Comparing DNA Results – Different Tests at the Same Testing Company

Several people have asked about different tests at the same DNA testing company. They wondered if matching is affected, meaning whether your matches are different if you have two different tests at the same company. Specifically, they asked if you are better off purchasing a test AT a DNA testing vendor that allows uploads, rather than uploading a test from a different vendor. Does it make a difference to the tester or their matches? Do they have the same matches?

These are great questions, and the answer isn’t conclusive. It varies based on several factors.

Having multiple tests at the same DNA testing company can occur in three ways:

  • The same person tests twice at the same DNA testing company.
  • The same person tests once at the DNA testing company and uploads a test from a different testing company. Only two of the primary four DNA testing companies accept uploads from other vendors – FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage.
  • The same person uploads two different files from other DNA testing companies to the DNA testing company in question. For example, the DNA company could be FamilyTreeDNA and the two uploaded DNA files could be from either MyHeritage, 23andMe or Ancestry.

All DNA testing companies allow users to download their raw DNA data files. This enables the tester to upload their DNA file to the vendors who accept uploaded files. Both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage provide matching for free, but advanced tools require a small unlock fee of $19 and $29, respectively.

Testing Company Accepts Uploads from Other Companies Download Upload Instructions
23andMe No Instructions here
Ancestry No Instructions here
FamilyTreeDNA Yes, some Instructions here
MyHeritage Yes, some Instructions here

I wrote about developing a DNA testing and transfer/upload strategy, here, and about which companies accept which tests, here.

Not all DNA files are created equal. Therefore, not all files from vendors are compatible with other vendors for various reasons.

Multiple Tests at the Same DNA Testing Company

I have at least two tests at each of the four major vendors. I did this for research purposes, meaning to write articles to share with you.

If you actually test twice at a vendor, meaning purchase two separate tests and take them yourself, you will have two test results at that testing company. At some companies, specifically 23andMe, if you purchase a new test through their “upgrade” procedure, you won’t have two tests, just the newer one.

However, if you’re testing at the DNA testing company, and also uploading, I generally don’t recommend more than one test at each vendor. All it really does is clog up people’s match lists with no or little additional benefit. At 23andMe, with their restrictions on the size of your match list, if everyone had two tests, the effective match limit would be half of their stated limit of about 1500 matches for earlier testers and about 5000 for current testers with subscriptions.

So, in essence, I’m telling you to “do as I say, not as I do.” We all have better things to do with our money rather pay for the same test twice. If you haven’t tested your Y-DNA or mitochondrial DNA, that’s much more beneficial than two autosomal tests at one vendor.

Chips and Chip Evolution

Before we begin the side-by-side comparison, let’s briefly discuss DNA testing chips and how they work.

Each DNA testing company purchases DNA processing equipment. Illumina is the big dog in this arena. Illumina defines the capacity and structure of each chip. In part, how the testing companies use that capacity, or space on each chip, is up to each company. This means that the different testing companies test many of the same autosomal DNA SNP locations, but not all of the same locations.

Furthermore, the individual testing companies can specify a number of “other” locations to be included on their chip, up to the chip maximum size limit. The testing companies who offer Y-DNA or mitochondrial DNA haplogroups from autosomal tests use part of their chip array space for selected known haplogroup-defining SNP locations. This does NOT mean that Y-DNA or mitochondrial DNA is autosomal, just that the testing company used part of their chip array space to target these SNPs in your genome. Of course, for your most refined haplogroup and Y-DNA or mitochondrial DNA matching, you have to take those specific tests at FamilyTreeDNA .

This means that each testing company includes and reports many of the same, but also some different SNP locations when they scan your DNA.

In the lab, after your DNA is extracted from either your saliva or the cheek swab, it’s placed on this array chip which is then placed in the processing equipment.

There are several steps in processing your DNA. Each DNA location specified on the chip is scanned and read multiple times, and the results are recorded. The final output is the raw DNA results file that you see if/when you download your raw DNA file.

Here’s an example from my file. The RSID is the reference SNP cluster ID which is the naming convention used for specific SNPs. It’s not relevant to you, but it is to the lab, along with the chromosome number and position, which is in essence the address on the chromosome.

In the Result column, your file reports one nucleotide (T, A, C or G) that you inherited from each parent at each tested position. They are not listed in “parent order” because your DNA is not organized in that fashion. There’s no way for the lab to know which nucleotide came from which parent, unless they are the same, of course. You can read about nucleotides, here.

When you upload your raw DNA file to a different DNA testing company (vendor), they have to work with a file that isn’t entirely compatible with the files they generate, or the other files uploaded from other DNA testing companies.

In addition to dealing with different file formats and contents from multiple DNA vendors, companies change their own chips and file structure from time to time. In some cases, it’s a forced change by the chip manufacturer. Other times, the vendors want to include different locations or make improvements. For example, with 23andMe’s focus on health, they probably add new medically related SNP locations regularly. Regardless of why, some DNA files include locations not included in other files and are not 100% compatible.

Looking at the first few entries in my example file above, let’s say that the testing vendor included the first ten positions, but an uploaded file from another company did not. Or perhaps the chip changed, and a different version of the company’s own file contains different positions.

DNA testing companies have to “fill in the blanks” for compatibility, and they do this using a technique called imputation. Illumina forced their customers to adopt imputation in 2017 when they dropped the capacity of their chip. I was initially quite skeptical, but imputation has worked surprisingly well. Some of the matching differences you will see when comparing the results of two different DNA files is a result of imputation.

I wrote about imputation in an early article here. Please note the companies have fixed many issues with imputation and improved matching greatly, but the concepts and imputation processes still apply. The downloaded raw data files are your results BEFORE imputation, meaning that it’s up to any company where you upload to process your raw file in the same way they would process a file that they generated. A lot goes on behind the scenes when you upload a file to a DNA testing company.

At both 23andMe and Ancestry, you know that all of your matches tested there, meaning they did not upload a file from another testing company. You don’t know and can’t tell what chip was utilized when your matches tested. The only way to determine a chip testing version, aside from knowing the date or remembering the chip version from when you tested, is to look at the beginning of the raw data download file, although not all files contain that information.

Ok, now that you understand the landscape, let’s look at my results at each company.

23andMe

I tested twice at 23andMe on two different chip versions, V3 and V4, which tested some different locations of my DNA. Neither of these chips is the current version. I originally tested twice to evaluate the differences between the two test versions which you can read about, here.

23andMe named their ethnicity results Ancestry Composition.

They last updated my V3 test’s Ancestry Composition results on July 28, 2021.

The percentages are shown at left, and the country locations are highlighted at right for my 23andMe V3 test.

Click to enlarge any graphic

The 23andMe V4 test was also updated for the last time on July 28, 2021.

The ethnicity results differ substantially between the two chip versions, even though they were both updated on the same date.

In October of 2020, in an effort to “encourage” their customers to pay for a new test on their V5 chip, 23andMe announced that there would be no ethnicity updates on older tests. So, I really don’t know for sure when my tests were actually updated. Just note how different the results are. It’s also worth mentioning that 23andMe does not show trace amounts on their map, so even though my Indigenous American results were found, they aren’t displayed on the map.

Indigenous is, however, shown in yellow on their DNA Chromosome Painting.

No other testing company restricts updates, penalizing their customers who purchased earlier versions of tests.

Matches at 23andMe

23andMe limits your matches to about 1500 unless you have purchased the current test, including health AND pay for an annual $69 subscription which buys you about 5000 matches. I have not purchased this test.

Your number of actual matches displayed/retained is also affected by how many people you have communicated with, or at least initiated communications with. 23andMe does not roll those people off of your match list.

I have 1803 matches on both of my tests, meaning I’ve reached out to about 300 people who would have otherwise been removed from my match list. 23andMe retains your highest matches, deleting lower matches after you reach the maximum match threshold.

I’ve randomly evaluated several of the same matches at each vendor, at least five maternal and five paternal, separated by a blank row. I wanted to determine whether they match me on the same number of centimorgans, meaning the same amount of DNA, on both tests, and the same number of segments.

Match 23and Me V3 23and Me V4
Patricia 292 cM – 12 segments Same as V3
Joe 148 cM, 8 segments Same
Emily 73 cM, 4 segs 72 cM, 4 seg
Roland 27 cM, 1 seg Same
Ian 62 cM, 4 seg Same
Stacy 469 cM, 16 segments 482 cM, 16 segments
Harold 134 cM, 6 segments Same
Dean 69 cM, 3 seg Same
Carl 95 cM, 4 seg Same
Debbie 83 cM, 4 seg 84 cM, 4 seg

As you can see, the matches are either exact or xclose.

Please note that bolded matches are also found at another company. I will include a summary table at the end comparing the same match across multiple vendors.

23and Me Summary

The 23andMe V3 and V4 match results are very close. Since the match limit is the same, and the results are so close between tests, they are essentially identical in terms of matching.

The ethnicity results are similar, but the V4 test reflects a broader region. Italian baffles me in both versions.

Ethnicity should never be taken at face value at any DNA testing company, especially with smaller percentages which could be noise or a combination of other regions which just happens to resemble Italy, in my case.

I don’t know what type of comparison the current chip would yield since I suspect it has more medical and less genealogical SNPs on board.

Reprocessing Tests

This is probably a good place to note that it’s very expensive for any company to update their customer’s ethnicity results because every single customer’s DNA results file must be completely rerun. Note that this does not mean their DNA itself is retested. The output raw data file is reprocessed using a new algorithm.

Rerunning means reprocessing that specific portion of every test, meaning the vendors must rent “time in the cloud.” We are talking millions of dollars for each run. I don’t know how much it costs per test, but think about the expense if it takes $1 to rerun each test in the vendor’s database. Ancestry has more than 20 million tests.

While we, as consumers, are always chomping at the bit for new and better ethnicity results – the testing companies need to be sure it really is “better,” not just different before they invest the money to reprocess and update results.

This is probably why 23andMe decided to cease updating older kits. The newer tests require a subscription which is recurring revenue.

The same is true when DNA testing companies need to rematch their entire user base. This happens when the criteria for matching changes. For example, Ancestry purged a large number of matches for all of their customers back in 2020. While match algorithm changes necessitate rematching, with associated costs, this change also provided Ancestry with the huge benefit of eliminating approximately half of their customer’s matches. This freed up storage space, either physically in their data center or space rented in the cloud, representing substantial cost-savings.

How long can a DNA testing company reasonably be expected to continue investing in a product which never generates additional revenue but for which the maintenance and reinvestment costs never end?

Ancestry and MyHeritage both hope to offset the expenses of maintaining their customer’s DNA tests and providing free updates by selling subscriptions to their record services. 23andMe wants you to purchase a new test and a yearly subscription. FamilyTreeDNA wants you to purchase a Big Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA test.

OK, now let’s look at my matches at Ancestry.

Ancestry

I’ve taken two Ancestry tests, V1 and V2. There were some differences, which I wrote about here and here. V2 is no longer the current chip.

Except for 23andMe who wants their customers to purchase their most current test, the other companies no longer routinely announce new chip versions. They just go about their business. The only way you know that a vendor actually changed something is when the other companies who accept uploads suddenly encounter an issue with file formats. It always takes a few weeks to sort that out.

My Ancestry V1 test’s ethnicity results don’t show my Native American ethnicity.

Ancestry results were updated in June 2022

However, my V2 results do include Native American ethnicity.

Matches at Ancestry

I have many more matches on my V1 test at Ancestry because I took steps to preserve my smaller matches when Ancestry initiated its massive purge in 2020. I wrote about that here and here.

Ancestry’s SideView breaks matches down into maternal, paternal, and unassigned based on your side selection. You tell Ancestry which side is which. You may be able to determine which “side” is maternal or paternal either by your ethnicity or shared matches. While SideView is not always accurate, it’s a good place to begin.

Match Category Ancestry V1 Test Ancestry V2 Test
Maternal 15,587 15,116
Paternal 42,247 41,870
Both 2 2
Unassigned 48,999 4,127
Total 106,835 61,115

Ancestry either displays all your matches or your matches by side, which I used to compile the table above. I suspect that Ancestry is not assigning any of the smaller preserved matches to “sides” based on the numbers above.

Ancestry implemented a process called Timber that removes DNA that they feel is “too matchy,” meaning you match enough people in this region that they think it’s a pileup region for you personally, and therefore not useful. In some cases, enough DNA is removed causing that person to no longer be considered a match because they fall beneath the match threshold. I am not a fan of Timber.

Your match amount shown is AFTER Timber has removed those segments. Unweighted shared DNA is your pre-Timber match amount.

You can view the Unweighted shared DNA by clicking on the amount of shared DNA on your match list.

You can read Ancestry’s Matching White Paper, here.

Let’s take a look at my matches. I’ve listed both weighted and unweighted where they are different.

Match Ancestry V1 Ancestry V2
Michael 755 cM, 35 seg 737 cM, 33 seg
Edward 66 cM, 4 seg (unweighted 86 cM) 65 cM, 4 seg (unweighted 86 cM)
Tom 59 cM, 3 seg (unweighted 63) Same
Jonathon 43 cM, 4 seg, (unweighted 52 cM) Same
Matthew 20 cM, 2 seg (unweighted 35 cM) Same
Harold 132 cM, 7 seg 135 cM, 6 seg
Dean 67 cM, 4 seg (unweighted 78 cM) 66 cM, 4 seg (unweighted 78 cM)
Debbie 93 cM, 5 seg Same
Valli 142 cM, 3 seg Same
Jared 20 cM, 1 seg (unweighted 22 cM) Same

Timber only removes DNA when the match is under 90 cM. Almost every match under 90 cM has some DNA removed.

Ancestry Summary

The results of the two Ancestry tests are very close.

In some circumstances, no DNA is removed by Timber, so the unweighted is the same as the weighted. However, in other cases, a significant amount is removed. 15 cM of Matthew’s 35 cM was removed by Timber, reducing his total to 20 cM.

Remember that Ancestry does not show shared matches unless they are greater than 20 cM, which is different than any other DNA testing company.

At one point, Ancestry was selling a health test that was also a genealogy test. That test utilized a different chip that is not accepted for uploads by other vendors. The results of that test might well be different that the “normal” Ancestry tests focused on genealogy. The Ancestry health test is no longer offered.

Companies that Accept Uploads

DNA testing companies that accept uploaded DNA files from other DNA testing companies need to process the uploaded file, just like a file that is generated in their own lab. Of course, they must deal with the differences between uploaded files and their own file format. The processing includes imputation and formulates the uploaded file so that it works with the tools that they provide for their customers, including ethnicity (by whatever name they use) matching, family matching (bucketing), advanced matching, the match matrix, triangulation, AutoClusters, Theories of Family Relativity, and other advanced tools.

Of course, the testing company accepting uploads can only work with the DNA locations provided by the original DNA testing company in the uploaded file.

Matching and some additional tools are free to uploaders, but advanced tools require an inexpensive unlock.

FamilyTreeDNA

I took a test at FamilyTreeDNA, plus uploaded a copy of both of my Ancestry DNA files.

FamilyTreeDNA named their population (ethnicity) test myOrigins and the current version is V3. I wrote about the rollout and comparison in September of 2020, here.

My DNA test taken at FamilyTreeDNA, above, reveals Native American segments that match reference populations found both in North and South America and the Caribbean Islands.

At FamilyTreeDNA, my Ancestry V1 uploaded file results show Native American population matches only in North America.

Interestingly, my Ancestry V1 file processed AT Ancestry did not reveal Native American ancestry, but the same file uploaded to and processed at FamilyTreeDNA did show Native American results, reflecting the difference between the vendors’ internal algorithms and reference populations utilized.

My myOrigins results from my Ancestry V2 uploaded file at FamilyTreeDNA also include my North American Native American segments. The V2 test also showed Native American ethnicity at Ancestry, so clearly something changed in Ancestry’s algorithm, locations tested, and/or reference populations between V1 and V2.

Fortunately, FamilyTreeDNA provides both chromosome painting and a population download file so I can match those Native segments with my autosomal matches to identify which of my ancestors contributed those specific segments.

One of my Native segments is shown in pink on Chromosome1. My mother has a Native segment in exactly the same location, so I know that this segment originated with my mother’s ancestors.

I downloaded the myOrigins population segment file and painted my results at DNAPainter, along with the matches where I can identify our common ancestor. This allowed me to pinpoint the ancestral line that contributed this Native segment in my maternal line. You can read about using DNAPainter, here.

FamilyTreeDNA Matches

I have significantly more matches at FamilyTreeDNA on their test than on either of my Ancestry tests that I uploaded. However, nearly the same number are maternally or paternally assigned through Family Matching, with the remainder unassigned. You can read about Family Matching here.

Match Category FamilyTreeDNA Test Ancestry V1 at FamilyTreeDNA Ancestry V2 at FamilyTreeDNA
Paternal 3,479 3,572 3,422
Maternal 1,549 1,536 1,477
Both 3 3 3
All 8,154 6,397 6,579

Family matching, aka bucketing, automatically assigns my matches as maternal and paternal by linking known relatives to their place in my tree.

I completed the following match chart using my original test taken at FamilyTreeDNA, plus the same match at FamilyTreeDNA for both of my Ancestry tests.

In other words, Cheryl matched me at 467 cM on 21 segments on the original test taken at FamilyTreeDNA. She matched me on 473 cM and 21 segments on my Ancestry V1 test uploaded to FamilyTreeDNA and on 483 cM and 22 segments on the Ancestry V2 test uploaded to FamilyTreeDNA.

Match FamilyTreeDNA Ancestry V1 at FTDNA Ancestry V2 at FTDNA
Cheryl 467 cM, 21 seg 473 cM, 21 seg 483 cM, 22 seg
Patricia 195 cM, 11 seg 189 cM, 11 seg 188 cM, 11 seg
Tom 77 cM, 4 seg 71 cM, 4 seg 76 cM, 4 seg
Thomas 72 cM, 3 seg 71 cM, 3 seg 74 cM, 3 seg
Roland 29 cM, 1 seg 35 cM, 2 seg 35 cM, 2 seg
Rex 62 cM, 4 seg 55 cM, 3 seg 57 cM, 3 seg
Don 395 cM, 18 seg 362 cM, 15 seg 398 cM, 18 seg
Ian 64 cM, 4 seg 56 cM, 4 seg 64 cM, 4 seg
Stacy 490 cM, 18 seg 494 cM, 15 seg 489 cM, 14 seg
Harold 127 cM, 5 cM 133 cM, 6 seg 143 cM, 6 seg
Dean 81 cM, 4 seg 75 cM, 3 seg 83 cM, 4 seg
Carl 103 cM, 4 seg 101 cM, 4 seg 102 cM, 4 seg
Debbie 99 cM, 5 seg 97 cM, 5 seg 99 cM, 5 seg
David 373 cM, 16 seg 435 cM, 19 seg 417 cM, 18 seg
Amos 176 cM, 7 seg 177 cM. 8 seg 177 cM, 7 seg
Buster 387 cM, 15 seg 396 cM, 16 seg 402 cM, 17 seg
Charlene 461 cM, 21 seg 450 cM, 21 seg 448 cM, 20 seg
Carol 65 cM, 6 seg 64 cM, 6 seg 65 cM, 6 seg

I have tested many of my cousins at FamilyTreeDNA and encouraged others to test or upload. I’ve attempted to include enough people so that I can have common matches at least at one other DNA testing company for comparison.

FamilyTreeDNA Summary

The matches are relatively close, with a few being exact.

Interestingly, some of the segment counts are different. In most cases, this results from one segment being broken into multiple segments by one or more of the tests, but not always. In the couple that I checked, the entire segment seems to descend from the same ancestral couple, so the break is likely a result of not all of the same DNA locations being tested, plus the limits of imputation.

MyHeritage

I have two tests at MyHeritage. One taken at MyHeritage, and an uploaded file from FamilyTreeDNA.

MyHeritage displays both ethnicity results and Genetic Groups which maps groups of people that you match. I left the Genetic Groups setting at the highest confidence level. Shifting it to lower displays additional Genetic Groups, some of which overlap with or are within ethnicity regions.

My test taken at MyHeritage, above, shows several ethnicities and Genetic Groups, but no Native American.

My FamilyTreeDNA kit processed at MyHeritage shows the same ethnicity regions, one additional Genetic Group, plus Native American heritage in the Amazon which is rather surprising given that I don’t show Native in North American regions where I’m positive my Native ancestors lived.

MyHeritage Matching

At MyHeritage, I compared the results of the test I took with MyHeritage, and a test I uploaded from FamilyTreeDNA. Fewer than half of my matches can be assigned to a parent via shared matching.

Matches MyHeritage Test FamilyTreeDNA at MyHeritage
Paternal 4,422 6,501
Maternal 2,660 3,655
Total 13,233 16,147

I have rounded my matches at MyHeritage to the closest cM.

Match MyHeritage Test FamilyTreeDNA at MyHeritage
Michael 801 cM, 32 seg 823 cM, 31 segments
Cheryl 467 cM, 23 seg 477 cM, 23 seg
Roland No match 28 cM, 1 seg
Patty 156 cM, 9 seg 151 cM, 9 seg
Rex 43 cM, 4 seg 53 cM, 3 seg
Don 369 cM, 16 seg 382 cM, 17 seg
 
David 449 cM, 17 seg 460 cM, 17 seg
Charlene 454 cM, 23 seg 477 cM, 24 seg
Buster 408 cM, 15 seg 410 cM, 16 seg
Amos 183 cM, 8 seg Same
Carol 78 cM, 6 seg 87 cM, 7 seg

MyHeritage Summary

I was surprised to discover that Roland had no match with the MyHeritage test, but did with the FamilyTreeDNA test. I wonder if this is a searching or matching glitch, especially since both companies use the same chip. 28 cM in one segment is a reasonably large match, and even if it was divided in two, it would still be over the matching threshold. I know this is a valid match because Roland triangulates with me and several cousins, I’m positive of our common ancestor, and he also matches me at both FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe.

Other than that, the matches are reasonably close, with one being exact.

Your Matches Aren’t Everyplace

I unsuccessfully searched for someone who was a match to me in all four databases. Ancestry does not permit match downloads, so I had to search manually. People don’t always use the same names in different databases.

Surprisingly, I was unable to find one match who is in all of the databases. Many people only suggest testing at Ancestry because they have the largest database, but if you look at the following comparison chart that I’ve created, you’ll see that 16 of 26 people, or 62% were not at Ancestry. Conversely, many people were at Ancestry and not elsewhere. I could not find five maternal and five paternal matches at Ancestry that I could identify as matches in another database. 40% were not elsewhere.

If you think for one minute that it doesn’t matter for genealogy if you’re in all four major databases, please reconsider. It surely does matter.

Every single vendor has matches that the others don’t. Substantial, important matches. I have found first and second-cousin matches in every database that weren’t elsewhere.

Many of the original testers have passed away and can’t test again. My mother can never test at either 23andMe or Ancestry, but she is at both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage because I could upgrade her kit at FamilyTreeDNA after she died. I uploaded her to MyHeritage. Of course, because she is a generation closer to our ancestors, she has many valuable matches that I don’t.

Each vendor provides either an email address or a messaging platform for you to contact your matches. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t answer. Just today, I received a reply that was years in the making.

Genealogists hope for immediate gratification, but we are actually in this for the long game. Play it with every tool at your disposal.

The Answer

Does it matter if you test at a DNA testing company, or upload a file?

I know this was a very long answer to what my readers hoped was a simple yes or no question.

There is no consistent answer at either FamilyTreeDNA or MyHeritage, the two DNA testing companies that accept uploads. Be sure you’re in both databases. My closest two matches that I did not test were found at MyHeritage. Here’s a direct link to upload at MyHeritage.

Of the vendors, those two should be the closest to each other because they are both processed in the GenebyGene lab, but again, the actual chip version, when the test was originally taken, and each vendor’s internal processing will result in differences. Neither the original test at the DNA testing company nor the uploaded files have consistently higher or lower matches. Neither type of test or upload appears to be universally more or less accurate. Differences in either direction seem to occur on a match-by-match basis. Many are so close as to be virtually equivalent, with a few seemingly random exceptions. Of course, we always have to consider Timber.

If you upload, unlock the advanced features at both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage.

If you upload to a DNA testing company, you may discover in the future that some features and functions will only be available to original testers.

Personally, if I had the option, I would test at the company directly simply because it eliminates or at least reduces the possibility of future incompatibilities – with the exception of 23andMe which has chosen to not provide consistent updates to older tests. I’m incredibly grateful I didn’t test my mother or now deceased family members at 23andMe, and only there. I would be heartsick, heartbroken, and furious.

Our DNA is an extremely valuable resource for our genealogy. It’s the gift that truly keeps on giving, day after day, even when other records don’t exist. Be sure you and your family members are in each database one way or another, and test your Y-DNA (for males) and mitochondrial DNA (for everyone) to have a complete arsenal at your disposal.

_____________________________________________________________

Follow DNAexplain on Facebook, here.

Share the Love!

You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

You Can Help Keep This Blog Free

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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research

Mother’s Day Visitation Two Decades Out

I hope that you are enjoying Mother’s Day, whether you’re the Mom being honored, you’re honoring your mother, or you’re one of the millions who “mother” and love others, one way or another.

I didn’t have time to complete my normal article for today, but I certainly didn’t want to let Mother’s Day pass without acknowledgment.

I didn’t get my article finished because, let’s just say, I’ve been extremely busy with something VERY interesting.

I can’t tell you everything, but I can tell you a little!

Just a couple of days ago, I was able to visit Mom once again in the freezer at FamilyTreeDNA.

Mom’s DNA has been housed there since 2003, when she swabbed for her first DNA test. It’s so hard to believe that was two decades ago. So much has changed.

That stored DNA sample allowed me to upgrade Mom to the Family Finder test in 2012, six years after she passed away.

In 2013, I visited Mom at FamilyTreeDNA in the freezer and realized, as I looked in that little window, that there was more of my mother in that freezer than anywhere else on earth. My DNA is in there too, with her, just sayin’. I won’t be buried beside her in the soil, but I am near her in that freezer every day. Somebody has to keep an eye on her!

In intervening years, FamilyTreeDNA purchased a larger freezer and moved Mom from the earlier location across the room to the larger cryo-preservation cemetery – I mean freezer.

Now, Mom, with a few million of her friends and several thousand of our relatives, is partying it up in there when no one is looking.

Time Capsule

Every time I stare through that window, it’s like peering backward into a time capsule. I wonder, if all the Y-DNA was processed at the Big Y-700 level, how much of the entire Y-DNA phylogenetic tree would we be able to reconstruct?

People often skip testing mitochondrial DNA, passed from mothers to all their children, thinking it won’t be genealogically useful. I assure you, that’s not always the case. Furthermore, if you don’t test, DNA can never be useful. Every single person has mitochondrial DNA, so just imagine how much of the mitochondrial tree would be created if every one of those samples was tested at or upgraded to the full sequence level.

How many dead ends are in that freezer, meaning no living people carry that line anymore? I’m one of those people because I have no grandchildren through my daughter. Mom’s, her mother’s, and my mitochondrial DNA dies with my generation.

Based on my mitochondrial DNA sequence, meaning my mutations, I’ll VERY likely have a new haplogroup when the Million Mito Project rolls out, and even more likely that it will be at least three branches down the tree, closer in time.

What pieces of our human history will be lost if the people in that freezer don’t test their mitochondrial DNA at the full sequence level? The full sequence is needed to construct the mitochondrial tree of all humanity.

How many more matches would we have if everyone in that freezer had a Family Finder test? How many brick walls would fall? How many mysteries would be solved? Would we be able to reconstruct the DNA of our ancestors from their descendants?

What happens if we never open that time capsule, individually and collectively?

“Just Do It”

I had to pinch myself, though. As I stood in that lab, viewing through that window what I considered a sacred and hallowed space for Mom and humanity as well, I was reminded of what Mom said to me not long before she died. In fact, I can hear her frail voice.

“You need to do that.” 

What was “that”?

“That” was transforming her DNA results into a story – her story, her history and genealogy – and how she connected with the story of all humankind. Her “story” revealed her history, our history, even before genealogy, connecting with her soul. She could touch people whose names she would never know, but who contributed their mitochondrial DNA to her. It brought them alive.

I had an entire litany of sensible, level-headed reasons why I could never “do that,” beginning with the fact that I already had a career and owned a business. I had a family, children, and responsibilities – nope – no can do, Mom.

Not to be deterred, Mom gently stopped me in the process of listing all the perfectly logical and valid reasons why that would never work and told me that all of that was just preparing me for what I was “supposed to do,” and I needed to “just do it.” This was nothing like the mother I knew, always conservative in her advice and never wanting me to step out, even a little bit, onto an unstable limb. Let alone leap off the cliff of uncertainty with absolutely no safety net.

What had happened to my mother?

I simply couldn’t make her understand – all those years ago.

Then, my gaze drifts back to the present, and I remember that I’m staring into a freezer, not a time machine. Mom has already had all the tests available today. But many of her frozen neighbors have not.

As I stood, looking into that window, into the past, and perhaps into the future, I was afraid to turn around.

People were standing behind me, filming. I didn’t want anyone to see those tears slipping down my cheeks. After all, I had simply been looking at a window, right? Just a window. Not a cemetery. Not a portal. Not a time machine, no reason for tears – unless you understand the magnitude of what the freezer holds.

I so hoped that those hot tears didn’t entirely ruin my makeup, or that I could at least escape to the restroom to fix it without being noticed.

The Greatest Journey

On the way to the restroom, I saw this framed magazine, a wink and a nod from Mom, I’m sure. Indeed, our DNA is the greatest journey ever told, ever embarked upon, and the story is not yet entirely written. Mom said DNA would change the world as we know it, and she was right.

Mom, I found a way – or maybe fate found me back in 2004. That fateful fork in the road, although I’m not sure I even realized I had slipped onto that road untaken until it was too late to turn back.

Maybe Mom pushed those buttons from the other side, because I’ve been passionately “doing that” one way or another now for almost two decades. And finally, finally, we are going to be able to tell a larger story.

You and me, Mom. Hand in hand with our cousins. All of them – on every continent around the world.

Making history is on the horizon. DNA rocks. Here’s to all the mothers!!!

Thank You

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love and miss you oh so much. And, while I wasn’t at the time, I’m – ahem – so incredibly grateful for the swift kick in the behind called encouragement.

But then, isn’t that the age-old story of motherhood?

Until next time Mom, you behave in there!

_____________________________________________________________

Follow DNAexplain on Facebook, here.

Share the Love!

You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

You Can Help Keep This Blog Free

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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research

What Is a Sibling Anyway? Full, Half, Three-Quarters, Step, Adopted, Donor-Conceived & Twins

I’ve seen the term sibling used many different ways, sometimes incorrectly.

When referring to their own siblings, people usually use the term brother or sister, regardless of whether they are talking about a full, half or step-sibling. It’s a term of heart or description. It’s often genealogists who are focused on which type of sibling. As far as I’m concerned, my brother is my brother, regardless of which type of brother. But in terms of genetics, and genealogy, there’s a huge difference. How we feel about our sibling(s) and how we are biologically related are two different things.

Let’s cover the various types of siblingship and how to determine which type is which.

  • Full Siblings – Share both parents
  • Half-Siblings – Share only one parent
  • Three-Quarter Siblings – It’s complicated
  • Adopted Siblings
  • Donor-Conceived
  • Step-Siblings – Share no biological parent
  • Twins – Fraternal and Identical

Full Siblings

Full siblings share both parents and share approximately 50% of their DNA with each other.

You can tell if you are full siblings with a match in various ways.

  1. You share the same fairly close matches on both parents’ sides. For example, aunts or uncles or their descendants.

Why do I say close matches? You could share one parent and another more distant relative on the other parent’s side. Matching with close relatives like aunts, uncles or first cousins at the appropriate level is an excellent indicator unless your parents or grandparents are available for testing. If you are comparing to grandparents, be sure to confirm matches to BOTH grandparents on each side.

  1. Full siblings will share in the ballpark of 2600 cM, according to DNAPainter’s Shared cM Tool.

Keep in mind that you can share more or less DNA, hence the range. It’s also worth noting that some people who reported themselves as full siblings in the Shared cM project were probably half siblings and didn’t realize it.

  1. Full siblings will share a significant amount of fully identical regions (FIR) of DNA with each other, meaning they share DNA at the same DNA address from both parents, as illustrated above. Shared DNA with each other inherited from Mom and Dad are blocked in green. The fully identical regions, shared with both parents, are bracketed in purple. You can’t make this determination at FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage or Ancestry, but you can at both 23andMe and GEDmatch.

At GEDmatch, the large fully green areas in the chromosome browser “graphics and positions” display indicates full siblings, where DNA is shared from both parents at that location.

I wrote about the details of how to view fully identical regions (FIR) versus half identical regions (HIR) in the article, DNA: In Search of…Full and Half-Siblings.

  1. If your parents/grandparents have tested, you and your full sibling will both match both parents/grandparents. Yes, I know this sounds intuitive, but sometimes it’s easy to miss the obvious.

At FamilyTreeDNA, you can use the matrix tool to see who matches each other in a group of people that you can select. In this case, both siblings are compared to the father, but if the father isn’t available, a close paternal relative could substitute. Remember that all people who are 2nd cousins or closer will match.

  1. At Ancestry, full siblings will be identified as either “brother” or “sister,” while half-siblings do not indicate siblingship. Half-siblings are called “close family” and a range of possible relationships is given. Yes, Ancestry, is looking under the hood at FIR/HIR regions. I have never seen a full sibling misidentified as anything else at Ancestry. Unfortunately, Ancestry does not give customers access to their matching chromosome segment location data.
  2. Y-DNA of males who are full siblings will match but may have some slight differences. Y-DNA alone cannot prove a specific relationship, with very rare exceptions, but can easily disprove a relationship if two males do not match. Y-DNA should be used in conjunction with autosomal DNA for specific relationship prediction when Y-DNA matches.
  3. Y-DNA testing is available only through FamilyTreeDNA, but high-level haplogroup-only estimates are available through 23andMe. Widely divergent haplogroups, such as E versus R, can be considered a confirmed non-match. Different haplogroups within the same base haplogroup, such as R, but obtained from different vendors or different testing levels may still be a match if they test at the Big Y-700 level at FamilyTreeDNA.
  4. Mitochondrial DNA, inherited matrilineally from the mother, will match for full siblings (barring unusual mutations such as heteroplasmies) but cannot be used in relationship verification other than to confirm nonmatches. For both Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA, it’s possible to have a lineage match that is not the result of a direct parental relationship.
  5. Mitochondrial DNA testing is available only through FamilyTreeDNA, but haplogroup-only estimates are included at 23andMe. Different base haplogroups such as H and J can be considered a non-match.
  6. A difference in ethnicity is NOT a reliable indicator of half versus full siblings.

Half-Siblings

Half-siblings share only one parent, but not both, and usually share about 25% of their DNA with each other.

You will share as much DNA with a half-sibling as you do some other close matches, so it’s not always possible for DNA testing companies to determine the exact relationship.

Referencing the MyHeritage cM Explainer tool, you can see that people who share 1700 cM of DNA could be related in several ways. I wrote about using the cM Explainer tool here.

Hints that you are only half-siblings include:

  1. At testing vendors, including Ancestry, a half-sibling will not be identified as a sibling but as another type of close match.
  2. If your parents or grandparents have tested, you will only match one parent or one set of grandparents or their descendants.
  3. You will not have shared matches on one parent’s side. If you know that specific, close relatives have tested on one parent’s side, and you don’t match them, but your other family members do, that’s a very big hint. Please note that you need more than one reference point, because it’s always possible that the other person has an unknown parentage situation.
  4. At 23andMe, you will not show fully identical regions (FIR).
  5. At GEDmatch, you will show only very minimal FIR.

Scattered, very small green FIR locations are normal based on random recombination. Long runs of green indicate that significant amounts of DNA was inherited from both parents. The example above is from half-siblings.

  1. At FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe, most men who share a mother will also share an X chromosome match since men only inherit their X chromosome from their mother. However, it is possible for the mother to give one son her entire X chromosome from her father, and give the other son her entire X chromosome from her mother. Therefore, two men who do share a mother but don’t have an X chromosome match could still be siblings. The X is not an entirely reliable relationship predictor. However, if two men share an entire X chromosome match, it’s very likely that they are siblings on their mother’s side, or that their mothers are very close relatives.

Three-Quarter Siblings

This gets a little more complicated.

Three-quarter siblings occur when one parent is the same, and the other parents are siblings to each other.

Let’s use a real-life example.

A couple marries and has children. The mother dies, and the father marries the mother’s sister and has additional children. Those children are actually less than full siblings, but more than half-siblings.

Conversely, a woman has children by two brothers and those children are three-quarter siblings.

These were common situations in earlier times when a man needed a female companion to raise children and women needed a male companion to work on the farm. Neither one could perform both childcare and the chores necessary to earn a living in an agricultural society, and your deceased spouse’s family members were already people you knew. They already loved your children too.

Neither of these situations is historically unusual, but both are very difficult to determine using genetics alone, even in the current generation.

Neither X-DNA nor mitochondrial DNA will be helpful, and Y-DNA will generally not be either.

Unfortunately, three-quarter siblings’ autosomal DNA will fall in the range of both half and full siblings, although not at the bottom of the half-sibling range, nor at the top of the full sibling range – but that leaves a lot of middle ground.

I’ve found it almost impossible to prove this scenario without prior knowledge, and equally as impossible to determine which of multiple brothers is the father unless there is a very strong half-sibling match in addition.

The DNA-Sci blog discusses this phenomenon, but I can’t utilize comparison screenshots according to their terms of service.

Clearly, what we need are more known three-quarter siblings to submit data to be studied in order to (possibly) facilitate easier determination, probably based on the percentage frequency distribution of FIR/HIR segments. Regardless, it’s never going to be 100% without secondary genealogical information.

Three-quarter siblings aren’t very common today, but they do exist. If you suspect something of this nature, really need the answer, and have exhausted all other possibilities, I recommend engaging a very experienced genetic genealogist with experience in this type of situation. However, given the random nature of recombination in humans, we may never be able to confirm using any methodology, with one possible exception.

There’s one possibility using Y-DNA if the parents in question are two brothers. If one brother has a Y-DNA SNP mutation that the other does not have, and this can be verified by testing either the brothers who are father candidates or their other known sons via the Big Y-700 test – the father of the siblings could then be identified by this SNP mutation as well. Yes, it’s a long shot.

Three-quarter sibling situations are very challenging.

Step-siblings, on the other hand, are easy.

Step-Siblings

Step-siblings don’t share either parent, so their DNA will not match to each other unless their parents are somehow related to each other. Please note that this means either of their parents, not just the parents who marry each other.

One child’s parent marries the other child’s parent, resulting in a blended family. The children then become step-siblings to each other.

The terms step-sibling and half-sibling are often used interchangeably, and they are definitely NOT the same.

Adopted Siblings

Adopted siblings may not know they are adopted and believe, until DNA testing, that they are biological siblings.

Sometimes adopted siblings are either half-siblings or are otherwise related to each other but may not be related to either of their adoptive parents. Conversely, adopted siblings, one or both, may be related to one of their adoptive parents.

The same full and half-sibling relationship genetic clues apply to adopted siblings, as well as the tools and techniques in the In Search of Unknown Family series of articles.

Donor-Conceived Siblings

Donor-conceived siblings could be:

  • Half-siblings if the donor is the same father but a different mother.
  • Half-siblings if they share an egg donor but not a father.
  • Full siblings if they are full biological siblings to each other, meaning both donors are the same but not related to the woman into whom the fertilized egg was implanted, nor to her partner, their legal parents.
  • Not biologically related to each other or either legal parent.
  • Biologically related to one or both legal parents when a family member is either an egg or sperm donor.

Did I cover all of the possible scenarios? The essence is that we literally know nothing and should assume nothing.

I have known of situations where the brother (or brothers) of the father was the sperm donor, so the resulting child or children appear to be full or three-quarters siblings to each other. They are related to their legal father who is the mother’s partner. In other words, in this situation, the mother’s husband was infertile, and his brother(s) donated sperm resulting in multiple births. The children from this family who were conceived through different brothers and had very close (half-sibling) matches to their “uncles'” children were very confused until they spoke with their parents about their DNA results.

The same techniques to ascertain relationships would be used with donor-conceived situations. Additionally, if it appears that a biological relationship exists, but it’s not a full or half-sibling relationship, I recommend utilizing other techniques described in the In Search of Unknown Family series.

Twins or Multiple Birth Siblings

Two types of twin or multiple birth scenarios exist outside of assisted fertilization.

Fraternal twins – With fraternal or dizygotic twins, two eggs are fertilized independently by separate sperm. Just view this as one pregnancy with two siblings occupying the same space for the same 9 months of gestation. Fraternal twins can be male, female or one of each sex.

Fraternal twins are simply siblings that happen to gestate together and will match in the same way that full siblings match.

Please note that it’s possible for two of a woman’s eggs to be fertilized at different times during the same ovulation cycle, potentially by different men, resulting in twins who are actually half-siblings.

A difference in ethnicity is NOT a reliable indicator of fraternal or identical twins. Submitting your own DNA twice often results in slightly different ethnicity results.

Identical twins – Identical or monozygotic twins occur when one egg is fertilized by one sperm and then divides into multiple embryos that develop into different children. Those children are genetically identical since they were both developed from the same egg and sperm.

Two of the most famous identical twins are astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly.

Identical twins are the same sex and will look the same because they have the same DNA, except for epigenetic changes, but of course external factors such as haircuts, clothes and weight can make identical twins physically distinguishable from each other.

DNA testing companies will either identify identical twins as “self,” “identical twin” or “parent/child” due to the highest possible shared cM count plus fully matching FIR regions.

For identical twins, checking the FIR versus HIR is a positive identification as indicated above at GEDmatch with completely solid green FIR regions. Do not assume twins that look alike are identical twins.

Siblings

Whoever thought there would be so many kinds of siblings!

If you observe the need to educate about either sibling terminology or DNA identification methodologies, feel free to share this article. When identifying relationships, never assume anything, and verify everything through multiple avenues.

_____________________________________________________________

Follow DNAexplain on Facebook, here or follow me on Twitter, here.

Share the Love!

You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

You Can Help Keep This Blog Free

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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research

DNA: In Search Of…Your Grandparents

Are you searching for an unknown relative or trying to unravel and understand unexpected results? Maybe you discovered that one or both of your parents is not your biological parent. Maybe one of your siblings might be a half-sibling instead. Or maybe you suddenly have an unexpected match that looks to be an unknown close relative, possibly a half-sibling. Perhaps there’s a close match you can’t place.

Or, are you searching for the identity of your grandparent or grandparents? If you’re searching for your parent or parents, often identifying your grandparents is a necessary step to narrow the parent-candidates.

I’ve written an entire series of “In Search of Unknown Family” articles, permanently listed together, here. They will step you through the search process and help you understand how to unravel your results. If you’re new, reading these, in order, before proceeding, would be a good idea.

Identifying a Grandparent

I saved this “grandparents” article for later in the series because you will need the tools and techniques I’ve introduced in the earlier articles. Identifying grandparents is often the most challenging of any of the relationships we’ve covered so far. In part because each of those four individuals occupies a different place in your tree, meaning their X, Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA is carried by different, and not all, descendants. This means we sometimes have to utilize different tools and techniques.

If you’re trying to identify any of your four grandparents, females are sometimes more challenging than males.

Why?

Women don’t have a Y chromosome to test. This can be a double handicap. Female testers can’t test a Y chromosome, and maternal ancestors don’t have a Y chromosome to match.

Of course, every circumstance differs. You may not have a male to test for paternal lines either.

The maternal grandfather can be uniquely challenging, because two types of DNA, Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA matching are immediately eliminated for all testers.

While I’ve focused on the maternal grandfather in this example, these techniques can be utilized for all four grandparents as well as for parents. At the end, I’ll review other grandparent relationships and additional tools you might be able to utilize for each one.

In addition to autosomal DNA, we can also utilize mitochondrial DNA, Y-DNA and sometimes X DNA in certain situations.

Testing, Tests and Vendors

As you recall, only men have a Y chromosome (blue arrow), so only genetic males can take a Y-DNA test. Men pass their Y chromosome from father to son in each generation. Daughters don’t receive a Y chromosome.

Everyone has their mother’s mitochondrial DNA (pink arrow.) Women pass their mitochondrial DNA to both sexes of their children, but only females pass it on. In the current generation, represented by the son and daughter, above, the mother’s yellow heart-shaped mitochondrial DNA is inherited by both sexes of her children. In the current generation, males and females can both test for their mother’s mitochondrial DNA.

Of course, everyone has autosomal DNA, inherited from all of their ancestral lines through at least the 5th or 6th generation, and often further back in time. Autosomal DNA is divided in half in each generation, as children inherit half of each parents’ autosomal DNA (with the exception of the X chromosome, which males only inherit from their mother.)

The four major vendors, Ancestry, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage sell autosomal DNA tests, but only FamilyTreeDNA sells Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA tests.

Only 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA report X matching.

All vendors except Ancestry provide segment location information along with a chromosome browser.

You can read about the vendor’s strengths and weaknesses in the third article, here.

Ordering Y and Mitochondrial DNA Tests

If you’re seeking the identities of grandparents, the children and parents, above, can test for the following types of DNA in addition to autosomal:

Person in Pedigree Y-DNA Mitochondrial
Son His father’s blue star His mother’s pink heart
Daughter None Her mother’s pink heart
Father His father’s blue star His mother’s gold heart
Mother None Her mother’s pink heart

Note that none of the people shown above in the direct pedigree line carry the Y-DNA of the green maternal grandfather. However, if the mother has a full sibling, the green “Male Child,” he will carry the Y-DNA of the maternal grandfather. Just be sure the mother and her brother are full siblings, because otherwise, the brother’s Y-DNA may not have been inherited from your mother’s father. I wrote about full vs half sibling determination, here.

Let’s view this from a slightly different perspective. For each grandparent in the tree, which of the two testers, son or daughter, if either, carry that ancestor’s DNA of the types listed in the columns.

Ancestor in Tree Y-DNA Mitochondrial DNA Autosomal DNA X DNA
Paternal Grandfather Son Neither Son, daughter Neither
Paternal Grandmother Has no Y chromosome None (father has it, doesn’t pass it on to son or daughter) Son, daughter Daughter (son does not receive father’s X chromosome)
Maternal Grandfather Neither Neither Son, daughter Son, daughter (potentially)
Maternal Grandmother Has no Y chromosome Son, daughter Son, daughter Son, daughter (potentially)

Obtaining the Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA of those grandparents from their descendants will provide hints and may be instrumental in identifying the grandparent.

FamilyTreeDNA

You’ll need to order Y-DNA (males only) and mitochondrial DNA tests separately from autosomal DNA tests. They are three completely different tests.

At FamilyTreeDNA, the autosomal DNA test is called Family Finder to differentiate it from their Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA tests.

Their autosomal test is called Family Finder whether you order a test from FamilyTreeDNA, or upload your results to their site from another vendor (instructions here.)

I recommend ordering the Big Y-700 Y-DNA test if possible, and if not, the highest resolution Y-DNA test you can afford. The Big Y-700 is the most refined Y-DNA test available, includes multiple tools and places Big Y-700 testers on the Time Tree through the Discover tool, providing relatively precise estimates of when those men shared a common ancestor. If you’ve already purchased a lower-precision Y-DNA test at FamilyTreeDNA, you can easily upgrade.

I wrote about using the Discover tool here. The recently added Group Time Tree draws a genetic Y-DNA tree of Big-Y testers in common projects, showing earliest known ancestors and the date of the most recent common ancestor.

You need to make sure your Family Finder, mitochondrial DNA and Y-DNA (if you’re a male) tests are ordered from the same account at FamilyTreeDNA.

You want all 3 of your tests on the same account (called a kit number) so that you can use the advanced search features that display people who match you on combinations of multiple kinds of tests. For example, if you’re a male, do your Y-DNA matches also match you on the autosomal Family Finder test, and if so, how closely? Advanced matching also provides X matching tools.

X DNA is included in autosomal tests. X DNA has a distinct matching pattern for males and females which makes it uniquely useful for genealogy. I wrote about X DNA matching here.

If you upload your autosomal results to FamilyTreeDNA from another company, you’re only uploading a raw DNA file, not the DNA itself, so FamilyTreeDNA will need to send you a swab kit to test your Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA. If you upload your autosomal DNA, simply sign in to your kit, purchase the Y-DNA and/or mitochondrial DNA tests and they will send you a swab kit.

If you test directly at FamilyTreeDNA, you can add any test easily by simply signing in and placing an order. They will use your archived DNA from your swab sample, as long as there’s enough left and it’s of sufficient quality.

Fish In All Ponds

The first important thing to do in your grandparent search is to be sure you’re fishing in all ponds. In other words, be sure you’ve tested at all 4 vendors, or uploaded files to FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage.

When you upload files to those vendors, be sure to purchase the unlock for their advanced tools, because you’re going to utilize everything possible.

If you have relatively close matches at other vendors, ask if they will upload their files too. The upload is free. Not only will they receive additional matches, and another set of ethnicity results, their results will help you by associating your matches with specific sides of your family.

Why Order Multiple Tests Now Instead of Waiting?

I encourage testers to order their tests at the beginning of their journey, not one at a time. Each new test from a vendor takes about 6-8 weeks from the time you initially order – they send the test, you swab or spit, return it, and they process your DNA. Of course, uploading takes far less time.

If you’re adding elapsed time, two autosomal tests (Ancestry and 23andMe), two uploads (FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage,) a Y-DNA and a mitochondrial DNA test, if all purchased serially, one after the other, means you’ll be waiting about 6-8 months.

Do you want to wait 6-8 months? Can you afford to?

Part of that answer has to do with what, exactly, you’re seeking.

A Name or Information?

Are you seeking the name of a person, or are you seeking information about that person? With grandparents, you may be hoping to meet them, and time may be of the essence. Time delayed may not be able to be recovered or regained.

Most people don’t just want to put a name to the person they are seeking – they want to learn about them. You will have different matches at each company. Even after you identify the person you seek, the people you match at each company may have information about them, their photos, know about their life, family, and their ancestors. They may be able and willing to facilitate an introduction if that’s what you seek.

One cousin that I assisted discovered that his father had died just 6 weeks before he made the connection. He was heartsick.

Having data from all vendors simultaneously will allow you to compile that data and work with it together as well as separately. Using your “best” matches at each company, augmented by both Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA can make MUCH shorter work of this search.

Your Y-DNA, if you’re a male will give you insights into your surname line, and the Big-Y test now comes with estimates of how far in the past you share a common ancestor with other men that have taken the Big-Y test. This can be a HUGE boon to a male trying to figure out his surname line.

Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA, respectively, will eliminate many people from being your mother or father, or your direct paternal or direct maternal line ancestor. Both provide insights into which population and where that population originated as well. In other words, it provides you lineage-specific information not available elsewhere.

Your Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA can also provide critically important information about whether that direct line ancestor belonged to an endogamous population, and where they came from.

Strategies

You may be tempted to think that you only need to test at one vendor, or at the vendor with the largest database, but that’s not necessarily true.

Here’s a table of my closest matches at the 4 vendors.

Vendor Closest Maternal Closest Paternal Comments
Ancestry 1C, 1C1R Half 1C, 2C I recognized both of the maternal and neither of the paternal.
23andMe 2C, 2C 1C1R, half-gr-niece Recognized both maternal, one paternal
MyHeritage Mother uploaded, 1C Half-niece, half 1C Recognized both maternal, one paternal
FamilyTreeDNA Mother tested, 1C1R Parent/child, half-gr-niece Recognized all 4

To be clear, I tested my mother at FamilyTreeDNA before she passed away, but if I was an adoptee searching for my mother, that’s the first database she would be in. As her family, we were able to order the Family Finder test from her archived DNA after she had passed away. I then uploaded her DNA file to MyHeritage, but she’ll never be at either 23andMe or Ancestry because they don’t accept uploads and she clearly can’t test.

Additionally, being able to identify maternal matches by viewing shared matches with my mother separates out close matches from my paternal side.

Let’s put this another way, I stand a MUCH BETTER chance of unraveling this mystery with the combined closest matches of all 4 databases instead of the top ones from just one database.

I’m providing analysis methodologies for working with results from all of the vendors together, in case your answer is not immediately obvious. Taking multiple tests facilitates using all of these tools immediately, not months later. Solving the puzzle sooner means you may not miss valuable connection opportunities.

You may also discover that the door slams shut with some people, but another match may be unbelievably helpful. Don’t unnecessarily limit your possibilities.

Here’s the testing and upload strategy I recommend.

What When Ancestry 23andMe MyHeritage FamilyTreeDNA GEDmatch
Order autosomal test Initially Yes Yes Upload Upload Upload
Order Big-Y DNA test if male Initially Yes
Order mitochondrial DNA test Initially Yes
Upload free autosomal file From Ancestry or 23andMe Yes Yes Yes
Unlock Advanced Tools When upload file $29 $19 $9.95 month
Includes X Matching No Yes No Yes Yes
Chromosome Browser, segment location information No Yes Yes Yes Yes

When you upload a DNA file to a vendor site, only upload one file per site, per tester. Otherwise, multiple tests simply glom up everyone’s match list with multiple matches to the same person and can be very confusing.

  • One person took an autosomal test at a company that accepts uploads, forgot about it, uploaded a file from another vendor later, and immediately thought she had found her parent. She had not. She “found” herself.
  • Another person though she had found two sisters, but one person had uploaded their own file from two different vendors.

Multiple vendor sites reveal multiple close matches to different people which increase your opportunity to discover INFORMATION about your family, not just the identity of the person.

Match Ranges

Given that we are searching for an unknown maternal grandfather, your mother may not have had any (known) full siblings. The “best” match would be to a full or half siblings to your parents, or their descendants, depending on how old your grandparents would be.

Let’s take the “worst case” scenario, meaning there are no full siblings AND there are many possible generations between you and the people you may match.

Now, let’s look at DNAPainter’s Shared cM tool.

You’re going to be looking for someone who is either your mother’s half sibling on her father’s side, or who is a full sibling.

If your mother is adopted, it’s possible that she has or had full siblings. If your mother was born circa 1920, it’s likely that you will be matching the next generation, or two, or three.

However, if your mother was born later, you could be matching her siblings directly.

I’m going to assume half siblings for this example, because they are more difficult than full siblings.

Full sibling relationships for your mother’s siblings are listed at right. Your full aunt or uncle at top, then their descendant generations below.

At left, in red, are the half-sibling relationships and the matching amounts.

You can see that if you’re dealing with half 1C3R (half first cousin three times removed,) you may not match.

Therefore, in order to isolate matches, it’s imperative to test every relevant relative possible.

Who’s Relevant for DNA Testing?

Who is relevant to test If you’re attempting to identify your maternal grandfather?

The goal is to be able to assign matches to the most refined ancestor possible. In other words, if you can assign someone to either your grandmother’s line, or your grandfather’s line, that’s better than assigning the person to your grandparents jointly.

Always utilize the tests of the people furthest up the tree, meaning the oldest generations. Their DNA is less-diluted, meaning it has been divided fewer times. Think about who is living and might be willing to test.

You need to be able to divide your matches between your parents, and then between your grandparents on your mother’s side.

  • Test your parents, of course, and any of their known siblings, half or full.
  • If those siblings have passed away, test as many of their children as you can.
  • If any of your grandparents are living, test them
  • If BOTH of your grandparents on the same side aren’t available to test, test any, preferably all, living aunts or uncles.
  • If your maternal grandmother had siblings, test them or their descendants if they are deceased.
  • If your parents are deceased, test your aunts, uncles, full siblings and half-siblings on your mother’s side. (Personally, I’d test all half-siblings, not just maternal.)
  • Half-siblings are particularly valuable because there is no question which “side” your shared DNA came from. They will match people you don’t because they received part of your parent’s DNA that you did not.

Furthermore, shared matches to half-siblings unquestionably identify which parent those matches are through.

Essentially, you’re trying to account for all matches that can be assigned to your grandparents whose identities you know – leaving only people who descend from your unknown maternal grandfather.

Testing your own descendants will not aid your quest. There is no need to test them for this purpose, given that they received half of your DNA.

I wrote about why testing close relatives is important in the article Superpower: Your Aunts’ and Uncles’ DNA is Your DNA Too – Maximize Those Matches!

Create or Upload a Tree

Three of the four major vendors, plus GEDMatch, support and utilize family trees.

You’ll want to either upload or create a tree at each of the vendor sites.

You can either upload a GEDCOM file from your home computer genealogy software, or you can create a tree at one of the vendors, download it, and upload to the others. I described that process at Ancestry, here.

Goal

Your goal is to work with your highest matches first to determine how they are related to you, thereby eliminating matches to known lineages.

Assuming you’re only searching for the identity of one grandparent, it’s beneficial to have done enough of your genealogy on your three known grandparents to be able to assign matches from those lines to those sides.

Step 1 is to check each vendor for close matches that might fall into that category.

The Top 15 at Each Vendor

Your closest several autosomal matches are the most important and insightful. I begin with the top 15 autosomal results at each vendor, initially, which provides me with the best chance of meaningful close relationship discoveries.

Create a Spreadsheet or Chart

I hate to use that S word (spreadsheet), because I don’t want non-technical people to be discouraged. So, I’m going to show you how I set up a spreadsheet and you can simply create a chart or even draw this out on paper if you wish.

I’ve color-coded columns for each of my 4 grandparents. The green column is the target Maternal Grandfather whose identity I’m seeking.

I match our first example; Erik, at 417 cM. Based on various pieces of information, taken together, I’ve determined that I’m Erik’s half 1C1R. His 8 great-grandparent surnames, or the ones he has provided, indicate that I’m related to Eric on my paternal grandfather’s line.

You’ll want to record your closest matches in this fashion.

Let’s look at how to find this information and work with the tools at the individual vendors.

23andMe

Let’s start at 23andMe, because they create a potential genetic tree for you, which may or may not be accurate.

I have two separate tests at 23andMe. One is a V3 and one is a V4 test. I keep one in its pristine state, and I work with the second one. You’ll see two of “me” in the tree, and that’s why.

23andMe makes it easy to see estimated relationships, although they are not always correct. Generally, they are close, and they can be quite valuable.

Click on any image to enlarge

The maternal and paternal “sides” may not be positioned where genealogists are used to seeing them. Remember, 23andMe has no genealogy trees, so they are attempting to construct a genetic tree based on how people are related to you and to each other, with no prior knowledge. They do sometimes have issues with half-relationships, so I’d encourage you to use this tree to isolate people to the three grandparents you know.

In my case, I was able to determine the maternal and paternal sides easily based on known cousins. This is the perfect example of why it’s important to test known relatives from both sides of your family.

My paternal side, at right, in blue, was easy because I recognized my half-sister’s family, and because of known cousins who I recognized from having tested elsewhere. I’ve worked with them for years. The blue stars show people I could identify, mostly second cousins.

My maternal side is at left, in red. Normally, for genealogists, the maternal side is at right, and the paternal at left, so don’t make assumptions, and don’t let this positioning throw you.

I’m pretending I don’t know who my maternal grandfather is. I was able to identify my maternal grandmother’s side based on a known second cousin.

That leaves my target – my maternal grandfather’s line.

All of the matches to the left of the red circle would, by process of elimination, be on my maternal grandfather’s side.

The next step would be to figure out how the 5 people descending from my maternal grandfather’s line are related to each other – through which of their ancestors.

On the DNA Relatives match list, here’s what needs to be checked:

  • Do your matches share surnames with you or your ancestors?
  • Do they show surnames in common with each other?
  • Is there a common location?
  • Birth year which helps you understand their potential generation.
  • Did they list their grandparents’ birthplaces?
  • Did they provide a family tree link?
  • Do they also match each other using the Relatives in Common feature?
  • Do they triangulate, indicated by “DNA Overlap” in Relatives in Common?
  • Who else is on the Relatives in Common list, and what do they have in common with each other?
  • Looking at your Ancestry Composition compared with theirs, what are your shared populations, and are they relevant? If you are both 100% European, then shared populations aren’t useful, but if both people share the same minority ancestry, especially on the same segments, it may indeed be relevant – especially if it can’t be accounted for on the known sides of the family.

Reach out to these people and see what they know about their genealogy, if they have tested elsewhere, and if they have a genealogy tree someplace that you can view.

If they can tell you their grandparents’ names, birth and death dates and locations, you can check public sources like WikiTree, FamilySearch and Geni, or build trees for them. You can also use Newspaper resources, like Newspapers.com, NewspaperArchive and the newspapers at MyHeritage.

I added the top 15 23andMe matches into the spreadsheet I created.

You’ll notice that not many people at 23andMe enter surnames. However, if you can identify individuals from your 3 known lines, you can piggyback the rest by using Relatives in Common in conjunction with the genetic tree placement.

Be sure to check all the people that are connected to the target line in your genetic tree.

You’ll want to harvest your DNA segments to paint at DNAPainter if you don’t solve this mystery with initial reviews at each vendor.

Ancestry

Let’s move to Ancestry next.

At Ancestry, you’ll want to start with your closest matches on your match list.

Ancestry classifies “Close Matches” as anyone 200 cM or greater, which probably won’t reach as far down as the matches we’ll want to include.

Some of the categories in the Shared cM Chart from DNAPainter, above, don’t work based on ages, so I’ve eliminated those. I also know, for example, that someone who could fall in the grandparent/grandchild category (blue star,) in my case, does not, so must be a different relationship.

Second cousins, who share great-grandparents, can be expected to share about 229 cM of DNA on average, or between 41 and 592 cM. First cousins share 866 cM, and half first cousins share 449 cM on average.

I have 13 close matches (over 200 cM), but I’m including my top 15 at each vendor, so I added two more. You can always go back and add more matches if necessary. Just keep in mind that the smaller the match, the greater the probability that it came from increasingly distant generations before your grandparents. Your sweet spot to identify grandparents is between 1C and 2C.

I need to divide my close matches into 4 groups, each one equating to a grandparent. Record this on your spreadsheet.

You can group your matches at Ancestry using colored dots, which means you can sort by those groups.

You can also select a “side” for a match by clicking on “Yes” under the question, “Do you recognize them?”

Initially, you want to determine if this person is related to you on your mother’s or father side, and hopefully, through which grandparent.

Recently, Ancestry added a feature called SideView which allows testers to indicate, based on ethnicity, which side is “parent 1” and which side is “parent 2.” I wrote about that, here.

Make your selection, assuming you can tell which “side” of you descends from which parent based on ethnicity and/or shared matches. How you label “parent 1,” meaning either maternal or paternal, determines how Ancestry assigns your matches, when possible.

Using these tools, which may not be completely accurate, plus shared matches with people you can identify, divide your matches among your three known grandparents, meaning that the people you cannot assign will be placed in the fourth “unknown” column.

On my spreadsheet, I assign all of my closest matches to one of my grandparents. Michael is my first cousin (1C) and we share both maternal grandparents, so he’s not helpful in the division because he can’t be assigned to only one grandparent.

The green maternal grandfather is who I’m attempting to identify.

There are 4 people, highlighted in yellow, who don’t fall into the other three grandparent lines, so they get added to the green column and will be my focus.

I would be inclined to continue adding matches using a process known as the Leeds Method, until I had several people in each category. Looking back at the DNAPainter cM chart, at this point, we don’t have anyone below 200 cM and the matches we need might be below that threshold. The more matches you have to work with, the better.

At Ancestry, you cannot download your matches into a spreadsheet, nor can you work with other clustering tools such as Genetic Affairs, so you’ll have to build out your spreadsheet manually.

Check for the same types of information that I reviewed at 23andMe:

  • Review trees, if your matches have them, minimally recording the surnames of their 8 great-grandparents.
  • Review shared matches, looking for common names in the trees in recent generations.
  • View shared matches with people with whom you have a “Common Ancestor” indication, which means a ThruLine. You won’t have Thrulines with your target grandparent, of course, but Thrulines will allow you to place the match in one of the other columns. I wrote about ThruLines here, here and here.
  • ThruLines sometimes suggests ancestors based on other people’s trees, so be EXCEEDINGLY careful with potential ancestor suggestions. That’s not to say you should discount those suggestions. Just treat them as tree hints that may have been copy/pasted hundreds of times, because that’s what they are.

I make notes on each match so I can easily see the connection by scanning without opening the match.

Now, I have a total of 30 entries on my spreadsheet, 15 from 23and Me and 15 from Ancestry.

Why Not Use Autosclusters?

Even with vendors who allow or provide cluster tools, I don’t use an automated autocluster tool at this point. Autocluster tools often omit your closest matches because your closest matches would be in nearly half of all your clusters, which isn’t exactly informative. However, for this purpose, those are the very matches we need to evaluate.

After identifying groups of people that represent the missing grandparent, using our spreadsheet methodology, autoclusters could be useful to identify common surnames and even to compare the trees of our matches using AutoTree, AutoPedigree and AutoKinship. AutoClusters cannot be utilized at Ancestry, but is available through MyHeritage and at GEDmatch, or through Genetic Affairs for 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA.

Next, let’s move to FamilyTreeDNA.

FamilyTreeDNA

FamilyTreeDNA is the only vendor that provides Family Matching, also known as “bucketing.” FamilyTreeDNA assigns your matches to either a paternal or maternal bucket, or both, based on triangulated matches with someone you’ve linked to a profile in your tree.

The key to Family Matching is to link known Family Finder matches to their profile cards in your tree.

Clicking on the Family Tree link at the top of your personal page allows you to link your matches to the profile cards of your matches.

FamilyTreeDNA utilizes these linked matches to assign those people, and matches who match you and those people, both, on at least one common segment, to the maternal or paternal tabs on your match list.

Always link as many known people as possible (red stars) which will result in more matches being bucketed and assigned to parents’ sides for you, even if neither parent is available to test.

I wrote about Triangulation in Action at FamilyTreeDNA, here.

You can see at the top of my match list that I have a total of 8000 matches of which 3422 are paternal, 1517 are maternal and 3 match on both sides. Full siblings, their (and my) children and their descendants will always match on both sides. People with endogamy across both parents may have several matches on both sides.

If your relevant parent has tested, always work from their test.

Because we are searching for the maternal grandfather, in this case, we can ignore all tests that are bucketed as paternal matches.

Given that we are searching for my maternal grandfather, I probably have not been able to link as many maternal matches, other than possibly ones from my maternal grandmother. This means that the maternal grandfather’s matches are not bucketed because there are no identified matches to link on that side of my tree.

If you sort by maternal and paternal tabs, you’ll miss people who aren’t bucketed, meaning they have no maternal or paternal icon, so I recommend simply scanning down the list and processing maternal matches and non-bucketed matches.

By being able to confidently ignore paternally bucketed matches and only processing maternal and non-assigned matches, this is equivalent to processing the first 48 total matches. If I were to only look at the first 15 matches, 12 were paternal and only 3 are maternal.

Using bucketing at FamilyTreeDNA is very efficient and saves a lot of work.

Omitting paternal matches also means we are including smaller matches which could potentially be from common ancestors further back in the tree. Or, they could be younger testers. Or simply smaller by the randomness of recombination.

FamilyTreeDNA is a goldmine, with 16 of 20 maternal matches being from the unknown maternal grandfather.

Next, let’s see what’s waiting at MyHeritage.

MyHeritage

MyHeritage is particularly useful if your lineage happens to be from Europe. Of course, if you’re searching for an unknown person, you probably have no idea where they or their ancestors are from. Two of my best matches first appeared at MyHeritage.

Of course, your matches with people who descend from your unknown maternal grandfather won’t have any Theories of Family Relativity, as that tool is based on BOTH a DNA match plus a tree or document match. However, Theories is wonderful to group your matches to your other three grandparents.

MyHeritage provides a great deal of information for each match, including common surnames with your tree. If you recognize the surnames (and shared matches) as paternal or maternal, then you can assign the match. However, the matches you’re most interested in are the highest matches without any surnames in common with you – which likely point to the missing maternal grandfather.

However, those people may, and probably do, have surnames in common with each other.

Of the matches who aren’t attributed to the other three grandparents, the name Ferverda arises again and again. So does Miller, which suggests the grandparent or great-grandparent couple may well be Ferverda/Miller.

Let’s continue working through the process with our spreadsheet and see what we can discover about those surnames.

Our 60 Results

Of the 60 total results, 15 from each vendor, a total of 24 cannot be assigned to other columns through bucketing or shared matches, so are associated with the maternal grandfather. Of course, Michael who descends from both of my maternal grandparents won’t be helpful initially.

Cheryl, Donald and Michael are duplicates at different vendors, but the rest are not.

Of the relevant matches, the majority, 12 are from FamilyTreeDNA, four each are from Ancestry and MyHeritage, and three are from 23andMe.

Of the names provided in the surname fields of matches, in matches’ trees in the first few generations, and the testers’ surnames, Ferverda is repeated 12 times, for 50% of the time. Miller is repeated 9 times, so it’s likely that either of those are the missing grandfather’s surname. Of course, if we had Y-DNA, we’d know the answer to that immediately.

Comparing trees of my matches, we find John Ferverda as the common ancestor between two different matches. John is the son of Hiram Ferverda and Eva Miller who are found in several trees.

That’s a great hint. But is this the breakthrough I need?

What’s Next?

The next step is to look for connections between the maternal grandmother, Edith Lore, who is known in our example, and a Ferverda male. He is probably one of the sons of Hiram Ferverda and Eva Miller. Do they lived in the same area? In close proximity? Do they attend the same church or school? Are they neighbors or live close to the family or some of their relatives? Does she have connections with Ferverda family members? We are narrowing in.

Some of Hiram and Eva’s sons might be able to be eliminated based on age or other factors, or at least be less likely candidates. Any of their children who had moved out of state when the child was conceived would be less likely candidates. Age would be a factor, as would opportunity.

Target testing of the Ferverda sons’ children, or the descendants of their children would (probably) be able to pinpoint which of their sons is more closely related to me (or my mother) than the rest.

In our case, indeed, John Ferverda is the son we are searching for and his descendant, Michael is the highest match on the list. Cheryl and Donald descend from John’s brother, which eliminates him as a candidate. Another tester descends from a third Ferverda son, which eliminates that son as well.

Michael, my actual first cousin with a 755 cM match at one vendor, and 822 cM at a second vendor, is shown by the MyHeritage cM Explainer with an 88% probability that he is my first cousin.

However, when I’m trying to identify the maternal grandfather, which is half of that couple, I need to focus one generation further back in time to eliminate other candidates.

The second and third closest matches are both Donald at 395 cM and Cheryl at 467 cM who also share the same Ferverda/Miller lineage and are the children of my maternal grandfather’s brother.

On the spreadsheet, I need to look at the trees of people who have both Ferverda and Miller, which brought me to both Cheryl and Donald, then Michael, which allowed me to identify John Ferverda, unquestionably, as my grandfather based on the cM match amounts.

Cheryl and Donald, who are confirmed full siblings, and my mother either have to be first cousins, or half siblings. Their match with mother is NOT in the half-sibling range for one sibling, and on the lower edge with the other. Mother also matches Michael as a nephew, not more distantly as she would if he were a first cousin once removed (1C1R) instead of a nephew.

Evaluating these matches combined confirms that my maternal grandfather is indeed John Ferverda.

What About X DNA?

The X chromosome has a unique inheritance path which is sometimes helpful in this circumstance, especially to males.

Women inherit an X chromosome from both parents, but males inherit an X chromosome from ONLY their mother. A male inherits a Y chromosome from his father which is what makes him male. Women inherit two X chromosomes, one from each parent, and no Y, which is what makes them female.

Therefore, if you are a male and are struggling with which side of your tree matches are associated with, the X chromosome may be of help.

Your mother passed her X chromosome to you, which could be:

  • Her entire maternal X, meaning your maternal grandmother’s X chromosome
  • Her entire paternal X, meaning your maternal grandfather’s X chromosome (which descends from his mother)
  • Some combination of your maternal grandmother and maternal grandfather’s chromosomes

One thing we know positively is that a male’s X matches are ALWAYS from their maternal side only, so that should help when dividing a male’s matches maternally or paternally. Note – be aware of potential pedigree collapse, endogamy and identical-by-chance matches if it looks like a male has a X match on his father’s side.

Unfortunately, the X chromosome cannot assist females in the same way, because females inherit an X from both parents. Therefore, they can match people in the same was as a male, but also in additional ways.

  • Females will match their paternal grandmother on her entire X chromosome, and will match one or both of their maternal grandparents on the X chromosome.
  • Females will NEVER match their paternal grandfather’s X chromosome because their father did not inherit an X chromosome from his father.
  • Males will match one or both of their maternal grandparents on their X chromosome.
  • Males will NEVER match their paternal grandparents, because males do not receive an X chromosome from their father.

The usefulness of X DNA matching depends on the inheritance path of both the tester AND their match.

When Can Y-DNA or Mitochondrial DNA Help with Grandparent Identification?

If you recall, I selected the maternal grandfather as the person to seek because no tester carries either the Y-DNA or mitochondrial DNA of their maternal grandfather. In other words, this was the most difficult identification, meaning that any of the other three grandparents would be, or at least could be, easier with the benefit of Y-DNA and/or mitochondrial DNA testing.

In addition to matching, both Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA will provide testers with location origins, both continental and often much more specific locations based on where other testers and matches are from.

Y-DNA often provides a surname.

Let’s see how these tests, matches and results can assist us.

  • Paternal grandfather – If I was a male descended from John Ferverda paternally, I could have tested both my autosomal DNA PLUS my Y-DNA, which would have immediately revealed the Ferverda surname via Y-DNA. Two Ferverda men are shown in the Ferverda surname DNA project, above.

That revelation would have confirmed the Ferverda surname when combined with the high frequency of Ferverda found among autosomal matches on the spreadsheet.

  • Maternal grandmother – If we were searching for a maternal grandmother, both the male and female sibling testers (as shown in the pedigree chart) would have her mitochondrial DNA which could provide matches to relevant descendants. Mitochondrial DNA at both FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe could also eliminate anyone who does not match on a common haplogroup, when comparing 23andMe results to 23andMe results, and FamilyTreeDNA to FamilyTreeDNA results at the same level.

At 23andMe, only base level haplogroups are provided, but they are enough to rule out a direct matrilineal line ancestor.

At FamilyTreeDNA, the earlier HVR1 and HVR2 tests provide base level haplogroups, while full sequence testing provides granular, specific haplogroups. Full sequence is the recommended testing level.

  • Paternal grandmother – If we were searching for a paternal grandmother, testers would, of course, need either their father to test his mitochondrial DNA, or for one of his siblings to test which could be used in the same way as described for maternal grandmother matching.

Summary

Successfully identifying a grandparent is dependent on many factors. Before you make that identification, it’s very difficult to know which are more or less important.

For example, if the grandparent is from a part of the world with few testers, you will have far fewer matches, potentially, than other lines from more highly tested regions. In my case, two of my four grandparents’ families, including Ferverda, immigrated in the 1850s, so they had fewer matches than families that have been producing large families in the US for generations.

Endogamy may be a factor.

Family size in past and current generations may be a factor.

Simple luck may be a factor.

Therefore, it’s always wise to test your DNA, and that of your parents and close relatives if possible, and upload to all of the autosomal databases. Then construct an analysis plan based on:

  • How you descend from the grandparent in question, meaning do you carry their X DNA, Y-DNA or mitochondrial DNA.
  • Who else is available to test their autosomal DNA to assist with shared matches and the process of elimination.
  • Who else is available to test for Y-DNA and/or mitochondrial DNA of the ancestor in question.

If you don’t find the answer initially, schedule a revisit of your matches periodically and update your spreadsheet. Sometimes DNA and genealogy is a waiting same.

Just remember, luck always favors the prepared!

Resources

You may find the following resource articles beneficial in addition to the links provided throughout this article.

_____________________________________________________________

Follow DNAexplain on Facebook, here or follow me on Twitter, here.

Share the Love!

You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

You Can Help Keep This Blog Free

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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research

X Chromosome Master Class

The X chromosome can be especially useful to genetic genealogists because it has a unique inheritance path. Thanks to that characteristic, some of the work of identifying your common ancestor is done just by simply HAVING an X match.

Unfortunately, X-DNA and X matching is both underutilized and somewhat misunderstood – in part because not all vendors utilize the X chromosome for matching.

The X chromosome has the capability of reaching further back in time and breaking down brick walls that might fall no other way.

Hopefully, you will read this article, follow along with your own DNA results and make important discoveries.

Let’s get started!

Who Uses the X Chromosome?

The X chromosome is autosomal in nature, meaning it recombines under some circumstances, but you only inherit your X chromosome from certain ancestors.

It’s important to understand why, and how to utilize the X chromosome for matching. In this article, I’ve presented this information in a variety of ways, including case studies, because people learn differently.

Of the four major testing vendors, only two provide X-DNA match results.

  • FamilyTreeDNA – provides X chromosome results and advanced matching capabilities including filtered X matching
  • 23andMe – provides X chromosome results, but not filtered X matching without downloading your results in spreadsheet format
  • Ancestry and MyHeritage do not provide X-DNA results but do include the X in your raw DNA file so you can upload to vendors who do provide X matching
  • GEDmatch – not a DNA testing vendor but a third-party matching database that provides X matching in addition to other tools

It’s worth noting at this point that X-DNA and mitochondrial DNA is not the same thing. I wrote about that, here. The source of this confusion is that the X chromosome and mitochondrial DNA are both associated in some way with descent from females – but they are very different and so is their inheritance path.

So, what is X-DNA and how does it work?

What is X-DNA?

Everyone inherits two copies of each of chromosomes 1-22, one copy of each chromosome from each of your parents.

That’s why DNA matching works and each match can be identified as “maternal” or “paternal,” depending on how your match is related to you. Each valid match (excluding identical by chance matches) will be related either maternally, or paternally, or sometimes, both.

Your 23rd chromosome is your sex determination chromosome and is inherited differently. Chromosome 23 is comprised of X and Y DNA.

Everyone inherits one copy of chromosome 23 from each parent.

  • Males inherit a Y chromosome from their father, which is what makes males male. They do not inherit an X chromosome from their father.
  • Males always inherit an X chromosome from their mother.
  • Females inherit an X chromosome from both parents, which is what makes them female. Females have two X chromosomes, and no Y chromosome.
Chromosome 23 Father Contributes Mother Contributes
Male Child Y chromosome X chromosome
Female Child X chromosome X chromosome

X-DNA and mitochondrial DNA are often confused, but they are not the same thing. In fact, they are completely different.

Mitochondrial DNA, in BOTH males and females is always inherited from only the mother and only descends from the direct matrilineal line, so only the mother’s mother’s mother’s direct line. X DNA can be inherited from a number of ancestors based on a specific inheritance path.

Everyone has both X-DNA AND mitochondrial DNA.

Because males don’t inherit an X chromosome from their father, X chromosome matching has a unique and specific pattern of descent which allows testers who match to immediately eliminate some potential common ancestors.

  • Males only inherit an X chromosome from their mother, which means they can only have legitimate X matches on their mother’s side of their tree.
  • Females, on the other hand, inherit an X chromosome from both their mother and father. Their father only has one X chromosome to contribute, so his daughter receives her paternal grandmother’s X chromosome intact.
  • Both males and females inherit their mother’s X chromosome just like any of the other 22 autosomes. I wrote about chromosomes, here.

However, the unique X chromosome inheritance path provides us with a fourth very useful type of DNA for genealogy, in addition to Y-DNA, mitochondrial and autosomal DNA.

For the vendors who provide X-matching, it’s included with your autosomal test and does not need to be purchased separately.

The Unique X Chromosome

The X chromosome, even though it is autosomal in nature, meaning it does recombine and divide in certain circumstances, is really its own distinct tool that is not equivalent to autosomal matching in the way we’re accustomed. We just need to learn about the message it’s delivering and how to interpret X matches.

FamilyTreeDNA is one of two vendors who utilizes X chromosome matching, along with 23andMe, which is another good reason to encourage your matches at other vendors to upload their DNA file to FamilyTreeDNA for free matching.

The four major vendors do include X-DNA results in their raw DNA download file, even if they don’t provide X-matching themselves. This means you can upload the results to either FamilyTreeDNA or GEDmatch where you can obtain X matches. I provided step-by-step download/upload instructions for each vendor here.

Let’s look how X matching is both different, and beneficial.

My X Chromosome Family Tree

We are going to build a simple case study. A case study truly is worth 1000 descriptions.

This fan chart of my family tree colorizes the X chromosome inheritance path. In this chart, males are colored blue and females pink, but the salient point is that I can inherit some portion of (or all of) a copy of my X chromosome from the colorized ancestors, and only those ancestors.

Because males don’t inherit an X chromosome from their father, they CANNOT inherit any portion of an X chromosome from their father’s ancestors.

Looking at my father’s half of the chart, at left, you see that I inherited an X chromosome from both of my parents, but my father only inherited an X chromosome from his mother, Ollie Bolton. His father’s portion of the tree is uncolored, so no X chromosome could have descended from his paternal ancestors to him. Therefore he could not pass any X chromosome segments to me from his paternal side – because he doesn’t have X DNA from his father.

Hence, I didn’t inherit an X chromosome from any of the people whose positions in the chart are uncolored, meaning I can only inherit an X chromosome from the pink or blue people.

Essentially any generational male to male, meaning father/son relationship is an X-DNA blocker.

I know positively that I inherited my paternal grandmother, Ollie Bolton’s entire X chromosome, because hers is the only X chromosome my father, in the fan chart above, had to give me. His entire paternal side of the fan chart is uncolored.

Men only ever inherit their X chromosome from their mother. The only exception to this is if a male has the rare genetic condition of Klinefelter Syndrome, also known as XXY. If you are an adult male, it’s likely that you’ll already know if you have Klinefelters, so that’s probably the last possibility you should consider if you appear to have paternal X matches, not the first.

Sometimes, men appear to have X matches on their father’s side, but (barring Klinefelter’s) this is impossible. Those matches must either be identical by chance, or somehow related in an unknown way on their mother’s side.

Everyone inherits an X chromosome from their mother that is some combination of the X from her father and mother. It’s possible to inherit all of your maternal grandmother or maternal grandfather’s X chromosome, meaning they did not recombine during meiosis.

Using DNA Painter as an X Tool

I use DNAPainter to track my matches and correlate segments with ancestors.

I paint my DNA segments for all my chromosomes at DNAPainter which provides me with a central tracking mechanism that is visual in nature and allows me to combine matches from multiple vendors who provide segment information. I provide step-by-step instructions for using DNAPainter, here.

This is my maternal X chromosome with my matches painted. I’ve omitted my matches’ names for privacy.

On the left side of the shaded grey column, those matches are from my maternal grandmother’s ancestors. On the right side, those matches are from my maternal grandfather’s ancestors.

The person in the grey column descends from unknown ancestors. In other words, I can tell that they descend from my maternal line, but I can’t (yet) determine through which of my two maternal grandparents.

There’s also an area to the right of the grey column where there are no matches painted, so I don’t know yet whether I inherited this portion of my X chromosome from my maternal grandmother or maternal grandfather.

The small darker pink columnar band is simply marking the centromere of the chromosome and does not concern us for this discussion.

Click on any image to enlarge

In this summary view of my paternal X chromosome, above, it appears that I may well have inherited my entire X chromosome from my paternal great-grandmother. We know, based on our inheritance rules that I clearly received my paternal grandmother’s X chromosome, because that’s all my father had to give me.

However, by painting my matches based on their ancestors, and selecting the summary view, you can see that most of my paternal X chromosome can be accounted for, with the exception of rather small regions with the red arrows.

It’s not terribly unusual for either a male or female to inherit their entire maternal X chromosome from one grandparent, or in this case, great-grandparent.

Of course, a male doesn’t inherit an X chromosome from their father, but a female can inherit her paternal X chromosome from either or both paternal grandparents.

Does Size Matter?

Generally speaking, an X match needs to be larger than a match on the other chromosomes to be considered genealogically equivalent in the same timeframe as other autosomal matches. This is due to:

  • The unique inheritance pattern, meaning fewer recombination events occurred.
  • The fact that X-DNA is NOT inherited from several lines.
  • The X chromosome has lower SNP density, meaning it contains fewer SNPs, so there are fewer possible locations to match when compared to the other chromosomes.

I know this equivalency requirement sounds negative, but it’s actually not. It means 7 cM (centimorgans) of DNA on the X chromosome will reach back further in time, so you may carry the DNA of an ancestor on the X chromosome that you no longer carry on other chromosomes. It may also mean that older segments remain larger. It’s actually a golden opportunity.

It sounds much more positive to say that a 16 cM X match for a female, or a 13 cM X match for a male is about the same as a 7 cM match for any other autosomal match in the same generation.

Of course, if the 7 cM match gets divided in the following generation, it has slipped below the matching threshold. If a 16 or 13 cM X match gets divided, it’s still a match. Plus, in some generations, if passed from father to daughter, it’s not divided or recombined. So a 7 cM X match may well be descended from ancestors further back in time.

X Chromosome Differences are Important!

Working with our great-great grandparent’s generation, we have 16 direct ancestors as illustrated in the earlier fan chart.

Given that females inherit from 8 X-chromosome ancestors in total, they are going to inherit an average of 45.25 cM of X-DNA from each of those ancestors. Females have two X chromosomes for a total length of 362 cM of X-DNA from both parents.

A male only has one X chromosome, 181 cM in length, so he will receive an average of 36.2 cM from each of 5 ancestors, and it’s all from his mother’s side.

In this chart, I’ve shown the total number of cMs for all of the autosomes, meaning chromosomes 1-22 and, separately, the X for males and females.

  • The average total cM for chromosomes 1-22 individually is 304 cM. (Yes, each chromosome is a different length, but that doesn’t matter for averages.)
  • That 304 cM can be inherited from any of 16 ancestors (in your great-grandparent’s generation)
  • The total number of cM on the X chromosomes for both parents for females totals 362
  • The total cM of X-DNA for males is 181 cM
  • The calculated average cM inherited for the X chromosome in the same generation is significantly different, shown in the bottom row.

The actual average for males and females for any ancestor on any random non-X chromosome (in the gg-grandparent generation) is still 19 cM. Due to the inheritance pattern of the X chromosome, the female X-chromosome average inheritance is 45.25 cM and the male average is 36.2 cM, significantly higher than the average of 19 cM that genetic genealogists have come to expect at this relationship distance on the other chromosomes, combined.

How Do I Interpret an X Match?

It’s important to remember when looking at X matching that you’re only looking at the amount of DNA from one chromosome. When you’re looking at any other matching amount, you’re looking at a total match across all chromosomes, as reported by that vendor. Vendors report total matching DNA differently.

  • The total amount of matching autosomal DNA does not include the X chromosome cMs at FamilyTreeDNA. X-DNA matching cMs are reported separately.
  • The total amount of matching autosomal DNA does include the X chromosome cMs in the total cM match at 23andMe
  • X-DNA is not used for matching or included in the match amount at either MyHeritage or Ancestry, but is included in the raw DNA data download files for all four vendors.
  • The total match amount shows the total for 22 (or 23) chromosomes, NOT just the X chromosome(s). That’s not apples to apples.

Therefore, an X match of 45 cM for a female or 36 for a male is NOT (necessarily) equivalent to a 19 cM non-X match. That 19 cM is the total for 22 chromosomes, while the X match amount is just for one chromosome.

You might consider a 20 cM match on the regular autosomes significant, but a 20 cM X-only match *could* be only roughly equivalent to a 10ish cM match on chromosomes 1-22 in the same generation. That’s the dog-leg inheritance pattern at work.

This is why FamilyTreeDNA does not report an X-only match if there is no other autosomal match. A 19 cM X match is not equivalent to a 19cM match on chromosomes 1-22. Not to mention, calculating relationships based on cM ranges becomes more difficult when the X is included.

However, the flip side is that because of the inheritance pattern of the X chromosome, that 19 cM match, if valid and not IBC, may well reach significantly further back in time than a regular autosomal matches. This can be particularly important for people seeking either Native or enslaved African ancestors for whom traditional records are elusive if they exist at all.

Critical Take-Away Messages

Here are the critical take-away messages:

  1. Because there are fewer ancestral lineages contributing to the tester’s X chromosome, the amount of X chromosomal DNA that a tester inherits from the ancestors who contribute to their X chromosome is increased substantially.
  2. The DNA of the contributing ancestors is more likely to be inherited, because there are fewer other possible contributing ancestors, meaning fewer recombination events or DNA divisions/recombinations.
  3. X-DNA is also more likely to be inherited because when passed from mother to son, it’s passed intact and not admixed with the DNA of the father.
  4. X matches cannot be compared equally to either percentages or cM amounts on any of the other chromosomes, or autosomal DNA in total, because X matching only reports the amount on one single chromosome, while your total cM match amount reports the amount of DNA that matches from all chromosomes (which includes the X at 23andMe).
  5. If you have X matches at 23andMe and/or FamilyTreeDNA, you can expect your total matching to be higher at 23andMe because they include the X matching cM in the total amount of shared DNA. FamilyTreeDNA provides the amount of X matching DNA separately, but not included in the total. MyHeritage and Ancestry do not include X matching DNA.

For clarity, at FamilyTreeDNA, you can see my shared DNA match with my mother. Of course, I match her on the total length of all my chromosomes, which is 3563 cM, the total Shared DNA for chromosomes 1-22. This includes all chromosomes except for the X chromosome which is reported separately at 181 cM. The longest contiguous block of shared DNA is 284 cM, the entire length of chromosome 1, the longest chromosome.

Because I’m a female, I match both parents on the full length of all 23 chromosomes, including 181 cM on both X chromosomes, respectively. Males will only match their mother on their X chromosome, meaning their total autosomal DNA match to their father, because the X is excluded, is 181 cM less than to their mother.

This difference in the amount of shared DNA with each parent, plus the differences in how DNA totals are reported by various vendors is also challenging for tools like DNAPainter’s Shared cM Tool which is based on the crowd sourced Shared cM Project that averages shared DNA numbers for known relationships at various vendors and translates those numbers into possible relationships for unknown matches.

Not all vendors report their total amount of shared DNA the same way. This is true for both X-DNA and half identical (HIR) versus fully identical (FIR) segments at 23andMe. This isn’t to say either approach is right or wrong, just to alert you to the differences.

Said Another Way

Let’s look at this another way.

If the average on any individual chromosome is 19 cMs for a relationship that’s 5 generations back in time. The average X-DNA for the same distance relationship is substantially more, which means that:

  • The X-DNA probably reaches further back in time than an equivalent relationship on any other autosome.
  • The X-DNA will have (probably) divided fewer times, and more DNA will descend from individual ancestors.
  • The inheritance path, meaning potential ancestors who contributed the X chromosomal DNA, is reduced significantly.

It’s challenging to draw equivalences when comparing X-DNA matching to the other chromosomes due to several variables that make interpretation difficult.

Based on the X-match size in comparison to the expected 19 cM single chromosome match at this genealogical distance, what is the comparable X-DNA segment size to the minimum 7 cM size generally accepted as valid on other chromosomes? What would be equal to a 7 cM segment on any other single random autosomal match, even though we know the inheritance probabilities are different and this isn’t apples to apples? Let’s pretend that it is.

This calculation presumes at the great-great-grandparent level that the 19 cM is in one single segment on a single chromosome. Now let’s divide 19 cM by 7 cM, which is 2.7, then divide the X amounts by the same number for the 7 cM equivalent of 16.75 cM for a female and 13.4 cM for a male.

When people say that you need a “larger X match to be equivalent to a regular autosomal match,” this is the phenomenon being referenced. Clearly a 7 cM X match is less relevant, meaning not equivalent, in the same generation as a 7 cM regular autosomal match.

Still, X matching compared to match amounts shown on the other chromosomes is never exact;u apples to apples because:

  • You’re comparing one X chromosome to the combined DNA amounts of many chromosomes.
  • The limited recombination path.
  • DNA from the other autosomes is less likely to be inherited from a specific ancestor.
  • The X chromosome has a lower SNP density than the other chromosomes, meaning fewer SNPs per cM.
  • The X-DNA may well reach further back in time because it has been divided less frequently.

Bottom Line

The X chromosome is different and holds clues that the other autosomes can’t provide.

Don’t dismiss X matches even if you can’t identify a common ancestor. Given the inheritance path, and the reduced number of divisions, your X-DNA may descend from an ancestor further back in time. I certainly would NOT dismiss X matches with smaller cMs than the 13 and 16 shown above, even though they are considered “equivalent” in the same generation.

X chromosome matching can’t really be equated to matching on the other chromosomes. They are two distinct tools, so they can’t be interpreted identically.

Different vendors treat the X chromosome differently, making comparison challenging.

  • 23andMe includes not only the X chromosome in their cM total, but doubles the Fully Identical Regions (FIR) when people, such as full siblings, share the same DNA from both parents. I wrote about that here.
  • Ancestry does not include the X in their cM match calculations.
  • Neither does MyHeritage.
  • FamilyTreeDNA shows an X match only when it’s accompanied by a match on another chromosome.

The Shared cM Project provides an average of all of the data input by crowdsourcing from all vendors, by relationship, which means that the cM values for some relationships are elevated when compared to the same relationship or even same match were it to be reported from a different vendor.

The Best Part!

The X chromosome inheritance pattern means that you’re much more likely to carry some amount of a contributing ancestor’s X-DNA than on any other chromosome.

  • X-DNA may well be “older” because it’s not nearly as likely to be divided, given that there are fewer opportunities for recombination.
  • When you’re tracking your X-DNA back in your tree, whenever you hit a male, you get an automatic “bump” back a generation to his mother. It’s like the free bingo X-DNA square!
  • You can immediately eliminate many ancestors as your most recent common ancestor (MRCA) with an X-DNA match.
  • Because X-DNA reaches further back in time, sometimes you match people who descend from common ancestors further back in time as well.

If you match someone on multiple segments, if one of those matching segments is X-DNA, that segment is more likely to descend from a different ancestor than the segments on chromosomes 1-22. I’ve found many instances where an X match descends from a different ancestor than matching DNA segments on the autosomes. Always evaluate X matches carefully.

Sometimes X-DNA is exactly what you need to solve a mystery.

Ok, now let’s step through how to use X-DNA in a real-life example.

Using X DNA to Solve a Mystery

Let’s say that I have a 30 cM X match with a male.

  • I know immediately that our most recent common ancestor (MRCA) is on HIS mother’s side.
  • I know, based on my fan chart, which ancestral lines are eliminated in my tree. I’ve immediately narrowed the ancestors from 16 to 5 on his side and 16 to 8 on my side.
  • Two matching males is even easier, because you know immediately that the common ancestor must be on both of their mother’s sides, with only 5 candidate lines each at the great-great-grandparent generation.

Female to female matches are slightly more complex, but there are still several immediately eliminated lines each. That means you’ve already eliminated roughly half of the possible relationships by matching another female on their X chromosome.

In this match with a female second cousin, I was able to identify who she was via our common ancestor based on the X chromosome path. In this chart, I’m showing the relevant halves of her chart at left (paternal), and mine (maternal), side by side.

I added blockers on her chart and mine too.

As it turns out, we both inherited most of our X chromosome from our great-grandparents, marked above with the black stars.

Several lines are blocked, and my grandfather’s X chromosome is not a possibility because the common ancestor is my maternal grandmother’s parents. My grandfather is not one of her ancestors.

Having identified this match as my closest relative (other than my mother) to descend on my mother’s maternal side, I was able to map that portion of my X chromosome to my great-grandparents Nora Kirsch and Curtis Benjamin Lore.

My X Chromosome at DNA Painter

Here’s my maternal X chromosome at DNAPainter and how I utilized chromosome painting to push the identification of the ancestors whose X chromosome I inherited back an additional two generations.

Using that initial X chromosome match with my second cousin, shown by the arrow at bottom of the graphic, I mapped a large segment of my maternal X chromosome to my maternal great-grandparents.

By viewing the trees of subsequent X maternal matches, I was then able to push those common segments, shown painted directly above that match with the same color, back another two generations, to Joseph Hill, born in 1790, and Nabby Hall. I was able to do that based on the fact that other matches descend from Joseph and Nabby through different children, meaning we all triangulate on that common segment. I wrote about triangulation at DNAPainter, here.

I received no known X-DNA from my great-grandmother, Nora Kirsch, although a small portion of my X chromosome is still unassigned in yellow as “Uncertain.”

I received a small portion of my maternal X chromosome, in magenta, at left, from my maternal great-great-grandparents, John David Miller and Margaret Lentz.

The X chromosome is a powerful tool and can reach far back in time.

In some cases, the X, and other chromosomes can be inherited intact from one grandparent. I could have inherited my mother’s entire copy of her mother’s, or her father’s X chromosome based on random recombination, or not. As it turns out, I didn’t, and I know that because I’ve mapped my chromosomes to identify my ancestors based on common ancestors with my matches.

X-DNA Advanced Matches at FamilyTreeDNA

At FamilyTreeDNA, the Advanced Matches tab includes the ability to search for X matches, either within the entire database, or within specific projects. I find the project selection to be particularly useful.

For example, within the Claxton project, my father’s maternal grandmother’s line, I recognize my match, Joy, which provides me an important clue as to the possible common ancestor(s) of our shared segments.

Joy’s tree shows that her 4-times great-grandparents are my 3-times great-grandparents, meaning we are 4th cousins once removed and share 17 cM of DNA on our X chromosome across two segments.

Don’t be deceived by the physical appearance of “size” on your chromosomes. The first segment that spans the centromere, or “waist” of the chromosome, above, is 10.29 cM, and the smaller segment at right is 7.02 cM. SNPs are not necessarily evenly distributed along chromosomes.

Remember, an X or other autosomal match doesn’t necessarily mean the entire match is contained in one segment so long as it’s large enough to be divided in two parts and survive the match threshold.

It’s worth noting that Joy and I actually share at least two different, unrelated ancestral lines, so I need to look at Joy’s blocked lines to see if one of those common ancestral lines is not a possibility for our X match. It’s important to evaluate all possible ancestors, plus the inheritance path to eliminate any lineage that involves a father to son inheritance on the X chromosome.

Last but not least, you may match on your X chromosome through a different ancestor than on other chromosomes. Every matching segment has its own individual history. It’s not safe to assume.

Now, take a look at your X chromosome matches at FamilyTreeDNA, 23andMe, and GedMatch. What will you discover?

_____________________________________________________________

Follow DNAexplain on Facebook, here or follow me on Twitter, here.

Share the Love!

You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

You Can Help Keep This Blog Free

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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research

Beethoven’s DNA Reveals Surprises – Does Your DNA Match?

Beethoven’s DNA has been sequenced from a lock of his hair. That, alone, is amazing news – but that’s just the beginning!

The scientific paper was released this week, and the news media is awash with the unexpected surprises that Beethoven’s DNA has revealed for us. Better yet, his DNA is in the FamilyTreeDNA database and you just might match. Are you related to Beethoven?

His Y-DNA, mitochondrial DNA and autosomal DNA have been recovered and are available for matching.

You can check your autosomal results if you’ve taken a Family Finder test, or you can upload your DNA file from either AncestryDNA, 23andMe or MyHeritage to find out if you match Beethoven. Here are the download/upload instructions for each company.

But first, let’s talk about this amazing sequence of events (pardon the pun) and scientific discoveries!

Beethoven’s Genome is Sequenced

Everyone knows the famous, genius composer, Ludwig van Beethoven. He was born in 1770 in Bonn on the banks of the Rhine River and died in 1827 in Vienna. You can listen to a snippet of his music, here.

We are all about to know him even better.

Yesterday, amid much media fanfare and a press release, the genome and related findings about Beethoven were released by a team of renowned scientists in a collaborative effort. Research partners include the University of Cambridge, the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies, the American Beethoven Society, KU Leuven, the University Hospital Bonn, the University of Bonn, the Beethoven-Haus Bonn, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and  FamilyTreeDNA. I want to congratulate all of these amazing scientists for brilliant work.

Beethoven’s Hair Revelations

In the past, we were unable to retrieve viable DNA from hair, but advances have changed that in certain settings. If you’re eyeing grandma’s hair wreath – the answer is “not yet” for consumer testing. Just continue to protect and preserve your family heirlooms as described in this article.

Thankfully, Beethoven participated in the Victorian custom of giving locks of hair as mementos. Eight different locks of hair attributed to Beethoven were analyzed, with five being deemed authentic and one inconclusive. Those locks provided enough DNA to obtain a great deal of different types of information.

Beethoven’s whole genome was sequenced to a 24X coverage level, meaning the researchers were able to obtain 24 good reads of his DNA, providing a high level of confidence in the accuracy of the sequencing results.

What Was Discovered?

Perhaps the most interesting discovery, at least to genealogists, is that someplace in Beethoven’s direct paternal lineage, meaning his Y-DNA, a non-paternal event (NPE) occurred. The paper’s primary authors referred to this as an “extra-pair-paternity event” but I’ve never heard that term before.

Based on testing of other family members, that event occurred sometime between roughly 1572 and Ludwig’s conception in 1770. The reported lack of a baptismal record had already raised red flags with researchers relative to Beethoven’s paternity, but there is nothing to suggest where in the five generations prior to Ludwig von Beethoven that genetic break occurred. Perhaps testing additional people in the future will provide more specificity.

We also discovered that Beethoven was genetically predisposed to liver disease. He was plagued with jaundice and other liver-related issues for much of his later life.

Beethoven, prior to his death, left a handwritten directive asking his physicians to describe and publicize his health issues which included progressive hearing loss to the point of deafness, persistent gastrointestinal problems and severe liver issues that eventually resulted in his death. Cirrhosis of the liver was widely believed to be his cause of death.

In addition, DNA in the hair revealed that Beethoven had contracted Hepatitis B, which also affects the liver.

The combination of genetic predisposition to liver disease, Hepatitis B and heavy alcohol use probably sealed his fate.

Additional health issues that Beethoven experienced are described in the paper, published in Current Biology.

It’s quite interesting that during this analysis the team devised a method to use triangulated segments that they mapped to various geographic locations, as illustrated above in a graphic from the paper. Fascinating work!!!

As a partner in this research, Cambridge University created a beautiful website, including a video which you can watch, here.

Beethoven’s Later Years

This portrait of Beethoven was painted in 1820 just 7 years before his death, at 56 years of age. By this time, he had been completely deaf for several years, had stopped performing and appearing in public. Ironically, he still continued to compose, but was horribly frustrated and discouraged, even contemplating suicide. I can’t even fathom the depths of despair for a person with his musical genius to become deaf, slowly, like slow torture.

His personal life didn’t fare much better. In 1812, he wrote this impassioned love letter to his “Immortal Beloved” whose identity has never been revealed, if it was ever known by anyone other than Beethoven himself. The letter was never sent, which is why we have it today.

FamilyTreeDNA

FamilyTreeDNA, one of the research partners published a blog article, here.

The FamilyTreeDNA research team not only probed Beethoven’s genealogy, they tested people whose DNA should have matched, but as it turns out, did not.

Beethoven’s mitochondrial DNA haplogroup is H1b1+16,362C, plus a private mutation at C16,176T. Perhaps in the future, Beethoven’s additional private mutation will become a new haplogroup if other members of this haplogroup have it as well. If you have tested your mitochondrial DNA, check and see if Beethoven is on your match list. If you haven’t tested, now’s a great time.

According to the academic paper, Beethoven’s Y-DNA haplogroup is I-Z139, but when viewing Figure 5 in the paper, here, I noticed that Beethoven’s detailed haplogroup is given as I-FT396000, which you can see in the Discover project, here.

Viewing the Time Tree and the Suggested Projects, I noticed that there are four men with that haplogroup, some of whom are from Germany.

The ancestor’s surnames of the I-FT396000 men, as provided in public projects include:

  • Pitzschke (from Germany)
  • Hartmann (from Germany)
  • Stayler
  • Schauer (from Germany)

If your Y-DNA matches Beethoven at any level, you might want to upgrade if you haven’t taken the Big Y-700 test. It would be very interesting to see when and where your most recent common ancestor with Beethoven lived. You just never known – if you match Beethoven, your known ancestry might help unravel the mystery of Beethoven’s unknown paternal lineage.

Beethoven’s DNA is in the FamilyTreeDNA database for matching, including Y-DNA mitochondrial and autosomal results, so you just might match. Take a look! A surprise just might be waiting for you.

_____________________________________________________________

Follow DNAexplain on Facebook, here or follow me on Twitter, here.

Share the Love!

You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

You Can Help Keep This Blog Free

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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research

Who is Peter Johnson’s Ancestor – Peter Jochimsson (Yocum) or Mathias Jönsson alias Hutt? Or Neither? – 52 Ancestors #391

Peter Johnson (c1720-1790) is making me crazy. To refresh your memory, Peter’s early life, including his parents, are shrouded in mystery. I wrote about him here and here. My ancestor is Dorcas Johnson who married Jacob Dobkins. I strongly believe Dorcas to be Peter Johnson’s daughter, for a myriad of reasons, supported by evidence of various types, including paper-trail and genetic, but I’m still seeking that elusive nail in the coffin – pardon the pun. I wrote about Dorcas here and here.

I’m comfortable with assigning Peter Johnson as Dorcas’s father, although I’d love just one conclusive piece of proof. However, Peter’s parents are another matter entirely and one very tough nut.

I’ve been digging like a dog with a bone, and so far, I’ve unearthed conflicting evidence. So now I have two bones and no idea which one is accurate. Wasn’t counting on that – but it sure makes for an interesting article!

I did, however, discover an absolutely WONDERFUL book in Salt Lake City recently. My husband scanned the entire book for me. Let’s start with the 1693 Census of the Swedes on the Delaware.

1693 Census of the Swedes on the Delaware

According to the 1693 Census of the Swedes on the Delaware authored in 1993 and published by Peter Stebbins Craig, J.D., between 1637 and 1655, Sweden equipped thirteen passenger voyages for the South Delaware River, with about 800 prospective settlers. Eleven ships with 600 passengers actually arrived.

The first ship deposited 24 men at Fort Christina, now Wilmington, Delaware. The second and third expeditions brought families. In 1644, Sweden and Denmark were at war, so immigration was suspended until 1647.

In 1651, the Dutch erected a fortified town and fort Casimir at present day New Castle, and the Swedes were disgusted. Several returned to Sweden and others left for neighboring Maryland.

In 1653, 22 Swedes presented a petition to the Swedish Governor Johan Printz, complaining of his aristocratic rule. One Peeter Jochim and one Claes Johansson were among the petitioners. The descendants of Claes, according to Peter Craig, use the Johnson surname in Pennsylvania, and Classon in Delaware and Maryland. Nothing confusing here!

Printz accused the petitioners of mutiny and returned in a huff to Sweden, but a new governor was soon dispatched, along with more settlers. Sailing into the Delaware River, the new Governor, Johan Rising, demanded that the Dutch Fort Casimir surrender – which it did because it had no gunpowder.

The Dutch at Fort Trinity (Fort Casimir, now New Castle) returned north to New Netherlands, but more Swedes moved to Maryland. You can read about Fort Trinity/Fort Casimir archaeology excavations, here.

Craig estimates that about 300 people, including wives and children, remained in New Sweden in 1655 when the Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant sailed up the Delaware with 7 armed ships and 317 soldiers. The 50 Swedish solders were divided between two fortresses. Both Fort Trinity and Fort Christina (now Wilmington) surrendered on September 15, 1655. You can see a reconstructed Swedish village, here.

At this point, a few Swedes returned to the old country, but most remained, influenced strongly by Peter Stuyvesant’s conciliatory attitude. In a surprise move, he offered to return the colony to Governor Rising, but would retain Fort Casimir (New Castle). Governor Rising declined and left, but Stuyvesant made the same offer to the remaining settlers, offering them the opportunity to govern themselves by a court of their own choosing, continue their religion, have their own militia, continue trading with the Indians and retain their land. In return, they had to pledge loyalty to New Netherlands and Stuyvesant reserved the right to approve their officers. That seemed like a pretty good deal, all things considered, so the Swedes accepted, although they remained stubbornly independent.

Another voyage was already underway though, and in March of 1656, an additional 106 people arrived from the province of Varmland, Sweden, sailing out of Gothenburg.

The new “Swedish Nation” was formed in August 1656, with two courts. One was “Upland,” north of New Castle, and the other functioned on the other side of the Cristina River. The Delaware River was the highway and transportation was primarily by dugout canoe, exactly like the Native people. Hunting was achieved using Native paths. Some farming was undertaken, but mostly, only enough to feed families.

By 1680, life was changing for the Swedish families along the Delaware and many Englishmen were settling in the region. In 1681, William Penn received his charter for Pennsylvania, quickly followed by 23 ships from England carrying his Quaker followers. The three “lower counties” of Pennsylvania were present-day Delaware. By 1682, no longer holding a majority, the Swedish courts were no longer in session.

Penn was very complimentary of the Swedes, said they were welcoming and helpful to the English, got along very well with the Native people, and “strong of body…they have fine children, and almost every house full; rare to find one of them without 3 or 4 boys and as many girls; some six, seven and eight sons.”

By this time, given that 40+ years had elapsed since the first Swedes settled in New Sweden, the third generation was beginning – grandchildren of those original settlers were being born.

One of their English neighbors described the Swedes as ingenious, speaking English, Swedish, Finnish, Dutch and Indian. He described their efficiency, stating that one man could cut down a tree, two would quickly rend the tree into planks using only an ax and wooden wedges. No iron. The women spun linen and wove it into clothe and then made clothes. Swedish families ate rye instead of white bread.

The Swedes introduced log cabins to the colony – structures that would sustain pioneers on the ever-westward-moving frontiers for centuries to come.

The Nothnagle cabin,above, in Gibbstown, NJ, built in 1638 (attached to a 1738 structure) is reputed to be the oldest house in New Jersey.

The cabin is a few miles downstream from present-day Philadelphia, across the river from Tinicum Island, about four miles northeast of Raccoon Creek. This is important because it tell us where Swedes were living at the early date.

After William Penn obtained his charter, he cultivated the friendship of the Swedes to help his English settlers. Among others, Peter Petersson Yocum served as an interpreter, assisting Penn when purchasing land from the Indians.

Unfortunately, the Swedes had already purchased this land, as attested to by depositions from 7 “Antient Swedes” stating that they had purchased and occupied that land since 1638. Eventually, the Swedes provided Penn with the land that would become Philadelphia.

Given that Finland was part of Sweden at this time, no differentiation was made between Swedes and Finns, and both were included. Craig says that if the term Finns was used, it was specifically referring to people who spoke primarily Finnish. People who spoke primarily Swedish were not called Finns. Spelling was not standardized, but neither was it for English. This seems to be a politically challenging time in Scandinavia and results in confusion when looking back and trying to unravel New Sweden’s settlers. Additionally, patronymics, followed by the gradual adoption of surnames make both history and genealogy exceedingly difficult.

In 1693, a “census” of the Swedes was taken, thankfully, and appended to a letter. In 1693, the Swedes were still living below the fall line. In later years, they would settle in tracts granted to them by Penn in Upper Merions Township in Montgomery County, PA and Manatawny, present day Amity Township in Berks County.

Some Swedes settled at Sahakitko, a trading center for the Susquehanna (Minquas) Indians located at the head of the Elk River, now Elkton, Maryland. These traders traveled extensively, hunting, trapping, moving among and trading with various Indian tribes.

Peter Craig spent his retirement visiting these locations, along with archives and universities in Sweden and Finland, ferreting out information about these families. To him, we owe a massive debt of gratitude, because without his work we would be left with only shreds to try to reweave back into a piece of whole cloth. I’ll spare you the details about the mistakes with early 1693 census publications, but suffice it to say that Craig located and reassembled the information. The order of recording is important as well and provided information about where the families lived. The area was called “New Sweden in Pennsylvania on the Delaware River” and in 1693, the number of people in each household was recorded.

By 1693, not everyone was Swedish or Finnish. Dutch, English and German immigrants had intermarried with the Swedish colonists. Conversely, some of the Swedes were found in Maryland and no longer associated with the Swedish churches. Both of the Swedish churches were without pastors and had requested replacements. A 1697 list of parishioners includes people not listed in 1693 and a population estimate of about 1200.

The total 1693 census was 972 individuals, and within the Swedes community, our Peter Johnson’s ancestor is found – someplace.

Peter Craig listed the Swedes along with the number of souls shown in the census, but due to the changing nature of patronymics, it’s very difficult, without additional information to move further than this.

Thankfully, in the remainder of the book, Craig fleshed out each family, as best he could based on documents retrieved from many locations.

By now, you’re probably wondering why I’ve provided all this background.

Peter Johnson (c1720-1790)

I wrote about “my” Peter Johnson, here and here. We know some things, unquestionably, about Peter Johnson (c1720-1790.)

There is absolutely NO question that Peter Johnson’s descendants are related to the descendants of BOTH Jacob Dobkins who married Dorcas (Darkus) Johnson and Evan Dobkins who married Margaret Johnson.

Three distinct types of genetic evidence come into play.

Genetic Evidence

The mitochondrial DNA descendants of both Dorcas Johnson and Margaret Johnson match each other, confirming that they indeed descend from a common maternal ancestor. Mitochondrial DNA can’t prove actual parentage, but it can certainly rule it out. An exact match is strong evidence. Multiple pieces of evidence point to Darcus/Dorcas and Margaret being sisters. I wrote about this family and their challenges, here.

Even stronger evidence would be to find a mitochondrial DNA descendant of Peter Johnson’s wife, reportedly Mary Polly Philips, through another daughter, descending through all females to the current generation which can be male or female. If the descendant of Mary’s other daughter through all females to the current generation, which can be male, matches both Dorcas and Margaret’s descendants’ mitochondrial DNA, we’ve added another very important piece of evidence that Dorcas and Margaret are daughters of Peter Johnson and his wife. I’m offering a fully paid DNA testing scholarship for a qualifying person.

Using autosomal DNA, descendants of Peter Johnson through multiple other children match dozens of people descended from both Dobkins/Johnson couples.

Click to enlarge

Here’s one example using Ancestry’s ThruLines. How could I match descendants of six of Peter’s other children if I wasn’t descended through Peter or his ancestral line? By ancestral line, I mean that this same phenomenon could happen if I was descended from, say, Peter’s sibling.

Let’s look at another example from the perspective of someone descended from one of Peter Johnson’s other children.

Click to enlarge

This confirmed descendant of Peter Johnson through son James matches several descendants through Peter’s other children, plus 4 through Dorcas Johnson and Jacob Dobkins, plus 21 through Margaret Johnson and Evan Dobkins. How could this person who is descended through Peter’s son James match 25 people descended through Dorcas and Margaret who married the Dobkins boys if Dorcas and Margaret weren’t Peter’s daughters or blood relatives?

Jacob Dobkins and Evan Dobkins are confirmed brothers through John Dobkins and wife Elizabeth, and Dorcas Johnson and Margaret Johnson are believed to be sisters. The Bible of Peter Johnson’s son, Solomon, records two of his sisters marrying Dobkins men. It’s important to note that this record comes from descendants of Peter, through another branch of Peter Johnson’s family, and not from descendants of those two Dobkins/Johnson couples.

A third piece of genetic evidence is the Y-DNA of Peter Johnson.

Several men who descend from Peter and other Johnson males have tested and match each other, including three Big Y-700 testers.

I’ve spent an incredible amount of time recently evaluating Y-DNA and autosomal DNA matches, from tests taken by both Johnson and Yokum testers, or similarly spelled surnames. Some men have completely different Y-DNA, but claim to descend from the same lines. Clearly, we have conflicting evidence to resolve.

Another piece of information of which I’m confident is that our Peter Johnson’s ancestors were indeed Swedish, and I agree with Eric and other Johnson researchers who believe Peter descended from one of the founders of the early Swedish Colony along the Delaware River in the 1600s. Now you know exactly why I’ve shared this information from Peter Craig’s book.

Before we review additional DNA information, I’d like to continue with information about both the Johnson and Yocum lines, extracted from Peter’s comprehensive book. I’ve provided map locations which will aid with locations and proximity.

Peter Petersson Yocum

Page 25-26: Peter Yocum was a member of the Wicaco church when on the last day of May in 1693, 26 members of the Swedish congregation gathered at the log church to sign the letter to Sweden requesting new ministers.

The church faced the Delaware River at the present location of Gloria Dei (Old Swedes) Church in Philadelphia and had originally been built in 1677 to serve the Swedes living above the Schuylkill River, with the 1646 church at Tinicum Island continuing to serve members located between the Schuylkill and Marcus Hook.

When Tinicum Island passed out of Swedish ownership in 1683, the church at Tinicum was abandoned. By 1693, the Wicaco congregation embraced 102 Swedish households extending from Neshaminy Creek in Bucks County to Marcus Hook, on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware, and from Pennsauken Creek in Burlington County to the southern boundary of Gloucester County (Oldmans Creek) on the New Jersey side of the river.

Identification of the 554 Swedish church members living within this area is facilitated by the fact that in 1697 the new Wicaco minister, Andreas Rudman, made a house-by-house enumeration of his congregation, which was later copied and preserved. This chapter focused on the first 37 Wicaco households listed in the 1693 census. The household’s location is shown as evidenced by contemporary land records. Additionally, the value or size of each property is shown in pounds or acres as reported in contemporary tax records.

Page 43, person #35* – Peter Petersson Yocum (Aronameck, 100 pounds): Peter was born in New Sweden about 1652. His father, a soldier named Peter Jochimsson from Schlesvig in Holsstein, had arrived in New Sweden on the Swan in 1643 and became a freeman on November 1, 1652. He was one of the 22 freemen signing the 1653 complaint against Governor Printz. In the summer of 1654, Governor Rising chose him to go to New Amsterdam (now Manhattan in New York City) on a diplomatic and spying mission to deliver a letter. Peter Jochimsson died there. Thereafter, his widow, aged 20 with 2 children at his death, known in 1693 as Ella Steelman, (#54), married Hans Mansson who raised Peter Petersson as his own son. Peter Petersson who adopted the surname Jochim (Yocum) about 1675 married Judith, daughter of Jonas Nilsson (322), and had seven children by May of 1693: Peter born 1677, Mans born 1678, Catharine born 1681, Charles born 1682, Sven born 1685, Julia born 1687, and Jonas born in 1689. Peter Petersson Yocum who had been prominent as an Indian trader and as an Indian interpreter for William Penn died in 1702. His widow thereafter moved with her younger sons to Manatawny (Berks County) where she died in 1727. Their descendants used the surname of Yocum or Yocom.

Craig provides the following footnote: Subsequent children: Anders (Craig’s ancestor) born 1693, John born 1696 and Maria. For additional references to Peter’s father, Peter Jochimson, see Huygen, 63, MGB 23, 78; Rising 93, 107, 111, 112, 163, 165, 183, 195. Peter Jochimsson also had a daughter, Elisabeth born about 1654 who married an English soldier, John Ogle. Yocum, 270, n24; Stille, 147-149.

*Please note that Craig’s numbers, such as #35, reference their position on the 1693 census. Peter is recorded as “Petter Yocomb – 9” meaning 9 people in the family as of that date.

Mathias Hutt Jönsson

Raccoon Creek is about two miles north of Oldmans Creek, shown at the top of the map below.

Mathias Jönsson alias Hutt, living someplace on or near Salem Creek in New Jersey (upper red arrow,) fell under the Crane Hook Congregation across the river on the Pennsylvania side in what is now Wilmington.

Click to enlarge

His son, Oliver, and possibly other sons would eventually live in the Indian trading village of Sahakitko at Head of Elk, now Elkton, Maryland.

Craig tells us that the migration of families from New Castle County across the Delaware River to Penn’s Neck in Salem County began in 1671. By the time of the 1693 census, the Crane Hook Church counted 130 members living on “the other side” of the Delaware.

Penn’s Neck was bounded by the Delaware River on the west and extended from Oldmans Creek on the north to Salem Creek on the south. The eastern boundary was also Salem Creek to its northern bend, then extending overland northeast to Oldman’s Creek. It derived its name from the fact that William Penn, proprietor of Pennsylvania, also acquired proprietorship of this area in 1683 from its first English claimant, John Fenwick. The church census identifies the households in Penn’s Neck beginning at its northernmost settlement.

Page 104, footnote 58 on Olle Thomasson #113 – partially reads: On August 25, 1685, “Wooley Thomason of Pennsylvania” (which then included Delaware,) and Wooley Peterson of Boughttown (#80) were named co-administrators of the estate of “Matthias Unson” of Salem Creek in Penn’s Neck. NJA, 23:474. The deceased whose full name was Matthias Jönsson alias Hutt, directed that his son Michael should live with Wooley Thompson. Salem Co. wills, 2:16-17, NJA 23:474; 1730 accounting by William Peterson, surviving executor, Salem County probate records 503Q, NJA, 23:263-64.

This next portion loops in another Jönsson family and is confusing. I apologize in advance.

The Jönsson or Halton Family – The probable progenitor of the Halton family was Jons Jönsson, a Finn from Letstigen, Varmland, who was listed in October 1655 as about to go to New Sweden on the Mercurius with his wife and 6 children. Later records disclose the presence of Olle, Peter and Mans Jönsson whose patronymic was later replaced by Halton. Along with Nils Larsson France (see #85), Olle Rawson (#135) and their associated, Olle Jönsson (also known as “Carringa Olle”) was licensed by the New Jersey governor in 1668 to buy Indian lands on the east side of the Delaware River. The subsequent purchase agreement, executed Nov. 15, 1676, conveyed the lands to Hans Hoffman and Peter Jönsson. In 1684, Peter Jönsson moved to Penn’s Neck, Salen County, dying in 1692. He called himself Peter Halton in his will, naming his wife as Mary and his children as Frederick, Andrew and Brita.

Page 79 #78 – Lasse Halton (Raccoon Creek, 100 acres): Born about 1668, Lasse Halton was the eldest son of Olle Jönsson (“Carringa Olle”) and in 1693 was probably residing with his brother Hans and Carl Halton. Lasse later married a daughter of Matthias Jönsson of Penn’s Neck. The names of their children, if any, are uncertain. He moved to Piles Grove, Salem County, around 1707, after selling his Raccoon Creek Plantation to his brother Hans.

The 100 acres occupied by Lasse Halton was taxed to his mother, “Madlen Janson” in 1687. Her name was replaced with his on the 1690 and 1694 tax lists.

The final accounting of the estate of Matthias Jönsson, filed in 1730, showed a payment to Lausy Halton for his wife’s filial portion NJA, 21:263-264. He had picked out his grave site at Raccoon church in 1724. RPN, 27.

Carl (Charles) Halton married Maria, daughter of Matthias Jönsson (NJA, 23:263-64) and following her death, Gunnilla Fransson. Charles Halton died at Penn’s Neck in 1738.

Page 148, #173 Anders Anderson Weinam (150 aces): (The first portion regarding his name omitted.)

It is uncertain whether Anders Andersson Weinam was a son of a settler or New Sweden named Anders or whether he was among the 1663-1664 arrivals under Dutch rule. Anders was fined 50 guilders in the 1669 Long Finn Rebellion. By 1677 he had moved to Crane Hook. In 1679, he joined Matthias Jönsson, Lars Corneliusson (see #174-75) and widow Annika Hendricks (see #176) in obtaining the original 600 acre grant at Chestnut Neck between Parting Creek and Bastowe (sauna) Creek. In 1690 Nicholas Philpot purchased 50 acres from Anders Andersson’s original 150 acres. Meanwhile, in partnership with Peter Bilderback, Anderson acquired a nearby tract of 100 acres from William Penn. In 1697 Anders Weinam pledged 18 shillings for the new church at Christina and in 1699 both Anders Vinam and his wife were assigned pews at Holy Trinity. The will of Anders Andersson of Penn’s Neck, dated July 9, 1719, gave his entire estate to his wife Anna. Her will, proved the following year, made her brother Henery Boasman (Hendrick Batsman), sold heir, which identifies her as the daughter of Joran Joransson Batsman (see #151.) She and Anders had no children. Their household of four probably included two of the children of Matthias Jönsson Hutt.

Matthias Jönsson alias Hutt had been granted a patent for 100 acres at Feren Hook in 1669. Fined in 1675 in the dike rebellion, he remained at that location until 1679 when he moved to Chestnut Neck. When he died in 1685, he left nine orphan children. The two youngest of his sons, Eric and Eskil Jönsson or Johnson, also known as Erik and Eskil Hutton or Hotton, remained in Penn’s Neck and probably were members of Anders Andersson’s household in 1693.

Will – 1684-5 Feb. 14 – Unson, Mathias, of Castiana Neck on Fenwick’s River alias Salem Greek, Salem Tenth, planter; will of. Gives real and personal estate to his nine children, of whom only the following names are given; Woola Matheson, who is to live with Lause Powleson, Michael, the third son, to live with Wooley Thompson, the fourth son, Erick, to live with Andrea Anderson. Witnesses – Peeter Billderbeck and William Wilkinson. Proved August 11, 1685

1730 <no date> – Johnson, Mathias, of Pen’s Neck, Salem Co., yeoman. Account of the estate of £75.9, by the surviving executor, William Peterson, who has paid to Lausey Halton £8.5 in full of his wife’s filial portion, to Mary, wife of Chas. Halton £6 as her portion, to Samuel Walcott and wife Katharine £8.5, the filial portion of Erick Johnson, said Katherine’s former husband, to Oliver Johnson £6.3, to Eskell Johnson £6.3, to Michael Johnson £4.17.6, to Henry Johnson £6.3, Margaret Johnson £6.3, all filial portions. [No will on record or on file.]

Footnote 46 – DYR, 137, NYHM, 20:22; 21:104; NCR, 1:160, 163; NJA, 21:544, 568, 574; will of Matthis Unson of Castiana Neck on Salem Creek, dated Feb 14, 1684/5 and proved May 11 1685, Salem County wills, 2:16, and final accounting of estate of Matthias Johnson by William Peterson, surviving executor, filed 1730, Salem County wills, 503-Q. The eldest son, Olle, later known as Oliver, was to stay with Lars Palsson Kampe (#147), Henrick with Lars’ father Pal Larsson and Michael with Olle Thompson (#113). They all died at Sahakitko (Elkton), Cecil County. See, e.g., MCW, 7:219. Eric was to live with Anders Andersson and Eskil was unassigned. Eric and Eskil Hutton or Hotten both pledged money and contributed labor for the building of Holy Trinity Church and were assigned pews in that church in 1699. Eric as Eric Jansson or Johnson married Catharine Gillijohnson and died at Penn’s Neck in 1719. Eskil as Ezekiel Jansson or Johnson worked on the glebe house for Penn’s Neck church in 1721 and died intestate in Penn’s Neck in 1726. According to the accounting, one daughter married Lars Halton (#78), another, Maria, married Lars Halton’s brother Charles Halton. A third was named Margaret Johnson in the account. The fourth, Catherine Johnson and her newborn child were maintained by Olle (William) Peterson of Gloucester County (#80) for 13 months.

Information for Lars Palsson Kampe (#147) (Sahakitko): This man’s father, Pal Larsson had been granted a patent at Feren Hook in 1668, was fined 100 guilders in the 1669 Long Finn Rebellion and 20 guilders in the 1675 dike rebellion. The will of Paul Larson dated March 7, 1685, witnessed by Olle Palsson and Eskil Andersson, left his “house and lands whereon I now live” to his wife Magdalena for life, then to his daughters – unnamed. He left to his sons Lawrence and Matthias “my land which is now in Elk River, which is 200 acres,” with directions that Lawrence keep and maintain Matthias. On October 20, 1685, Paul sold his 200-acre home plantation at Feren Hook to Justa Andersson and apparently moved to Elk River, Cecil County where his will was proved June 3, 1692. His eldest son, Lars Palsson chose the surname Kampe, warrior in Swedish, as illustrated in this census. In 1693 his household included his wife (name unknown,) their first children and perhaps his brother Matthias. Lars had three children who later moved to Gloucester County: John, Paul and Brigitta Kampe, also written as Camp.

These families were neighbors and eventually, related. Their lives were intertwined and the survival of the colony depended on the cooperation of many.

In Peter Stebbins Craig’s book, 1671 Census of the Delaware, he states that Feren Hook, meaning Pink Hook, appears to have been settled in 1663 by Swedes and Finns arriving from Sweden via Christiania (now Oslo,) Norway, and Amsterdam in the time of d’Hinojossa. Transcription here.

The Quandary

Now, of course, the quandary.

My Johnson cousins Y-DNA matches a few other Johnson men and one Yocum male.

The Yokum male shows his ancestor as Peter Jochimsson born in 1620 and died in 1702. That, of course would be the father of Peter Petersson Yocum.

At first glance, this looks like a slam dunk, meaning our Johnson line is Yocum, descended from Peter Jochimsson, but it isn’t.

Eric Johnson, who is descended from “our” Peter Johnson who was born circa 1720 and died in 1790 in Allegheny County, PA, worked with Dr. Peter Craig before his death who provided Eric with information suggesting that our Peter Johnson is descended from Mathias Jönsson alias Hutt, through his son Oliver (Olle) who had son Peter in 1720 in Cecil County, MD, near Head of Elk, now Elkton.

I found a record in 1740 in Cecil County, MD for 3 Johnson men, Oliver, Simon and Peter, members of the foot company militia under the command of Capt. Zebulon Hollingsworth. Is this “our” Peter as a young man, or a different Peter. I don’t know.

Also in Cecil County, one Peter Johnson’s will is probated in 1747, and we know that our Peter had moved to the border of Pennsylvania and Maryland by 1742, near Hagerstown. Later deeds tie Peter in Allegheny County, PA to the Peter in Franklin Co., PA.

The records for Peter Johnson (c1720-1790) begin in April of 1742 when he obtained land in Lancaster County, PA, the portion that became Cumberland County in 1750, then Franklin County in 1784. If he was born in 1720, he would only have been 22 at the time, which isn’t impossible but young based on the customs of the time. This land was actually on or very near the Maryland/Pennsylvania border, just above Frederick County, MD, close to Hagerstown.

Hence, the suggestion that our Peter Johnson descended from Elkton in Cecil County seems reasonable.

One thing is certain. Our Johnson and Yocum men DO share a common ancestor as confirmed by Big Y-700 DNA testing.

The question is, of course, whether the Yocum male has documentation confirming that he descends from Peter Jochimsson, the father of Peter Petersson Yocum (#35) or if that was an assumption by someone based on the Yocum surname? If not, what type of source information exists and is it conclusive and incontrovertible?

What are the Possibilities?

Unfortunately, we now have some contradictory evidence to resolve.

  • It’s possible that the Yocum male who matches our Johnson line very closely does have solid, confirmed genealogy descending from Peter Jochimsson. If that’s the case, can each successive generation be confirmed? How strong is the evidence?
  • If our Yocum male’s line can be confirmed, then our ancestor is also very likely Peter Jochimsson.

However, there’s a plot twist.

  • There’s another group of about 10 Yocum men who match each other, two of who claim to descend from Peter Jochimsson as well. These men do not match “our Yocum” male, nor do they match any Johnsons. Their haplogroup is in an entirely different branch of the tree.

These groups of men cannot BOTH be directly paternally descended from Peter Jochimsson.

  • It’s possible that our Johnson/Yokum line is indeed descended from Mathias Jönsson alias Hutt. If that’s the case, then someplace, Jönsson became Yokum several generations back in time for at least one male whose descendant tested today, while the rest remained or became Johnson/Johnston.
  • Its not possible for our Johnson line to descend from Mathias Jönsson/Hutt and the Yokum man who matches the Johnson Y-DNA to descend from Peter Jochimsson, unless of course these ancestral men were closely related to each other, sharing a common paternal ancestor.

Peter Jochimsson and Mathias Jönsson/Hutt sharing a common paternal ancestor is certainly not impossible, but in New Sweden, they don’t live very close to each other. Initially, they were about 40 miles distant. So, if they were related, it’s either in the first generation or two, before 1702, or reaches back to the old country. However, that isn’t what the Y-DNA suggests.

Craig says that Mathias Jochimsson came from Schlesvig in Holsstein, the northern portion of Germany that abuts Denmark, and the settlers in Feren Hook were from near Oslo. Of course, that’s not absolute given that Craig never found a specific origin for Mathias Jönsson/Hutt.

We also don’t know when Mathias Johnsson/Hutt arrived, or where he came from. We know for sure a group of settlers arrived in 1656. According to Amandus Johnson in The Swedes on the Delaware 1638-1664, a final group of Finnish families from Sweden landed in Holland in 1664, en route for New Sweden, but it’s unclear whether they were allowed to proceed to the colonies. We know for sure that Mathias Jönsson/Hutt was in Feren Hook by 1669.

It’s worth noting that little is known about Peter Jochimsson, the original settler, aside from his one son, Peter Petersson Yocum and a daughter reported by Craig. He was either unmarried upon arrival and didn’t marry until he gained his freedom in 1652, or he had more children that died, or he had more children that we don’t know about. Craig reports his widow to have been 20 at his death, with two children which opens the possibility that she was a second wife.

It’s also worth noting that we have the other Otto Jönsson “Carringa Olle” who reportedly took the surname Halton. That line also contains a Peter.

The Y DNA

Two Johnson men and the Yocum tester have taken the Big Y-700 test which has a very distinct aging ability. They have the same haplogroup which is shown on the public Discover haplotree, here.

The most recent common ancestor of these men is estimated to have been born about 1750, which would be roughly the generation of our Peter Johnson who was born before 1720 and died in 1790. Given that we don’t know for sure who Peter’s father was, it’s very likely that our Peter Johnson (possibly the son of Oliver) had siblings and uncles, so Johnson becoming phonetically spelled Yocum or vice versa wouldn’t be the least bit surprising in that era, or in the generation(s) prior.

The confidence range and associated dates suggest that the common ancestor of these Johnson/Yokum men was born in New Sweden. If that is accurate, that means that both the Yocum and Johnson testers are either descended from one ancestor in New Sweden, meaning either Peter Jochimsson or Mathias Johnson alias Hutt (assuming the ancestor is one of those two men.) It likely removes the possibility that those two men were related in the old country, especially given that Craig identified Jochimsson’s origins in Schleswig-Holsstein and suggests that Mathias Jönsson/Hutt may have originated near Oslo.

It may be worth mentioning at this point that, according to the mitochondrial DNA matches of Dorcas Johnson and Margaret Johnson, the daughter of Peter Johnson and his wife, Mary Polly Phillips (if that was her name,) their closest matches are clustered in Finland.

That, of course, strongly suggests that Peter Johnson (c1720-1790) probably married the daughter of one of the settler families wherever he was living in the early 1740s when he would have been marrying.

Let’s hope we find that someone descended from another daughter of Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Philips, through all females to the current generation, which can be male or female, to take a mitochondrial DNA test. That match would solidify the relationship of Dorcas and Margaret to Peter Johnson and Mary.

Now, to determine Peter’s ancestors…

Research Activities

Recently, I extracted records for Maryland and Virginia Counties when I visited the FamilySearch Library in Salt Lake City. Why Maryland and Virginia? John Dobkins, the father of Jacob and Evan Dobkins is first found in the Monocacy Valley of Maryland before migrating in the early 1730s to what was at that time Frederick County, VA with Jost Hite, one of the early land speculators. Frederick County became Augusta and Dunmore, which eventually became Shenandoah County. John Dobkins lived in Dunmore which is where both Darcus Johnson married Jacob Dobkins and Margaret Johnson married Evan Dobkins in 1775. The Dobkins family is connected with (and probably related to) the Riley Moore family who was found in Prince George’s County, MD, adjacent to Cecil County. Frederick County, MD was once part of Prince George’s County, and Frederick County MD is where Peter Johnson (c1720-1790) is found owning land, on the border with Pennsylvania – Josh Hite’s stomping ground.

Frederick County, VA is chocked full of settlers from Cecil County, Prince George’s County and Frederick County, MD. Furthermore, many New Jersey Quakers moved to Frederick County, VA and established the Hopewell Meeting House. It would make sense that Peter Johnson’s family, perhaps him or maybe his siblings and uncles would make their way down that same path leading to land on the next frontier.

I was tracking Johnsons by the first names we’re familiar with, plus Isaac Johnson who is found associated with John Dobkins in Shenandoah County, VA, as was John Johnson. I found two other records for Isaac Johnson in Frederick County, one in 1751 as a witness to the will of Adam Warner, and one in 1769 as a legatee of Ralph Thompson who also had a son named Isaac. Additionally, there’s an Isaac Johnson in Cumberland County, PA but there’s nothing to suggest that these are the same man. John Johnson was a very common name and I ran out of time.

Somehow, Peter Johnson HAD to be in the Dunmore County neighborhood in 1775 for his two daughters to marry John Dobkins’ sons. There is no record of Peter in Dunmore County in 1775, but the existing records are incomplete. In 1778, Dunmore became Shenandoah.

Was Peter related to either Isaac or John Johnson who were associated with John Dobkins? I wish I had the answer to that. Two of one’s daughters did not marry two sons of a family you weren’t acquainted with, in a location where you weren’t living. Courting required proximity. Of course, the Revolutionary War was interfering with just about everything, so who knows why Peter Johnson might have been in Virginia in 1775. The county records are incomplete during this time, and the entire country was in an uproar.

Peter Johnson sold his land on the Pennsylvania/Maryland border in 1769 and 1770 although his adult son Richard (Derrick) remained in that location, at least for a while. Peter’s Brethren neighbors in Maryland moved to Holman Creek in Dunmore/Shenandoah County, directly adjacent John Dobkins, becoming his neighbors.

One Peter Johnson is found in Bedford County, PA in 1772, but it’s doubtful that this is the same man since he’s listed as a single freeman. Other than that, Peter’s entirely missing from 1773 when he’s found in Rostravener Township, PA, which is all of SW Pennsylvania, until 1783 when he’s found again in the same location. Part of Rostravener became Allegheny County in 1780, where Peter Johnson eventually settled and died a decade later.

In 1776, one Peter Johnson swears an oath of allegiance in Cumberland Co., PA, but our Peter had already left. Peter Johnson is not a terribly unusual name.

One of the earlier Johnson books states that Peter came from Winchester, VA which is found in Frederick Co., VA where there is an early mention of a Peter Johnson. In 1773, according to Eric Johnson, one Richard and Priscilla Johnson mention their son Peter in a deed, although that may well be a younger man. I do not have that record, nor know where they lived.

In other words, the very best clue we have as to where Peter Johnson was found in 1775 is where his two daughters were married to Dobkins men.

In addition to these recent research activities, I have a friend who has been helping me search for tidbits high and low. I’m still processing the information she has sent. Maybe there’s something more hidden there.

Followup

I’ve written to the matches of my Johnson cousins asking if they will share their genealogy, or at least as much as they know.

I’d surely love to see additional Johnson and Yokum men take Y-DNA tests, and those who match our line upgrade to the Big Y-700. Perhaps, between more refined time tree placement in addition to jointly working on genealogy and sharing resources, we can isolate one lineage and eliminate the other. That alone would be a victory!

I’m still chiseling at this brick wall, bit by bit!

_____________________________________________________________

Follow DNAexplain on Facebook, here or follow me on Twitter, here.

Share the Love!

You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

You Can Help Keep This Blog Free

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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research

RootsTech 2023 – Truly United

Finally, finally, we were on our way, winging our way across the world from near and far – flying and motoring into snowy Salt Lake City for RootsTech. It seemed like we had been preparing forever, and Murphy visited many of us as gremlins trying to keep us away – but we persevered, and Murphy’s ploy just didn’t work.

Grab a cup of your favorite beverage, because you’re going to RootsTech with me!

I started out very early in dense fog which was a precursor to a nightmare at the airport. We didn’t know that yet, and the sun emerged beautifully as we were on our way.

Utah was blanketed with snow a few days before our arrival. We were hoping for no more snow.

The snow cover made for stunningly beautiful photos from the air.

The Kennecott Copper Mine outside Salt Lake City is three miles wide, nearly a mile deep and looked very interesting and beautiful laced with snow. These terraces are actually roughly 500 miles of dirt road. This used to be a mountain that was 8400 feet in elevation.

During the flight, I read about my ancestor, Stephen Hopkins and couldn’t help but think about how shocked he would have been that I flew across the country some 413 years after he was shipwrecked in Bermuda on the way to Jamestown, eventually lived in Jamestown for 4 years, sailed back to England, remarried, then arrived on the Mayflower in Plymouth Colony.

His ships and mine were very, very different.

FamilySearch Library

Some of us arrived early for research or meetings, or both.

FamilySearch took the opportunity presented during the Covid shutdown to remodel and upgrade the facilities significantly. The new library is both beautiful and super-functional.

The workstations now have three monitors.

There’s a lovely new break room with vending machines, tables, and a fridge.

To put things in perspective, the break room is larger than the preserved pioneer cabin that stands beside the library.

I’m struck by the contrast of the small cabin standing beside the FamilySearch library at left, and museum at right, and just a block away from skyscrapers.

Rather than leave and waste valuable research time, we had a picnic lunch in the break room.

I went to Salt Lake City early to visit the FamilySearch Library and attempt to break down a brick wall. I think I might have done that. We will see.

Other researchers did the same thing, and you can view a special GenFriends episode, here, hosted by Cheryl Hudson Passey, where several of us shared our excitement about our research, discoveries and simply gathering together again.

I was very excited to meet my cousin, Audrey Hill, for the first time in person, at the library. We’ve been collaborating for several months on our John Hill (1737-1805) and Catherine Mitchell (1738-1827) line. She’s already following up on a lead I never did (my bad.) Go Audrey!!

I spent two days perusing book after book after book in the Virginia and Maryland counties where my Dobkins and Johnson ancestors were known to have lived, then moved to the historically adjacent counties.

I was incredibly discouraged, but on the evening of the second day, back at my hotel again, I reviewed all of the library resources and noticed that I had missed one book that was shelved elsewhere.

Glory be, I *think* I’ve found him and his family.

My Peter Johnson line’s Y-DNA matches the Jochimsson (Yocum) line, so I have a LOT of work to do. But now at least I know where to dig!

I needed this entire book, not just a few pages.

Fortunately for me, Jim volunteered to scan the entire book at one of the new book-scanning stations.

I’m SOOO excited.

RootsTech and the FamilySearch library ran golf carts back and forth between the facilities throughout the conference.

Decisions, decisions.

Well, if you can’t decide, just go to the chocolate shop to think things over😊

The Night Before

Preconference events began on Wednesday evening with the media dinner which allows us to understand the layout, when to be someplace, and where that place might be. It also allows provides accurate information to pass on to you.

Of course, many of us have known each other for years. As the first event of RootsTech, after three years of being apart, it felt like one huge family reunion with everyone catching up. So many hugs!!!

And selfies.

It was wonderful to see Marie Cappart again. I’ll never forget walking down the street in Amsterdam with two friends and hearing someone shouting my name from some distance away. I turned around and there was Marie, running toward me, arms outstretched. What are the chances??

The influencers and media were treated to a tour of the show floor after setup was supposed to be complete.

Finishing touches were being put on the Expo Hall and booths. I guess I never realized how large these booths are and that they actually have to be “constructed”.

The next morning, the show would open and thousands of excited genealogists would descend on the Salt Palace for the next three days.

RootsTech Opens

Finally, the Salt Palace, with its legendary signs outside, was ready to receive genealogy guests.

Everyone was so happy to see each other again. My friends, Janna Helstein, Schelly Taladay Dardashti and Daniel Horowitz with MyHeritage photobombing the group. This was the best of several photos because we were all joyfully laughing so hard.

The absolute best part of RootsTech 2023 was seeing people again, in person. Zoom and similar platforms have been sanity-saving for the past three years – but they aren’t people.

Humans are, I think, wired for connection to each other.

I’ve worked “home office” for decades now, but not without regular contact with others.

The classes were great and there was a lot that was wonderful at RootsTech – but hands down, the best part was hugging so many people.

In case you aren’t aware, genealogists are huggers.

If someone were to have followed me around taking photos, there would have been hundreds of hugs. And I don’t mean polite greeting distant hugs. I mean the “OMG I haven’t seen you in a lifetime and everyone was concerned we might never see each other again” holding tight, never-letting-go hugs.

Mags Gaulden and I spotted each other in front of the WikiTree booth, and some kind soul took our picture. I tried to do a nice thing for her and made DNA masks, not remembering that she was allergic to my cat assistants. Thank goodness Mags realized it quickly enough to remove the masks before they had the opposite of the intended effect. I really do not want to be listed in her obituary! “Cause of death: Roberta’s masks.”

Tears streamed down people’s faces as they saw each other, especially that first day. And I don’t mean because of cat hair, either.

There were thousands of selfies joyfully taken. Lots of “blooper” ones too, but just the giddiness of being together again was intoxicating and overshadowed the challenges of the past few years. For a minute, or a few, everyone could just forget about everything else and enjoy our three-day adrenaline high.

And of course, sometimes things change, and many people weren’t there, for a variety of reasons. I missed so many people and there was more than one moment of silence.

Attendance

Here’s the RootsTech Expo Hall from the second floor. It felt like “coming home” after a long absence.

I was standing inside when the doors opened on the first day. People were waiting, but not the mob like past years.

In a Zoom call with RootsTech staff a week or ten days before the conference, they said they had 6000 paid admissions at that time, and a week or so later, they said they were anticipating the same number of attendees as 2020 which was about three times that number.

That number was clearly aspirational, but it didn’t happen.

I’ve been attending RootsTech since 2018, and the actual in-person attendance, based on observation, was lower than it has been since I’ve been attending. Of course, while we may be getting used to Covid, it’s not over and still a significant concern to many. I had my doubts.

Now that I’ve said that about attendance, let me expand. There were over a million registered online for the virtual sessions PLUS the livestreamed sessions that were held in person as well. I don’t know how many more than a million attended, but that number will only grow because those sessions remain available for viewing after RootsTech. In other words, Rootstech sessions have become a library which you can find and enjoy, here.

Clearly, more people in total were reached in 2023 than in 2020.

Questions for Attendees

This year, I had three in-person classes, and no virtual classes. All three were well-attended.

I don’t know how many people attended my sessions, but I know I took about 2000 DNAeXplain ribbons that were passed out to attendees at the exit doors of my classes if they wanted them for their RootsTech badges. I brought home maybe 100.

After everything is set up for the session (thank you Jim,) I always chat with the people in my sessions that show up early. There’s no reason not to have a little fun for everyone.

My first session was at 9:30 the first day, right after the conference opened at 9. I was passing out ribbons personally to people who were early and I saw the confused looks. So I demonstrated what to do with the ribbons with my own badge.

Ribbons on badges are a RootsTech staple, and it’s the only conference I’ve ever attended with that tradition. I realized, based on the confused looks, that we had several first-time attendees.

I was so excited to welcome people at the beginning of my first session, back to in-person genealogy, and that feeling was palpable throughout the room and the conference as a whole.

How Many First-Time Attendees?

When my session started, I asked how many people were attending RootsTech for the first time, and I was very surprised to discover that roughly half the room raised their hands.

Half!!!

That’s HUGE. No wonder there were so many confused looks about the ribbons.

My three sessions, in order, were:

  • DNA for Native American Genealogy: 10 Ways to Find Your Native American Ancestors
  • DNA Journey – Follow Your Ancestors Path
  • Big Y for the Win

I mention this because of the next questions I asked.

Who Has Taken a DNA Test for Genealogy?

In the first session, “DNA for Native American Genealogy,” I asked who had taken a DNA test, and more than half raised their hands, but several had not. Frankly, that surprised me given how long DNA testing has been available now. I talked to people afterwards, and the common thread for those who had not seemed to be:

  • They didn’t know which vendor or which DNA test to take for this purpose.
  • They thought the ancestor was too far back in time and they would not have any Native results. In my session, I talked about testing the older generations and your cousins. Also, that you don’t know what you don’t know. I asked how many people would purchase a book if they thought the answer to that question even MIGHT be inside, and every single person raised their hand.

I also pointed people to the Native section on my blog, to my book, DNA for Native American Genealogy, and to my second blog focused entirely on early Native American records, www.nativeheritageproject.com.

In the second class, “DNA Journey – Follow Your Ancestor’s Path,” probably three fourths of the class had taken a DNA test. That session was really fun. I used several case studies to illustrate how different kinds of DNA have broken down brick walls AND showed me exactly, and I mean literally exactly where my ancestors were from. I used Y-DNA, mitochondrial DNA and autosomal to accomplish this. Who among you DOESN’T want to stand where your ancestors stood?

Yep, we all do.

I think it was in the second class that I asked a question about how many people had taken the three different types of tests, and here’s the breakdown:

  • Who has taken a DNA test? – The majority of the room
  • Who has taken an autosomal test – It looked to be the same number of people as above
  • Who has taken (or sponsored) a Y-DNA test – Maybe 10% of the room
  • Who has taken a mitochondrial DNA test – A scattering of people

As genealogists, we need to do more Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA testing, because we don’t know what we don’t know and may well be missing.

In the third class, “Big Y for the Win,” which included both Y-DNA STR testing and the Big Y-700, comparing and contrasting the tests, how to use them, and why the Big Y provides significant advantages, most of the people had taken some type of DNA test.

The second question I asked in the Big Y class was how many people had taken or sponsored a Big Y test, and significantly more than half had, which is what I would have expected.

However, given the session topic, I was surprised to learn that few had used the new, free, Discover Tools, or the recently released Group Time Tree. Both were developed and created by FamilyTreeDNA to maximize the usefulness of Y-DNA haplogroups, and they are amazing.

How Many People Have Tested?

As part of the information that I gathered during the conference, Ancestry has tested 23 million people and MyHeritage 6.5 million. I don’t have a current number for FamilyTreeDNA or 23andMe, but the last numbers I heard some months ago were 2 and 5 million, respectively.

There are clearly more (and new) people who are interested in genealogy and are still DNA testing candidates – especially Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA which have separate inheritance paths, providing additional and unique benefits as compared to autosomal tests.

Keynotes

The keynote sessions were livestreamed, so you can still view them here. Be sure to watch Steve Rockwood’s welcome. He may be the CEO, but he’s an exceptionally caring, inspirational and humble, man.

I attended two of three keynote sessions. Each keynote session actually included three speakers, which was initially confusing.

Steve Rockwood’s message is that “All Means All” – everyone is included. He also thanked and encouraged people to not be further divisive during this difficult time, and instead to choose inclusion.

Steve asked several questions and in answer to his queries, attendees were encouraged to hold up their phones with their flashlight on. As you can see, the entire huge room is filled with light – our light. One at a time. We can all be the light. You can hear Steve’s message for yourself, here.

Another session I enjoyed immensely was Jordin Sparks, the youngest ever American Idol winner. I’ve been in concert venues that were smaller, so it was a real treat to enjoy this inspirational story plus four of her amazing songs.

I really encourage you to watch this video, especially if you love music. Even Jordin’s guitarist was wiping his eyes!

She literally played to a packed house and I don’t think there was a dry eye anyplace.

Jordin has an incredible voice and an inspirational story. Do yourself a favor and listen, here.

MyHeritage Keynote and Announcements

Aaron Godfrey, VP of Marketing with MyHeritage announced new products and initiatives during the keynote on day 2.

The new Photo Dater app, available soon, will estimate when a photo was taken based on clothes, hairstyles and other items in the photo.

Additionally, Aaron announced the cM Explainer, a wonderful new tool which predicts relationship estimates between DNA matches and includes the ages of the testers, among other factors. cM Explainer is incorporated into your DNA matches at MyHeritage in addition to being independently available for free, here.

I’ll be reviewing this new feature in an article, soon.

In another surprise, Aaron announced that MyHeritage has donated another 5000 kits to DNA Quest, for adoptees, here.

MyHeritage also introduced color coding for family trees, here. If you’re a MyHeritage user, this feature is already available for you on your tree, so check it out.

MyHeritage takes the “most new announcements at RootsTech” award with these new features.

Vendor Booth Sessions

Truth be told, I didn’t even get to visit all of the various booths. I meant to, but it just didn’t happen.

At least two vendors offered sessions throughout all three days. There were probably others, but between my three RootsTech sessions, three booth sessions and the book signing, in addition to keynotes, meetings and interviews, I just wasn’t able to attend many booth sessions.

The ones I did attend were wonderful. I focused on DNA, of course. Let’s start with FamilyTreeDNA.

Sherman McRae presented “Unexpected Y-DNA Results” in the FamilyTreeDNA booth where he’s showing how to utilize the Y-DNA Time Tree in the Discover tool, and the Group Time Tree.

You can view Sherman’s main session, Connect the Forefathers, here.

You just never know when a pilgrim is going to show up for your session.

Janine Cloud, an enrolled Cherokee tribal member and manager of Group Projects at FamilyTreeDNA discussed Y-DNA, mitochondrial and autosomal avenues to prove Native ancestors using DNA, using her own Cherokee ancestors as an example.

Dr Paul Maier, Population Geneticist, Goran Runfeldt, Head of Research and Michael Sager, Phylogeneticist answer questions about Y-DNA in the AMA (Ask Me Anything) session.

Paul and Goran also hosted an AMA for mitochondrial DNA as well, an often overlooked but valuable resource.

In addition to the Native American AMA session for FamilyTreeDNA which I gave with Janine, I gave two booth presentations for MyHeritage, “Time Travel with Your Ancestors” and “AutoClusters for the Win,” both of which were recorded meaning you  just might see them in the future.

The Time Travel session utilized the MyHeritage AI tools to see what my ancestors who came from specific regions or cultures might have looked like in that time and place. In the slide above the AI photo of my grandmother is combined with the document and with the Genetic Group that incorporates that part of Germany.

I combined the AI images with MyHeritage records that link those ancestors to a specific location, showing the predicted ethnicity, genetic groups when applicable, and then the actual location – some of which I’ve visited. My ancestor owned that windmill in the Netherlands, above. Combining these tools is so much FUN. My heritage provided the AI photos, records and ethnicity. I’m the one who did the traveling, of course, but in this way, time travel is possible!

I really enjoyed using this story-telling methodology that incorporates all 4 types of genealogy research and clues.

In the AutoClusters for the Win session in the MyHeritage booth, I discussed how I utilized AutoClusters to solve an adoption case in my own family, and how you can use this very powerful tool as well. The methodology I used works equally as well for genealogy mysteries.

In another MyHeritage booth presentation, Janna Helshtein told an amazing and moving story about her grandparents, their escape from the Holocaust, move to Israel, and more – in their own “voices” using MyHeritage’s Deep Story.

We all sat spellbound.

Janna also offers a free guide on how she created and integrated the Deep Story verbiage that her grandparents “spoke.” It was actually quite easy.

There was more to Janna’s story, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.

I believe MyHeritage intends to make their booth sessions available through social media.

Here, Janna and I are celebrating with a quick picnic style lunch after her presentation. She truly knocked it out of the park.

Shifting Attendance

I’m sharing my opinion here, and not anything a RootsTech spokesperson told me.

I was surprised that the in-person attendance was down as much as it was, truthfully. I think in-person was down by either half or maybe even two-thirds. Some decline wouldn’t have surprised me, but this much was sobering.

I was also VERY surprised that roughly half of the attendees were new. And that number could have actually been higher. That’s a good thing, meaning new people are being attracted to genealogy.

These two things, together, suggest the following to me:

  • The passing of time, Covid, and aging-out of some people caused some decline. I know several people who passed away during the past three years, not to mention those whose lives changed dramatically due to their partner’s illness, passing or life circumstances. Several people lost jobs or moved, or both, or are in that process now.
  • Now let’s flip this and say that the virtual and FREE capability for much of RootsTech made the conference accessible and available to many who could not attend in person. For that, I’m very grateful. I have a friend who has been very ill and participated by taking selfies of herself with the livestreamed sessions on her monitor behind her. She posted her photos on social media to be with us. That warmed my heart so much.
  • I think that the reason there were so many new people was because they were able to attend virtually during 2021 and 2022. Essentially this means that while virtual RootsTech was challenging for everyone on the behind-the-scenes production side, to put it mildly, it served to recruit many new genealogists who would not have participated in person had they not previously attended online.

Based on discussions at the media dinner table, and other statements by Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch, FamilySearch, including RootsTech, is reaching out to young people and to other areas of the world as well.

According to Steve, who, by the way, turns out to be my 11th cousin according to Relatives at RootsTech and the FamilySearch Tree, RootsTech will forever be a blended conference event.

This year, in addition to the local emcee, there were 15 people in other countries hosting in their locations, times and in their native languages.

This year there were 304 virtual classes, 205 in person, and some of those were streamed online as well.

Don’t forget that Relatives at RootsTech is still available through March 31st and you can contact cousins to collaborate. Some may represent Y-DNA or mitochondrial DNA testing lines that you need for matching and to complete your tree.

Vendors

That brings me to the topic of vendors.

Three of the four major DNA vendors were present, meaning Ancestry, FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage. 23andMe was absent in 2020 and again this year. Their last DNA innovation was their genetic tree in September of 2019.

Many of the smaller vendors were not in attendance. I had made friends with several of the Mom and Pop vendors and almost none of them were there this year, nor were many of the organizations and smaller companies. I spoke with several people and they said, almost universally, that the cost of the virtual booths over the past two years, the work involved, and the fact that those virtual booths did not generate many sales, not even equal to the amount of the booth rent, had soured the experience.

Not only are conference booths very expensive, so is the invested labor and time. For those of you who don’t know, booth rent is only a part of it. You want carpet? That’s more. A chair? That’s more. Two chairs? More. A trash basket? More. Oh, you need wireless to handle sales? LOTS more.

I’d say that the Expo Hall was only half to one third of the size it had been previously. Mind you, it’s still huge, especially compared to many other conferences, but I missed seeing many of my favorite vendors.

For example, neither Genealogical.com nor Deseret Books were there this year, so there was no bookstore, and neither were many of the fun t-shirt vendors or others that sold jewelry or genealogy-related merchandise.

I hope that FamilySearch will put their creative caps on and perhaps reach out to their vendors, both past and current, and figure out a way to make RootsTech vendors attractive to the online crowd. Perhaps a “search” game where you have to visit vendor booths to find items. Maybe there could be some permanent online stores as well.

There were fewer food vendors too, but in case anyone was wondering, I could still smell cinnamon-almonds throughout the facility😊

I did run into some of my long-time vendor friends.

My friend Jessica Taylor with Legacy Tree Genealogists. I regularly refer people seeking genealogists who understand both genealogy and DNA to Legacy Tree Genealogists.

I don’t need to tell you how much I love DNAPainter and it was great to see Jonny Perl and Patricia Coleman in the DNAPainter booth.

I feel kind of bad because I obviously caught Rob Warthen and Carol Carman by surprise in the East Coast Genetic Genealogy Conference booth, but it’s the only photo I have of their booth.

Last fall’s ECGGC conference was very successful and I’m planning to speak in person this year, in Baltimore, October 6-8, 2023. Save the date. Last year was the first year and it was wonderful.

My Book Signing

FamilyTreeDNA was kind enough to host my book signing for DNA for Native American Genealogy in conjunction with the Native American Ask Me Anything session. Many thanks to Joe Brickey for her help with this event as well.

After the AMA session, which was the final event of Saturday, just before closing, we took a group picture with the FamilyTreeDNA team, or at least the staff members in the booth at that time.

I did learn that perhaps the last thing Saturday might not be the best time for a book signing, because lots of people leave on Friday night. On the other hand, on Saturday, admission to the conference is free, at least to the show floor, with lots of children’s activities and programs for LDS families. Saturday is always very busy in terms of traffic, with sometimes more Saturday visitors than paying conference attendees. It will be interesting to see final RootsTech conference numbers.

The Thank You That Made My Day!!!

One lovely lady, Charis, came up to me after my first session and explained that she saw an ad for RootsTech. She decided she needed to purchase a ticket and attend. She had never heard of me, but she is very focused on documenting her Native ancestry. She sat in the front row in my first session and paid rapt attention. (Speakers do notice, in case you wondered.)

Charis came up to me afterwards and told me that this class alone was worth her registration fee.

She made my day, but I thought to myself that she would attend other sessions that she would find equally as valuable. After all, the conference was just beginning. She found me the next day and repeated what she had said. On day 3, she attended the Ask Me Anything session, arriving early. She said the said the same thing, AGAIN, and I asked if we could take a picture together. As presenters, we take our time, spend our money to attend these conferences, and invest the effort because we want to help people.

People like Charis make this all worthwhile.

Sweetness Personified

I’m sorry, I just can’t resist sharing the sweetest picture series ever.

In 2020, I met my cousin, Heidi Campbell and her baby at RootsTech. Three years later, I saw Heidi again, with a beautiful new addition to the family.

I just can’t tell you how wonderful it was to hold this baby. The last baby I held was Heidi’s little one, three years ago. The look on Heidi’s face is priceless too when he’s reaching for my glasses. He had the biggest smile EVER on his face and he’s booping noses with me. We had so much fun.

My heart just melted into a huge puddle. I so much wish they lived close so I could “grandma.” Thank you, Heidi, for sharing your sunshine with me.

Rolling Up the Sidewalks

On Saturday, literally at one minute after 3 when the conference closed, the workers at the Salt Palace started rolling up the sidewalks, or in this case, the carpets.

It’s a wrap!!!

Afterglow

At the Salt Lake City airport, I ran into two people and had the opportunity to talk to them again and hug goodbye once more. You’d think we would all have had enough of genealogy, but not a chance. More hugs, gratitude for togetherness, and anticipation for next year.

Winging my way home again, having walked about 6 miles each day, according to Fitbit, I was tired, desperately tired, and my everything hurt. However, I was also incredibly fulfilled to have connected again with old friends and met so many new people that I now look forward to seeing again. We are very fortunate to be members of such a wonderful, diverse and universal community.

I couldn’t help but think, as we crossed the winding Mississippi River, how fortunate we are that we have “time travel” in this way. I’m also struck with how many different ways we have to time travel, with Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA at FamilyTreeDNA, autosomal testing and ethnicity at various vendors, and actual historical records that are becoming ever-more available remotely.

Using artificial intelligence, we can “see” our ancestor’s heritage in our own faces, or, in this case, the face of my grandfather using the MyHeritage AI Time Machine.

Using our DNA, we can identify the parts of those ancestors that we carry today, reaching back in time several generations with autosomal DNA. In addition to autosomal, both Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA provide close matches and reach back in time, focused on one specific line, providing insights for millennia.

Time travel, truly reimagined.

There are so many ways to discover and connect with our ancestors available to us today. If we don’t carry the DNA of ancestors a few generations upstream, perhaps selected cousins do. We have several tools and databases at our disposal to find testers.

The DNA of our ancestors can and does actually lead us home, to them and, sometimes, exactly where they lived, as I illustrated with several case studies in my presentation, “Follow Your Ancestors Path.” Today, these options are available to everyone.

RootsTech is in the history books for another year, with new friendships made and old ones renewed. Indeed, we were finally reunited with each other, and introduced to cousins we had never met before. We shared tools, methodologies and information to identify our ancestors. We all left fervently hoping to be reunited again next year.

Please enjoy the amazing RootsTech musical finale here.

_____________________________________________________________

Follow DNAexplain on Facebook, here or follow me on Twitter, here.

Share the Love!

You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

You Can Help Keep This Blog Free

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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research

More Opportunities at RootsTech 2023 – Book Signing & Booth Lecture Sessions

There are even MORE virtual and in-person opportunities at RootsTech beginning on March 2nd.

Collage graphic courtesy of Dr. Penny Walters

This is sort of like Where’s Waldo, except it’s “Where’s Roberta” at RootsTech 2023.

I’m giving my three RootsTech sessions of course, but that’s not all. I’m appearing for presentations in both the FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage booths, plus having a book signing for my book, DNA for Native American Genealogy.

Unfortunately, none of my RootsTech sessions are livestreamed, so please attend in person if you’re in Salt Lake City.

The Expo Hall vendor floor plan is here.

The entire floor plan, including the session rooms is here.

Here’s my schedule, followed by the FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage booth schedules. Both have wonderful, free, DNA and genealogy sessions.

Roberta – Thursday March 2

9:30 – 10:30 AM – DNA for Native American Genealogy – 10 Ways to Find Your Native American Ancestor – Room 155A

1 – 1:30 PM – Time Travel with Your Ancestors – MyHeritage Booth

3 PM – DNA Journey – Follow Your Ancestor’s Path – Room 255B

Roberta – Friday March 3

1:30 – 2:30 PM – Big Y DNA for the Win – Room 150

4 PM – AutoClusters for the Win – MyHeritage Booth

Roberta – Saturday March 4

1:30 – 2:00 PM – Native American AMA (Ask Me Anything) – FamilyTreeDNA Booth

2:00 – 2:30 PM – Book Signing – DNA for Native American Genealogy – FamilyTreeDNA Booth

About the Book Signing

It’s unfortunate that there won’t be a book vendor at RootsTech this year, but I’ll have some copies of my book along for purchase and signing.

For right now, plan on bringing either $30 in cash, or a check. I’m trying to work out credit card processing, but no promises.

If I run out of books, the show-special pricing of $30 will be honored by the publisher if you order and pay at the book signing.

I’m bringing book plates to sign so I can sign the plate for you, even if you need to order.

If you already purchased the book, come on by and I’ll be glad to sign a book plate for you as well, at least until I run out😊

Expo Hall Opportunities

Many vendors will be offering sessions in their booths, both in person and virtual. Please check them out.

You can register for RootsTech for free which gives you remote access and also access to the Expo Hall if you attend in person. Of course, the paid registration gives you access to the in-person sessions at RootsTech.

I wrote about how to sign up and navigate the RootsTech site, here.

There are a lot more sessions available in the Expo Hall, both virtual and in person, in the vendor booths.

I’m highlighting both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage since they both focus on DNA and have scheduled free sessions from their own specialists plus industry leaders. Most booth sessions tend to be about half an hour.

MyHeritage Hall Lecture and Booth Schedule

Click to enlarge

I’m sure after the virtual Expo Halls opens, their schedule will be available there too.

FamilyTreeDNA Hall Lecture and Booth Schedule

FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA) published two blog posts, one about the free virtual RootsTech sessions, here, and one about the in-person sessions, here. If you subscribe to their blog, here, you’ll received updates during the week as they feature different sessions. Also, check their virtual booth after the Expo Hall opens.

SLC Local Time Thursday March 2 Friday March 3 Saturday March 4
9:30 (AM) Y DNA: An Overview of your Results – Katy Rowe – Ballroom A – livestreamed Let’s Play Connect Forefathers! -Sherman McRae – Ballroom A – livestreamed
10:30 What You Can Do with DNA – Katy Rowe – FTDNA Booth Native American Roots – Janine Cloud – FTDNA Booth Which Test is Best for Me? – Janine Cloud – FTDNA Booth
1:00 PM FamilyTreeDNA Sponsor Spotlight – Main Stage Y-DNA AMA (Ask Me Anything) – Dr. Paul Maier, Goran Runfeldt, Michael Sager Mitochondrial DNA AMA (Ask me Anything) – Dr. Paul Maier, Goran Runfeldt
1:30 Unexpected Y-DNA Result – Sherman McRae – FTDNA Booth Just in Time for Groups – Jim Brewster – Virtual Live Demo through FTDNA Expo Hall booth Native American AMA (Ask Me Anything) – Roberta Estes – FTDNA Booth
2:00 Book Signing – DNA for Native American Genealogy – Roberta Estes – FTDNA booth
3:00 Unexpected Y DNA Result – Sherman McRae – FTDNA booth
4:00 Which Test is Best for Me? – Janine Cloud – FTDNA Booth

Rootstech Live Webinars Versus Livestreamed Sessions

There has been some confusion about the difference between RootsTech Live Webinars and Livestreamed sessions, and how to access each. I know this is confusing, so bear with me.

  • It appears that the free virtual registration will give you access to the live webinars, because the speakers and their sessions are listed both under the in-person and the virtual on-demand classes, here.
  • The paid registration gives you access to the sessions that will be given in person and also livestreamed.

There is no list (or filter ability) of livestreamed or live webinar sessions, but it’s easy to see if you go to the list of in-person sessions, here, and look under location where it will say “Live Webinar” if the session is just a webinar. However, this list does NOT tell you if the session is livestreamed.

Let’s look at an example.

Here are the first two sessions for Thursday.

Click to enlarge

The first session listed is a Live Webinar, meaning there is no in person room to visit. This sessions ALSO appears on the virtual list of classes, if you look there.

The second session physically takes place in Ballroom A. If you click on the session, and scroll to the bottom, you’ll see this statement about livestreaming. That means you go to Ballroom A if you are in SLC or you can view the session by visiting this link and clicking at the red arrow to join. I believe these will be available later too, but I have no confirmation of that.

This session is NOT listed in the free “on demand” sessions, so I believe any in-person session is only available with a paid registration.

The message is to plan your RootsTech sessions in advance.

Over and Out Until RootsTech

How can it possibly just be just four days until RootsTech. The suspense builds every single day because we know there will be announcements and it will be wonderful to see our genea-friends in person again. It feels like it has been forever.

This is it for me until RootsTech. My schedule is absolutely jam-packed slammed busy, but I will try to write and publish something everyday so you folks can “come along” with me.

I have a media pass this year, so I’ll be trying to grab photos of people, including the main stage speakers, and asking what are hopefully relevant questions. Maybe some behind the scenes things too. I’m not sure how much access we have.

There are sure to be some interesting surprises, planned or unplanned. There always are. Personally, I’m just extremely grateful that RootsTech wasn’t this week, given their 2 feet of snow, or I would have been interviewing people in the hotel lobby and maybe coordinating games of Euchre or perhaps modifying Jeopardy for “Who’s Your Ancestor?” “I’ll take pilgrims for $200.”

It would be miserable to be snowed in literally one block from the FamilySearch Library and not be able to get there. Mother Nature, hopefully, has gotten this out of her system as this week promises to be less weather-challenged. Knock wood!

____________________________________________________________

Follow DNAexplain on Facebook, here or follow me on Twitter, here.

Share the Love!

You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

You Can Help Keep This Blog Free

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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research

Relatives at RootsTech – How to Use & Connect with DNA

Relatives at RootsTech is back and I’m so very glad to see it.

Let me show you how to use this wonderful tool, including tips for how to get even more out of the experience.

It’s important to start now to accumulate your cousins, because there’s a display limit of 300 in each category, so you’ll want to begin recording your findings so that as more people sign up and are added to your list, you don’t “lose” the earlier relatives.

Let’s start with my link. Click here.

You’ll be prompted to sign in to your FamilySearch account, or create one. If you don’t have an account, create one now.

Right now, the number of participants is doubling every few days.

Let’s take a look at how Relatives at RootsTech works and how it can benefit you.

Surnames

At first glance, the surname tool doesn’t look terribly exciting, but there’s a hidden gem, especially for newer genealogists.

I entered my surname and one other, knowing there is probably no common locations other than the US. Kvochick is very rare and unique.

The results show two interesting things. First, the genesis of the surname, and second, the total number of people in the FamilySearch tree in both of the common locations for both surnames.

Be sure to try variant spellings too.

After you sign in, you’ll be asked to update your profile which is how you join in on the fun. If you signed up for Relatives at RootsTech last year, that doesn’t count for this year. You need to opt-in for this year’s festivities.

RootsTech Relatives

After you sign in, you’ll see how many of your relatives have joined.

Of the 60,461 total who have joined, according to the FamilySearch tree, I’m related to about 15% of them. That sure gives new perspective to how many people we’re related to. And just think if those brick walls didn’t exist. We’d be related to just about everyone. Far enough back, we’re all related, literally.

Your Relatives at RootsTech are displayed in three ways.

By location, ancestor or family line.

Relatives by Location

Your first view will be by all locations (including people who did not select a location,) but displayed in closest to most distant relationship order. For me, that’s the most interesting part.

These people, my closest relatives, are the people most likely to have critical pieces of information that I don’t have or know about. Like family stories, or photos, for example.

I know one of these people, but not the rest. I’m dying to know who they are and how we are related.

For me, the map itself isn’t terribly useful, but it would be if some members of your family were from distinct locations.

Not everyone opts in to have their location displayed. The “173” in the center is the people who generically selected United States.

Relatives by Family Line

The Family Line display shows you the number of people by parent or grandparent. Unfortunately, you can only view 300 of your matches in each line, which is disappointing.

However, there’s a better way to view your relatives.

Relatives by Ancestor

For me, the best way to view relatives is by ancestor. This also circumvents the 300 limit to some extent, unless you have more than 300 relatives for any one ancestor.

I have two relatives who also descend from Curtis Benjamin Lore. It’s Jen and Jill again, my closest relatives.

I’m quite interested in these people, because Curtis is my great-grandfather and he was a very interesting man. I know Jen and Jill are interested in genealogy too, or they would not have signed up for RootsTech Relatives, this year, in the past few days. This is not a stale list.

I’ll be messaging them as soon as I’m finished with this article!!!

Please note that FamilySearch does not label half-relationships accurately.

Jen and Jill are my HALF second cousins twice removed, which will affect the expected amount of shared DNA. Their ancestors, Edith and Maude were half-sisters through their father, not full sisters. One of the reasons I’m so interested in communicating with Jen and Jill is because I’m not at all sure that those half-sisters knew each other existed.

Maintaining Contact

For each relative found, you can view your relationship, message them, or add them to your contact list. Be aware – your contact list “saves” this person, but it does not tell you how you’re related. That’s where either a Word document, with screen shots of how you’re related, or a spreadsheet where you can detail that information is important.

If you have messaged people in the past, those messages are still in your message box in the upper right-hand corner.

I generally provide my email address when I message relatives.

Displaying the Relationship

If you click on the “Relationship” button, you’ll see how FamilySearch believes you’re related to each match.

My relationship with an Acadian cousin, beginning with our common ancestor, is shown above. Grab a screen shot so you can remember. I drop them into a spreadsheet or Word document.

These matches are based on FamilySearch’s one world type of tree. I don’t have to tell you to be cautious because, like any tree, there are erroneous connections. This connection, at least on my side (left hand,) seems to be accurate. I don’t have Jeanne Chebrat’s second marriage to Jehan Piorier in my file, so I’ll need to check that out. Many times FamilySearch, WikiTree, Ancestry, or MyHeritage has connected documents or sources. In this case, here’s the WikiTree entry for Jeanne.

See, I’ve found something interesting already.

Search for People

On the toolbar, if you click on the right arrow, you’ll notice there’s one more option – Search.

If you think one your cousins might be attending, either virtually or in person, you can search by surname. I entered Estes out of curiosity.

This is quite interesting, because some other poor soul is also named Roberta Estes. You KNOW I’ll be messaging her. I’m pretty sure I know who this is, because we’ve been getting mixed up for years. Unless, of course there are actually three of us interested in genealogy.

However, where this Search option really shines is if you’re looking for males who descend from a particular line as candidates for Y-DNA testing.

Bingo!

I suggest doing this name search for each surname in your tree.

The Share Button is Critically Important

Sharing is the key to encouraging people to participate.

This button on the main page is how I generated the link for you to use to see if we’re related.

There’s a “Share” button in several locations. However, you’ll want to be sure you know exactly what you’re sharing. In some cases, it will be the surname comparison information or other information that you’re viewing. 

However, on the bottom of your Relatives pages, Share will generate a message link to/through several programs or apps so people can sign in to see if they are related to you.

You can also just copy the link and send it to someone in a text message or otherwise.

If you generate a message to share, you’ll see what will be posted, so you’ll know for sure exactly what you’re sharing. I wanted to post the link for my friends on Facebook to see if we are related, and that’s exactly what was generated.

If you follow the link to see if we are related, be sure to tell me, or anyone else whose link you follow.

Next, Connect with DNA

Relatives for RootsTech is a wonderful segway into DNA testing.

Remember, with the 300-relative limit, different searches will produce different results including people that won’t be included due to the 300 limit in other searches. Be creative and search in multiple ways. Add your relatives to your spreadsheet or Word document, then record whether they’ve DNA tested, at which vendor(s) and if you match there.

There are various ways to utilize Relatives at RootsTech for DNA.

  • Y-DNA candidates for the direct paternal line for males – The Search by surname can provide you with Y-DNA testing candidates. They may already have tested their Y-DNA with FamilyTreeDNA or their autosomal DNA with at least one vendor, so just message them and ask. Tell them which databases you’re in. Viewing Relatives by Ancestor can be very useful for this same purpose, especially if you have multiple unrelated lines with the same surname.
  • Mitochondrial DNA – the Relatives by Ancestor tool is very useful for locating mitochondrial DNA testing candidates, especially since you can easily see how they are descended from your common ancestor. Mitochondrial DNA is passed from women through all females to the current generation, which can be male or female. Any of your cousins, of either sex, are candidates so long as they descend from your target ancestor through all females.
  • DNA Pedigree Chart – If you’re building your own DNA Pedigree Chart with the Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA of each ancestral line, consider offering a DNA testing scholarship to people who carry those lines that are missing in your DNA Pedigree Chart.
  • Testing Candidates – Anyone is a good candidate for autosomal testing. No second cousin or closer has ever not matched. Ask your cousins if they have tested and tell them which DNA databases you are in. Furthermore, suggest that they upload their DNA to FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage for free to utilize their tools and find matches that aren’t in the other databases. GEDmatch isn’t a testing company, but is another free database where you may find people who tested at Ancestry. Unfortunately, Ancestry does not provide segment information for matching or painting, so hopefully you’ll be able to find your Ancestry matches elsewhere.
  • Databases – Be sure you’re in all of the databases (Ancestry, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and GEDmatch) so you can be found and you can find your relatives.
  • DNAPainter – If you’re painting your segments at DNAPainter, you can paint your matching segments from 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage or GEDmatch. Ancestry is the only vendor that does not provide matching segment information for their customers.
  • DNA Search – If your cousin has used their actual name when registering at FamilySearch, sort by ancestor, then search your DNA matches at the various vendors for that cousin’s name. The beauty of Relatives at RootsTech is that the relationship is already sorted by ancestor, so that piece of the puzzle has already been assembled for you, which is exactly the opposite of most DNA matches. Of course, this does not preclude errors or connections through multiple ancestors.

Limited Time – March 31 is the End

If I had a FamilySearch genie and could get one wish, it would be that they would leave Relatives for RootsTech up and available until the next RootsTech. I need time to work on these relationships.

However, that’s not the case, and Relatives for RootsTech ends on March 31st.

Therefore, it’s important to begin building your spreadsheet, or however you’re going to record your relatives, NOW. Check your list often so none of those precious matches will roll off of your list and become unavailable. Access to the complete relative match list, meaning no 300 limit would be my second wish from the FamilySearch genie.

To preserve the ability to communicate with your relatives, message them now or at least add them to your contact list – WITH A NOTE IN YOUR SPREADSHEET AS TO HOW YOU’RE RELATED. Otherwise, that information will not be available after March 31st.

You’ll want to use the same spreadsheet from year to year, as some of the relatives signing up this year probably did last year too.

Ready, Set, Relatives at RootsTech

Have fun. Be sure to let me know if we’re related and how!!!

____________________________________________________________

Follow DNAexplain on Facebook, here or follow me on Twitter, here.

Share the Love!

You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

You Can Help Keep This Blog Free

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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research