Are You DNA Testing the Right People?

We often want to purchase DNA kits for relatives, especially during the holidays when there are so many sales. (There are links for free shipping on tests in addition to sale prices at the end of this article. If you already know who to test, pop on down to the Sales section, now.)

Everyone is on a budget, so who should we test to obtain results that are relevant to our genealogy?

We tell people to test as many family members as possible – but what does that really mean?

Testing everyone may not be financially viable, nor necessary for genealogy, so let’s take a look at how to decide where to spend YOUR testing dollars to derive the most benefit.

It’s All Relative😊

When your ancestors had children, those children inherited different pieces of your ancestors’ DNA.

Therefore, it’s in your best interest to test all of the direct descendants generationally closest to the ancestor that you can find.

It’s especially useful to test descendants of your own close ancestors – great-great-grandparents or closer – where there is a significant possibility that you will match your cousins.

All second cousins match, and roughly 90% (or more) of third cousins match.

Percent of cousins match.png

This nifty chart compiled by ISOGG shows the probability statistics produced by the major testing companies regarding cousin matching relationships.

My policy is to test 4th cousins or closer. The more, the merrier.

Identifying Cousins

  • First cousins share grandparents.
  • Second cousins share great-grandparents.
  • Third cousins share great-great-grandparents.

The easiest way for me to see who these cousins might be is to open my genealogy software on my computer, select my great-great-grandparent, and click on descendants. Pretty much all software has a similar function.

The resulting list shows all of the descendants of that ancestor that I’ve entered in my software. Most genealogists already have or could construct this information with relative ease. These are the cousins you need to be talking to anyway, because they will have photos and stories that you don’t. If you don’t know them, there’s never been a better time to reach out and introduce yourself.

Who to test descendants software

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People You Already Know

Sometimes it’s easier to start with the family you already know and may see from time to time. Those are the people who will likely be the most beneficial to your genealogy.

Who to test 1C.png

Checking my tree at FamilyTreeDNA, Hiram Ferverda and Evaline MIller are my great-grandparents. All of their children are deceased, but I have a relationship with the children born to their son, Roscoe. Both Cheryl and her brother carry parts of Hiram and Eva’s DNA their son John Ferverda (my grandfather) didn’t inherit, and therefore that I can’t carry.

Therefore, it’s in my best interest to gift my cousin, Cheryl and her brother, both, with DNA kits. Turns out that I already have and my common matches with both Cheryl and her brother are invaluable because I know that people who match me plus either one of them descend from the Ferverda or Miller lines. This relationship and linking them on my tree, shown above, allows Family Tree DNA to perform phased Family Matching which is their form of triangulation.

It’s important to test both siblings, because some people will match me plus one but not the other sibling.

Who’s Relevant?

Trying to convey the concept of who to test and not to test, and why, is sometimes confusing.

Many family members may want to test, but you may only be willing to pay for those tests that can help your own genealogy. We need to know who can best benefit our genealogy in order to make informed decisions.

Let’s look at example scenarios – two focused on grandparents and two on parents.

In our example family, a now-deceased grandmother and grandfather have 3 children and multiple grandchildren. Let’s look at when we test which people, and why.

Example 1: Grandparents – 2 children deceased, 1 living

In our first example, Jane and Barbara, my mother, are deceased, but their sibling Harold is living. Jane has a living daughter and my mother had 3 children, 2 of which are living. Who should we test to discover the most about my maternal grandparents?

Please note that before making this type of a decision, it’s important to state the goal, because the answer will be different depending on your goal at hand. If I wanted to learn about my father’s family, for example, instead of my maternal grandparents, this would be an entirely different question, answer, and tree.

Descendant test

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The people who are “married in” but irrelevant to the analysis are greyed out. In this case, all of the spouses of Jane, Barbara and Harold are irrelevant to the grandmother and grandfather shown. We are not seeking information about those spouses or their families.

The people I’ve designated with the red stars should be tested. This is the “oldest” generation available. Harold can be tested, so his son, my first cousin, does not need to test because the only part of the grandparent’s DNA that Harold’s son can inherit is a portion of what his father, Harold, carries and gave to him.

Unfortunately, Jane is deceased but her daughter, Liz, is available to test, so Liz’s son does not need to.

I need to test, as does my living brother and the children of my deceased brother in order to recover as much as possible of my mother’s DNA. They will all carry pieces of her DNA that I don’t.

The children of anyone who has a red star do NOT need to test for our stated genealogical purpose because they only carry a portion of thier parent’s DNA, and that parent is already testing.

Those children may want to test for their own genealogy given that they also have a parent who is not relevant to the grandfather and grandmother shown. In my case, I’m perfectly happy to facilitate those tests, but not willing to pay for the children’s tests if the relevant parent is living. I’m only willing to pay for tests that are relevant to my genealogical goals – in this case, my grandparents’ heritage.

In this scenario, I’m providing 5 tests.

Of course, you may have other family factors in play that influence your decision about how many tests to purchase for whom. Family dynamics might include things like hurt feelings and living people who are unwilling or unable to test. I’ve been known to purchase kits for non-biologically related family members so that people could learn how DNA works.

Example 2: Grandparents – 2 children living, one deceased

For our second example, let’s change this scenario slightly.

Descendant test 2

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From the perspective of only my grandparents’ genealogy, if my mother is alive, there’s no reason to test her children.

Barbara and Harold can test. Since Jane is deceased, and she had only one child, Liz is the closest generationally and can test to represent Jane’s line. Liz’s son does not need to test since his mother, the closest relative generationally to the grandparents is available to test.

In this scenario, I’m providing 3 tests.

Example 3: My Immediate Family – both parents living

In this third example, I’m looking from strictly MY perspective viewing my maternal grandparents (as shown above) AND my immediate family meaning the genealogical lines of both of my parents. In other words, I’ve combined two goals. This makes sense, especially if I’m going to be seeing a group of people at a family gathering. We can have a swab party!

Descendants - parents alive

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In the situation where my parents are both living, I’m going to test them in addition to Harold and Liz.

I’m testing myself because I want to work using my own DNA, but that’s not really necessary. My parents will both have twice as many matches to other people as I do – because I only inherited half of each parent’s DNA.

In this scenario, I’m providing 5 tests.

Example 4: My Immediate Family – one parent living, one deceased

Descendants - father deceased

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In our last example, my mother is living but my father is deceased. In addition to Harold and Liz who reflect the DNA of my maternal grandparents, I will test myself, my mother my living brother and my deceased brother’s child.

Because my father is deceased, testing as many of my father’s descendants as possible, in addition to myself, is the only way for me to obtain some portion of his DNA. My siblings will have pieces of my parent’s DNA that I don’t.

I’m not showing my father’s tree in this view, but looking at his tree and who is available to test to provide information about his side of the family would be the next logical step. He may have siblings and cousins that are every bit as valuable as the people on my mother’s side.

Applying this methodology to your own family, who is available to test?

Multiple Databases

Now that you know WHO to test, the next step is to make sure your close family members test at each of the major providers where your DNA is as well.

I test everyone at Family Tree DNA because I have been testing family members there for 19 years and many of the original testers are deceased now. The only way new people can compare to those people is to be in the FamilyTreeDNA data base.

Then, with permission of course, I transfer all kits, for free, to MyHeritage. Matching is free, but if you don’t have a subscription, there’s an unlock fee of $29 to access advanced tools. I have a full subscription, so all tools are entirely free for the kits I transfer and manage in my account.

Transferring to Family Tree DNA and matching there is free too. There’s an unlock fee of $19 for advanced tools, but that’s a good deal because it’s substantially less than a new test.

Neither 23andMe nor Ancestry accept transfers, so you have to test at each of those companies.

The great news is that both Ancestry and 23andMe tests can be transferred to  MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA.

Before purchasing tests, check first by asking your relatives or testing there yourself to be sure they aren’t already in those databases. If they took a “spit in a vial” test, they are either at 23andMe or Ancestry. If they took a swab test, it’s MyHeritage or FamilyTreeDNA.

I wrote about creating a testing and transfer strategy in the article, DNA Testing and Transfers – What’s Your Strategy? That article includes a handy dandy chart about who accepts which versions of whose files.

Sales

Of course, everything is on sale since it’s the holidays.

Who are you planning to test?

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

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

Grandparent Inheritance Chart by Legacy Tree Genealogists

Today, Legacy Tree Genealogists is introducing a very cool new tool – the Grandparent Inheritance chart – and it’s free!

Anyone with at least one grandparent who has DNA tested from both sides can participate, meaning a total of 2 grandparents, but not through the same parent.

The resulting chart shows you at a glance the DNA that you (or the child) inherited from each of the 4 grandparents. Meet Natalie. On the chart below, you can see how Natalie’s grandparents’ DNA maps across her chromosomes.

legacy-tree-grandparent-inheritance-chart

legacy-tree-legend

Is this cool or what???

This is a wonderful science and inheritance teaching tool for grandchildren, if you’re on the grandparent end of the age spectrum – and a super gift – meaning the DNA testing and the chart, together!

In addition to the Grandparent Inheritance Chart, Legacy Tree is providing a free infographic as well, their DNA and Relationship Quick Reference Chart, showing the various the amounts of DNA you share with relatives, down to 4th cousins three times removed (4C3R).

legacy-tree-dna-relationship-quick-reference-chart-2

I like the color coded leaves showing direct ancestors, ancestors’ siblings and descendants.

Thank you, Legacy Tree!

Who Can Use the GrandParent Inheritance Chart?

In order to be able to accurately plot your DNA from each of four grandparents, one grandparent from each grandparent couple must be available to or already have tested, as shown in the chart below.

legacy-tree-who-can-test

The child can be either a male or female child.  Neither parent’s DNA is needed for the Grandparent Inheritance Chart.

How Does This Work?

Legacy Tree provides instructions for preparing and uploading your results for all 3 individuals.

Because you tell Legacy Tree the identity of the two people that tested, and which side of your tree they are from, Legacy Tree knows to display the matches from that grandparent on the mother’s side for example, and the balance of the maternal side must come from the other maternal grandparent if they are not available to DNA test.

You can use 2, 3 or 4 grandparents, if you have their DNA tests available.

legacy-tree-input-form

Let’s Get Started

To get started, go to https://www.legacytree.com/inheritance – but please finish reading this article before you actually do anything.

You will find the input form as well as detailed instructions for preparing your file.

The file you need to upload to Legacy Tree is not a raw autosomal data file like when you download your file to upload to GedMatch.

The contents of the file you need for Legacy Tree for the Grandparent Inheritance Chart are only the matching segments between the child and the grandparents, so a small subset of your chromosome browser matches downloaded in CSV format. If you’re saying to yourself, “But Ancestry doesn’t have a chromosome browser,” you’re right, but there are a couple of ways around that.

Vendors

The vendor recommended by Legacy Tree is Family Tree DNA, and with very good reason.  When preparing this article, I worked through the various different vendor file preparation instructions, and Family Tree DNA is BY FAR the easiest.

You can utilize files from different vendors, so long as those vendors are Family Tree DNA, 23andMe or Ancestry. MyHeritage is on the drawing board.  If the Ancestry files are Version 1, for tests run before mid May, 2016, I would strongly suggest that you upload your results to Family Tree DNA, which will give you access to the Family Tree DNA chromosome browser to download your results in the format needed.

If you tested on 23andMe V3, between December 2010 when V3 was introduced, and November 2013 when V4 was introduced, you can upload your 23andMe file to Family Tree DNA too.

These transfers cost $39 each and give you the added benefit of fishing in multiple ponds.

If you have tested at multiple vendors, utilize your Family Tree DNA file.

If you have tested on the 23andMe V4 file or the Ancestry V2 file, you can either wait a bit for Family Tree DNA to finish their development which will allow them to accept and process these files which are a different format than the test chip Family Tree DNA utilizes, and was formerly utilized by both Ancestry and 23andMe before they developed custom chips.  You can also utilize GedMatch to “equalize” and process the Ancestry and 23andMe files so that the output is compatible with the Family Tree DNA files.

Vendor File Version Options

DNA Test Vendor and Version Option 1 Option 2 Recommendation
Family Tree DNA > > Just follow the Legacy Tree Instructions – You’re good to go
Ancestry V1 (before mid-May 2016) Upload to Family Tree DNA and activate test for $39 Upload to Gedmatch and process utilizing Legacy Tree instructions Upload to Family Tree DNA which also gives you the benefit of matching in their data base and utilizing their tools
Ancestry V2 (after mid-May 2016) Wait for Family Tree DNA to finish development of import compatibility which should be released shortly Upload to Gedmatch and process utilizing Legacy Tree instructions Upload to GedMatch if you are comfortable with Excel and the instructions, otherwise wait for Family Tree DNA.
23andMe V2 (before December 2010) > Upload to Gedmatch and process utilizing Legacy Tree instructions Upload to GedMatch
23andMe V3 (December 2010 through November 2013) Upload to Family Tree DNA and activate test for $39 Upload to Gedmatch and process utilizing Legacy Tree instructions Upload to Family Tree DNA which also gives you the benefit of matching in their data base and utilizing their tools
23andMe V4 (after November 2013) Wait for Family Tree DNA to finish development of import compatibility which should be released shortly Upload to Gedmatch and process utilizing Legacy Tree instructions Upload to GedMatch if you are comfortable with Excel and the instructions, otherwise wait for Family Tree DNA
Need to test child or grandparent > > Test at Family Tree DNA

Preparing the Files

Legacy Tree provides detailed instructions for working with all of the vendor files, and I strongly encourage you to pay close attention to and follow those instructions exactly.

legacy-tree-file-prep

Here’s an example of the instructions for utilizing files from multiple vendors after the files are downloaded.

The instructions for each vendor include instructions for how to download your raw data file from either Ancestry or 23andMe.  You don’t need to do that if you tested at Family Tree DNA.

legacy-tree-ancestry-instructions

If you look at the difference in the instructions for Family Tree DNA files and the processing steps required for the other vendors, you’ll see immediately why both Legacy Tree and I both recommend that you use Family Tree DNA.

Additional Product

While the Grandparent Inheritance Chart is free, Legacy Tree does have an additional product they’d like for you to consider.

The Full Grandparent Inheritance Report can be viewed here and is a 30 page report that includes various traits that the child inherited from various grandparents.

As an example, I’ve included eye color, below.

legacy-tree-full-inheritance-report

This report builds on the information from the Grandparent Inheritance Chart and costs $100.

What If I Don’t Have the Right People – Can I Still Play?

I know a lot of people are going to be disappointed because they don’t have the right mix of grandparents, or enough grandparents to test.  However, you may still have an option.

The Grandparent Inheritance Chart is a version of what is called Visual Phasing.  This can be done, to some extent, manually, with siblings and cousins.  There is no automation, but Blaine Bettinger has written a series of articles detailing and illustrating the methodology.  Even if you’re going to utilize the free Grandparent Inheritance Chart, reading Blaine’s articles to gain an understanding of the underlying technology and concepts behind Visual Phasing is a great idea.

Blaine’s Visual Phasing Articles

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research