Imputation Matching Comparison

In a future article, I’ll be writing about the process of uploading files to DNA.Land and the user experience, but in this article, I want to discuss only one topic, and that’s the results of imputation as it affects matching for genetic genealogy. DNA.Land is one of three companies known positively to be using imputation (DNA.Land, MyHeritage and LivingDNA), and one of two that allows transfers and does matching for genealogy

This is the second in a series of three articles about imputation.

Imputation, discussed in the article, Concepts – Imputation, is the process whereby your DNA that is tested is then “expanded” by inferring results you don’t have, meaning locations that haven’t been tested, by using information from results you do have. Vendors have no choice in this matter, as Illumina, the chip maker of the DNA chip widely utilized in the genetic genealogy marketspace has obsoleted the prior chip and moved to a new chip with only about 20% overlap in the locations previously tested. Imputation is the methodology utilized to attempt to bridge the gap between the two chips for genetic genealogy matching and ethnicity predications.

Imputation is built upon two premises:

1 – that DNA locations are inherited together

2 – that people from common populations share a significant amount of the same DNA

An example of imputation that DNA.Land provides is the following sentence.

I saw a blue ca_ on your head.

There are several letters that are more likely that others to be found in the blank and some words would be more likely to be found in this sentence than others.

A less intuitive sentence might be:

I saw a blue ca_ yesterday.

DNA.Land doesn’t perform DNA testing, but instead takes a file that you upload from a testing vendor that has around 700,000 locations and imputes another 38.3 million variants, or locations, based on what other people carry in neighboring locations. These numbers are found in the SNPedia instructions for uploading DNA.Land information to their system for usage with Promethease.

I originally wrote about Promethease here, and I’ll be publishing an updated article shortly.

In this article, I want to see how imputation affects matching between people for genetic genealogy purposes.

Genetic Genealogy Matching

In order to be able to do an apples to apples comparison, I uploaded my Family Tree DNA autosomal file to DNA.Land.

DNA.Land then processed my file, imputed additional values, then showed me my matches to other people who have also uploaded and had additional locations imputed.

DNA.Land has just over 60,000 uploads in their data base today. Of those, I match 11 at a high confidence level and one at a speculative level.

My best match, meaning my closest match, Karen, just happened to have used her GedMatch kit number for her middle name. Smart lady!

Karen’s GedMatch number provided me with the opportunity to compare our actual match information at DNA.Land, then also at GedMatch, then compare the two different match results in order to see how much of our matching was “real” from portions of our tested kits that actually match, and what portion of our DNA matches as a result of the DNA.Land imputation.

At DNA.Land, your match information is presented with the following information:

  • Relationship degree – meaning estimated relationship
  • # shared segments – although many of these are extremely small
  • Total shared cM
  • Total recent shared length in cM
  • Longest recent shared segment in cM
  • Relationship likelihood graph
  • Shared segments plotted on chromosome display
  • Shared segments in a table

Please note that you can click on any graphic to enlarge.

DNA.Land provides what they believe to be an accurate estimate of recent and anciently shared SNA segments.

The match table is a dropdown underneath the chromosome graphic at far right:

For this experiment, I copied the information from the match table and dropped it into a spreadsheet.

DNALand Match Locations

My match information is shown at DNA.Land with Karen as follows:

Matching segments are identified by DNA.Land as either recent or ancient, which I find to be over-simplified at best and misleading or inaccurate at worst. I guess it depends on how you perceive recent and ancient. I think they are trying to convey the concept that larger segments tend to me more recent, and smaller segments tend to be older, but ancient in the genetics field often refers to DNA extracted from exhumed burials from thousands of years ago.  Furthermore, smaller segments can be descended from the same ancestor as larger segments.

GedMatch Match

Since Karen so kindly provided her GedMatch kit number, I signed in to GedMatch and did a one-to-one match with this same kit.

Since all of the segments are 3 cM and over at DNA.Land, I utilized a GedMatch threshold of 3 cM and dropped the SNP count to 100, since a SNP count of 300 gave me few matches. For this comparison, I wanted to see all my matches to Karen, no matter how few SNPs are involved, in an attempt to obtain results similar to DNA.Land. I normally would not drop either of these thresholds this low. My typical minimum is 5cM and 500 SNPs, and even if I drop to 3cM, I still maintain the 500 SNP threshold.

Let’s see how the data from GedMatch and DNA.Land compares.

In my spreadsheet, below, I pasted the segment match information from DNA.Land in the first 5 columns with a red header. Note that DNA.Land does not provide the number of shared SNPs.

At right, I pasted the match information from GedMatch, with a green header. We know that GedMatch has a history of accurately comparing segments, and we can do a cross platform comparison. I originally uploaded my FTDNA file to DNA.Land and Karen uploaded an Ancestry file. Those are the two files I compared at GedMatch, because the same actual matching locations are being compared at both vendors, DNA.Land (in addition to imputed regions) and GedMatch.

I then copied the matching segments from GedMatch (3cM, 100 SNPs threshold) and placed them in the middle columns in the same row where they matched corresponding DNA.Land segments. If any portion of the two vendors segments overlapped, I copied them as a match, although two are small and partial and one is almost negligible. As you can see, there are only 10 segments with any overlap at all in the center section. Please note that I am NOT suggesting these are valid or real matches.  At this point, it’s only a math/match exercise, not an analysis.

The match comparison column (yellow header) is where I commented on the match itself. In some cases, the lack of the number of SNPs at DNA.Land was detrimental to understanding which vendor was a higher match. Therefore, when possible, I marked the higher vendor in the Match Comparison column with the color of their corresponding header.

Analysis

Frankly, I was shocked at the lack of matching between GedMatch and DNA.Land. Trying to understand the discrepancy, I decided to look at the matches between Karen, who has been very helpful, and me at other vendors.

I then looked at our matches at Ancestry, 23andMe, MyHeritage and at Family Tree DNA.

The best comparison would be at Family Tree DNA where Karen loaded her Ancestry file.  Therefore, I’m comparing apples to apples, meaning equivalent to the comparison at GedMatch and DNA.Land (before imputation).

It’s impossible to tell much without a chromosome browser at Ancestry, especially after Timber processing which reduces matching DNA.

DNA.Land categorized my match to Karen as “high certainty.” My match with Karen appears to be a valid match based on the longest segment(s) of approximately 30cM on chromosome 8.

  • Of the 4 segments that DNA.Land identifies as “recent” matches, 2 are not reflected at all in the GedMatch or Family Tree DNA matching, suggesting that these regions were imputed entirely, and incorrectly.
  • Of the 4 segments that DNA.Land identifies as “recent” matches, the 2 on chromosome 8 are actually one segment that imputation apparently divided. According to DNA.LAND, imputation can increase the number of matching segments. I don’t think it should break existing segments, meaning segments actually tested, into multiple pieces. In any event, the two vendors do agree on this match, even though DNA.Land breaks the matching segment into two pieces where GedMatch and Family Tree DNA do not. I’m presuming (I hate that word) that this is the one segment that Ancestry calls as a match as well, because it’s the longest, but Ancestry’s Timber algorithm downgrades the match portion of that segment by removing 11cM (according to DNA.Land) from 29cM to 18cM or removes 13cM (according to both GedMatch and Family Tree DNA) from 31cM to 18cM. Both GedMatch and Family Tree DNA agree and appear to be accurate at 31cM.
  • Of the total 39 matching segments of any size, utilizing the 3cM threshold and 100 SNPs, which I set artificially very low, GedMatch only found 10 matching segments with any portion of the segment in common, meaning that at least 29 were entirely erroneous matches.
  • Resetting the GedMatch match threshold to 3 cM and 300 SNPS, a more reasonable SNP threshold for 3cM, GedMatch only reports 3 matching segments, one of which is chromosome 8 (undivided) which means at this threshold, 36 of the 39 matching DNA.Land segments are entirely erroneous. Setting the threshold to a more reasonable 5cM or 7cM and 500 SNPs would result in only the one match on chromosome 8.

  • If 29 of 39 segments (at 3cM 100 SNPs) are erroneously reported, that equates to 74.36% erroneous matches due to imputation alone, with out considering identical by chance (IBC) matches.
  • If 35 of 39 segments (at 3cM 300 SNPs) are erroneously reported, that equates to 89.74% percent erroneous matches, again without considering those that might be IBC.

Predicted vs Actual

One additional piece of information that I gathered during this process is the predicted relationship.

Vendor Total cM Total Segments Longest Segment Predicted Relationship
DNA.Land 162 to 3 cM 39 to 3 cM 17.3 & 12, split 3C
GedMatch 123 to 3 cM 27 to 3 cM 31.5 5.1 gen distant
Family Tree DNA 40 to 1 cM 12 to 1 cM 32 3-5C
MyHeritage No match No match No match No match
Ancestry 18.1 1 18.1 5-8C
23andMe 26 1 26 3-6C

Karen utilized her Ancestry file and I used my Family Tree DNA file for all of the above matching except at 23andMe and Ancestry where we are both tested on the vendors’ platform. Neither 23andMe nor Ancestry accept uploads. I included the 23andMe and Ancestry comparisons as additional reference points.

The lack of a match at MyHeritage, another company that implements imputation, is quite interesting. Karen and I, even with a significantly sized segment are not shown as a match at MyHeritage.

If imputation actually breaks some matching segments apart, like the chromosome 8 segment at DNA.Land, it’s possible that the resulting smaller individual segments simply didn’t exceed the MyHeritage matching threshold. It would appear that the MyHeritage matching threshold is probably 9cM, given that my smallest segment match of all my matches at MyHeritage is 9cM. Therefore, a 31 or 32 cM segment would have to be broken into 4 roughly equally sized pieces (32/4=8) for the match to Karen not to be detected because all segment pieces are under 9cM. MyHeritage has experienced unreliable matching since their rollout in mid 2016, so their issue may or may not be imputation related.

The Common Ancestor

At Family Tree DNA, Karen does not match my mother, so I can tell positively that she is related through my father’s line. She and I triangulate on our common segment with three other individuals who descend from Abraham Estes 1647-1720 .

Utilizing the chromosome browser, we do indeed match on chromosome 8 on a long segment, which is also our only match over 5cM at Family Tree DNA.

Based on our trees as well as the trees of our three triangulated Estes matches, Karen and I are most probably either 8th cousins, or 8th cousins once removed, assuming that is our only common line. I am 8th cousins with the other three triangulated matches on chromosome 8. Karen’s line has yet to be proven.

Imputation Matching Summary

I like the way that DNA.Land presents some of their features, but as for matching accuracy, you can view the match quality in various ways:

  1. DNA.Land did find the large match on chromosome 8. Of course, in terms of matching, that’s pretty difficult to miss at roughly 30cM, although MyHeritage managed. Imputation did split the large match into two, somehow, even though Karen and I match on that same segment as one segment at other vendors comparing the same files.
  2. Of the 39 DNA.Land total matches, other than the chromosome 8 match, two other matches are partial matches, according to GedMatch. Both are under 7cM.
  3. Of DNA.Land’s total 39 matches, 35 are entirely wrong, in addition to the two that are split, including two inaccurate imputed matches at over 5cM.
  4. At DNA.Land, I’m not so concerned about discerning between “real” and “false” small segment matches, as compared to both FTDNA and GedMatch, as I am about incorrectly imputed segments and matches. Whether small matches in general are false positives or legitimate can be debated, each smaller segment match based on its own merits. Truthfully, with larger segments to deal with, I tend to ignore smaller segments anyway, at least initially. However, imputation adds another layer of uncertainty on top of actual matching, especially, it appears, with smaller matches. Imputing entire segments of incorrect DNA concerns me.
  5. Having said that, I find it very concerning that MyHeritage who also utilizes imputation missed a significant match of over 30cM. I don’t know of a match of this size that has ever been proven to be a false match (through parental phasing), and in this case, we know which ancestor this segment descends from through independent verification utilizing multiple other matches. MyHeritage should have found that match, regardless of imputation, because that match is from portions of the two files that were both tested, not imputed.

Summary

To date, I’m not impressed with imputation matching relative to genetic genealogy at either DNA.Land or MyHeritage.

In one case, that of DNA.Land, imputation shows matches for segments that are not shown as matches at either Family Tree DNA or GedMatch who are comparing the same two testers’ files, but without imputation. Since DNA.Land did find the larger segment, and many of their smaller segments are simply wrong, I would suggest that perhaps they should only show larger segments. Of course, anyone who finds DNA.Land is probably an experienced genetic genealogist and probably already has files at both GedMatch and Family Tree DNA, so hopefully savvy enough to realize there are issues with DNA.Land’s matching.

In the second imputation case, that of MyHeritage, the match with Karen is missed entirely, although that may not be a function of imputation. It’s hard to determine.  MyHeritage is also comparing the same two files uploaded by Karen and I to the other vendors who found that match, both vendors who do and don’t utilize imputation.

Regardless of imputing additional locations, MyHeritage should have found the matching segment on chromosome 8 because that region does NOT need to be imputed. Their failure to do so may be a function of their matching routine and not of imputation itself. At this point, it’s impossible to discern the cause. We only know, based on matching at other vendors, that the non-match at MyHeritage is inaccurate.

Here’s what DNA.Land has to say about the imputed VCF file, which holds all of your imputed values, when you download the file. They pull no punches about imputation.

“Noisey and probabilistic.” Yes, I’d say they are right, and problematic as well, at least for genetic genealogists.

Extrapolating this even further, I find it more than a little frightening that my imputed data at DNA.Land will be utilized for medical research.

Quoting now from Promethease, a medical reference site that allows the consumer to upload their raw data files, providing consumers with a list of SNPs having either positive or negative research in academic literature:

DNA.land will take a person’s data as produced by such companies and impute additional variants based on population frequency statistics. To put this in concrete terms, a person uploading a typical 23andMe file of ~700,000 variants to DNA.land will get back an (imputed) file of ~39 million variants, all predicted to be present in the person. Promethease reports from such imputed files typically contain about 50% more information (i.e. 50% more genotypes) than the corresponding reports from raw (non-imputed) data.

Translated, this means that your imputed data provides twice as much “genetic information” as your actual tested data. The question remains, of course, how much of this imputed data is accurate.

That will be the topic of the third imputation article. Stay tuned.

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

Family Tree DNA Sale, MyHeritage Transfers and Hurricane Fundraiser

As many of you know, the owners of Family Tree DNA, a Houston company, have committed a percentage of their sales during the month of September for donation to hurricane Harvey disaster relief efforts. A daily running total is displayed at the top of their page.

I think they will top $20,000 today!

I know that with two more hurricanes (Irma an Maria) and two earthquakes in Mexico, Harvey, which ravaged Texas less than 3 weeks ago seems like old news. It’s not to the families whose lives have been upended and who have lost everything, not only due to the winds of the hurricane along the coast, but unprecedented flooding in Houston for the following week. Those families are still cleaning mud out of their homes, ripping off their sheetrock, and so much more. Thousands are displaced and have lost everything.

The best part about the Family Tree DNA fundraiser is that you can contribute to the relief effort without any additional cost to you. In fact, there’s a lot of benefit to everyone – you benefit when you order a test or upgrade, other people whose genealogy may depend on your testing benefit, and the families trying to recover from Harvey benefit as well. You never know, maybe the person you desperately need to knock down a brick wall will test or transfer now!

Everyone wins! But you only have another week, so don’t wait.

Family Tree DNA just sweetened the deal in three ways too.

Deal Sweeteners

MyHeritage Transfer

Family Tree DNA has just added MyHeritage as a transfer partner, meaning if you tested at MyHeritage, you can transfer your results to Family Tree DNA and see matches for free.

The autosomal DNA transfer option for MyHeritage as well as other vendors can be found, here, in the upper left hand corner of the main Family Tree DNA page, under DNA Tests.

Family Tree DNA accepts transfers from:

  • Ancestry
  • 23andMe V3 and V4
  • MyHeritage

Family Finder Just $69

The Family Finder autosomal test is on sale now for $69, a $20 savings. If you haven’t tested yet, or have transferred the 23andMe V4 or Ancestry V2 tests which only provide your closest matches, and not the more distant ones (due to chip incompatibility), now is a great time to order a Family Finder test. I don’t know how long the sale price lasts, so if you’re interested, buy now.

Unlock All Transfer Features Just $10

In addition, Family Tree DNA has dropped the price of unlocking the full suite of autosomal tools available after the free transfer of your results. You receive your matches for free, but by adding the $10 unlock, on sale reduced from the regular $19 until the end of September, you add three features:

  • Chromosome Browser
  • myOrigins (ethnicity)
  • ancientOrigins.

You will need a coupon code, so you can use mine. These codes are NOT limited to one use only, so please feel free to upgrade as many tests as you wish.

USE CODE: ATUL0917

Here’s what the unlock gives you access to, in addition to your free matches.

Transferring and Unlocking is Easy…

  • Click here to upgrade, unlock (ATUL0917) or transfer your results from another vendor.
  • Then sign on to your own account to transfer, unlock or upgrade if you already have an account at Family Tree DNA.
  • If you don’t currently have an account at Family Tree DNA, click in the upper left hand corner of the page you’ll see to set up an account and transfer your DNA file from another vendor. Then use the use code (ATUL0917) to unlock all the features for just $10.

It’s that easy and you’ll be helping others too!

______________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

Family Tree DNA Steps Up to the Plate in the Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

The good news is that Family Tree DNA is back up and running following the devastation wrought by hurricane Harvey.

The office has reopened. The power has been restored. The building was not flooded, but had a few leaks. The lab and DNA is fine.

However, all is not sunshine and happiness just yet. Most employees are what I would term damp and inconvenienced, and considering themselves lucky, but not everyone is so fortunate.

Some have been flooded out of their homes or have significant damage. Some people’s homes weren’t entirely destroyed, but they can’t stay because you can’t live in 2 feet of water, without power, for a month waiting for evaporation to occur.

This is a photo from one of the homes of a Family Tree DNA employee whose residence was flooded.

Of those who can get to the office, some employees are reporting hours-long efforts in trying to get back and forth to work. And I mean 4, 5 and 6 hours one way for what should be a half-hour drive.

Flooding in low-lying areas has not subsided and may not for weeks to come, causing hellatious traffic jams.

People for the most part aren’t complaining. In fact, I’ve heard incredible gratitude, such as “I’m just glad I have a car to drive.” Many don’t, as cars didn’t fare very well in the floods either.

Max and Bennett Step Up

As most of you know, Max Blankfeld and Bennett Greenspan are the founders and owners of Family Tree DNA. Both men are very low key, seldom if ever stepping into the spotlight, but both are extraordinary human beings. I’ve seen this over and over again in my 17 years in this field.

Having said this, I’m posting this from Max Blankfeld’s Facebook feed from yesterday evening, with minor edits:

Deisi and I as well as our friends and partners Robin and Bennett Greenspan are very fortunate to have been unscathed through Hurricane Harvey. While on the personal level we are involved in a few initiatives to bring some relief to those affected by this terrible devastation, additionally, we are doing two things:

• As a few of our company employees had their homes flooded, our company started a fundraiser and we will be matching dollar for dollar any contribution coming from their colleagues that went unaffected. We are also reaching out to our suppliers and business partners to contribute.
• We will donate part of the proceeds from our September revenues to the Houston relief efforts. Starting next week, a banner at our home page will display the cumulative amount raised.

Jewish law commands that we respond wherever there is need, and all the better if we can do so in the company of others.

From the Ethics of our Sages: “do not separate yourself from the community”.

Given the many requests from friends and customers to share the donation page, here it is: https://www.youcaring.com/FamilyTreeDNA_Employees_Relief

MarketInsider published an interview about the Family Tree DNA giving program today, as well.

Sure enough, today, the banner at the top of the Family Tree DNA webpage today reads:

So, if you need more DNA kits (who doesn’t) or you got distracted and didn’t get a kit ordered that you will use during the upcoming holidays, now is a great time to order when part of the proceeds for the month of September will be used to help others. You can also upgrade a kit which also counts towards sales revenue.

Donating to disaster relief in this way won’t cost you any more that your purchase. What a great way to be benevolent.

In summary, there are two ways you can participate:

• If you can give and are inclined, you can donate to the YouCaring page for Family Tree DNA employees who have endured flood damage or been flooded out of their homes. Donations will be matched dollar for dollar by Family Tree DNA.
• Purchase a kit, upgrade results, yours or a family member’s. Buy something. Part of all Family Tree DNA proceeds for the month of September will be donated for disaster relief in the Houston area. Click here to make a purchase.

Please share this article to help spread the word.  You can share by clicking on the Facebook or Twitter links at the bottom of the article, sharing through e-mail or posting the links on various Facebook or social media sites.

______________________________________________________________________
Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

Hurricane Harvey Update and Helping Houston

I had another DNA article ready for my normal mid-week technical DNA publication, but given the suffering taking place in Texas right now, I just can’t.

The rains continue. The hurricane is now partially out to sea in the Gulf and may make landfall again. God help these people.

If Harvey isn’t yet, it may well be the most devastating natural disaster to ever strike in the continental US. Harvey has already dumped 9 trillion gallons of water on southeast Texas, and Harvey isn’t done yet. Yes, 9 TRILLION.

A Washington Post article says if Houston hits the 60 inches of rain mark, and they are close now, it will be a once in a million year event.

Sixty inches is 5 feet of rain, within a few days time. There just isn’t anyplace for the water to go. Two levies were breached today and a dam overflowed. And it’s still raining.

Estimates are that more than one fourth of the land in Harris County is flooded right now, with many of the 6.6 million residents needing to be rescued by boat. For details, this article provides bullet points.

Helping Houston

Personally, I simply can’t sit by and NOT help, but I’m not there. Thankfully, I think.

However, those of us who live at a distance can still help… and the need is great.

Many of you know that I’m a quilter. I quilt with two close friends, sisters of heart, and we make quilt tops that are then quilted by a fourth friend. We call ourselves the Quilt Sisters and the quilts we make are often donated to those in need. We call them “Care Quilts.”

One of the items sorely needed in Houston now is blankets according to CNN News and other sources.

Tomorrow morning I will be sending 5 items, 4 quilts (1 child, 3 adult) and one baby sized crocheted afghan to Austin, Texas for the people there who have been evacuated from Houston and southeast Texas in the wake of hurricane Harvey. I will put a note of encouragement with each one as well.

I am not posting photos of the quilts because I don’t want the quilts to overshadow the story or distract from the need.

I am contributing the quilts through The Linus Project. While the Linus Project normally provides quilts for children in need, they are providing what they can for everyone of any age at this time. Austin has thousands of people in shelters who have been evacuated from the Houston area and more evacuees are still flooding in. These people have lost everything and arrive, wet and cold, with literally nothing except their lives.

Anyone who has an extra quilt or a blanket, please send it to:

The Linus Connection
P.O Box 29491
Austin, Texas 78755

The Linus Project can receive boxes at their PO box, so long as they are shipped by the post office.

For more info contact jennifer@thelinusconnection.org

Not a quilter? You can still help.

Here’s an article in the New York Times about how to donate to help flood victims to a variety of organizations and how to avoid hurricane Harvey related scams. Yes, there are already scams.

Note:  Please feel free to share any part of this article, in any fashion.  You can share on Facebook or Twitter by clicking those links at the bottom of the article, for your convenience.

Family Tree DNA Update

Now, for an update on Family Tree DNA, most employees are safe and at least marginally dry. Some have evacuated. Many don’t have power. Communications is dicey. Everyone is affected one way or another and they all need your thoughts and prayers, not to mention patience, right now.

The office was closed on Monday and today, Tuesday as well. Amazingly enough, even though they have turned off their e-mail servers, their website is still up and functional. They still have power and the building is not flooded. Houston learned a lot when hurricane Ike struck a few years ago. Little did they know Ike was just a practice drill.

Family Tree DNA posted the following information on their Facebook page.

We are extremely thankful for your patience and concern for our employees. The Family Tree DNA building has remained fairly unharmed by the floods but our first concern is for our employees. Therefore, we have closed the office until it is safe for them to commute. We expect the office to open up later this week and will keep you updated.

In the mean time, we want to address many of the questions we are getting from our extended family at Family Tree DNA.

  • Is my DNA safe?

Yes, your DNA is safe. Our building has remained fairly unharmed and the lab is located on one of the top floors of the building. We’ve had people monitoring everything and can tell you that your DNA is safe and protected. We were well prepared for this at the building.

  • If I’ve bought a test recently is it okay to ship back or should I wait?

Yes, it is okay to ship back. The post office will hold it until they are able to deliver.

  • Can I still order a test, add-on, or upgrade?

Yes, you can still place orders online. Some customer service members are working from home but they are stretched thin. Therefore, we ask that you place all orders online.

  • Order fulfillment and shipping:

NEW KIT ORDERS: As soon as it is safe for our employees to commute we will hit the ground running to get any new test kits shipped out. We hope to be back in the office by the middle or end of this week. Therefore, shipping may be delayed by a few days.

EXISTING KIT ORDERS: If you have ordered an add-on test or upgrade we do not expect your results to be delayed by more than one or two days from the average fulfillment time. This is due to the fact that we already have your DNA at the lab.

  • I ordered a kit but have not received a confirmation email:

Our servers are currently turned off in the building. If you did not receive a confirmation email, expect to have one in your inbox in the next day or so. We apologize.

Again, we appreciate your patience and will continue to update you.

Sincerely,

Family Tree DNA

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

Houston, We Have a Problem…Named Harvey

In case you’ve been living under a rock, not only did we have an eclipse this past week, but we’re also having a hurricane. At least Texas is.

The eclipse was over in a flash, but unfortunately, hurricane Harvey is the gift that just keeps on giving.

Houston, the home of Family Tree DNA, is getting hammered. The strength of the hurricane itself has dissipated, but the rains….

Oh, the rains!

Today is day two of an expected 4 or 5 day “event.” Harvey is centered on top of Houston and is stalled, not moving, and it’s dumping feet of rain on the city. Yes, I said feet, as in multiple.

It’s bad folks.

The streets are rivers. Expressways are impassible.

You can watch the CNN coverage here, or pretty much anyplace.

Genetic genealogists are wondering about how Family Tree DNA is doing.

First, let me say that I’m NOT speaking for Family Tree DNA. I’m only speaking as a project administrator who has visited the facility multiple times after the annual conferences.

I also spent years in the technology consulting world, so I fully understand disaster planning, but this disaster is turning out to be far worse, in terms of flooding, than anyone anticipated or has seen before in Houston.

The good news is that Houstonians, and Family Tree DNA in particular, are not novices. For those who don’t know, the building that houses Family Tree DNA was damaged by hurricane Ike in 2008, including the lab. They were fine then, and they’ll be fine this time too – which doesn’t mean they might not have some challenges.

Family Tree DNA, along with their lab including DNA samples is located on the 8th floor of an office building on the Loop Road, on the Northwest side of Houston.

Looking out from their windows, you can see the freeway BELOW grade. Let me translate this for you. The expressway will fill up before the roads around the expressway flood. And then it would take 8 more floors of water to touch FTDNA.

If it gets that bad, the only saving grace would be some guy named Noah.

And no, for those wondering about leakage, they are NOT located on the top floor of the building.

There is automatic generator power for the entire building. Family Tree DNA also has offsite backup out of harm’s way.

However, neither FTDNA, nor any company, can control the communications lines from their carrier – nor the weather for that matter.

Not only has part of the infrastructure in Southeast Texas been damaged by the actual hurricane itself, but the resulting floodwater will be affecting the carrier’s facilities in Harris County.

The biggest problem, right now, is the safety of the residents, including, of course, Family Tree DNA employees. Flooding is nearly universal and is expected to worsen. Some homes are badly flooded, with residents being evacuated by boat, but others are “only” seeing flooding in their yards. Those homes may yet see more extensive flooding in the coming days.

Needless to say, if your street is a river, you’re not driving to go anyplace.

The mayor of Houston has asked (ordered?) residents to stay off the roads. If their street isn’t underwater, people have been deciding to venture out and then they get themselves into trouble, because most streets are impassible. There’s just no place for the water to go.

So, if the FTDNA site is slow, it could well be due to the fact that their communications lines are affected.

If the site goes down for some reason, don’t panic. That too may be a result of communications lines and does NOT indicate a problem at FTDNA itself.

Hopefully, the site will simply continue like normal, and no one will even realize that they are located in the midst of a disaster area.

Given that the rains are predicted to continue for the next two days, it’s unlikely that FTDNA will be open for business on Monday, or Tuesday, and maybe somewhat longer, depending on the magnitude of the disaster. Even if they are open, with a skeleton crew, please, please do NOT call. Whatever problem we have can wait until they finish dealing with this catastrophe of whatever magnitude it turns out to be.

My prayers and positive thoughts go out to people of Houston and Southeast Texas and especially the fine folks at Family Tree DNA.

______________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

Quick Tip – Making Your DNA Results More Clickable

There are many motivations for DNA testing. Some people want to connect with relatives to share information. Just think, your match may have photos of your family that you’ve never seen!

If contacting and connecting with your relatives is your motivation, you’ll want your user profile to be the most click-friendly and attractive possible.

How do people decide which profiles to click on and which to bypass, especially now that so many people are testing and one can’t possibly contact them all?

I’m including several click-friendly factors here, but probably the number one decision criteria is your profile photo, or lack of one.

Use a Profile Photo

You want your photo to be inviting and friendly. Lack of a photo means a missed opportunity.

Have someone take a smiling photo of you, without anything distracting or polarizing in the photo, and post to your profile. Look friendly! Your photo needs to say, “Talk to me.  I won’t bite your head off.”

People like to look at photos and are more likely to spend time on results that have photos attached. Do you pause, look at photos of your matches to see if they look like you?  I do.

Don’t like any of your current photos?  Have someone take a new one.  My husband took the one above in the yard last month with his cell phone.

Still don’t like your picture? That’s OK, post a baby photo or something cute.

Grow a Tree

Not every vendor has the ability to upload trees. 23and me does not, but Family Tree DNA, Ancestry and MyHeritage do today.

The purpose of genetic genealogy is genealogy – and trees are inherent to the success of finding those common lines – regardless of whether or not you’ve tested for autosomal DNA, Y line DNA or mitochondrial DNA. Your matches are going to want to see your ancestor in the line relevant to them.

Furthermore, once you’ve created a tree, you can upload the same tree to any of the vendors where you have tested, except for 23andMe who has no tree capacity.

At Family Tree DNA, you can upload a GEDCOM file or create a tree from scratch.

Be sure to link your relatives who have tested to your tree too, so that your results show your phased Family Finder matches indicating which side of your tree certain matches come from. You can see the red, blue and purple icons indicating whether the matches are related maternally, paternally, or both, below. I have over 1000 matches assigned to parental sides simply by connecting my DNA matches to their proper place in my tree.

(You can click to enlarge any image.)

After you upload a GEDCOM file, Family Tree DNA then extracts your tree surnames and populates the surname feature so that when you have matches, you can see common surnames in your trees.

In the example above, the common surnames in our trees are bolded, at right, and float to the top of the list so they are easily viewable.

You can enter the surnames by hand, but if you don’t have a tree, or hand entered surnames, you don’t receive the bolded surname matches.

At Ancestry, your tree is compared to all of your matches’ trees and if you have a common ancestor in the tree within the past 9 generations, Ancestry flags your result with a green leaf signifying that there is a DNA tree hint.

Clicking on “View Match” shows you your match’s tree and yours side by side.

If you don’t upload or create a tree, you won’t be able to take advantage of this feature. Once you upload or create your tree, be SURE to link your DNA to you in your tree, or it’s the same as having no tree in terms of DNA benefits.

To link your DNA test to your tree at Ancestry, click on the DNA tab, then on Settings and scroll down about half way.

Share, Share, Share

Nothing turns matches off quite as fast as discovering that your tree is not public. It’s akin to saying that I want to see yours, but I’m not showing you mine.

I’m not referring here to keeping living people private, or even the first generation or two. That’s understandable. I’m referring to trees that are entirely private as evidenced by the little lock by the green leaf below.

I used to contact my private matches and ask, nicely, which ancestor we share in common. They can see my tree, and benefit from seeing my tree by knowing who the common ancestor is, and the path to that ancestor, but I can’t. Truthfully, I’ve stopped asking. I received very few replies.

I simply bypass these locked trees after looking to see who I match in common, to see if I can surmise who the common ancestor is by virtue of comparison to our matches in common.

Yes, I know many people feel strongly about private trees, but if you’re looking for contacts, private trees have a very chilling effect out the gate.

In order to benefit from having a tree, but not giving away the store either, I only have a direct line tree at Ancestry – meaning only my ancestors.  In some cases, I do have siblings for my ancestors, but not extended family lines.

Use Real Names

People have a more positive reaction to real names rather than names like RJEcatlover or RJE33724306219.

Your real name option may be gone if someone else has the same name, especially at Ancestry, but in that case, use something approaching your real name. Mine is RobertaEstes13 at Ancestry because there were obviously 12 subscribers by that name in front of me. So far, none are DNA matches.

At other places, I tend to use a middle initial to differentiate myself.

Females need to consider using their birth name and not a married name.  Not only is this in keeping with their names in the tree, it’s more relevant to the genealogy at hand.

Always record your ancestors in your tree by their birth name, not their married name.  I Many of my matches to the male only of a couple are a result of the fact that John Doe’s wife was records as Jane Doe, not Jane Smith, her birth name.

Contact Information

Different vendors handle contacts between testers in different ways. Regardless of the vendor’s methodology, you need to make yourself accessible if you want contacts, and respond to requests.

Family Tree DNA provides e-mail addresses to matches. This is the most direct method of contact,and my preference because there are less steps that can go wrong.  It does mean that you have to keep your e-mail address current.

Ancestry, 23andMe and MyHeritage require you to utilize their internal message system for communications. This adds a layer of communication that can go awry. For instance, if the e-mail sent by the vendor hits the spam filter, or never gets sent, or bounces, you, as the originator, have no way of knowing. Of course, you still need to keep your e-mail address current with the vendor, regardless.

Both 23andMe and Ancestry retain the messages sent and received, so you can check on their system to see if you have new or unread communications.

Having said that, both systems have had recent, ongoing or intermittent glitches – lost messages when 23andMe transitioned to the New Experience and reports of DNA messages not being recorded in your Ancestry mailbox, meaning messages initiated through the green as opposed to the tan button.

Additionally, Ancestry’s e-mail notification system is well known for not reliably delivering messages, especially through the DNA message links, so check your messages often. That’s the little grey envelope icon at the top right of your Ancestry signon page.

I keep track of my contacts through any vendor separately, so if there is a hiccup, it’s not the end of my documentation.

Oh, and if you’re sending a contact request, use proper English and punctuation (not text-eze), along with providing your name and the name of the person you match. Many people manage multiple kits, not that we’re DNA addicts or anything like that!

Summary

I hope these quick tips have helped you “decorate” and refine your profile in a useful way that encourages your matches to click and make contact. Those contacts may be the first step in breaking down those pesky brick walls. You just never know who has that piece of information that you need – or the photo of great-grandma!

______________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

Glossary – DNA – Deoxyribonucleic Acid

What is DNA and why do I care?

Good questions. Let’s take a look at the answer in general, then why we use DNA for genealogy.

The Recipe for You

DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid, is the book of life for all organisms. In essence, it’s the recipe for you – and what makes you unique.

DNA is formed of strands that twist to form the familiar double helix pattern.

The two strands are joined together by one of 4 different nucleotides, one extending from each side to connect in the middle. The nucleotides are:

  • Cytosine – C
  • Guanine – G
  • Thymine – T
  • Adenine – A

The nucleotide names don’t really matter for genetic genealogy, but what does matter is that the sequence of these nucleotides when chained together is what encodes information on long structures called chromosomes. Each person carries 22 chromosomes, plus the 23rd chromosome pair which is gender specific.

Using DNA for Genetic Genealogy

There are four different kinds of DNA that genealogists use in different ways for obtaining ancestors’ information relevant to genetic genealogy. Thankfully, we have 4 different kinds of DNA available to us because of unique inheritance patterns for each kind of DNA – meaning we inherited different kinds of DNA from different ancestral paths. If one kind of DNA doesn’t work in a particular situation, chances are good that another type will.

Genetic genealogy makes use of 4 different types of DNA.

  • Y DNA – passed from males to male children, only (your father’s paternal line)
  • Mitochondrial DNA – passed from females to both genders of children, but only females pass it on (your mother’s matrilineal line)

Y and mitochondrial DNA inheritance paths are shown on a pedigree chart in the graphic below, with the blue boxes representing Y DNA and the red circles representing mitochondrial DNA inheritance.

In addition to Y and mitochondrial DNA, genetic genealogists also use two kinds of DNA that reflect inheritance from additional ancestral lines, in addition to the red and blue lines shown above – meaning the ancestral lines with no color.

  • Autosomal DNA – the 22 chromosomes that recombine during reproduction.
  • X Chromosome – always contributed by the mother, but only contributed by the father to female children – this is the 23rd chromosome pair which recombines with a unique inheritance pattern.  You can read more about that in the article, X Marks the Spot.

Receiving What Kind of DNA from Whom

While the Y and mitochondrial DNA have unique and very prescribed inheritance patterns as shown by the red arrows pointing to the blue Y chromosome below at far left, and the red mitochondrial circles at far right, the 22 autosomal chromosomes are contributed equally by each parent. In other words, for each chromosome, a child inherits half of each parent’s DNA. How the selection of which DNA is contributed to each child is unknown.

A child’s gender is determined by the parent’s contributions to the 23rd chromosome, not shown above. The following chart explains gender determination by the X and Y combinations of the 23rd chromosome.

Received from Mother Received from Father
Male child X Y
Female child X X

The Y chromosome is what makes males male.

No Y chromosome?  You’re a female.

However, this X chromosome inheritance pattern provides us with the ability to look at X matches for males and know immediately that they had to have come from his mother’s lineage – because males don’t inherit an X chromosome from their father.

Autosomal DNA and Genetic Genealogy

The 22 non-gender chromosomes recombine in each generation, with half of each chromosome being contributed by each parent, as shown in the illustrations above.

You can see that in the first generation, the child received one blue and one yellow, or one pink and one green, chromosome. In giving each child exactly half of their DNA, each parent contributes some amount of ancestral DNA from generations upstream, as you can see in the mother/father and son/daughter generations.

For example, each child receives, on average, 25% of each of their grandparent’s DNA – although they can receive somewhat more or less than 25%, depending on the random nature of recombination.

Therefore, genetic genealogy testing companies compare tester’s autosomal DNA with other testers and look for common segments contributed by common ancestors, resulting in autosomal matching.

When relatively large segments match between three or more relatives who are not immediate family, we can attribute that DNA to a common ancestor. Of course, the challenge, and the thrill, is to determine which common ancestor contributed that common DNA to our triangulated match group. It’s a great way to verify our research and to break down brick walls.

Let’s face it, you received ALL of your DNA from SOME combination of ancestors, and if you carry large enough pieces from any specific ancestor, we can, hopefully, identify the source of that DNA segment by looking at the genealogy of those we match on that segment.

It’s a great puzzle to unravel, and best of all, it’s the puzzle of you.

More Info

The great news is that you can utilize your Y DNA, mitochondrial DNA and autosomal DNA differently, to provide you with different kinds of information about different ancestors and genealogy lines.

If you’d like to read more about how the 4 Kinds of DNA can be used, please read the short article, 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy.

You can also enter any word or phrase into the search box in the upper right hand corner of this blog to find additional useful information about any topic.

If You Want to Test

If you’d like to learn more about the various kinds of DNA tests available, and which one or ones would be the best for you, please read the article, Which DNA Test is Best?

Right now, the Y DNA, mitochondrial and autosomal (Family Finder) tests are on sale at Family Tree DNA, through the end of August, 2017.

______________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.