DNA Q&A With Roberta Estes on MyHeritage Facebook LIVE – June 24 at 2 PM EDT

MyHeritage June Q&A

I’m so pleased to send this invitation to the free MyHeritage Facebook LIVE series where I’ll be answering DNA questions beginning at 2 PM EDT on Wednesday, June 24th.

The Facebook LIVE session that I did in April, Top Tips for Triangulation, is MyHeritage’s most-viewed Facebook LIVE session with over 13,000 people to date. We realized then that a DNA Q&A session would be very well-received – so here we are!

For my friends with time conflicts, or for whom it’s the middle of the night – the session will be recorded and available afterward.

Please note that I can’t answer support type questions nor product release questions. For example, I don’t know when MyHeritage is going to roll out enhancements or updates.

All DNA questions are welcome, and you can ask them in advance at this link. You will also be able to ask questions during the session.

Tomorrow, about 10 minutes before we go live, MyHeritage will post a link to the live session on their Facebook page, here.

I will also post the live link on my DNAexplain Facebook page, here.

I’m so excited. This is going to be SOOO much fun!

Hope to see you there!

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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 Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Concepts: Inheritance

Inheritance.

What is it?

How does it work?

I’m not talking about possessions – but about the DNA that you receive from your parents, and their parents.

The reason that genetic genealogy works is because of inheritance. You inherit DNA from your parents in a known and predictable fashion.

Fortunately, we have more than one kind of DNA to use for genealogy.

Types of DNA

Females have 3 types of DNA and males have 4. These different types of DNA are inherited in various ways and serve different genealogical purposes.

Males Females
Y DNA Yes No
Mitochondrial DNA Yes Yes
Autosomal DNA Yes Yes
X Chromosome Yes, their mother’s only Yes, from both parents

Different Inheritance Paths

Different types of DNA are inherited from different ancestors, down different ancestral paths.

Inheritance Paths

The inheritance path for Y DNA is father to son and is inherited by the brother, in this example, from his direct male ancestors shown by the blue arrow. The sister does not have a Y chromosome.

The inheritance path for the red mitochondrial DNA for both the brother and sister is from the direct matrilineal ancestors, only, shown by the red arrow.

Autosomal DNA is inherited from all ancestral lines on both the father’s and mother’s side of your tree, as illustrated by the broken green arrow.

The X chromosome has a slightly different inheritance path, depending on whether you are a male or female.

Let’s take a look at each type of inheritance, how it works, along with when and where it’s useful for genealogy.

Autosomal DNA

Autosomal DNA testing is the most common. It’s the DNA that you inherit from both of your parents through all ancestral lines back in time several generations. Autosomal DNA results in matches at the major testing companies such as FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, Ancestry, and 23andMe where testers view trees or other hints, hoping to determine a common ancestor.

How does autosomal DNA work?

22 autosomes

Every person has two each of 22 chromosomes, shown above, meaning one copy is contributed by your mother and one copy by your father. Paired together, they form the two-sided shape we are familiar with.

For each pair of chromosomes, you receive one from your father, shown with a blue arrow under chromosome 1, and one from your mother, shown in red. In you, these are randomly combined, so you can’t readily tell which piece comes from which parent. Therein lies the challenge for genealogy.

This inheritance pattern is the same for all chromosomes, except for the 23rd pair of chromosomes, at bottom right, which determined the sex of the child.

The 23rd chromosome pair is inherited differently for males and females. One copy is the Y chromosome, shown in blue, and one copy is the X, shown in red. If you receive a Y chromosome from your father, you’re a male. If you receive an X from your father, you’re a female.

Autosomal Inheritance

First, let’s talk about how chromosomes 1-22 are inherited, omitting chromosome 23, beginning with grandparents.

Inheritance son daughter

Every person inherits precisely half of each of their parents’ autosomal DNA. For example, you will receive one copy of your mother’s chromosome 1. Your mother’s chromosome 1 is a combination of her mother’s and father’s chromosome 1. Therefore, you’ll receive ABOUT 25% of each of your grandparents’ chromosome 1.

Inheritance son daughter difference

In reality, you will probably receive a different amount of your grandparent’s DNA, not exactly 25%, because your mother or father will probably contribute slightly more (or less) of the DNA of one of their parents than the other to their offspring.

Which pieces of DNA you inherit from your parents is random, and we don’t know how the human body selects which portions are and are not inherited, other than we know that large pieces are inherited together.

Therefore, the son and daughter won’t inherit the exact same segments of the grandparents’ DNA. They will likely share some of the same segments, but not all the same segments.

Inheritance maternal autosomalYou’ll notice that each parent carries more of each color DNA than they pass on to their own children, so different children receive different pieces of their parents’ DNA, and varying percentages of their grandparents’ DNA.

I wrote about a 4 Generation Inheritance Study, here.

Perspective

Keep in mind that you will only inherit half of the DNA that each of your parents carries.

Looking at a chromosome browser, you match your parents on all of YOUR chromosomes.

Inheritance parental autosomal

For example, this is me compared to my father. I match my father on either his mother’s side, or his father’s side, on every single location on MY chromosomes. But I don’t match ALL of my father’s DNA, because I only received half of what he has.

From your parents’ perspective, you only have half of their DNA.

Let’s look at an illustration.

Inheritance mom dad

Here is an example of one of your father’s pairs of chromosomes 1-22. It doesn’t matter which chromosome, the concepts are the same.

He inherited the blue chromosome from his father and the pink chromosome from his mother.

Your father contributed half of his DNA to you, but that half is comprised of part of his father’s chromosome, and part of his mother’s chromosome, randomly selected in chunks referred to as segments.

Inheritance mom dad segments

Your father’s chromosomes are shown in the upper portion of the graphic, and your chromosome that you inherited from you father is shown below.

On your copy of your father’s chromosome, I’ve darkened the dark blue and dark pink segments that you inherited from him. You did not receive the light blue and light pink segments. Those segments of DNA are lost to your line, but one of your siblings might have inherited some of those pieces.

Inheritance mom dad both segments

Now, I’ve added the DNA that you inherited from your Mom into the mixture. You can see that you inherited the dark green from your Mom’s father and the dark peach from your Mom’s mother.

Inheritance grandparents dna

These colored segments reflect the DNA that you inherited from your 4 grandparents on this chromosome.

I often see questions from people wondering how they match someone from their mother’s side and someone else from their father’s side – on the same segment.

Understanding that you have a copy of the same chromosome from your mother and one from your father clearly shows how this happens.

Inheritance match 1 2

You carry a chromosome from each parent, so you will match different people on the same segment. One match is to the chromosome copy from Mom, and one match is to Dad’s DNA.

Inheritance 4 gen

Here is the full 4 generation inheritance showing Match 1 matching a segment from your Dad’s father and Match 2 matching a segment from your Mom’s father.

Your Parents Will Have More Matches Than You Do

From your parents’ perspective, you will only match (roughly) half of the DNA with other people that they will match. On your Dad’s side, on segment 1, you won’t match anyone pink because you didn’t inherit your paternal grandmother’s copy of segment 1, nor did you inherit your maternal grandmother’s segment 1 either. However, your parents will each have matches on those segments of DNA that you didn’t inherit from them.

From your perspective, one or the other of your parents will match ALL of the people you match – just like we see in Match 1 and Match 2.

Matching you plus either of your parents, on the same segment, is exactly how we determine whether a match is valid, meaning identical by descent, or invalid, meaning identical by chance. I wrote about that in the article, Concepts: Identical by…Descent, State, Population and Chance.

Inheritance on chromosomes 1-22 works in this fashion. So does the X chromosome, fundamentally, but the X chromosome has a unique inheritance pattern.

X Chromosome

The X chromosome is inherited differently for males as compared to females. This is because the 23rd pair of chromosomes determines a child’s sex.

If the child is a female, the child inherits an X from both parents. Inheritance works the same way as chromosomes 1-22, conceptually, but the inheritance path on her father’s side is different.

If the child is a male, the father contributes a Y chromosome, but no X, so the only X chromosome a male has is his mother’s X chromosome.

Males inherit X chromosomes differently than females, so a valid X match can only descend from certain ancestors on your tree.

inheritance x fan

This is my fan chart showing the X chromosome inheritance path, generated by using Charting Companion. My father’s paternal side of his chart is entirely blank – because he only received his X chromosome from his mother.

You’ll notice that the X chromosome can only descend from any male though his mother – the effect being a sort of checkerboard inheritance pattern. Only the pink and blue people potentially contributed all or portions of X chromosomes to me.

This can actually be very useful for genealogy, because several potential ancestors are immediately eliminated. I cannot have any X chromosome segment from the white boxes with no color.

The X Chromsome in Action

Here’s an X example of how inheritance works.

Inheritance X

The son inherits his entire X chromosome from his mother. She may give him all of her father’s or mother’s X, or parts of both. It’s not uncommon to find an entire X chromosome inherited. The son inherits no X from his father, because he inherits the Y chromosome instead.

Inheritance X daughter

The daughter inherits her father’s X chromosome, which is the identical X chromosome that her father inherited from his mother. The father doesn’t have any other X to contribute to his daughter, so like her father, she inherits no portion of an X chromosome from her paternal grandfather.

The daughter also received segments of her mother’s X that her mother inherited maternally and paternally. As with the son, the daughter can receive an entire X chromosome from either her maternal grandmother or maternal grandfather.

This next illustration ONLY pertains to chromosome 23, the X and Y chromosomes.

Inheritance x y

You can see in this combined graphic that the Y is only inherited by sons from one direct line, and the father’s X is only inherited by his daughter.

X chromosome results are included with autosomal results at both Family Tree DNA and 23andMe, but are not provided at MyHeritage. Ancestry, unfortunately, does not provide segment information of any kind, for the X or chromosomes 1-22. You can, however, transfer the DNA files to Family Tree DNA where you can view your X matches.

Note that X matches need to be larger than regular autosomal matches to be equally as useful due to lower SNP density. I use 10-15 cM as a minimum threshold for consideration, equivalent to about 7 cM for autosomal matches. In other words, roughly double the rule of thumb for segment size matching validity.

Autosomal Education

My blog is full of autosomal educational articles and is fully keyword searchable, but here are two introductory articles that include information from the four major vendors:

When to Purchase Autosomal DNA Tests

Literally, anytime you want to work on genealogy to connect with cousins, prove ancestors or break through brick walls.

  • Purchase tests for yourself and your siblings if both parents aren’t living
  • Purchase tests for both parents
  • Purchase tests for all grandparents
  • Purchase tests for siblings of your parents or your grandparents – they have DNA your parents (and you) didn’t inherit
  • Test all older generation family members
  • If the family member is deceased, test their offspring
  • Purchase tests for estimates of your ethnicity or ancestral origins

Y DNA

Y DNA is only inherited by males from males. The Y chromosome is what makes a male, male. Men inherit the Y chromosome intact from their father, with no contribution from the mother or any female, which is why men’s Y DNA matches that of their father and is not diluted in each generation.

Inheritance y mtdna

If there are no adoptions in the line, known or otherwise, the Y DNA will match men from the same Y DNA line with only small differences for many generations. Eventually, small changes known as mutations accrue. After many accumulated mutations taking several hundred years, men no longer match on special markers called Short Tandem Repeats (STR). STR markers generally match within the past 500-800 years, but further back in time, they accrue too many mutations to be considered a genealogical-era match.

Family Tree DNA sells this test in 67 and 111 marker panels, along with a product called the Big Y-700.

The Big Y-700 is the best-of-class of Y DNA tests and includes at least 700 STR markers along with SNPs which are also useful genealogically plus reach further back in time to create a more complete picture.

The Big Y-700 test scans the entire useful portion of the Y chromosome, about 15 million base pairs, as compared to 67 or 111 STR locations.

67 and 111 Marker Panel Customers Receive:

  • STR marker matches
  • Haplogroup estimate
  • Ancestral Origins
  • Matches Map showing locations of the earliest known ancestors of matches
  • Haplogroup Origins
  • Migration Maps
  • STR marker results
  • Haplotree and SNPs
  • SNP map

Y, mitochondrial and autosomal DNA customers all receive options for Advanced Matching.

Big Y-700 customers receive, in addition to the above:

  • All of the SNP markers in the known phylotree shown publicly, here
  • A refined, definitive haplogroup
  • Their place on the Block Tree, along with their matches
  • New or unknown private SNPs that might lead to a new haplogroup, or genetic clan, assignment
  • 700+ STR markers
  • Matching on both the STR markers and SNP markers, separately

Y DNA Education

I wrote several articles about understanding and using Y DNA:

When to Purchase Y DNA Tests

The Y DNA test is for males who wish to learn more about their paternal line and match against other men to determine or verify their genealogical lineage.

Women cannot test directly, but they can purchase the Y DNA test for men such as fathers, brothers, and uncles.

If you are purchasing for someone else, I recommend purchasing the Big Y-700 initially.

Why purchase the Big Y-700, when you can purchase a lower level test for less money? Because if you ever want to upgrade, and you likely will, you have to contact the tester and obtain their permission to upgrade their test. They may be ill, disinterested, or deceased, and you may not be able to upgrade their test at that time, so strike while the iron is hot.

The Big Y-700 provides testers, by far, the most Y DNA data to work (and fish) with.

Mitochondrial DNA

Inheritance mito

Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mothers to both sexes of their children, but only females pass it on.

In your tree, you and your siblings all inherit your mother’s mitochondrial DNA. She inherited it from her mother, and your grandmother from her mother, and so forth.

Mitochondrial DNA testers at FamilyTreeDNA receive:

  • A definitive haplogroup, thought of as a genetic clan
  • Matching
  • Matches Map showing locations of the earliest know ancestors of matches
  • Personalized mtDNA Journey video
  • Mutations
  • Haplogroup origins
  • Ancestral origins
  • Migration maps
  • Advanced matching

Of course, Y, mitochondrial and autosomal DNA testers can join various projects.

Mitochondrial DNA Education

I created a Mitochondrial DNA page with a comprehensive list of educational articles and resources.

When to Purchase Mitochondrial DNA Tests

Mitochondrial DNA can be valuable in terms of matching as well as breaking down brick walls for women ancestors with no surnames. You can also use targeted testing to prove, or disprove, relationship theories.

Furthermore, your mitochondrial DNA haplogroup, like Y DNA haplogroups, provides information about where your ancestors came from by identifying the part of the world where they have the most matches.

You’ll want to purchase the mtFull sequence test provided by Family Tree DNA. Earlier tests, such as the mtPlus, can be upgraded. The full sequence test tests all 16,569 locations on the mitochondria and provides testers with the highest level matching as well as their most refined haplogroup.

The full sequence test is only sold by Family Tree DNA and provides matching along with various tools. You’ll also be contributing to science by building the mitochondrial haplotree of womankind through the Million Mito Project.

Combined Resources for Genealogists

You may need to reach out to family members to obtain Y and mitochondrial DNA for your various genealogical lines.

For example, the daughter in the tree below, a genealogist, can personally take an autosomal test along with a mitochondrial test for her matrilineal line, but she cannot test for Y DNA, nor can she obtain her paternal grandmother’s mitochondrial DNA directly by testing herself.

Hearts represent mitochondrial DNA, and stars, Y DNA.

Inheritance combined

However, our genealogist’s brother, father or grandfather can test for her father’s (blue star) Y DNA.

Her father or any of his siblings can test for her paternal grandmother’s (hot pink heart) mitochondrial DNA, which provides information not available from any other tester in this tree, except for the paternal grandmother herself.

Our genealogist’s paternal grandfather, and his siblings, can test for his mother’s (yellow heart) mitochondrial DNA.

Our genealogist’s maternal grandfather can test for his (green star) Y DNA and (red heart) mitochondrial DNA.

And of course, it goes without saying that every single generation upstream of the daughter, our genealogist, should all take autosomal DNA tests.

So, with several candidates, who can and should test for what?

Person Y DNA Mitochondrial Autosomal
Daughter No Y – can’t test Yes, her pink mother’s Yes – Test
Son Yes – blue Y Yes, his pink mother’s Yes – Test
Father Yes – blue Y Yes – his magenta mother’s Yes – Test
Paternal Grandfather Yes – blue Y – Best to Test Yes, his yellow mother’s – Test Yes – Test
Mother No Y – can’t test Yes, her pink mother’s Yes – Test
Maternal Grandmother No Y – can’t test Yes, her pink mother’s – Best to Test Yes – Test
Maternal Grandfather Yes – green Y – Test Yes, his red mother’s – Test Yes – Test

The best person/people to test for each of the various lines and types of DNA is shown bolded above…assuming that all people are living. Of course, if they aren’t, then test anyone else in the tree who carries that particular DNA – and don’t forget to consider aunts and uncles, or their children, as candidates.

If one person takes the Y and/or mitochondrial DNA test to represent a specific line, you don’t need another person to take the same test for that line. The only possible exception would be to confirm a specific Y DNA result matches a lineage as expected.

Looking at our three-generation example, you’ll be able to obtain a total of two Y DNA lines, three mitochondrial DNA lines, and 8 autosomal results, helping you to understand and piece together your family line.

You might ask, given that the parents and grandparents have all autosomally tested in this example, if our genealogist really needs to test her brother, and the answer is probably not – at least not today.

However, in cases like this, I do test the sibling, simply because I can learn and it may encourage their interest or preserve their DNA for their children who might someday be interested. We also don’t know what kind of advances the future holds.

If the parents aren’t both available, then you’ll want to test as many of your (and their) siblings as possible to attempt to recover as much of the parents’ DNA, (and matches) as possible.

Your family members’ DNA is just as valuable to your research as your own.

Increase Your Odds

Don’t let any of your inherited DNA go unused.

You can increase your odds of having autosomal matches by making sure you are in all 4 major vendor databases.

Both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage accept transfers from 23andMe and Ancestry, who don’t accept transfers. Transferring and matching is free, and their unlock fees, $19 at FamilyTreeDNA, and $29 at MyHeritage, respectively, to unlock their advanced tools are both less expensive than retesting.

You’ll find easy-to-follow step-by-step transfer instructions to and from the vendors in the article DNA File Upload-Download and Transfer Instructions to and from DNA Testing Companies.

Order

You can order any of the tests mentioned above by clicking on these links:

Autosomal:

Transfers

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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 Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Top Tips for Triangulating Your DNA Matches with Roberta Estes – FREE – MyHeritage Facebook LIVE, April 27th

MyHeritage Facebook LIVE.png

Yes, I know this is last minute, but consider this seminar a surprise gift, jointly, from me and MyHeritage😊

Top Tips for Triangulating Your DNA Matches is free for everyone!

I’ll readily admit that presenting via Facebook LIVE is new to me, but we will make this work, I promise.

Tomorrow, Monday, April 27th, 2020 at 2 PM EST, on the MyHeritage Facebook page, I’ll be giving a free presentation, with Q&A, about triangulating your DNA matches at MyHeritage.

About Triangulation

Triangulation is both a tool and a process.

Have you wondered any of the following:

  • What is triangulation?
  • Why do I need to triangulate?
  • Why does triangulation work?
  • How do I triangulate?
  • How do I find matches to triangulate?
  • How does triangulation confirm ancestors?
  • How can I use triangulation in my genealogy?
  • Am I using all the tools to find triangulated matches?

If you’d like to learn more about any of those questions, or you’d like to join in for the fun and camaraderie, I’ll see you tomorrow at 2 PM EDT on the MyHeritage Facebook page.

Test or Transfer

If you haven’t yet tested your DNA with MyHeritage, or transferred your DNA to MyHeritage from elsewhere, now is the perfect time! You’ll find step-by-step transfer instructions, here.

Click here to purchase a DNA test, or here to upload a file from another vendor. You’ll have matches to triangulate before you know it!

See You Monday!!

Click here for the MyHeritage Facebook page where the Facebook LIVE event will take place Monday, April 27th, at 2 PM EST!

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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 Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun Genealogy Activities for Trying Times

My mother used to say that patience is a virtue.

patience stones.jpg

I’m afraid I’m not naturally a very virtuous person, at least not where patience is concerned. I don’t seem to take after my ancestor, Patience Brewster (1600-1634.) Perhaps those “patience” genes didn’t make it to my generation. Or maybe Patience wasn’t very patient herself.

Not only does patience not come naturally to me, it’s more difficult for everyone during stressful times. People are anxious, nerves are frazzled and tempers are short. Have you noticed that recently?

I guess you could say that what we’ve been enduring, in terms of both health issues and/or preparation for the Covid-19 virus along with the economic rollercoaster – not to mention the associated politics, is stress-inducing.

patience stress.png

Let’s see:

  • Worry about a slow-motion epidemic steamrollering the population as it wraps around the world – check.
  • Worry about family members – check.
  • Worry about TP, hand sanitizer, food, medication and other supplies – check.
  • Worry about jobs and income – check.
  • Worry about retirement accounts and medical bills – check.
  • Worry about long-term ramifications – check.

Nope, no stress here. What about you?

And yes, I’m intentionally understated, hoping to at least garner a smile.

Once you’ve stocked up on what you need and decided to stay home out of harm’s way – or more to the point, out of germ’s way – how can you feel more patient and less stressed?

I have some suggestions!

patience stress relief.png

The Feel Better Recipe

First, just accept that once you’ve done what you can do to help yourself, which includes minimizing exposure – there’s little else that you can do. I wrote about symptoms and precautions, here. The best thing you can do is wash, stay home and remain vigilant.

If someone you know or love doesn’t understand why we need to limit or eliminate social interaction at this point, here’s an article that explains how NOT to be stupid, as well as an article here about what flattening the curve means and why social distancing is our only prayer at this point to potentially avoid disaster. We are all in this together and we all have a powerful role to play – just by staying at home.

Educating and encouraging others to take precautionary steps might help, but worrying isn’t going to help anything because you can’t affect much beyond your own sphere of influence. As much as we wish we could affect the virus itself, or increase the testing supply, or influence good decision-making by others, we generally can’t.

What can we do, aside from sharing precautionary information and hoping that we are “heard?”

We can try to release the worry.

patience zen.png

If you sit there thinking about releasing the worry, which means you’re focused on worrying – that’s probably not going to be very productive.

Neither is drinking your entire supply of Jack Daniels in one sitting – not the least of which is because you may need that as hand sanitizer down the road a bit. Oh, wait, hand sanitizer is supposed to be more than 60% alcohol, which would be 120 proof. Never mind, go ahead and drink the Jack Daniels😊

What you really need is a distraction. Preferably a beneficial distraction that won’t give you a hangover. Not like my distraction this past month when the washing machine flooded through the floor into the basement including my office below. No, not that kind of distraction.

Some folks can “escape the world,” in a sense, by watching TV, but I’m not one of those people. I need to engage my mind with some sort of structure and I want to feel like I’m accomplishing something. If you’re a “TV” person, you’re probably watching TV now and not reading this anyway – so I’m guessing that’s not my readership audience, by and large.

Beneficial Distractions

Here are 20 wonderful ideas for fun and useful things to do – and guess what – they aren’t all genealogy related. Let’s start with something that will make you feel wonderful.

labyrinth

  1. Take a walk – outside, but not around other people. Your body and mind will thank you. Your body likes to move and exercise generates beneficial feel-good endorphins, reducing anxiety. Remember to take hand sanitizer with you and open doors by pushing with your arm or hip, if possible. Also, if you need to get fuel for your vehicle, take disposable gloves to handle the pump. Disinfectant, soap and water is your friend – maybe your best friend right now.

patience books.png

  1. Read a book. Escapism, pure and simple. I have a stack of books just waiting. If you don’t, you can download e-books to your Kindle or iPad or phone directly from Amazon without going anyplace or have books delivered directly to your door. Try Libby Copeland’s The Lost Family, which you can order here. It’s dynamite. (My brother and my story are featured, which I wrote about here.) If you’d like DNA education, you can order Diahan Southard’s brand new book, Your DNA Guide: Step by Step Plans, here. I haven’t read Diahan’s book, but I’m familiar with the quality of her work and don’t have any hesitation about recommending it. (Let me know what you think.) And hey, you don’t even need hand sanitizer for this!

patience check box.png

  1. Check your DNA matches at all the vendors where you’ve tested. If you don’t check daily, now would be a good time to catch up. Not just autosomal matches, but also Y and mitochondrial at Family Tree DNA. Those tests often get overlooked. Maybe some of your matches have updated their trees or earliest known ancestor information.

patience tree.png

  1. Speaking of trees, update your trees on the three DNA/genealogy sites that support trees: FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and Ancestry. Keeping your tree up to date through at least the 8th generation (including their children) enables the companies to more easily connect the dots for their helpful tools like Phased Family Matching aka bucketing at FamilyTreeDNA, Theories of Family Relativity aka TOFR at MyHeritage and ThruLines at Ancestry.

patience connect.png

  1. Connect your known matches to their appropriate place on your tree at Family Tree DNA, as illustrated above. This provides fuel for Family Tree DNA to be able to designate your matches as maternal or paternal, even if your mother and father haven’t tested. In this case, I’ve connected my first cousin once removed who matches me in her proper location in my tree. People who match my cousin and I both are assigned to my maternal bucket.

patience y dna.pngpatience mtdna.png

  1. Order or upgrade a Y DNA or mitochondrial DNA test or a Family Finder autosomal test for you or a family member at Family Tree DNA. Upgrades, shown above, are easy if the tester has already taken at least one test, because DNA is banked at the lab for future orders. You don’t have to go anyplace to do this and DNA testing results and benefits last forever. Your DNA works for you 24x7x365.

patience join project.png

patience projects.png

  1. Join a free project at FamilyTreeDNA. Those can be surname projects, haplogroup projects, regional projects such as Acadian AmeriIndian and other interest topics like American Indian. You can search or browse for projects of interest and collaborate with others. Projects are managed by volunteer administrators who obviously have an interest in the project’s topic.

patience match.png

  1. At each of the vendors, find your highest autosomal match whom you cannot place as a relative. Work on their line via tree construction and then utilizing clustering using Genetic Affairs. I wrote about Genetic Affairs, an amazing tool, here, which you can try for free.

patience familysearch wiki.png

patience claiborne.png

  1. Check the FamilySearch WIKI for your genealogy locations by googling “Claiborne County, Tennessee FamilySearch wiki” where you substitute the location of where you are searching for “Claiborne County, Tennessee.” FamilySearch is free and the WIKI includes resources outside of FamilySearch itself, including paid and other free sites.

patience familysearch records.png

  1. While you’re at it, if you haven’t already, create a FamilySearch account and create or upload a tree to FamilySearch. It will be connected to branches of existing trees to create one large worldwide tree. Yes, you’ll be frustrated in some cases because there are incorrect ancestors sometimes listed in the “big tree” – BUT – there are procedures in place to remediate that situation. The important aspect is that FamilySearch, which is free, provides hints and resources not available any other place for some ancestors. Not long ago, I found a detailed estate packet that I had no idea existed – for a female ancestor no less. You can search at FamilySearch for ancestors, genealogies, records and in other ways. New records become available often.  This will keep you occupied for days, I promise!

Patience Journal.png

  1. Begin a Novel Coronavirus Covid-19 Pandemic journal. Think of your descendants 100 years in the future. Wouldn’t you like to know what your great-grandparents were doing during the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic? Or even their siblings or neighbors, because that was likely similar to what your ancestors were doing as well. You don’t have to write much daily – just write. Not just facts, but how you feel as well. Are you afraid, concerned specifically about someone? What’s going on with you – in your mind? That’s the part of you that your descendants will long to know a century from now.

Quilt rose

  1. Create something with your hands. I made a quilt this week for an ailing friend, unrelated to this epidemic. No, I didn’t “have time” to do that, but I made time because this quilt is important, and I know they need the “get well’’” wishes and love that quilt will wrap them in. It always feels good to do something for someone else.

patience gardening.jpg

  1. Garden, or in my case, that equates to pulling weeds. Not only is weeding productive, you can work off frustration by thinking about someone or something that upsets you as you yank those weeds out by their roots. Of course, that means you’ll have to first decide what is, and is not, a weed😊. That could be the toughest part.

patience smart matches.png

  1. At MyHeritage, you can use Irish records for free this month, plus try a free subscription, here in order to access all the rest of the millions of records available at MyHeritage. Check for Smart Matches for ancestors, shown above, and confirm that they are accurate, meaning that the ancestor the other person has in their tree is the same person as you have in your tree – even if they aren’t exactly identical. You don’t need to import any of their information, and I would suggest that you don’t without reviewing every piece of information individually. Confirming Smart Matches helps MyHeritage build Theories of Family Relativity – not to mention you may discover additional information about your ancestors. While you’re checking Smart Matches, who ARE those other people with your grandmother in their tree. Are they relatives who might have information that you don’t? This is a good opportunity to reach out. And what are those 12 pending record matches? Inquiring minds want to know. Let’s check.
patience newspapers

Click to enlarge.

  1. Check either NewsPapers.com or the Newspaper collection at MyHeritage, or both, systematically, for each ancestor. You never know what juicy tidbits you might discover about your ancestors. Often, things “forgotten” by families are the informative morsels you’ll want to know and are hidden in those local news articles. These newsy community newspapers bring the life and times of our ancestors to light in ways nothing else can. Wait, what? My Brethren ancestor, Hiram Ferverda, pleaded guilty to something??? I’d better read this article!

patience interview.png

  1. Interview your relatives. Make a list of questions you’d like for them to answer about themselves and the most distant common ancestors that they knew, or knew about. You can conduct interviews without being physically together via the phone or Skype or Facetime. Document what was said for the future, in writing, and possibly by recording as well. After someone has passed, hearing their voice again is priceless.

Upload download

  1. Transfer your DNA file to vendors that accept transfers, getting more bang for your testing dollars by finding more matches. 23andMe and Ancestry don’t accept transfers.  At MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA, transfers are free and so is matching, but advanced tools require a small unlock fee. I wrote a step-by-step series about how to transfer, here. Each article includes instructions for transferring from or to Ancestry, MyHeritage, 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA. Don’t forget to upload to GedMatch for additional tools.

patience brick wall.jpg

  1. Focus on your most irritating brick wall and review what records you do, and don’t have that could be relevant. That would include local, county, state and federal records, tax lists, census, church records and minutes and local histories if they exist. Have you called the local library and asked about vertical files or other researchers? What about state archive resources? Don’t forget activities like google searches. Have you utilized all possible DNA clues, including Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA, if applicable? How about third-party tools like Genetic Affairs and DNAgedcom?

patience DNApainter.png

  1. Try DNAPainter, for free. Painting your chromosomes and walking those segments back in time to your ancestors from whom they descended is so much fun. Not to mention you can integrate ethnicity and now traits, too. I’ve written instructions for using using DNAPainter in a variety of ways, here.

patience webinars.png

  1. Expand your education by watching webinars at Legacy Family Tree Webinars. Many are free and a yearly subscription is very reasonable. Take a look, here.

patience bucket.png

  1. Spring cleaning your house or desk. Ewww – cleaning – the activity that is never done and begins undoing itself immediately after you’ve finished? Makes any of the above 20 activities sound wonderful by comparison, right? I agree, so pick one and let’s get started!

Let me know what you find. Write about your search activities and discoveries in your Pandemic journal too.

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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 Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

  • Celebrate DNA – customized DNA themed t-shirts, bags and other items

RootsTech 2020: It’s a Wrap

Before sharing photos and details about the last three days at RootsTech, I want to provide some general observations.

I expected the attendance to be down this year because of the concern about the Novel Corona Virus. There was a lot of hand-washing and sanitizer, but no hand-wringing.

I don’t think attendance was lagging at all. In fact, this show was larger, based on how my feet feel and general crowd observation than ever before. People appeared to be more engaged too.

According to RootsTech personnel, 4 major vendors pulled out the week before the show opened; 23andMe, LivingDNA, FindMyPast and a book vendor.

I doubt there’s much of a refund policy, so surely something happened in these cases. If you recall, LivingDNA and FindMyPast have a business relationship. 23andMe just laid off a number of people, but then again, so did Ancestry but you’d never know it based on the size of their booth and staffing here.

Family Search has really stepped up their game to modernize, capture stories, scan books and otherwise make genealogy interesting and attractive to everyone.

We got spoiled last year with the big DNA announcements at RootsTech, but nothing of that magnitude was announced this year. That’s not to say there weren’t vendor announcements, there were.

FamilyTreeDNA announced:

  • Their myOrigins Version 3.0 which is significantly updated by adding several worldwide populations, increasing the number from 24 to 90. I wrote about these features here.
  • Adding a myOrigins chromosome browser painted view. I am SOOO excited about this because it makes ethnicity actually useful for genealogy because we can compare specific ethnicity segments with genealogical matches. I can hardly wait.

RootsTech 2020 Sunny Paul

Sunny Morton with Family Tree Magazine interviewing Dr. Paul Maier, FamilyTreeDNA’s population geneticist. You can see the painted chromosome view on the screen behind Dr. Maier.

  • Providing, after initial release, a downloadable ethnicity estimate segment file.
  • Sponsorship of The Million Mito Project, a joint collaborative citizen science project to rewrite the mitochondrial tree of womankind includes team members Dr. Miguel Vilar, Lead Scientist of the National Geographic Genographic Project, Dr. Paul Maier, Population Geneticist at FamilyTreeDNA, Goran Runfeldt, Head of Research and Development at FamilyTreeDNA, and me, DNAeXplain, scientist, genetic genealogist, National Geographic Genographic Affiliate Researcher.

RootsTech 2020 Million Mito

I was honored to make The Million Mito Project announcement Saturday morning, but it was hard for me to contain my enthusiasm until Saturday. This initiative is super-exciting and I’ll be writing about the project, and how you can participate, as soon as I get home and recover just a bit.

  • Michael Sager, aka Mr. Big Y, announced additions to the Y Tree of Mankind in the Demo Theater, including a particularly impressive haplogroup D split.

Rootstech 2020 Sager

RootsTech 2020 Sager 2

RootsTech 2020 Sager hap d

In case anyone is counting, as of last week, the Y tree has 26,600+ named branches and over half a million detected (private variant) SNPs at FamilyTreeDNA waiting for additional testers to be placed on the tree. All I can say is WOW!!! In 2010, a decade ago, there were only 441 Y DNA branches on the entire Y tree. The Y tree has shot up from a twig to an evergreen. I think it’s actually a Sequoia and we just don’t know how large it’s going to grow to be.

RootsTech 2020 FTDNA booth

FamilyTreeDNA stepped up their game with a way-cool new booth that incorporated a lovely presentation area, greatly improved, which featured several guest presenters throughout the conference, including Judy Russell, below.

RootsTech 2020 Judy Russell

Yes, in case anyone is wondering, I DID ask permission to take Judy’s picture, AND to publish it in my article. Just sayin’😊

MyHeritage announced their new photo colorization, MyHeritage in Color, just before RootsTech. I wrote about it, here. At RootsTech MyHeritage had more announcements, including:

  • Enhancements coming soon to the photo colorization program. It was interesting to learn that the colorization project went live in less than 2 months from inception and resulted from an internal “hack-a-thon,” which in the technology industry is a fun think-tank sort of marathon endeavor where ideas flow freely in a competitive environment. Today, over a million photos have been colorized. People LOVE this feature.

RootsTech 2020 MyHeritage booth

One of their booth giveaways was a magnet – of your colorized ancestor’s photo. Conference attendees emailed the photo to a special email address and came by the booth a few minutes later to retrieve their photo magnet.

The photos on the board in front, above, are the colorized photos waiting for their family to pick them up. How fun!!!

  • Fan View for family trees which isn’t just a chart, but dynamic in that you can click on any person and they become the “center.” You can also add to your tree from this view.

RootsTech 2020 MyHeritage fan tree

One of the views is a colorful fan. If you sign on to your MyHeritage account, you’ll be asked if you’d like to see the new fan view. You can read about the new tree features on their blog, here.

  • The release of a MASSIVE 100-year US city directory digitization project that’s more than just imaging and indexing. If you’ve every used city directories, the unique abbreviations in each one will drive you batty. MyHeritage has solved that problem by providing the images, plus the “translation.” They’ve also used artificial intelligence to understand how to search further, incorporating things like spouse, address and more to provide you with not just one year or directory, but linear information that might allow you to infer the death of a spouse, for example. You can read their blog article, here.

RootsTech 2020 MyHeritage city directories

The MyHeritage booth incorporated a very cool feature this year about the Mayflower. Truthfully, I was quite surprised, because the Mayflower is a US thing. MyHeritage is working with folks in Leiden, Netherlands, where some Mayflower family members remained while others continued to what would become Plymouth Colony to prove the connection.

Rootstech 2020 MyHeritage Mayflower virtual

MyHeritage constructed a 3D area where you can sail with the Pilgrims.

I didn’t realize at first, but the chair swivels and as you move, your view in the 3D “goggles” changes to the direction on board the ship where you are looking.

RootsTech 2020 MyHeritage Mayflower virtual 2

The voyage in 1620 was utterly miserable – very rough with a great deal of illness. They did a good job of portraying that, but not “too much” if you get my drift. What you do feel is the utter smallness of the ship in the immense angry ocean.

I wonder how many descendants “sailed with their ancestors” on the virtual Mayflower. Do you have Mayflower ancestors? Mine are William Brewster, his wife, Mary and daughter, Patience along with Stephen Hopkins and his son, Gyles.

Ancestry’s only announcements were:

  • That they are “making things better” by listening and implementing improvements in the DNA area. I’ll forego any commentary because it would be based on their failure to listen and act (for years) about the absence of segment information and a chromosome browser. You’ve guessed it, that’s not mentioned.
  • That the WWII young man Draft Registration cards are now complete and online. Truthfully, I had no idea that the collection I was using online wasn’t complete, which I actually find very upsetting. Ancestry, assuming you actually are listening, how about warning people when they are using a partially complete collection, meaning what portion is and is not complete.
  • Listing content record additions planned for 2020 including the NYC birth index and other state and international records, some of which promise to be very useful. I wonder which states the statewide digitization projects pertain to and what that means, exactly.

OK, now we’re done with vendor announcements, so let’s just take a walk around the expo hall and see who and what we find. We might run into some people you know!

Walking Around

I sandwiched my walking around in-between my sessions. Not only did I present two RootsTech classes, but hosted the ToolMaker Meetup, attended two dinners, two lunches, announced The Million Mito Project, did two booth talks, one for FamilyTreeDNA and one for WikiTree, and I think something else I’ve forgotten about. Plus, all the planned and chance meetings which were absolutely wonderful.

Oh yes, and I attended a couple of sessions myself as an attendee and a few in the vendors booths too.

The great thing, or at least I think its great, is that most of the major vendors also have booth educational learning opportunities with presentation areas at their booths. Unfortunately, there is no centralized area where you can find out which booths have sessions, on what topics, when. Ditto for the Demo Theater.

Of course, that means booth presentations are also competing for your time with the regular sessions – so sometimes it’s really difficult to decide. It’s sort of like you’re awash in education for 4 days and you just can’t absorb enough. By Saturday, you’re physically and emotionally exhausted and you can’t absorb another iota, nor can you walk another step. But then you see someone you know and the pain in your feet is momentarily forgotten.

Please note that there were lots of other people that I saw and we literally passed, hugged and waved, or we were so engrossed in conversation that I didn’t realize until later that I had failed to take the photo. So apologies to all of those people.

RootsTech 2020 Amy Mags

I gave a presentation in the WikiTree booth about how to incorporate WikiTree into your 52 Ancestor stories, both as a research tool and as a way to bait the hook for cousins. Not to mention seeing if someone has already tested for Y or mtDNA, or candidates to do so.

That’s Amy Johnson Crow who started the 52 Ancestors challenge years ago, on the left and Mags Gaulden who writes at Grandma’s Genes and is a WikiTree volunteer (not to mention MitoY DNA.) Amy couldn’t stay for the presentation, so of course, I picked on her in her absence! I suspect her ears were burning. All in a good way of course.

RootsTech 2020 Kevin Borland

Kevin Borland of Borland Genetics, swabbing at the Family Tree DNA  booth, I hope for The Million Mito Project.

RootsTech 2020 Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz with MyHeritage at the blogger dinner. How about that advertising on his laptop lid. I need to do that with DNAexplain. Wonder where I can get one of those decals custom made.

RootsTech 2020 Hasani

Hasani Carter who I know from Facebook and who I discovered volunteering in a booth at RootsTech. I love to see younger people getting involved and to meet people in person. Love your dreads, Hasani.

RootsTech 2020 Randy Seaver

Cousin Randy Seaver who writes at Genea-Musings, daily, and has for YEARS. Believe it or not, he has published more than 13,000 articles, according to the Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Dear Myrtle at RootsTech. What an incredible legacy.

If you don’t already subscribe (it’s free), you’re missing out. By the way, I discovered Randy was my cousin when I read one of his 52 Ancestors articles, recognizing that his ancestor and my ancestor had the same surname in the same place. He knew the connection. Those articles really work. Thanks Randy – it was so good to see you again.

RootsTech 2020 univ dundee

The University of Dundee booth, with Sylvia Valentine and Pat Whatley, was really fun.  As part of their history and genealogy curriculum (you an earn certificates, bachelors and masters degrees,) they teach paleography, which, in case you are unaware is the official word for deciphering “ancient handwriting.” You didn’t know that’s what you’d been doing did you?

RootsTech 2020 paleography

They provided ink and quills for people to try their own hand.

RootsTech 2020 Paleography 2

The end of the feather quill pen is uneven and scratchy. Pieces separate and splatter ink. You can’t “write,” you draw the letters very, very carefully and slowly. I must say, my “signature” is more legible than normal.

Rootstech 2020 scribe

I now have a lot more empathy for those scribes. It’s probably a good thing that early records are no worse than they are.

RootsTech 2020 Gilad Japhet

Gilad Japhet at the MyHeritage luncheon. I have attended other vendor sponsored (but paid by the attendee) lunches at RootsTech in the past and found them disappointing, especially for the cost. Now MyHeritage is the only sponsored lunch that I attend and I always enjoy it immensely. Yes, I arrived early and sat dead center in front.

I also have a confession to make – I was so very excited about being contacted by Mary Tan Hai’s son that I was finishing colorizing the photos part of the time while Gilad was talking. (I did warn him so he didn’t think I was being rude.) But it’s HIS fault because he made these doggone photos so wonderful – and let’s just say time was short to get the photos to Mary’s family. You can read this amazing story, here.

Gilad always shares part of his own personal family story, and this time was no different. He shared that his mother is turning 85 soon and that the family, meaning her children and grandchildren all teamed up to make her a lovely video. Trust me, it was and made us all smile.

I’m so grateful for a genealogy company run by a genealogist. Speaking of that, Gilad’s mother was a MyHeritage board member in the beginning. That beginning also included a story about how the MyHeritage name came to be, and how Gilad managed to purchase the domain for an unwilling seller. Once again, by proxy, his mother entered into the picture. If you have the opportunity to hear Gilad speak – do – you won’t be disappointed. You’ll hear him speak for sure if you attend MyHeritage LIVE in Tel Aviv this October.

RootsTech 2020 Paul Woodbury

Paul Woodbury who works for Legacy Tree Genealogists, has a degree in both family history and genetics from BYU. He’s standing with Scott Fisher (left). Paul’s an excellent researcher and the only way you can put him to work on your brick wall is through Legacy Tree Genealogists. If you contact them for a quote, tell them I referred you for a $50 discount.

Rootstech 2020 Toolmaker meetup

From The ToolMaker’s Meetup, at far left, Jonny Pearl of DNAPainter, behind me, Dana Leeds who created The Leeds Method, and at right, Rob Warthen, the man behind DNAGedcom. Thanks to Michelle Patient for the photo.

RootsTech 2020 Toolmaker meetup 2

The meetup was well received and afforded people an opportunity to meet and greet, ask questions and provide input.

RootsTech 2020 Campbell baby

In fact, we’re working on recruiting the next generation. I have to say, my “grandma” kicked in and I desperately wanted to hold this beautiful baby girl. What a lovely family. Of course, when I noticed the family name is Campbell, we had a discussion of a different nature, especially since my cousin, Kevin Campbell and I were getting ready to have lunch. We will soon find out if Heidi’s husband is our relative, which makes her and her daughter our relative too!

Rootstech 2020 Kevin Campbell

It was so much fun to sit and develop a research plan with Kevin Campbell. We’re related, somehow on the Campbell line – we just have to sort out when and where.

Bless Your Heart

The photo I cherish most from RootsTech 2020 is the one that’s not pictured here.

A very special gentleman told me, when I asked if we could take a picture together, after he paid me the lovely compliment of saying that my session was the best one he had ever attended, that he doesn’t “do pictures.” Not in years, literally. I thought he was kidding at first, but he was deadly seriously.

The next day, I saw him again a couple of times and we shares stories. Our lives are very different, yet they still intersected in amazing ways. I feel like I’ve known him forever.

Then on the last day, he attended my Million Mito presentation and afterwards came up and told me a new story. How he had changed his mind, and what prompted the change of heart. Now we have a wonderful, lovely photo together which I will cherish all the more because I know how special it is – and how wonderful that makes me feel.

To my friend – you know who you are – thank you! You have blessed my heart. Bless yours😊

The Show Floor

I think I actually got all the way through the show floor, but I’m not positive. In some cases, the “rows” weren’t straight or had dead ends due to large booths, and it was possible to miss an area. I didn’t get to every booth I wanted to. Some were busy, some I simply forgot to take photos.

RootsTech 2020 everything

You can literally find almost anything.

I focused on booths related to genetic genealogy, but not exclusively.

RootsTech 2020 DNAPainter

Jonny Perl and the DNAPainter booth. I’ve written lots of articles, here, about using DNAPainter, one of my very favorite tools.

RootsTech 2020 Rootstech store

The RootsTech store was doing a brisk business.

RootsTech 2020 DNA basics

The RootsTech show area itself had a DNA Basics area which I thought was brilliant in its simplicity.

Inheritance is show by jellybeans.

Rootstech 2020 dNA beans

Put a cup under the outlet and pull the lever.

Rootstech 2020 beans in cup

How many of which color you receive in your cup is random, although you get exactly the same number from the maternal and paternal side.

Now you know I wanted to count these, don’t you?

Rootstech 2020 JellyGenes

And they are of course, called, “JellyGenes.” Those must be deletions still laying in the bin.

RootsTech 2020 Wikitree

WikiTree booth and volunteers. I love WikiTree – it’s “one great tree” is not perfect but these are the people, along with countless others that inject the “quality” into the process.

RootsTech 2020 MitoYDNA

MitoYDNA with Kevin Borland standing in front of the sign.

RootsTech 2020 Crossley

This amazing artist whose name I didn’t get. I was just so struck by her work, painting her ancestor from the picture on her phone.

RootsTech 2020 painter

I wish I was this talented. I would love to have some of my ancestor’s painted. Hmm….

Rootstech 2020 GeneaCreations

Jeanette at GeneaCreations makes double helix zipper pulls, along with lots of other DNA bling, and things not so blingy for men. These are just SOOO cool.

RootsTech 2020 zipper pull

I particularly love my “What’s Your Haplogroup” t-shirt and my own haplogroup t-shirt. Yes, she does custom work. What’s your haplogroup? You can see those goodies here.

Around the corner, I found CelebrateDNA.

RootsTech 2020 Celebrate DNA

Is that a Viking wearing a DNA t-shirt?

Rootstech 2020 day of the dead

CelebrateDNA has some very cool “Day of the Dead” bags, t-shirts and mouse pads, in addition to their other DNA t-shirts. I bought an “Every day is Day of the Dead for Genealogists” mouse pad which will live permanently in my technology travel bag. You can see their other goodies, here.

RootsTech 2020 skeleton

Hey, I think I found a relative. Can we DNA test to see?

Rootstech 2020 Mayflower replica

The Mayflower Society had a fun booth with a replica model ship.

RootsTech 2020 Mayflower passengers

Along with the list of passengers perched on a barrel of the type that likely held food or water for the Pilgrims.

RootsTech 2020 Webinar Marathon

Legacy Family Tree Webinars is going to have a 24-hour Genealogy Webinar Marathon March 12-13. So, who is going to stay up for this?Iit’s free and just take a look at the speakers, and topics, here. I’m guessing lots of people will take advantage of this opportunity. You can also subscribe for more webinars, here.

On March 4th, I’m presenting a FREE webinar, “3 Genealogy DNA Case Studies and How I Solved Them,” so sign up and join in!

Rootstech 2020 street art

Food at RootsTech falls into two categories. Anything purchased in the convention center meaning something to stave off starvation, and some restaurant with friends – the emphasis being on friends.

A small group went for pizza one evening when we were too exhausted to do anything else. Outside I found this interesting street art – and inside Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana I had the best Margarita Pizza I think I’ve ever had.

Then, as if I wasn’t already stuffed to the gills, attached through a doorway in the wall is Capo Gelateria Italiana, creators of artisan gelato. I’ve died and gone to heaven. Seriously, it’s a good thing I don’t live here.

Rootstech 2020 gelatto

Who says you can’t eat ice cold gelato in the dead of winter, outside waiting for the Uber, even if your insides are literally shivering and shaking!! It was that good.

This absolutely MUST BE a RootsTech tradition.

Rootstech 2020 ribbons

That’s it for RootsTech 2020. Hope you’ve enjoyed coming along on this virtual journey and that you’ve found something interesting, perhaps a new hint or tool to utilize.

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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 Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

  • Celebrate DNA – customized DNA themed t-shirts, bags and other items

Let’s Play DNA on Jeopardy!

My cousin, Kelly, e-mailed me saying that recently Jeopardy! had a category called:

I JUST TOOK A DNA TEST

I think this means that DNA is most definitely now a mainstream topic. Jeopardy has been having championships, and Kelly says that the contestants did quite well with these questions.

Let’s play along and see how we do. Write your “questions” to the following answers down on a piece of paper, and I’ll provide the Jeopardy questions at the end.

$400 Answer is below:

DNA TESTS CAN TELL YOU IF YOU ARE THIS 7-LETTER HOLDER OF RECESSIVE GENES FOR A GENETIC DISEASE

$800 Answer is below:

…BECAUSE I LOVE SCIENCE, I HAD THIS, MY FULL SET OF CHROMOSOMES, SEQUENCED TO BETTER UNDERSTAND MY FAMILY’S HISTORY OF MENTAL ILLNESS

The $1,200 Answer is below:

FOR INFO ON GREAT-GREAT-GRANDMA, GENETIC DATA PASSED ON FROM YOUR MOTHER CAN UE USED IN THE mtDNA TEST, NAMED FOR THIS ORGANELLE

The $1,600 Answer is below:

YOU CAN LEARN YOUR ETHNICITY USING DNA IN YOUR AUTOSOMES, NON-SEX CHROMOSOMES; MOST PEOPLE HAVE THIS MANY SETS OF AUTOSOMES

The $2,000 Answer is below:

DNA IS COMPOSED OF NUCLEOTIDES, WHICH CONTAIN 4 NITROGENOUS BASES REPRESENTED BY THESE 4 LETTERS

Ok, compile your questions to the above answers and let’s see how you did, according to Jeopardy:

  • $400 question – What is “a carrier?”
  • $800 question – What is “a genome?”
  • $1200 question – What is “mitochondria.”
  • $1600 question – What is “22?”
  • $2000 question – What is “A, C, T and G?”

How did you do? I tended to overthink the answers. For example, for the $800 question, the mental illness/health aspect of the answer made me think they were seeking Exome, which is the medical portion of the genome. Judges?

For the $1200 question, I thought that since they said mtDNA, the question couldn’t possible be mitochondria. That would be too easy because they gave that away in the answer – but mitochondria was correct.

For the last question, I overthought the answer and gave the full nucleotide name, not the abbreviation, even though the answer clearly said letters.

This is why I’m not on Jeopardy😊

How much DNA Jeopardy money did you accumulate? Now if we could just spend that money for DNA tests, right?

Legacy Family Tree: Webinars and Genealogy Software Both Half Off + Today’s Free Tip

Legacy Tree Black Friday.png

Did you know that Legacy Family Tree has two completely separate products? Both are great genealogy gift ideas.

  • Legacy Family Tree Webinars – webinars from industry experts about just about anything genealogy that you can imagine. You can watch live or later. Some webinars are free, and some available only with a membership that can be purchased either by webinar or yearly.
  • Legacy Family Tree Software – genealogy software for your computer that facilitates recording information about your ancestors, comes with charting software and syncs with online record resources for online searching.

Now that we know Legacy Family Tree includes genealogy software and webinars, and those two things aren’t connected, what’s included in these deals?

  • 50% Off – Legacy Family Tree 9.0 – upgrade your genealogy software on your computer to Legacy 9.0 Deluxe and get hinting, stories, hashtags, FindAGrave.com searching, Research Guidance, charts, books and much, much more! From $17.48
  • 50% Off – Webinar Membership – 24/7 access to 1,000+ full-length genealogy classes PLUS all 4,600+ pages of instructors’ handouts. Just $ $24.98 (new memberships only)

BONUS – Legacy Tree is also throwing in a FREE Bonus webinar that’s brand new – 25 Uncommon Sources for your Genealogy. You will learn the 25 sources to check after you’ve exhausted the basics like vital and census records. Included with your new or existing webinar membership.

I need this webinar myself. I have so many dead ends.

Click here to see all the Black Friday deals.

Today’s Useful Tip – FREE Webinars

Check out the FREE Legacy Tree Webinars, here.

You can search specifically for the MyHeritage LIVE sessions from both 2018 and 2019 by typing “MyHeritage LIVE” in the search box.

Legacy Tree webinars.png

I was in Oslo in 2018 and Amsterdam in 2019, and I can tell you these free sessions are very worthwhile.

Search Webinars by Topic

If you think the free sessions are great, imagine what else is available. You can search by topic or presenter.

Below are the results when I searched for “DNA.”

What a great lineup.

You’ll need a membership to view most of these but there are three upcoming webinars that are FREE.

Legacy Tree library.png

Pssst – It’s a Secret

Can you keep a secret?

I’ll be recording sessions for Legacy Family Tree Webinars during 2020. I’ll let you know when they become available.

Get the Deals

Click here for all the Legacy Tree Black Friday deals including webinars and software. They even have gift cards.

Offer expires on Cyber Monday, December 2, 2019 at 11:59 PM MT.

Happy Holidays

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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 Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

  • Celebrate DNA – customized DNA themed t-shirts, bags and other items

Hit a Genetic Genealogy Home Run Using Your Double-Sided Two-Faced Chromosomes While Avoiding Imposters

Do you want to hit a home run with your DNA test, but find yourself a mite bewildered?

Yep, those matches can be somewhat confusing – especially if you don’t understand what’s going on. Do you have a nagging feeling that you might be missing something?

I’m going to explain chromosome matching, and its big sister, triangulation, step by step to remove any confusion, to help you sort through your matches and avoid imposters.

This article is one of the most challenging I’ve ever written – in part because it’s a concept that I’m so familiar with but can be, and is, misinterpreted so easily. I see mistakes and confusion daily, which means that resulting conclusions stand a good chance of being wrong.

I’ve tried to simplify these concepts by giving you easy-to-use memory tools.

There are three key phrases to remember, as memory-joggers when you work through your matches using a chromosome browser: double-sided, two faces and imposter. While these are “cute,” they are also quite useful.

When you’re having a confusing moment, think back to these memory-jogging key words and walk yourself through your matches using these steps.

These three concepts are the foundation of understanding your matches, accurately, as they pertain to your genealogy. Please feel free to share, link or forward this article to your friends and especially your family members (including distant cousins) who work with genetic genealogy. 

Now, it’s time to enjoy your double-sided, two-faced chromosomes and avoid those imposters:)

Are you ready? Grab a nice cup of coffee or tea and learn how to hit home runs!

Double-Sided – Yes, Really

Your chromosomes really are double sided, and two-faced too – and that’s a good thing!

However, it’s initially confusing because when we view our matches in a chromosome browser, it looks like we only have one “bar” or chromosome and our matches from both our maternal and paternal sides are both shown on our one single bar.

How can this be? We all have two copies of chromosome 1, one from each parent.

Chromosome 1 match.png

This is my chromosome 1, with my match showing in blue when compared to my chromosome, in gray, as the background.

However, I don’t know if this blue person matches me on my mother’s or father’s chromosome 1, both of which I inherited. It could be either. Or neither – meaning the dreaded imposter – especially that small blue piece at left.

What you’re seeing above is in essence both “sides” of my chromosome number 1, blended together, in one bar. That’s what I mean by double-sided.

There’s no way to tell which side or match is maternal and which is paternal without additional information – and misunderstanding leads to misinterpreting results.

Let’s straighten this out and talk about what matches do and don’t mean – and why they can be perplexing. Oh, and how to discover those imposters!

Your Three Matches

Let’s say you have three matches.

At Family Tree DNA, the example chromosome browser I’m using, or at any vendor with a chromosome browser, you select your matches which are viewed against your chromosomes. Your chromosomes are always the background, meaning in this case, the grey background.

Chromosome 1-4.png

  • This is NOT three copies each of your chromosomes 1, 2, 3 and 4.
  • This is NOT displaying your maternal and paternal copies of each chromosome pictured.
  • We CANNOT tell anything from this image alone relative to maternal and paternal side matches.
  • This IS showing three individual people matching you on your chromosome 1 and the same three people matching you in the same order on every chromosome in the picture.

Let’s look at what this means and why we want to utilize a chromosome browser.

I selected three matches that I know are not all related through the same parent so I can demonstrate how confusing matches can be sorted out. Throughout this article, I’ve tried to explain each concept in at least two ways.

Please note that I’m using only chromsomes 1-4 as examples, not because they are any more, or less, important than the other chromosomes, but because showing all 22 would not add any benefit to the discussion. The X chromosome has a separate inheritance path and I wrote about that here.

Let’s start with a basic question.

Why Would I Want to Use a Chromosome Browser?

Genealogists view matches on chromosome browsers because:

  • We want to see where our matches match us on our chromosomes
  • We’d like to identify our common ancestor with our match
  • We want to assign a matching segment to a specific ancestor or ancestral line, which confirmed those ancestors as ours
  • When multiple people match us on the same location on the chromosome browser, that’s a hint telling us that we need to scrutinize those matches more closely to determine if those people match us on our maternal or paternal side which is the first step in assigning that segment to an ancestor

Once we accurately assign a segment to an ancestor, when anyone else matches us (and those other people) on that same segment, we know which ancestral line they match through – which is a great head start in terms of identifying our common ancestor with our new match.

That’s a genetic genealogy home run!

Home Runs 

There are four bases in a genetic genealogy home run.

  1. Determine whether you actually match someone on the same segment
  2. Which is the first step in determining that you match a group of people on the same segment
  3. And that you descend from a common ancestor
  4. The fourth step, or the home run, is to determine which ancestor you have in common, assigning that segment to that ancestor

If you can’t see segment information, you can’t use a chromosome browser and you can’t confirm the match on that segment, nor can you assign that segment to a particular ancestor, or ancestral couple.

The entire purpose of genealogy is to identify and confirm ancestors. Genetic genealogy confirms the paper trail and breaks down even more brick walls.

But before you can do that, you have to understand what matches mean and how to use them.

The first step is to understand that our chromosomes are double-sided and you can’ t see both of your chromosomes at once!

Double Sided – You Can’t See Both of Your Chromosomes at Once

The confusing part of the chromosome browser is that it can only “see” your two chromosomes blended as one. They are both there, but you just can’t see them separately.

Here’s the important concept:

You have 2 copies of chromosomes 1 through 22 – one copy that you received from your mother and one from your father, but you can’t “see” them separately.

When your DNA is sequenced, your DNA from your parents’ chromosomes emerges as if it has been through a blender. Your mother’s chromosome 1 and your father’s chromosome 1 are blended together. That means that without additional information, the vendor can’t tell which matches are from your father’s side and which are from your mother’s side – and neither can you.

All the vendor can tell is that someone matches you on the blended version of your parents. This isn’t a negative reflection on the vendors, it’s just how the science works.

Chromosome 1.png

Applying this to chromosome 1, above, means that each segment from each person, the blue person, the red person and the teal person might match you on either one of your chromosomes – the paternal chromosome or the maternal chromosome – but because the DNA of your mother and father are blended – there’s no way without additional information to sort your chromosome 1 into a maternal and paternal “side.”

Hence, you’re viewing “one” copy of your combined chromosomes above, but it’s actually “two-sided” with both maternal and paternal matches displayed in the chromosome browser.

Parent-Child Matches

Let’s explain this another way.

Chromosome parent.png

The example above shows one of my parents matching me. Don’t be deceived by the color blue which is selected randomly. It could be either parent. We don’t know.

You can see that I match my parent on the entire length of chromosome 1, but there is no way for me to tell if I’m looking at my mother’s match or my father’s match, because both of my parents (and my children) will match me on exactly the same locations (all of them) on my chromosome 1.

Chromosome parent child.png

In fact, here is a combination of my children and my parents matching me on my chromosome 1.

To sort out who is matching on paternal and maternal chromosomes, or the double sides, I need more information. Let’s look at how inheritance works.

Stay with me!

Inheritance Example

Let’s take a look at how inheritance works visually, using an example segment on chromosome 1.

Chromosome inheritance.png

In the example above:

  • The first column shows addresses 1-10 on chromosome 1. In this illustration, we are only looking at positions, chromosome locations or addresses 1-10, but real chromosomes have tens of thousands of addresses. Think of your chromosome as a street with the same house numbers on both sides. One side is Mom’s and one side is Dad’s, but you can’t tell which is which by looking at the house numbers because the house numbers are identical on both sides of the street.
  • The DNA pieces, or nucleotides (T, A, C or G,) that you received from your Mom are shown in the column labeled Mom #1, meaning we’re looking at your mother’s pink chromosome #1 at addresses 1-10. In our example she has all As that live on her side of the street at addresses 1-10.
  • The DNA pieces that you received from your Dad are shown in the blue column and are all Cs living on his side of the street in locations 1-10.

In other words, the values that live in the Mom and Dad locations on your chromosome streets are different. Two different faces.

However, all that the laboratory equipment can see is that there are two values at address 1, A and C, in no particular order. The lab can’t tell which nucleotide came from which parent or which side of the street they live on.

The DNA sequencer knows that it found two values at each address, meaning that there are two DNA strands, but the output is jumbled, as shown in the First and Second read columns. The machine knows that you have an A and C at the first address, and a C and A at the second address, but it can’t put the sequence of all As together and the sequence of all Cs together. What the sequencer sees is entirely unordered.

This happens because your maternal and paternal DNA is mixed together during the extraction process.

Chromosome actual

Click to enlarge image.

Looking at the portion of chromosome 1 where the blue and teal people both match you – your actual blended values are shown overlayed on that segment, above. We don’t know why the blue and the teal people are matching you. They could be matching because they have all As (maternal), all Cs (paternal) or some combination of As and Cs (a false positive match that is identical by chance.)

There are only two ways to reassemble your nucleotides (T, A, C, and G) in order and then to identify the sides as maternal and paternal – phasing and matching.

As you read this next section, it does NOT mean that you must have a parent for a chromosome browser to be useful – but it does mean you need to understand these concepts.

There are two types of phasing.

Parental Phasing

  • Parental Phasing is when your DNA is compared against that of one or both parents and sorted based on that comparison.

Chromosome inheritance actual.png

Parental phasing requires that at least one parent’s DNA is available, has been sequenced and is available for matching.

In our example, Dad’s first 10 locations (that you inherited) on chromosome 1 are shown, at left, with your two values shown as the first and second reads. One of your read values came from your father and the other one came from your mother. In this case, the Cs came from your father. (I’m using A and C as examples, but the values could just as easily be T or G or any combination.)

When parental phasing occurs, the DNA of one of your parents is compared to yours. In this case, your Dad gave you a C in locations 1-10.

Now, the vendor can look at your DNA and assign your DNA to one parent or the other. There can be some complicating factors, like if both your parents have the same nucleotides, but let’s keep our example simple.

In our example above, you can see that I’ve colored portions of the first and second strands blue to represent that the C value at that address can be assigned through parental phasing to your father.

Conversely, because your mother’s DNA is NOT available in our example, we can’t compare your DNA to hers, but all is not lost. Because we know which nucleotides came from your father, the remaining nucleotides had to come from your mother. Hence, the As remain after the Cs are assigned to your father and belong to your mother. These remaining nucleotides can logically be recombined into your mother’s DNA – because we’ve subtracted Dad’s DNA.

I’ve reassembled Mom, in pink, at right.

Statistical/Academic Phasing

  • A second type of phasing uses something referred to as statistical or academic phasing.

Statistical phasing is less successful because it uses statistical calculations based on reference populations. In other words, it uses a “most likely” scenario.

By studying reference populations, we know scientifically that, generally, for our example addresses 1-10, we either see all As or all Cs grouped together.

Based on this knowledge, the Cs can then logically be grouped together on one “side” and As grouped together on the other “side,” but we still have no way to know which side is maternal or paternal for you. We only know that normally, in a specific population, we see all As or all Cs. After assigning strings or groups of nucleotides together, the algorithm then attempts to see which groups are found together, thereby assigning genetic “sides.” Assigning the wrong groups to the wrong side sometimes happens using statistical phasing and is called strand swap.

Once the DNA is assigned to physical “sides” without a parent or matching, we still can’t identify which side is paternal and which is maternal for you.

Statistical or academic phasing isn’t always accurate, in part because of the differences found in various reference populations and resulting admixture. Sometimes segments don’t match well with any population. As more people test and more reference populations become available, statistical/academic phasing improves. 23andMe uses academic phasing for ethnicity, resulting in a strand swap error for me. Ancestry uses academic phasing before matching.

By comparison to statistical or academic phasing, parental phasing with either or both parents is highly accurate which is why we test our parents and grandparents whenever possible. Even if the vendor doesn’t use our parents’ results, we certainly can!

If someone matches you and your parent too, you know that match is from that parent’s side of your tree.

Matching

The second methodology to sort your DNA into maternal and paternal sides is matching, either with or without your parents.

Matching to multiple known relatives on specific segments assigns those segments of your DNA to the common ancestor of those individuals.

In other words, when I match my first cousin, and our genealogy indicates that we share grandparents – assuming we match on the appropriate amount of DNA for the expected relationship – that match goes a long way to confirming our common ancestor(s).

The closer the relationship, the more comfortable we can be with the confirmation. For example, if you match someone at a parental level, they must be either your biological mother, father or child.

While parent, sibling and close relationships are relatively obvious, more distant relationships are not and can occur though unknown or multiple ancestors. In those cases, we need multiple matches through different children of that ancestor to reasonably confirm ancestral descent.

Ok, but how do we do that? Let’s start with some basics that can be confusing.

What are we really seeing when we look at a chromosome browser?

The Grey/Opaque Background is Your Chromosome

It’s important to realize that you will see as many images of your chromosome(s) as people you have selected to match against.

This means that if you’ve selected 3 people to match against your chromosomes, then you’ll see three images of your chromosome 1, three images of your chromosome 2, three images of your chromosome 3, three images of your chromosome 4, and so forth.

Remember, chromosomes are double-sided, so you don’t know whether these are maternal or paternal matches (or imposters.)

In the illustration below, I’ve selected three people to match against my chromosomes in the chromosome browser. One person is shown as a blue match, one as a red match, and one as a teal match. Where these three people match me on each chromosome is shown by the colored segments on the three separate images.

Chromosome 1.png

My chromosome 1 is shown above. These images are simply three people matching to my chromosome 1, stacked on top of each other, like cordwood.

The first image is for the blue person. The second image is for the red person. The third image is for the teal person.

If I selected another person, they would be assigned a different color (by the system) and a fourth stacked image would occur.

These stacked images of your chromosomes are NOT inherently maternal or paternal.

In other words, the blue person could match me maternally and the red person paternally, or any combination of maternal and paternal. Colors are not relevant – in other words colors are system assigned randomly.

Notice that portions of the blue and teal matches overlap at some of the same locations/addresses, which is immediately visible when using a chromosome browser. These areas of common matching are of particular interest.

Let’s look closer at how chromosome browser matching works.

What about those colorful bars?

Chromosome Browser Matching

When you look at your chromosome browser matches, you may see colored bars on several chromosomes. In the display for each chromosome, the same color will always be shown in the same order. Most people, unless very close relatives, won’t match you on every chromosome.

Below, we’re looking at three individuals matching on my chromosomes 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Chromosome browser.png

The blue person will be shown in location A on every chromosome at the top. You can see that the blue person does not match me on chromosome 2 but does match me on chromosomes 1, 3 and 4.

The red person will always be shown in the second position, B, on each chromosome. The red person does not match me on chromosomes 2 or 4.

The aqua person will always be shown in position C on each chromosome. The aqua person matches me on at least a small segment of chromosomes 1-4.

When you close the browser and select different people to match, the colors will change and the stacking order perhaps, but each person selected will always be consistently displayed in the same position on all of your chromosomes each time you view.

The Same Address – Stacked Matches

In the example above, we can see that several locations show stacked segments in the same location on the browser.

Chromosome browser locations.png

This means that on chromosome 1, the blue and green person both match me on at least part of the same addresses – the areas that overlap fully. Remember, we don’t know if that means the maternal side or the paternal side of the street. Each match could match on the same or different sides.

Said another way, blue could be maternal and teal could be paternal (or vice versa,) or both could be maternal or paternal. One or the other or both could be imposters, although with large segments that’s very unlikely.

On chromosome 4, blue and teal both match me on two common locations, but the teal person extends beyond the length of the matching blue segments.

Chromosome 3 is different because all three people match me at the same address. Even though the red and teal matching segments are longer, the shared portion of the segment between all three people, the length of the blue segment, is significant.

The fact that the stacked matches are in the same places on the chromosomes, directly above/below each other, DOES NOT mean the matches also match each other.

The only way to know whether these matches are both on one side of my tree is whether or not they match each other. Do they look the same or different? One face or two? We can’t tell from this view alone.

We need to evaluate!

Two Faces – Matching Can be Deceptive!

What do these matches mean? Let’s ask and answer a few questions.

  • Does a stacked match mean that one of these people match on my mother’s side and one on my father’s side?

They might, but stacked matches don’t MEAN that.

If one match is maternal, and one is paternal, they still appear at the same location on your chromosome browser because Mom and Dad each have a side of the street, meaning a chromosome that you inherited.

Remember in our example that even though they have the same street address, Dad has blue Cs and Mom has pink As living at that location. In other words, their faces look different. So unless Mom and Dad have the same DNA on that entire segment of addresses, 1-10, Mom and Dad won’t match each other.

Therefore, my maternal and paternal matches won’t match each other either on that segment either, unless:

  1. They are related to me through both of my parents and on that specific location.
  2. My mother and father are related to each other and their DNA is the same on that segment.
  3. There is significant endogamy that causes my parents to share DNA segments from their more distant ancestors, even though they are not related in the past few generations.
  4. The segments are small (segments less than 7cM are false matches roughly 50% of the time) and therefore the match is simply identical by chance. I wrote about that here. The chart showing valid cM match percentages is shown here, but to summarize, 7-8 cMs are valid roughly 46% of the time, 8-9 cM roughly 66%, 9-10 cM roughly 91%, 10-11 cM roughly 95, but 100 is not reached until about 20 cM and I have seen a few exceptions above that, especially when imputation is involved.

Chromosome inheritance match.png

In this inheritance example, we see that pink Match #1 is from Mom’s side and matches the DNA I inherited from pink Mom. Blue Match #2 is from Dad’s side and matches the DNA I inherited from blue Dad. But as you can see, Match #1 and Match #2 do not match each other.

Therefore, the address is only half the story (double-sided.)

What lives at the address is the other half. Mom and Dad have two separate faces!

Chromosome actual overlay

Click to enlarge image

Looking at our example of what our DNA in parental order really looks like on chromosome 1, we see that the blue person actually matches on my maternal side with all As, and the teal person on the paternal side with all Cs.

  • Does a stacked match on the chromosome browser mean that two people match each other?

Sometimes it happens, but not necessarily, as shown in our example above. The blue and teal person would not match each other. Remember, addresses (the street is double-sided) but the nucleotides that live at that address tell the real story. Think two different looking faces, Mom’s and Dad’s, peering out those windows.

If stacked matches match each other too – then they match me on the same parental side. If they don’t match each other, don’t be deceived just because they live at the same address. Remember – Mom’s and Dad’s two faces look different.

For example, if both the blue and teal person match me maternally, with all As, they would also match each other. The addresses match and the values that live at the address match too. They look exactly the same – so they both match me on either my maternal or paternal side – but it’s up to me to figure out which is which using genealogy.

Chromosome actual maternal.png

Click to enlarge image

When my matches do match each other on this segment, plus match me of course, it’s called triangulation.

Triangulation – Think of 3

If my two matches match each other on this segment, in addition to me, it’s called triangulation which is genealogically significant, assuming:

  1. That the triangulated people are not closely related. Triangulation with two siblings, for example, isn’t terribly significant because the common ancestor is only their parents. Same situation with a child and a parent.
  2. The triangulated segments are not small. Triangulation, like matching, on small segments can happen by chance.
  3. Enough people triangulate on the same segment that descends from a common ancestor to confirm the validity of the common ancestor’s identity, also confirming that the match is identical by descent, not identical by chance.

Chromosome inheritance triangulation.png

The key to determining whether my two matches both match me on my maternal side (above) or paternal side is whether they also match each other.

If so, assuming all three of the conditions above are true, we triangulate.

Next, let’s look at a three-person match on the same segment and how to determine if they triangulate.

Three Way Matching and Identifying Imposters

Chromosome 3 in our example is slightly different, because all three people match me on at least a portion of that segment, meaning at the same address. The red and teal segments line up directly under the blue segment – so the portion that I can potentially match identically to all 3 people is the length of the blue segment. It’s easy to get excited, but don’t get excited quite yet.

Chromosome 3 way match.png

Given that three people match me on the same street address/location, one of the following three situations must be true:

  • Situation 1- All three people match each other in addition to me, on that same segment, which means that all three of them match me on either the maternal or paternal side. This confirms that we are related on the same side, but not how or which side.

Chromosome paternal.png

In order to determine which side, maternal or paternal, I need to look at their and my genealogy. The blue arrows in these examples mean that I’ve determined these matches to all be on my father’s side utilizing a combination of genealogy plus DNA matching. If your parent is alive, this part is easy. If not, you’ll need to utilize common matching and/or triangulation with known relatives.

  • Situation 2 – Of these three people, Cheryl, the blue bar on top, matches me but does not match the other two. Charlene and David, the red and teal, match each other, plus me, but not Cheryl.

Chromosome maternal paternal.png

This means that at least either my maternal or paternal side is represented, given that Charlene and David also match each other. Until I can look at the identity of who matches, or their genealogy, I can’t tell which person or people descend from which side.

In this case, I’ve determined that Cheryl, my first cousin, with the pink arrow matches me on Mom’s side and Charlene and David, with the blue arrows, match me on Dad’s side. So both my maternal and paternal sides are represented – my maternal side with the pink arrow as well as my father’s side with the blue arrows.

If Cheryl was a more distant match, I would need additional triangulated matches to family members to confirm her match as legitimate and not a false positive or identical by chance.

  • Situation 3 – Of the three people, all three match me at the same addresses, but none of the three people match each other. How is this even possible?

Chromosome identical by chance.png

This situation seems very counter-intuitive since I have only 2 chromosomes, one from Mom and one from Dad – 2 sidesof the street. It is confusing until you realize that one match (Cheryl and me, pink arrow) would be maternal, one would be paternal (Charlene and me, blue arrow) and the third (David and me, red arrows) would have DNA that bounces back and forth between my maternal and paternal sides, meaning the match with David is identical by chance (IBC.)

This means the third person, David, would match me, but not the people that are actually maternal and paternal matches. Let’s take a look at how this works

Chromosome maternal paternal IBC.png

The addresses are the same, but the values that live at the addresses are not in this third scenario.

Maternal pink Match #1 is Cheryl, paternal blue Match #2 is Charlene.

In this example, Match #3, David, matches me because he has pink and blue at the same addresses that Mom and Dad have pink and blue, but he doesn’t have all pink (Mom) nor all blue (Dad), so he does NOT match either Cheryl or Charlene. This means that he is not a valid genealogical match – but is instead what is known as a false positive – identical by chance, not by descent. In essence, a wily genetic imposter waiting to fool unwary genealogists!

In his case, David is literally “two-faced” with parts of both values that live in the maternal house and the paternal house at those addresses. He is a “two-faced imposter” because he has elements of both but isn’t either maternal or paternal.

This is the perfect example of why matching and triangulating to known and confirmed family members is critical.

All three people, Cheryl, Charlene and David match me (double sided chromosomes), but none of them match each other (two legitimate faces – one from each parent’s side plus one imposter that doesn’t match either the legitimate maternal or paternal relatives on that segment.)

Remember Three Things

  1. Double-Sided – Mom and Dad both have the same addresses on both sides of each chromosome street.
  2. Two Legitimate Faces – The DNA values, nucleotides, will have a unique pattern for both your Mom and Dad (unless they are endogamous or related) and therefore, there are two legitimate matching patterns on each chromsome – one for Mom and one for Dad. Two legitimate and different faces peering out of the houses on Mom’s side and Dad’s side of the street.
  3. Two-Faced Imposters – those identical by chance matches which zig-zag back and forth between Mom and Dad’s DNA at any given address (segment), don’t match confirmed maternal and paternal relatives on the same segment, and are confusing imposters.

Are you ready to hit your home run?

What’s Next?

Now that we understand how matching and triangulation works and why, let’s put this to work at the vendors. Join me for my article in a few days, Triangulation in Action at Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage, 23andMe and GedMatch.

We will step through how triangulation works at each vendor. You’ll have matches at each vendor that you don’ t have elsewhere. If you haven’t transferred your DNA file yet, you still have time with the step by step instructions below:

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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

DNAPainter Instructions and Resources

DNAPainter garden

DNAPainter is one of my favorite tools because DNAPainter, just as its name implies, facilitates users painting their matches’ segments on their various chromosomes. It’s genetic art and your ancestors provide the paint!

People use DNAPainter in different ways for various purposes. I utilize DNAPainter to paint matches with whom I’ve identified a common ancestor and therefore know the historical “identity” of the ancestors who contributed that segment.

Those colors in the graphic above are segments identified to different ancestors through DNA matching.

DNAPainter includes:

  • The ability to paint or map your chromosomes with your matching segments as well as your ethnicity segments
  • The ability to upload or create trees and mark individuals you’ve confirmed as your genetic ancestors
  • A number of tools including the Shared cM Tool to show ranges of relationships based on your match level and WATO (what are the odds) tool to statistically predict or estimate various positions in a family based on relationships to other known family members

A Repository

I’ve created this article as a quick-reference instructional repository for the articles I’ve written about DNAPainter. As I write more articles, I’ll add them here as well.

  • The Chromosome Sudoku article introduced DNAPainter and how to use the tool. This is a step-by-step guide for beginners.

DNA Painter – Chromosome Sudoku for Genetic Genealogy Addicts

  • Where do you find those matches to paint? At the vendors such as Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage, 23andMe and GedMatch, of course. The Mining Vendor Matches article explains how.

DNAPainter – Mining Vendor Matches to Paint Your Chromosomes

  • Touring the Chromosome Garden explains how to interpret the results of DNAPainter, and how automatic triangulation just “happens” as you paint. I also discuss ethnicity painting and how to handle questionable ancestors.

DNA Painter – Touring the Chromosome Garden

  • You can prove or disprove a half-sibling relationship using DNAPainter – for you and also for other people in your tree.

Proving or Disproving a Half Sibling Relationship Using DNAPainter

  • Not long after Dana Leeds introduced The Leeds Method of clustering matches into 4 groups representing your 4 grandparents, I adapted her method to DNAPainter.

DNAPainter: Painting the Leeds Method Matches

  • Ethnicity painting is a wonderful tool to help identify Native American or minority ancestry segments by utilizing your estimated ethnicity segments. Minority in this context means minority to you.

Native American and Minority Ancestors Identified Using DNAPainter Plus Ethnicity Segments

  • Creating a tree or uploading a GEDCOM file provides you with Ancestral Trees where you can indicate which people in your tree are genetically confirmed as your ancestors.

DNAPainter: Ancestral Trees

  • Of course, the key to DNA painting is to have as many matches and segments as possible identified to specific ancestors. In order to do that, you need to have your DNA working for you at as many vendors as possible that provide you with matching and a chromosome browser. Ancestry does not have a browser or provide specific paintable segment information, but the other major vendors do, and you can transfer Ancestry results elsewhere.

DNAPainter: Painting “Bucketed” Family Tree DNA Maternal and Paternal Family Finder Matches in One Fell Swoop

  • Family Tree DNA offers the wonderful feature of assigning your matches to either a maternal or paternal bucket if you connect 4th cousins or closer on your tree. Until now, there was no way to paint that information at DNAPainter en masse, only manually one at a time. DNAPainter’s new tool facilitates a mass painting of phased, parentally bucketed matches to the appropriate chromosome – meaning that triangulation groups are automatically formed!

Triangulation in Action at DNAPainter

  • DNAPainter provides the ability to triangulate “automatically” when you paint your segments as long as you know which side, maternal or paternal, the match originates. Looking at the common ancestors of your matches on a specific segments tracks that segment back in time to its origins. Painting matches from all vendors who provide segment information facilitates once single repository for walking your DNA information back in time.

DNA Transfers

Some vendors don’t require you to test at their company and allow transfers into their systems from other vendors. Those vendors do charge a small fee to unlock their advanced features, but not as much as testing there.

Ancestry and 23andMe DO NOT allow transfers of DNA from other vendors INTO their systems, but they do allow you to download your raw DNA file to transfer TO other vendors.

Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage and GedMatch all 3 accept files uploaded FROM other vendors. Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage also allow you to download your raw data file to transfer TO other vendors.

These articles provide step-by-step instructions how to download your results from the various vendors and how to upload to that vendor, when possible.

Here are some suggestions about DNA testing and a transfer strategy:

Paint and have fun!!!

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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

Conferences: Different Flavors – How They Work & What to Expect as an Attendee or Speaker

As you’ve noticed, I’m sure, I sometimes speak at conferences.

Roberta speaking at conference.jpg

Not all conferences are the same – nor are they created equal for either the speakers or attendees. That’s by design, based on the type of conference and who is sponsoring the event.

How well a conference resonates with you depends on your personal goals and the goals of the sponsoring party.

Let’s look at the different factors that makes conferences unique – and interesting.

After we understand the different kinds of conferences, then we’ll talk about conferences from the speaker’s, and aspiring speaker’s, perspectives.

Last, we’ll review aspects you’ll want to consider when considering conferences as either an attendee or speaker.

Conferences Types and Sponsors

Conferences in general, not just genealogy, are sponsored by four types of organizations – each with different goals. We will look at each type in terms of organizations, sponsorship, speakers, expectations and fees!

Type 1 – Academic and Professional Conferences

Long before I spoke at genealogy conferences, I spoke at academic and professional conferences about technology and science related topics. These conferences generally focus on a specific theme. Example themes would be GIS (geographic information systems), medicine or a specific area of technology.

At academic and professional conferences, the speakers are paid by organizations that they work for, such as universities or companies associated with the subject. In other words, they are speaking as an employee, meaning they are paid by their employer and speaking is part of their job. Speakers at these conferences aren’t typically free-lancers, self-employed people or consultants.

In my opinion, this conference model is the origin of the myth that genealogical speakers only need to be offered a small honorarium, often in the ballpark of $100, instead of being “paid.” The conference committees were and are used to speakers who are paid by their employers and feel that simply being asked to speak is an honor in and of itself within your profession.

It’s a fine model for a group of speakers who are speaking as part of their paid employment, but not for people who aren’t.

In the genealogical world, people employed by vendors who speak fall into this category, but professional and non-professional genealogists who don’t work for a company that pays their salary are exceptions. People not employed by organizations are literally trading a significant number of hours of paid work for preparing their presentation, traveling and speaking – not to mention paying their own costs.

The conferences who subscribe to this model feel that the exposure to the public will build the speaker’s business, and while that’s true if the speaker has something to sell, like a book, it’s not true if the speaker already has a full calendar and the only thing they “sell” is services. In this second scenario, it actually costs the speaker to speak because they forego revenue.

Some speakers are retired from professions that offer pensions, so they aren’t trying to earn a living as a professional – but that’s far from true for everyone.

In terms of expectations, at a professional or academic conference, you can generally expect to hear a wide range of speakers including individuals who work for organizations other than vendors, academics, and of course vendors’ employees.

These professional conferences are generally run by professional or academic associations that are often nonprofit and charge a membership fee, in addition to a conference admission fee.

Their goal is usually not to make a profit but to cover the actual conference expenses. Some conference functions, such as lunches and a dinner, if offered, are usually extra.

Generally, the attendees’ and speakers’ conference fees, travel and expenses are covered by their employer, because the attendee needs to keep current in their field. Conferences of this type are considered part of continuing education and professional development.

Costs of Holding a Conference

For all conferences, venues and associated services, meaning food and beverages, prices are exceedingly expensive. For example, a conference center fee for water pitchers in a conference room is $55 per room for 5 gallons, plus an additional $35 for 3 additional gallons. Coffee costs over $100 per carafe. Of course, these costs include the people in the background delivering and coordinating.

The deposit alone for a conference expecting a maximum of 250 people was $28,000 last year. And that was just to reserve the facility. You get the idea.

Attendees often receive a “goody bag” with items contributed by the conference itself or vendors who would like for you to visit their booths and/or consider purchasing their products.

2019 familytreedna booth

Generally, associated vendors have paid booths or table space which generates some revenue for the conference itself. Sometimes booth space is purchased by location, with the largest, best and most expensive “premier” locations just inside the entrance to the Expo Hall.

At RootsTech, below, during setup before the conference opened, FamilySearch, the conference sponsor is in the center, just inside the door, flanked by MyHeritage to their left, and Ancestry, not shown, to the right.

Rootstech day 1 setup

The conference keynote speech is generally given by someone well known who is of interest to anyone in that particular field and is expected to be both informative and entertaining. Some keynote speakers, such as entertainers, are very pricey, in the 10s of thousands of dollars.

Type 2 – Vendor Sponsored Conferences

Vendors sponsor conferences to educate their customers and create goodwill in their user community.

These types of conferences highlight the vendor’s products and innovative ways to utilize those products.

You can expect to see several sessions about the vendor’s tools, products and services, including new announcements. You won’t see anything about competitors’ products.

Generally, there is an admission fee, but these conferences tend to be highly subsidized by the vendors and include events like receptions and often some included meals.

MyHeritage 2019 Gilad keynote.png

Photo of Gilad Japhet, opening MyHeritage LIVE 2019 in Amsterdam, courtesy MyHeritage.

A good example of this is the recent #MyHeritageLIVE conference in Amsterdam. Gilad Japhet, the founder and MyHeritage CEO is giving he opening keynote, above, at their second international conference.

At MyHeritage LIVE, the $149 conference fee didn’t begin to cover what the attendees received. For example, an included canal tour, a nice sweatshirt and stuff bag, a journal, a reception with drinks included, 2 lunches, several breaks with snacks and drinks and an amazing party with live entertainment including a “Beatles” band and Dutch folk dancers.

MyHeritage LIVE me with Marianne Melcherts.png

No, those people aren’t Dutch folk dancers, that’s me celebrating our shared Dutch heritage with Marianne Melcherts!

All of that’s in addition to the actual conference sessions with the best speakers in the industry, which is the actual purpose of the conference. You can see a quick one minute video, here, and free session recordings including the keynote, here. I covered the conference here and here.

Next MyHeritage LIVE conference – Israel sometime probably in the fall of 2020.

The annual Family Tree DNA International Conference for project administrators falls into the vendor sponsored category too and costs about the same.

2015 ftdna panel

Panelists, left to right, Katherine Borges, Steven Perkins, Dr. Tim Janzen, Jennifer Zinck and Debbie Parker-Wayne.

Above, Bennett Greenspan, Family Tree DNA CEO hosting a 2015 panel discussion and below, Bennett speaking about the Y DNA pedigree.

Rootstech day 3 Bennett Y pedigree

The next Family Tree DNA conference is scheduled for November of 2020 – next year. Their conference is focused on educating project administrators who are hightly interested genetic genealogists that function as volunteer supporters for their tens of thousands of cumulative project members.

Family Tree DNA has over 10,000 projects focused on a wide variety of areas, all of which are free to participants. I’ve always perceived their educational conference for (and restricted to) administrators as a form of an educational “thank you” for the many hours donated by administrators.

2015 ftdna 2004 bennett

The Family Tree DNA conference, the first in the genetic genealogy industry was initially held in 2004, back when NOBODY was talking about genetics at genealogy conferences. Katherine Borges of ISOGG provided this slide of Bennett welcoming project administrators at that first conference. We’ve come a very long way in the past 15 years as an industry.

Vendor-sponsored conferences often don’t have vendor booths or tables, and if they do, they are organizations that support or utilize the vendor’s products and tools. Sometimes the vendors themselves have support tables, roundtable discussions and such.

How individual vendors industrywide handle speaker compensation at their conferences for people outside of their organization varies widely. Speakers are generally personally invited to speak and there is no open call for papers at these types of conferences.

Vendor conferences are usually extremely affordable and represent a great value for the attendees because they are subsidized.

Type 3 – Organization Sponsored Conferences

Most genealogy conferences fall into this category.

2019 Rootstech sign

Some conferences are general in nature, such RootsTech (sponsored by FamilySearch affiliated with the LDS church) and NGS (National Genealogical Society.)

You can read about the history of RootsTech here. I covered RootsTech 2019 here and here and will be speaking at RootsTech 2020.

The current RootsTech information for February 2020 with earlybird pricing can be found here and for NGS in May 2020 here. RootsTech is always in Salt Lake City, and NGS 2020 is as well.

Other conferences focus on a specific theme, such as the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) conference.

In the genetic genealogy world, the i4gg (Institute for Genetic Genealogy) conference was launched a few years ago to focus specifically on genetic genealogy, which means they included sessions all the way from basic to advanced.

Today, almost every conference includes several DNA sessions and most include a DNA track.

Most general conferences focus on a wide range of topics. RootsTech, the largest conference with 30,000 to 40,000 attendees over several days (no they’re not all there at once) is a good example. You can find everything from how to use German church records to advanced DNA – and pretty much everything in between.

These conferences highly encourage vendor participation and have an exhibition hall.  Vendor tables and vendor sponsored sessions help to offset the cost of the venue and of speaker compensation.

Rootstech day 3 Charting Companion

Organization sponsored conferences generally tend to handle speaker compensation based on the old academic model. However, this isn’t always true and varies widely.

The reason that organizations tend to lean towards the academic conference model is a matter of dollars and cents – it costs less than paying a large number of speakers in addition to their transportation and lodging which keeps the conference costs lower, which in turn presumably encourages more attendees.

Part of their thinking is that the speakers, because they are interested in the topic at hand will be attending the conference anyway, so the organizers feel they are in essence only paying speakers for an hour of their time in a location where they would already be.

For the record, I disagree and feel that speakers, if they are not paid by their employer should be fairly compensated for their time and effort.

For attendees, due to the wide subject matter draw and size of these conferences, they are great for networking and meeting other people you may only know virtually.

You’ll also find all of the major vendors and many sponsor talks by well-known speakers and/or employees in their booths as well.

2019 ftdna booth presentation

Here’s me in the Family Tree DNA booth at RootsTech and Ran Snir speaking about DNA in the MyHeritage booth.

2019 MyHeritage booth

Nonprofit organizations that don’t have anything to sell, such as WikiTree, also have a presence and offer learning opportunities. Their booths are staffed entirely by volunteers, so stop by and say hello and learn what’s possible.

rootstech-day-4-wiki.jpg

In terms of expectations, these conferences are often large, which is both the good news and the bad news.

Sometimes the conference organizations themselves will sponsor free learning areas.

Rootstech day 2 discovery zone

There was even a DNA Basics area at RootsTech in 2019, staffed by volunteers. I’d volunteer for a shift there.

2019 DNAbasics

Another favorite conference is the entirely free Dublin, Ireland conference, Genetic Genealogy Ireland headed up by volunteer,  Dr. Maurice Gleeson and with the lecture rooms sponsored by Family Tree DNA. This lovely conference takes place in a conference center as part of the larger “Back to Our Past” conference with an admission to the entire conference center of about $10 per day.

Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2019 schedule.png

A wide range of speakers volunteer in order to support this amazing organization with something to offer everyone with Irish ancestors. GGI attempts to live stream and makes their sessions available on their own YouTube channel, here.

In 2019, the GGI conference takes place on October 18th and 19th in Dublin and I strongly encourage anyone in Ireland or Northern Ireland to attend. It’s well worth your time. You can see the speaker bios here on their blog and or follow them on Facebook, here.

Two new conferences in 2019, both in England, include RootsTech London taking place October 24-26 and THE Genealogy Show in Birmingham. Yes, there’s still time to sign up and attend RootsTech London.

THE Genealogy Show in June was a smashing success, according to attendees. While the initial conference was relatively small, about 4000 people, it was extremely well received. I heard glowing reviews and people really enjoyed the intimate atmosphere that included lots of wonderful sessions with well-known speakers from around the world.

THE Genealogy Show 2020 will be held on June 26-27 and you can take a look at the keynote speakers here.

Yes, you just might know someone who’s speaking:) I can’t wait!

Type 4 – Virtual Conferences

Entire virtual conferences as well as live streaming and recording sessions at regular conferences as they occur are becoming increasingly popular.

In fact, now there’s a Virtual Genealogy Association who has a full 3 day conference coming up in November – as in next month. Registration closes on October 18th and since there’s no travel involved, it’s an exceptional value at $59 for members and $79 for non-members.

Virtual Genealogical Association 2019.png

Choices of types of virtual learning for attendees not physically attending conferences vary, including:

  • Live webinars where viewers can interact with the speakers in some capacity. These tend to be purchased in advance, restricted in number and one must register.
  • Live streamed sessions where large numbers of people can watch as the sessions occur, or later. #MyHeritageLIVE did this in Oslo in 2018, recently in Amsterdam and the sessions were entirely free. RootsTech does live streaming and recording in some capacity for selected sessions. A few RootsTech sessions are live and free, some are available only for paid attendees and last year, a virtual pass was available. Some sessions aren’t recorded or livestreamed at all. NGS also records some sessions and provides them to members and conference attendees. Family Tree DNA doesn’t record but provides presenters’ Powerpoint presentations available online afterwards – if the presenter agrees.
  • Webinars where speakers create and record sessions for organizations in advance who then provide the sessions to members either by subscription, such as DNA-Central and Legacy Family Tree Webinars, or as individual purchases. Legacy Family Tree Webinars offers many for free.
  • Recorded sessions available to purchase. This model varies, but several conferences record sessions and make them available later in some way to be viewed. Often conference attendees are provided access either free or for a minimal cost so they can “attend” sessions that conflicted with other sessions during the actual conference. Non-attendees can pay for the entire set. As a speaker, it’s easier to participate in this type of venue because you’re not traveling. On the other hand, for speakers, it takes some adapting to be able to present looking at a screen when you’re used to looking at a crowd where you can see reactions.

Speakers are often compensated better for these types of sessions than at the large conferences. Again, your mileage may vary.

Ummm, YouTube

When you attend sessions of speakers who have been selected to speak at conferences, virtually or in person, generally, they are competent, capable and engaging.

Some vendors and organizations make their videos available on YouTube and that’s great. Some of these same speakers do the same – and that’s wonderful too.

However, other not-so-competent people produce a wide variety of “informational videos” which range from wonderful to highly inaccurate. The consuming public has no way to differentiate between an informed specialist and a crackpot, or anything in-between. Including less than upstanding companies.

Same caution for Facebook and social media. There’s no way to discern the difference between 20 bad, incomplete or incorrect answers and the one that is perhaps unpopular, but accurate😊

Consumer beware.

Speaker Compensation, Considerations and Expectations

Lots of people aspire to become speakers at conferences and would like to know how this works but are just too polite to ask. So I’m just going to tell you.

  • Public Speaking

First, you need to be comfortable in front of people. Audience sizes range from a few at local events, to hundreds at state and regional events, to thousands at national conferences.

2019 ballroom b

Here’s a photo of a portion of one of the medium sized rooms at RootsTech. Hint – they look even larger from the front – where the speaker is standing – and the room is often dark so the speaker can’t see the entire audience. In other words, it’s a kind of endless, dark sea.

People will be coming and going, so speakers need to be well-prepared, confident, not easily distracted, able to handle technical glitches and not subject to stage fright. Also, bring your magic wand.

  • Compensation

At various conferences, there’s a wide range of speaker compensation and packages offered, from nothing to significant. Let’s face it, there’s a huge difference between Donny Osmond and performers who would be of interested to many and comfortable on a huge stage, and an unknown speaker.

Rootstech main stage.jpg

If you’re interested in speaking, watch for the various conferences’ “call for papers” or “call for sessions.” That’s code for submitting your ideas and applying to speak at their conference. When submitting proposals for sessions, focus on the theme of the conference, don’t duplicate what other speakers are offering and look for a unique topic or angle.

If you’re not used to public speaking, you can hone your skills, and presentations, at local events.

Some conferences, large and small, where it’s perceived that the speaker will be attending anyway offer honorariums in the range of $100 per session and sometimes one night paid hotel per session presented at the conference. Generally, but not always the speaker’s conference entrance fee is waived too. If you are actually going to attend the conference anyway, and want to contribute, this is a good way. It’s also a great way to break into the speaking circuit and get your name out there.

If you’re an experienced speaker, these conferences aren’t terribly attractive unless you actually are planning to attend or have something to sell, such as books or subscriptions to your website. In other words, speaking can be great for sales – but it’s an opportunity, not a guarantee.

For better-known high-visibility speakers who are not necessarily going to be attending a conference unless invited to speak, compensation is individually negotiated and generally includes full travel, lodging and expenses in addition to a speaking fee.

Nationally known speakers often, but not always, fall into this category.

For example, to the best of my knowledge, other than the keynotes, RootsTech pays all speakers the same which is an honorarium, one night’s hotel for each session, plus a ticket to the conference is included. There are some other perks too, such as a speaker prep room with drinks and snacks (chips, etc.) where speakers can find relative peace and quiet for a few minutes.

“Famous people” such as the RootsTech keynote speakers are in another compensation category altogether and I’m not privy to that information. Most people at the level have agents who negotiate on their behalf.

Some organizations pay residual royalties for your sessions if people purchase them during or after the conference.

The bottom line about compensation is that your mileage will vary, widely, and it’s up to each person to decide what is and is not acceptible.

Dear Myrt recently wrote about why organizations need to pay speakers well, and included lots of really great suggestions for organizations, especially nonprofits, that need assistance with fundraising.

  • Copyright

Copyright is another matter that speakers need to consider. You may or may not retain full copyright to your material. Read the speaker contract carefully. I declined an opportunity through a university where the contract specified that they, the university, retained copyright of my prepared material. I had spoken there previously and the contact was different at that time. The new contract also specified that I was responsible for my own hotel, which meant that in essence, I was speaking for free AND driving a (long) day each way, plus preparation for the privilege. Needless to say, that didn’t happen, and the university was insulted that I wasn’t simply honored enough with the invitation to accept.

Also consider that if your session is provided to the public for free that other venues might not be anxious to hire you for that same session. Once content is freely available, other people aren’t likely to want to pay for the same session and you’ll need to come up with something new for future conferences and speaking engagements.

  • Photography in Sessions

As a speaker, you may or may not be required to include specific slides forbidding picture taking during sessions. This is a result of conferences attempting to be respectful of copyrighted material and making attendees aware of same.

If you are not required to add this slide, you need to think about what you will and will not allow in your sessions, and how to handle the situation if you have a rule breaker in the audience. Some conferences monitor rooms for this occurring and will deal with it so that speakers don’t have to.

As a rule of thumb, vendors LOVE it when you take pictures, because sharing on social media equates to free advertising, but private speakers don’t. I always ask if there is any question.

I generally don’t mind occasional photos, BUT, not of every slide. I have had the situation occur where someone literally copied all of my slides’ content and recreated it as their own. Some people feel speakers are inflexible and unreasonable about photography, but after incidents like this, I’m sure you’ll understand why speakers who invest years becoming educated and maintaining that level of education and days preparing (often for minimal compensation) don’t want their work infringed upon and abused. Most people wouldn’t even think of doing that, but unfortunately, we have to prepare for that possibility.

  • Photography of You

You’ll also need to decide if you’re going to allow people to take photos of you in social or classroom situations and post to social media so long as it’s handled tastefully. In other words, no hating on me by using my photo that I allowed in good faith. Most people at conferences understand that photos may very well be posted on social media and are fine with that.

2019 blogger photo

This picture, taken by Daniel Horowitz of a group of bloggers at the Family History Library, that he gave me permission to use in my blog article, shows me giving out my very first DNAeXplain ribbon that I had made specifically for RootsTech 2019. What great memories with my blogger friends – one of whom 7 months later recognized me passing by walking on the street in Amsterdam. Small world!

  • Evaluations & Feedback

As a speaker, you can expect to be evaluated. Not all evaluations are wonderful. There is almost always a “grouchy” person, so if you’re super sensitive – public speaking might not be for you. (Hint – humor is not universal. Do not joke about your bigamist ancestor in Salt Lake City, even if he wasn’t Mormon😊. Trust me on this.)

You may or may not be provided with the feedback. There are sometimes very good suggestions. Other times, not so much. I’m sometimes left wondering why an attendee downgrades a speaker, complaining that the session wasn’t advanced enough when it was described as introductory, or vice versa. Many things, such as audio quality in a room, are beyond the speakers’ control, but the speaker’s ratings will suffer because of it.

One conference pays an honorarium-size bonus to speakers who rank over a certain score – as if to infer that the speakers would do less than their best without that small financial incentive. I don’t think for one minute that’s true.

What Do Conferences Expect of Speakers?

Most of the time, other than a few specifics, there isn’t a universal list of speaker expectations. However, I’m sharing based on my own experiences. Your experience may vary and other speakers may have other items to add.

  • Speakers are expected to create a Powerpoint presentation, sometimes in a specific format, screen size, fonts or using a specific template.
  • Speakers are expected to have practiced the presentation and both fill and limit themselves to the time allotted. This takes practice and fine-tuning the presentation. Rule of thumb is 1 slide every 2 minutes.
  • Speak slowly and clearly. People tend to speed up and sometimes mumble when they get nervous.
  • More graphics, fewer words, high contrast, large font. I never use below 24 and generally larger.
  • Speakers are expected to have a remote “clicker” and may or may not be expected to use their own laptop for the actual presentation. Speakers may also be required NOT to use their own laptop, so should at least be marginally comfortable with other technologies, such as both MACs and PCs.
  • Your room size with multiple screens may preclude you from using a laser pointer, so don’t depend on that feature.
  • As a speaker, you will need to have a backup (thumb drive) and a backup of the backup, preferably someplace online and accessible remotely just in case. Yes, I’ve needed both.
  • You will probably be expected to show up for a brief practice session that includes a technical dry-run to be sure your laptop is compatible with everything. In cases where you aren’t using your own laptop, then you’ll need to practice with the system in use.
  • You will be expected to provide adapters (dongles) and conversion devices. For example, different kinds of video in and out cables.
  • If you want to utilize the internet, this will require special planning and arrangements, and I highly discourage this practice. Utilize screenshots. Wi-Fi is unreliable and Murphy, guaranteed, will visit you. Voice of experience here.
  • You’ll be expected to utilize some type of screen capture software that is of a higher quality than “print screen” when creating your slides. I use Snagit. It’s not free but works wonderfully and has both mark-up and blur features.
  • You will be expected to be sure that your images are copyright-free and if you use other people’s or company’s images, you have permission to do so. This isn’t just a courtesy, as some media companies specifically target infringers for compensation in the thousands of dollars if you’ve used their images without permission or payment.
  • You will be expected to obscure/blur names and identifying information of any examples you use unless you have obtained permission from that person. I generally obscure anyway because I don’t want anyone thinking I’m remiss even when I have permission. It’s just easier.
  • You may be expected to provide your own projector (NGS) which is an archaic practice at best. Projectors are not inexpensive and are deal-breakers for many speakers. Projectors are available to rent from hotels but rentals are often as expensive as simply purchasing a projector. In my opinion, all conferences should rent or own enough projectors to accommodate all rooms utilized simultaneously for speaking, plus at least one spare – because Murphy.
  • You may be expected to provide a syllabus several weeks or months in advance, in a very specific format or template. (This is my least favorite part of speaking.)
  • You will be expected to provide promotional information in advance, generally including a summary, a brief bio, a larger bio and at least one professional quality photo.
  • You may be encouraged to or conversely forbidden from mentioning your own items for sale, such as books. You may be discouraged or forbidden from mentioning your website even if nothing is for sale. Know the expectations in advance.
  • You may be encouraged by the conference to include links or relevant references to articles you’ve written on your free website, then be criticized in the speaker rating for doing so. Or vice versa.
  • Creating a session for a conference, including research, Powerpoint and graphics, and the syllabus will take approximate a week of your time for each one-hour session and that’s assuming you already know your topic well. If you can utilize the same presentation again, the up-front “cost” may be an investment for you. However, keynotes and high-visibility speakers as well as speakers for national conferences are expected to have fresh, up-to-date content customized (at least minimally) for each organization.
  • Speakers are expected to be available for questions – if not during the session, then sometime during the conference.
  • Speakers are expected to mingle with other conference attendees at least part of the time. Exceptions to this would be “famous people,” such as RootsTech keynotes that aren’t connected to genealogy. If you’re not Donny Osmond, you’ll be expected to make yourself available. Of course, most of us would be mingling regardless. What better way to meet new friends and cousins? I can’t tell you how many people I’ve discovered I’m related to at conferences in general conversation.
  • Dress and act professionally. For example, do not show up in a t-shirt and flip-flops unless it’s part of a “costume” that goes with the topic of your presentation.

Jedi me.jpg

Yes, I confess, the rumor is true, I once appeared as a “Jedi,” complete with surprise lightsaber at the appropriate moment. But I had a great reason!

Jedi presentation.jpg

That session, completely custom, was so much fun! But was I ever nervous. It was a bit of a departure from the norm.

Courtesies

I only speak at a limited number of conferences per year, so I do provide an announcement on my blog that I’m speaking for an organization. Not everyone has this ability, but it’s something I feel I can provide as a service to both the organization and my readers because I limit my speaking engagements to 4 or 5 per year and no more.

Speakers should never be expected to stay in private homes, marginal areas, or in hotels that are less than “Holiday Inn” level accommodations. If there is a conference hotel, the speakers should expect to stay in that hotel.

Check with the organization to make sure you know who is supposed to make your reservations (you or them), and when, and obtain a confirmation number. Nothing worse than showing up to a booked hotel, insisting you have a reservation that someone else supposedly made.

Considerations

Here are several things to think about, both when selecting a conference as an attendee or a speaker.

  • Networking

For me, the best part of conferences is networking. I love meeting people, many of whom I only know online.

People, like you, who follow my blog.

People who don’t.

People I “know” on Facebook.

People who are distant cousins.

Serendipity!

In 2019, in Salt Lake City, I accidentally met Myrt and wound up on her show while researching at the Family History Library, before 2019 RootsTech. Beside Myrt on the right is Luana Darby who is the conference chair of NGS 2020. All I can say is bless Luana’s heart, because I chaired one national conference and it’s something I’ll never do again.

2019 me with Myrt

I can’t tell you how many times I’m chatting with someone and we discover that indeed, we are related or we have a DNA match that needs to be explained. That happened right after the Myrt session, at lunch, with Cheryl. Serendipity!

Conferences and speaking are very rewarding experiences – even if you’re not a speaker or don’t attend a lot of sessions at the conference.

The key to having an enjoyable experience is to understand your goals and evaluate the conference in light of those goals.

For example, I don’t feel I need to attend sessions all the time. I select a few that are of particular interest to me and schedule those in my phone. I like having the option of recorded sessions later for viewing at home.

What I really enjoy is to visit with people, check out vendors’ booths, see demos and learn from other conference attendees. That I can’t do at home.

  • Venue

For both speakers and attendees, location can be very important. I only speak at 4 or a maximum of 5 conferences per year. My goal is educational outreach, so I want to reach as many people as possible. For me, this generally means larger conferences and often keynotes.

I confess, I decide which conferences I’m going to attend based on the following criteria, in no specific order – in fact, the order may change based on the attractiveness of the offer. This criteria is probably equally as important to attendees.

  • Schedule

I have not yet cloned myself to be in two places at once and I will not back one event up to another. Been there, done that, won’t do it again. Jet lag is miserable.

  • Lead Time

I book about a year in advance, sometimes more. Many speakers do. As an attendee or a speaker, if you want to attend a specific conference, register early and book at the conference hotel before the reduced rate conference room block is sold out.

  • Location, Location, Location

If a conference is occurring someplace I want to visit, I’m much more likely to be interested. For example, I just spent the week after the MyHeritage conference traveling in the Netherlands with my friend, Yvette Hoitink, Dutch genealogist extraordinaire.

I have three separate ancestral lines that lived in the Netherlands and I love to walk where my ancestors were born, lived, married, worked and died. I also love to meet my cousins and I met 8 Ferverda (Ferwerda) cousins. Pure bliss!

I’m not including a shameless list of places my ancestors lived that I’d like to visit😊

There are more locations than I could ever visit in my lifetime, as well as a few bucket list locations that I’d like to visit where my ancestors inconsiderately didn’t live.

As a genealogist, I’m sure you have a “genealogy location bucket list” too.

  • Topic

Some topics interest me much more than others. I love teaching about all aspects of DNA, but one of my favorites is how to utilize genetic genealogy to identify Native American ancestors.

This fall, in addition to a Native American session, I’m keynoting about the Lost Colony of Roanoke in North Carolina for the North Carolina Genealogical Society right after a documentary about the Lost Colony is released. (More about that documentary in a future article.)

I’m also attending and keynoting at an Archaeogenetics and Genetic Genealogy conference at the University of Umea, Sweden in November. Ancient DNA is fascinating to me, and I really wanted to attend this conference, so I welcomed the invitation to keynote. And no, I have no ancestors from there, at least not that I can individually identify, although clearly my mitochondrial DNA line originated in Scandinavia before being found in Germany in the 1500s.

Find topics that you love in places you want to visit.

  • Exposure

Given my personal goals of reaching a large number of people relative to utilizing DNA for genealogy, organizations that have large audiences and/or that include livestreaming, webinars and other outreach activities are generally more attractive to me – while the opposite may be true for other speakers who don’t want their sessions to be widely shared.

  • Compensation

I’m human and I want to be paid fairly for my time. I can stay home and enjoy a full consulting schedule without speaking, or I could do genealogy or quilt – my other loves.

Unfortunately, hours and minutes are like money and we can only spend them once and then they are forever gone. For most in-demand speakers, speaking is something we enjoy, not something we do to get wealthy. I have yet to break even for the hours I would have otherwise worked – which is another reason why I limit my conference speaking to 4 or 5 per year, max, at places I want to go or conferences I want to attend.

I think of this as ying and yang.

  • Convenience

I actually don’t like to fly, at all. I do it anyway, sometimes. However, two transfers to get from where I live to the conference venue probably isn’t going to be attractive to me unless I really, REALLY want to go there. Three is a deal-breaker.

You may feel exactly the opposite. Fortunately, there’s a lot to choose from today.

Most of All – Have Fun!!!

I hope this article helps you understand the lay of the land relative to conferences both as an attendee and as a speaker.

  • If you’re looking for a specific topic, consider joining or following an organization that specializes in that topic.
  • If you’re looking for a general conference, consider some of the larger regional or national conferences.
  • If you’re looking for something that doesn’t require traveling long distances, monitor local, state or regional groups along with virtual conferences.
  • If you’re looking for something entirely online, consider the Virtual Genealogy Association, Legacy Family Tree Webinars or the recorded sessions from other conferences such as Genetic Genealogy Ireland on YouTube.
  • If you’re looking for a low-cost conference but still with high quality speakers, consider the subsidized vendor conferences or the virtual conferences.
  • To familiarize yourself with these groups and conferences ahead of time, join the organizations, follow the them on Facebook, subscribe to their blogs or bookmark their webpages.
  • If you’d like to attend the Family Tree DNA conference, which tends to focus on science along with Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA in addition to autosomal, volunteer as an administrator for a project of interest to you, or start a project if one doesn’t exist. Does your surname appear on the search page, here or half way down the main page, here.

We have more quality opportunities for genealogy and genetic genealogy education today than ever before.

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