23andMe Changes: Triangulation Doesn’t Work the Same Way

23andMe made a significant change about the time I was recording my RootsTech presentation about triangulation which provided examples at each vendor. Unfortunately, there was no notification to customers, so most people still aren’t aware.

In the fall and winter of 2020, 23andMe made several changes that resulted in losses to the genealogy community.

At first glance, it looks like this particular change is cosmetic – simply a column heading title change – but there are modifications behind the scenes that negate triangulation at 23andMe. At least in the way triangulation previously worked with the functionality genealogists have long understood to be triangulation at 23andMe.

This article explains the changes, what they mean, and how to work around the issues.

Update

Please note that as of March 12, 2021, some of the changes seem to have reverted, but it’s unclear if all changes have reverted to the original status. It’s virtually impossible to confirm because testers cannot search for “Relatives in Common” by surname. Therefore, proceed by confirming that people who are marked as “Yes” for “DNA Overlap” do in fact triangulate on each overlapping segment using the techniques I’ve described below.

Triangulation

If you need a refresher about what triangulation means, how it works, and why it’s important, I’ve compiled triangulation resources into one article, Triangulation Resources in One Place.

Let’s look at what happened at 23andMe.

Before the Changes

Before the changes, it was possible to quickly determine if you triangulated with two other people on at least one segment by looking at the “Shared DNA” column. Now, it isn’t.

This change has HUGE ramifications.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to simply not notice the change or interpret the column heading change from “Shared DNA” to “DNA Overlap,” as unimportant, but that’s not at all the case.

A “Yes” in this column NO LONGER MEANS triangulation.

This change makes the 23andMe slides of my RootsTech session, DNA Triangulation: What, Why, and How, obsolete.

I’m rewriting that section, step by step, in this article.

Previous Information

Click any slide to enlarge

On slide 24 of my presentation, available here, I talked about clicking on a match, then scrolling down to the “Find Relatives in Common” link. If you click on that link, you see a list of who you and that match both match in common.

In this case, Everett Harold (not his surname) and I both match with my V4 kit, DH and Stacy.

That page, back then, had a column titled ‘Shared DNA.”

At that time, a “Yes” in “Shared DNA” meant that the three people triangulate on at least one segment. That’s not what it means now, and the column header has changed too.

What I said in the presentation was this:

“Looking under the Shared DNA column, the people with a Yes triangulate, and the people with a No, do not.

This means that Everett Harold, me, and DH triangulate. It also means that Everett Harold, Stacy, and I do NOT triangulate.”

Please ignore this and the next slide, #25, too, because the 23andMe page has changed – along with the meaning.

Just put what I said and what you think you know about how triangulation works at 23andMe out of your mind. If you haven’t yet watched my Triangulation session at RootsTech, please just simply skip those two slides (24 and 25) so you don’t confuse yourself with old and now irrelevant information.

We’re starting over here with triangulation at 23andMe.

Current 23andMe Information

Here’s the same 23andMe “Relatives in Common” page, today:

Click to enlarge

You can see that while Stacy was marked “No,” on the previous “Shared DNA” page, the column is now titled “DNA Overlap” and she is now marked “Yes.”

The new infographic says this:

Here’s what this change means:

  • Previously, if someone was marked as “Yes,” it meant that in fact all three people did share a common segment of DNA AND matched each other on at least one segment. That meant they triangulated on at least one segment.
  • Currently, this field only means that they share an overlapping piece of DNA with the tester. It DOES NOT mean that they all 3 match each other on that segment.
  • They may or may not triangulate.

You might be wondering how that’s different. It’s very different and quite important.

Overlap Versus Triangulation

Here’s an example of two people who both match me on chromosome 15 and are marked “Yes” in DNA Overlap. Based on this graphic alone, or that “yes,” you can’t determine if this overlapping segment means triangulation, where the orange and purple person also match each other, or not.

  • BOTH of these people match ME on chromosome 15.
  • If they also match each other on a reasonable portion of chromosome 15 where they both match me, then we all triangulate. A reasonable amount of matching DNA at 23andMe is 6 cM, their match threshold.
  • If those two people do not also match each other on a reasonably sized segment (6 cM) of chromosome 15, then we do not triangulate. This would indicate that one match is from my mother’s side, and one from my father’s side, or that perhaps one is identical by chance. In other words, we do not share a common ancestor on this segment which is the purpose of identifying triangulated segments.

Based on other comparisons which I’ll show you how to perform in a minute – the purple and orange people don’t match each other on this segment. Therefore, this segment is not triangulated between me and the purple and orange people.

Previously, for this match, the “Shared DNA” column was marked “No,” and now the “DNA Overlap” column is marked “Yes.”

The three of us don’t triangulate, and “DNA Overlap” now only means that the three people share some DNA on the same portion of a chromosome with me, NOT that they match each other, which would mean that we triangulate.

It’s a hugely important distinction.

Before, “Yes” meant triangulation and now “Yes” just means an overlap, but NOT necessarily triangulation. You have to figure that out for yourself.

Overlap at 23andMe

An overlap simply means that two people match you on the same portion of DNA.

Someone from your Mom’s side and someone else from your Dad’s side will both match you on a segment of DNA in the same location on a chromosome, shown above.  However, they won’t match each other because one is from your Mom’s side and one is from your Dad’s side. Your Mom’s DNA is different from your Dad’s.

To prove that you all three share a common ancestor, you all three need to match each other on the SAME reasonably sized overlapping chromosome segment.

However, things are even more confusing now at 23and Me.

An Additional Complication

23andMe now indicates that Everett and Stacy have a DNA overlap with me, but the chromosome browser shows NO overlap on any chromosome when I compare both Everett and Stacy to me on my chromosome browser.

How is no overlap even possible when Stacy is listed on the Shared Relatives list with me and Everett, AND 23andMe shows a yes for DNA Overlap?

I eventually found the answer, which makes match analysis much more cumbersome for genealogists. What used to be one step now takes several, not to mention the “yes” answer is now unreliable.

Essentially, all that “Yes” in the DNA Overlap field means is a hint for you to dig further.

Determining 23andMe Triangulation

It appears that the only way to tell if your two matches match each other on the same chromosome as you is to “Select different relatives or friends to compare” at the top of the chromosome browser page.

You’ll see your name plus the two people you were comparing against your DNA in the chromosome browser.

You’ve already seen how they match you on the chromosome browser. What you now need to view is how they match each other.

You can remove yourself, and replace your name with one of your two matches, as shown below.

This will show Everett’s chromosome with Stacy compared to him.

Everett and Stacy do match each other on two smallish segments, but not in the same locations as shown on their match with me.

This is Everett’s match with Stacy (purple).

I match Everett on chromosome 18, but not Stacy.

I match Stacy on chromosome 7, but not Everett.

There is no overlap shown.

Ok, I’m adding myself to Everett’s matches, just to double-check.

Next, we’re looking at Everett’s chromosomes in grey. Stacy is purple and I’m orange.

Overlap Issue

I’ve found the confusing overlap issue, but it only makes the situation worse.

Everett matches both me and Stacy on adjacent and very slightly overlapping portions of chromosome 18. However, the amount of DNA where I match Stacy on chromosome 18 is too small to be considered a match when compared to Stacy directly, meaning it’s less than 6 cM – the smallest 23andMe segment to show as a match. This tiny sliver of overlap only shows when comparing from Everett’s perspective where we can see his match to me and Stacy both on the same chromosome.

A secondary change is that now it appears that 23andMe is showing any small piece of overlapping DNA with a “Yes.” Any segment of DNA smaller than 6 cM, their match threshold, should not be listed as overlapping if we all three don’t match each other on at least 6 cM of DNA.

You can work around the changes 23andMe made, but it has made a one or two-step easy process into a more complicated, cumbersome multi-step procedure involving comparing multiple people to each other separately.

Summary

Previous Now
Column Title Shared DNA DNA Overlap
Triangulation Status Triangulation if “Yes” in the “Shared DNA” column Not an indication of triangulation, even if “Yes” in the “DNA Overlap” column
Triangulation Indicator “Yes” in the “Shared DNA” column None, triangulation not flagged

In summary, for triangulation now at 23andMe:

  • The DNA Overlap status of “yes” DOES NOT indicate triangulation.
  • The DNA Overlap status of “yes” indicates overlap on the same chromosome, not triangulation, meaning all three people do not necessarily match each other.
  • DNA Overlap status of “yes” MAY mean the three people triangulate, but further comparisons are needed.
  • DNA Overlap status of “yes” may refer to overlap smaller than 6 shared cM which is not reflected in individual one-to-one matches.
  • The DNA Overlap status of “yes” may therefore not be technically accurate in terms of genealogical matching and triangulation.
  • A DNA Overlap status of “no” means you do not overlap which means you cannot triangulate.
  • To determine triangulation, meaning if you and two other people all match each other if you share an overlapping segment of DNA on the same chromosome, compare each pair of people one-to-one in the chromosome browser.
  • If you do not find overlapping DNA when comparing three people one-to-one, try the same comparison to the other two people from the perspective of one of the other people in the group, as I did with Everett. This may reveal a small overlapping segment, as illustrated in this article on chromosome 18 when I showed me and Stacy on Everett’s chromosomes.

It’s worth noting here that every segment is different. Triangulation on any individual segment should not be extrapolated to mean triangulation on every common segment, even between the same three people, is valid for all overlapping segments. Evaluate each overlap separately.

This fundamental change makes triangulation at 23andMe much more difficult for the genealogist. Fortunately, there is a work-around.

Please feel free to share this article with anyone who may have tested at 23andMe and is using their tools for genealogical purposes.

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RootsTech Connect 2021: Comprehensive DNA Session List

I wondered exactly how many DNA sessions were at RootsTech this year and which ones are the most popular.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t easily view a list of all the sessions, so I made my own. I wanted to be sure to include every session, including Tips and Tricks and vendor sessions that might only be available in their booths. I sifted through every menu and group and just kept finding more and more buried DNA treasures in different places.

I’m sharing this treasure chest with you below. And by the way, this took an entire day, because I’ve listed the YouTube direct link AND how many views each session had amassed today.

Two things first.

Sales Extended

The Family Tree DNA RootsTech Sales prices including upgrades are still available – here.

  • The FamilyTreeDNA autosomal Family Finder testis now only $49. Click here to purchase using coupon code RTCTFF.
  • FamilyTreeDNAis offering the advanced tool unlock for only $9 after a free transfer through March 7th. Click here to sign on, upload your DNA file if you’ve tested elsewhere, and then unlock using code RTCAU10.

MyHeritage has extended their RootsTech deals too.

  • MyHeritage has waived the unlock fee of $29 if you transfer your DNA kit from another vendor between now and March 7th. You can upload, free, here. You’ll get all of the advanced tools for free.
  • The MyHeritage DNA kit is on sale for $79, here.

Neither Ancestry nor 23andMe had show sales, but you can purchase at their regular prices.

All serious genealogists will want to test at or transfer to all 4 major vendors and test their Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA at FamilyTreeDNA.

RootsTech Sessions

As you know, RootsTech was shooting for TED talk format this year. Roughly 20-minute sessions. When everything was said and done, there were five categories of sessions:

  • Curated sessions are approximately 20-minute style presentations curated by RootsTech meaning that speakers had to submit. People whose sessions were accepted were encouraged to break longer sessions into a series of two or three 20-minute sessions.
  • Vendor booth videos could be loaded to their virtual boots without being curated by RootsTech, but curated videos by their employees could also be loaded in the vendor booths.
  • DNA Learning Center sessions were by invitation and provided by volunteers. They last generally between 10-20 minutes.
  • Tips and Tricks are also produced by volunteers and last from 1 to 15 minutes. They can be sponsored by a company and in some cases, smaller vendors and service providers utilized these to draw attention to their products and services.
  • 1-hour sessions tend to be advanced and not topics could be easily broken apart into a series.

Look at this amazing list of 129 DNA or DNA-related sessions that you can watch for free for the next year. Be sure to bookmark this article so you can refer back easily.

Please note that I started compiling this list for myself and I’ve shortened some of the session names. Then I realized that if I needed this, so do you.

Top 10 Most-Viewed Sessions

I didn’t know whether I should list these sessions by speaker name, or by the most views, so I’m doing a bit of both.

Drum roll please…

The top 10 most viewed sessions as of today are:

Speaker/Vendor Session Title Type Link Views
Libby Copeland How Home DNA Testing Has Redefined Family History Curated Session https://youtu.be/LsOEuvEcI4A 13,554
Nicole Dyer Organize Your DNA Matches in a Diagram Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/UugdM8ATTVo 6175
Roberta Estes DNA Triangulation: What, Why, and How 1 hour https://youtu.be/nIb1zpNQspY 6106
Tim Janzen Tracing Ancestral Lines in the 1700s Using DNA Part 1 Curated Session https://youtu.be/bB7VJeCR6Bs 5866
Amy Williams Ancestor Reconstruction: Why, How, Tools Curated Session https://youtu.be/0D6lAIyY_Nk 5637
Drew Smith Before You Test Basics Part 1 Curated Session https://youtu.be/wKhMRLpefDI 5079
Nicole Dyer How to Interpret a DNA Cluster Chart Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/FI4DaWGX8bQ 4982
Nicole Dyer How to Evaluate a ThruLines Hypothesis Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/ao2K6wBip7w 4823
Kimberly Brown Why Don’t I Match my Match’s Matches DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/A8k31nRzKpc 4593
Rhett Dabling, Diahan Southard Understanding DNA Ethnicity Results Curated Session https://youtu.be/oEt7iQBPfyM 4287

Libby Copeland must be absolutely thrilled. I noticed that her session was featured over the weekend in a highly prominent location on the RootsTech website.

Sessions by Speaker

The list below includes the English language sessions by speaker. I apologize for not being able to discern which non-English sessions are about DNA.

Don’t let a smaller number of views discourage you. I’ve watched a few of these already and they are great. I suspect that sessions by more widely-known speakers or ones whose sessions were listed in the prime-real estate areas have more views, but what you need might be waiting just for you in another session. You don’t have to pick and choose and they are all here for you in one place.

Speaker/Vendor Session Title Type Link Views
Alison Wilde SCREEN Method: A DNA Match Note System that Really Helps DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/WaNnh_v1rwE 791
Amber Brown Genealogist-on-Demand: The Help You Need on a Budget You Can Afford Curated Session https://youtu.be/9KjlD6GxiYs 256
Ammon Knaupp Pattern of Genetic Inheritance DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/Opr7-uUad3o 824
Amy Williams Ancestor Reconstruction: Why, How, Tools Curated Session https://youtu.be/0D6lAIyY_Nk 5637
Amy Williams Reconstructing Parent DNA and Analyzing Relatives at HAPI-DNA, Part 1 Curated Session https://youtu.be/MZ9L6uPkKbo 1021
Amy Williams Reconstructing Parent DNA and Analyzing Relatives at HAPI-DNA, Part 2 Curated Session https://youtu.be/jZBVVvJmnaU 536
Ancestry DNA Matches Curated Session https://youtu.be/uk8EKXLQYzs 743
Ancestry ThruLines Curated Session https://youtu.be/RAwimOgNgUE 1240
Ancestry Ancestry DNA Communities: Bringing New Discoveries to Your Family History Research Curated Session https://youtu.be/depeGW7QUzU 422
Andre Kearns Helping African Americans Trace Slaveholding Ancestors Using DNA Curated Session https://youtu.be/mlnSU5UM-nQ 2211
Barb Groth I Found You: Methods for Finding Hidden Family Members Curated Session https://youtu.be/J93hxOe_KC8 1285
Beth Taylor DNA and Genealogy Basics DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/-LKgkIqFhL4 967
Beth Taylor What Do I Do With Cousin Matches? DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/LyGT9B6Mh00 1349
Beth Taylor Using DNA to Find Unknown Relatives DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/WGJ8IfuTETY 2166
David Ouimette I Am Adopted – How Do I Use DNA to Find My Parents? Curated Session https://youtu.be/-jpKgKMLg_M 365
Debbie Kennett Secrets and Surprises: Uncovering Family History Mysteries through DNA Curated Session https://youtu.be/nDnrIWKmIuA 2899
Debbie Kennett Genetic Genealogy Meets CSI Curated Session https://youtu.be/sc-Y-RtpEAw 589
Diahan Southard What is a Centimorgan Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/uQcfhPU5QhI 2923
Diahan Southard Using the Shared cM Project DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/b66zfgnzL0U 3172
Diahan Southard Understanding Ethnicity Results DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/8nCMrf-yJq0 1587
Diahan Southard Problems with Shared Centimorgans DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/k7j-1yWwGcY 2494
Diahan Southard 4 Next Steps for Your DNA Curated Session https://youtu.be/poRyCaTXvNg 3378
Diahan Southard Your DNA Questions Answered Curated Session https://youtu.be/uUlZh_VYt7k 3454
Diahan Southard You Can Do the DNA – We Can Help Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/V5VwNzcVGNM 763
Diahan Southard What is a DNA Match? Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/Yt_GeffWhC0 314
Diahan Southard Diahan’s Tips for DNA Matches Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/WokgGVRjwvk 3348
Diahan Southard Diahan’s Tips for Y DNA Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/QyH69tk-Yiw 620
Diahan Southard Diahan’s Tips about mtDNA testing Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/6d-FNY1gcmw 2142
Diahan Southard Diahan’s Tips about Ethnicity Results Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/nZFj3zCucXA 1597
Diahan Southard Diahan’s Tips about Which DNA Test to Take Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/t–4R8H8q0U 2043
Diahan Southard Diahan’s Tips about When Your Matches Don’s Respond Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/LgHtM3nS60o 3009
Diahan Southard Three Next Steps: Using Known Matches Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/z1SVq8ME42A 118
Diahan Southard Three Next Steps: MRCA/DNA and the Paper Trail Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/JB0cVyk-Y4Q 80
Diahan Southard Three Next Steps: Start With Known Matches Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/BSNhaQCNtAo 68
Diahan Southard Three Next Steps: Additional Tools Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/PqNPBLQSBGY 140
Diahan Southard Three Next Steps: Ancestry ThruLines Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/KWayyAO8p_c 335
Diahan Southard Three Next Steps: MyHeritage Theory of Relativity Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/Et2TVholbAE 80
Diahan Southard Three Next Steps: Who to Test Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/GyWOO1XDh6M 111
Diahan Southard Three Next Steps: Genetics vs Genealogy Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/Vf0DC5eW_vA 294
Diahan Southard Three Next Steps: Centimorgan Definition Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/nQF935V08AQ 201
Diahan Southard Three Next Steps: Shared Matches Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/AYcR_pB6xgA 233
Diahan Southard Three Next Steps: Case Study – Finding an MRCA Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/YnlA9goeF7w 256
Diahan Southard Three Next Steps: Why Use DNA Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/v-o4nhPn8ww 266
Diahan Southard Three Next Steps: Finding Known Matches Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/n3N9CnAPr18 688
Diana Elder Using DNA Ethnicity Estimates in Your Research Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/aJgUK3TJqtA 1659
Diane Elder Using DNA in a Client Research Project to Solve a Family Mystery 1 hour https://youtu.be/ysGYV6SXxR8 1261
Donna Rutherford DNA and the Settlers of Taranaki, New Zealand Curated Session https://youtu.be/HQxFwie4774 214
Drew Smith Before You Test Basics Part 1 Curated Session https://youtu.be/wKhMRLpefDI 5079
Drew Smith Before You Test Basics Part 2 Curated Session https://youtu.be/Dopx04UHDpo 2769
Drew Smith Before You Test Basics Part 3 Curated Session https://youtu.be/XRd2IdtA-Ng 2360
Elena Fowler Whakawhanaungatanga Using DNA – It’s Complicated (Māori heritage) Curated Session https://youtu.be/6XTPMzVnUd8 470
Elena Fowler Whakawhanaungatanga Using DNA – FamilyTreeDNA (Māori heritage) Curated Session https://youtu.be/fM85tt5ad3A 269
Elena Fowler Whakawhanaungatanga Using DNA – Ancestry (Māori heritage) Curated Session https://youtu.be/-byO6FOfaH0 191
Esmee Mortimer-Taylor Living DNA: Anathea Ring – Her Story Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/MTE4UFKyLRs 189
Esmee Mortimer-Taylor Living DNA: Coretta Scott King Academy – DNA Results Reveal Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/CK1EYcuhqmc 82
Fonte Felipe Ethnic Filters and DNA Matches: The Way Forward to Finding Your Lineage Curated Session https://youtu.be/mt2Rv2lpj7o 553
FTDNA – Janine Cloud Big Y: What is it? Why Do I Need It? Curated Session https://youtu.be/jiDcjWk4cVI 2013
FTDNA – Sherman McRae Using DNA to Find Ancestors Lost in Slavery Curated Session https://youtu.be/i3VKwpmttBI 738
Jerome Spears Elusive Distant African Cousins: Using DNA, They Can Be Found Curated Session https://youtu.be/fAr-Z78f_SM 335
Karen Stanbary Ruling Out Instead of Ruling In: DNA and the GPS in Action 1 hour https://youtu.be/-WLhIHlSyLE 548
Katherine Borges DNA and Lineage Societies Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/TBYGyLHHAOI 451
Kimberly Brown Why Don’t I Match my Match’s Matches DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/A8k31nRzKpc 4593
Kitty Munson Cooper Basics of Unknown Parentage Research Using DNA Part 1 Curated Session https://youtu.be/2f3c7fJ74Ig 2931
Kitty Munson Cooper Basics of Unknown Parentage Research Using DNA Part 2 Curated Session https://youtu.be/G7h-LJPCywA 1222
Lauren Vasylyev Finding Cousins through DNA Curated Session https://youtu.be/UN7WocQzq78 1979
Lauren Vasylyev, Camille Andrus Finding Ancestors Through DNA Curated Session https://youtu.be/4rbYrRICzrQ 3919
Leah Larkin Untangling Endogamy Part 1 Curated Session https://youtu.be/0jtVghokdbg 2291
Leah Larkin Untangling Endogamy Part 2 Curated Session https://youtu.be/-rXLIZ0Ol-A 1441
Liba Casson-Budell Shining a Light on Jewish Genealogy Curated Session https://youtu.be/pHyVz94024Y 162
Libby Copeland How Home DNA Testing Has Redefined Family History Curated Session https://youtu.be/LsOEuvEcI4A 13,554
Linda Farrell Jumpstart your South African research Curated Session https://youtu.be/So7y9_PBRKc 339
Living DNA How to do a Living DNA Swab Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/QkbxhqCw7Mo 50
Lynn Broderick Ethical Considerations Using DNA Results Curated Session https://youtu.be/WMcRiDxPy2k 249
Mags Gaulden Importance and Benefits of Y DNA Testing DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/MVIiv0H7imI 1032
Maurice Gleeson Using Y -DNA to Research Your Surname Curated Session https://youtu.be/Ir4NeFH_aJs 1140
Melanie McComb Georgetown Memory Project: Preserving the Stories of the GU272 Curated Session https://youtu.be/Fv0gHzTHwPk 320
Michael Kennedy What Can You Do with Your DNA Test? DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/rKOjvkqYBAM 616
Michelle Leonard Understanding X-Chromosome DNA Matching Curated Session https://youtu.be/n784kt-Xnqg 775
MyHeritage How to Analyze DNA Matches on MH Curated Session https://youtu.be/gHRvyQYrNds 1192
MyHeritage DNA – an Overview Curated Session https://youtu.be/AIRGjEOg_xo 389
MyHeritage Advanced DNA Tools Curated Session https://youtu.be/xfZUAjI5G_I 762
MyHeritage How to Get Started with Your DNA Matches Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/rU_dq1vt6z4 1901
MyHeritage How to Filter and Sort Your DNA Matches Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/aJ7dRwMTt90 1008
Nicole Dyer How to Interpret a DNA Cluster Chart Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/FI4DaWGX8bQ 4982
Nicole Dyer How to Evaluate a ThruLines Hypothesis Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/ao2K6wBip7w 4823
Nicole Dyer Organize Your DNA Matches in a Diagram Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/UugdM8ATTVo 6175
Nicole Dyer Research in the Southern States Curated Session https://youtu.be/Pouw_yPrVSg 871
Olivia Fordiani Understanding Basic Genetic Genealogy DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/-kbGOFiwH2s 810
Pamela Bailey Information Wanted: Reuniting an American Family Separated by Slavery Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/DPCJ4K8_PZw 105
Patricia Coleman Getting Started with DNA Painter DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/Yh_Bzj6Atck 1775
Patricia Coleman Adding MyHeritage Data to DNA Painter DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/rP9yoCGjkLc 458
Patricia Coleman Adding 23andMe Data to DNA Painter DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/pJBAwe6s0z0 365
Penny Walters Mixing DNA with Paper Trail DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/PP4SjdKuiLQ 2693
Penny Walters Collaborating with DNA Matches When You’re Adopted DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/9ioeCS22HlQ 1222
Penny Walters Differences in Ethnicity Between My 6 Children DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/RsrXLcXRNfs 400
Penny Walters Differences in DNA Results Between My 6 Children DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/drnzW3FXScI 815
Penny Walters Ethical Dilemmas in DNA Testing DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/PRPoc0nB4Cs 437
Penny Walters Adoption – Background Context Curated Session https://youtu.be/qC1_Ln8WCNg 1054
Penny Walters Adoption – Utilizing DNA Testing to Construct a Bio Family Tree Curated Session https://youtu.be/zwJ5QofaGTE 941
Penny Walters Adoption – Ethical Dilemmas and Varied Consequences of Looking for Bio Family Curated Session https://youtu.be/ZLcHHTSfCIE 576
Penny Walters I Want My Mummy: Ancient and Modern Egypt Curated Session https://youtu.be/_HRO50RtzFk 311
Rebecca Whitman Koford BCG: Brief Step-by-Step Tour of the BCG Website Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/YpV9bKG6sXk 317
Renate Yarborough Sanders DNA Understanding the Basics DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/bX_flUQkBEA 2713
Renate Yarborough Sanders To Test or Not to Test DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/58-qzvN4InU 1048
Rhett Dabling Finding Ancestral Homelands Through DNA Curated Session https://youtu.be/k9zixg4uL1I 505
Rhett Dabling, Diahan Southard Understanding DNA Ethnicity Results Curated Session https://youtu.be/oEt7iQBPfyM 4287
Richard Price Finding Biological Family Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/L9C-SGVRZLM 101
Robert Kehrer Will They Share My DNA (Consent, policies, etc.) DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/SUo-jpTaR1M 480
Robert Kehrer What is a Centimorgan? DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/dopniLw8Fho 1194
Roberta Estes DNA Triangulation: What, Why and How 1 hour https://youtu.be/nIb1zpNQspY 6106
Roberta Estes Mother’s Ancestors DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/uUh6WrVjUdQ 3074
Robin Olsen Wirthlin How Can DNA Help Me Find My Ancestors? Curated Session https://youtu.be/ZINiyKsw0io 1331
Robin Olsen Wirthlin DNA Tools Bell Curve Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/SYorGgzY8VQ 1207
Robin Olsen Wirthlin DNA Process Trees Guide You in Using DNA in Family History Research Tips and Tricks https://youtu.be/vMOQA3dAm4k 1708
Shannon Combs-Bennett DNA Basics Made Easy DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/4JcLJ66b0l4 1560
Shannon Combs-Bennett DNA Brick Walls DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/vtFkT_PSHV0 450
Shannon Combs-Bennett Basics of Genetic Genealogy Part 1 Curated Session https://youtu.be/xEMbirtlBZo 2263
Shannon Combs-Bennett Basics of Genetic Genealogy Part 2 Curated Session https://youtu.be/zWMPja1haHg 1424
Steven Micheleti, Joanna Mountain Genetic Consequences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade Part 1 Curated Session https://youtu.be/xP90WuJpD9Q 2284
Steven Micheleti, Joanna Mountain Genetic Consequences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade Part 2 Curated Session https://youtu.be/McMNDs5sDaY 742
Thom Reed How Can Connecting with Ancestors Complete Us? Curated Session https://youtu.be/gCxr6W-tkoY 392
Tim Janzen Tracing Ancestral Lines in the 1700s Using DNA Part 1 Curated Session https://youtu.be/bB7VJeCR6Bs 5866
Tim Janzen Tracing Ancestral Lines in the 1700s Using DNA Part 2 Curated Session https://youtu.be/scOtMyFULGI 3008
Ugo Perego Strengths and Limitations of Genetic Testing for Family History DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/XkBK1y-LVaE 480
Ugo Perego A Personal Genetic Journey DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/Lv9CSU50xCc 844
Ugo Perego Discovering Native American Ancestry through DNA Curated Session https://youtu.be/L1cs748ctx0 884
Ugo Perego Mitochondrial DNA: Our Maternally-Inherited Family History Curated Session https://youtu.be/Z5bPTUzewKU 599
Vivs Laliberte Introduction to Y DNA DNA Learning Center https://youtu.be/rURyECV5j6U 752
Yetunde Moronke Abiola 6% Nigerian: Tracing my Missing Nigerian Ancestor Curated Session https://youtu.be/YNQt60xKgyg 494

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Books

RootsTech 2021 Day 4: Connect Our Souls

Why do we crazy genealogists do this anyway? More than half a million of us just this week? I wondered if a bunch of people signed up just because RootsTech was free, and then wouldn’t attend, but according to the FamilySearch people in our speaker’s group, that’s not the case.

The official counter stopped updating at the beginning of RootsTech, so we don’t know how many people have actually signed up. I do know that my number of Relatives at RootsTech has increased from 44,337 on the first full day to 57,906 today.

That’s an increase of about 31%. If you extrapolate and multiply the 501,000 people registered when the counter stopped, that means there’s more than 650,000 registrants, 150,000 of whom who signed up during RootsTech.

That’s the approximate size of these US cities:

  • Nashville
  • Detroit
  • Oklahoma City
  • Portland
  • Las Vegas
  • Memphis

Put another way, that’s more than three times the size of Salt Lake City that has about 200,000 residents.

No one, but no one, expected anything like this.

Why?

So why do we do this?

It connects our souls.

I want to share with you this amazing, short video, here. This box of found pictures provided photos of ancestors long dead to descendants in an Alaska indigenous community that didn’t even have cameras in the 1950s and 1960s.

Like the man in the video said, genealogy connects our souls. That connection sustains us. Through tough times. Through pandemics. And bridges death. It connects us through the people we know or knew to the ones we didn’t.

That’s why genealogists seek ancestors. We carry part of them in us – their DNA, their eyes, their hands perhaps, their smile and yes, maybe even their souls.

Genealogy, and specifically, DNA helps us to find them. Genetics identifies what parts of us come from them.

DNA Learning Center Activities

Through the DNA Learning Center Activities at RootsTech, I discovered the fun Traits Tree. Check it out. You may learn something you didn’t know about genetic traits. Who else has them in your family?

Who doesn’t love the Jelly Bean (er, I mean Gene) Machine at RootsTech where you can learn about autosomal DNA inheritance?

You can’t eat them this year, but you can still learn about autosomal inheritance in this fun little Jelly Genes app.

You can also connect to Learn.Genetics.

If you want to learn about the science behind DNA, Learn Genetics at the University of Utah has provided this great reference, including classroom materials.

Winding Down

I’m embarrassed to tell you that I’ve only managed to watch 2 or 3 sessions and part of one keynote.

What have I been doing and what have I accomplished? I wonder the same thing.

  • I’ve answered literally hundreds of questions in the chat rooms from my sessions and other rooms where I volunteered. I’m not positive that being able to direct message speakers, especially without notification capability was a good idea. Most people are kind and patient, understanding that this is not a slumber party and speakers, even genealogy speakers, must sleep from time to time. 😊
  • I made a list of all of the Y and mtDNA lines that I need in the closest 7 generations, allowing me to make the best use of my time working with Relatives at RootsTech.
  • I was VERY disappointed to discover that I could only see how the top 300 Relatives at RootsTech were related to me. Personally, I think this is one of the best features. I would LOVE to be able to sort those relatives by ancestor. I was told that this app is better on the phone, so I would hope that the online version could be enhanced to provide what the phone app does for future conferences.
  • Using the app, I discovered a cousin in the Netherlands on my Dutch line that I didn’t know existed. I hope they answer.
  • I built a wonderful playlist for myself. If I watch just one presentation a day, every day, I’ll be done sometime around the first of August with individual sessions, and that’s before I watch the 16 series that have more than one session each.

This is a wonderful gift. Something every single day to look forward to. I can probably watch and listen to some while I’m quilting or cleaning or doing some other task that doesn’t require my full concentration.

I know RootsTech Connect 2021 was different and bumpy and sometimes difficult – for you and trust me, for the speakers too. But it has also been a growing experience.

We’re on the other side of it now. Warriors – and we survived. And you know what – it just might be the best RootsTech yet because it’s not really over.

I hope next year we can all be gathered back together again in Salt Lake City – in person but also incorporating the best of this year of forced change. By that I mean, inclusive so that RootsTech can again be a global event. Wouldn’t you love to actually be able to see the speakers live as they present?

Hope

I’ve been sharing my DNA garb with you this week. Today, I’m sharing something a bit different.

Hope.

I ordered this absolutely stunning woven Kente cloth from Ghana. I’m sure you see the helix.

This cloth represents so much to me, personally.

First, we all descend from Africa.

We are all related.

We are all connected.

We are humankind.

This cloth represents hope to me – reaching into our common past – and extending into the future.

A future that hopefully includes a trip to Salt Lake City for RootsTech next year.

One of the reasons I’m so passionate about Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA and love it so very much is because that is the only avenue we have to connect ourselves back into the distant past – beyond the mists of time. Crossing that veil into antiquity, before surnames and before genealogy as we know it. Yet, it’s there, within our reach and DNA opens that door.

Stretching back and informing us about our family in the distant past. Telling the story of their path, their journey and their struggles that led to us.

We are woven together by the tapestry of life, through our ancestors, both recent and distant. And yes, their DNA is interwoven in us as well. Individual threads of them that created each unique one of us.

Kente cloth at its best.

May your ancestors bring you hope and love and inspiration.

I’ll share with you next year what my ancestors inspire me to do with this wonderful hand-woven fabric that represents their collective lives. Yes, my ancestors walk with me in this way too.

Every. Single. Day.

In Closing

I actually did manage to watch the closing session with Steve Rockwood. He’s not only the FamilySearch CEO, but he’s an incredibly gifted speaker. I don’t want to say more, but I hope you will be able watch even though it’s lengthy.

If you like music and songwriting, this is definitely for you. Music reaches places that words cannot.

One last thing – you absolutely will not get through this final session dry-eyed. “Love me like it’s 1961…..” and that’s just the beginning. Just get the box of Kleenex.

Let me close these four days of RootsTech Connect 2021 by sharing these thoughts.

Give us hope.

We are not alone.

Let us heal.

Connect our souls.

_____________________________________________________________

Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Books

Rootstech 2021 Day 3: Picture Perfect & Great Prices!

How can a virtual conference possibly be this tiring? I’ve been trying to watch a few sessions, but I’ve spent most of my time in various chat rooms answering questions.

Of course, I discovered that 23andMe changed their product AFTER I recorded and submitted the Triangulation video. Guess what you’ll be reading next week!

Yep, a clarification article. I’m using the word “clarification” loosely here, because it’s still confusing.

So, what’s going on in the genealogy community and at RootsTech today?

Well, for starters, MyHeritage has been acquired. This was out of left field. Wow.

MyHeritage Acquisition

MyHeritage has been acquired by private equity firm, Francisco Partners.

I have no idea if the MyHeritage acquisition was timed to correspond to RootsTech, but regardless, it did.

We’re used to big announcements at RootsTech, but not this big, and not announcements of this nature, either.

In the past several months, all of the other 3 major genetic genealogy companies have been acquired. MyHeritage is number four.

Here’s the Business Wire link, and here’s a very nice article from a personal perspective of a long-standing MyHeritage board member.

I have to tell you, this made me draw a sharp breath, so I reached out to three people at MyHeritage in positions to know. After hearing from all three within hours, I’m greatly relieved.

Founder Gilad Japhet is remaining in position as CEO, as is the rest of the staff. This acquisition means more investment dollars which means that MyHeritage can digitize more records and produce more tools for genealogists.

2021, in the genetic genealogy world, is a new ballgame. All 4 vendors now have new owners, and a year ago, GEDmatch was sold as well.

Gilad is, at heart, first and foremost a genealogist, as is Bennett Greenspan from FamilyTreeDNA who retained a board seat after the GenebyGene/myDNA merger.

I was relieved to read in the MyHeritage PR release the following:

MyHeritage takes a best-in-class approach to user privacy and does not sell or license personal data. Under MyHeritage’s partnership with Francisco Partners, this commitment will be further strengthened and users will benefit from enhancements to the company’s privacy framework. As a first step in this strategy, MyHeritage will shortly update its privacy policy to include the unequivocal prohibition for the company to license or sell genetic data to any 3rd party. These updates will be highly unique amongst the larger genealogy and genetic DNA industry and are a testament to the commitment both MyHeritage and Francisco Partners share to privacy and consumers.

That’s not all MyHeritage has been up to.

MyHeritage Introduces Deep Nostalgia

MyHeritage introduced yet another photo enhancement tool. You’ll want to try this for yourself.

Deep Nostalgia is different than photo enhancement. It animates faces. Some people love this, and others think it’s kind of creepy. I’ve animated several photos, and I think it has to do with the photo to begin with, and if you knew the person in real life.

For one of my friends who only has photos of their parents and grandparents, and never knew them, this technology has been a gift of the highest magnitude.

I immediately went and animated my grandmother who died the year I was born.

I would suggest starting with a photo of yourself maybe to see if you want to go further. Or, maybe, just jump right in.

So far, my favorite is the picture of my mother as a child that you can see right here. I love this little girl so very much. This technology is the only way I’ll ever “see” my mother move as a child. I want to hug her. She looks so much like my daughter about the same age.

The enhancement technology itself is amazing, even without animation.

I clicked to animate this photo, above, and look at my Mom’s face, below, after the animation. Where you see the animation button, below, you’ll discover that you can select animations 1-10 and they are quite different. If you don’t like one, try a different one. I liked this one of my Mom.

MyHeritage enhances the photos before animating. Their technology has improved dramatically from the first versions, just a few months ago. This picture of my mother during her show business years is stunning. Upload any photo or click on a photo in your photo gallery at MyHeritage, then just click on the animate button.

Additionally, MyHeritage rolled out a few new features in the past couple of weeks and I’ve been so busy I almost missed them.

You can now see if a shared match has a tree and access it directly from the Shared DNA match page. You can also see any notes and how many people are in this person’s tree by flying your mouse over the respective icons. Adding those notes in this location is a godsend for me, because I always note as much as I can discover about each match and now I don’t have to click to open each match just to “see who they are.”

click images to enlarge

You can read more in the MyHeritage blog, here.

Ancestry

I watched the “What’s New at Ancestry” video to see if they have any announcements since RootsTech is typically a platform for those types of splashes. The information in the video is from 2020. I didn’t find anything new involving DNA, although Crista was discussing new green leaf genealogy hint algorithms and such.

She did say that while ethnicity percentages will be updated once a year or so, Genetic Communities is updated on an ongoing basis. She mentioned Ancestry’s Genetic Communities patented technology combines the consumer genetic network and their family trees.

Crista clarified that ethnicity estimates are looking at where your DNA was 500-1000 years ago. Genetic Communities is looking at where your family members lived in the last 100-200 years. The last update, just a couple weeks ago, applied to 8 million users, of 18 million total. I received one new subset community.

Nothing mentioned about 2021.

DNA Kit Sales

I was surprised to discover that Ancestry is not offering any promotions in their booth. Not for DNA and not for subscriptions. Even at Amazon, the Ancestry DNA kit is $99.

If you’re wondering about 23andMe, they weren’t at RootsTech last year and they are absent this year too. If you’ve tested at 23andMe, you can transfer to both MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA.

If you need upload, download or transfer instructions for any vendor, click here.

That’s OK, amble on over to the MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA booths who are both having great sales.

Family Tree DNA – Best DNA Price of RootsTech 2021

  • At FamilyTreeDNA, their autosomal Family Finder test is now only $49. This is the best price of the conference. Click here to purchase using coupon code RTCTFF.
  • I noticed that FamilyTreeDNA added a sale code for the Autosomal Transfer advanced tool unlock too, good through March 7th. If you’ve been waiting, now’s a great time. You can click here to sign on, upload your DNA file if you’ve tested elsewhere and then unlock using code RTCAU10.

You can see all of the FamilyTreeDNA show prices, here.

MyHeritage – Free Advanced Tools Unlock Expires in Two Days

Ok, let’s do something fun now.

RootsTech “Souvenir” Photos

You can get a “souvenir” photo of yourself, or someone else, at RootsTech. Yep, time travel, of sorts. Click here.

I didn’t want a photo of myself taken in my office when I haven’t had a haircut in over a year, so I selected a photo I like much better.

RootsTech is building a real-time mosaic. Of course, your eyes have to be better than mine to find yourself😊

Surname Search

Another fun activity is the FamilySearch surname search tool that shows where in the world a particular surname is found.

Of course, in many cases, the top location is the US, land of immigrants, but hey, the genesis of the surname is quite interesting.

Have fun.

DNA Garb

Today’s DNA outfit is my chromosome sweater, and no, I didn’t make it.

Unlike the vests and dresses, this isn’t a dress-up item, but just something that’s soft and comfortable and I wear it in my office. I stuff it in my carry-on travel bag and you would be more likely to see me wearing this than any of my “good” DNA outfits😊

It’s still snowy where I live, which reminds me of Salt Lake City – so I just took a walk and pretended.

It’s hard to believe tomorrow is the last day of the conference already. What fun things are you doing at RootsTech?

_____________________________________________________________

Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Books

RootsTech 2021 Day 2: Hints, Chats & Bittersweet Memories

The RootsTech Expo Hall opened last night, followed by the sessions four hours later. We learned a lot about navigating the system, and how to use the various chats too.

News items first.

Relatives at RootsTech is Available ONLY During RootsTech

That cool “Relatives at RootsTech” feature won’t be available after RootsTech ends. So, if you want to see who your relatives are at RootsTech, you must do it now. Scroll down when you sign in to the conference or click here.

If you add your relatives to a friend list, that list will be available until March 20th-ish.

HINT – If you are looking for mitochondrial DNA candidates for a particular ancestor, this is an avenue to make those discoveries and find a candidate who descends through that ancestor to the current generation through all females. The current generation can be male.

I selected the paternal side of my tree, then clicked to show how we’re related. In this case, Alexander Smith is a male, so my relative who descends from Alexander Smith is NOT a candidate to test for Margaret Herrell’s mitochondrial DNA.

We can search by surname, but not by ancestor.

I can bookmark the sessions I want to watch and watch them over the next year, but I won’t have access to these relatives beyond the conference. My priorities for the next couple days have just shifted.

Make yourself a list of Y and mitochondrial candidates that you need and have at it!

Search Bug

Searching for a presenter by name may or may not work, and may not work correctly.

Putting quotes around the name may or may not help. For example, Judy Russell and Tom Jones aren’t showing up reliably in searches, but trust me, they are both “there.”

Use the lists and search by session name, or by topic. Or scroll. Otherwise, you’re going to miss people and sessions you want to see – including sessions in the next category.

Tips and Tricks

Yesterday, in the Sneak Preview article we discussed that there are:

There’s a fifth category. I didn’t realize these sessions weren’t listed with the regular sessions, but they aren’t. I wouldn’t have realized it at all if I hadn’t known someone who recorded one and couldn’t find her session. They are collectively called “Tips and Tricks,” and they are shorter videos of just a few minutes each, from 3-20 minutes, recorded by volunteers. (A big thank you to those folks.)

Here’s a great example. Katherine Borges recorded “DNA and Lineage Societies.” It’s a lovely and informative presentation and explains the various societies, such as DAR, SAR, Mayflower and others, and how they utilize DNA. How does that work anyway? Watch Katherine’s session to find out.

Did you know that one of the societies uses X DNA too?

Katherine talks about the “DNA jackpot lottery” which always makes me chuckle.

Many lineage societies have DNA Projects at FamilyTreeDNA too.

Take a look by scrolling down on the FamilyTreeDNA page, here, until you see the search box, then type in a keyword like DAR or Mayflower.

You won’t find Katherine’s presentation by searching for her name, unfortunately.

The ONLY way you can find these Tips and Tricks sessions is to scroll through each of the various categories, on this page, and read what’s available.

I’m hoping that RootsTech will make available a list of these Tips and Tricks sessions. If they do, even if it’s after the show, I’ll publish it so you don’t miss anything. You can add these sessions to your playlist.

Chat Rooms & Ask Us Anything

Remember those very nice people wearing the teal “ask me anything” shirts at RootsTech in the exhibit hall? Well, they’re still here, just differently.

On the upper toolbar, that teal or blue circle with the chat icon – that’s “ask us anything.” Just click.

To ask a vendor questions, you MUST go to their booth first in the Expo hall.

Once there, you can do two things.

You can request to “chat with an expert” which then opens a list of experts who are available at that time to chat one-on-one.

If you want to ask a general question, not one-on-one with someone, while on that vendor’s page, you can click on the Connect button on the lower right-hand corner of the page.

Hint: If you try to chat or connect and see a yellow ! mark and receive a message about not being able to connect to the chat server, be sure you actually signed in to the conference. If so, sign out and sign in again.

Yes, unfortunately, the chats have been a bit glitchy, but trying again or waiting a bit to try again usually takes care of the problem.

Once you click on the Connect button, this window will open.

You’ll then see the list of chat rooms that you’ve visited. At the top of the list is the chat room for the vendor’s page that you are currently visiting.

Just click on that chat room to review the messages and ask your question.

Note that at the top, you have two tabs – one for chat rooms and one for direct messages.

The little number in the bottom right corner is the number of messages and chats that have messages you haven’t seen.

You can leave a room by clicking on the three dots for other options.

Another thing you can do is to search for rooms or topics.

Click on the little search icon in the top right, above.

I just searched for Canada.

Hint: Vendor’s booths do NOT show up in the chat search unless they have added a second booth.

Each presentation or session also has an associated chat room. Go to that session and after watching, click on either “Join Chat Room” beneath the descriptive text, or click on Connect in the corner.

My Sessions

Now that RootsTech is open, you can watch all regular sessions, including mine. DNA Learning Center sessions are released on a preset schedule.

Here’s the link to my session, DNA Triangulation: What, Why, and How at FamilySearch.

There are three interesting things.

  • First, you can share sessions on social media; Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. Please share sessions that you enjoy that others might enjoy too.
  • Second please leave positive feedback for speakers. It’s the social media equivalent of clapping or “thank you.” Speakers can’t see you and many have volunteered many hours to create these sessions and are devoting more time answering questions in chat rooms.
  • Third, the information about how to auto-translate is quite interesting. Clicking on that link takes you to a “Quicktip Selecting auto-translate in youtube.”

Youtube you ask?

Yes, RootsTech is using YouTube as the delivery platform on the FamilySearch channel. You can share the YouTube link for sessions too. Here’s the YouTube link for this session. These are not searchable, just so you know.

Be sure to check the Downloadable Resources, beneath each regular session. I provided links to a number of articles that help explain the details that I couldn’t cover in a single presentation.

Note that DNA Learning Center sessions are created by volunteers and don’t have associated downloadable documents.

My second session, in the DNA Learning Center, Revealing Your Mother’s Ancestors and Where They Came From is live now too. Be sure you are signed in to the conference to play the video.

We had SO MUCH FUN in the chat for this session right after it finished. Great questions and Dr. Miguel Vilar, former Lead Scientist for the Genographic Project and Million Mito Project colleague joined us and helped to answer questions too. You just never know who you’ll find at RootsTech😊

Here’s the YouTube link for this session.

I’m sharing feedback from Debra in the chat. This is why we speakers do what we do! Thank you Debra for this incredible compliment. I surely hope Debra and all of you break down those pesky brick walls too.

Memories

A few years ago, I had some custom chromosome browser fabric made that portrays my family members’ matching DNA painted on my chromosomes. Yes, I know that’s terribly, horribly geeky, but it sure is FUN!.

I had the background painted purple because that’s my favorite color. I’ve been wearing this outfit off and on for 3 or 4 years now – just to conferences.

I asked my husband to take this photo this morning for today’s DNA conference clothing.

Later today, I was feeling somewhat melancholy. I miss people and I’m missing my so-very-many-friends at RootsTech.

And then, something amazing happened.

I was searching around my system for a good “RootsTech past” photo when this one popped up.

Wouldn’t you know it, I was wearing this exact same dress.

What a coincidence, right?

But there’s more…

I’m laughing with my friend, Bob McLaren, who was at RootsTech for as many years as I can remember, volunteering in the FamilyTreeDNA booth, always wearing his McLaren kilt and clan regalia.

Bob loved genealogy, DNA, and interacting with people, which is why he was always at genealogy conferences.

Everyone knew and remembered Bob simply as the “man wearing the kilt.” We all loved him, and it showed.

We lost Bob unexpectedly in 2020.

This is exactly why RootsTech is so important.

Connections.

Hugs.

Laughter.

Memories.

Were it not for genealogy, I would never have met Bob, some 17 or 18 years ago.

Were it not for conferences, I wouldn’t have seen Bob each and every one of those years.

I miss Bob ribbing me.

I’m a Campbell you know, and well, those Campbell’s and McLaren clans just didn’t get along very well up in the Scottish Highlands. Never let it be said that clans let bygones be bygones. That’s heresy! Just ask Bob.

I vividly remember one time telling Bob that I was pretty sure I saw where those McLaren’s DNA matched a Campbell man. Bob didn’t much care for that news and wasn’t’ shy about telling me so. That’s OK, because it was a yarn I spun for his benefit.

I alleged that SOME Campbell and SOME McLaren had apparently liked each other just fine and he insisted that would never have happened. Our debate resumed every single year. It was, of course, a tradition we both enjoyed.

But not this year.

There’s silence.

Just silence.

I miss Bob.

I’ve never been so grateful for the past. Things I took for granted. Often little things.

Hearing someone’s voice.

Their laughter.

People I thought I’d see again “next year,” or before.

People I’m so blessed, so privileged to know.

People I love.

People I want to hug.

I so look forward to the future. Next year.

I miss people.

I will forever miss Bob, but I know he is with me today.

_____________________________________________________________

Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Books

  • com – Lots of wonderful genealogy research books

RootsTech 2021 Opening Day: Sneak Preview & Navigation

I am so overwhelmed today. Mostly in a good way. I’m writing this so that hopefully, you won’t be.

If you’re riding along with me for the RootsTech journey this year, you’ll recall that my daily RootsTech conference posts are less than polished. Quick and dirty is the only way I can get them out the door. So I just apologize in advance. Things move very quickly during RootsTech week, and polished articles take a long time to refine.

If you haven’t already subscribed to my blog, you can do so by going to www.dna-explained.com and signing up. It’s free.

I wrote about the RootsTech presentations, here. We have a lot more information now.

RootsTech opens this afternoon, depending on where you are in the world. Here are the times. Remember, it’s already tomorrow down under.

There are a HUGE number of registrants. This graphic was from a few days ago.

Drum roll please…

Today’s numbers, this morning, topped half a million registrants. That’s the size of a major city.

RootsTech is by far the largest genealogy and largest DNA event that the world has ever seen. You can still sign up, here. It’s totally free.

Important

This is important – there are FOUR places at RootsTech to view different educational sessions.

  • The presenters, who would normally be presenting in conference rooms.
  • The DNA Learning Center, sponsored by FamilySearch, normally found in the Expo Hall.
  • The Demo Theater, which are sessions recorded by the vendors that would normally be presented in the Demo Theater on the show floor.
  • The vendors’ virtual booths.

I’m going to run through how to find all of these and how to navigate the website.

Sessions

The list of regular sessions is here. PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE IS NO TIME SCHEDULE. The reason there aren’t times is because the sessions are all pre-recorded and you will be able to watch at your convenience. You’ll be able to build a custom playlist for yourself too.

Navigating

This is the main RootsTech site, here. Notice the navigation bar across the top. You’ll be able to view these links AFTER the website opens. 

This primer will help you navigate and find what you need.

Guide Me – DNA Basics Learning Center

If you click on “Guide Me” – you’ll see categories of interests. Under DNA, you’ll see the DNA Basics Learning Center.

There are lots of resources in the DNA Learning Center, including the Live Class Session Schedule, here. Please note that these are DIFFERENT sessions than the regular presentation sessions and are NOT listed on that schedule.

If you click on “Live Sessions” and then on more, you’ll see my session.

Several experts have volunteered to answer questions for the DNA Basics Learning Center across the multiple days of the conference – so you might find me there. There is pretty much always someone available. We are just now receiving training on how this works, so we’ll all be on an adventure together the first couple of hours😊

If you click the Connect button at the bottom of any session or vendor booth or any page, it opens a chat box where you can ask questions.

For fun, click on “Show My Relatives.”

I believe these relatives are shown in closest to most distant order, because I see a number of third cousins that I recognize. Trust me, I’ll be messaging each of these closer relatives. For one thing, I want to know if they have DNA tested, and where. I also want to know who our common ancestor is. Maybe they have photos I don’t have, or maybe I can help them.

Click on any name to initiate a chat with that person.

These chat features will only be available during the actual RootsTech show days.

Sessions

If you click on “Sessions,’ on the main Rootstech tab, you’ll be able to search by a variety of topics, names or session titles.

I searched for my own name, and sure enough, here’s my session. There are other sessions listed too, but those are other speakers – not me.

Clicking on that + (plus sign) adds the session to your playlist. How fun it this! You can customize your own RootsTech conference. These sessions will be available for the next year, so no hurry.

Expo Hall

Next, click on “Expo Hall” on the main tab.

Remember, the Expo Hall opens 4 hours before the conference, so 7 PM EST time.

If you click on Expo Hall, you’ll see the following:

This is 7 PM tonight, EST. I believe that the website converts this to your time, but I’m not positive.

If you click on “View Demo Theater,” you’ll see the vendor sessions. There are several here that I want to watch, and the good news is that you can add these to your playlist too.

You can also search for a specific vendor or scroll.

There are lots more vendors. This is just a sampler platter!

Five things of note.

  • First, vendors will have sales. Note that “Promotions” word in the FamilyTreeDNA booth, below.
  • Second, vendors may offer sessions in their booths that are not available elsewhere. Note the MyHeritage booth, below.
  • Third, vendors will probably make announcements during RootsTech. I know of a few, but I can’t share until after the official vendor announcement.
  • Fourth, many vendors will have downloadable resources. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of each booth to see everything.
  • Fifth, you can “chat with an expert” in any vendor’s booth. FamilyTreeDNA experts will include people who would normally staff the booth, of course. However, the 24×7 times three days conference nature is a challenge, so they have included members of the science team along with project administrators from around the world. You just might find someone you know there from time to time, with expertise in a specific area. Note that vendors can also set up “chat rooms” for specific topics, or when experts are “visiting.”

These leaked yesterday, so here are the FTDNA prices and discount codes.

You can order or upgrade by clicking here.

In the MyHeritage booth, they offer three demos that aren’t available elsewhere. You can also add these to your playlist.

Don’t forget that MyHeritage is offering the free transfer and FREE advanced tool unlock during the conference – so if you haven’t transferred your DNA file to MyHeriage, now’s the time and you can do that, here. I wrote about how to do that, with instructions, here.

Of course, you can also purchase a MyHeritage DNA kit, here.

My Schedule

I’ll be three places, live.

  • Answering questions in the FamilyTreeDNA booth as a guest expert for 2 hours beginning at 7 PM EST tonight.
  • The DNA Learning Center from time to time.
  • In the chat rooms for my own sessions.

If I have additions or more designated times, I’ll let you know as the week unfolds.

One Last Thing – JOY

Yes, RootsTech has been a struggle this year – for the presenters, for the vendors, for the volunteers, but especially for the FamilySearch/RootsTech staff. Bless their hearts, and I mean that.

I want to put this in perspective.

Without a virtual RootsTech, we would have NO RootsTech this year. I can’t even begin to say how much I’m missing being in Salt Lake City, seeing my friends, meeting you, my wonderful blog readers, finding new cousins, looking at all the cool things on the show floor, and researching at the Family History Library.

This year is different, but RootsTech Connect is bringing JOY – JOY, when we need it the very most.

We can indeed connect with other people. And because RootsTech is free, we can include even more people in our community. More people to collaborate with. More people to DNA test. More people finding ancestors. More people to share the JOY.

As you may know, I’m a quilter, and I’ve made “DNA clothes” that I wear to RootsTech and other conferences for several years now. This year, I’m doing something different. I’m dressing up anyway, even though I’m attending at home – just to get in the spirit. I’ll take a picture every day of my DNA outfit and how I’m being joyful, right where I live.

I’m wearing my RootsTech Connect 2021 pin too which signifies an amazing community achievement. I’m proud to be a part of this momentous event.

It’s bright and sunny and a beautiful winter day. A bit windy. But that’s OK. Do you see the helix that looks windblown right along with me?

You be joyful too!

What are your RootsTech plans?

See you at RootsTech. Be sure to tune in for tomorrow’s RootsTech blog article. Who knows what tomorrow will bring!

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Books

MyHeritage DNA Transfer and Unlock FREE Through February 28th

You can always transfer your DNA file to MyHeritage and receive matches for free if you’ve tested at Ancestry, 23andMe, or FamilyTreeDNA.

A free DNA file upload at MyHeritage always includes matching, but the advanced tools normally require either a $29 one-time unlock fee, or a Complete Data Plan subscription which includes genealogical records and more. (You can try the subscription free for 14 days, here.)

Right now, and through February 28th, you can transfer your DNA for free AND the $29 unlock fee is forever waived for the kits you transfer during this timeframe.

Free Advanced Features

What advanced features will you receive, in addition to matching?

These are wonderful tools for unraveling your genealogy.

Perfect Timing with RootsTech

The timing is great, because this week with RootsTech happening virtually, absolutely everyone is thinking about genealogy. Your transfer can be complete and ready for you to utilize as you select DNA-focused classes.

Don’t forget, RootsTech is free too and lasts from February 25-27 this year. I wrote about RootsTech, here. You can still sign up and watch sessions at any time, on-demand, after the conference opens. You’ll find several presentations by MyHeritage staff and by other speakers about using their products.

I’ll be teaching a session about Triangulation in general, including information about MyHeritage as well as other vendors who offer this type of feature.

Transfer your DNA file to MyHeritage now by clicking here so you’ll be ready.

Need Help?

Need transfer instructions?

I wrote step-by-step instructions about how to download your file from other vendors and how to upload to MyHeritage, here.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Books

Customize Your RootsTech Conference: 96 DNA Sessions to Choose From!

Some of the RootsTech Connect 2021 speakers. Courtesy of FamilySearch and the speakers, of course.

We should have been in Salt Lake City this past week, but alas, we’ll all be getting together virtually instead during February 25-27.

As much as I regret not being able to see people, in person, (boy, do I ever miss that), there are GOOD things about RootsTech this year.

This year’s RootsTech Connect is virtual, so we DO get to attend. We haven’t lost out entirely. The conference is entirely free, and every session was recorded by the presenters. As you watch these sessions, say a thank you to the presenters, because trust me, the recording experience (which took days) was an adventure most of us don’t exactly want to repeat.

RootsTech Connect 2021 has been a learning experience for everyone and I want to say a huge, HUGE, thank you to FamilySearch and the team who has been working diligently trying to figure out the inner machinations of something this gargantuan! To use one of their analogies, on a call someone said that it’s like they are designing the airplane as they are flying. I’d say that’s a pretty apt description.

Virtual means that you can register and watch at your own convenience. As badly as I do want to see everyone in 2022 in Salt Lake, I really hope RootsTech records the sessions there and offers them afterward. The combination of free and online on-demand has dramatically extended the RootsTech reach which means more genealogists and more DNA testers – both of which are a good thing.

Not everyone can go to Salt Lake City and the sheer number of people who have registered bears testimony to the popularity of an inclusive event. Normally, there are about 40K people that attend RootsTech in person. There are already more than a quarter-million people registered this year and we still have several days to go. Of course, everyone can afford RootsTech this year, because it’s entirely free and no travel is required.

If you haven’t yet registered, you can do so here.

Who’s Attending?

After you register, you can see how many of your relatives, at least according to your FamilySearch tree, are also attending Rootstech 2021.

During, but not before the conference begins, you’ll be able to see who those cousins are and communicate back and forth.

This is the link to see how many of your relatives have registered.

On this same page, if you scroll towards the bottom, you can see how many people with a particular surname are registered.

During the conference, you’ll be able to message back and forth with friends and relatives. Maybe they’ve DNA tested, and if not, maybe they would like to! If the past is any indication, FamilySearch shows you how you are related to each relative. It functions similarly to their fun “Famous Relative” app. (Insert appropriate grain-of-salt, verify everything warning here.)

You know you want to type in your “difficult” surnames to see if maybe, just maybe, someone with that surname is attending😊.

24×7

This year’s conference is unique because it will run 24×7. Of course, staff, attendees, and exhibitors can’t stay up for 3 days straight and be anything resembling coherent – but it’s always daytime someplace in the world. I can’t help but see the image in my mind of RootsTech rotating around the world.

Sessions

The session format has changed this year. Most sessions are 20 minutes, not an hour. Think genealogy TED talks from your favorite presenters. There are a few advanced sessions that are an hour in length.

For example, my session, DNA Triangulation: What, Why, and How was just too in-depth for 20 minutes or even two 20-minute sessions, so it’s the traditional hour-long session.

We’ll cover a lot in that time, beginning with a definition of triangulation, why you want to use triangulation, how triangulation works, and an overview of how to use triangulation at each vendor. I hope you’ll plan on attending.

A Plethora of Riches

There are more than 800 RootsTech sessions in total, in a multitude of languages, including some also presented in American Sign Language.

You can take a look at the sessions in English and ASL, here. The list of sessions in other languages will be available soon.

Furthermore, there will be an open chat session for each class where you can ask questions. Each presentation will have a chat room monitor answering questions, and the presenter will drop in from time to time during the three conference days.

Celebrate

I printed all 18 pages and I’m customizing a conference for myself. The good news is that we’re not constrained to three days because we can watch sessions later.

I have to tell you, when I’m at RootsTech, I do use the mobile conference app to schedule the sessions I want to see, but the show is draining and I meet so many people I want to talk to. That means I often don’t get to see several speaker sessions that I planned to attend.

This year, everyone will have the option to see every single session!

I’m planning to make “the conference” a bit festive for myself. I’m going to set my laptop up in my quilt studio, not in my office, so I can be “off work.”

Yes, I’ll be quilting and conferencing at the same time. And if I can’t do both simultaneously, then at least I’ll be enjoying the conference “on pandemic vacation” in another part of my house, away from my office. I think I’ll eat naughty food and chocolate to celebrate too😊.

Now if I could just find some of those lovely hot roasted almonds and kettle corn that we can smell wafting throughout the convention center…but I digress.

No Set “Schedule”

There is no conference “schedule,” per se. Registrants will sign in to the conference and be able to participate in a multitude of activities. You’ll be able to watch keynotes on the main state, listen to speaker sessions, visit the expo hall or the DNA Basics Learning Center, and more.

Many vendors will be sponsoring free sessions too in their booths, along with providing the opportunity for attendees to ask questions.

Keynote Speakers

Keynote speakers always appear on the Main Stage, the largest auditorium space in Salt Lake City.

This year, you’ll join the “Main Stage” area in the virtual conference to watch the keynote speakers. These sessions will be recorded and repeat too.

Click to enlarge

Notice the time conversion chart.

Hint – I have a World Clock on my phone, which I use to figure out what time it is in other locations. Furthermore, you can schedule an appointment in your calendar if you want to be “present” for a particular session or event and set an alert to remind you a few minutes in advance.

You can read about the keynote speakers, here.

The Expo Hall

The Expo Hall, or the show floor, is one of my favorite parts of RootsTech. I love to see what’s new along with vendor-specific presentations in their booths. Vendors will be hosting presentations this year too, although you’ll need to check out the Expo Hall and the show floor for yourself to see who is hosting sessions, when, and which ones you might like to attend. Pay close attention, because vendor sessions may NOT be available later.

Of course, vendors will be anxious to answer your questions and glad to sell you some of their wares. These companies need our support right now.

RootsTech DNA Basics Learning Center

After the Expo Hall opens, you’ll have access to the DNA Basics Learning Center that will offer additional DNA sessions focused on beginners. This is IN ADDITION to the regular conference sessions.

These 20-minute back-to-basics sessions have been contributed by volunteers to provide a foundation of genetic genealogy education. The schedule is being finalized, but I can tell you that there are more than 35 sessions.

You’ll find educators you’re familiar with, and probably some new people too.

You might have already guessed that I’ve recorded a session for the Learning Center: Revealing Your Mother’s Ancestors and Where They Came From.

Like with the other sessions, there will be an online chat forum for these sessions too.

There will be a schedule, but the classes will all be available afterward in the “on-demand” library. How cool is that!

There’s More…

There’s more too. Volunteers in the genealogy community have recorded what I would call bite-sized tidbits of genealogy goodness. I’m not sure exactly what they are officially called, but I know they’re mini-classes that will be available during the conference. Think genealogy Brownie Bites.

Between the regular sessions, the DNA Learning Center, the genealogy mini-classes, and vendor presentations, one of the FamilySearch folks said they are processing 1800+ recorded presentations. I can’t even begin to imagine what they are dealing with! But from an attendee’s perspective, this is a smorgasbord so long you can’t see the end.

Customizing Your Personal Conference Plan

I counted 59 DNA sessions on the regular Session list, plus 37 or so in the DNA Basics Learning Center. Not included in that total are sessions on the non-English list yet to be released, vendor presentations, and mini-sessions.

You could watch just DNA sessions for days and days.

It’s ironic that a few years ago, we couldn’t get even one DNA session on the agenda of most conferences – and now, I don’t even recognize all the speakers presenting about DNA topics. DNA has become a mainstream, fundamental, inextricable tool for genealogy. I suspect genetic genealogy will have a supporting role, maybe making a cameo appearance in other sessions too.

I hope that everyone enjoys the conference and fine-tunes techniques for using DNA to increase genealogy effectiveness. Confirm your ancestors, meet new cousins and break down those brick walls.

Print the Session list and the Learning Center list when it’s released, and create a customized conference for yourself. My personal conference will assuredly be longer than three days.

I think after the actual RootsTech conference, I’ll probably select one or two sessions each day and schedule them on my calendar. RootsTech 2021 might just last all year.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Books

Free Webinar: Revealing Your Mother’s Ancestors & Where They Came From

I want to personally invite everyone to “save the date” for the free presentation I’ve created for the RootsTech DNA Basics Learning Center.

Those of you who have attended RootsTech in person in Salt Lake City over the past couple of years may have noticed the DNA Center sponsored by FamilySearch that provides non-vendor-specific DNA education for everyone.

You probably remember their DNA beans explaining the concept of random autosomal inheritance.

That tidy little package is “you.” The genealogical goal, of course, is to work backwards and figure out who, in your tree, those jellybean colors represent.

This year we won’t be gathering together in Salt Lake City, so it will be a bring-your-own-jellybeans event. However, the DNA Learning Center will be available virtually – which is actually a great benefit.

I know, I want to see everyone too – but in this case, the sessions are recorded and will be available for everyone worldwide so we can educate far more people than on the show floor.

Revealing Your Mother’s Ancestors & Where They Came From

In addition to my regular session, which I’ll write about as soon as the schedule is finalized, I volunteered to create a basic presentation for the DNA Learning Center. DNA is critically important to genealogy and I want everyone to enjoy that benefit.

As everyone knows, maternal ancestors are often challenging for a variety of reasons. Because surnames change with marriage, at least in most western cultures, females’ birth surnames are more prone to be missing. Fortunately, DNA has provided genealogists with two different tools to help overcome those challenges.

Mitochondrial DNA is focused only on your direct matrilineal (your mother’s mother’s mother’s) line, and autosomal DNA can be inherited from any ancestor. However, there are tools and techniques that allow us to hone autosomal results and use them selectively.

I’ll be covering inheritance and how to utilize both autosomal and mitochondrial DNA, including haplogroups, for your genealogy. Both separately, and together.

We’ll discuss how a cousin and I collaborated, using both types of DNA in addition to traditional genealogical records to break through one of those “no surname” brick walls six generations in the past. That breakthrough then revealed several MORE generations, like dominoes falling in quick succession.

Those pesky ancestors had moved from Long Island to New Jersey to Virginia leaving no backward trail. Cleary, not your normal migration pattern. This mystery absolutely could NOT have been solved without mitochondrial DNA pointing the way.

When and Where?

The where is easy – on your computer or device, of course.

Currently, this free session is scheduled to air twice, so mark your calendar:

  • February 25 – 3 PM EST – captioned in English
  • February 27 – 1 PM EST – captioned in Spanish

FamilySearch is providing volunteers to answer questions entered into the online chat during all of the DNA Learning Center sessions, including mine. I plan to “be there” to answer questions too, as will several other volunteers. Some volunteers will speak Spanish on the 27th. Unfortunately, I don’t speak Spanish, so I’ll be restricted to answering questions in English.

When the entire 3-day DNA Learning Center schedule is finalized, I’ll post and give a huge shout-out to the other volunteer speakers too.

While we wait for Rootstech to arrive, you still have time to order mitochondrial or autosomal DNA tests, below.

_____________________________________________________________

Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Books

Genetic Genealogy at 20 Years: Where Have We Been, Where Are We Going and What’s Important?

Not only have we put 2020 in the rear-view mirror, thankfully, we’re at the 20-year, two-decade milestone. The point at which genetics was first added to the toolbox of genealogists.

It seems both like yesterday and forever ago. And yes, I’ve been here the whole time,  as a spectator, researcher, and active participant.

Let’s put this in perspective. On New Year’s Eve, right at midnight, in 2005, I was able to score kit number 50,000 at Family Tree DNA. I remember this because it seemed like such a bizarre thing to be doing at midnight on New Year’s Eve. But hey, we genealogists are what we are.

I knew that momentous kit number which seemed just HUGE at the time was on the threshold of being sold, because I had inadvertently purchased kit 49,997 a few minutes earlier.

Somehow kit 50,000 seemed like such a huge milestone, a landmark – so I quickly bought kits, 49,998, 49,999, and then…would I get it…YES…kit 50,000. Score!

That meant that in the 5 years FamilyTreeDNA had been in business, they had sold on an average of 10,000 kits per year, or 27 kits a day. Today, that’s a rounding error. Then it was momentous!

In reality, the sales were ramping up quickly, because very few kits were sold in 2000, and roughly 20,000 kits had been sold in 2005 alone. I know this because I purchased kit 28,429 during the holiday sale a year earlier.

Of course, I had no idea who I’d test with that momentous New Year’s Eve Y DNA kit, but I assuredly would find someone. A few months later, I embarked on a road trip to visit an elderly family member with that kit in tow. Thank goodness I did, and they agreed and swabbed on the spot, because they are gone today and with them, the story of the Y line and autosomal DNA of their branch.

In the past two decades, almost an entire generation has slipped away, and with them, an entire genealogical library held in their DNA.

Today, more than 40 million people have tested with the four major DNA testing companies, although we don’t know exactly how many.

Lots of people have had more time to focus on genealogy in 2020, so let’s take a look at what’s important? What’s going on and what matters beyond this month or year?

How has this industry changed in the last two decades, and where it is going?

Reflection

This seems like a good point to reflect a bit.

Professor Dan Bradley reflecting on early genetic research techniques in his lab at the Smurfit Institute of Genetics at Trinity College in Dublin. Photo by Roberta Estes

In the beginning – twenty years ago, there were two companies who stuck their toes in the consumer DNA testing water – Oxford Ancestors and Family Tree DNA. About the same time, Sorenson Genomics and GeneTree were also entering that space, although Sorenson was a nonprofit. Today, of those, only FamilyTreeDNA remains, having adapted with the changing times – adding more products, testing, and sophistication.

Bryan Sykes who founded Oxford Ancestors announced in 2018 that he was retiring to live abroad and subsequently passed away in 2020. The website still exists, but the company has announced that they have ceased sales and the database will remain open until Sept 30, 2021.

James Sorenson died in 2008 and the assets of Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, including the Sorenson database, were sold to Ancestry in 2012. Eventually, Ancestry removed the public database in 2015.

Ancestry dabbled in Y and mtDNA for a while, too, destroying that database in 2014.

Other companies, too many to remember or mention, have come and gone as well. Some of the various company names have been recycled or purchased, but aren’t the same companies today.

In the DNA space, it was keep up, change, die or be sold. Of course, there was the small matter of being able to sell enough DNA kits to make enough money to stay in business at all. DNA processing equipment and a lab are expensive. Not just the equipment, but also the expertise.

The Next Wave

As time moved forward, new players entered the landscape, comprising the “Big 4” testing companies that constitute the ponds where genealogists fish today.

23andMe was the first to introduce autosomal DNA testing and matching. Their goal and focus was always medical genetics, but they recognized the potential in genealogists before anyone else, and we flocked to purchase tests.

Ancestry settled on autosomal only and relies on the size of their database, a large body of genealogy subscribers, and a widespread “feel-good” marketing campaign to sell DNA kits as the gateway to “discover who you are.”

FamilyTreeDNA did and still does offer all 3 kinds of tests. Over the years, they have enhanced both the Y DNA and mitochondrial product offerings significantly and are still known as “the science company.” They are the only company to offer the full range of Y DNA tests, including their flagship Big Y-700, full sequence mitochondrial testing along with matching for both products. Their autosomal product is called Family Finder.

MyHeritage entered the DNA testing space a few years after the others as the dark horse that few expected to be successful – but they fooled everyone. They have acquired companies and partnered along the way which allowed them to add customers (Promethease) and tools (such as AutoCluster by Genetic Affairs), boosting their number of users. Of course, MyHeritage also offers users a records research subscription service that you can try for free.

In summary:

One of the wonderful things that happened was that some vendors began to accept compatible raw DNA autosomal data transfer files from other vendors. Today, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, and GEDmatch DO accept transfer files, while Ancestry and 23andMe do not.

The transfers and matching are free, but there are either minimal unlock or subscription plans for advanced features.

There are other testing companies, some with niche markets and others not so reputable. For this article, I’m focusing on the primary DNA testing companies that are useful for genealogy and mainstream companion third-party tools that complement and enhance those services.

The Single Biggest Change

As I look back, the single biggest change is that genetic genealogy evolved from the pariah of genealogy where DNA discussion was banned from the (now defunct) Rootsweb lists and summarily deleted for the first few years after introduction. I know, that’s hard to believe today.

Why, you ask?

Reasons varied from “just because” to “DNA is cheating” and then morphed into “because DNA might do terrible things like, maybe, suggest that a person really wasn’t related to an ancestor in a lineage society.”

Bottom line – fear and misunderstanding. Change is exceedingly difficult for humans, and DNA definitely moved the genealogy cheese.

From that awkward beginning, genetic genealogy organically became a “thing,” a specific application of genealogy. There was paper-trail traditional genealogy and then the genetic aspect. Today, for almost everyone, genealogy is “just another tool” in the genealogist’s toolbox, although it does require focused learning, just like any other tool.

DNA isn’t separate anymore, but is now an integral part of the genealogical whole. Having said that, DNA can’t solve all problems or answer all questions, but neither can traditional paper-trail genealogy. Together, each makes the other stronger and solves mysteries that neither can resolve alone.

Synergy.

I fully believe that we have still only scratched the surface of what’s possible.

Inheritance

As we talk about the various types of DNA testing and tools, here’s a quick graphic to remind you of how the different types of DNA are inherited.

  • Y DNA is inherited paternally for males only and informs us of the direct patrilineal (surname) line.
  • Mitochondrial DNA is inherited by everyone from their mothers and informs us of the mother’s matrilineal (mother’s mother’s mother’s) line.
  • Autosomal DNA can be inherited from potentially any ancestor in random but somewhat predictable amounts through both parents. The further back in time, the less identifiable DNA you’ll inherit from any specific ancestor. I wrote about that, here.

What’s Hot and What’s Not

Where should we be focused today and where is this industry going? What tools and articles popped up in 2020 to help further our genealogy addiction? I already published the most popular articles of 2020, here.

This industry started two decades ago with testing a few Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA markers, and we were utterly thrilled at the time. Both tests have advanced significantly and the prices have dropped like a stone. My first mitochondrial DNA test that tested only 400 locations cost more than $800 – back then.

Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA are still critically important to genetic genealogy. Both play unique roles and provide information that cannot be obtained through autosomal DNA testing. Today, relative to Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA, the biggest challenge, ironically, is educating newer genealogists about their potential who have never heard about anything other than autosomal, often ethnicity, testing.

We have to educate in order to overcome the cacophony of “don’t bother because you don’t get as many matches.”

That’s like saying “don’t use the right size wrench because the last one didn’t fit and it’s a bother to reach into the toolbox.” Not to mention that if everyone tested, there would be a lot more matches, but I digress.

If you don’t use the right tool, and all of the tools at your disposal, you’re not going to get the best result possible.

The genealogical proof standard, the gold standard for genealogy research, calls for “a reasonably exhaustive search,” and if you haven’t at least considered if or how Y
DNA
and mitochondrial DNA along with autosomal testing can or might help, then your search is not yet exhaustive.

I attempt to obtain the Y and mitochondrial DNA of every ancestral line. In the article, Search Techniques for Y and Mitochondrial DNA Test Candidates, I described several methodologies to find appropriate testing candidates.

Y DNA – 20 Years and Still Critically Important

Y DNA tracks the Y chromosome for males via the patrilineal (surname) line, providing matching and historical migration information.

We started 20 years ago testing 10 STR markers. Today, we begin at 37 markers, can upgrade to 67 or 111, but the preferred test is the Big Y which provides results for 700+ STR markers plus results from the entire gold standard region of the Y chromosome in order to provide the most refined results. This allows genealogists to use STR markers and SNP results together for various aspects of genealogy.

I created a Y DNA resource page, here, in order to provide a repository for Y DNA information and updates in one place. I would encourage anyone who can to order or upgrade to the Big Y-700 test which provides critical lineage information in addition to and beyond traditional STR testing. Additionally, the Big Y-700 test helps build the Y DNA haplotree which is growing by leaps and bounds.

More new SNPs are found and named EVERY SINGLE DAY today at FamilyTreeDNA than were named in the first several years combined. The 2006 SNP tree listed a grand total of 459 SNPs that defined the Y DNA tree at that time, according to the ISOGG Y DNA SNP tree. Goran Rundfeldt, head of R&D at FamilyTreeDNA posted this today:

2020 was an awful year in so many ways, but it was an unprecedented year for human paternal phylogenetic tree reconstruction. The FTDNA Haplotree or Great Tree of Mankind now includes:

37,534 branches with 12,696 added since 2019 – 51% growth!
defined by
349,097 SNPs with 131,820 added since 2019 – 61% growth!

In just one year, 207,536 SNPs were discovered and assigned FT SNP names. These SNPs will help define new branches and refine existing ones in the future.

The tree is constructed based on high coverage chromosome Y sequences from:
– More than 52,500 Big Y results
– Almost 4,000 NGS results from present-day anonymous men that participated in academic studies

Plus an additional 3,000 ancient DNA results from archaeological remains, of mixed quality and Y chromosome coverage at FamilyTreeDNA.

Wow, just wow.

These three new articles in 2020 will get you started on your Y DNA journey!

Mitochondrial DNA – Matrilineal Line of Humankind is Being Rewritten

The original Oxford Ancestor’s mitochondrial DNA test tested 400 locations. The original Family Tree DNA test tested around 1000 locations. Today, the full sequence mitochondrial DNA test is standard, testing the entire 16,569 locations of the mitochondria.

Mitochondrial DNA tracks your mother’s direct maternal, or matrilineal line. I’ve created a mitochondrial DNA resource page, here that includes easy step-by-step instructions for after you receive your results.

New articles in 2020 included the introduction of The Million Mito Project. 2021 should see the first results – including a paper currently in the works.

The Million Mito Project is rewriting the haplotree of womankind. The current haplotree has expanded substantially since the first handful of haplogroups thanks to thousands upon thousands of testers, but there is so much more information that can be extracted today.

Y and Mitochondrial Resources

If you don’t know of someone in your family to test for Y DNA or mitochondrial DNA for a specific ancestral line, you can always turn to the Y DNA projects at Family Tree DNA by searching here.

The search provides you with a list of projects available for a specific surname along with how many customers with that surname have tested. Looking at the individual Y DNA projects will show the earliest known ancestor of the surname line.

Another resource, WikiTree lists people who have tested for the Y DNA, mitochondrial DNA and autosomal DNA lines of specific ancestors.

Click on images to enlarge

On the left side, my maternal great-grandmother’s profile card, and on the right, my paternal great-great-grandfather. You can see that someone has tested for the mitochondrial DNA of Nora (OK, so it’s me) and the Y DNA of John Estes (definitely not me.)

MitoYDNA, a nonprofit volunteer organization created a comparison tool to replace Ysearch and Mitosearch when they bit the dust thanks to GDPR.

MitoYDNA accepts uploads from different sources and allows uploaders to not only match to each other, but to view the STR values for Y DNA and the mutation locations for the HVR1 and HVR2 regions of mitochondrial DNA. Mags Gaulden, one of the founders, explains in her article, What sets mitoYDNA apart from other DNA Databases?.

If you’ve tested at nonstandard companies, not realizing that they didn’t provide matching, or if you’ve tested at a company like Sorenson, Ancestry, and now Oxford Ancestors that is going out of business, uploading your results to mitoYDNA is a way to preserve your investment. PS – I still recommend testing at FamilyTreeDNA in order to receive detailed results and compare in their large database.

CentiMorgans – The Word of Two Decades

The world of autosomal DNA turns on the centimorgan (cM) measure. What is a centimorgan, exactly? I wrote about that unit of measure in the article Concepts – CentiMorgans, SNPs and Pickin’ Crab.

Fortunately, new tools and techniques make using cMs much easier. The Shared cM Project was updated this year, and the results incorporated into a wonderfully easy tool used to determine potential relationships at DNAPainter based on the number of shared centiMorgans.

Match quality and potential relationships are determined by the number of shared cMs, and the chromosome browser is the best tool to use for those comparisons.

Chromosome Browser – Genetics Tool to View Chromosome Matches

Chromosome browsers allow testers to view their matching cMs of DNA with other testers positioned on their own chromosomes.

My two cousins’ DNA where they match me on chromosomes 1-4, is shown above in blue and red at Family Tree DNA. It’s important to know where you match cousins, because if you match multiple cousins on the same segment, from the same side of your family (maternal or paternal), that’s suggestive of a common ancestor, with a few caveats.

Some people feel that a chromosome browser is an advanced tool, but I think it’s simply standard fare – kind of like driving a car. You need to learn how to drive initially, but after that, you don’t even think about it – you just get in and go. Here’s help learning how to drive that chromosome browser.

Triangulation – Science Plus Group DNA Matching Confirms Genealogy

The next logical step after learning to use a chromosome browser is triangulation. If fact, you’re seeing triangulation above, but don’t even realize it.

The purpose of genetic genealogy is to gather evidence to “prove” ancestral connections to either people or specific ancestors. In autosomal DNA, triangulation occurs when:

  • You match at least two other people (not close relatives)
  • On the same reasonably sized segment of DNA (generally 7 cM or greater)
  • And you can assign that segment to a common ancestor

The same two cousins are shown above, with triangulated segments bracketed at MyHeritage. I’ve identified the common ancestor with those cousins that those matching DNA segments descend from.

MyHeritage’s triangulation tool confirms by bracketing that these cousins also match each other on the same segment, which is the definition of triangulation.

I’ve written a lot about triangulation recently.

If you’d prefer a video, I recorded a “Top Tips” Facebook LIVE with MyHeritage.

Why is Ancestry missing from this list of triangulation articles? Ancestry does not offer a chromosome browser or segment information. Therefore, you can’t triangulate at Ancestry. You can, however, transfer your Ancestry DNA raw data file to either FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, or GEDmatch, all three of which offer triangulation.

Step by step download/upload transfer instructions are found in this article:

Clustering Matches and Correlating Trees

Based on what we’ve seen over the past few years, we can no longer depend on the major vendors to provide all of the tools that genealogists want and need.

Of course, I would encourage you to stay with mainstream products being used by a significant number of community power users. As with anything, there is always someone out there that’s less than honorable.

2020 saw a lot of innovation and new tools introduced. Maybe that’s one good thing resulting from people being cooped up at home.

Third-party tools are making a huge difference in the world of genetic genealogy. My favorites are Genetic Affairs, their AutoCluster tool shown above, DNAPainter and DNAGedcom.

These articles should get you started with clustering.

If you like video resources, here’s a MyHeritage Facebook LIVE that I recorded about how to use AutoClusters:

I created a compiled resource article for your convenience, here:

I have not tried a newer tool, YourDNAFamily, that focuses only on 23andMe results although the creator has been a member of the genetic genealogy community for a long time.

Painting DNA Makes Chromosome Browsers and Triangulation Easy

DNAPainter takes the next step, providing a repository for all of your painted segments. In other words, DNAPainter is both a solution and a methodology for mass triangulation across all of your chromosomes.

Here’s a small group of people who match me on the same maternal segment of chromosome 1, including those two cousins in the chromosome browser and triangulation sections, above. We know that this segment descends from Philip Jacob Miller and his wife because we’ve been able to identify that couple as the most distant ancestor intersection in all of our trees.

It’s very helpful that DNAPainter has added the functionality of painting all of the maternal and paternal bucketed matches from Family Tree DNA.

All you need to do is to link your known matches to your tree in the proper place at FamilyTreeDNA, then they do the rest by using those DNA matches to indicate which of the rest of your matches are maternal and paternal. Instructions, here. You can then export the file and use it at DNAPainter to paint all of those matches on the correct maternal or paternal chromosomes.

Here’s an article providing all of the DNAPainter Instructions and Resources.

DNA Matches Plus Trees Enhance Genealogy

Of course, utilizing DNA matching plus finding common ancestors in trees is one of the primary purposes of genetic genealogy – right?

Vendors have linked the steps of matching DNA with matching ancestors in trees.

Genetic Affairs take this a step further. If you don’t have an ancestor in your tree, but your matches have common ancestors with each other, Genetic Affairs assembles those trees to provide you with those hints. Of course, that common ancestor might not be relevant to your genealogy, but it just might be too!

click to enlarge

This tree does not include me, but two of my matches descend from a common ancestor and that common ancestor between them might be a clue as to why I match both of them.

Ethnicity Continues to be Popular – But Is No Shortcut to Genealogy

Ethnicity is always popular. People want to “do their DNA” and find out where they come from. I understand. I really do. Who doesn’t just want an answer?

Of course, it’s not that simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s not disappointing to people who test for that purpose with high expectations. Hopefully, ethnicity will pique their curiosity and encourage engagement.

All four major vendors rolled out updated ethnicity results or related tools in 2020.

The future for ethnicity, I believe, will be held in integrated tools that allow us to use ethnicity results for genealogy, including being able to paint our ethnicity on our chromosomes as well as perform segment matching by ethnicity.

For example, if I carry an African segment on chromosome 1 from my father, and I match one person from my mother’s side and one from my father’s side on that same segment – one or the other of those people should also have that segment identified as African. That information would inform me as to which match is paternal and which is maternal

Not only that, this feature would help immensely tracking ancestors back in time and identifying their origins.

Will we ever get there? I don’t know. I’m not sure ethnicity is or can be accurate enough. We’ll see.

Transition to Digital and Online

Sometimes the future drags us kicking and screaming from the present.

With the imposed isolation of 2020, conferences quickly moved to an online presence. The genealogy community has all pulled together to make this work. The joke is that 2020’s most used phrase is “can you hear me?” I can vouch for that.

Of course while the year 2020 is over, the problem isn’t and is extending at least through the first half of 2021 and possibly longer. Conferences are planned months, up to a year, in advance and they can’t turn on a dime, so don’t even begin to expect in-person conferences until either late in 2021 or more likely, 2022 if all goes well this year.

I expect the future will eventually return to in-person conferences, but not entirely.

Finding ways to be more inclusive allows people who don’t want to or can’t travel or join in-person to participate.

I’ve recorded several sessions this year, mostly for 2021. Trust me, these could be a comedy, mostly of errors😊

I participated in four MyHeritage Facebook LIVE sessions in 2020 along with some other amazing speakers. This is what “live” events look like today!

Screenshot courtesy MyHeritage

A few days ago, I asked MyHeritage for a list of their LIVE sessions in 2020 and was shocked to learn that there were more than 90 in English, all free, and you can watch them anytime. Here’s the MyHeritage list.

By the way, every single one of the speakers is a volunteer, so say a big thank you to the speakers who make this possible, and to MyHeritage for the resources to make this free for everyone. If you’ve ever tried to coordinate anything like this, it’s anything but easy.

Additonally, I’ve created two Webinars this year for Legacy Family Tree Webinars.

Geoff Rasmussen put together the list of their top webinars for 2020, and I was pleased to see that I made the top 10! I’m sure there are MANY MORE you’d be interested in watching. Personally, I’m going to watch #6 yet today! Also, #9 and #22. You can always watch new webinars for free for a few days, and you can subscribe to watch all webinars, here.

The 2021 list of webinar speakers has been announced here, and while I’m not allowed to talk about something really fun that’s upcoming, let’s just say you definitely have something to look forward to in the springtime!

Also, don’t forget to register for RootsTech Connect which is entirely online and completely free, February 25-27, here.

Thank you to Penny Walters for creating this lovely graphic.

There are literally hundreds of speakers providing sessions in many languages for viewers around the world. I’ve heard the stats, but we can’t share them yet. Let me just say that you will be SHOCKED at the magnitude and reach of this conference. I’m talking dumbstruck!

During one of our zoom calls, one of the organizers says it feels like we’re constructing the plane as we’re flying, and I can confirm his observation – but we are getting it done – together! All hands on deck.

I’ll be presenting an advanced session about triangulation as well as a mini-session in the FamilySearch DNA Resource Center about finding your mother’s ancestors. I’ll share more information as it’s released and I can.

Companies and Owners Come & Go

You probably didn’t even notice some of these 2020 changes. Aside from the death of Bryan Sykes (RIP Bryan,) the big news and the even bigger unknown is the acquisition of Ancestry by Blackstone. Recently the CEO, Margo Georgiadis announced that she was stepping down. The Ancestry Board of Directors has announced an external search for a new CEO. All I can say is that very high on the priority list should be someone who IS a genealogist and who understands how DNA applies to genealogy.

Other changes included:

In the future, as genealogy and DNA testing becomes ever more popular and even more of a commodity, company sales and acquisitions will become more commonplace.

Some Companies Reduced Services and Cut Staff

I understand this too, but it’s painful. The layoffs occurred before Covid, so they didn’t result from Covid-related sales reductions. Let’s hope we see renewed investment after the Covid mess is over.

In a move that may or may not be related to an attempt to cut costs, Ancestry removed 6 and 7 cM matches from their users, freeing up processing resources, hardware, and storage requirements and thereby reducing costs.

I’m not going to beat this dead horse, because Ancestry is clearly not going to move on this issue, nor on that of the much-requested chromosome browser.

Later in the year, 23andMe also removed matches and other features, although, to their credit, they have restored at least part of this functionality and have provided ethnicity updates to V3 and V4 kits which wasn’t initially planned.

It’s also worth noting that early in 2020, 23andMe laid off 100 people as sales declined. Since that time, 23andMe has increasingly pushed consumers to pay to retest on their V5 chip.

About the same time, Ancestry also cut their workforce by about 6%, or about 100 people, also citing a slowdown in the consumer testing market. Ancestry also added a health product.

I’m not sure if we’ve reached market saturation or are simply seeing a leveling off. I wrote about that in DNA Testing Sales Decline: Reason and Reasons.

Of course, the pandemic economy where many people are either unemployed or insecure about their future isn’t helping.

The various companies need some product diversity to survive downturns. 23andMe is focused on medical research with partners who pay 23andMe for the DNA data of customers who opt-in, as does Ancestry.

Both Ancestry and MyHeritage provide subscription services for genealogy records.

FamilyTreeDNA is part of a larger company, GenebyGene whose genetics labs do processing for other companies and medical facilities.

A huge thank you to both MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA for NOT reducing services to customers in 2020.

Scientific Research Still Critical & Pushes Frontiers

Now that DNA testing has become a commodity, it’s easy to lose track of the fact that DNA testing is still a scientific endeavor that requires research to continue to move forward.

I’m still passionate about research after 20 years – maybe even more so now because there’s so much promise.

Research bleeds over into the consumer marketplace where products are improved and new features created allowing us to better track and understand our ancestors through their DNA that we and our family members inherit.

Here are a few of the research articles I published in 2020. You might notice a theme here – ancient DNA. What we can learn now due to new processing techniques is absolutely amazing. Labs can share files and information, providing the ability to “reprocess” the data, not the DNA itself, as more information and expertise becomes available.

Of course, in addition to this research, the Million Mito Project team is hard at work rewriting the tree of womankind.

If you’d like to participate, all you need to do is to either purchase a full sequence mitochondrial DNA kit at FamilyTreeDNA, or upgrade to the full sequence if you tested at a lower level previously.

Predictions

Predictions are risky business, but let me give it a shot.

Looking back a year, Covid wasn’t on the radar.

Looking back 5 years, neither Genetic Affairs nor DNAPainter were yet on the scene. DNAAdoption had just been formed in 2014 and DNAGedcom which was born out of DNAAdoption didn’t yet exist.

In other words, the most popular tools today didn’t exist yet.

GEDmatch, founded in 2010 by genealogists for genealogists was 5 years old, but was sold in December 2019 to Verogen.

We were begging Ancestry for a chromosome browser, and while we’ve pretty much given up beating them, because the horse is dead and they can sell DNA kits through ads focused elsewhere, that doesn’t mean genealogists still don’t need/want chromosome and segment based tools. Why, you’d think that Ancestry really doesn’t want us to break through those brick walls. That would be very bizarre, because every brick wall that falls reveals two more ancestors that need to be researched and spurs a frantic flurry of midnight searching. If you’re laughing right now, you know exactly what I mean!

Of course, if Ancestry provided a chromosome browser, it would cost development money for no additional revenue and their customer service reps would have to be able to support it. So from Ancestry’s perspective, there’s no good reason to provide us with that tool when they can sell kits without it. (Sigh.)

I’m not surprised by the management shift at Ancestry, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see several big players go public in the next decade, if not the next five years.

As companies increase in value, the number of private individuals who could afford to purchase the company decreases quickly, leaving private corporations as the only potential buyers, or becoming publicly held. Sometimes, that’s a good thing because investment dollars are infused into new product development.

What we desperately need, and I predict will happen one way or another is a marriage of individual tools and functions that exist separately today, with a dash of innovation. We need tools that will move beyond confirming existing ancestors – and will be able to identify ancestors through our DNA – out beyond each and every brick wall.

If a tester’s DNA matches to multiple people in a group descended from a particular previously unknown couple, and the timing and geography fits as well, that provides genealogical researchers with the hint they need to begin excavating the traditional records, looking for a connection.

In fact, this is exactly what happened with mitochondrial DNA – twice now. A match and a great deal of digging by one extremely persistent cousin resulting in identifying potential parents for a brick-wall ancestor. Autosomal DNA then confirmed that my DNA matched with 59 other individuals who descend from that couple through multiple children.

BUT, we couldn’t confirm those ancestors using autosomal DNA UNTIL WE HAD THE NAMES of the couple. DNA has the potential to reveal those names!

I wrote about that in Mitochondrial DNA Bulldozes Brick Wall and will be discussing it further in my RootsTech presentation.

The Challenge

We have most of the individual technology pieces today to get this done. Of course, the combined technological solution would require significant computing resources and processing power – just at the same time that vendors are desperately trying to pare costs to a minimum.

Some vendors simply aren’t interested, as I’ve already noted.

However, the winner, other than us genealogists, of course, will be the vendor who can either devise solutions or partner with others to create the right mix of tools that will combine matching, triangulation, and trees of your matches to each other, even if you don’t’ share a common ancestor.

We need to follow the DNA past the current end of the branch of our tree.

Each triangulated segment has an individual history that will lead not just to known ancestors, but to their unknown ancestors as well. We have reached critical mass in terms of how many people have tested – and more success would encourage more and more people to test.

There is a genetic path over every single brick wall in our genealogy.

Yes, I know that’s a bold statement. It’s not future Jetson’s flying-cars stuff. It’s doable – but it’s a matter of commitment, investment money, and finding a way to recoup that investment.

I don’t think it’s possible for the one-time purchase of a $39-$99 DNA test, especially when it’s not a loss-leader for something else like a records or data subscription (MyHeritage and Ancestry) or a medical research partnership (Ancestry and 23andMe.)

We’re performing these analysis processes manually and piecemeal today. It’s extremely inefficient and labor-intensive – which is why it often fails. People give up. And the process is painful, even when it does succeed.

This process has also been made increasingly difficult when some vendors block tools that help genealogists by downloading match and ancestral tree information. Before Ancestry closed access, I was creating theories based on common ancestors in my matches trees that weren’t in mine – then testing those theories both genetically (clusters, AutoTrees and ThruLines) and also by digging into traditional records to search for the genetic connection.

For example, I’m desperate to identify the parents of my James Lee Clarkson/Claxton, so I sorted my spreadsheet by surname and began evaluating everyone who had a Clarkson/Claxton in their tree in the 1700s in Virginia or North Carolina. But I can’t do that anymore now, either with a third-party tool or directly at Ancestry. Twenty million DNA kits sold for a minimum of $79 equals more than 1.5 billion dollars. Obviously, the issue here is not a lack of funds.

Including Y and mitochondrial DNA resources in our genetic toolbox not only confirms accuracy but also provides additional hints and clues.

Sometimes we start with Y DNA or mitochondrial DNA, and wind up using autosomal and sometimes the reverse. These are not competing products. It’s not either/or – it’s *and*.

Personally, I don’t expect the vendors to provide this game-changing complex functionality for free. I would be glad to pay for a subscription for top-of-the-line innovation and tools. In what other industry do consumers expect to pay for an item once and receive constant life-long innovations and upgrades? That doesn’t happen with software, phones nor with automobiles. I want vendors to be profitable so that they can invest in new tools that leverage the power of computing for genealogists to solve currently unsolvable problems.

Every single end-of-line ancestor in your tree represents a brick wall you need to overcome.

If you compare the cost of books, library visits, courthouse trips, and other research endeavors that often produce exactly nothing, these types of genetic tools would be both a godsend and an incredible value.

That’s it.

That’s the challenge, a gauntlet of sorts.

Who’s going to pick it up?

I can’t answer that question, but I can say that 23andMe can’t do this without supporting extensive trees, and Ancestry has shown absolutely no inclination to support segment data. You can’t achieve this goal without segment information or without trees.

Among the current players, that leaves two DNA testing companies and a few top-notch third parties as candidates – although – as the past has proven, the future is uncertain, fluid, and everchanging.

It will be interesting to see what I’m writing at the end of 2025, or maybe even at the end of 2021.

Stay tuned.

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