Genealogy in Time Magazine’s Top 100 Genealogy Websites of 2016

top 100

2016 marks the fifth year in a row that Genealogy In Time Magazine has ranked genealogy websites worldwide.

This ranking is far more than a popularity contest, utilizing statistical information from Alexa, an internet analysis tool which measures not only traffic (clicks) but how long a visitor spent on a website and how many pages they visited. In other words, Alexa tries to measure not just if you went there, but if you found value and utilized the content.

You can see their Top 100 list here.  I suggest that you also take time to read the associated commentary – the article is 10 pages long – because they have some very insightful analysis and observations.  For example, DNA is moving up, fewer sites are run by individuals and one of 7 genealogy site visits is to Ancestry.com in one flavor or another.

I particularly like the fact that their ranking is worldwide, because genealogy is also becoming more international as records in other countries become increasingly accessible and as DNA connects us. Additionally, more international professional genealogists are becoming highly visible, like Yvette Hoitink with her very successful Dutch Genealogy blog.  No, she’s not in the 100 sites listed, but then again, her blog and focus is very specific – the Netherlands.  However, genealogy and genetic genealogy is becoming dramatically more accessible internationally due to the visibility generated on the web by the larger commercial genealogy sites combined with specialty sites and services such as Yvette’s.  It was only in 2012 that I made the fateful statement that my Dutch genealogy line was beyond my reach – which prompted Yvette to show me that it was not – which started an amazing journey.

The bad news is that because of the way ranking was done by international site, Ancestry takes up three slots of the top 10 which means that Family Tree DNA is ranked at #11.  I was thrilled to see a DNA testing company listed so high in the rankings though, which tells me how far we’ve come in the past few years.  GedMatch, my favorite genetic genealogy tool site is also listed at #20.

Another favorite of mine, Judy Russell’s The Legal Genealogist is listed at number 76 and is one of only three blogs on the list.  Not only is Judy’s blog amazing, but so is Judy in person, so if you ever get the opportunity to see her speak, take it, regardless of the topic.  Whoever thought I’d ever WANT to listen to an attorney.  (Sorry Judy.)

And yes, in case you were wondering, my blog, www.DNA-eXplained.com is there too, at number 92.  That really made me smile and was great news to wake up to this morning.  My blog wasn’t on the list last year, but the article indicated that it’s ranking has increased by 31 locations, so apparently last year I would have been at 123.

Thank you everyone who has visited this site and found useful information. Given that I provide my blog as a service to the genetic genealogy community, I have never sought or focused on “rankings” or viewed them as a measurement of success – but it does feel good to be recognized by virtue of visitor site usage as a valuable contributor, especially since most websites on the list are corporate – so the competition is stiff.

Speaking of blogs, although unfortunately not on this list, I subscribe to Canada’s Anglo-Celtic Connections, which is where I found out about the Genealogy in Time article.  John Reid provides a lot of great information and not just to Canadian genealogists.  Thanks John.

I want to thank Genealogy in Time Magazine for their efforts in gathering the information, doing the analysis and producing this list.  That undertaking is not trivial.

I found several sites I wasn’t aware of on the Top 100 list.  No, I don’ know how that happened.  I must have been sleeping under a rock with my double helix, because obviously a lot of other people knew about these sites.  So now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and visit some new websites!  There might be some ancestral tidbit waiting for me.  MooseRoots, here I come….

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The Best and Worst of 2015 – Genetic Genealogy Year in Review

2015 Best and Worst

For the past three years I’ve written a year-in-review article. You can see just how much the landscape has changed in the 2012, 2013 and 2014 versions.

This year, I’ve added a few specific “award” categories for people or firms that I feel need to be specially recognized as outstanding in one direction or the other.

In past years, some news items, announcements and innovations turned out to be very important like the Genographic Project and GedMatch, and others, well, not so much. Who among us has tested their full genome today, for example, or even their exome?  And would you do with that information if you did?

And then there are the deaths, like the Sorenson database and Ancestry’s own Y and mitochondrial data base. I still shudder to think how much we’ve lost at the corporate hands of Ancestry.

In past years, there have often been big new announcements facilitated by new technology. In many ways, the big fish have been caught in a technology sense.  Those big fish are autosomal DNA and the Big Y types of tests.  Both of these have created an avalanche of data and we, personally and as a community, are still trying to sort through what all of this means genealogically and how to best utilize the information.  Now we need tools.

This is probably illustrated most aptly by the expansion of the Y tree.

The SNP Tsunami Growing Pains Continue

2015 snp tsunami

Going from 800+ SNPs in 2012 to more than 35,000 SNPs today has introduced its own set of problems. First, there are multiple trees in existence, completely or partially maintained by different organizations for different purposes.  Needless to say, these trees are not in sync with each other.  The criteria for adding a SNP to the tree is decided by the owner or steward of that tree, and there is no agreement as to the definition of a valid SNP or how many instances of that SNP need to be in existence to be added to the tree.

This angst has been taking place for the most part outside of the public view, but it exists just the same.

For example, 23andMe still uses the old haplogroup names like R1b which have not been used in years elsewhere. Family Tree DNA is catching up with updating their tree, working with haplogroup administrators to be sure only high quality, proven SNPs are added to branches.  ISOGG maintains another tree (one branch shown above) that’s publicly available, utilizing volunteers per haplogroup and sometimes per subgroup.  Other individuals and organizations maintain other trees, or branches of trees, some very accurate and some adding a new “branch” with as little as one result.

The good news is that this will shake itself out. Personally, I’m voting for the more conservative approach for public reference trees to avoid “pollution” and a lot of shifting and changing downstream when it’s discovered that the single instance of a SNP is either invalid or in a different branch location.  However, you have to start with an experimental or speculative tree before you can prove that a SNP is where it belongs or needs to be moved, so each of the trees has its own purpose.

The full trees I utilize are the Family Tree DNA tree, available for customers, the ISOGG tree and Ray Banks’ tree which includes locations where the SNPs are found when the geographic location is localized. Within haplogroup projects, I tend to use a speculative tree assembled by the administrators, if one is available.  The haplogroup admins generally know more about their haplogroup or branch than anyone else.

The bad news is that this situation hasn’t shaken itself out yet, and due to the magnitude of the elephant at hand, I don’t think it will anytime soon. As this shuffling and shaking occurs, we learn more about where the SNPs are found today in the world, where they aren’t found, which SNPs are “family” or “clan” SNPs and the timeframes in which they were born.

In other words, this is a learning process for all involved – albeit a slow and frustrating one. However, we are making progress and the tree becomes more robust and accurate every year.

We may be having growing pains, but growing pains aren’t necessarily a bad thing and are necessary for growth.

Thank you to the hundreds of volunteers who work on these trees, and in particular, to Alice Fairhurst who has spearheaded the ISOGG tree for the past nine years. Alice retired from that volunteer position this year and is shown below after receiving two much-deserved awards for her service at the Family Tree DNA Conference in November.

2015 ftdna fairhurst 2

Best Innovative Use of Integrated Data

2015 smileDr. Maurice Gleeson receives an award this year for the best genealogical use of integrated types of data. He has utilized just about every tool he can find to wring as much information as possible out of Y DNA results.  Not only that, but he has taken great pains to share that information with us in presentations in the US and overseas, and by creating a video, noted in the article below.  Thanks so much Maurice.

Making Sense of Y Data

Estes pedigree

The advent of massive amounts of Y DNA data has been both wonderful and perplexing. We as genetic genealogists want to know as much about our family as possible, including what the combination of STR and SNP markers means to us.  In other words, we don’t want two separate “test results” but a genealogical marriage of the two.

I took a look at this from the perspective of the Estes DNA project. Of course, everyone else will view those results through the lens of their own surname or haplogroup project.

Estes Big Y DNA Results
http://dna-explained.com/2015/03/26/estes-big-y-dna-results/

At the Family Tree DNA Conference in November, James Irvine and Maurice Gleeson both presented sessions on utilizing a combination of STR and SNP data and various tools in analyzing their individual projects.

Maurice’s presentation was titled “Combining SNPs, STRs and Genealogy to build a Surname Origins Tree.”
http://www.slideshare.net/FamilyTreeDNA/building-a-mutation-history-tree

Maurice created a wonderful video that includes a lot of information about working with Y DNA results. I would consider this one of the very best Y DNA presentations I’ve ever seen, and thanks to Maurice, it’s available as a video here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvyHY4R6DwE&feature=youtu.be

You can view more of Maurice’s work at:
http://gleesondna.blogspot.com/2015/08/genetic-distance-genetic-families.html

James Irvine’s presentation was titled “Surname Projects – Some Fresh Ideas.” http://www.slideshare.net/FamilyTreeDNA/y-dna-surname-projects-some-fresh-ideas

Another excellent presentation discussing Y DNA results was “YDNA maps Scandinavian Family Trees from Medieval Times and the Viking Age” by Peter Sjolund.
http://www.slideshare.net/FamilyTreeDNA/ydna-maps-scandinavian-family-trees-from-medieval-times-and-the-viking-age

Peter’s session at the genealogy conference in Sweden this year was packed. This photo, compliments of Katherine Borges, shows the room and the level of interest in Y-DNA and the messages it holds for genetic genealogists.

sweden 2015

This type of work is the wave of the future, although hopefully it won’t be so manually intensive. However, the process of discovery is by definition laborious.  From this early work will one day emerge reproducible methodologies, the fruits of which we will all enjoy.

Haplogroup Definitions and Discoveries Continue

A4 mutations

Often, haplogroup work flies under the radar today and gets dwarfed by some of the larger citizen science projects, but this work is fundamentally important. In 2015, we made discoveries about haplogroups A4 and C, for example.

Haplogroup A4 Unpeeled – European, Jewish, Asian and Native American
http://dna-explained.com/2015/03/05/haplogroup-a4-unpeeled-european-jewish-asian-and-native-american/

New Haplogroup C Native American Subgroups
http://dna-explained.com/2015/03/11/new-haplogroup-c-native-american-subgroups/

Native American Haplogroup C Update – Progress
http://dna-explained.com/2015/08/25/native-american-haplogroup-c-update-progress/

These aren’t the only discoveries, by any stretch of the imagination. For example, Mike Wadna, administrator for the Haplogroup R1b Project reports that there are now over 1500 SNPs on the R1b tree at Family Tree DNA – which is just about twice as many as were known in total for the entire Y tree in 2012 before the Genographic project was introduced.

The new Y DNA SNP Packs being introduced by Family Tree DNA which test more than 100 SNPs for about $100 will go a very long way in helping participants obtain haplogroup assignments further down the tree without doing the significantly more expensive Big Y test. For example, the R1b-DF49XM222 SNP Pack tests 157 SNPs for $109.  Of course, if you want to discover your own private line of SNPs, you’ll have to take the Big Y.  SNP Packs can only test what is already known and the Big Y is a test of discovery.

                       Best Blog2015 smile

Jim Bartlett, hands down, receives this award for his new and wonderful blog, Segmentology.

                             Making Sense of Autosomal DNA

segmentology

Our autosomal DNA results provide us with matches at each of the vendors and at GedMatch, but what do we DO with all those matches and how to we utilize the genetic match information? How to we translate those matches into ancestral information.  And once we’ve assigned a common ancestor to a match with an individual, how does that match affect other matches on that same segment?

2015 has been the year of sorting through the pieces and defining terms like IBS (identical by state, which covers both identical by population and identical by chance) and IBD (identical by descent). There has been a lot written this year.

Jim Bartlett, a long-time autosomal researcher has introduced his new blog, Segmentology, to discuss his journey through mapping ancestors to his DNA segments. To the best of my knowledge, Jim has mapped more of his chromosomes than any other researcher, more than 80% to specific ancestors – and all of us can leverage Jim’s lessons learned.

Segmentology.org by Jim Bartlett
http://dna-explained.com/2015/05/12/segmentology-org-by-jim-bartlett/

When you visit Jim’s site, please take a look at all of his articles. He and I and others may differ slightly in the details our approach, but the basics are the same and his examples are wonderful.

Autosomal DNA Testing – What Now?
http://dna-explained.com/2015/08/07/autosomal-dna-testing-101-what-now/

Autosomal DNA Testing 101 – Tips and Tricks for Contact Success
http://dna-explained.com/2015/08/11/autosomal-dna-testing-101-tips-and-tricks-for-contact-success/

How Phasing Works and Determining IBS vs IBD Matches
http://dna-explained.com/2015/01/02/how-phasing-works-and-determining-ibd-versus-ibs-matches/

Just One Cousin
http://dna-explained.com/2015/01/11/just-one-cousin/

Demystifying Autosomal DNA Matching
http://dna-explained.com/2015/01/17/demystifying-autosomal-dna-matching/

A Study Using Small Segment Matching
http://dna-explained.com/2015/01/21/a-study-utilizing-small-segment-matching/

Finally, A How-To Class for Working with Autosomal Results
http://dna-explained.com/2015/02/10/finally-a-how-to-class-for-working-with-autosomal-dna-results/

Parent-Child Non-Matching Autosomal DNA Segments
http://dna-explained.com/2015/05/14/parent-child-non-matching-autosomal-dna-segments/

A Match List Does Not an Ancestor Make
http://dna-explained.com/2015/05/19/a-match-list-does-not-an-ancestor-make/

4 Generation Inheritance Study
http://dna-explained.com/2015/08/23/4-generation-inheritance-study/

Phasing Yourself
http://dna-explained.com/2015/08/27/phasing-yourself/

Autosomal DNA Matching Confidence Spectrum
http://dna-explained.com/2015/09/25/autosomal-dna-matching-confidence-spectrum/

Earlier in the year, there was a lot of discussion and dissention about the definition of and use of small segments. I utilize them, carefully, generally in conjunction with larger segments.  Others don’t.  Here’s my advice.  Don’t get yourself hung up on this.  You probably won’t need or use small segments until you get done with the larger segments, meaning low-hanging fruit, or unless you are doing a very specific research project.  By the time you get to that point, you’ll understand this topic and you’ll realize that the various researchers agree about far more than they disagree, and you can make your own decision based on your individual circumstances. If you’re entirely endogamous, small segments may just make you crazy.  However, if you’re chasing a colonial American ancestor, then you may need those small segments to identify or confirm that ancestor.

It is unfortunate, however, that all of the relevant articles are not represented in the ISOGG wiki, allowing people to fully educate themselves. Hopefully this can be updated shortly with the additional articles, listed above and from Jim Bartlett’s blog, published during this past year.

Recreating the Dead

James Crumley overlapping segments

James and Catherne Crumley segments above, compliments of Kitty Cooper’s tools

As we learn more about how to use autosomal DNA, we have begun to reconstruct our ancestors from the DNA of their descendants. Not as in cloning, but as in attributing DNA found in multiple descendants that originate from a common ancestor, or ancestral couple.  The first foray into this arena was GedMatch with their Lazarus tool.

Lazarus – Putting Humpty Dumpty Back Together Again
http://dna-explained.com/2015/01/14/lazarus-putting-humpty-dumpty-back-together-again/

I have taken a bit of a different proof approach wherein I recreated an ancestor, James Crumley, born in 1712 from the matching DNA of roughly 30 of his descendants.
http://www.slideshare.net/FamilyTreeDNA/roberta-estes-crumley-y-dna

I did the same thing, on an experimental smaller scale about a year ago with my ancestor, Henry Bolton.
http://dna-explained.com/2014/11/10/henry-bolton-c1759-1846-kidnapped-revolutionary-war-veteran-52-ancestors-45/

This is the way of the future in genetic genealogy, and I’ll be writing more about the Crumley project and the reconstruction of James Crumley in 2016.

                         Lump Of Coal Award(s)2015 frown

This category is a “special category” that is exactly what you think it is. Yep, this is the award no one wants.  We have a tie for the Lump of Coal Award this year between Ancestry and 23andMe.

               Ancestry Becomes the J.R. Ewing of the Genealogy World

2015 Larry Hagman

Attribution : © Glenn Francis, http://www.PacificProDigital.com

Some of you may remember J.R. Ewing on the television show called Dallas that ran from 1978 through 1991. J.R. Ewing, a greedy and unethical oil tycoon was one of the main characters.  The series was utterly mesmerizing, and literally everyone tuned in.  We all, and I mean universally, hated J.R. Ewing for what he unfeelingly and selfishly did to his family and others.  Finally, in a cliffhanger end of the season episode, someone shot J.R. Ewing.  OMG!!!  We didn’t know who.  We didn’t know if J.R. lived or died.  Speculation was rampant.  “Who shot JR?” was the theme on t-shirts everyplace that summer.  J.R. Ewing, over time, became the man all of America loved to hate.

Ancestry has become the J.R. Ewing of the genealogy world for the same reasons.

In essence, in the genetic genealogy world, Ancestry introduced a substandard DNA product, which remains substandard years later with no chromosome browser or comparison tools that we need….and they have the unmitigated audacity to try to convince us we really don’t need those tools anyway. Kind of like trying to convince someone with a car that they don’t need tires.

Worse, yet, they’ve introduced “better” tools (New Ancestor Discoveries), as in tools that were going to be better than a chromosome browser.  New Ancestor Discoveries “gives us” ancestors that aren’t ours. Sadly, there are many genealogists being led down the wrong path with no compass available.

Ancestry’s history of corporate stewardship is abysmal and continues with the obsolescence of various products and services including the Sorenson DNA database, their own Y and mtDNA database, MyFamily and most recently, Family Tree Maker. While the Family Tree Maker announcement has been met with great gnashing of teeth and angst among their customers, there are other software programs available.  Ancestry’s choices to obsolete the DNA data bases is irrecoverable and a huge loss to the genetic genealogy community.  That information is lost forever and not available elsewhere – a priceless, irreplaceable international treasure intentionally trashed.

If Ancestry had not bought up nearly all of the competing resources, people would be cancelling their subscriptions in droves to use another company – any other company. But there really is no one else anymore.  Ancestry knows this, so they have become the J.R. Ewing of the genealogy world – uncaring about the effects of their decisions on their customers or the community as a whole.  It’s hard for me to believe they have knowingly created such wholesale animosity within their own customer base.  I think having a job as a customer service rep at Ancestry would be an extremely undesirable job right now.  Many customers are furious and Ancestry has managed to upset pretty much everyone one way or another in 2015.

AncestryDNA Has Now Thoroughly Lost Its Mind
https://digginupgraves.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/ancestrydna-has-now-thoroughly-lost-its-mind/

Kenny, Kenny, Kenny
https://digginupgraves.wordpress.com/2015/04/10/kenny-kenny-kenny/

Dear Kenny – Any Suggestions for our New Ancestor Discoveries?
https://digginupgraves.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/dear-kenny-any-suggestions-for-our-new-ancestor-discoveries/

RIP Sorenson – A Crushing Loss
http://dna-explained.com/2015/05/15/rip-sorenson-a-crushing-loss/

Of Babies and Bathwater
http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/05/17/of-babies-and-bathwater/

Facts Matter
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/05/03/facts-matter/

Getting the Most Out of AncestryDNA
http://dna-explained.com/2015/02/02/getting-the-most-out-of-ancestrydna/

Ancestry Gave Me a New DNA Ancestor and It’s Wrong
http://dna-explained.com/2015/04/03/ancestry-gave-me-a-new-dna-ancestor-and-its-wrong/

Testing Ancestry’s Amazing New Ancestor DNA Claim
http://dna-explained.com/2015/04/07/testing-ancestrys-amazing-new-ancestor-dna-claim/

Dissecting AncestryDNA Circles and New Ancestors
http://dna-explained.com/2015/04/09/dissecting-ancestrydna-circles-and-new-ancestors/

Squaring the Circle
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/03/29/squaring-the-circle/

Still Waiting for the Holy Grail
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/04/05/still-waiting-for-the-holy-grail/

A Dozen Ancestors That Aren’t aka Bad NADs
http://dna-explained.com/2015/04/14/a-dozen-ancestors-that-arent-aka-bad-nads/

The Logic and Birth of a Bad NAD (New Ancestor Discovery)
http://dna-explained.com/2015/08/12/the-logic-and-birth-of-a-bad-nad-new-ancestor-discovery/

Circling the Shews
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/05/24/circling-the-shews/

Naughty Bad NADs Sneak Home Under Cover of Darkness
http://dna-explained.com/2015/08/24/naughty-bad-nads-sneak-home-under-cover-of-darkness/

Ancestry Shared Matches Combined with New Ancestor Discoveries
http://dna-explained.com/2015/08/28/ancestry-shared-matches-combined-with-new-ancestor-discoveries/

Ancestry Shakey Leaf Disappearing Matches: Now You See Them – Now You Don’t
http://dna-explained.com/2015/09/24/ancestry-shakey-leaf-disappearing-matches-now-you-see-them-now-you-dont/

Ancestry’s New Amount of Shared DNA – What Does It Really Mean?
http://dna-explained.com/2015/11/06/ancestrys-new-amount-of-shared-dna-what-does-it-really-mean/

The Winds of Change
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/11/08/the-winds-of-change/

Confusion – Family Tree Maker, Family Tree DNA and Ancestry.com
http://dna-explained.com/2015/12/13/confusion-family-tree-maker-family-tree-dna-and-ancestry-com/

DNA: good news, bad news
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/01/11/dna-good-news-bad-news/

Check out the Alternatives
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/12/09/check-out-the-alternatives/

GeneAwards 2015
http://www.tamurajones.net/GeneAwards2015.xhtml

23andMe Betrays Genealogists

2015 broken heart

In October, 23andMe announced that it has reached an agreement with the FDA about reporting some health information such as carrier status and traits to their clients. As a part of or perhaps as a result of that agreement, 23andMe is dramatically changing the user experience.

In some aspects, the process will be simplified for genealogists with a universal opt-in. However, other functions are being removed and the price has doubled.  New advertising says little or nothing about genealogy and is entirely medically focused.  That combined with the move of the trees offsite to MyHeritage seems to signal that 23andMe has lost any commitment they had to the genetic genealogy community, effectively abandoning the group entirely that pulled their collective bacon out of the fire. This is somehow greatly ironic in light of the fact that it was the genetic genealogy community through their testing recommendations that kept 23andMe in business for the two years, from November of 2013 through October of 2015 when the FDA had the health portion of their testing shut down.  This is a mighty fine thank you.

As a result of the changes at 23andMe relative to genealogy, the genetic genealogy community has largely withdrawn their support and recommendations to test at 23andMe in favor of Ancestry and Family Tree DNA.

Kelly Wheaton, writing on the Facebook ISOGG group along with other places has very succinctly summed up the situation:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/isogg/permalink/10153873250057922/

You can also view Kelly’s related posts from earlier in December and their comments at:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/isogg/permalink/10153830929022922/
and…
https://www.facebook.com/groups/isogg/permalink/10153828722587922/

My account at 23andMe has not yet been converted to the new format, so I cannot personally comment on the format changes yet, but I will write about the experience in 2016 after my account is converted.

Furthermore, I will also be writing a new autosomal vendor testing comparison article after their new platform is released.

I Hate 23andMe
https://digginupgraves.wordpress.com/2015/06/14/i-hate-23andme/

23andMe to Get Makeover After Agreement With FDA
http://dna-explained.com/2015/10/21/23andme-to-get-a-makeover-after-agreement-with-fda/

23andMe Metamorphosis
http://throughthetreesblog.tumblr.com/post/131724191762/the-23andme-metamorphosis

The Changes at 23andMe
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/10/25/the-changes-at-23andme/

The 23and Me Transition – The First Step
http://dna-explained.com/2015/11/05/the-23andme-transition-first-step-november-11th/

The Winds of Change
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/11/08/the-winds-of-change/

Why Autosomal Response Rate Really Does Matter
http://dna-explained.com/2015/02/24/why-autosomal-response-rate-really-does-matter/

Heads Up About the 23andMe Meltdown
http://dna-explained.com/2015/12/04/heads-up-about-the-23andme-meltdown/

Now…and not now
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/12/06/now-and-not-now/

                             Cone of Shame Award 2015 frown

Another award this year is the Cone of Shame award which is also awarded to both Ancestry and 23andMe for their methodology of obtaining “consent” to sell their customers’, meaning our, DNA and associated information.

Genetic Genealogy Data Gets Sold

2015 shame

Unfortunately, 2015 has been the year that the goals of both 23andMe and Ancestry have become clear in terms of our DNA data. While 23andMe has always been at least somewhat focused on health, Ancestry never was previously, but has now hired a health officer and teamed with Calico for medical genetics research.

Now, both Ancestry and 23andMe have made research arrangements and state in their release and privacy verbiage that all customers must electronically sign (or click through) when purchasing their DNA tests that they can sell, at minimum, your anonymized DNA data, without any further consent.  And there is no opt-out at that level.

They can also use our DNA and data internally, meaning that 23andMe’s dream of creating and patenting new drugs can come true based on your DNA that you submitted for genealogical purposes, even if they never sell it to anyone else.

In an interview in November, 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki said the following:

23andMe is now looking at expanding beyond the development of DNA testing and exploring the possibility of developing its own medications. In July, the company raised $79 million to partly fund that effort. Additionally, the funding will likely help the company continue with the development of its new therapeutics division. In March, 23andMe began to delve into the therapeutics market, to create a third pillar behind the company’s personal genetics tests and sales of genetic data to pharmaceutical companies.

Given that the future of genetic genealogy at these two companies seems to be tied to the sale of their customer’s genetic and other information, which, based on the above, is very clearly worth big bucks, I feel that the fact that these companies are selling and utilizing their customer’s information in this manner should be fully disclosed. Even more appropriate, the DNA information should not be sold or utilized for research without an informed consent that would traditionally be used for research subjects.

Within the past few days, I wrote an article, providing specifics and calling on both companies to do the following.

  1. To minimally create transparent, understandable verbiage that informs their customers before the end of the purchase process that their DNA will be sold or utilized for unspecified research with the intention of financial gain and that there is no opt-out. However, a preferred plan of action would be a combination of 2 and 3, below.
  2. Implement a plan where customer DNA can never be utilized for anything other than to deliver the services to the consumers that they purchased unless a separate, fully informed consent authorization is signed for each research project, without coercion, meaning that the client does not have to sign the consent to obtain any of the DNA testing or services.
  3. To immediately stop utilizing the DNA information and results from customers who have already tested until they have signed an appropriate informed consent form for each research project in which their DNA or other information will be utilized.

And Now Ancestry Health
http://dna-explained.com/2015/06/06/and-now-ancestry-health/

Opting Out
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/07/26/opting-out/

Ancestry Terms of Use Updated
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/07/07/ancestry-terms-of-use-updated/

AncestryDNA Doings
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/07/05/ancestrydna-doings/

Heads Up About the 23andMe Meltdown
http://dna-explained.com/2015/12/04/heads-up-about-the-23andme-meltdown/

23andMe and Ancestry and Selling Your DNA Information
http://dna-explained.com/2015/12/30/23andme-ancestry-and-selling-your-dna-information/

                      Citizen Science Leadership Award   2015 smile

The Citizen Science Leadership Award this year goes to Blaine Bettinger for initiating the Shared cM Project, a crowdsourced project which benefits everyone.

Citizen Scientists Continue to Push the Edges of the Envelope with the Shared cM Project

Citizen scientists, in the words of Dr. Doron Behar, “are not amateurs.” In fact, citizen scientists have been contributing mightily and pushing the edge of the genetic genealogy frontier consistently now for 15 years.  This trend continues, with new discoveries and new ways of viewing and utilizing information we already have.

For example, Blaine Bettinger’s Shared cM Project was begun in March and continues today. This important project has provided real life information as to the real matching amounts and ranges between people of different relationships, such as first cousins, for example, as compared to theoretical match amounts.  This wonderful project produced results such as this:

2015 shared cM

I don’t think Blaine initially expected this project to continue, but it has and you can read about it, see the rest of the results, and contribute your own data here. Blaine has written several other articles on this topic as well, available at the same link.

Am I Weird or What?
http://dna-explained.com/2015/03/07/am-i-weird-or-what/

Jim Owston analyzed fourth cousins and other near distant relationships in his Owston one-name study:
https://owston.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/an-analysis-of-fourth-cousins-and-other-near-distant-relatives/

I provided distant cousin information in the Crumley surname study:
http://www.slideshare.net/FamilyTreeDNA/roberta-estes-crumley-y-dna

I hope more genetic genealogists will compile and contribute this type of real world data as we move forward. If you have compiled something like this, the Surname DNA Journal is peer reviewed and always looking for quality articles for publication.

Privacy, Law Enforcement and DNA

2015 privacy

Unfortunately, in May, a situation by which Y DNA was utilized in a murder investigation was reported in a sensationalist “scare” type fashion.  This action provided cause, ammunition or an excuse for Ancestry to remove the Sorenson data base from public view.

I find this exceedingly, exceedingly unfortunate. Given Ancestry’s history with obsoleting older data bases instead of updating them, I’m suspecting this was an opportune moment for Ancestry to be able to withdraw this database, removing a support or upgrade problem from their plate and blame the problem on either law enforcement or the associated reporting.

I haven’t said much about this situation, in part because I’m not a lawyer and in part because the topic is so controversial and there is no possible benefit since the damage has already been done. Unfortunately, nothing anyone can say or has said will bring back the Sorenson (or Ancestry) data bases and arguments would be for naught.  We already beat this dead horse a year ago when Ancestry obsoleted their own data base.  On this topic, be sure to read Judy Russell’s articles and her sources as well for the “rest of the story.”

Privacy, the Police and DNA
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/02/08/privacy-the-police-and-dna/

Big Easy DNA Not So Easy
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/03/15/big-easy-dna-not-so-easy/

Of Babies and Bathwater
http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/05/17/of-babies-and-bathwater/

Facts Matter
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/05/03/facts-matter/

Genetic genealogy standards from within the community were already in the works prior to the Idaho case, referenced above, and were subsequently published as guidelines.

Announcing Genetic Genealogy Standards
http://thegeneticgenealogist.com/2015/01/10/announcing-genetic-genealogy-standards/

The standards themselves:
http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Genetic-Genealogy-Standards.pdf

Ancient DNA Results Continue to Amass

“Moorleiche3-Schloss-Gottorf” by Commander-pirx at de.wikipedia – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Ancient DNA is difficult to recover and even more difficult to sequence, reassembling tiny little blocks of broken apart DNA into an ancient human genome.

However, each year we see a few more samples and we are beginning to repaint the picture of human population movement, which is different than we thought it would be.

One of the best summaries of the ancient ancestry field was Michael Hammer’s presentation at the Family Tree DNA Conference in November titled “R1B and the Peopling of Europe: an Ancient DNA Update.” His slides are available here:
http://www.slideshare.net/FamilyTreeDNA/r1b-and-the-people-of-europe-an-ancient-dna-update

One of the best ongoing sources for this information is Dienekes’ Anthropology Blog. He covered most of the new articles and there have been several.  That’s the good news and the bad news, all rolled into one. http://dienekes.blogspot.com/

I have covered several that were of particular interest to the evolution of Europeans and Native Americans.

Yamnaya, Light Skinned Brown Eyed….Ancestors?
http://dna-explained.com/2015/06/15/yamnaya-light-skinned-brown-eyed-ancestors/

Kennewick Man is Native American
http://dna-explained.com/2015/06/18/kennewick-man-is-native-american/

Botocudo – Ancient Remains from Brazil
http://dna-explained.com/2015/07/02/botocudo-ancient-remains-from-brazil/

Some Native had Oceanic Ancestors
http://dna-explained.com/2015/07/22/some-native-americans-had-oceanic-ancestors/

Homo Naledi – A New Species Discovered
http://dna-explained.com/2015/09/11/homo-naledi-a-new-species-discovered/

Massive Pre-Contact Grave in California Yields Disappointing Results
http://dna-explained.com/2015/10/20/mass-pre-contact-native-grave-in-california-yields-disappointing-results/

I know of several projects involving ancient DNA that are in process now, so 2016 promises to be a wonderful ancient DNA year!

Education

2015 education

Many, many new people discover genetic genealogy every day and education continues to be an ongoing and increasing need. It’s a wonderful sign that all major conferences now include genetic genealogy, many with a specific track.

The European conferences have done a great deal to bring genetic genealogy testing to Europeans. European testing benefits those of us whose ancestors were European before immigrating to North America.  This year, ISOGG volunteers staffed booths and gave presentations at genealogy conferences in Birmingham, England, Dublin, Ireland and in Nyköping, Sweden, shown below, photo compliments of Catherine Borges.

ISOGG volunteers

Several great new online educational opportunities arose this year, outside of conferences, for which I’m very grateful.

DNA Lectures YouTube Channel
http://dna-explained.com/2015/04/26/dna-lectures-youtube-channel/

Allen County Public Library Online Resources
http://dna-explained.com/2015/06/03/allen-county-public-library-online-resources/

DNA Data Organization Tools and Who’s on First
http://dna-explained.com/2015/09/08/dna-data-organization-tools-and-whos-on-first/

Genetic Genealogy Educational Resource List
http://dna-explained.com/2015/12/03/genetic-genealogy-educational-resource-list/

Genetic Genealogy Ireland Videos
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHnW2NAfPIA2KUipZ_PlUlw

DNA Lectures – Who Do You Think You Are
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7HQSiSkiy7ujlkgQER1FYw

Ongoing and Online Classes in how to utilize both Y and autosomal DNA
http://www.dnaadoption.com/index.php?page=online-classes

Education Award

2015 smile Family Tree DNA receives the Education Award this year along with a huge vote of gratitude for their 11 years of genetic genealogy conferences. They are the only testing or genealogy company to hold a conference of this type and they do a fantastic job.  Furthermore, they sponsor additional educational events by providing the “theater” for DNA presentations at international events such as the Who Do You Think You Are conference in England.  Thank you Family Tree DNA.

Family Tree DNA Conference

ftdna 2015

The Family Tree DNA Conference, held in November, was a hit once again. I’m not a typical genealogy conference person.  My focus is on genetic genealogy, so I want to attend a conference where I can learn something new, something leading edge about the science of genetic genealogy – and that conference is definitely the Family Tree DNA conference.

Furthermore, Family Tree DNA offers tours of their lab on the Monday following the conference for attendees, and actively solicits input on their products and features from conference attendees and project administrators.

2015 FTDNA lab

Family Tree DNA 11th International Conference – The Best Yet
http://dna-explained.com/2015/11/18/2015-family-tree-dna-11th-international-conference-the-best-yet/

All of the conference presentations that were provided by the presenters have been made available by Family Tree DNA at:
http://www.slideshare.net/FamilyTreeDNA?utm_campaign=website&utm_source=sendgrid.com&utm_medium=email

2016 Genetic Genealogy Wish List

2015 wish list

In 2014, I presented a wish list for 2015 and it didn’t do very well.  Will my 2015 list for 2016 fare any better?

  • Ancestry restores Sorenson and their own Y and mtDNA data bases in some format or contributes to an independent organization like ISOGG.
  • Ancestry provides chromosome browser.
  • Ancestry removes or revamps Timber in order to restore legitimate matches removed by Timber algorithm.
  • Fully informed consent (per research project) implemented by 23andMe and Ancestry, and any other vendor who might aspire to sell consumer DNA or related information, without coercion, and not as a prerequisite for purchasing a DNA testing product. DNA and information will not be shared or utilized internally or externally without informed consent and current DNA information will cease being used in this fashion until informed consent is granted by customers who have already tested.
  • Improved ethnicity reporting at all vendors including ancient samples and additional reference samples for Native Americans.
  • Autosomal Triangulation tools at all vendors.
  • Big Y and STR integration and analysis enhancement at Family Tree DNA.
  • Ancestor Reconstruction
  • Mitochondrial and Y DNA search tools by ancestor and ancestral line at Family Tree DNA.
  • Improved tree at Family Tree DNA – along with new search capabilities.
  • 23andMe restores lost capabilities, drops price, makes changes and adds features previously submitted as suggestions by community ambassadors.
  • More tools (This is equivalent to “bring me some surprises” on my Santa list as a kid.)

My own goals haven’t changed much over the years. I still just want to be able to confirm my genealogy, to learn as much as I can about each ancestor, and to break down brick walls and fill in gaps.

I’m very hopeful each year as more tools and methodologies emerge.  More people test, each one providing a unique opportunity to match and to understand our past, individually and collectively.  Every year genetic genealogy gets better!  I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store.

Here’s wishing you a very Happy and Ancestrally Prosperous New Year!

2015 happy new year

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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

Top 10 Most Popular Articles of 2015

Wordpress 2015

WordPress, the blogging software I use, provides a year-end summary that is quite interesting.

I really like this report, as I tend to be very focused on what I’m researching and writing, not on stats – so this is a refreshing break and summary. I thought you might be interested too.

The top 10 most viewed posts in 2015 were, in order from least to most:

10thPromethease – Genetic Health Information Alternative – From December 2013

People are beginning to ask about how they can obtain some of the health information that they were previously receiving from 23andMe.  For $5, at Promethease,  you can upload any of the autosomal files from either Family Tree DNA, 23andMe or Ancestry.com.  They will process your raw data and provide you with a report that is available to download from their server for 45 days.  They also e-mail you a copy.

9thX Marks the Spot – From September 2012

When using autosomal DNA, the X chromosome is a powerful tool with special inheritance properties.  Many people think that mitochondrial DNA is the same as the X chromosome.  It’s not.

8thThick Hair, Small Boobs, Shovel Shaped Teeth and More – From February 2013

Yep, there’s a gene for these traits, and more.  The same gene, named EDAR (short for Ectodysplasin receptor EDARV370A), it turns out, also confers more sweat glands and distinctive teeth and is found in the majority of East Asian people.

7thMythbusting – Women, Fathers and DNA – From June 2013

I’m sometimes amazed at what people believe – and not just a few people – but a lot of people.

Recently, I ran across a situation where someone was just adamant that autosomal DNA could not help a female find or identify her father.  That’s simply wrong. Incorrect.  Nada!  This isn’t, I repeat, IS NOT, true of autosomal testing.

6th4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy – from October 2012 – This is probably the article I refer people to most often.  It’s the basics, just the basics.

There seems to be a lot of confusion about the different “kinds” of DNA and how they can be used for genetic genealogy.

It used to be simple.  When this “industry” first started, in the year 2000, you could test two kinds of DNA and it was straightforward.  Now we’ve added more DNA, more tools and more testing companies and it’s not quite so straightforward anymore.

5thIs History Repeating Itself at Ancestry? – from August 2012

Is history repeating itself at Ancestry?

I’ve been thinking about whether or not I should publish this posting.  As I write and rewrite it, I still haven’t made up my mind.  It’s one of those sticky wickets, as they are called.  One of the reasons I hesitate is that I have far more questions than answers.

4thWhat is a Haplogroup? – From January 2013

Sometimes we’ve been doing genetic genealogy for so long we forget what it’s like to be new.  I’m reminded, sometimes humorously, by some of the questions I receive.

3rdAutosomal DNA 2015 – Which Test is the Best? – From February 2015

This now obsolete article compared the autosomal tests from Family Tree DNA, Ancestry and 23andMe.  23andMe, as of year end (2015), is in the midst of rewriting their platform, which obsoletes some of the tools they offered previously.   As soon as the 23andMe transition to their new platform is complete, I’ll be writing an updated version of this article for 2016.  Until then, suffice it to say I am recommending Family Tree DNA and Ancestry, in that order.

2ndEthnicity Results – True or Not? – from October 2013

I can’t even begin to tell you how many questions I receive that go something like this:

“I received my ethnicity results from XYZ.  I’m confused.  The results don’t seem to align with my research and I don’t know what to make of them?”

1stProving Native American Ancestry Using DNA – From December 2012 – this has been the most popular article every year since 2012. This doesn’t surprise me, as it’s also the most common question I receive.

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

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

Interesting

I was surprised, at first, to see so many older posts, but then I realized they have had more time to accumulate hits.

Of these all-time Top 10, three of them, including the most popular, which is most popular by far, have to do with Native American ancestry, directly or indirectly. The most common questions I receive about ethnicity also relate to the discovery of Native American ancestry.

Thank you everyone for coming along with me on this on this wonderful journey.  It will be exciting to see what 2016 has to offer.  I already have some exciting research planned that I’ll be sharing with you.

Happy New Year everyone!  I’m wishing you new ancestors!

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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

RockStars Shine at Midnight

Open till midnight

When John Reid, of Anglo-Celtic Connections sent me an e-mail telling me he was posting the results of the Rockstar Genealogist voting at midnight, you know I had to stay up waiting.

Yes, he did give me a bit of a hint…but not a big hint…and I was dying to see.

Drum roll please….

My friend Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist, is so far scooping the voting.  And if anyone deserves to do so, she does.  Not only is she a personal friend, I would take advantage of any opportunity to hear her speak, on literally any topic.  She could make growing mushrooms in the outback interesting.  By the time she was done with the topic, you’d know all about the history and legalities of growing and selling mushrooms, find them utterly fascinating, and you would want to start growing mushrooms too.

We really are extremely fortunate to have Judy, and her wonderful blog in our community.  I still have no idea how she manages to travel, speak and post daily articles.  The woman is super-human.  Truly.  I think Judy has the EveryReady Bunny genetic mutation which might explain her signature pink jacket.

Judy received the silver medal in International, silver in the USA and bronze in the Genetic Genealogy category.  A three category winner!  Triple crown!

There are lots of other noteworthy people as well.  Everyone knows Dick Eastman who I think has the longest running online newsletter in genealogy.  He’s the CNN of genealogy – if you want to know what’s going on, visit Dick’s website or better yet, sign up for his free newsletter.

And Thomas MacEntee – who doesn’t know and love his blogs, although he’s on sabbatical right now and making some major life changes.  I take this win for Thomas as a vote of confidence for him as well – and I’m sure he will too.

I love these categories, because now when I need someone in say, Ireland, or England, I’ll have a handy-dandy list of who to turn to.  And I have a few new sites to check out too.  What fun.  And I already know they are great – because you’ve all told me so by voting for them.

Congratulations to all of the candidates and the winners!

What about me you ask?  Well, ahem, yes, I’m on the list too – in the best of company – right with Judy Russell in two categories.  Judy and I are doing a dance of sorts.  I received silver in Genetic Genealogy, and shocker of all, bronze in the US.  I can’t tell you how pleased I am to see Genetic Genealogy be recognized as a full-fledged citizen along with the more traditional genealogy methodologies.

I started this blog in 2012 in an effort to help people learn, and to reduce the number of questions that arrive daily.  Well, I know, based on your votes that I’ve accomplished at least the first item.  I’m very humbled and a little embarrassed.  Thank you so very much.  It’s really very nice to know you’re making a difference.

Wait…you want to know who came in first?  Well, me too….but we’re all going to have to wait until midnight Monday when John publishes that list!!!  Beats the heck out of turning into a pumpkin.  Meet you tomorrow at Canada’s Anglo-Celtic Connection at the witching hour!

pumpkin

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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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2015 Voting for Rock Star Genealogist(s) Now Open

Rock star

Voting is open for your favorite genealogists and closes this Sunday, September 12th, so vote early and often.  No, no, you can only vote once – this isn’t Chicago.  But please, do vote.  It’s a lovely way to say thank you to those who give above and beyond in our community.

Last year, in 2014, I was thrilled to see genetic genealogists among the winners.

Genetic genealogy went from a topic you had to beg to get on the agenda at any conference a decade ago to a high interest topic today with many available speakers.  That’s great because genetic genealogy more than any other genealogy activity must be collaborate.  I mean, DNA testing with no one to compare to would be, for the most part, fruitless.

So take a look at the candidates and vote for someone.  I guarantee – you’ll know some of them.

The great thing about this kind of voting is that no one is campaigning, there is no mud- slinging and no negative ads.  There are only winners because we are very fortunate to have all of the candidates in our community!

Click here to vote.

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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

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Segmentology.org by Jim Bartlett

segmentology

Today, I want to talk about another blogger – a new blogger – Jim Bartlett.  I’m very glad to see Jim enter the blogging space.  Welcome Aboard!!!!

You might be surprised to see one blogger recommending another.  Don’t be.  There are few people in any field who agree 100% of the time, but Jim is the ultimate, respectful professional and shares graciously and willingly with others, and has for years.

I want to take this opportunity to welcome Jim, and to tell you something about him and why you might want to follow what he has to say.  He may be a novice blogger, but he certainly is not a novice genetic genealogist.

It’s interesting to learn about your fellow genetic genealogists.  None of us began in this field, because most of us began our careers long before this field existed.  For the most part, we were or are professionals in another scientific or technical field.  Jim is no exception and he, like others, brought the best of his professional experience to genetic genealogy.

Jim is an engineer by education (Bachelor and Masters degrees), and spent 50 years in various aspects of construction, including a Design Engineer for the Smithsonian Institution; Program Manager for the $2 billion TRIDENT Base in GA; Program Manager for US NATO Construction, etc.  Jim has a knack for puzzles and spatial design. Jim says, “As soon as I learned about autosomal DNA, I caught on pretty quickly. I view the mapping of my chromosomes to my ancestors as the ultimate puzzle.”  Isn’t that the truth!

Jim has been active in genealogy since 1974 (visiting courthouses, scrolling microfilms, lunches at DAR Library, etc.  In 2002 he began the BARTLETT-DNA Project, which has grown to over 300 participants and has identified 23 separate lines.  Jim cut his genetic genealogy teeth on the Y chromosome.

Since 2010 Jim has been involved with the newest DNA tool, autosomal DNA, which provides matches with cousins from any/all of your ancestors. He has tested at all 3 companies, Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and Ancestry, and also uses GEDmatch.

The simple version of Jim’s advice is: communicate; share; find common ancestors!

The more complex version involves spreadsheets, segment analysis, and triangulation and that’s what his new blog will address.

In any up-and-coming field, new experts appear on a daily basis.  If you follow any of the social media or genetic genealogy lists, you’ll probably notice from time to time that a new “expert” whom you’ve never heard of before appears and states “facts” or opinions as facts.

There are but a handful of individuals whom I truly consider to be experts in this field.  Some are very specialized in one area and some are both wide and deep.  One characteristic in common with them all is that they have years, as in many, MANY years of experience in both genetic genealogy AND genealogy.  None of them are newcomers by any definition.

Jim is one of these seasoned experts with a very unique claim to fame.  Jim has mapped more of his autosomal DNA than anyone else that I know of.  And I mean bar none.  He is #1!  Jim is one of the most dedicated researchers I have ever met.  He is the example that the rest of us aspire to.  That’s because Jim is both retired and committed – working on his genetic genealogy every day!

I asked Jim how much of his autosomal DNA he has been able to attribute to a particular ancestor or ancestral group.

“I now have over 4,000 different Matches in my spreadsheet. I’ve mapped over 88 percent of my 45 chromosomes (based on base pairs). I’ve determined Common Ancestors for about 70 percent of my DNA (based on base pairs). Most of my 340 triangulation groups are heel-and-toe on the chromosomes with only a few gaps over 10cM left (mostly from my maternal grandmother’s immigrant ancestor from Scotland and Germany in the 1850s.)

This has been a fantastic journey. I’m now working with the matches in my triangulation groups to dig deeper into finding our Common Ancestors.”

Fortunately for the rest of us, Jim has decided to share his experiences, advice and puzzle solving expertise with the genetic genealogy community and recently created his new blog, http://segmentology.org/.  You can follow his blog by clicking on the little grey follow button on the right hand side of his main blog page.

So far, Jim has published four articles:

What is a Segment?
Benefits of Triangulation
Does Triangulation Always Work?
How to Triangulate?

If you subscribe today, you won’t miss any of what Jim has to say.

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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

Milestone 5000

double helix band

In our personal lives, we have milestones.  Some milestones we work towards and others happen, whether we do anything or not – like birthdays.

Some birthdays are considered milestone birthdays – like – when I was a kid – 16 – because it brought with it the freedom of driving.

On the night of April 19, 2015, sometime in the darkest hours of overnight (at least here in the US,) the www.DNA-explained.com blog reached a blogging milestone of sorts – 5000 subscribers.  And those are just the folks I know about.  Blogging management software tells us how many subscribers via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter we have, but it doesn’t tell us how many people are following us by RSS feeds.  I know there are quite a few, because one of the very first requests I received when I began the www.DNA-explained.com blog in July of 2012 was to set up the RSS feed subscription ability.

We also can’t tell how many times our article has been shared, reposted, tweeted and retweeted.

Bloggers using the WordPress platform have software that tells us how many page hits we receive, per day or per article, broken down in various ways.  Many people who subscribe via e-mail read the articles in their e-mail, so they don’t actually visit the page itself.  A normal day sees www.DNA-explained.com get about 10,000 page hits, so that’s in addition to e-mail subscribers.  A really popular or controversial article sends that off the charts.

The great irony is that when I started the blog, I wondered if even 100 people would be interested.  My real reason for creating the blog was so that I would have a public location to write about topics that I felt needed answers.  Additionally, I manage several projects at Family Tree DNA, and I wanted a way to provide information to project members about items such as sales and new features without having to send group e-mails to each project.  Why?  The Cumberland Gap projects have about 10,000 members between the Y and mtDNA groups, and sending that many messages with your e-mail address listed as the sender is a really good way to get your e-mail address blacklisted as a spammer. Blogging solves that problem, because I write it once and anyone who is interested can subscribe – and anyone who isn’t interested, isn’t bothered.

I started by taking the most common questions I received and writing the answer – one time – in the format of an article so that I can forever refer people to that article for the answer.  So you might say I started blogging in self-defense:)

From the beginning, I set up topic categories so that searching would be more effective.  (The blog is fully searchable.)  Categories are anything that might be a key word, like DNA types (Y, mitochondrial, autosomal), company names, or topics one might be searching for, like Native American, haplogroups or admixture.

What do you think the most viewed categories might be?

  • Autosomal
  • Family Tree DNA
  • Y DNA
  • 23andMe
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • Admixture
  • Haplogroups
  • Native American

What are the most popular articles, over the entire timespan of the life of the blog?

Proving Native American Ancestry

Ethnicity Results – True or Not?

What is a Haplogroup?

Of course, these articles are older as well, so they have had more time to accumulate views.

I can tell you unequivocally that the article I refer people to the most to answer the question, “What kind of DNA test should I take?” is:

4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy

I try to vary the types of articles from general interest to education to technical.  Previously, I wrote and published research articles in JOGG, but now I can publish just as effectively on my own blog, and write for a non-academic audience.

One of the really surprising things, to me, has been the popularity of my 52 Ancestors series.  I almost didn’t do this series.  I really didn’t think people would be terribly excited about reading about MY ancestors, even if they would also be ancestors to a few other people.  I was wrong.  People love stories.

I have written this series in my own voice – documenting the good, the bad and the ugly, warts and all – including the mistakes I’ve made, and I think I’ve made them all at least once.  Hopefully it will help someone else avoid those pitfalls.  I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am for the many helpful suggestions I’ve received as a result of these articles.  Genealogists are overwhelmingly fantastic, sharing, people.

Every article in the series also ties to DNA, in some fashion.  How I’ve used it, how it could be used if I could find a proper test candidate, or why it can’t be used.  Case studies make great examples.  Twice now, I’ve had people reply and have found a suitable DNA candidate to represent an ancestral line.  So yes, these articles also serve as “cousin bait.”

I want to thank all 5000 of you e-mail subscribers plus the unknown number of RSS subscribers and everyone who reads this blog forwarded, reposted, retweeted or reblogged.  I hope you all enjoy reading the articles as much as I enjoy writing them.

Please feel free to share these articles with others so that we can continue to educate people about genetic genealogy.  There are still far more people out there that haven’t tested, than have.  Together, we can illustrate how genetic genealogy is a game changer – and hopefully whittle that number of genealogists who haven’t tested to zero.

Overly optimistic?  Possibly.  But hey, you have to have goals or you can’t achieve milestones!

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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

2014 in Review for DNA-eXplained

The WordPress.com prepared a 2014 annual report for DNA-eXplained.com.  I found the results quite interesting.  However, the stats don’t take into account the nearly 5000 subscribers who receive this blog via e-mail, and those who subscribe via RSS feed.

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 970,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 42 days for that many people to see it.  Thank goodness, no standing in line here!

I also realized that I have published just shy of 450 articles.  My goal has been two per week, and given that this blog began mid 2012, so roughly 130 weeks ago, I think I’ve reached my goal, hands down.  Thank you one and all!

Attractions in 2014

These are the posts that you liked best, the ones that received the most views in 2014.

I must admit, some of these were a surprise to me, in particular, the “Warrior Gene” article.  However, I’ve known the “Proving Native Ancestry” article has been extremely popular since I wrote it, and the “4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy” is a staple.  It’s also interesting that these articles were all written prior to 2014 – so these seems to be ones most useful over time.

It’s also interesting to see where the blog visitors came from – a total of 212 countries.  That’s pretty amazing!

2014 blog world visitors

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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

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Round Two

bait

Last year, Amy Johnson Crow started the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge.  I was very pleased to hear that she is continuing the challenge, with an optional weekly theme (for inspiration, if you need it,) in 2015.

I decided to give it a try for 2014, and I’m surely glad that I did.  I know, I know…like I really needed something else to do…with a weekly (self-imposed) deadline no less.

And I’m actually astounded to say that I actually haven’t missed any.  And for the record, getting stories 37 and 38 reversed does not count as missing a week:)

I actually enjoyed this exercise a lot.

Why?

One of the things I’ve been desperately needing to do is to gather together and organize what I have on each ancestor.  I’m a 35 years (plus) genealogist.  That means I have every kind of record possible…from old letters and scrapbooks from the early 1900s to hand written family groups sheets that I painstakingly completed when I began in the 1970s to digital records received yesterday…and everything in between.  I have file drawers and boxes and files on two computers and a laptop.  I’ve moved several times and never fully unpacked.  You get the drift.

For every ancestor I’ve written about, I pulled out the files, got out the folders filed away, reviewed the records for the county involved, went through files on the computer and old e–mails that are filed by genealogy surname.  I’m amazed what I found.  Not only did I have things I didn’t realize I had, or had forgotten that I had (how is that possible?) but almost none of my holdings were organized by ancestor or family in timeline order.  Add to that the history of what was happening historically or just in that ancestor’s county during their lifetime, and you go from having the chalky outline of an ancestor with their name and a date or two to a real profile – a story about their life with meat on the bones.

Of course, because this is a DNA blog, I’ve tried to write every article with at least some useful reference to DNA and how DNA relates to that individual, without repeating myself.  That was the real challenge, but it forced me to really evaluate different aspects of DNA.  This made me focus on the DNA of that individual, whatever piece of it I had found, and what story it really had to tell. In several cases, I’ve made some amazing discoveries based on DNA evidence, some of which was probably there all along but I didn’t notice.  Some, of course, needed work, but that’s fine.  Work, I can do.

Plus, let me tell you a secret.

fish hookThose articles…..they are bait.  Yep, bait.  Ancestor bait.  Cousin bait.  And they work.

Lastly, I truly, firmly believe in sharing our knowledge.  I think it’s the best way to avoid those horribly wrong copy/paste trees that breed like rabbits overnight when you’re not looking.  If you write about it, and blog, it’s searchable via internet search…and findable without any subscription….and it’s a story all in one place…not pieces and parts attached to a tree without context or connecting threads.

Elizabeth Shown Mills, if you’re reading this…stop here!

While I know I’ve been naughty and not used exactly correct citations in proper format, you will notice that every one of my articles does provide the source, even if it’s simply my notes from 20 or 25 years ago that said the document was found in XYZ County Deed book H, page 432 or perhaps a conversation with Uncle George, or whatever.  I wish I had started out doing everything perfectly, but I didn’t.  If I was lucky, I wrote something down – because, generally, I just knew I’d remember.  I was a lot younger then and a bit naïve.  In fact, back then, I don’t think “perfect” and genealogical standards had even been defined.  If they had, it was news to me.  Besides that, I didn’t start out to do “genealogy,” I just wanted to find out something about my father’s side of the family.  I remember when someone said, “oh, you’re a genealogist” and I thought to myself, “I am?”

While a very big part of me wanted to wait until I had gone back and perfected my records, truthfully, I know that is never going to happen.  Nada.  Wish it were, but it isn’t.  In part, because I simply can’t go back and recreate what has happened over 35 years.  If I have to choose between researching new ground or retreading old ground…I’m going to choose the new…every time.  I have no idea how long I’m going to live, but assuredly not long enough to ever “finish” my genealogy – and I want to get as much done as possible.

So, I made the decision to do the best I can with what I have, make it accurate, and interesting, and sometimes, just state what needs yet to be done.  I can’t do it all…and it’s more important to share what I have than to share nothing because I was waiting for that elusive day, someday, to make it perfect.  Someday is not a day on the calendar….and many times, someday never arrives.

Future researchers can, and I hope, will, improve on what I have.  As new records become available, maybe they’ll add comments or I’ll update the articles.

I also discovered that I have a lot more than I realized…and I’m not nearly done with my ancestors at 52.  I have all of my ancestors identified to the 5th generation with the exception of one…and I’m closing in fast on her.  That’s 62 right there, without counting any of the lines I have much further back in time.

So, count me in for Amy’s 2015 Challenge – except I’ll have to label mine 52 Ancestors #53 or some such confusing thing.

If you started last year, I hope you’ll continue as well.

If not, it’s a brand new year.  Here’s the link to Amy’s 2015 article with the optional themes by week – to inspire you if you want to use them…but you don’t have to.

Here’s how it works….you write a story and post it on your blog, including the words “52 Ancestors” in the title.  Subscribe to Amy’s blog.  Every Thursday, more or less, Amy posts a “summary article” and you simply, in the comments, post the surname, article title and link to your blog article.  Here’s this week’s week 50 recap.

I encourage you to go back and scan the comments section of all of Amy’s 52 Ancestor’s blogs, because you may find articles about your ancestors.  I did – two of them – and I was very surprised.  More than I ever expected and wonderful articles too.  Maybe one week when I’m really running out of time, I’ll just link to those articles for my entry.  Yes, I know that’s cheating.

In case you didn’t know, you can get a free blog at WordPress.  I love my WordPress blogs.  Support, when I’ve needed them (seldom), has been wonderful and painless.

In fact, just in case you didn’t know it, I have more interests other than DNA and genealogy.  I know, heresy, pure heresy…

Here are my other public blogs:

Things That Are Pink and Shouldn’t Be (this was my try-my-wings blog)
Native Heritage Project
Victory Garden Day by Day (inspirational)

It’s easy to blog.  Just try it.  And write about your ancestors!!!

Just do it!

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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

Genea-Musings Best of 2013 – Congrats Genetic Genealogy Bloggers!

legal genealogist 2

Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings blog fame creates a “Best of” blog about once a week during the year.  I have no idea how the man reads as much as he does – but I’m glad he does so I don’t have to.  He’s my guilt relief – as long as he’s reading I don’t have to feel guilty about what I’m missing – because he’s doing Cliff Notes for the rest of us!  At year end, he creates a “Best of the Best of” blog which are the 20 or so best bloggers of the year – genealogically speaking of course.

This year there were a total of 23 different blogs who were included, because there were a few ties for positions 1-20.  I found it significant that there were three genetic genealogy blogs in that number.  Well, technically, I guess there were only 2 and 1/7th.

That’s because CeCe Moore and yours truly were among the honorably mentioned at positions 20 and 14, respectively, with our full-time genetic genealogy blogs, but Judy Russell skunked the rest of us at #1, and I do mean that.  Her dynamo blog, The Legal Genealogist, received 35 “Best of” mentions during the year.  That’s one every 10 days, for Heavens sake!  Most bloggers feel lucky to receive just one!  Judy produces an amazing amount of extremely high quality content, publishing an article daily.  Does she sleep?

Every Sunday, Judy writes about genetic genealogy, so she’s 1/7th genetic genealogy blogger, but she’s a 100% A#1 author, no matter how you slice, rice and dice it.  Randy’s not the only one who thinks so either!

You can read Randy’s entire article here – and maybe subscribe to his blog if you don’t already.  It really is a wonderful resource.

Thanks Randy and congratulations Judy!!!  Both of you…keep up the great work!

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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