancestry and at Family Tree DNA, who provides a chromosome browser and other tools necessary to confirm relationships and shared DNA segments.

Family Tree DNA is more sophisticated, so consequently more complex to use.  They provide matching plus numerous other tools. The website and matching is certainly friendly for the novice, but to benefit fully, some experience or additional education is beneficial, not unlike traditional genealogy research itself. This is true not just for Family Tree DNA, but GedMatch and 23andMe who all three utilize chromosome browsers.

The user will want to understand what a chromosome browser is indicating about matching DNA segments, so some level of education makes life a lot easier. Fortunately, understanding chromosome browser matching is not complex. You can read an article about Match Groups and Triangulation here. I also have an entire series of Concepts articles, Family Tree DNA offers a webinar library, their Learning Center and other educational resources are available as well.

Family Tree DNA is the only vendor to provide Phased Family Matches, meaning that by connecting known relatives who have DNA tested to your tree, Family Tree DNA can then identify additional matches as maternal, paternal or both. This, in combination with pseudo-phasing are very powerful matching tools.

23andMe is the least friendly of the three companies, with several genetic genealogy unfriendly restrictions relative to matching, opt-ins, match limits and such. They have experienced problem after problem for years relative to genetic genealogy, which has always been a second-class citizen compared to their medical research, and not a priority.

23andMe has chosen to implement a business model where their customers must opt-in to share segment information with other individuals, either one by one or by opting into open sharing. Based on my match list, roughly 60% of my actual DNA matches have opted in to sharing.

Their customer base includes fewer serious genealogists and their customers often are not interested in genealogy at all.

Having said that, 23andMe is the only one of the three that provides actual triangulated matches for users on the New Experience and who have opted into sharing.

If I were entering the genetic genealogy testing space today, I would test my autosomal DNA at Ancestry and at Family Tree DNA, but I would probably not test at 23andMe. I would test both my Y DNA (if a male) and mitochondrial at Family Tree DNA.

Thank you to Kitty Cooper for assistance with parent/child matching and triangulation at 23andMe.

Genealogy Autosomal Vendor Feature Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA Ancestry 23andMe
Matching Yes Yes Yes – each person has to opt in for open sharing or authorize sharing individually, many don’t
Estimated Relationships Yes Yes Yes
Chromosome Browser Yes No – Large Issue Yes
Chromosome Browser Threshold Adjustment Yes No Chromosome Browser No
X Chromosome Matching Yes No Yes
Trees Yes Yes – subscription required so see matches’ trees No
Ability to upload Gedcom file Yes Yes No
Ability to search trees Yes Yes No
Subscription in addition to DNA test price No No for partial, Yes for full functionality, minimal subscription for $49 by calling Ancestry No
DNA + Ancestor in Tree Matches No Yes – Leaf Hints – subscription required – Best Feature No
Phased Parental Side Matching Yes – Best Feature No No
Parent Match Indicator Yes No Yes
Sort or Group by Parent Match Yes Yes Yes
In Common With Tool Yes Yes Yes
Not In Common With Tool Yes No No
Triangulated Matches No – pseudo with ICW, browser and matrix No Yes – Best Feature
Common Surnames Yes Yes – subscription required No
Ability to Link DNA Matches on Tree Yes No No
Matrix to show match grid between multiple matches Yes No No
Match Filter Tools Yes Minimal Some
Advanced Matching Tool Yes No No
Multiple Test Matching Tool Yes No multiple tests No multiple tests
Ethnicity Matching Yes No Yes
Projects Yes No No
Maximum # of Matches Restricted No No Yes – 2000 unless you are communicating with the individuals, then they are not removed from your match list
All Customers Participate Yes Yes, unless they don’t have a subscription No – between 50-60% opt-in
Accepts Transfers from Other Testing Companies Yes No No
Free Features with Transfer Matching, ICW, Matrix, Advanced Matching No transfers No transfers
Transfer Features Requiring Unlock $ Chromosome Browser, Ethnicity, Ancient Origins, Linked Relationships, Parentally Phased Matches No Transfers No transfers
Archives DNA for Later Testing Yes, 25 years No, no additional tests available No, no additional tests available
Additional Tool DNA Circles – subscription required
Additional Tool New Ancestor Discoveries – subscription required
Y DNA Not included in autosomal test but is additional test, detailed results including matching No Haplogroup only
Mitochondrial DNA Not included in autosomal test but is additional test, detailed results including matching No Haplogroup only
Advanced Testing Available Yes No No
Website Intuitive Yes, given their many tools Yes, very simple No
Data Base Size Large Largest Large but many do not test for genealogy, only test for health
Strengths Many tools, multiple types of tests, phased matching without parent DNA + Tree matching, size of data base Triangulation
Challenges Website episodically times out No chromosome browser or advanced tools Sharing is difficult to understand and many don’t, website is far from intuitive

 

Genealogy – Y and Mitochondrial DNA

Two indispensable tools for genetic genealogy that are often overlooked are Y and mitochondrial DNA.

The inheritance path for Y DNA is shown by the blue squares and the inheritance path for mitochondrial DNA is shown by the red circles for the male and female siblings shown at the bottom of the chart.

Y-DNA Testing for Males

Y DNA is inherited by males only, from their father. The Y chromosome makes males male. Women instead inherit an X chromosome from their father, which makes them female. Because the Y chromosome is not admixed with the DNA of the mother, the same Y chromosome has been passed down through time immemorial.

Given that the Y chromosome follows the typical surname path, Y DNA testing is very useful for confirming surname lineage to an expected direct paternal ancestor. In other words, an Estes male today should match, with perhaps a few mutations, to other descendants of Abraham Estes who was born in 1647 in Kent, England and immigrated to the colony of Virginia.

Furthermore, that same Y chromosome can look far back in time, thousands of years, to tell us where that English group of Estes men originated, before the advent of surnames and before the migration to England from continental Europe. I wrote about the Estes Y DNA here, so you can see an example of how Y DNA testing can be used.

Y DNA testing for matching and haplogroup identification, which indicates where in the world your ancestors were living within the past few hundred to few thousand years, is only available from Family Tree DNA. Testing can be purchased for either 37, 67 or 111 markers, with the higher marker numbers providing more granularity and specificity in matching.

Family Tree DNA provides three types of Y DNA tests.

  • STR (short tandem repeat) testing is the traditional Y DNA testing for males to match to each other in a genealogically relevant timeframe. These tests can be ordered in panels of 37, 67 or 111 markers and lower levels can be upgraded to higher levels at a later date. An accurate base haplogroup prediction is made from STR markers.
  • SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) testing is a different type of testing that tests single locations for mutations in order to confirm and further refine haplogroups. Think of a haplogroup as a type of genetic clan, meaning that haplogroups are used to track migration of humans through time and geography, and are what is utilized to determine African, European, Asian or Native heritage in the direct paternal line. SNP tests are optional and can be ordered one at a time, in groups called panels for a particular haplogroup or a comprehensive research level Y DNA test called the Big Y can be ordered after STR testing.
  • The Big Y test is a research level test that scans the entire Y chromosome to determine the most refined haplogroup possible and to report any previously unknown mutations (SNPs) that may define further branches of the Y DNA tree. This is the technique used to expand the Y haplotree.

You can read more about haplogroups here and about the difference between STR markers and SNPs here, here and here.

Customers receive the following features and tools when they purchase a Y DNA test at Family Tree DNA or the Ancestry Services test at 23andMe. The 23andMe Y DNA information is included in their Ancestry Services test. The Family Tree DNA Y DNA information requires specific tests and is not included in the Family Finder test. You can click here to read about the difference in the technology between Y DNA testing at Family Tree DNA and at 23andMe. Ancestry is not included in this comparison because they provide no Y DNA related information.

Y DNA Vendor Feature Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA 23andMe
Varying levels of STR panel marker testing Yes, in panels of 37, 67 and 111 markers No
Test panel (STR) marker results Yes Not tested
Haplogroup assignment Yes – accurate estimate with STR panels, deeper testing available Yes –base haplogroup by scan – haplogroup designations are significantly out of date, no further testing available
SNP testing to further define haplogroup Yes – can purchase individual SNPs, by SNP panels or Big Y test No
Matching to other participants Yes No
Trees available for your matches Yes No
E-mail of matches provided Yes No
Calculator tool to estimate probability of generational distance between you and a match Yes No
Earliest known ancestor information Yes No
Projects Surname, haplogroup and geographic projects No
Ability to search Y matches Yes No Y matching
Ability to search matches within projects Yes No projects
Ability to search matches by partial surname Yes No
Haplotree and customer result location on tree Yes, detailed with every branch Yes, less detailed, subset
Terminal SNP used to determine haplogroup Yes Yes, small subset available
Haplogroup Map Migration map Heat map
Ancestral Origins – summary by ancestral location of others you match, by test level Yes No
Haplogroup Origins – match ancestral location summary by haplogroup, by test level Yes No
SNP map showing worldwide locations of any selected SNP Yes No
Matches map showing mapped locations of your matches most distant ancestor in the paternal line, by test panel Yes No
Big Y – full scan of Y chromosome for known and previously unknown mutations (SNPs) Yes No
Big Y matching Yes No
Big Y matching known SNPs Yes No
Big Y matching novel variants (unknown or yet unnamed SNPs) Yes No
Filter Big Y matches Yes No
Big Y results Yes No
Advanced matching for multiple test types Yes No
DNA is archived so additional tests or upgrades can be ordered at a later date Yes, 25 years No

Mitochondrial DNA Testing for Everyone

Mitochondrial DNA is contributed to both genders of children by mothers, but only the females pass it on. Like the Y chromosome, mitochondrial DNA is not admixed with the DNA of the other parent. Therefore, anyone can test for the mitochondrial DNA of their matrilineal line, meaning their mother’s mother’s mother’s lineage.

Matching can identify family lines as well as ancient lineage.

You receive the following features and tools when you purchase a mitochondrial DNA test from Family Tree DNA or the Ancestry Services test from 23andMe. The Family Tree DNA mitochondrial DNA information requires specific tests and is not included in the Family Finder test. The 23andMe mitochondrial information is provided with the Ancestry Services test. Ancestry is omitted from this comparison because they do not provide any mitochondrial information.

Mitochondrial DNA Vendor Feature Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA 23andMe
Varying levels of testing Yes, mtPlus and Full Sequence No
Test panel marker results Yes, in two formats, CRS and RSRS No
Rare mutations, missing and extra mutations, insertions and deletions reported Yes No
Haplogroup assignment Yes, most current version, Build 17 Yes, partial and out of date version
Matching to other participants Yes No
Trees of matches available to view Yes No
E-mail address provided to matches Yes No
Earliest known ancestor information Yes No
Projects Surname, haplogroup and geographic available No
Ability to search matches Yes No
Ability to search matches within project Yes No projects
Ability to search match by partial surname Yes No
Haplotree and customer location on tree No Yes
Mutations used to determine haplogroup provided Yes No
Haplogroup Map Migration map Heat map
Ancestral Origins – summary by ancestral location of others you match, by test level Yes No
Haplogroup Origins –match ancestral location summary by haplogroup Yes No
Matches map showing mapped locations of your matches most distant ancestor in the maternal line, by test level Yes No
Advanced matching for multiple test types Yes No
DNA is archived so additional tests or upgrades can be ordered at a later date Yes, 25 years No

 

Overall Genealogy Summary

Serious genealogists should test with at least two of the three major vendors, being Family Tree DNA and Ancestry, with 23andMe coming in as a distant third.

No genetic genealogy testing regimen is complete without Y and mitochondrial DNA for as many ancestral lines as you can find to test. You don’t know what you don’t know, and you’ll never know if you don’t test.

Unfortunately, many people, especially new testers, don’t know Y and mitochondrial DNA testing for genetic genealogy exists, or how it can help their genealogy research, which is extremely ironic since these were the first tests available, back in 2000.

You can read about finding Y and mitochondrial information for various family lines and ancestors and how to assemble a DNA Pedigree Chart here.

You can also take a look at my 52 Ancestors series, where I write about an ancestor every week. Each article includes some aspect of DNA testing and knowledge gained by a test or tests, DNA tool, or comparison. The DNA aspect of these articles focuses on how to use DNA as a tool to discover more about your ancestors.

Testing for Medical/Health or Traits

The DTC market also includes health and medical testing, although it’s not nearly as popular as genetic genealogy.

Health/medical testing is offered by 23andMe, who also offers autosomal DNA testing for genealogy.

Some people do want to know if they have genetic predispositions to medical conditions, and some do not. Some want to know if they have certain traits that aren’t genealogically relevant, but might be interesting – such as whether they carry the Warrior gene or if they have an alcohol flush reaction.

23andMe was the first company to dip their toes into the water of Direct to Consumer medical information, although they called it “health,” not medicine, at that time. Regardless of the terminology, information regarding Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, for example, were provided for customers. 23andMe attempted to take the raw data and provide the consumer with something approaching a middle of the road analysis, because sometimes the actual studies provide conflicting information that might not be readily understood by consumers.

The FDA took issue with 23andMe back in November of 2013 when they ordered 23andMe to discontinue the “health” aspect of their testing after 23andMe ignored several deadlines. In October 2015, 23andMe obtained permission to provide customers with some information, such as carrier status, for 36 genetic disorders.

Since that time, 23andMe has divided their product into two separate tests, with two separate prices. The genealogy only test called Ancestry Service can be purchased separately for $99, or the combined Health + Ancestry Service for $199.

If you are interested in seeing what the Health + Ancestry test provides, you can click here to view additional information.

However, there is a much easier and less expensive solution.

If you have taken the autosomal test from 23andMe, Ancestry or Family Tree DNA, you can download your raw data file from the vendor and upload to Promethease to obtain a much more in-depth report than is provided by 23andMe, and much less expensively – just $5.

I reviewed the Promethease service here. I found the Promethease reports to be very informative and I like the fact that they provide information, both positive and negative for each SNP (DNA location) reported. Promethease avoids FDA problems by not providing any interpretation or analysis, simply the data and references extracted from SNPedia for you to review.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that you should be sure you really want to know before you delve into medical testing. Some mutations are simply indications that you could develop a condition that you will never develop or that is not serious. Other mutations are not so benign. Promethease provides this candid page before you upload your data.

Different files from different vendors provide different results at Promethease, because those vendors test different SNP locations in your DNA. At the Promethease webpage, you can view examples.

Traits

Traits fall someplace between genealogy and health. When you take the Health + Ancestry test at 23andMe, you do receive information about various traits, as follows:

Of course, you’ll probably already know if you have several of these traits by just taking a look in the mirror, or in the case of male back hair, by asking your wife.

At Family Tree DNA, existing customers can order tests for Factoids (by clicking on the upgrade button), noted as curiosity tests for gene variants.

Family Tree DNA provides what I feel is a great summary and explanation of what the Factoids are testing on their order page:

“Factoids” are based on studies – some of which may be controversial – and results are not intended to diagnose disease or medical conditions, and do not serve the purpose of medical advice. They are offered exclusively for curiosity purposes, i.e. to see how your result compared with what the scientific papers say. Other genetic and environmental variables may also impact these same physiological characteristics. They are merely a conversational piece, or a “cocktail party” test, as we like to call it.”

Test Price Description
Alcohol Flush Reaction $19 A condition in which the body cannot break down ingested alcohol completely. Flushing, after consuming one or two alcoholic beverages, includes a range of symptoms: nausea, headaches, light-headedness, an increased pulse, occasional extreme drowsiness, and occasional skin swelling and itchiness. These unpleasant side effects often prevent further drinking that may lead to further inebriation, but the symptoms can lead to mistaken assumption that the people affected are more easily inebriated than others.
Avoidance of Errors $29 We are often angry at ourselves because we are unable to learn from certain experiences. Numerous times we have made the wrong decision and its consequences were unfavorable. But the cause does not lie only in our thinking. A mutation in a specific gene can also be responsible, because it can cause a smaller number of dopamine receptors. They are responsible for remembering our wrong choices, which in turn enables us to make better decisions when we encounter a similar situation.
Back Pain $39 Lumbar disc disease is the drying out of the spongy interior matrix of an intervertebral disc in the spine. Many physicians and patients use the term lumbar disc disease to encompass several different causes of back pain or sciatica. A study of Asian patients with lumbar disc disease showed that a mutation in the CILP gene increases the risk of back pain.
Bitter Taste Perception $29 There are several genes that are responsible for bitter taste perception – we test 3 of them. Different variations of this gene affect ability to detect bitter compounds. About 25% of people lack ability to detect these compounds due to gene mutations. Are you like them? Maybe you don’t like broccoli, because it tastes too bitter?
Caffeine Metabolism $19 According to the results of a case-control study reported in the March 8, 2006 issue of JAMA, coffee is the most widely consumed stimulant in the world, and caffeine consumption has been associated with increased risk for non-fatal myocardial infarction. Caffeine is primarily metabolized by the cytochrome P450 1A2 in the liver, accounting for 95% of metabolism. Carriers of the gene variant *1F allele are slow caffeine metabolizers, whereas individuals homozygous for the *1A/*1A genotype are rapid caffeine metabolizers.
Earwax Type $19 Whether your earwax is wet or dry is determined by a mutation in a single gene, which scientists have discovered. Wet earwax is believed to have uses in insect trapping, self-cleaning and prevention of dryness in the external auditory canal of the ear. It also produces an odor and causes sweating, which may play a role as a pheromone.
Freckling $19 Freckles can be found on anyone no matter what the background. However, having freckles is genetic and is related to the presence of the dominant melanocortin-1 receptor MC1R gene variant.
Longevity $49 Researchers at Harvard Medical School and UC Davis have discovered a few genes that extend lifespan, suggesting that the whole family of SIR2 genes is involved in controlling lifespan. The findings were reported July 28, 2005 in the advance online edition of Science.
Male Pattern Baldness $19 Researchers at McGill University, King’s College London and GlaxoSmithKline Inc. have identified two genetic variants in Caucasians that together produce an astounding sevenfold increase of the risk of male pattern baldness. Their results were published in the October 12, 2008 issue of the Journal of Nature Genetics.
Monoamine Oxidase A (Warrior Gene) $49.50 The Warrior Gene is a variant of the gene MAO-A on the X chromosome. Recent studies have linked the Warrior Gene to increased risk-taking and aggressive behavior. Whether in sports, business, or other activities, scientists found that individuals with the Warrior Gene variant were more likely to be combative than those with the normal MAO-A gene. However, human behavior is complex and influenced by many factors, including genetics and our environment. Individuals with the Warrior Gene are not necessarily more aggressive, but according to scientific studies, are more likely to be aggressive than those without the Warrior Gene variant. This test is available for both men and women, however, there is limited research about the Warrior Gene variant amongst females. Additional details about the Warrior Gene genetic variant of MAO-A can be found in Sabol et al, 1998.
Muscle Performance $29 A team of researchers, led by scientists at Dartmouth Medical School and Dartmouth College, have identified and tested a gene that dramatically alters both muscle metabolism and performance. The researchers say that this finding could someday lead to treatment of muscle diseases, including helping the elderly who suffer from muscle deterioration and improving muscle performance in endurance athletes.
Nicotine Dependence $19 In 2008, University of Virginia Health System researchers have identified a gene associated with nicotine dependence in both Europeans and African Americans.

Many people are interested in the Warrior Gene, which I wrote about here.

At Promethease, traits are simply included with the rest of the conditions known to be associated with certain SNPs, such as baldness, for example, but I haven’t done a comparison to see which traits are included.

 

Additional Vendor Information to Consider

Before making your final decision about which test or tests to purchase, there are a few additional factors you may want to consider.

As mentioned before, Ancestry requires a subscription in addition to the cost of the DNA test for the DNA test to be fully functional.

One of the biggest issues, in my opinion, is that both 23andMe and Ancestry sell customer’s anonymized DNA information to unknown others. Every customer authorizes the sale of their information when they purchase or activate a kit – even though very few people actually take the time to read the Terms and Conditions, Privacy statements and Security documents, including any and all links. This means most people don’t realize they are authorizing the sale of their DNA.

At both 23andMe and Ancestry, you can ALSO opt in for additional non-anonymized research or sale of your DNA, which you can later opt out of. However, you cannot opt out of the lower level sale of your anonymized DNA without removing your results from the data base and asking for your sample to be destroyed. They do tell you this, but it’s very buried in the fine print at both companies. You can read more here.

Family Tree DNA does not sell your DNA or information.

All vendors can change their terms and conditions at any time. Consumers should always thoroughly read the terms and conditions including anything having to do with privacy for any product they purchase, but especially as it relates to DNA testing.

Family Tree DNA archives your DNA for later testing, which has proven extremely beneficial when a family member has passed away and a new test is subsequently introduced or the family wants to upgrade a current test.  Had my mother’s DNA not been archived at Family Tree DNA, I would not have Family Finder results for her today – something I thank Mother and Family Tree DNA for every single day.

Family Tree DNA also accepts transfer files from 23andMe, Ancestry and very shortly, MyHeritage – although some versions work better than others. For details on which companies accept which file versions, from which vendors, and why, please read Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?

If you tested on a compatible version of the 23andMe Test (V3 between December 2010 and November 2013) or the Ancestry V1 (before May 2016) you may want to transfer your raw data file to Family Tree DNA for free and pay only $19 for full functionality, as opposed to taking the Family Finder test. Family Tree DNA does accept later versions of files from 23andMe and Ancestry, but you will receive more matches if you test on the same chip platform that Family Tree DNA utilizes instead of doing a transfer.

Additional Vendor Considerations Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA Ancestry 23andMe
Subscription required in addition to cost of DNA test No Yes for full functionality, partial functionality is included without subscription, minimum subscription is $49 by calling Ancestry No
Customer Support Good and available Available, nice but often not knowledgeable about DNA Poor
Sells customer DNA information No Yes Yes
DNA raw data file available to download Yes Yes Yes
DNA matches file available to download including match info and chromosome match locations Yes No Yes
Customers genealogically focused Yes Yes Many No
Accepts DNA raw data transfer files from other companies Yes, most, see article for specifics No No
DNA archived for later testing Yes, 25 years No No
Beneficiary provision available Yes No No

 

Which Test is Best For You?

I hope you now know the answer as to which DNA test is best for you – or maybe it’s multiple tests for you and other family members too!

DNA testing holds so much promise for genealogy. I hesitate to call DNA testing a miracle tool, but it often is when there are no records. DNA testing works best in conjunction with traditional genealogical research.

There are a lot of tests and options.  The more tests you take, the more people you match. Some people test at multiple vendors or upload their DNA to third party sites like GedMatch, but most don’t. In order to make sure you reach those matches, which may be the match you desperately need, you’ll have to test at the vendor where they tested. Otherwise, they are lost to you. That means, of course, that eventually, if you’re a serious genealogist, you’ll be testing at all 3 vendors.  Don’t forget about Y and mitochondrial tests at Family Tree DNA.

Recruit family members to test and reach out to your matches.  The more you share and learn – the more is revealed about your ancestors. You are, after all, the unique individual that resulted from the combination of all of them!

Update: Vendor prices updated June 22, 2017.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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