2016 Genetic Genealogy Retrospective

In past years, I’ve written a “best of” article about genetic genealogy happenings throughout the year. For several years, the genetic genealogy industry was relatively new, and there were lots of new tools being announced by the testing vendors and others as well.

This year is a bit different. I’ve noticed a leveling off – there have been very few announcements of new tools by vendors, with only a few exceptions.  I think genetic genealogy is maturing and has perhaps begun a new chapter.  Let’s take a look.

Vendors

Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA leads the pack this year with their new Phased Family Matches which utilizes close relatives, up to third cousins, to assign your matches to either maternal or paternal buckets, or both if the individual is related on both sides of your tree.

Both Buckets

They are the first and remain the only vendor to offer this kind of feature.

Phased FF2

Phased Family Matching is extremely useful in terms of identifying which side of your family tree your matches are from. This tool, in addition to Family Tree DNA’s nine other autosomal tools helps identify common ancestors by showing you who is related to whom.

Family Tree DNA has also added other features such as a revamped tree with the ability to connect DNA results to family members.  DNA results connected to the tree is the foundation for the new Phased Family Matching.

The new Ancient Origins feature, released in November, was developed collaboratively with Dr. Michael Hammer at the University of Arizona Hammer Lab.

Ancient European Origins is based on the full genome sequencing work now being performed in the academic realm on ancient remains. These European results fall into three primary groups of categories based on age and culture.  Customer’s DNA is compared to the ancient remains to determine how much of the customer’s European DNA came from which group.  This exciting new feature allows us to understand more about our ancestors, long before the advent of surnames and paper or parchment records. Ancient DNA is redefining what we know, or thought we knew, about population migration.

2016-ancient-origins

You can view Dr. Hammer’s presentation given at the Family Tree DNA Conference in conjunction with the announcement of the new Ancient Origins feature here.

Family Tree DNA maintains its leadership position among the three primary vendors relative to Y DNA testing, mtDNA testing and autosomal tools.

Ancestry

In May of 2016, Ancestry changed the chip utilized by their tests, removing about 300,000 of their previous 682,000 SNPs and replacing them with medically optimized SNPs. The rather immediate effect was that due to the chip incompatibility, Ancestry V2 test files created on the new chip cannot be uploaded to Family Tree DNA, but they can be uploaded to GedMatch.  Family Tree DNA is working on a resolution to this problem.

I tested on the new Ancestry V2 chip, and while there is a difference in how much matching DNA I share with my matches as compared to the V1 chip, it’s not as pronounced as I expected. There is no need for people who tested on the earlier chip to retest.

Unfortunately, Ancestry has remained steadfast in their refusal to implement a chromosome browser, instead focusing on sales by advertising the ethnicity “self-discovery” aspect of DNA testing.

Ancestry does have the largest autosomal data base but many people tested only for ethnicity, don’t have trees or have private trees.  In my case, about half of my matches fall into that category.

Ancestry maintains its leadership position relative to DNA tree matching, known as a Shared Ancestor Hint, identifying common ancestors in the trees of people whose DNA matches.

ancestry-common-ancestors

23andMe

23andMe struggled for most of the year to meet a November 2015 deadline, which is now more than a year past, to transition its customers to the 23andMe “New Experience” which includes a new customer interface. I was finally transitioned in September 2016, and the experience has been very frustrating and extremely disappointing, and that’s putting it mildly. Some customers, specifically international customers, are still not transitioned, nor is it clear if or when they will be.

I tested on the 23andMe older V3 chip as well as their newer V4 chip. After my transition to the New Experience, I compared the results of the two tests. The new security rules incorporated into the New Experience meant that I was only able to view about 25% of my matches (400 of 1651(V3) matches or 1700 (V4) matches). 23andMe has, in essence, relegated themselves into the non-player status for genetic genealogy, except perhaps for adoptees who need to swim in every pool – but only then as a last place candidate. And those adoptees had better pray that if they have a close match, that match falls into the 25% of their matches that are useful.

In December, 23andMe began providing segment information for ethnicity segments, except the parental phasing portion does not function accurately, calling into question the overall accuracy of the 23andme ethnicity information. Ironically, up until now, while 23andMe slipped in every other area, they had been viewed at the best, meaning most accurate, in terms of ethnicity estimates.

New Kids on the Block

MyHeritage

In May of 2016, MyHeritage began encouraging people who have tested at other vendors to upload their results. I was initially very hesitant, because aside from GedMatch that has a plethora of genetic genealogy tools, I have seen no benefit to the participant to upload their DNA anyplace, other than Family Tree DNA (available for V3 23andMe and V1 Ancestry only).

Any serious genealogist is going to test at least at Family Tree DNA and Ancestry, both, and upload to GedMatch. My Heritage was “just another upload site” with no tools, not even matching initially.

However, in September, MyHeritage implemented matching, although they have had a series of what I hope are “startup issues,” with numerous invalid matches, apparently resulting from their usage of imputation.

Imputation is when a vendor infers what they think your DNA will look like in regions where other vendors test, and your vendor doesn’t. The best example would be the 300,000 or so Ancestry locations that are unique to the Ancestry V2 chip. Imputation would result in a vendor “inferring” or imputing your results for these 300,000 locations based on…well, we don’t exactly know based on what. But we do know it cannot be accurate.  It’s not your DNA.

In the midst of this, in October, 23andMe announced on their forum that they had severed a previous business relationship with MyHeritage where 23andMe allowed customers to link to MyHeritage trees in lieu of having customer trees directly on the 23andMe site.  This approach had been problematic because customers are only allowed 250 individuals in their tree for free, and anything above that requires a MyHeritage subscription.  Currently 23andMe has no tree capability.

It appears that MyHeritage refined their DNA matching routines at least somewhat, because many of the bogus matches were gone in November when they announced that their beta was complete and that they were going to sell their own autosomal DNA tests. However, matching issues have not disappeared or been entirely resolved.

While Family Tree DNA’s lab will be processing the MyHeritage autosomal tests, the results will NOT be automatically placed in the Family Tree DNA data base.

MyHeritage will be doing their own matching within their own database. There are no comparison tools, tree matching or ethnicity estimates today, but My Heritage says they will develop a chromosome browser and ethnicity estimates. However, it is NOT clear whether these will be available for free to individuals who have transferred their results into MyHeritage or if they will only be available to people who tested through MyHeritage.

2016-myheritage-matches

For the record, I have 28 matches today at MyHeritage.

2016-myheritage-second-match

I found that my second closest match at MyHeritage is also at Ancestry.

2016-myheritage-at-ancestry

At MyHeritage, they report that I match this individual on a total of 64.1 cM, across 7 segments, with the largest segment being 14.9 cM.

Ancestry reports this same match at 8.3 cM total across 1 segment, which of course means that the longest segment is also 8.3 cM.

Ancestry estimates the relationship as 5th to 8th cousin, and MyHeritage estimates it as 2nd to 4th.

While I think Ancestry’s Timber strips out too much DNA, there is clearly a HUGE difference in the reported results and the majority of this issue likely lies with the MyHeritage DNA imputation and matching routines.

I uploaded my Family Tree DNA autosomal file to MyHeritage, so MyHeritage is imputing at least 300,000 SNPs for me – almost half of the SNPs needed to match to Ancestry files.  They are probably imputing that many for my match’s file too, so that we have an equal number of SNPs for comparison.  Combined, this would mean that my match and I are comparing 382,000 actual SNPs that we both tested, and roughly 600,000 SNPs that we did not test and were imputed.  No wonder the MyHeritage numbers are so “off.”

My Heritage has a long way to go before they are a real player in this arena. However, My Heritage has potential, as they have a large subscriber base in Europe, where we desperately need additional testers – so I’m hopeful that they can attract additional genealogists that are willing to test from areas that are under-represented to date.

My Heritage got off to a bit of a rocky start by requiring users to relinquish the rights to their DNA, but then changed their terms in May, according to Judy Russell’s blog.

All vendors can change their terms at any time, in a positive or negative direction, so I would strongly encourage all individuals considering utilizing any testing company or upload service to closely read all the legal language, including Terms and Conditions and any links found in the Terms and Conditions.

Please note that MyHeritage is a subscription genealogy site, similar to Ancestry.  MyHeritage also owns Geni.com.  One site, MyHeritage, allows individual trees and the other, Geni, embraces the “one world tree” model.  For a comparison of the two, check out Judy Russell’s articles, here and here.  Geni has also embraced DNA by allowing uploads from Family Tree DNA of Y, mitochondrial and autosomal, but the benefits and possible benefits are much less clear.

If the MyHeritage story sounds like a confusing soap opera, it is.  Let’s hope that 2017 brings both clarity and improvements.

Living DNA

Living DNA is a company out of the British Isles with a new test that purports to provide you with a breakdown of your ethnicity and the locations of your ancestral lines within 21 regions in the British Isles.  Truthfully, I’m very skeptical, but open minded.

They have had my kit for several weeks now, and testing has yet to begin.  I’ll write about the results when I receive them.  So far, I don’t know of anyone who has received results.

2016-living-dna

Genos

I debated whether or not I should include Genos, because they are not a test for genealogy and are medically focused. However, I am including them because they have launched a new model for genetic testing wherein your full exome is tested, you receive the results along with information on the SNPs where mutations are found. You can then choose to be involved with research programs in the future, if you wish, or not.

That’s a vastly different model that the current approach taken by 23andMe and Ancestry where you relinquish your rights to the sale of your DNA when you sign up to test.  I like this new approach with complete transparency, allowing the customer to decide the fate of their DNA. I wrote about the Genos test and the results, here.

Third Parties

Individuals sometimes create and introduce new tools to assist genealogists with genetic genealogy and analysis.

I have covered these extensively over the years.

GedMatch, WikiTree, DNAGedcom.com and Kitty Cooper’s tools remain my favorites.

I love Kitty’s Ancestor Chromosome Mapper which maps the segments identified with your ancestors on your chromosomes. I just love seeing which ancestors’ DNA I carry on which chromosomes.  Somehow, this makes me feel closer to them.  They’re not really gone, because they still exist in me and other descendants as well.

Roberta's ancestor map2

In order to use Kitty’s tool, you’ll have to have mapped at least some of your autosomal DNA to ancestors.

The Autosomal DNA Segment Analyzer written by Don Worth and available at DNAGedcom is still one of my favorite tools for quick, visual and easy to understand segment matching results.

ADSA Crumley cluster

GedMatch has offered a triangulation tool for some time now, but recently introduced a new Triangulation Groups tool.

2016-gedmatch-triangulation-groups

I have not utilized this tool extensively but it looks very interesting. Unfortunately, there is no explanation or help function available for what this tool is displaying or how to understand and interpret the results. Hopefully, that will be added soon, as I think it would be possible to misinterpret the output without educational material.

GedMatch also introduced their “Evil Twin” tool, which made me laugh when I saw the name.  Using parental phasing, you can phase your DNA to your parent or parents at GedMatch, creating kits that only have your mother’s half of your DNA, or your father’s half.  These phased kits allow you to see your matches that come from that parent, only.  However, the “Evil Twin” feature creates a kit made up of the DNA that you DIDN’T receive from that parent – so in essence it’s your other half, your evil twin – you know, that person who got blamed for everything you “didn’t do.”  In any case, this allows you to see the matches to the other half of your parent’s DNA that do not show up as your matches.

Truthfully, the Evil Twin tool is interesting, but since you have to have that parent’s DNA to phase against in the first place, it’s just as easy to look at your parent’s matches – at least for me.

Others offer unique tools that are a bit different.

DNAadoption.com offers tools, search and research techniques, especially for adoptees and those looking to identify a parent or grandparents, but perhaps even more important, they offer genetic genealogy classes including basic and introductory.

I send all adoptees in their direction, but I encourage everyone to utilize their classes.

WikiTree has continued to develop and enhance their DNA offerings.  While WikiTree is not a testing service nor do they offer autosomal data tools like Family Tree DNA and GedMatch, they do allow individuals to discover whether anyone in their ancestral line has tested their Y, mitochondrial or autosomal DNA.

Specifically, you can identify the haplogroup of any male or female ancestor if another individual from that direct lineage has tested and provided that information for that ancestor on WikiTree.  While I am generally not a fan of the “one world tree” types of implementations, I am a fan of WikiTree because of their far-sighted DNA comparisons, the fact that they actively engage their customers, they listen and they expend a significant amount of effort making sure they “get it right,” relative to DNA. Check out WikiTree’s article,  Putting DNA Results Into Action, for how to utilize their DNA Features.

2016-wikitree-peter-roberts

Thanks particularly to Chris Whitten at WikiTree and Peter Roberts for their tireless efforts.  WikiTree is the only vendor to offer the ability to discover the Y and mtDNA haplogroups of ancestors by searching trees.

All of the people creating the tools mentioned above, to the best of my knowledge, are primarily volunteers, although GedMatch does charge a small subscription service for their high end tools, including the triangulation and evil twin tools.  DNAGedcom does as well.  Wikitree generates some revenue for the site through ads on pages of non-members. DNAAdoption charges nominally for classes but they do have need-based scholarships. Kitty has a donation link on her website and all of these folks would gladly accept donations, I’m sure.  Websites and everything that goes along with them aren’t free.  Donations are a nice way to say thank you.

What Defined 2016

I have noticed two trends in the genetic genealogy industry in 2016, and they are intertwined – ethnicity and education.

First, there is an avalanche of new testers, many of whom are not genetic genealogists.

Why would one test if they weren’t a genetic genealogist?

The answer is simple…

Ethnicity.

Or more specifically, the targeted marketing of ethnicity.  Ethnicity testing looks like an easy, quick answer to a basic human question, and it sells kits.

Ethnicity

“Kim just wanted to know who she was.”

I have to tell you, these commercials absolutely make me CRINGE.

Yes, they do bring additional testers into the community, BUT carrying significantly misset expectations. If you’re wondering about WHY I would suggest that ethnicity results really cannot tell you “who you are,” check out this article about ethnicity estimates.

And yes, that’s what they are, estimates – very interesting estimates, but estimates just the same.  Estimates that provide important and valid hints and clues, but not definitive answers.

ESTIMATES.

Nothing more.

Estimates based on proprietary vendor algorithms that tend to be fairly accurate at the continental level, and not so much within continents – in particular, not terribly accurate within Europe. Not all of this can be laid a the vendor’s feet.  For example, DNA testing is illegal in France.  Not to mention, genetic genealogy and population genetics is still a new and emerging field.  We’re on the frontier, folks.

The ethnicity results one receives from the 3 major vendors (Ancestry, Family Tree DNA and 23andMe) and the various tools at GedMatch don’t and won’t agree – because they use different reference populations, different matching routines, etc.  Not to mention people and populations move around and have moved around.

The next thing that happens, after these people receive their results, is that we find them on the Facebook groups asking questions like, “Why doesn’t my full blooded Native American grandmother show up?” and “I just got my Ancestry results back. What do I do?”  They mean that question quite literally.

I’m not making fun of these people, or light of the situation. Their level of frustration and confusion is evident. I feel sorry for them…but the genetic genealogy community and the rest of us are left with applying ointment and Band-Aids.  Truthfully, we’re out-numbered.

Because of the expectations, people who test today don’t realize that genetic testing is a TOOL, it’s not an ANSWER. It’s only part of the story. Oh, and did I mention, ethnicity is only an ESTIMATE!!!

But an estimate isn’t what these folks are expecting. They are expecting “the answer,” their own personal answer, which is very, very unfortunate, because eventually they are either unhappy or blissfully unaware.

Many become unhappy because they perceive the results to be in error without understanding anything about the technology or what information can reasonably be delivered, or they swallow “the answer” lock stock and barrel, again, without understanding anything about the technology.

Ethnicity is fun, it isn’t “bad” but the results need to be evaluated in context with other information, such as Y and mitochondrial haplogroups, genealogical records and ethnicity results from the other major testing companies.

Fortunately, we can recruit some of the ethnicity testers to become genealogists, but that requires education and encouragement. Let’s hope that those DNA ethnicity results light the fires of curiosity and that we can fan those flames!

Education

The genetic genealogy community desperately needs educational resources, in part as a result of the avalanche of new testers – approximately 1 million a year, and that estimate may be low. Thankfully, we do have several education options – but we can always use more.  Unfortunately, the learning curve is rather steep.

My blog offers just shy of 800 articles, all key word searchable, but one has to first find the blog and want to search and learn, as opposed to being handed “the answer.”

Of course, the “Help” link is always a good place to start as are these articles, DNA Testing for Genealogy 101 and Autosomal DNA Testing 101.  These two articles should be “must reads” for everyone who has DNA tested, or wants to, for that matter.  Tips and Tricks for Contact Success is another article that is immensely helpful to people just beginning to reach out.

In order to address the need for basic understanding of autosomal DNA principles, tools and how to utilize them, I began the “Concepts” series in February 2016. To date I offer the following 15 articles about genetic genealogy concepts. To be clear, DNA testing is only the genetic part of genetic genealogy, the genealogical research part being the second half of the equation.

The Concepts Series

Concepts – How Your Autosomal DNA Identifies Your Ancestors

Concepts – Identical By Descent, State, Population and Chance

Concepts – CentiMorgans, SNPs and Pickin’ Crab

Concepts – Parental Phasing

Concepts – Y DNA Matching and Connecting With Your Paternal Ancestor

Concepts – Downloading Autosomal Data From Family Tree DNA

Concepts – Managing Autosomal DNA Matches – Step 1 – Assigning Parental Sides

Concepts – Genetic Distance

Concepts – Relationship Predictions

Concepts – Match Groups and Triangulation

Concepts – Sorting Spreadsheets for Autosomal DNA

Concepts – Managing Autosomal DNA Matches – Step 2 – Updating Matching Spreadsheets, Bucketed Family Finder Matches and Pileups

Concepts – Why DNA Testing the Oldest Family Members Is Critically Important

Concepts – Undocumented Adoptions Versus Untested Y Lines

My blog isn’t the only resource of course.

Kelly Wheaton provides 19 free lessons in her Beginners Guide to Genetic Genealogy.

Other blogs I highly recommend include:

Excellent books in print that should be in every genetic genealogist’s library:

And of course, the ISOGG Wiki.

Online Conference Resources

The good news and bad news is that I’m constantly seeing a genetic genealogy seminar, webinar or symposium hosted by a group someplace that is online, and often free. When I see names I recognize as being reputable, I am delighted that there is so much available to people who want to learn.

And for the record, I think that includes everyone. Even professional genetic genealogists watch these sessions, because you just never know what wonderful tidbit you’re going to pick up.  Learning, in this fast moving field, is an everyday event.

The bad news is that I can’t keep track of everything available, so I don’t mean to slight any resource.  Please feel free to post additional resources in the comments.

You would be hard pressed to find any genealogy conference, anyplace, today that didn’t include at least a few sessions about genetic genealogy. However, genetic genealogy has come of age and has its own dedicated conferences.

Dr. Maurice Gleeson, the gentleman who coordinates Genetic Genealogy Ireland films the sessions at the conference and then makes them available, for free, on YouTube. This link provides a list of the various sessions from 2016 and past years as well. Well worth your time!  A big thank you to Maurice!!!

The 19 video series from the I4GG Conference this fall is now available for $99. This series is an excellent opportunity for genetic genealogy education.

As always, I encourage project administrators to attend the Family Tree DNA International Conference on Genetic Genealogy. The sessions are not filmed, but the slides are made available after the conference, courtesy of the presenters and Family Tree DNA. You can view the presentations from 2015 and 2016 at this link.

Jennifer Zinck attended the conference and published her excellent notes here and here, if you want to read what she had to say about the sessions she attended. Thankfully, she can type much faster and more accurately than I can! Thank you so much Jennifer.

If you’d like to read about the unique lifetime achievement awards presented at the conference this year to Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfeld, the founders of Family Tree DNA, click here. They were quite surprised!  This article also documents the history of genetic genealogy from the beginning – a walk down memory lane.

The 13th annual Family Tree DNA conference which will be held November 10-12, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency North Houston. Registration is always limited due to facility size, so mark your calendars now, watch for the announcement and be sure to register in time.

Summary

2016 has been an extremely busy year. I think my blog has had more views, more comments and by far, more questions, than ever before.

I’ve noticed that the membership in the ISOGG Facebook group, dedicated to genetic genealogy, has increased by about 50% in the past year, from roughly 8,000 members to just under 12,000. Other social media groups have been formed as well, some focused on specific aspects of genetic genealogy, such as specific surnames, adoption search, Native American or African American heritage and research.

The genetic aspect of genealogy has become “normal” today, with most genealogists not only accepting DNA testing, but embracing the various tools and what they can do for us in terms of understanding our ancestors, tracking them, and verifying that they are indeed who we think they are.

I may have to explain the three basic kinds of DNA testing and how they are used today, but no longer do I have to explain THAT DNA testing for genealogy exists and that it’s legitimate.

I hope that each of us can become an ambassador for genetic genealogy, encouraging others to test, with appropriate expectations, and helping to educate, enlighten and encourage. After all, the more people who test and are excited about the results, the better for everyone else.

Genetic genealogy is and can only be a collaborative team sport.

Here’s wishing you many new cousins and discoveries in 2017.

Happy New Year!!!

Family Tree DNA Final Coupons for 2016

ftdna-package

Today marks the last set of discount coupons for DNA testing savings issued by Family Tree DNA for the holidays.  What nice gifts they’ve given us!  Thank you Family Tree DNA!!!

Over the past few weeks, we’ve talked about why one might want to take the different kinds of DNA tests:

Why the Big Y

Why Test Y DNA

12 Myths of Family Finder

Mitochondrial DNA, The Forgotten Test

Before the holidays, most of us are engaged in trying to figure out what other people want and buying or making gifts for friends and family members.

But now that Christmas Day itself has passed, we can rest a bit and recover.  Now, it’s your turn!  What would you like?

Did Santa bring you money for a gift?  Maybe Santa knew you wanted to upgrade your own DNA tests or that you want to test that aunt or cousin!

If so, this is a great time, because these are the last coupons for this year.  We never know when the next sale will happen, but generally Family Tree DNA sponsors sales for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and the sale is generally specific to those kinds of tests.  So if you want to test, take advantage of the current sale, PLUS the coupons that can be used in addition to the sale prices.  I’ve never seen lower prices and this sale, valid until New Year’s Day, includes almost every product they offer.

Click here to redeem the coupons below or to sign in and view your own holiday discount coupons.  As always, feel free to post your unredeemed coupons in the comments.

Coupon # Good for What
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I hope you and yours had a lovely holiday.  Thank you to everyone who has participated in sharing the coupons this holiday season.

The Genealogist’s Stocking

genealogist-stocking

As a genealogist, what do you want to find in your stocking this year? You don’t even have to have been good! No elf-on-a-shelf is watching – I promise!

  • Do you need a tool that doesn’t yet exist?
  • Do you need to learn a skill?
  • Do you need to DNA test a particular person?
  • Do you want to break down a specific brick wall?

Here’s what I want, in no particular order:

  1. A chromosome browser from Ancestry. Yes, I know this comes in the dead horse category and Hades has not yet frozen over, but I still want a chromosome browser.
  2. Resurrection of the Y and mtDNA data bases at Ancestry and Sorenson (purchased by Ancestry.) Refer to dead horse and Hades comment above.
  3. Tree matching at Family Tree DNA. (The request has been submitted.)
  4. A tool to find Y and mtDNA descendants of an ancestor who may have tested or be candidates to test at Family Tree DNA. Family Tree DNA is the only major company who does Y and mtDNA testing today, so this is the only data base/vendor this request applies to.
  5. To find the line of my James Moore, c1720-c1798 who married Mary Rice and lived in Amelia and Prince Edward Counties in Virginia before moving to Halifax County. I’d really love to get him across the pond. This is *simply* a matter of waiting until the right person Y DNA tests. Simply – HA! Waiting is not my strong suit. Maybe I should ask for patience, but I’ve already been as patient as I can be for 15 years. Doesn’t that count for something? Santa???
  6. To discover the surname and family of Magdalena (c1730-c1808) who married Philip Jacob Miller. Magdalena’s descendant has an exact mitochondrial DNA match in the Brethren community to the descendant of one Amanda Troutwine (1872-1946) who married William Hofacker on Christmas Day, 1889 in Darke County, Ohio.. Now all I need to do is extend Amanda’s line back far enough in time. I’m very hopeful. I need time and a little luck on this one.

I’d be happy with any one of the half-dozen “wishes” above, but hey, this is permission to dream and dream big – so I’ve put them all on my list, just in case Genealogy Santa is feeling particularly generous this year!

Tell us about your dream gift(s) in your genealogy stocking and what you need to make those dreams come true. What might you do to help make that happen? Do you have a plan?

For example, items 1-4 are beyond my control, but I have made my wishes known, repeatedly.  I’ve researched #5 to death, so waiting for that Moore match now comes in the “genealogy prayer” category.  But item 6 is clearly within reach – so I’ll be focused on Amanda Troutwine as soon as the holiday festivities are over.  Let’s hope you’ll be reading an article about this success soon.

So, ask away.  What’s on your list?  You just never know where Santa’s helpers may be lurking!!!

Lifetime Achievement Awards for Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfeld

At the 2016 Family Tree DNA 12th Annual International Conference on Genetic Genealogy held in Houston, Texas in November, I was honored to present Lifetime Achievement Awards to both Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfeld from the genetic genealogy community in the form of DNA double helix quilts.

I chose quilts as awards because quilts embody the deep cross-cultural symbolism of family, of caring and of warmth. Quilts can be utilitarian, artistic, or both – hung on the wall or napped under. They descend to the next generation, just like our DNA. These unique quilts, and yes, there are two, show the easily recognizable double helix strands, but also suggest the mystery of the unknown and yet to be discovered.  Quilts seemed the perfect medium.

award-dna-quilt

I must admit, I agonized for weeks about what I was going to say, and months about the DNA quilts themselves. Ok, I had a bit of analysis paralysis having to do with the quilt design and construction, but with the deadline of the approaching conference looming months, then weeks away, I kicked into overdrive to finish the quilts.

But then, the most difficult part – what to say to and about these amazing humans. I’ve been involved in public speaking for the past 30+ years, and I’m very comfortable – except not this time. This presentation was about a subject very close to my heart – and about the men who have provided all genetic genealogists with the opportunities we have today.

Before I share what I said, I would like to thank my co-conspirators:

  • Janine Cloud
  • Katherine Borges
  • Nora Probasco
  • Linda Magellan
  • Jim Brewster

Katherine, Nora and Linda have all been to all 12 of the conferences and are fellow quilters. Linda is making labels for their quilts to affix to the back so they will never forget – although I doubt there is much possibility of that happening. Jim Brewster will sew the labels to the backs of the quilts when Linda mails the labels to Texas.

Max and Bennett are very humble men and I know they were embarrassed and amazingly enough, for those of us who are fortunate enough to know then – they were also pretty much speechless. At least for a couple minutes!

I’d like to take this opportunity to share the awards presentation with you. I’ve taken the liberty of added a few photos.

Many people don’t know Max and Bennett personally, nor do they know the history of genetic genealogy and direct to consumer DNA testing. I hope this presentation both honors Max and Bennett, and serves to educate about the humble beginnings of genetic genealogy.

I’m honored to present two Lifetime Achievement Awards today. Yes, there has been a conspiracy afoot. You have no idea how difficult it is to sneak onto a conference agenda. Thank you Janine Cloud. Additional co-conspirators are Katherine Borges, Nora Probasco and Linda Magellan, three people who have attended every conference since the beginning.

award-beginning

Left to right, Roberta Estes, Linda Magellan, Katherine Borges, Nora Probasco

Let’s talk about the beginning.

Most everyone knows the story about Bennett Greenspan’s first retirement in 1999.

Bennett tried to retire, but managed to get underfoot at home, and his wife in essence threw him out of the house. She told him she didn’t much care WHAT he did, but he had to find SOMETHING to do, SOMEPLACE ELSE.

Now, knowing that Bennett is a genealogist, I’m betting that living in Houston, he went to the Clayton Library every day and assured his wife he was busy looking for a new career. He found it alright, or maybe it found him.

Someplace, at the Clayton Library or elsewhere, Bennett was thinking about how to prove that men with a common surname were or were not descended from a common ancestral line. Were they related? Bennett knew just enough about science to know that if he could find a way to test their Y chromosomes, and they descended from a common paternal ancestor, their Y DNA should match. Sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing!

Bennett began a search to find a scientist that could and would run that one Y DNA test for him. As it turns out, could and would were two entirely different matters. Bennett found Dr. Michael Hammer at the University of Arizona who runs the Hammer Lab that specializes in human evolutionary genetics.

Dr. Hammer could, but would he?

Bennett mentions talking to Dr. Hammer on the phone several times. Dr. Hammer mentions that Bennett camped out in his office and wouldn’t leave. However persistent Bennett was or wasn’t, in person or otherwise, we should all be incredibly grateful for his tenacity, because purely in self-defense, Dr. Hammer agreed to do the test – just that one test.

However, Dr. Hammer made a fateful throwaway comment as Bennett was on the way out the door. He said, “Someone should start a business doing this. You crazy genealogists ask me about this ALL THE TIME.

Talk about what never to say to a bored entrepreneur. That “all the time” statement echoed and rolled around in Bennett’s head. “All the time…all the time.”

Now, I don’t know exactly what happened next, but Bennett and Max were already business partners in another endeavor, and I’d bet the next conversation went something like this:

“Max – I’ve got an idea….”

Followed by a brief discussion and then:

“Bennett, are you crazy? No one will ever buy that?”

Like I said, I wasn’t there – but I’m really glad Bennett was a bit crazy – because so are the rest of us genealogists – as is proven by the size and magnitude of the genetic genealogy industry today.

The fledgling business, Family Tree DNA, was founded with Dr. Hammer’s lab doing the testing.

Fast forward a few months to July 14, 2000.

Cousin Doug Mumma, who, by the way, I didn’t know was a cousin until several years later thanks to a Family Finder test, called Family Tree DNA and talked to Bennett about Y DNA testing several Mumma men and men with similar surnames to see if they descended from a common ancestor. If Bennett was crazy wanting Y DNA testing, he is accompanied a whole lot of other genealogists. Perhaps it’s genetic.

Bennett agreed to form a project for Doug and Doug agreed to commit to purchase 20 kits. Doug’s first kit in the Mumma Surname Project was kit M-01 and by the time he was ready to purchase project kit number 21, the M was gone from the kit designation, and he purchased kit number 72.

Fast forward another few months.

I had tested my mitochondrial DNA with Oxford Ancestors and for something like $900 discovered that I was the daughter of Jasmine, one of the seven daughters of Eve. I received a one page diagram with a gold star placed on the letter J. My fascination with the science of genetic genealogy had begun.

One of my cousins mentioned that some company in Texas was doing DNA testing on men for the Y chromosome for genealogy. I was just sure this was some kind of scam, because I figured if that could be done, Oxford Ancestors would be offering that too – and they weren’t.

I found the phone number for Family Tree DNA, called and left a message.

Later that night, about 9:30, my phone rang and it was Bennett Greenspan returning my call – the President of Family Tree DNA.

Little did I know, at that time, that the office consisted of Bennett’s cell phone.

award-bennett-cell

We talked for an hour. I explained to Bennett that I had tested for mitochondrial DNA and asked about the Y DNA testing. Bennett described what Family Tree DNA was doing with testing and projects, convincing me it was not a scam after all. While I certainly understood the genetic basis of how Y DNA testing worked, I had not seen the website, or the software, and I was concerned about explaining how matching worked on the site between different men in a project.

Bennett said something fateful, which I’m sure he’s regretting right about now. He said, “Don’t worry – I’ll help you.” With that, I committed to purchase 5 kits and he committed to create the Estes surname project, and help me if I needed assistance. I quickly found 5 willing Estes genealogists who desperately wanted to know if they descended from a common Estes progenitor. The Estes DNA project was formed.

In mid-December 2002, I purchased kit 6656.  Kits were selling at the incredible rate of about 2000 a year!

The DNA results were amazing and full of potential for every ancestral line. I quickly became an advocate of genetic genealogy, although Rootsweb wouldn’t let us discuss DNA testing on the boards and lists, like it was some sort of pariah. DNA proved and disproved genealogy, myths and oral history – which bothered some folks immensely.

By 2004, genetic genealogy was growing and so was the interest in this field. Around the beginning of 2004, kit 17,000 was sold and twelve months later, on New Year’s Eve, kit 30,244 was sold. Participation in genetic genealogy nearly doubled in 2004 and in two years, it had quadrupled.  By now, kits were selling at just under 2000 per month.

November 2004 saw the first conference sponsored by Family Tree DNA in Houston which lasted only one day. The excitement in the community was palpable. Not only were we excited about the conference itself, and learning, but by meeting each other face to face.

award-2004-banner

award-2004

Bennett Greenspan, Bruce Walsh (obscured by Bennett), Max Blankfeld and Matt Kaplan from the University of Arizona, at the first conference. Photos from 2004 courtesy ISOGG.

In April of 2005, Family Tree DNA made the announcement that they had teamed with the National Geographic Society and the Genographic Project was launched. This liaison was the turning point that legitimized DNA testing to the rest of the world. People began to see DNA testing featured in the iconic magazine with the yellow cover and no one wondered anymore if we were just plain crazy.

In November 2005, the second Family Tree DNA Genetic Genealogy conference, which became the second annual conference, was held in Washington DC at the headquarters of the National Geographic Society.

This conference was extra exciting because of the location and the implications for genetic genealogy. We had come of age. The conference was held in the “Explorers Hall.” We were recognized as explorers too in this brave new genetic world.

award-2005

My husband and I stayed at a hotel called The Helix in Washington, within walking distance to the National Geographic building. On the morning of the conference, we left the hotel for the 5-minute walk to Nat Geo. In front of us, maybe 30 feet, were Max and Bennett, briskly walking and chatting. We continued behind them, not wanting to interrupt. In those few minutes, I remember distinctly thinking that I was literally watching history being made by the two men in front of me. Little did I know exactly how true that was and what the future held.

On New Year’s Eve, 2005, I purchased kit 50,000. Of course, I had to purchase about 10 kits to manage to get kit 50,000, right at midnight. Unbeknownst to me, the Genographic Project had sold nearly 100,000 kits. Genetic genealogy had passed silently from its infancy.

Every year since then, more history has unfolded.

Few people get the opportunity to shape the future.

Few people get the opportunity to directly affect more than a few lives – in this case, millions.

Few people get the opportunity to found not just a business, but an industry that will continue to provide information and answers long after we are nothing more than genealogical memories.

Few people get to chart the course of history.

Yes, I’m talking about Max and Bennett.

No, they don’t know anything about this.

About this time, Bennett apparently suspected not only that the awards might be for he and Max, but also realized that he had been “had.” Janine Cloud, was the person with the difficult task of making sure that Bennett and Max were in the room during this time, in addition to providing a disguised space on the agenda for these awards.

This is the look on Bennett’s face when he realized and looked at Janine.

award-bennett-gotcha

Followed by this photo.  Janine is standing behind Bennett.

award-bennett-2

Max, however, didn’t suspect, because he was busy. I can just hear Bennett, “Pssst, Max…..”

award-bennett-max

So, until now, Max probably really doesn’t know exactly what I said up to this point.

Max and Bennett not only founded the genetic genealogy industry, they have maintained a leadership position within that industry while others perished. They have an entire series of firsts attributed to them, but if I took time to list them all, we would be here all day.

What I will say is that they have created this industry with the utmost integrity and with their eye to the consumer. One example stands out.

I was standing at a conference some years ago when a man asked Bennett about backbone SNP testing. Bennett asked him which haplogroup. The man answered, then Bennett told him not to spend his money on that test for that haplogroup, because he wasn’t likely to learn anything he didn’t already know.

Being a project administrator, I was surprised at Bennett’s response. I spoke with Bennett and he said he never wanted his customers to feel like they didn’t receive value for their money. That’s not something one would expect to hear from the mouth of a businessman. But that is Bennett.

Integrity has been the guiding principle and the foundation of Family Tree DNA and remains so today.

Max and Bennett have given us what is arguably the single most valuable tool for genealogists – ever – not to mention those searching for their birth family.

Francis Crick and James Watson discovered DNA in 1953, but it would be another 47 years before Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfeld gave us the rosetta stone so that “the rest of us” can understand our DNA and how it’s relevant to our own lives – and those of our ancestors. That vision in 1999 and the fledgling startup company in 2000 was the cornerstone of the DTC, direct to consumer, DNA industry today.

I am honored to present Max and Bennett with special Lifetime Achievement Awards – that are – well – a bit different from any other lifetime achievement award. But then, they are unique so their awards should be as well.

I am asking Katherine Borges, Linda Magellan and Nora Probasco to help present these awards on behalf of the genetic genealogy community. All 3 have attended all of the conferences.

award-katherine

Katherine Borges closed the presentation with the following quote by Wilferd Peterson.

Walk with the Dreamers,
The Believers,
The Courageous,
The Planners,
The Doers,
The Successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground,
Let their Spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it.

We stand on the shoulders of giants.

Thank you Max and Bennett for inviting and allowing us to walk with you on this most fabulous journey. You are the wind beneath our wings.

What you can’t see in the photos is the standing ovation for Max and Bennett. People came up to me afterwards and thanked me, saying that they wanted to say those things, but couldn’t or didn’t know how.

At this point, we told Max and Bennett that they had to close their eyes. They are indeed trusting souls.

When they opened their eyes, I’m sure they didn’t know quite what to think. They were both looking to their left at first, and I think they thought there was one quilt.

award-first-sight

I do love the looks on their faces. We wanted them to be surprised and joyful, and they clearly were.

award-both-quilts

They weren’t entirely speechless, but close.

award-max

Max said something short and gracious, then handed the microphone to Bennett and said , “Here Bennett, you say something.” The crowd laughed. Max and Bennett both handled the situation with the grace and dignity we have come to expect.

award-bennett

For those who would like to see a closeup, Katherine Borges took a nice picture.

award-closeup

I will be writing a separate article about the quilts themselves.

Family Tree DNA offers lab tours on the Monday following the conference, and I was able to take a photo of Max and Bennett in the office with the quilts.  For those who don’t know, Gene by Gene is the parent company of Family Tree DNA.

I’m sure none of us, including Max and Bennett had any idea 16 years ago where this road would lead.  It has been an amazing journey – a fantastic magic carpet ride!

award-both-gene-by-gene

I want to thank everyone who contributed in any way to these awards for Bennett and Max, including everyone who has bought tests and participated in DNA testing for genetic genealogy.  Every time I thank Max, he always says, “No, thank YOU.  We wouldn’t be here without you,” meaning the testing community.  That’s Max, and I know he means it sincerely.

Not only was this a wonderful opportunity to honor the men who founded and anchor this industry and community, but also to celebrate individuals being able to participate in discovery on the forefront of the final frontier, the one within us.  What Max and Bennett have provided is an opportunity beyond measure. I could never have dreamed a dream this big. I’m eternally grateful that they did.

Thank you, Max and Bennett, for everything you have done for genetic genealogy over the past 16 years, for founding Family Tree DNA, for projects and a wide variety of products, for embracing, including and encouraging genealogists, scientists and citizen scientists, and for providing continuing opportunities to unwrap the genetic gifts left to us by our ancestors.

I have struggled to find words big enough, strong enough and deep enough.  I hope when you look at your quilts, you will simply feel our everlasting gratitude for how profoundly you have touched and irreversibly changed the lives of so many, one by one, in essence sewing many small stitches in the quilt of humanity.

Photos courtesy Jennifer Zinck, Jim Hollern, Katherine Borges, Janine Cloud, Jim Kvochick and ISOGG.

New Family Tree DNA Holiday Coupons – And Why Test Y DNA

Y DNA testing carries a great deal of potential – for males. Why just for males? Because the Y chromosome is passed to sons, only, from the father. The Y chromosome is what makes males male. Females receive an X chromosome from their father instead of a Y.

This means that while men can easily test for Y chromosome results, women can’t. Women have to find a male of the surname line they are interested in to test on their behalf. If their father or brothers are living, finding a willing male for their birth name can be fairly easy, but in some cases, one has to go back up the tree a generation or two, and come back down another line to find a living male from your surname line to test.

y-dna-search

In this example, if the female in red wants to test her Estes line, and green cells represent living Estes males, she would have to go up the tree to the third generation, Lazarus, and come back down three generations through son Charlie to find a living male.

Let’s say that living male Estes either can’t be found or isn’t interested in testing. To find another male, she would have to go up the tree another generation to John Y. Estes and come down through son Reagan where there are two generations of living Estes males.

That didn’t work either? Go up another generation and come down through son Jechonas to living male, William.

Why would someone be so interested in testing surname lines?

You can learn a lot.

  • You can confirm that the person who tests actually descends from the expected surname line. Of course, this assumes two things. First, that others from that line have already tested and second, that the tester actually IS descended from that line. Sometimes males who carry the same surname have different ancestral lines. And sometimes, well, surprises are waiting to be found, meaning sometimes people aren’t descended from who they think they are.
  • Testers receive a haplogroup designation which reaches back to ancient times. Haplogroups tell you, for example, if your ancestor was European, Native American, Jewish, African, or Asian. With additional testing, you can discover more specific information about haplogroups, but that requires testing that can’t be performed until after your haplogroup is discovered through regular testing.
  • You receive your matches at each level of testing. If you test at 37 markers for example, you receive a list of matches at 37 markers, at 25 markers and at 12 markers. I recommend testing at 67 or 111 markers if possible, because those tests refine your matches even further.
  • You receive a “Matches Map” that shows the locations of the oldest known ancestors of your matches.
  • You receive a migration map, showing the path your ancient ancestors took to arrive where they are found today in the world.

There are more tools and information too. You can see, below, all of the available information for Y DNA testers on your Family Tree DNA personal home page.

y-dna-options-2

As a female, I can’t test for even one Y line, but I can surely sponsor tests for men who do descend from my ancestral lines. I try to discover the genetic information for each of my lines. You never know what surprises may be lurking.

I have created a DNA pedigree chart where I record the haplogroup information for each of my ancestral lines.

DNA Pedigree

When my cousins test for Y or mitochondrial lines, I also sponsor a Family Finder test, hoping that our autosomal DNA still matches, even though we are some generations removed from each other.

I try to find a male who has tested, or who will test, for each of my ancestral Y lines. You don’t know what you don’t know – and DNA testing is part of the reasonably exhaustive search required by the GPS, the Genealogical Proof Standard.

So, give yourself a gift this holiday season and test your Y DNA. If you don’t have the Y DNA for the line you want to test, find someone who does. Spread the holiday cheer and take advantage of the great sale prices, AND coupons too.

Coupons

It’s Monday, and Family Tree DNA has issued this week’s coupons. As always, first come, first served with the coupons from the kits that my cousin Jim and I manage. A big thank you to Jim for adding his to the list, bringing the total to 80 available for you to choose from.

Click here to redeem the coupons, or to discover the value of your own coupon on your account. If you don’t want to use your coupon, please feel free to list the coupon code and what it applies to in the comments.

Coupon # Good for What
R19ZIUYF3V7J $10 Off MTDNA
R197MY8BNWJN $10 Off MTDNA
R199CLXSRPNT $10 Off MTDNA
R19VU134X7SY $10 Off MTDNA
R19RTA2UG14Z $10 Off MTDNA
R19OPM6ADSDW $10 Off MTDNA
R19TP5E566LK $10 Off MTDNA
R19CHVEGFORJ $10 Off MTDNA
R19IQER6CJP5 $10 Off MTDNA
R19MM1HH68T1 $10 Off MTDNA
R19ORLHXESRQ $10 Off MTDNA
R19JBQ9FLBVP $10 Off MTDNA
R19J486W13PL $10 Off MTDNA
R199QT41S5M7 $10 Off MTDNA
R19CFSQK1EIY $10 off mtDNA
R191BL3UE956 $10 Off MTDNA
R19HWR0EHR8B $10 Off MTDNA
R19SSLCS7KCL $10 Off MTDNA
R19ZGJCGYL5E $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R19R4VNQU2VS $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R19OHAM8MQQJ $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R19UAO87L4UI $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R19RYRLJ4NET $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R19D9AGHJ2OY $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R192TTQ13K5W $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R19Q9HGY7O41 $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R19ST6EN1Z4Z $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R19R3XOJMV5O $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R19CO2QP2D6G $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R19PE5WPHG53 $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R198U4N58UQG $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R19IK9PQ8TL8 $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R19W90R0K8SI $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R192S97QA7QB $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R19THF7PT8BG $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R19PCRH9LYLJ $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R195PFAG4P5S $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R19BL5W5XYST $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R19GRCLECO77 $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R195249FEKO8 $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R19LLKGWUW0Q $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R199GT35D7QN $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R1915P4KMD1N $20 off MTDNA
R19ZNR916FS6 $20 off MTDNA
R18THPT2WI75 $20 off MTDNA
R19HEK8D5Z1C $20 off MTDNA
R192DEX0FXNP $20 off mtFull
R19TFY99ZX3F $20 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R19O6AOSD1V7 $20 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R19MOU9JF2XZ $20 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R19R6Q914SEJ $20 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R195O1G80Y0K $20 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R19M8OVT75US $30 Off Y-DNA 67
R196KRZ6CI1C $30 Off Y-DNA 67
R197LBY38EFJ $30 Off Y-DNA 67
R19BNMBXJC6O $30 Off Y-DNA 67
R1963HTW3L4V $40 Off MTFULL
R19XAW5WBDMV $40 Off MTFULL
R19SBCZHRNET $40 Off MTFULL
R19D5XSEXSSN $40 Off MTFULL
R19MBATF5XGR $40 Off MTFULL
R19X0XP3U5LT $40 Off MTFULL
R19TZ8HI3PXN $40 Off MTFULL
R1901DPR0CXK $40 Off Y DNA 67
R19HCX58PM6V $40 Off Y DNA 67
R19NDO6MSHMU $40 Off Y-DNA 111
R19BC459ZCXZ $40 Off Y-DNA 67
R193MFZ2LUC8 $40 Off Y-DNA 67
R19HMYUP14D8 $5 Off Family Finder
R19AUCQG9HKN $5 Off Family Finder
R19OR90H0JQQ $5 Off Family Finder
R19KV8W6DDJI $50 Off Big Y
R19DX9MOEY30 $50 Off Big Y
R19O6PGTOY5L $50 Off Big Y
R19J4G4FM3IQ $50 Off Big Y
R19XO427F7OU $50 Off Big Y
R19PX9UDPTWS $50 Off Big Y
R19WAP9OLRC9 $50 Off Big Y
R19S7X0EA91E $60 off Y DNA 111

New Family Tree DNA Holiday Coupons – And Why the Big Y

holiday-lights

Each week during the holiday season, Family Tree DNA issues new coupons on Monday. These coupons are redeemable on top of the holiday sale prices, already in effect.

As I’ll be doing each week, I’ve listed my coupons available to redeem from kits that I manage.

But first, want to talk briefly about one particular type of DNA that is tested, and why one might want to order that particular test.

I’ve seen questions this past week about the Big Y test, so let’s talk about this test today.

The Big Y Test

The questions I’ve seen recently about the Big Y mostly revolve around why the test isn’t listed among the sale prices shown on the Family Tree DNA main page.

The Big Y test is not an entry level test. The tests shown on the Family Tree DNA main page are entry level and can be ordered by anyone, at least so long as the Y DNA tests are ordered for males. (Females don’t have a Y chromosome, so Y tests won’t work for them.)

The Big Y test is an upgrade for a male who has already taken the regular 37, 67 or 111 STR (short tandem repeat) marker test. For those who are unfamiliar, STR markers are used in a genealogically relevant timeframe to match other men to search for a common recent ancestor and are the type of markers used for 37, 67 and 111 marker tests.

SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) are used to determine haplogroups, which reflect deep ancestry and reach significantly further back in time.

Haplogroups are predicted for each participant based on the STR test results, and Family Tree DNA’s prediction routines are very accurate, but the haplgroup can only be confirmed by SNP testing. These two tests are testing different types of DNA mutations. I wrote about the difference here.

Different SNPs are tested to confirm different haplogroups, so you must have your STR results back with the prediction before you can order SNP tests.

The Big Y is the granddaddy of SNP testing, because it doesn’t directly test each SNP location, and there are thousands, but scans virtually the entire Y chromosome to cover in essence all known SNPs. Better yet, the Big Y looks for previously unknown or unnamed SNPs. In other words, this test is a test of discovery, not just a test of confirmation.

Many SNPS are either unknown or as yet unnamed and unplaced on the haplotree, meaning the Y DNA tree of mankind for the Y chromosome. The only way we discover new SNPs is to run a test of discovery. Hence, the Big Y.

It’s fun to be on the frontier of this wonderfully personal science.

Applying the Big Y to Genealogy

In addition to defining and confirming the haplogroup, the Big Y test can be immensely informative in terms of ancestral roots. For example, we know that our Lentz line, found in Germany in the 1600s, matches the contemporary results of Burzyan Bashkir men, descendants of the Yamnaya. I wrote about this here, near the end of the article.

Even more amazing, we then discovered that our Lentz line actually shares mutations with ancient DNA recovered from Yamnaya culture burials from 3500 years ago from along the Volga River. You can read about that here, near the end of the article. This discovery, of course, could never have been made if the Big Y test had not been taken, and it was made by working with the haplogroup project administrators. I am eternally grateful to Dr. Sergey Malyshev for this discovery and the following tree documenting our genetic lineage.

JakobLenz Malyshev chart

Our family heritage now extends back into Russia, 3500 years ago, instead of stopping in Germany, 400 or 500 years ago. This huge historical leap could NEVER have been made without the Big Y test in conjunction with the projects and administrators at Family Tree DNA.

And I must say, I’m incredibly glad we didn’t wait to order this test, because Mr. Lentz, my cousin who tested, died unexpectedly, just a couple months later. His daughter, when informing me of his death, expressed her gratitude for the test, the articles and shared with me that he had taken both articles to Staples, had them printed and bound as gifts for family members this Christmas.

These gifts will be quite bittersweet for those family members, but his DNA legacy lives on, just as the DNA of our ancestors does inside each and every one of us.  He gave all Lentz descendants an incredible gift.

Purchasing the Big Y

If you or a kit you manage has already tested to 37 markers, you can order the Big Y test as an upgrade.  If they haven’t yet tested to 37 markers, you’ll need to order that test or upgrade first.

Every kit has an upgrade link that you can see in two places on your personal page.

upgrade-link

Click either of these links and you’ll be able to see which tests are available for you to purchase including upgrades.

upgrades-available

The sale prices are reflected on this page. Just click on the Big Y or whatever tests you wish to purchase.

If you have a coupon code, type it into this field where I’ve typed “Coupon Code” and then click on Apply.

upgrade-big-y-checkout

It’s worth noting that there are a couple $100 off coupons for the Big Y and some $75s and $50s too.

Coupons

Now, for this week’s list of coupons. As always, first come, first serve. These coupons expire on 12-4-2016 unless otherwise noted. Dates before 12-4 are a result of bonus coupons issued during the past week as coupons were used.

Please list any coupons you wish to share in the comments to this article.

Please note that these coupons, with the exception of the Big Y test, are for new kit orders only, not upgrades.

Remember to be cognizant of the number 1 versus the capital letter l, and the number zero versus the capital letter O.

Click here to redeem coupon codes below or to see what coupon codes await you on your account!!! Enjoy!

Coupon # Good for What
R186H23O1CJY $10 Off MTDNA
R18UFAYP9YP1 $10 Off MTDNA
R18CM684KFTG $10 Off MTDNA
R18QQOEDDC2W $10 Off MTDNA
R18B6EQTQNZO $10 Off MTDNA
R18N16ONSWUM $10 Off MTDNA
R18T3EGHSFSJ $10 Off MTDNA
R18DK57J883L $10 Off MTDNA
R18ZAODYZ5OS $10 Off MTDNA
R18G3OZQCHBR $10 Off MTDNA
R1859WUSWKWO $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18P6S4FJWOM $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18KOGLXRX7O $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R185G17XWT3R $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18RJ37YR49M $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18KDQDDADVB $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R186LQRI8DS2 $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18QSZB7A86T $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18IU4DK5NGW $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18IK8GMDD8C $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18U9XCYU1HO $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18OM4SXOL16 $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18AWCHIW45H $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R188VCTO38WC $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18AJXZEZEXC $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R155WBEMG99 $100 Off Big Y
R18HMGLKL4KG $100 Off Big Y
R1834VTG4CIF $20 Off MTDNA
R18TRKWO2MY9 $20 Off MTDNA
R18OUBCTA2KI $20 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18ZXDH7TAX7 $20 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18OX18NFXJE $20 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18AB7JDZ73O $20 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18XEKCN8GPH $20 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R18UUAEIVMG9 $20 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R1813Q24LQA7 $30 Off Y-DNA 67
R1853SS3IIQP $30 Off Y-DNA 67
R18BQFEFNWSL $40 Off MTFULL
R18M96WZ4X5F $40 Off MTFULL
R18O73U6Y51O $40 Off MTFULL
R18S53W9HXBC $40 Off MTFULL
R157Y5N3USEH $40 Off MTFULL (until 12-3 only)
R189ZHFFPSU3 $40 Off Y-DNA 111
R18XO6Q76XP{N $40 Off Y-DNA 67
R187Y9BO9ODH $40 Off Y-DNA 67
R18OFGORCM7E $40 Off Y-DNA 67
R189HMHY3N9D $40 Off Y-DNA 67
R18DMEO59OVO $40 Off Y-DNA 67
R15QHJMX45W7 $50 off Big Y
R18MKLR7L32P $50 off Big Y
R15GVYGX51MI $50 Off Big Y (Until 12-1 only)
R18H467ILEKD $60 Off Y-DNA 111
R18AOZQU4XZG $60 Off Y-DNA 111
R18QO8WNQNOZ $60 Off Y-DNA 111
R186Z9BJDZEC $60 Off Y-DNA 111
R18HOPBNDKIL $60 Off Y-DNA 111
R188ODYMOO5P $75 Off Big Y
R15VBANUACFW 20% Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R154JXYQPK6F 20% Off Y37, Y67 or Y111

Family Tree DNA 2016 Holiday Sale

An annual event we all look forward to, the Family Tree DNA Holiday sale is here with a new version of weekly gifts for everyone.

ftdna-holiday-2016

First, almost all of Family Tree DNA’s tests are on sale.

Family Finder and Bundles Regular Price Sale Price
Family Finder (for males and females) $79 $59
Family Finder + Y37 (males) $268 $188
Family Finder + Y67 (males) $367 $278
Comprehensive Genome (males) – Family Finder + Y 67 + mtDNA full sequence $566 $451.50
Family Finder +mitochondrial full sequence (males and females) $298 $228
Paternal (Male Only) Tests  
Y37 $169 $139
Y67 $268 $229
Y111 $359 $319
Big Y (Upgrade Only from Y Tests) $575 $525
Matrilineal (Male and Female) Tests  
MtDNA+ (HVR1+HVR2) $79 $79
mtFull Sequence (complete test) $199 $179

Additional Holiday Reward Coupon Savings

Second, there are additional “Holiday Reward” coupon savings e-mailed to every customer sometime after midnight Sunday Central Standard Time (meaning sometime on Monday) that provide additional savings on specific products. You can use these coupons on top of the sale prices to receive additional discounts – beginning with an extra $10 off.

If you don’t receive the e-mail right away, you can sign on to your account to see your coupon, at the top of your personal page with the green background that says “Holiday Reward.”  Be sure to check other accounts you manage as well.

ftdna-holiday-coupon

If you’re not going to use your coupons, you can share them by listing the amount and what they can be applied towards in the comments to this blog or by directly sending to someone via e-mail from your account.

Here’s my coupon for this week, and the first person to use it is welcome to the savings!.

ftdna-11-22-coupon

Furthermore, it gets better yet, because if you share your holiday rewards coupon, you will receive another coupon that may be better than the first one, depending on what you want to purchase – according to the e-mail from Family Tree DNA, below.

ftdna-second-coupon

Your personal page provides a second way for you to share your coupons in order to receive a second coupon before the following Monday. However, you will receive a second coupon regardless of whether you share through your account or by just giving someone your code (like on the list below.)

ftdna-coupon-sharing

Please feel free to list any coupons you may want to share, and what they are for, in the comments to the blog, like we have done every year. I will be listing my coupon codes available for usage each week as well.  Feel free to use the ones below and beware the difference between zero (0) and the letter capital O, and the number one (1) and the letter capital I.

Click here to use the coupons below or to see what coupons await you!!!

Coupon # Good for What
R16IYQIC4FZD $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R16IW5OVTB52 $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R16MIX3DXOYJ $40 OFF Y67
R16LQMMYCZOD $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R16RCMN3BJN6 20% OFF Y37, Y67 or Y111
R16I85RHI8QC 10% Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R163H7YVXHOK $50 Off Big Y
R16OS1AX7X8I 20% OFF Y37, Y67 or Y111
R165K78FBHMY 10% Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R16UC39OU5F $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R16MD7L3UG3Q 10% Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R163SVXYBR9A $20 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R16ZX1JNQDTQ 10% Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R1685DXE53D9 10% Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R16L9CDAN31Z $20 Oiff MTDNA
R16J7VI9OFWN $20 Off MtDNA
R16U55JS9S2D 10% Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R16TPNKGFKHK $20 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R162B6TXJYMB $10 Off MTDNA
R16163G75WQ1 $40 OFF Y67
R16QAKWBYB0O 10% Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R16JYOR77GEO $100 Off Big Y
R16A4A69Y5A5 10% Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R16GOOWFAOON $10 Off MTDNA
R16W4JTXHOX6 $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R1643WY7WOQN $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R16SZDSTDH9A $20 Off MtDNA
R16H1H6KOTP7 $20 Off MtDNA
R16LKDOQG3UF 10% Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R16POHVJ97YB $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R168OCU8PR14 20% OFF Y37, Y67 or Y111
R16UNAZTG2ZE $75 Off Big Y
R16OFCKVHOWY $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R16K9YZRTYA8 $10 Off MTDNA
R16TL78JDKMS $20 Off MtDNA
R16O9JV4OTN6 20% OFF Y37, Y67 or Y111
R16EW3O2ZHYC $10 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R16MVKTAVKY8 $40 off MTFULL
R16O3HF22OQH $10 Off MTDNA
R161SAUW7VX3 10% Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R16BTUFHPM1F $20 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R16457PON7BE $20 Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R1667JIWJJRS $40 OFF Y67
R16DO4G9UF8L $50 Off Big Y
R165VL2OLBIZ $40 off MTFULL (used)
R162OJ2Y1CM6 10% Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R16R8O4M6F5U $50 Off Big Y
R164CHEXU2U9 $20 Off MtDNA
R167SSQG2SZK 10% Off Y37, Y67 or Y111
R1672CFZN7KB $20 Off MtDNA

Happy Holidays and thank you, Family Tree DNA!