Facebook and Psychographic Warfare – You ARE the Product

And I thought the Equifax security breach last year was bad.

The situation exposed this past week with Facebook is not a breach, it’s intentional, has lasted for years and it’s called “psychographic research.” If you are a Facebook user, and what genealogist isn’t today, it has already affected, read targeted, you. Facebook intentionally collected and allowed the collection of various types of information from their user’s profiles that enabled “others” to construct an extremely accurate psychological personality profile for each Facebook user. Those profiles allowed bad actors to tailor content intended to manipulate each individual Facebook user for their own nefarious purposes.

Facebook exploited the trust of every single one of their 1.8 billion users. Yes, that’s billion, with a B. Of those, 214 million are located in the US.

Most genealogists use Facebook routinely to maintain links to family, share photos and participate in various groups that support our genealogy addiction. Unfortunately, while Facebook users receive camaraderie and social media makes our world smaller – we have been being used as unwitting pawns in a heinous psychological experiment.

I’ve always said there is no such thing as “free,” and I know full well that Facebook supports the “free” platform with advertising revenue from advertisers hoping to reach people who like cats, for example, are in my age group or perhaps my geography. I never knew that they were stealthily gathering my information and selling it to unethical companies and organizations whose intention was to manipulate me psychologically and more specifically, attempting to manipulate my vote.

The full intention of these manipulators is to do whatever is necessary to mold your mind, including distribution of incorrect information, remaining blind to infiltration by “bots” and allowing Facebook users to be targeted with the intention of sewing divisiveness. As a result, we have the most polarized, hate-filled and divided country I’ve known in my lifetime.

This wasn’t an accidental security breach, nor even a security breach due to negligence. This was a planned act, sanctioned and even abetted by Facebook. They are complicit.

Without allowing this article to dip into the toxic brew of politics, suffice it to say that the intention of various “bad actors” was full well to sway our election and undermine our democratic system by whatever methods worked, regardless of ethics or morality, and Facebook was a full-on willing partner. User information was sold not just to the highest bidder, but every bidder, who just happen to be the devil(s) incarnate. Not one of the people who did this had “your” best interest at heart, which in and of itself is enough to tell me whatever they want is a bad idea.

What Happened?

If you’re unaware, please educate yourself on what has happened and fully understand that this DOES affect you. Even if you personally have never played a seemingly innocent Facebook game, like Farmville, or clicked on one of those “personality profiles,” “what is your movie star name” links or answered those “tell me 10 things about yourself” postings, one of your Facebook friends surely has…and your data has been collected and used both against you and the underpinnings of our very democracy. While I’m an American, there is evidence that these same shady characters were also involved with manipulating the highly volatile Brexit vote in the UK along with elections elsewhere in the world.

Even more unfortunate, many of the people on Facebook, especially those focused on genealogy, are of or near retirement age. 26% are age 55-64 and 21% are over 65. These people tend to be the most trusting, the least technologically savvy and the most likely to click on those fun links or answer those “20 questions” challenges posted by friends – never suspecting that they are exposing themselves to targeted psychological manipulation by people who are willing to pay to have their poison information planted in your newsfeed.

That total of 47% means that the private data of over 100 million US people of AARP age has been gathered. In 2017, the entire population of the US was 325 million, including children, so roughly 30% of the entire US population has been targeted and unknowingly manipulated by God-knows-who-all.

Think about this for a minute. Look at the things you’ve “Liked” on Facebook over the past few days. For me, it’s been cats, quilts, wildlife, photos, genetic genealogy, DNA articles and my friends and cousins’ feeds. To many Facebook users, a “like” is the online equivalent of waving at your neighbor when you see them drive by.

Nothing revealing in what I “liked”, you might say, but that’s not true. You can tell that I’m both empathetic and science focused. You can tell by looking at the race of my friends along with articles that I “like” that I’m certainly not prejudiced. Combine those things together, along with whatever else Facebook has collected by reading my posts and private messages, and you can easily tell what kinds of propaganda to plant in my news feed to upset me.

Think not?

Post just one article about animal abuse in my feed, and I’m on the phone calling someone to emphatically demand change. For example, the dog last week who died on a United Airlines flight. I’m certainly not flying United if I have any choice whatsoever.

Racism, discrimination, domestic violence or child abuse…same reaction. Now, do you still think you’re not predictable by the trail of psychological breadcrumbs you’re leaving behind?

Ever forward one of those, “If you love Jesus, you’ll forward this” pictures because you certainly didn’t want anyone to think you didn’t love Jesus, or felt obligated or guilty if you didn’t forward?  Well, you were psychologically manipulated and you just told the exploiters about your religious beliefs so you can be targeted and so can everyone of your downstream friends and family members.

Up until now, the viruses we worried about were viruses implanted on your computer.  What Facebook did was to pave the way for these exploiters to plant viruses in your brain without your knowledge.

Even worse, Facebook recently made changes in their algorithm to limit the things you see in your feed, and the ONLY way for you to increase the things you like to see is to “like” even more, or tag the page or account to “show first,” providing Facebook with even more information about you to sell to whomever.

I feel somewhat responsible at this point, because I wrote an article just 10 days ago telling you exactly how to do just that – never suspecting the clandestine information collection that was occurring, or why. So yes, I’ve been exploited too. And I’m furious.

If you thought “Big Brother” was the government all along, you’re wrong. It’s Facebook who will apparently sell to anyone including the devil himself.

Is Psychographic Profiling Accurate?

If you’re doubting the accuracy of psychographic profiling, as I was, take into account the compiled research information about Facebook “likes” by a grad student at Cambridge University. The inspiration for this whole debacle was inspired by this research which indicated that by gathering:

  • only 68 Facebook “likes,” your skin color could be predicted with 95% accuracy
  • 68 likes – your sexual orientation predicted with 85% accuracy
  • 70 likes – they would “know you” better than your friends
  • 150 likes – know you better than your parents
  • 300 likes – know you better than your partner

Massive surveillance designed to capitalize on your emotional and psychological vulnerabilities in the hands of those who do not have your best interest at heart.

Take this one step further and imagine that if it’s obvious that you are strongly opposed to sex trafficking of children, someone who wanted to deter you from voting for a particular candidate might make up a story about that candidate engaged in a sex ring trafficking children. Would you dislike that candidate? If you were on the fence, would it knock you right off? If your answer is yes, then psychographic profiling and manipulation worked. Does it matter whether the information is true? No, not as long as it works. A vote now is worth being caught in a lie later – or at least that’s the theory.

And we were worried about what our DNA might divulge. Absolutely nothing, comparatively speaking.

Educate Yourself

I’m listing a few articles here that describe, in horrifying detail, the inside workings of the stealth Facebook operations by shady operators and the companies, like Cambridge Analytica. They utilized harvested user data by collaborating with Facebook to control what users see and targeting users through their emotionally vulnerabilities. In other words, you were fed information specifically aimed at making you feel one way or another.

Former Facebook operations manager, Sandy Parakilas, yesterday, in a Newsweek article stated that most of Facebook’s users likely had their information acquired by companies exploiting the same terms and conditions that allowed Cambridge Analytica’s data gathering through an app called “thisisyourdigitallife.” While only 270,000 people had played that game on Facebook,” the data of over 50 million was collected from the friends (and friends of friends) of those 270,000 people through exposures exploited by that app with Facebook’s full knowledge and consent – in just 3 months time.

This is both terrifying and nauseating.

The NYT podcast is especially enlightening and explains the timeline and methodology of how a bright young man devised a methodology to harvest Facebook data with the explicit intention of influencing voting behavior to reshape American politics. Realizing his discoveries had become a monster out of control, he resigned in 2014. Now he has become the whistleblower that blew the lid off of this scandal of unprecedented scope and scale, a magnitude undreamed of…at least by most of us. This is the most detailed of all of the resources I’ve found and explains the path from what seemed a relatively innocent and interesting discovery initially to a weaponized massively deployed fear-based political exploitation tool just three years later.

Protect Yourself

Ok, now that you know what’s happening, what can you do?

Many people are leaving Facebook and deleting their accounts. The #DeleteFacebook movement is growing.

Be aware that this doesn’t mean that what you’ve already done is gone. Your postings and comments on people’s pages and in other groups will still exist. It’s just your own account that is removed. At least you can’t be manipulated by what is fed to you anymore, but you also won’t be able to connect with family members. For many, and especially older people, Facebook is where friends are and connections make people feel a lot less isolated, especially when mobility or distance is an issue.

Furthermore, the cow has already left the barn, and “they” already have a psychological profile of you, meaning whoever has gathered or purchased your data. Believing “they” will delete that information and never use it is foolhardy.

Yes, you can leave Facebook. That’s clearly the easiest and most direct approach and I’ll show you how to do that in the next section.

If you don’t want to leave Facebook, there are precautionary steps you can take.

First, stop interacting, meaning “liking” things. Yea, I know. Double edged sword.

Second, don’t take any quizzes or post any personal information, at all. Ever. There’s a reason why people with high level security clearances aren’t allowed to have Facebook accounts.

Third, do not, EVER click on those “clickbait” things that give you something interesting for free. I don’t care how great you’ll look airbrushed and all glamoured up on the cover of a fashion magazine, and yes, my friend did look fantastic, BUT – DON’T DO IT! It’s an entryway for the rats. Same with “what would you look like as a woman?” or man, or bald, etc.

Ask yourself when you see something like this – why would someone want to give you something for “free?” Free is often a clandestine trap for the unsuspecting. The more interesting it looks, the more suspicious you should be.

Just. Don’t. Click.

Fourth, take steps through Facebook settings to protect yourself from application platform sharing. Of course, this does nothing to affect what Facebook itself is collecting in order to target you with focused ads. Ever wonder why something you googled outside of Facebook now appears in your Facebook ad feed almost immediately? It’s not coincidence. It’s your digital trail of breadcrumbs.

Here are some great articles about Facebook security and privacy, and how to shore yours up.

I strongly recommend the following FaceCrooks article that not only tells you what to do to protect yourself, but why.

Fifth – do not sign in to applications through Facebook, which provides your Facebook user data to that application, potentially exposing your friends’ data too. These articles explain how to get rid of those pesky apps, including an article by Facebook itself.

Strengthening or Deleting Your Account

I’m going to check my own privacy settings, so come along and then use this same technique to check your own.

Go to Settings by clicking on the down arrow on the top right of your blue bar. You’ll see a dropdown list that includes “Settings.”

Click on Settings.

If you are going to leave Facebook, you can download a copy of your data through the “Download a copy of your Facebook data” link, at the bottom of the list.

By clicking on “Manage Account,” you can delete your account.  Note that delete means permanently.

Don’t want to delete your account and leave Facebook?  Then let’s improve your privacy.

On the left hand side, click on “Privacy” which shows your various selections.  Lock this down to only your friends and allow “only me” to see your friends list.

Next, on the left hand sidebar, click on “Apps.” At the top, you’ll see which applications have access to your Facebook account. I didn’t think there would be any other than WeRelate, the Ancestry app, but I was wrong.

It appears that I have indeed logged into a few sites through Facebook.

Most of these I at least recognize, except one. Who the devil is Hub One and why are they in my account?

Clicking on the pencil icon by the app shows you your options, below.

Looking at what the apps have access to is enlightening. Apps have access to both my profile photo and other public profile information, plus my e-mail address.

Neither the link titled “Choose the Info This App Can Use” nor “Learn How Apps Can Use Your Info” tell me what this app is doing or even “who” this app is.  Both just link to an article. Not useful.

The “Remove Info Collected by the App” simply tells me to contact the developer by clicking the X in the bottom right corner after opening the app. Three strikes, Facebook.

I still don’t know who Hub One is, nor what they are doing, nor any way to find out what data they’ve collected. I couldn’t contact them if I wanted to, because I don’t know who they are.

I resorted to Google and discovered that a company called Hub One says they are a document management company, but Googling a little further, look what I found.

Interesting, a company that says they are an “integrator of mobile and tracking solutions for 4500 enterprises” shows up on my Facebook account and I have no idea why.

Of course, this might not be the same company. The logos don’t look the same, and I have absolutely no way to know. Facebook certainly isn’t telling.

Furthermore, how does one figure out HOW to contact the company that has weaseled their way into my Facebook account. Clearly Facebook knows, because they approved this app for their platform, but they aren’t divulging AND they are putting the onus back on you to figure out who they’ve allowed to weasel in.

Hub One, whoever you are, you’re gone!

I certainly don’t want Bing collecting data about me from Facebook either, which probably explains about those ads mysteriously appearing on Facebook right after I googled “witch costumes” for my granddaughter. To delete, I click on the little X by their app, then continue in the box in the corner.

I use Skype, but why would it want access to my Facebook account? Same question for Norton Safe Web.

Next, click on the square box labeled “Apps, Websites and Plugins.”

You can disable all of the applications. I would suggest doing so by clicking on the bottom right on “disable platform.” That means no application can interact with Facebook by effectively shutting the door entirely. If you’re a blogger, and your blogging platform interacts with your Facebook account to post, you might not want to do this.

Next, click on the square box “Apps Others Use.”

By now, it should be pretty obvious that you’re really only as safe as your most exposed friend – same concept as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

I suspect I’ve disabled some of these options in the past, but look at what’s exposed now. This is the data that can be (and probably has been) scraped from my account through the accounts of my friends who use those apps that allow me to be targeted.

Not anymore, they are all gone now. Don’t forget to “Save.” For some reason, I had to repeat this process two or three times to get it to “take,” so check your selections afterwards. I’ll be generous and call it a glitch or a bug and not cynically suggest that maybe Facebook is trying to retain my “open door” settings.

Dear Facebook

Bottom line.

There is no excuse. Period.

You knew and intentionally betrayed every single one of the people who trusted you by luring your subscribers into a false sense of security. You never told us that WE, our minds, are the commodity that you are selling. You never disclosed the truth. Your behavior is utterly reprehensible, especially given that your small act of contrition in your Facebook posting today only occurred after you were called onto the carpet, very publicly, years into this deceptive behavior.

Kind of reminds me of the unfaithful spouse who has been sleeping with half the town for several years. Finally caught, they’re very sorry, of course. Much like the betrayed spouse, I have lots of questions.

  • I want to know what has been harvested from me.
  • I want the history of what apps, if any, I interacted with, ever, that gathered or might have gathered my information. Don’t make me hunt for it like you made me hunt for the Russian bot information. Put it right there in my feed where I can’t miss it, you know, like you put the other articles you planted for me to read.
  • I want to know who exposed my data.
  • I want to know the identity of the apps on my account. You owe that much to your users, instead of making the victims attempt to figure out who that app is and how to contact them.
  • I want a list of which apps you’ve determined to be acceptable for any Facebook user, who they are and what they are really doing. I want full transparency. Now.
  • I want you to stop manipulating me either through ads or targeted psychological profiling as a result of surveillance designed to determine what to “serve” me in my newsfeed. Stop making me the unwilling victim in your information meat-market.
  • I want to know what you’re doing for your users to right this wrong?

Just like I used to tell my kids, remorse after getting caught isn’t remorse about your behavior, it’s only remorse that you got caught.

Kindergarten rules:

  • Just because you can doesn’t mean you should!
  • Integrity is what you do when no one else is looking.

I guess Facebook and their compatriots in this psychographic war have removed any question about integrity. Now all that’s left is the cleanup, or divorce, your choice.

As for genealogists, make your decision about Facebook. If you stay, spruce up your privacy, protect yourself and one way or another, continue with your valuable genealogical research.

Please feel free to share the link to this article with anyone; friends and family, groups, and especially any Facebook page!

_____________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

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

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate.  If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase.  Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay.  This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 900 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

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

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

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

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA, or one of the affiliate links below:

Affiliate links are limited to:

Facebook – Newsfeed, Page Changes, Targeted Scams and Genealogy

As you may or may not have noticed, your Facebook feed has probably changed lately.

Many people depend on social media for connectivity with family, valued groups such as genealogy and DNA, and to some extent to receive notifications from companies with whom we do business.

Facebook announced on January 11th that they would be making significant changes to their proprietary algorithm that prioritizes what is shown in your feed. You can see Mark Zukerberg’s post here.

What does that mean to you?

Let’s talk about three things today.

  • Messages that no longer appear in your news feed.
  • Why this is happening and ways to address that problem.
  • Creepy targeted scamming, what to do about it and security preventions.

Group Messages Not Appearing in Newsfeed

The first thing that happened is that the postings from several groups I am quite fond of just quietly disappeared from my newfeed. After a few days, I though it was quite odd that I hadn’t seen any activity, so I checked the group to see.

They were still quite active, but I had received nothing at all.

I then checked other groups and found the same thing.

Here’s how to fix this part of the problem.

Go to the page of the person, group or business you want to follow and see regularly.

Click on the “Following” button, where you will see the following options:

  • See First
  • Default
  • Unfollow

Click on “See First.”

You can select any number of groups, businesses and personal accounts to “see first.”  That just means that they are the items you want to see before anything else in your newsfeed, if Facebook decides to post their item to your timeline.

Unfortunately, that’s only half the problem. Tagging to “See First” doesn’t mean you’ll see everything, but you can do other things to increase the number of items from any particular group that you will see.

Facebook’s New Policy Restricting Content Delivery

Several years ago, I created a business page for DNAexplain.  That was a big mistake.  I should have simply have created a group type page.

Live and learn.

What I’m about to explain pertains to businesses both large and small, consulting and community pages. It may also apply to others, but these are the ones I know of for sure. The remedy for how to fix this problem applies to all Facebook pages, so read on.

On the DNAexplain page, shown below from my administrator’s view, you can see at the bottom left hand side of the posted article, it says “150 people reached” which is a small percentage of the people who follow this page. Facebook does that on purpose so I will pay to reach more people – which also means that you probably won’t see my content unless I pay.

If I click on that blue “150 people” link, then the box with the green checkmark that looks like leaves shows up, above the link. It says that I can pay $10 to boost this point to reach up to 4,000 people.

If I then click on “Boost Post,” I receive a menu.

I can then target this posting to various groups of people, in differing locations.

When you see those “Sponsored” items in your news feed, they come from a business, community or consulting page that paid to have their content more widely distributed.

For me to reach all of my page subscribers instead of about 10% of them, I have to pay for every single posting. So far, I’ve published more than 950 articles, so the total outlay at $15 per article for Facebook to deliver this content to the people who have “liked” my page would have cost me $14,250. I don’t know if the fees vary depending on the size of the business or the number of subscribers, but I do know this isn’t just painful, it’s impossible for a small business that offers a blog with free content.

This new policy doesn’t just apply to “business pages.”  For example, one of my favorite pages is Northern Michigan Wildlife Photos which is listed as a “community” and posts free wildlife photos, with nothing for sale. Before the change, they reached their subscribers with no problem, but no longer.

They were on the verge of shutting the page down because Facebook applied a “governor” to the number of subscribers their postings reached, reducing them from 31,000+ to just a few hundred. Of course, they could pay to reach more. Fortunately,  various subscribers told them how to improve the situation by having people change their feed to “see first,” but IN ADDITION also by doing the following:

  • Like every post, which means you’re more likely to see future posts, and so are others
  • Comment on posts

The more you interact with a Facebook site (person, group or business), the more often Facebook will think that you want to see their content. So, the strategy for seeing as much of a particular person or page as possible in your newsfeed is to BOTH tag to “See First” AND like and comment on every posting in that group or on that person’s page.

Scammers Directly Targeting People

The third and last thing I’d like to chat about is that scammers are directly targeting people by a type of electronic stalking. Yes, that’s really creepy.

How does this work?

A scammer often utilizes the photo of someone looking either “interesting” or “respectable” or even animals, like puppies and kittens.

They send you a friend request. You think, “looks good, what can it hurt,” especially if they are friends with someone you know, leading you to believe they are legitimate, and you accept.

The answer is that it can hurt a lot.

I am normally extremely vigilant, but I fell for this recently, because I was individually targeted.

A man whose name I had never seen before commented on a thread I was included in, on someone else’s genealogy topic feed. We chatted about the topic and common interest. Then he friended me.

I accepted, without checking further. After all, we had just been chatting.

Mistake.

What I didn’t realize is that someone else had quickly grabbed his photo, set up a fake account with only one letter different in the surname, and quickly friended me. So, yes, “someone” was watching and specifically targeted me.

My first actual warning was this:

Just so you know, I didn’t take this screen shot until after I had quickly unfriended Adam, so that’s why the top of the message says we’re not connected on Facebook. He tried to refriend me immediately. Adam, whose real name certainly isn’t Adam, is a pro at this game and knows exactly what to do.

A real contact would have not begun with “How are you today?” but with a continuation of the topic we were chatting about minutes before. Scammers try to chat you up and gain your confidence. I’ve seen this before, so my red internal neon danger sign was flashing bright red.

A couple years ago, my 94-year-old cousin died. About 6 weeks later, he was apparently risen from the grave, because he requested me to friend him on Facebook. Ironically, the scammer appeared to have lifted his photo either from his website (yes, he had a website at 94) or his obituary.

I’m guessing the obituary, because the next step after the “hello,” just like above, mentioned something about Sally, his daughter who was identified in the obituary. And yes, the next steps were to attempt to scam me after trying to gain my confidence with some of these exact same words.

By the way, right now one of the big scams is people attempting to get you to purchase iTunes gift cards as a form of currency.

I knew my cousin was dead, so there was no doubt in that case, barring a miracle of Biblical proportions. Although I must admit, I did tell the scammer how amazing it was that he was risen from the dead and it wasn’t even Easter.

I reported this fake account to Facebook and they took care of it within minutes, but the threat is greater than you simply being scammed.

These bad actors then friend everyone on your friend list. If you have a public friend list, they don’t even have to trick YOU into friending them to gain access to your friends.

If you have your friends list locked down, it’s better, but nothing is 100%. If you do accept their friend request, they can see, and target, all of your friends and family.

Here’s what to do to prevent this from happening.

  • With every friend request, click on the link to their page and look to see how many friends are listed, how many common friends are listed, and their activity. A barren account is a sure sign of a scammer.
  • Just because there are common friends listed doesn’t mean the scammer didn’t trick those people too.
  • Ask yourself why this person would be friending you.
  • If you still have questions, copy their Facebook profile photo, and search using Google’s reverse photo search where you drag and drop or paste a photo and Google searches for other instances of that photo. You’ll be surprised how many different people one photo may be if scammers are utilizing it heavily.

Unfriending and Blocking Scammers

If you accepted a friend request, then realized it was a mistake, quickly click on their personal page, then on the friends button, then unfriend them. That makes your page unavailable to them.  You can take it one step further by blocking them as well, which means you can’t see them and they can’t see your page at all.

Secondarily, you may need to block their private messages to you, which you can do by opening the message they sent to you, then click on the gear, then click on “block message.”

Reporting Scammers to Facebook

Lastly, you should report suspicious activity to Facebook. In my experience, Facebook has been quite prompt in addressing fake accounts and removing them once notified.

Of course, those same people will creep up again, kind of like whack-a-mole, but you’ve at least taken care of this one.

To report them to Facebook, on the scammers cover photo on their fake page in the bottom right corner, click on the little three dots.

You’ll see “Help us understand what is happening.” Click on “Report this profile.”

Then, on the next page, you can report the account as fake.

Conversely, on your own page, you can click on the question mark at the top right and click on “Report a Problem.”

While you’re there, do a privacy checkup too.

Help

As the old proverb says, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

The best resource I’ve found about Facebook ins, outs, privacy and security is FaceCrooks whose website you can search by keyword.  You can also follow them at this link on Facebook.

Remember to “Like” their page and set your display setting to “See First.”

In particular, please read the article, How to Lock Down Your Facebook Account for Maximum Privacy and Security.

Don’t let the bad guys scam you, trick you into friending them or use you, your Facebook page and your friend list as a free ticket to friending and scamming others.

And yes, before you ask, please feel free to share this article far and wide. That’s the purpose!

_____________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

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

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate.  If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase.  Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay.  This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 900 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

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

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

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

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA, or one of the affiliate links below:

Affiliate links are limited to:

How to Share Without Plagiarizing

Blogging and online articles have become popular as a result of the easy reach of the internet and social media. Most bloggers have an intended audience that follows them closely, as well as follows other social media resources on the same topics.

In other words, bloggers and their audiences share common interests and therefore common Facebook groups, etc.  Therefore, bloggers see what others post – and sometimes, they recognize their own work being posted, but not attributed to them.

It’s easy to become excited and want to share with others – and that is a wonderful attribute. Sharing is a good thing and collaboration makes the genetic genealogy world go around.

However, there’s a wrong way and a right way to share. Most people are very interested in following the rules, if they know what they are.

Our Friendly Lawyer

Let me preface this by saying that I’m not at attorney, so I’m not up to the moment on laws regarding copyright and plagiarism – but I know who is. If you want to read more from the legal perspective, I might suggest checking out any of Judy Russell’s links on the topic. Judy is, after all, The Legal Genealogist.

To quote Judy:

“One of The Legal Genealogist‘s pet peeves is when someone takes something another genealogist has done, strips off the identifying information and reposts it as if it was the second person’s work.

That, by definition, is plagiarism, and it’s a great big ethical no-no in genealogy.

Most of the time, people who do this are doing it without malicious intent. They don’t realize that they’re actually stealing someone else’s work and depriving the other person of credit for the work; most of the time they think they’re just sharing.”

To be very clear, I want my work to be shared, but I also want credit. Notice that when I quoted Judy, above, I not only said it was a quote from Judy Russell, but I also provided links to Judy’s work both in general and the article from which I quoted.

If you look at the bottom of Judy’s articles, you can also see perfectly executed examples of citing sources.

My Articles

Now, back to my work. I’m not dead and copyright clearly hasn’t expired. That expiration line in the sand is sometime around 1923 today, as Judy says here, and the copyright expiration for my work is a long way off. I won’t care by then, and neither will you. In fact, anything I write today about genetic genealogy will probably be viewed after the year 2110, about the time my copyrights would expire, with the looks of incredulity children give dinosaur skeletons in museums.

Copyright aside, taking someone else’s work and posting it, even if it’s edited or recombined slightly, without attribution, is plagiarism, pure and simple, intended or otherwise. Legal or not aside as well, it’s just plain wrong.

Ways to Share in a Good Way

  • Many people ask if it’s alright to post a link to one of by blogs someplace. In my book, it’s ALWAYS alright to post a link which directs people to the article. You don’t need to ask. I figure anyone who is going to post my link to someplace I would disapprove of (racism, sexism, discrimination, porn, etc.) isn’t going to ask anyway.
  • Sharing and forwarding links to my articles or postings on Facebook, Twitter and social media platforms are always just fine. It’s like spreading the word for the genetic genealogy gospel.  Please DO!
  • Republishing, under certain circumstances, is also alright. Some bloggers or rebloggers will use the first paragraph or so as a “leadin” to generate interest then have a link “for further reading” which links to the blog where the content was generated – meaning mine. I’m fine with that too.

Ask First

  • Sometimes I’m asked to allow a group to reprint an article in a journal or newsletter, or to use something from one of my articles or presentations for a conference or other event. I’m generally very generous with my materials, but I DO want to be asked before that type of sharing is done and I want the work to be properly credited to me.

NO NOs

  • Republishing by publishing or posting the entire text of an article, most of the article or even significant parts of an article, even WITH attribution, but WITHOUT permission is not OK with me. No one has ever done that with my work in an actual publication (that I know of,) but people feel freer on the internet.
  • Posting or republishing any part of an article (or graphic) in ANY way WITHOUT attribution is not OK. Changing or recombining the verbiage slightly and republishing is not acceptable either. If the author can recognize their work or material, it’s plagiarism and copyright infringement.

Attribution

Attribution should always include the link to the original article and preferably that link along with the author’s name.  In fact, here’s a perfect example of attribution done correctly on Facebook!

The quote Shannon used was from within the article, clearly is a quote, attributed correctly to me, and the title is a hotlink to the article itself.  Perfectly executed Shannon – thank you!

This is exactly what bloggers DO want.

My Rules

The above “rules” are Roberta’s rules. Other writers may feel differently about some things. If in doubt of any kind, just ask.

People who write and are not writing for an employer or do not sell items such as books are generally performing a public service. If you think writing is “free,” it most certainly is not “free” for the author. Not only is their time valuable, they clearly have to pay to keep the lights on, so to speak.  Please, be respectful of authors and do not kill the goose who laid the golden egg.

Citing Sources

If Judy is the queen of all things legal, Elizabeth Shown Mills is the queen of citing sources. If you want to cite the source perfectly, every single time, refer to Elizabeth’s blog for further instruction.

Personally, I don’t so much care HOW attribution is done, but I surely care a lot THAT it’s done.

Please Share

And yes, no need to ask, please DO share this article!! 😊

Sixth Season – Who Do You Think You Are?

WDYTYA 2015

Who Do You Think You Are returns this Sunday, March 8th at 10 eastern, 9 central on TLC for its sixth season.

Each week, a celebrity goes on a journey to trace their heritage, making discoveries and generally creating envy for the rest of us.  Of course, we have those same kinds of discoveries to make in our own family history too.

I love this series, in part because it makes genealogy so personal and real and encourages people to become interested in their past that may seem inaccessible, but really isn’t.

To quote TLC, “To know who you are…you have to know where your story began.”

“Lives will change forever.”

That may seem an exaggeration, but often, it’s not.  Understanding your ancestors and how their decisions shaped you today can be very powerful.

To quote one of the celebrities:

“This gives me new light into the rest of my life.”

Plus, the stories are just so, well, juicy!  And moving.  I mean, someone cries in every single episode.  And its not because they discovered the courthouse burned.

This season’s lineup of well-known personalities discovering their ancestry include:

  • Julie Chen
  • Angie Harmon
  • Sean Hayes
  • Bill Paxton
  • Melissa Etheridge
  • America Ferrara
  • Tony Goldwyn
  • Josh Groban

I just want to know one thing.  Is Josh Groban going to sing when he finds his music teacher ancestor????  That would be worth watching all by itself!

Looking forward to “date night” and tweeting with other viewers #WDYTYA.  Come along and join the fun.

2014 Top Genetic Genealogy Happenings – A Baker’s Dozen +1

It’s that time again, to look over the year that has just passed and take stock of what has happened in the genetic genealogy world.  I wrote a review in both 2012 and 2013 as well.  Looking back, these momentous happenings seem quite “old hat” now.  For example, both www.GedMatch.com and www.DNAGedcom.com, once new, have become indispensable tools that we take for granted.  Please keep in mind that both of these tools (as well as others in the Tools section, below) depend on contributions, although GedMatch now has a tier 1 subscription offering for $10 per month as well.

So what was the big news in 2014?

Beyond the Tipping Point

Genetic genealogy has gone over the tipping point.  Genetic genealogy is now, unquestionably, mainstream and lots of people are taking part.  From the best I can figure, there are now approaching or have surpassed three million tests or test records, although certainly some of those are duplicates.

  • 500,000+ at 23andMe
  • 700,000+ at Ancestry
  • 700,000+ at Genographic

The organizations above represent “one-test” companies.  Family Tree DNA provides various kinds of genetic genealogy tests to the community and they have over 380,000 individuals with more than 700,000 test records.

In addition to the above mentioned mainstream firms, there are other companies that provide niche testing, often in addition to Family Tree DNA Y results.

In addition, there is what I would refer to as a secondary market for testing as well which certainly attracts people who are not necessarily genetic genealogists but who happen across their corporate information and decide the test looks interesting.  There is no way of knowing how many of those tests exist.

Additionally, there is still the Sorenson data base with Y and mtDNA tests which reportedly exceeded their 100,000 goal.

Spencer Wells spoke about the “viral spread threshold” in his talk in Houston at the International Genetic Genealogy Conference in October and terms 2013 as the year of infection.  I would certainly agree.

spencer near term

Autosomal Now the New Normal

Another change in the landscape is that now, autosomal DNA has become the “normal” test.  The big attraction to autosomal testing is that anyone can play and you get lots of matches.  Earlier in the year, one of my cousins was very disappointed in her brother’s Y DNA test because he only had a few matches, and couldn’t understand why anyone would test the Y instead of autosomal where you get lots and lots of matches.  Of course, she didn’t understand the difference in the tests or the goals of the tests – but I think as more and more people enter the playground – percentagewise – fewer and fewer do understand the differences.

Case in point is that someone contacted me about DNA and genealogy.  I asked them which tests they had taken and where and their answer was “the regular one.”  With a little more probing, I discovered that they took Ancestry’s autosomal test and had no clue there were any other types of tests available, what they could tell him about his ancestors or genetic history or that there were other vendors and pools to swim in as well.

A few years ago, we not only had to explain about DNA tests, but why the Y and mtDNA is important.  Today, we’ve come full circle in a sense – because now we don’t have to explain about DNA testing for genealogy in general but we still have to explain about those “unknown” tests, the Y and mtDNA.  One person recently asked me, “oh, are those new?”

Ancient DNA

This year has seen many ancient DNA specimens analyzed and sequenced at the full genomic level.

The year began with a paper titled, “When Populations Collide” which revealed that contemporary Europeans carry between 1-4% of Neanderthal DNA most often associated with hair and skin color, or keratin.  Africans, on the other hand, carry none or very little Neanderthal DNA.

https://dna-explained.com/2014/01/30/neanderthal-genome-further-defined-in-contemporary-eurasians/

A month later, a monumental paper was published that detailed the results of sequencing a 12,500 Clovis child, subsequently named Anzick or referred to as the Anzick Clovis child, in Montana.  That child is closely related to Native American people of today.

https://dna-explained.com/2014/02/13/clovis-people-are-native-americans-and-from-asia-not-europe/

In June, another paper emerged where the authors had analyzed 8000 year old bones from the Fertile Crescent that shed light on the Neolithic area before the expansion from the Fertile Crescent into Europe.  These would be the farmers that assimilated with or replaced the hunter-gatherers already living in Europe.

https://dna-explained.com/2014/06/09/dna-analysis-of-8000-year-old-bones-allows-peek-into-the-neolithic/

Svante Paabo is the scientist who first sequenced the Neanderthal genome.  Here is a neanderthal mangreat interview and speech.  This man is so interesting.  If you have not read his book, “Neanderthal Man, In Search of Lost Genomes,” I strongly recommend it.

https://dna-explained.com/2014/07/22/finding-your-inner-neanderthal-with-evolutionary-geneticist-svante-paabo/

In the fall, yet another paper was released that contained extremely interesting information about the peopling and migration of humans across Europe and Asia.  This was just before Michael Hammer’s presentation at the Family Tree DNA conference, so I covered the paper along with Michael’s information about European ancestral populations in one article.  The take away messages from this are two-fold.  First, there was a previously undefined “ghost population” called Ancient North Eurasian (ANE) that is found in the northern portion of Asia that contributed to both Asian populations, including those that would become the Native Americans and European populations as well.  Secondarily, the people we thought were in Europe early may not have been, based on the ancient DNA remains we have to date.  Of course, that may change when more ancient DNA is fully sequenced which seems to be happening at an ever-increasing rate.

https://dna-explained.com/2014/10/21/peopling-of-europe-2014-identifying-the-ghost-population/

Lazaridis tree

Ancient DNA Available for Citizen Scientists

If I were to give a Citizen Scientist of the Year award, this year’s award would go unquestionably to Felix Chandrakumar for his work with the ancient genome files and making them accessible to the genetic genealogy world.  Felix obtained the full genome files from the scientists involved in full genome analysis of ancient remains, reduced the files to the SNPs utilized by the autosomal testing companies in the genetic genealogy community, and has made them available at GedMatch.

https://dna-explained.com/2014/09/22/utilizing-ancient-dna-at-gedmatch/

If this topic is of interest to you, I encourage you to visit his blog and read his many posts over the past several months.

https://plus.google.com/+FelixChandrakumar/posts

The availability of these ancient results set off a sea of comparisons.  Many people with Native heritage matched Anzick’s file at some level, and many who are heavily Native American, particularly from Central and South America where there is less admixture match Anzick at what would statistically be considered within a genealogical timeframe.  Clearly, this isn’t possible, but it does speak to how endogamous populations affect DNA, even across thousands of years.

https://dna-explained.com/2014/09/23/analyzing-the-native-american-clovis-anzick-ancient-results/

Because Anzick is matching so heavily with the Mexican, Central and South American populations, it gives us the opportunity to extract mitochondrial DNA haplogroups from the matches that either are or may be Native, if they have not been recorded before.

https://dna-explained.com/2014/09/23/analyzing-the-native-american-clovis-anzick-ancient-results/

Needless to say, the matches of these ancient kits with contemporary people has left many people questioning how to interpret the results.  The answer is that we don’t really know yet, but there is a lot of study as well as speculation occurring.  In the citizen science community, this is how forward progress is made…eventually.

https://dna-explained.com/2014/09/25/ancient-dna-matches-what-do-they-mean/

https://dna-explained.com/2014/09/30/ancient-dna-matching-a-cautionary-tale/

More ancient DNA samples for comparison:

https://dna-explained.com/2014/10/04/more-ancient-dna-samples-for-comparison/

A Siberian sample that also matches the Malta Child whose remains were analyzed in late 2013.

https://dna-explained.com/2014/11/12/kostenki14-a-new-ancient-siberian-dna-sample/

Felix has prepared a list of kits that he has processed, along with their GedMatch numbers and other relevant information, like gender, haplogroup(s), age and location of sample.

http://www.y-str.org/p/ancient-dna.html

Furthermore, in a collaborative effort with Family Tree DNA, Felix formed an Ancient DNA project and uploaded the ancient autosomal files.  This is the first time that consumers can match with Ancient kits within the vendor’s data bases.

https://www.familytreedna.com/public/Ancient_DNA

Recently, GedMatch added a composite Archaic DNA Match comparison tool where your kit number is compared against all of the ancient DNA kits available.  The output is a heat map showing which samples you match most closely.

gedmatch ancient heat map

Indeed, it has been a banner year for ancient DNA and making additional discoveries about DNA and our ancestors.  Thank you Felix.

Haplogroup Definition

That SNP tsunami that we discussed last year…well, it made landfall this year and it has been storming all year long…in a good way.  At least, ultimately, it will be a good thing.  If you asked the haplogroup administrators today about that, they would probably be too tired to answer – as they’ve been quite overwhelmed with results.

The Big Y testing has been fantastically successful.  This is not from a Family Tree DNA perspective, but from a genetic genealogy perspective.  Branches have been being added to and sawed off of the haplotree on a daily basis.  This forced the renaming of the haplogroups from the old traditional R1b1a2 to R-M269 in 2012.  While there was some whimpering then, it would be nothing like the outright wailing now that would be occurring as haplogroup named reached 20 or so digits.

Alice Fairhurst discussed the SNP tsunami at the DNA Conference in Houston in October and I’m sure that the pace hasn’t slowed any between now and then.  According to Alice, in early 2014, there were 4115 individual SNPs on the ISOGG Tree, and as of the conference, there were 14,238 SNPs, with the 2014 addition total at that time standing at 10,213.  That is over 1000 per month or about 35 per day, every day.

Yes, indeed, that is the definition of a tsunami.  Every one of those additions requires one of a number of volunteers, generally haplogroup project administrators to evaluate the various Big Y results, the SNPs and novel variants included, where they need to be inserted in the tree and if branches need to be rearranged.  In some cases, naming request for previously unknown SNPs also need to be submitted.  This is all done behind the scenes and it’s not trivial.

The project I’m closest to is the R1b L-21 project because my Estes males fall into that group.  We’ve tested several, and I’ll be writing an article as soon as the final test is back.

The tree has grown unbelievably in this past year just within the L21 group.  This project includes over 700 individuals who have taken the Big Y test and shared their results which has defined about 440 branches of the L21 tree.  Currently there are almost 800 kits available if you count the ones on order and the 20 or so from another vendor.

Here is the L21 tree in January of 2014

L21 Jan 2014 crop

Compare this with today’s tree, below.

L21 dec 2014

Michael Walsh, Richard Stevens, David Stedman need to be commended for their incredible work in the R-L21 project.  Other administrators are doing equivalent work in other haplogroup projects as well.  I big thank you to everyone.  We’d be lost without you!

One of the results of this onslaught of information is that there have been fewer and fewer academic papers about haplogroups in the past few years.  In essence, by the time a paper can make it through the peer review cycle and into publication, the data in the paper is often already outdated relative to the Y chromosome.  Recently a new paper was released about haplogroup C3*.  While the data is quite valid, the authors didn’t utilize the new SNP naming nomenclature.  Before writing about the topic, I had to translate into SNPese.  Fortunately, C3* has been relatively stable.

https://dna-explained.com/2014/12/23/haplogroup-c3-previously-believed-east-asian-haplogroup-is-proven-native-american/

10th Annual International Conference on Genetic Genealogy

The Family Tree DNA International Conference on Genetic Genealogy for project administrators is always wonderful, but this year was special because it was the 10th annual.  And yes, it was my 10th year attending as well.  In all these years, I had never had a photo with both Max and Bennett.  Everyone is always so busy at the conferences.  Getting any 3 people, especially those two, in the same place at the same time takes something just short of a miracle.

roberta, max and bennett

Ten years ago, it was the first genetic genealogy conference ever held, and was the only place to obtain genetic genealogy education outside of the rootsweb genealogy DNA list, which is still in existence today.  Family Tree DNA always has a nice blend of sessions.  I always particularly appreciate the scientific sessions because those topics generally aren’t covered elsewhere.

https://dna-explained.com/2014/10/11/tenth-annual-family-tree-dna-conference-opening-reception/

https://dna-explained.com/2014/10/12/tenth-annual-family-tree-dna-conference-day-2/

https://dna-explained.com/2014/10/13/tenth-annual-family-tree-dna-conference-day-3/

https://dna-explained.com/2014/10/15/tenth-annual-family-tree-dna-conference-wrapup/

Jennifer Zinck wrote great recaps of each session and the ISOGG meeting.

http://www.ancestorcentral.com/decennial-conference-on-genetic-genealogy/

http://www.ancestorcentral.com/decennial-conference-on-genetic-genealogy-isogg-meeting/

http://www.ancestorcentral.com/decennial-conference-on-genetic-genealogy-sunday/

I thank Family Tree DNA for sponsoring all 10 conferences and continuing the tradition.  It’s really an amazing feat when you consider that 15 years ago, this industry didn’t exist at all and wouldn’t exist today if not for Max and Bennett.

Education

Two educational venues offered classes for genetic genealogists and have made their presentations available either for free or very reasonably.  One of the problems with genetic genealogy is that the field is so fast moving that last year’s session, unless it’s the very basics, is probably out of date today.  That’s the good news and the bad news.

https://dna-explained.com/2014/11/12/genetic-genealogy-ireland-2014-presentations 

https://dna-explained.com/2014/09/26/educational-videos-from-international-genetic-genealogy-conference-now-available/

In addition, three books have been released in 2014.emily book

In January, Emily Aulicino released Genetic Genealogy, The Basics and Beyond.

richard hill book

In October, Richard Hill released “Guide to DNA Testing: How to Identify Ancestors, Confirm Relationships and Measure Ethnicity through DNA Testing.”

david dowell book

Most recently, David Dowell’s new book, NextGen Genealogy: The DNA Connection was released right after Thanksgiving.

 

Ancestor Reconstruction – Raising the Dead

This seems to be the year that genetic genealogists are beginning to reconstruct their ancestors (on paper, not in the flesh) based on the DNA that the ancestors passed on to various descendants.  Those segments are “gathered up” and reassembled in a virtual ancestor.

I utilized Kitty Cooper’s tool to do just that.

https://dna-explained.com/2014/10/03/ancestor-reconstruction/

henry bolton probablyI know it doesn’t look like much yet but this is what I’ve been able to gather of Henry Bolton, my great-great-great-grandfather.

Kitty did it herself too.

http://blog.kittycooper.com/2014/08/mapping-an-ancestral-couple-a-backwards-use-of-my-segment-mapper/

http://blog.kittycooper.com/2014/09/segment-mapper-tool-improvements-another-wold-dna-map/

Ancestry.com wrote a paper about the fact that they have figured out how to do this as well in a research environment.

http://corporate.ancestry.com/press/press-releases/2014/12/ancestrydna-reconstructs-partial-genome-of-person-living-200-years-ago/

http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/2014/12/16/ancestrydna-recreates-portions-genome-david-speegle-two-wives/

GedMatch has created a tool called, appropriately, Lazarus that does the same thing, gathers up the DNA of your ancestor from their descendants and reassembles it into a DNA kit.

Blaine Bettinger has been working with and writing about his experiences with Lazarus.

http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/2014/10/20/finally-gedmatch-announces-monetization-strategy-way-raise-dead/

http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/2014/12/09/recreating-grandmothers-genome-part-1/

http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/2014/12/14/recreating-grandmothers-genome-part-2/

Tools

Speaking of tools, we have some new tools that have been introduced this year as well.

Genome Mate is a desktop tool used to organize data collected by researching DNA comparsions and aids in identifying common ancestors.  I have not used this tool, but there are others who are quite satisfied.  It does require Microsoft Silverlight be installed on your desktop.

The Autosomal DNA Segment Analyzer is available through www.dnagedcom.com and is a tool that I have used and found very helpful.  It assists you by visually grouping your matches, by chromosome, and who you match in common with.

adsa cluster 1

Charting Companion from Progeny Software, another tool I use, allows you to colorize and print or create pdf files that includes X chromosome groupings.  This greatly facilitates seeing how the X is passed through your ancestors to you and your parents.

x fan

WikiTree is a free resource for genealogists to be able to sort through relationships involving pedigree charts.  In November, they announced Relationship Finder.

Probably the best example I can show of how WikiTree has utilized DNA is using the results of King Richard III.

wiki richard

By clicking on the DNA icon, you see the following:

wiki richard 2

And then Richard’s Y, mitochondrial and X chromosome paths.

wiki richard 3

Since Richard had no descendants, to see how descendants work, click on his mother, Cecily of York’s DNA descendants and you’re shown up to 10 generations.

wiki richard 4

While this isn’t terribly useful for Cecily of York who lived and died in the 1400s, it would be incredibly useful for finding mitochondrial descendants of my ancestor born in 1802 in Virginia.  I’d love to prove she is the daughter of a specific set of parents by comparing her DNA with that of a proven daughter of those parents!  Maybe I’ll see if I can find her parents at WikiTree.

Kitty Cooper’s blog talks about additional tools.  I have used Kitty’s Chromosome mapping tools as discussed in ancestor reconstruction.

Felix Chandrakumar has created a number of fun tools as well.  Take a look.  I have not used most of these tools, but there are several I’ll be playing with shortly.

Exits and Entrances

With very little fanfare, deCODEme discontinued their consumer testing and reminded people to download their date before year end.

https://dna-explained.com/2014/09/30/decodeme-consumer-tests-discontinued/

I find this unfortunate because at one time, deCODEme seemed like a company full of promise for genetic genealogy.  They failed to take the rope and run.

On a sad note, Lucas Martin who founded DNA Tribes unexpectedly passed away in the fall.  DNA Tribes has been a long-time player in the ethnicity field of genetic genealogy.  I have often wondered if Lucas Martin was a pseudonym, as very little information about Lucas was available, even from Lucas himself.  Neither did I find an obituary.  Regardless, it’s sad to see someone with whom the community has worked for years pass away.  The website says that they expect to resume offering services in January 2015. I would be cautious about ordering until the structure of the new company is understood.

http://www.dnatribes.com/

In the last month, a new offering has become available that may be trying to piggyback on the name and feel of DNA Tribes, but I’m very hesitant to provide a link until it can be determined if this is legitimate or bogus.  If it’s legitimate, I’ll be writing about it in the future.

However, the big news exit was Ancestry’s exit from the Y and mtDNA testing arena.  We suspected this would happen when they stopped selling kits, but we NEVER expected that they would destroy the existing data bases, especially since they maintain the Sorenson data base as part of their agreement when they obtained the Sorenson data.

https://dna-explained.com/2014/10/02/ancestry-destroys-irreplaceable-dna-database/

The community is still hopeful that Ancestry may reverse that decision.

Ancestry – The Chromosome Browser War and DNA Circles

There has been an ongoing battle between Ancestry and the more seasoned or “hard-core” genetic genealogists for some time – actually for a long time.

The current and most long-standing issue is the lack of a chromosome browser, or any similar tools, that will allow genealogists to actually compare and confirm that their DNA match is genuine.  Ancestry maintains that we don’t need it, wouldn’t know how to use it, and that they have privacy concerns.

Other than their sessions and presentations, they had remained very quiet about this and not addressed it to the community as a whole, simply saying that they were building something better, a better mousetrap.

In the fall, Ancestry invited a small group of bloggers and educators to visit with them in an all-day meeting, which came to be called DNA Day.

https://dna-explained.com/2014/10/08/dna-day-with-ancestry/

In retrospect, I think that Ancestry perceived that they were going to have a huge public relations issue on their hands when they introduced their new feature called DNA Circles and in the process, people would lose approximately 80% of their current matches.  I think they were hopeful that if they could educate, or convince us, of the utility of their new phasing techniques and resulting DNA Circles feature that it would ease the pain of people’s loss in matches.

I am grateful that they reached out to the community.  Some very useful dialogue did occur between all participants.  However, to date, nothing more has happened nor have we received any additional updates after the release of Circles.

Time will tell.

https://dna-explained.com/2014/11/18/in-anticipation-of-ancestrys-better-mousetrap/

https://dna-explained.com/2014/11/19/ancestrys-better-mousetrap-dna-circles/

DNA Circles 12-29-2014

DNA Circles, while interesting and somewhat useful, is certainly NOT a replacement for a chromosome browser, nor is it a better mousetrap.

https://dna-explained.com/2014/11/30/chromosome-browser-war/

In fact, the first thing you have to do when you find a DNA Circle that you have not verified utilizing raw data and/or chromosome browser tools from either 23andMe, Family Tree DNA or Gedmatch, is to talk your matches into transferring their DNA to Family Tree DNA or download to Gedmatch, or both.

https://dna-explained.com/2014/11/27/sarah-hickerson-c1752-lost-ancestor-found-52-ancestors-48/

I might add that the great irony of finding the Hickerson DNA Circle that led me to confirm that ancestry utilizing both Family Tree DNA and GedMatch is that today, when I checked at Ancestry, the Hickerson DNA Circle is no longer listed.  So, I guess I’ve been somehow pruned from the circle.  I wonder if that is the same as being voted off of the island.  So, word to the wise…check your circles often…they change and not always in the upwards direction.

The Seamy Side – Lies, Snake Oil Salesmen and Bullys

Unfortunately a seamy side, an underbelly that’s rather ugly has developed in and around the genetic genealogy industry.  I guess this was to be expected with the rapid acceptance and increasing popularity of DNA testing, but it’s still very unfortunate.

Some of this I expected, but I didn’t expect it to be so…well…blatant.

I don’t watch late night TV, but I’m sure there are now DNA diets and DNA dating and just about anything else that could be sold with the allure of DNA attached to the title.

I googled to see if this was true, and it is, although I’m not about to click on any of those links.

google dna dating

google dna diet

Unfortunately, within the ever-growing genetic genealogy community a rather large rift has developed over the past couple of years.  Obviously everyone can’t get along, but this goes beyond that.  When someone disagrees, a group actively “stalks” the person, trying to cost them their employment, saying hate filled and untrue things and even going so far as to create a Facebook page titled “Against<personname>.”  That page has now been removed, but the fact that a group in the community found it acceptable to create something like that, and their friends joined, is remarkable, to say the least.  That was accompanied by death threats.

Bullying behavior like this does not make others feel particularly safe in expressing their opinions either and is not conducive to free and open discussion. As one of the law enforcement officers said, relative to the events, “This is not about genealogy.  I don’t know what it is about, yet, probably money, but it’s not about genealogy.”

Another phenomenon is that DNA is now a hot topic and is obviously “selling.”  Just this week, this report was published, and it is, as best we can tell, entirely untrue.

http://worldnewsdailyreport.com/usa-archaeologists-discover-remains-of-first-british-settlers-in-north-america/

There were several tip offs, like the city (Lanford) and county (Laurens County) is not in the state where it is attributed (it’s in SC not NC), and the name of the institution is incorrect (Johns Hopkins, not John Hopkins).  Additionally, if you google the name of the magazine, you’ll see that they specialize in tabloid “faux reporting.”  It also reads a lot like the King Richard genuine press release.

http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/Fake-News/tp/A-Guide-to-Fake-News-Websites.01.htm

Earlier this year, there was a bogus institutional site created as well.

On one of the DNA forums that I frequent, people often post links to articles they find that are relevant to DNA.  There was an interesting article, which has now been removed, correlating DNA results with latitude and altitude.  I thought to myself, I’ve never heard of that…how interesting.   Here’s part of what the article said:

Researchers at Aberdeen College’s Havering Centre for Genetic Research have discovered an important connection between our DNA and where our ancestors used to live.

Tiny sequence variations in the human genome sometimes called Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) occur with varying frequency in our DNA.  These have been studied for decades to understand the major migrations of large human populations.  Now Aberdeen College’s Dr. Miko Laerton and a team of scientists have developed pioneering research that shows that these differences in our DNA also reveal a detailed map of where our own ancestors lived going back thousands of years.

Dr. Laerton explains:  “Certain DNA sequence variations have always been important signposts in our understanding of human evolution because their ages can be estimated.  We’ve known for years that they occur most frequently in certain regions [of DNA], and that some alleles are more common to certain geographic or ethnic groups, but we have never fully understood the underlying reasons.  What our team found is that the variations in an individual’s DNA correlate with the latitudes and altitudes where their ancestors were living at the time that those genetic variations occurred.  We’re still working towards a complete understanding, but the knowledge that sequence variations are connected to latitude and altitude is a huge breakthrough by itself because those are enough to pinpoint where our ancestors lived at critical moments in history.”

The story goes on, but at the bottom, the traditional link to the publication journal is found.

The full study by Dr. Laerton and her team was published in the September issue of the Journal of Genetic Science.

I thought to myself, that’s odd, I’ve never heard of any of these people or this journal, and then I clicked to find this.

Aberdeen College bogus site

About that time, Debbie Kennett, DNA watchdog of the UK, posted this:

April Fools Day appears to have arrived early! There is no such institution as Aberdeen College founded in 1394. The University of Aberdeen in Scotland was founded in 1495 and is divided into three colleges: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/about/colleges-schools-institutes/colleges-53.php

The picture on the masthead of the “Aberdeen College” website looks very much like a photo of Aberdeen University. This fake news item seems to be the only live page on the Aberdeen College website. If you click on any other links, including the link to the so-called “Journal of Genetic Science”, you get a message that the website is experienced “unusually high traffic”. There appears to be no such journal anyway.

We also realized that Dr. Laerton, reversed, is “not real.”

I still have no idea why someone would invest the time and effort into the fake website emulating the University of Aberdeen, but I’m absolutely positive that their motives were not beneficial to any of us.

What is the take-away of all of this?  Be aware, very aware, skeptical and vigilant.  Stick with the mainstream vendors unless you realize you’re experimenting.

King Richard

King Richard III

The much anticipated and long-awaited DNA results on the remains of King Richard III became available with a very unexpected twist.  While the science team feels that they have positively identified the remains as those of Richard, the Y DNA of Richard and another group of men supposed to have been descended from a common ancestor with Richard carry DNA that does not match.

https://dna-explained.com/2014/12/09/henry-iii-king-of-england-fox-in-the-henhouse-52-ancestors-49/

https://dna-explained.com/2014/12/05/mitochondrial-dna-mutation-rates-and-common-ancestors/

Debbie Kennett wrote a great summary article.

http://cruwys.blogspot.com/2014/12/richard-iii-and-use-of-dna-as-evidence.html

More Alike than Different

One of the life lessons that genetic genealogy has held for me is that we are more closely related that we ever knew, to more people than we ever expected, and we are far more alike than different.  A recent paper recently published by 23andMe scientists documents that people’s ethnicity reflect the historic events that took place in the part of the country where their ancestors lived, such as slavery, the Trail of Tears and immigration from various worldwide locations.

23andMe European African map

From the 23andMe blog:

The study leverages samples of unprecedented size and precise estimates of ancestry to reveal the rate of ancestry mixing among American populations, and where it has occurred geographically:

  • All three groups – African Americans, European Americans and Latinos – have ancestry from Africa, Europe and the Americas.
  • Approximately 3.5 percent of European Americans have 1 percent or more African ancestry. Many of these European Americans who describe themselves as “white” may be unaware of their African ancestry since the African ancestor may be 5-10 generations in the past.
  • European Americans with African ancestry are found at much higher frequencies in southern states than in other parts of the US.

The ancestry proportions point to the different regional impacts of slavery, immigration, migration and colonization within the United States:

  • The highest levels of African ancestry among self-reported African Americans are found in southern states, especially South Carolina and Georgia.
  • One in every 20 African Americans carries Native American ancestry.
  • More than 14 percent of African Americans from Oklahoma carry at least 2 percent Native American ancestry, likely reflecting the Trail of Tears migration following the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
  • Among self-reported Latinos in the US, those from states in the southwest, especially from states bordering Mexico, have the highest levels of Native American ancestry.

http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2014/12/genetic-study-reveals-surprising-ancestry-many-americans?utm_campaign=email-news-weekly&utm_source=eloqua

23andMe provides a very nice summary of the graphics in the article at this link:

http://blog.23andme.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Bryc_ASHG2014_textboxes.pdf

The academic article can be found here:

http://www.cell.com/ajhg/home

2015

So what does 2015 hold? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out. Hopefully, it holds more ancestors, whether discovered through plain old paper research, cousin DNA testing or virtually raised from the dead!

What would my wish list look like?

  • More ancient genomes sequenced, including ones from North and South America.
  • Ancestor reconstruction on a large scale.
  • The haplotree becoming fleshed out and stable.
  • Big Y sequencing combined with STR panels for enhanced genealogical research.
  • Improved ethnicity reporting.
  • Mitochondrial DNA search by ancestor for descendants who have tested.
  • More tools, always more tools….
  • More time to use the tools!

Here’s wishing you an ancestor filled 2015!

 

Attitude of Gratitude, Mud, Pigs and Sheep

pig

This the time of year, the holidays, that makes us all wax sentimental.  Hopefully, it causes each of us to take a few minutes to think about what we are grateful for.

Sometimes gratitude came come from odd places.  In some instances, having to deal with its polar opposite, someone who is difficult, toxic or just plain hateful makes us realize just how lucky we are in the rest of our dealings with people.  The fact that we can recognize them as such, and get out of Dodge, is a blessing as well.  And sometimes, I’m just so thankful I’m not one of them….

That’s the old saying about how one can always serve as a bad example.

My husband always says that he’s grateful for those people because they make him look so good by comparison.  Now that’s a fine example of making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear!

Of course, then there are those wonderful people, like newly discovered cousin Bill Hickerson.  I’ve been very lucky to meet so many wonderful cousins over the years and genealogy, especially genetic genealogy gives us the opportunity to meet even more.

I’ve spent some time thinking about exactly what I’m grateful for this year.

Family

When you start losing them you really start to appreciate them at a whole different level.  The more you lose, the more you appreciate the ones that are left.  Judy Russell wrote about this recently too.  It’s the holidays – so we can’t help but think about those we hold close in our hearts, whether they are on this side or the other side now.

I have no parents, aunts, uncles or siblings left, so I’ve adopted a brother, John.  Of course, this is my second brother John so now when I talk about John, or my brother John, everyone asks which brother John.  Makes for wonderfully interesting conversations!  I mean, how many people have two brothers with the same name?

It’s sometimes difficult to be the last one standing…so I guess that gets me elected as the family story-teller, the documenter.  They may be gone, but it’s up to me to make them immortal.  And, well, because they are there and I am here…I can tell any stories I want.  smiley

Chuckle.  Tee hee…

Family of Choice

These are the people not stuck with me genetically, but who hang around by choice.  Perhaps because I left the area where my family lived, and I had few and now have no living siblings, I’ve formed an adoptive family.  We function just like other families, except no bickering.  These people are extra special because they love me anyway!!!  And they think coming over and playing in the mud together is fun.

mud buddies

NewFound and ReFound Cousins

Cousins – I didn’t grow up with any.  We and they were scattered to the winds.  I’ve remet some over the years and become particularly close to several.  We’re still scattered to the winds, but e-mail and electronic communication makes it much easier to stay in touch on a much more regular basis.  Cheryl, my cousin on my Mom’s side went to Holland with me in the spring.

orange cousins crop2

Need I say more?  We had SO much fun.

Daryl, my cousin on my Dad’s side has been my travel companion for years.  She was the one trapped in the cemetery with me by the bull.  Here we are wading in the creek at Cumberland Gap that fed the land owned by the Dodsons, our common ancestral line.  It was a blistering hot day, but we had a great time together.

double trouble

A group of cousins went back to England in 2013 to visit the Speak Family homeland.  Here, we are together in the church where it all began…so to speak, pardon the pun.

Speak Family at St Mary Whalley

I love my cousins.  And no, I don’t mean I’m fond of them, I love them.  You know who you are!!!

Mary Lancashire

Mary and I in Lancashire in the churchyard where it all began for our ancestor.  The infamous Pendle Hill, a local landmark, is in the background.

I’ve had such lovely adventures with my cousins.  They have so enriched my life and I am so grateful for them….and for genealogy, or I would never have found them.

People who Share Freely

I’m incredibly grateful for people who do good work and share freely.  Ok, who do sourced, good work and share freely.

For example, there is one Acadian researcher whose tree on Rootsweb I use as the “consummate reference.”  She could refuse to share because it represents years of her hard work, and it undoubtedly does, but because she does share, it’s much more likely that there is good information being copy/pasted than bad.  She has literally saved me years of research that I probably couldn’t have done with the language barrier involved.

Furthermore, it frees the rest of us to contribute in some other way instead of retreading the ground she has already dug up.  Thank you Karen Theroit!

Another example – over the years I’ve been gifted with pictures of several ancestors that I didn’t have, nor even knew existed, among them Samuel Claxton in his Civil War uniform, Joseph “Dode” Bolton and John David Miller, shown below.  All thanks to previously unknown cousins willing to share.

john david miller familyMy way of doing the same is my 52 Ancestor series on my blog.  I’m grateful to Amy Johnson Crow for this wonderful idea which continues in 2015.

People Who DNA Test, Upload their Tree and Answer Queries

It makes life so very much easier when a family tree is attached to the DNA results.  Bless these people.

People Who Indulge Me and Agree to DNA Test

…even though they aren’t nearly as interested as I am.  Bless these people too. The cousins so often make THE difference in autosomal matching because we each carry different segments of our common ancestor – along with a few of the same segments, of course.

People who Give

….to others, unselfishly.  Some people “give” to be in the spotlight – these aren’t the people I’m talking about. I’m referring to people have been unsung, and often unthanked, volunteers for years.  I’ll list a few for whom I’m particularly grateful (in alpha order).

  • Alice Fairhurst – ISOGG Y Tree Coordinator, for 9 years as the tree has avalanched
  • Denny Brubaker who has compiled the Claiborne County Pioneer Project by indexing and entering into genealogy software over 108,000 individuals from the 1930 census and before who were documented to have lived in Claiborne County, TN
  • Paul Le Blanc – an Acadian Museum Living Legend, founder and moderator of the Acadian Rootsweb list, my cousin over 100 ways and always willing to help
  • David Powell – Estes Family Archivist and Historian – has compiled and maintains Estes family site for all descendants for nearly 15 years
  • John Olsen and Curtis Rogers, creators of www.GedMatch.com
  • Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, who writes an wonderful blog with a posting every single day

There are many more of these humble, selfless people in the genealogy community.  Thank you one and all.  Genealogy heroes, they serve as the best kind of example and inspiration.

Kind, Caring People with Integrity

For every jerk that we see, and unfortunately, they do stand out due to their jerkyness, there is an anonymous person who is quietly doing something caring and lovely for another being.

These are the people who stop to help the helpless; rescue a box of puppies, to save an injured duck who has been hit, to move turtles off the road or pulling someone out of a burning house or car.  It’s acts like these that are the true measure of character and integrity.

Integrity is what you do when no one else is looking and when there is no possibility that the person or thing that you’re helping can ever return any type of favor.

Here’s a picture of someone who put their car in the ditch to miss the turtle in the road….and managed to save the turtle too.

jeep in swamp

I’m extremely proud to call this person…my daughter.

Here’s a picture my daughter’s rescue this week, now named Ellie, which was, of course, not the slightest bit convenient the week before Christmas.  It may be a bit of an inconvenience for us, but it’s life-saving and life-altering for Ellie.  And there is nothing in the world like the unconditional love of a puppy!  I mean, who else can get so happy to see you they piddle all over the floor.

ellie

I’m equally as grateful for the services that my son provides to citizens daily.

firefighter

I’m especially proud of my children, of course, but I’m extremely grateful for all of the people who make the world a better place for others.

Collaborators and Peers

Genealogy and genetic genealogy has brought so many wonderful people into my life in the form of new cousins, collaborators and peers.  I can think of so many and more just keep popping into mind.

In genetic genealogy, we have to work collaboratively or we’ll get no-place fast.  It’s a  team sport.

collaboration

Where would we be without our friends and peers who we can work with and bounce things off of from time to time?  I started to make a list, but the list goes on and on and I’m afraid I’ll forget someone.  I’m just so very thankful to have such a long list.

I am particularly grateful for my DNA project co-administrators as well as other project admins.  It’s wonderful to have co-conspirators:)  The more than 8000 DNA projects wouldn’t be able to function without the volunteers administrators, and projects are incredibly valuable to genealogists.

Visionaries Among Us – Citizen Scientists

I am so very grateful to be alive at the right time and in the right place to be able to participate in the birthing of new science – genetic genealogy.  There isn’t a day that passes without learning something wonderful and new.

The entire genetic genealogy industry, and it is an industry today, was founded on  regular people, citizen scientists, noticing something and pursuing that information.

Thankfully, no one was hateful, berating or condescending to those early pioneers because they had the audacity to speak up and push the edge of the envelope, or we surely would not have seen the advances in genetic genealogy that have occurred in the past 15 years.

Bennett remarks

It 1999, the idea of testing the Y chromosome of 2 men to see if they matched was what prompted Bennett Greenspan to contact Dr. Michael Hammer at the University of Arizona.  This entire industry was founded on that relationship.  Michael wasn’t initially thrilled, but had he adopted a negative attitude about or towards Bennett, there would be no genetic genealogy industry today.  Giant oaks from tiny seedlings grow.  I am forever grateful to both of these men.  Bennett is shown above at the 2013 Conference and Michael, below at the 2014, tenth annual, International Conference on Genetic Genealogy sponsored by Family Tree DNA.

hammer 2014

Many of today’s genetic genealogists won’t have known Leo Little, but he was the genetic genealogist who noticed something was “different” about a group of STR marker results in 2002, and was ultimately responsible for the research that lead to the discovery of a SNP that separated a particular branch of the Y tree.  Today, with advent of next generation testing, we find new branches every day, but without Leo Little’s contribution of finding that first L SNP, we wouldn’t have the Y SNP sub-industry.  Fittingly, the L SNPS are named in honor of Leo and that first SNP discovered at Family Tree DNA was, appropriately, L1.

I remember the discussions about 5 years ago in the citizen scientist community about haplogroup R1b perhaps not being present in Paleolithic Europe?  Well, this year, at the Family Tree DNA conference, Michael Hammer presented evidence to that effect based on analysis of ancient remains, shown above.

Remember the days when it was stated that autosomal DNA would never be utilized in genetic genealogy?  Many won’t remember those days, because it has been the power of autosomal testing that has brought the majority of the testers to the party.  The 5th anniversary of the introduction of the first commercial autosomal DNA test was celebrated this past month.

I’m grateful for these visionary people who were brave enough to question the status quo and peer beyond the horizon.  I hope the genetic genealogy community fosters an open and supportive scientific incubator environment where people feel they can safely come forward with their observations which may in fact turn out to be important discoveries.

Ability to do for Others

This means that I’m healthy enough to do for others, so every time I make one of the care quilts, write a blog posting or do something else, I’m always grateful for that opportunity.

hemming quilt

I believe we are all enhanced and uplifted by giving.  My ways of contributing are through my care quilts, my DNA blog, by Native Heritage Project blog at www.nativeheritageproject.com and my Victory Garden blog at www.victorygardendaybyday.com, inspired by my adopted brother John.

I’m very grateful for those who support my endeavors in all kinds of ways from hemming a quilt to encouragement in a rough patch or fixing dinner.  There is very little in life that we can accomplish alone and it’s much more rewarding with companions.

Communications

ying yangYing and yang.  The ying is that it’s so much easier to have a conversation today, in many ways, which allows us access to online records and near-immediate answers – not to mention keeping up with family on Facebook and talking around the world on Skype.

The yang of course is that there is misinformation and social media brings with it its own version of unpleasantness.  Prior to the last decade or so, immediate online group access, like Facebook, wasn’t available. It’s new to our generation and will simply be normal to the next.

Social media has opened up a world of opportunities, some positive, some negative.  The positive aspects are that it’s easy to join groups of people with like interests, be they genetic genealogy or a specific ancestor or something entirely different, like quilting.

The flip side is that people aren’t always nice online and sometimes say things in a terribly negative way they might never do in person, although with some of these folks, I’m not at all sure that would make any difference.

The illusion of space between that person and their intended victim make it convenient to have a very visible online war where people tend to “show themselves in public” as my father would have put it.

When I see this happening I have to wonder if they have any idea how badly behaved they appear to others.  It’s difficult sometimes to retain a level of professional and personal decorum under those circumstances, but that brings me to my last item of gratitude…something I NEVER thought I’d say.

Mamma, prepare to roll over in your grave!

My UpBringing

My parents were not easy on me, nor was I an easy child to raise…not by a long shot.    What might be perceived as tenacity, resilience and commitment today was sheer utter unrelenting mis-focused stubbornness as a teen.  I prefer to think of it as “strong woman training wheels.”  I’m sure my mother had other names for it, and probably for me as well.

wink

However, not to be out-stubborned by me (genetic perhaps?), my mother continued, whether I wanted to hear the messages or not…to reinforce the lessons I needed to learn.  Today, as I see people behaving poorly, I hear my mother’s voice saying things like this:

“It’s not so much what you say but how you say it.”

OMG, I cannot tell you how MANY times I rolled my eyes at this one.  But, I got it.  I didn’t want to get it…but somehow it soaked in in spite of my complete and utter resistance.  She must have said this hundreds if not thousands of times – and I can still hear her voice saying it to this day.  In fact, now I want to say it to other people!

My mother had this saying written on a piece of paper and taped to the mirror that we all shared in the bathroom – for years.  I wanted to rip it down because when I most needed to read it, seeing it irritated me greatly.

Here’s another of her famous sayings.

 “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Did everyone’s mother say this?  I thought she was an idiot.

And this one.  Can you see my eyes rolling????

“You will never have to regret being a lady.”

Oh PUUUUULLLLEEZE….

A lady?  Really?  I mean, seriously???  I didn’t own a dress and lived in blue jeans.  But that really wasn’t what she meant.  I never understood that one at the time.  But I surely do now.  Bullying isn’t something new nor reserved for children and teens and neither is unbecoming behavior – and I see it regularly online and in the comments to my blog postings that don’t get approved.  You would not believe some of those.  I’ve even considered doing a humorous article utilizing those, but they are just too awful.

And here’s a last bit of wisdom from Mom, which I also didn’t comprehend at the time.

“When someone is hateful towards you, it says nothing about you and everything about them.  Same goes for you when you’re hateful.”

You know, she always had to add that little zinger clincher type of thing at the end that was equivalent to “if the shoe fits”….darn her anyway.

And then she would smugly follow up by saying something like…

“If that makes you mad, then you obviously needed to hear it.”

DAMMIT MOTHER!

My Mom was pretty “in your face” with her messages, often delivering them by pointing and shaking her index finger at you as she lectured.  My brother was so tall that he got ordered to sit down before he got his lecture so she could shake her finger directly at him instead of up in his general direction. When he got told to “sit down,” he knew he was in a heap-o-trouble.  But he unfailingly sat!  I giggled.  Then I got to sit too.

My step-Dad was more laid back and charismatic.  I was more inclined to hear what he had to say, because it was often mixed with humor and much more subtle.

He had two saying that I’ve used over and over as an adult, and that in spite of their farm flavor, hold true everyplace.  I particularly love this first one.

“Never mud wrestle with a pig. 
You can’t win. 
You get muddy.
The pig likes it.
The spectators can’t tell the difference.”

Some days I think this is my personal mantra.

And lastly, I’ll leave you with this one, except my Dad’s rendition was a little more, ahem, colorful:)

“Don’t be part of the herd.  The only thing sheep see is the south end of the other sheep going north.  If you don’t want to see a bunch of sheep butts, get out in front of the herd.”

I am so very, very thankful that my parents never raised me to be a sheep.  I’m sure they wished many times they hadn’t been quite so successful and that I hadn’t pushed the edges of the envelope quite so hard.

And yes, being a sheep would be much easier, I’m sure….but I’ll never know.  Therein lies the blessing and the curse.

So to my Mom and step-Dad, who for some ungodly reason signed on willingly, for their persistence and perseverance in the face of a defiant and ungrateful teen…..thank you.  THANK YOU.  And ……just so you know, somehow, in spite of myself, I heard you and I get it!!!

And I am really, REALLY, grateful.

Rockstar Genealogist Winners – We’ve Come a Long Way Baby

double helix animation

John Reid, over this past week, has announced the full complement of Rockstar genealogist winners.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the winners in each category and to make a couple of comments, because I found the distribution of winners very interesting.

John divided the competition into several geographies plus DNA.  Really, I kind of viewed the geographies like specialties because you need a different set of skills and knowledge to search Irish records, for example, than you need to search US records.  The same holds true for the DNA category.

Several people placed in multiple categories.  In particular, of the 10 winners in the DNA group, 7 of these folks also placed in the USA category.  That’s pretty amazing, especially because this field is relatively new.  Of the people in the DNA category, 3, I didn’t consider specifically as genetic genealogy specialists, although they are clearly genealogists, and one person I didn’t know at all.  Two are very well known and clearly incorporate genetic genealogy into a genealogy career.

What was my criteria for a genetic genealogist?  If I recognized the name as a participant in any of the several online lists and forums that are specifically focused on genetic genealogy, or know of them to be a consistent contributor on the genetic genealogy topic, I considered them a genetic genealogist.  Pretty simple.

Of the DNA winners, Judy, Megan and Dick were included in 2 or more categories, with Dick Eastman being included in 5 of the 6 categories.  We can certainly say that Dick is well-known worldwide.

For me, though, the take home story in all of this isn’t about who is or isn’t a genetic genealogist, but it’s about blending and assimilation.  When genetic genealogy was first introduced into the genealogy landscape, we were utterly thrilled when one word was uttered in a magazine or newspaper or anyplace public about DNA and genealogy.  We were genetic missionaries, trying to convince genealogy societies and conferences that they needed to allow us to speak about this new brick-wall-crashing technology.  It was always an uphill battle and we weren’t always welcome.

Today, just over a decade later, DNA is all over the news media.  Just this week alone there have been 4 or 5 major stories involving population genetics, found families and other DNA related topics.  And that’s not counting the numerous blogs, some dedicated to genetic genealogy and population genetics, and some incorporating genetic genealogy as a tool.

In another few days, this summer/fall’s second TV series focused on genealogy, including genetic genealogy airs.  Spencer Wells has become a household word, and DNA in words and images is now used in ads, an acronym and image that many adults didn’t even know 15 years ago and certainly wasn’t a part of everyday vocabulary.  Today, everyone knows what a double helix is.

dna ad

From my perspective, assimilation is good.  In fact, it’s the ultimate goal.  For genetic genealogy to become entirely mainstream, DNA testing has to become a tool that no genealogist would be without and everyone knows how to use appropriately.  Every genealogist needs to be a genetic genealogist at some level, because DNA testing can benefit every single genealogist – their own testing and that of others as well.

From the looks of the results this year, maybe we’ve arrived.  We went from no genetic genealogists in the winner’s circle last year to 7 this year.  Of the DNA category winners, perhaps some of those folks have redefined our idea of what a genetic genealogist really is.

In several cases, genetic genealogy seems to be a dual specialty, like Judy and Megan.  People who are considered to be top notch in other categories are ALSO genetic genealogists.  Both Judy and Megan were in the USA winning group last year, but since they weren’t exclusively or specifically genetic genealogists, I didn’t include them as such.  However, the public voting this year clearly shows they are both – and very well respected in both fields.

Perhaps the day has arrived when genetic genealogy is a specialty, just like with Irish or Scottish or English records, under the larger genealogy umbrella, not separate anymore.  Maybe John was right and genetic genealogy is its own specialty “country” in the larger genealogy world and genetic genealogy experts will exist for folks needing specialized assistance, but all genealogists will be a genetic genealogist at some level.

Yea, we’ve come a long way baby.  It feels good to be part of the mainstream.  We don’t have to scrap to be heard anymore, nor do our relatives have to wonder if we are crazy.  Ok, maybe they still wonder….but it’s no longer the genetic part of genealogy that begs that question:)

Here are the top 10 winners in each category, along with links to John’s blog where statistics and more information about each category are given:

DNA:

1. Roberta Estes
2. CeCe Moore
3. Judy G. Russell
4. Megan Smolenyak
5. Bennett Greenspan
6. Blaine Bettinger
7. Dick Eastman
8. Tim Janzen
9. D. Joshua Taylor
10. Stephen P. Morse

USA:

1. Judy G. Russell
2. Roberta Estes
3. Megan Smolenyak
4. CeCe Moore
5. Dick Eastman
6. Thomas W. Jones
7. D. Joshua Taylor
8. Thomas MacEntee
9. John Philip Colletta
10. Bennett Greenspan

England/Scotland/Wales:

1. Janet Few
2. Kirsty Gray
3. Else Churchill
4. Celia Heritage
5. Dick Eastman
6. Debbie Kennett
7. Michael Gandy
8. Chris Paton
9. Nick Barratt
10. Jackie Depelle

Ireland:

1. Steven C. Smyrl
2. Claire Santry
3. John Grenham
4. Fiona Fitzsimons
5. Brian Donovan
6. William Roulston

Canada:

1. Dick Eastman
2. Chris Paton
3. Thomas MacEntee
4. Lisa Louise Cooke
5. Judy G. Russell
6. Glenn Wright
7. Geoff Rasmussen
7. Megan Smolenyak
9. Brenda Dougall Merriman
10. Lisa Alzo

Australia/New Zealand:

1. Shauna Hicks
2. Judy Webster
3. Jill Ball
4. Chris Paton
5. Pauleen Cass
6. Thomas MacEntee
7. Dick Eastman
8. Cyndi Ingle
8. Sharn White
10. Nick Barratt
10. Kirsty Gray
10. Pat Richley-Erickson (DearMyrtle)

Thanks John for running the poll.  In addition to honoring awesome genealogists, it shows us just how fast the landscape is changing, the progress we’ve made and the impact of social media, in particular, blogs, which makes regular publication and communication easy.  There couldn’t be a better time to be a genealogist!

Mea culpa – I thought John was finished with publishing winning categories.  Obviously not, because just as this article went to print, I received notification of two additional categories, Commonwealth and International.  Obviously these categories are not included in the commentary, above.

International

1. Judy G. Russell
2. Roberta Estes
3. Megan Smolenyak
4. CeCe Moore
5. Dick Eastman
6. Thomas MacEntee
7. D. Joshua Taylor
8. Lisa Louise Cooke
9. Thomas W. Jones
10. Bennett Greenspan

Commonwealth

1. Janet Few
1. Chris Paton
3. Dick Eastman
4. Kirsty Gray
5. Thomas MacEntee
6. Lisa Louise Cooke
7. Judy G. Russell
8. Else Churchill
9. Debbie Kennett
10. Celia Heritage