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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reflection

This seems like a good point to reflect a bit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Next Wave

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

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

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

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

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

In summary:

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

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

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

The Single Biggest Change

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

Why, you ask?

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

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

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

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

Synergy.

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

Inheritance

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

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

What’s Hot and What’s Not

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Y DNA – 20 Years and Still Critically Important

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow, just wow.

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

Mitochondrial DNA – Matrilineal Line of Humankind is Being Rewritten

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

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

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

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

Y and Mitochondrial Resources

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

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

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

Click on images to enlarge

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

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

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

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

CentiMorgans – The Word of Two Decades

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

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

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

Chromosome Browser – Genetics Tool to View Chromosome Matches

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

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

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

Triangulation – Science Plus Group DNA Matching Confirms Genealogy

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve written a lot about triangulation recently.

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

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

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

Clustering Matches and Correlating Trees

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

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

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

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

These articles should get you started with clustering.

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

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

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

Painting DNA Makes Chromosome Browsers and Triangulation Easy

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

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

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

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

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

DNA Matches Plus Trees Enhance Genealogy

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

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

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

click to enlarge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transition to Digital and Online

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshot courtesy MyHeritage

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you to Penny Walters for creating this lovely graphic.

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

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

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

Companies and Owners Come & Go

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

Other changes included:

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

Some Companies Reduced Services and Cut Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both Ancestry and MyHeritage provide subscription services for genealogy records.

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

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

Scientific Research Still Critical & Pushes Frontiers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Predictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s it.

That’s the challenge, a gauntlet of sorts.

Who’s going to pick it up?

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

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

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

Stay tuned.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Books

Y DNA Resources and Repository

I’ve created a Y DNA resource page with the information in this article, here, as a permanent location where you can find Y DNA information in one place – including:

  • Step-by-step guides about how to utilize Y DNA for your genealogy
  • Educational articles and links to the latest webinars
  • Articles about the science behind Y DNA
  • Ancient DNA
  • Success stories

Please feel free to share this resource or any of the links to individual articles with friends, genealogy groups, or on social media.

If you haven’t already taken a Y DNA test, and you’re a male (only males have a Y chromosome,) you can order one here. If you also purchase the Family Finder, autosomal test, those results can be used to search together.

What is Y DNA?

Y DNA is passed directly from fathers to their sons, as illustrated by the blue arrow, above. Daughters do not inherit the Y chromosome. The Y chromosome is what makes males, male.

Every son receives a Y chromosome from his father, who received it from his father, and so forth, on up the direct patrilineal line.

Comparatively, mitochondrial DNA, the pink arrow, is received by both sexes of children from the mother through the direct matrilineal line.

Autosomal DNA, the green arrow, is a combination of randomly inherited DNA from many ancestors that is inherited by both sexes of children from both parents. This article explains a bit more.

Y DNA has Unique Properties

The Y chromosome is never admixed with DNA from the mother, so the Y chromosome that the son receives is identical to the father’s Y chromosome except for occasional minor mutations that take place every few generations.

This lack of mixture with the mother’s DNA plus the occasional mutation is what makes the Y chromosome similar enough to match against other men from the same ancestors for hundreds or thousands of years back in time, and different enough to be useful for genealogy. The mutations can be tracked within extended families.

In western cultures, the Y chromosome path of inheritance is usually the same as the surname, which means that the Y chromosome is uniquely positioned to identify the direct biological patrilineal lineage of males.

Two different types of Y DNA tests can be ordered that work together to refine Y DNA results and connect testers to other men with common ancestors.

FamilyTreeDNA provides STR tests with their 37, 67 and 111 marker test panels, and comprehensive STR plus SNP testing with their Big Y-700 test.

click to enlarge

STR markers are used for genealogy matching, while SNP markers work with STR markers to refine genealogy further, plus provide a detailed haplogroup.

Think of a haplogroup as a genetic clan that tells you which genetic family group you belong to – both today and historically, before the advent of surnames.

This article, What is a Haplogroup? explains the basic concept of how haplogroups are determined.

In addition to the Y DNA test itself, Family Tree DNA provides matching to other testers in their database plus a group of comprehensive tools, shown on the dashboard above, to help testers utilize their results to their fullest potential.

You can order or upgrade a Y DNA test, here. If you also purchase the Family Finder, autosomal test, those results can be used to search together.

Step-by-Step – Using Your Y DNA Results

Let’s take a look at all of the features, functions, and tools that are available on your FamilyTreeDNA personal page.

What do those words mean? Here you go!

Come along while I step through evaluating Big Y test results.

Big Y Testing and Results

Why would you want to take a Big Y test and how can it help you?

While the Big Y-500 has been superseded by the Big Y-700 test today, you will still be interested in some of the underlying technology. STR matching still works the same way.

The Big Y-500 provided more than 500 STR markers and the Big Y-700 provides more than 700 – both significantly more than the 111 panel. The only way to receive these additional markers is by purchasing the Big Y test.

I have to tell you – I was skeptical when the Big Y-700 was introduced as the next step above the Big Y-500. I almost didn’t upgrade any kits – but I’m so very glad that I did. I’m not skeptical anymore.

This Y DNA tree rocks. A new visual format with your matches listed on their branches. Take a look!

Educational Articles

I’ve been writing about DNA for years and have selected several articles that you may find useful.

What kinds of information are available if you take a Y DNA test, and how can you use it for genealogy?

What if your father isn’t available to take a DNA test? How can you determine who else to test that will reveal your father’s Y DNA information?

Family Tree DNA shows the difference in the number of mutations between two men as “genetic distance.” Learn what that means and how it’s figured in this article.

Of course, there were changes right after I published the original Genetic Distance article. The only guarantees in life are death, taxes, and that something will change immediately after you publish.

Sometimes when we take DNA tests, or others do, we discover the unexpected. That’s always a possibility. Here’s the story of my brother who wasn’t my biological brother. If you’d like to read more about Dave’s story, type “Dear Dave” into the search box on my blog. Read the articles in publication order, and not without a box of Kleenex.

Often, what surprise matches mean is that you need to dig further.

The words paternal and patrilineal aren’t the same thing. Paternal refers to the paternal half of your family, where patrilineal is the direct father to father line.

Just because you don’t have any surname matches doesn’t necessarily mean it’s because of what you’re thinking.

Short tandem repeats (STRs) and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) aren’t the same thing and are used differently in genealogy.

Piecing together your ancestor’s Y DNA from descendants.

Haplogroups are something like our pedigree charts.

What does it mean when you have a zero for a marker value?

There’s more than one way to break down that brick wall. Here’s how I figured out which of 4 sons was my ancestor.

Just because you match the right line autosomally doesn’t mean it’s because you descend from the male child you think is your ancestor. Females gave their surnames to children born outside of a legal marriage which can lead to massive confusion. This is absolutely why you need to test the Y DNA of every single ancestral line.

When the direct patrilineal line isn’t the line you’re expecting.

You can now tell by looking at the flags on the haplotree where other people’s ancestral lines on your branch are from. This is especially useful if you’ve taken the Big Y test and can tell you if you’re hunting in the right location.

If you’re just now testing or tested in 2018 or after, you don’t need to read this article unless you’re interested in the improvements to the Big Y test over the years.

2019 was a banner year for discovery. 2020 was even more so, keeping up an amazing pace. I need to write a 2020 update article.

What is a terminal SNP? Hint – it’s not fatal😊

How the TIP calculator works and how to best interpret the results. Note that this tool is due for an update that incorporates more markers and SNP results too.

You can view the location of the Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA ancestors of people whose ethnicity you match.

Tools and Techniques

This free public tree is amazing, showing locations of each haplogroup and totals by haplogroup and country, including downstream branches.

Need to search for and find Y DNA candidates when you don’t know anyone from that line? Here’s how.

Yes, it’s still possible to resolve this issue using autosomal DNA. Non-matching Y DNA isn’t the end of the road, just a fork.

Science Meets Genealogy – Including Ancient DNA

Haplogroup C was an unexpected find in the Americas and reaches into South America.

Haplogroup C is found in several North American tribes.

Haplogroup C is found as far east as Nova Scotia.

Test by test, we made progress.

New testers, new branches. The research continues.

The discovery of haplogroup A00 was truly amazing when it occurred – the base of the phylotree in Africa.

The press release about the discovery of haplogroup A00.

In 2018, a living branch of A00 was discovered in Africa, and in 2020, an ancient DNA branch.

Did you know that haplogroups weren’t always known by their SNP names?

This brought the total of SNPs discovered by Family Tree DNA in mid-2018 to 153,000. I should contact the Research Center to see how many they have named at the end of 2020.

An academic paper split ancient haplogroup D, but then the phylogenetic research team at FamilyTreeDNA split it twice more! This might not sound exciting until you realize this redefines what we know about early man, in Africa and as he emerged from Africa.

Ancient DNA splits haplogroup P after analyzing the remains of two Jehai people from West Malaysia.

For years I doubted Kennewick Man’s DNA would ever be sequenced, but it finally was. Kennewick Man’s mitochondrial DNA haplogroup is X2a and his Y DNA was confirmed to Q-M3 in 2015.

Compare your own DNA to Vikings!

Twenty-seven Icelandic Viking skeletons tell a very interesting story.

Irish ancestors? Check your DNA and see if you match.

Ancestors from Hungary or Italy? Take a look. These remains have matches to people in various places throughout Europe.

The Y DNA story is no place near finished. Dr. Miguel Vilar, former Lead Scientist for National Geographic’s Genographic Project provides additional analysis and adds a theory.

Webinars

Y DNA Webinar at Legacy Family Tree Webinars – a 90-minute webinar for those who prefer watching to learn! It’s not free, but you can subscribe here.

Success Stories and Genealogy Discoveries

Almost everyone has their own Y DNA story of discovery. Because the Y DNA follows the surname line, Y DNA testing often helps push those lines back a generation, or two, or four. When STR markers fail to be enough, we can turn to the Big Y-700 test which provides SNP markers down to the very tip of the leaves in the Y DNA tree. Often, but not always, family-defining SNP branches will occur which are much more stable and reliable than STR mutations – although SNPs and STRs should be used together.

Methodologies to find ancestral lines to test, or maybe descendants who have already tested.

DNA testing reveals an unexpected mystery several hundred years old.

When I write each of my “52 Ancestor” stories, I include genetic information, for the ancestor and their descendants, when I can. Jacob was special because, in addition to being able to identify his autosomal DNA, his Y DNA matches the ancient DNA of the Yamnaya people. You can read about his Y DNA story in Jakob Lenz (1748-1821), Vinedresser.

Please feel free to add your success stories in the comments.

What About You?

You never know what you’re going to discover when you test your Y DNA. If you’re a female, you’ll need to find a male that descends from the line you want to test via all males to take the Y DNA test on your behalf. Of course, if you want to test your father’s line, your father, or a brother through that father, or your uncle, your father’s brother, would be good candidates.

What will you be able to discover? Who will the earliest known ancestor with that same surname be among your matches? Will you be able to break down a long-standing brick wall? You’ll never know if you don’t test.

You can click here to upgrade an existing test or order a Y DNA test.

Share the Love

You can always forward these articles to friends or share by posting links on social media. Who do you know that might be interested?

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Books

Coventry and the Ribble Valley

Are you ready for the next leg of our British DNA journey?  Come along.  We’re leaving Cambridge, visiting historic Coventry and arriving in the Ribble Valley, home of our Speak family ancestors, and the Pendle witches, today!

Did I mention that we had some excitement in the hotel in Cambridge the night before we left?  Aside from a very loud and roudy wedding party, the fire alarm went off about 1:30 in the morning.  Jim leaped out of bed, shouting “what is that?”, grabbed his iPad, tore open the cover and frantically started pushing buttons to make the noise stop, thinking it was his alarm, of course.  I started yelling at Jim that it was the fire alarm and to get dressed quickly.  You can’t make someone with a hearing impairment hear over a fire alarm.  So looking something like the keystone cops, we frantically threw clothes on and just as we were about finished and ready to evacuate, the alarm silenced, thankfully.  Indeed, not before we were wide awake though.  I wondered if the alarm had something to do with the wild wedding party.  But justice was served.  Because as we very sleepily boarded the bus the next morning at 8 AM, the alarm went off again, waking up all of those revelers:)  I swear, I was ON the bus and had nothing to do with that.  I have witnesses!  Although I must admit, I did smile a very big smile.  Ahhh, karmic justice!

This trip was arranged in part by a travel agent, and in part by Susan Sills, the president of the Speaks Family Association, with probably too much help and input from members.  The parts that Susan arranged were wonderful.  The parts that the travel agent arranged were, at best, OK.  I think they decided that we had 2 hours and were going past a landmark and we surely needed to stop at that location.  I’m including some of these stops because they really did turn out to be historically interesting, but have omitted others.

Were any of your ancestors skilled tradesmen?  Tilers, bricklayers, stainers, painters, carpenters or merchants perhaps?  If so, they were members of a guild, and guilds had guild halls.  The men spent a lot of time in those halls.  Have you ever wondered about that?  What were they doing?  What did the halls look like?  Well, come with us today, we’re going to visit a pretty amazing one.  Keep your ancestor in mind as we do, because their hall was probably similar to this one!

After leaving Cambridge, we arrived in Coventry, a city very heavily bombed during WW2. It was Churchill’s home town and had lots of manufacturing, so was a very attractive target to the Germans.                       

Coventry guild hall

After arriving in Coventry, we met up with our walking guide and our first stop was the medieval St. Mary’s Guild Hall in quaint Bayley Lane. The Guild Hall is the tall building on the right with the archway entrances.  Built in the 1300s or so, it’s one of the city’s oldest buildings.  It was the wealthy merchants guild, and also the town council chambers for a very long time.  No undue influence there.

Coventry guild hall 1810

This 1810 painting is looking from the street through the archway into the courtyard of the Guild Hall.  It doesn’t look much different today.  One difference is that the staircase on the left is enclosed today.  See the railing end in the photos below.

Coventry guild hall piazza

It’s a beautiful buildings, nothing even or straight in the entire place.  It was obviously not the carpenters guild.

Coventry guild hall door

I love the old doors and archways.

Coventry guild hall stair

Upon entering the doors from the courtyard today you turn right and climb the stairs, which were open in the original Guild Hall.  Here’s the original carved railing.

Coventry guild hall door 2

The relative worth of doors, and those who lived behind then, and their ability to stand up to battering from invading “evil forces” was determined by the number of metal studs embedded in the door.  Who knew?

Coventry guild hall princes chamber

Never let it be said that I have not visited the Prince’s Chamber:)  This is how family legends get started, by the way.  “I saw a picture of grandma in the Princes Chamber in England.”  In 3 or 4 or 7 or 8 generations, this will be a MUCH better story!!!

Coventry guild hall tapestry

Behind the glass, under that beautiful stained glass window, hangs a stunning woven tapestry.

Coventry guild hall tapestry close

The ‘Coventry Tapestry’ is the highlight of the historic collections at St. Mary’s Guild Hall.

Manufactured about 1495 to 1500, its significance lies not just in its age and remarkable state of preservation, but also in the fact that, incredibly, it remains hanging on the very wall for which it was created more than five hundred years ago.

At more than nine metres wide and three metres high, this magnificent artwork dominates the north wall of the Great Hall, and is testament to both the skill of its Flemish weavers, and the wealth of the city of Coventry at the end of the fifteenth century.

The scene portrayed includes 75 individual characters, principally members of a Royal court, angels, saints and apostles, with an image of the Virgin Mary at its center, and incorporates numerous examples of symbolism and hidden meaning, some of which remain unexplained. It has even been observed that light from the west windows specifically illuminates the head of the Virgin Mary at certain times of the year, either a strange co-incidence or an inspired feature of the original design.

Here’s a better photo.

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In this photo, you can actually get an idea of the size of the hall itself.  It certainly doesn’t look this large from the street.  This is the area directly to the rear as you were entering the piazza.

Coventry guild hall gables

And the Guild Hall ceiling.  I just can’t help myself, I love the medieval architecture.

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And the beautiful mosaic file floors.

Coventry guild hall spiral stairs

One really interesting piece of history is that there is a small room upstairs, very crooked and sloping, and only accessible via a very small, very steep circular stairway. I’m amazed they let people go up there in terms of safety and liability.  Mary Queen of Scots was hidden here at one time.

Coventry guild hall windows

Looking outside into the courtyard and on into the street under the archway though the windows in Mary Queen of Scot’s hidden room.

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They do have some beautiful furnishings, like the original council chamber, shown here, and a rich history.  They also have some medieval armor that you can “try on.”

Jim viking

Now you know me by now well enough to know I could not bypass this opportunity.  This Viking style helmet was Jim’s favorite.

Jim helmet

Oh yea, I like this French Troubador one best!!!  I think he should use it as his Facebook profile photo, don’t you???

Jim troubador

I think Jim was saying, “No, you are NOT going to put this on the blog, are you?”

What do you mean, where are the pictures of me in the hats???  There are no pictures of me in the hats:)  None.  Nada.  Not anymore.

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These slot windows were defensive – they were created to shoot arrows through when under siege.

Coventry, like all towns that were once Medieval, has a market space and an open area, usually right in the center of town.

Coventry market square

Lady Godiva rode here.  I wasn’t terribly interested in Lady Godiva, or the statue, but I was extremely interested in the Starbucks on the other side of the square.  So you’ll excuse the fact that I had to go to Wiki to find a Lady Godiva statue photo:)  You know where I was!

Lady Godiva

While I was in Starbucks, I also purchased a salad, because we were running late and I knew that on a Sunday morning trying to find a lunch to eat in half an hour would be impossible.  So Jim and I were about to have another impromptu picnic.  Starbucks coffee and salad in the sunshine under beautiful blue skies on a Sunday morning in a church, or what is left of one.  Truly, what could be better?  How can you improve on that?

Coventry cathedral

Our next stop was the earliest church in Coventry, now in ruins, because the Germans bombed the city so relentlessly.  The bombs burned the church, but the walls still stand. It’s a beautiful skeleton.

Coventry cathedral 2

Our guided tour ended here, and our other family members dispersed to try to find a quick lunch.  Jim and I were left to ourselves, or nearly so, in the beautiful sentry standing mute testimony.  Once again, we began our picnic.  But the church just up the street was letting out and the church bells began to peel.  They were beautiful, and the church bells still function, giving voice to this church we thought was silent.

Coventry cathedral 3

We left Coventry and visited Shugborough Historic Estate.  We did a quick tour, because we were running late, again.

Fake library door

One of the most interesting things I found was all of the secret doors found in all of the old manor houses.  Here’s one example where they took library book ends and made the door look like part of the bookshelves.

Shugborough gardens

I found this house to look more “old” than historic.  Probably because they had restored it to between the 1920s and the 1970s when it was last lived in.  However, from the rear, the formal Victorian gardens were remarkable.  The bush shapes remind me of jelly candies:)  I’m sure that’s not what they had in mind.

Shugborough

From there, we still had about 2 and a half hours to Stirk House, where we are staying in the Ribble Valley.  The Ribble Valley is the land of rolling hills and what I would call moors and low mountains; the land of legends as well.  It’s believed that the Hobbit books, in particular, Middle Earth, was written after the Ribble Valley.  The author spent a great amount of time writing here while his son was in school in the area.  It’s a very distinctive area.  Outside of London it’s very much like Michigan or the US – but when you enter the Ribble Valley, it’s immediately different, remote, otherworldly.  It’s also the land of Robin Hood.  In fact, in the Robin Hood stories, there is a “Guy of Gisburne.” Gisburn is where our Speak ancestors are from.

If you remember, this entire trip to the British Isles all began with DNA testing.  Our Speak(e)(s) family finally connected with the source location of our American family in the British Isles, thanks to our cousin, Doug, from New Zealand.  New Zealand was settled much later than the US and Doug’s family knew where they were from in the UK, exactly, and still had contact with family members there.  The Speak(e)(s) family in the US arrived about 1660 and descendants didn’t know where they were from, in England.  We had been searching for that information for years.  We had suspicions and theories, but no proof.

The Speak(e)(s) Family Association meets yearly, and in 2011, I presented the results of the Y DNA testing to our group, ending my surprise presentation with pictures of Gisburn and the throw-away comment of, “I don’t know about you, but I want to go there.  I want to stand in that churchyard.”  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one, because planning began for the 2013 homecoming in Lancashire, England.

Rainbow

The excitement on the bus grew as we traveled. It was palpable.  You could feel it. After all, we had all traveled thousands of miles from around the globe to step back in time, not only figuratively, but literally as well in the Ribble Valley.  On the way, we were graced with a beautiful rainbow,  Getting a picture of the rainbow was a challenge through the bus windows.  We interpreted this incredible rainbow as a welcome from our ancestors.

Turning off the main roads, we began to see signs for places we had researched.  The names began to look familiar, Whalley, Gisburn, Clitheroe.  We knew we were close.

Pendle hill fog

This photo is of Pendle Hill, a local landmark that you can see from anyplace in the Ribble Valley.  To the right is the east end of Longridge Fell. Mist lies in the Ribble valley between them.

Pendle hill panoramic

This panoramic view of Pendle Hill is not from the Ribble Valley, but from Newchurch on the other side of the hill.

Ribble Valley first view

Here is our first view of the Ribble Valley.  These hills are high enough that they are moors on the hill.  Pendle Hill towers over the entire Ribble Valley, along with a ridge and cliffs.  Below was our first view of Pendle Hill.

Pendle Hill first view

The Pendle Hills are full of legends, and sheep.  One of the legends is of the Pendle Witches.  England did not escape the witchcraft craze and several women were executed here in the Pendle area for witchcraft in 1612.  One test of being a witch was to be held underwater for 30 minutes.  If you were dead, you were innocent.  If you were alive, you were then tortured and killed for being a witch.  Talk about being dead right.

One of the issues we had with the travel agent was where to stay in the Ribble Valley.  There aren’t any Holiday Inns.  In fact, the agent wanted the bus driver to take us back each evening to Manchester, 40 miles distant to a sterile Best Western.  We wanted to stay in the Ribble Valley, to be where our ancestors had been.  Susan found a conference/meeting facility, literally, in the middle of the valley, that was a restored manor house.  We wanted to stay there, but the travel agent didn’t have a “working relationship” with the Stirk House.  The day came when we simply told them to figure it out or we would, without them, because we were staying at the Stirk House.

Our cousin, Steve Speak, could not join us in the Ribble Valley, but he did meet us in Cambridge for dinner.  Steve is from the Gisburn area and told us that the Stirk House was purchased in the 1930s or 40s by a Peter Speak and he took the next 20 years to restore the manor house which had deteriorated into a terrible state.  On the way, in the bus, Susan took a look at the Gisburn Church records, and sure enough, a Speak woman died in the 1940s, is buried in Gisburn at the church and her residence was listed as “Stirkhouse, Gisburne.”  Now how uncanny is that.  So regardless of exactly where in this beautiful valley our original Speak ancestor lived, we are indeed staying on historic Speak land at the Stirk House.

The Tudor manor house known as the Stirk House was built in 1635, using stones from
the former Sawley Abbey which had been dismantled a century earlier under the
orders of Henry VIII.

The Stirk House was everything we could have imagined and more.  Beautiful facility, wonderful gardens and nature area, good food and a spa if you’re interested.

Stirk House

Welcome home!

Stirk House gardens

I love the moss and ferns growing on the rock walls.

Fern on walls

We had planned this event with the intention of meeting any Speak family members who might remain in the area, whether they carried the Speak surname or not.  We ran ads in regional genealogy/historical publications as well as in the local newspaper.  We also had an English contact which we thought might have made local people more comfortable.

Several Speak family members joined us for dinner.  The Stirk House had a private dining room for us, beside a meeting room.

Stirk House dinner

We had dinner together in the dining room here, an English country dinner, and then moved on to the evening’s agenda.

Some of our Speaks relatives joined us for the evening. It was nice to meet some of our cousins, no matter how distant.  Three different male Speaks brought their families, David, Stan and Gary.  David brought photos of his family and shared information about his family history and the area.  And yes, all three did a DNA test.  They felt certain that they were not related to each other.

Speak cousin

We are probably at least 15 generations removed, but still, we are indeed cousins.  It’s interesting that even after all of these generations two of our English cousins do share segments of DNA with some of us.  Not all of the results are back.

Now that I think of it, we’re probably related to all of the Pendle witches too.  That makes sense, because they were convicted of talking to cats and dogs and one was convicted because her children testified that she was a witch.  Heavens, that could have been me:)  I need a Pendle Witches t-shirt!

We moved to the meeting room and two local people gave historic presentations about the area, which were really quite interesting.   We ended the evening, finally, at 11:45 PM following a DNA presentation and update as to how our DNA brought us to the Ribble Valley.

Stirk house DNA

I must say, this all seemed very surreal to me, especially after a long day following a short night interrupted both by that loud wedding party and the fire alarm.  If I have one piece of advice, it’s don’t pack too much into a day, and don’t do a DNA presentation late in the evening.  Ok, that was 2 pieces of advice.  Pick on me about it and I’ll put a spell on you:)

Pendle witch

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Cherokee Mother of John Red Bank Payne

John Red Bank Payne

There is nothing I love more than a happy ending.  Second to that perhaps is to know that my blog or work helped someone, and in particularly, helped someone document their Native heritage.  In doing so, this confirms and unveils one more of our elusive Native people in early records.

I recently received a lovely thank you note from Shawn Potter.  We had exchanged notes earlier, after I wrote “The Autosomal Me” series, about how to utilize small segments of Native American (and Asian) DNA to identify Native American lines and/or ancestors.  This technique is called Minority Admixture Mapping (MAP) and was set forth in detail in various articles in the series.

Shawn’s note said:  “I’ve been doing more work on this segment and others following your method since we exchanged notes.  I’m pretty sure I’ve found the source of this Native American DNA — an ancestor named John Red Bank Payne who lived in North Georgia in the late 18th and 19th centuries.  Many of his descendants believe on the basis of circumstantial evidence that his mother was Cherokee.  I’ve found 10 descendants from four separate lines that inherited matching Native American DNA, pointing to one of his parents as the source.”

Along with this note, Shawn attached a beautiful 65 page book he had written for his family members which did document the Native DNA, but in the context of his family history.  He included their family story, the tales, the genealogical research, the DNA evidence and finally, a chapter of relevant Cherokee history complete with maps of the area where his ancestors lived. It’s a beautiful example of how to present something like this for non-DNA people to understand.  In addition, it’s also a wonderful roadmap, a “how to” book for how to approach this subject from a DNA/historical/genealogical perspective.  As hard as it is for me to sometimes remember, DNA is just a tool to utilize in the bigger genealogy picture.

Shawn has been gracious enough to allow me to reprint some of his work here, so from this point on, I’ll be extracting from his document.  Furthermore, Elizabeth Shown Mills would be ecstatic, because Shawn has fully documented and sourced his document.  I am not including that information here, but I’m sure he would gladly share the document itself with any interested parties.  You can contact Shawn at shpxlcp@comcast.net.

From the book, “Cherokee Mother of John Red Bank Payne” by Shawn Potter and Lois Carol Potter:

Descendants of John Red Bank Payne describe his mother as Cherokee. Yet, until now, some have questioned the truth of this claim because genealogists have been unable to identify John’s mother in contemporary records. A recent discovery, however, reveals both John Red Bank Payne and his sister Nancy Payne inherited Native American DNA.

Considering information from contemporary records, clues from local tradition, John’s name itself, and now the revelation that John and his sister inherited Native American DNA, there seems to be sufficient evidence to say John Red Bank Payne’s mother truly was Cherokee. The following summary describes what we know about John, his family, and his Native American DNA.

John Red Bank Payne was born perhaps near present-day Canton, Cherokee County, Georgia, on January 24, 1754, married Ann Henslee in Caswell County, North Carolina, on March 5, 1779, and died in Carnesville, Franklin County, Georgia, on December 14, 1831.

John’s father, Thomas Payne, was born in Westmorland County, Virginia, about 1725, and owned property in Halifax and Pittsylvania counties, Virginia, as well as Wilkes County, North Carolina, and Franklin County, Georgia.  Several factors suggest Thomas travelled with his older brother, William, to North Georgia and beyond, engaging in the deerskin trade with the Cherokee Nation during the mid 1700s. Thomas Payne died probably in Franklin County, Georgia, after February 23, 1811.

Contemporary records reveal Thomas had four children (William, John, Nancy, and Abigail) by his first wife, and nine children (Thomas, Nathaniel, Moses, Champness, Shrewsbury, Zebediah, Poindexter, Ruth, and Cleveland) by his second wife Yanaka Ayers.  Thomas married Yanaka probably in Halifax County, Virginia, before September 20, 1760.

Local North Georgia tradition identifies the first wife of Thomas Payne as a Cherokee woman. Anna Belle Little Tabor, in History of Franklin County, Georgia, wrote that “Trader Payne” managed a trading post on Payne’s Creek, and “one of his descendants, an offspring of his Cherokee marriage, later married Moses Ayers whose descendants still live in the county.”

Descendants of John Red Bank Payne also cite his name Red Bank, recorded in his son’s family Bible, as evidence of his Cherokee heritage.  Before the American Revolution, British Americans rarely defied English legal prohibitions against giving a child more than one Christian name.  So, the very existence of John’s name Red Bank suggests non-English ethnicity. On the other hand, many people of mixed English-Cherokee heritage were known by their Cherokee name as well as their English first and last names during this period.

Furthermore, while the form of John’s middle name is unlike normal English names, Red Bank conforms perfectly to standard Cherokee names.  It also is interesting to note, Red Bank was the name of a Cherokee village located on the south side of Etowah River to the southwest of present-day Canton, Cherokee County, Georgia.

While some believe the above information from contemporary records and clues from local tradition, as well as John’s name Red Bank, constitute sufficient proof of John’s Cherokee heritage, recently discovered DNA evidence confirms at least one of John’s parents had Native American ancestry. Ten descendants of John Red Bank Payne and his sister Nancy Payne, representing four separate lineages, inherited six segments of Native American DNA on chromosomes 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, and 18 (see Figure 1 for the relationship between these descendants; Figures 2-7 for images of their shared Native American DNA; and http://dna-explained.com/2013/06/02/the-autosomal-me-summary-and-pdf-file/ for an explanation of this method of identifying Native American chromosomal segments).

Upon careful reflection, there seems sufficient reason to believe John Red Bank Payne’s mother truly was Cherokee.

Roberta’s note:  I have redacted the surnames of current testers.

Payne chart

Chromosome 2, Segment 154-161

In this segment, Bert P, Rosa P, Nataan S, Cynthia S, and Kendall S inherited matching Native American DNA described as Amerindian, Siberian, Southeast Asian, and Oceanian by the Eurogenes V2 K15 admixture tool, and as North Amerind, Mesoamerican, South America Amerind, Arctic Amerind, East Siberian, Paleo Siberian, Samoedic, and East South Asian by the Magnus Ducatus Lituaniae Project World22 admixture tool. Since their common ancestors were Thomas Payne and his wife, the source of this Native American DNA must be either Thomas Payne or his wife. See Figures 2a-2g.

Note: Since Native Americans and East Asians share common ancestors in the pre-historic past, their DNA is similar to each other in many respects. This similarity often causes admixture tools to interpret Native American DNA as various types of East Asian DNA. Therefore, the presence of multiple types of East Asian DNA together with Native American DNA tends to validate the presence of Native American DNA.

Payne graph 1

Payne graph 2

Payne graph 3

Payne graph 4

Payne graph 5

Roberta’s Summary:  Shawn continues to document the other chromosome matches in the same manner.  In total, he has 10 descendants of Thomas Payne and his wife, who it turns out, indeed was Cherokee, as proven by this exercise in combination with historical records.  These people descend through 2 different children.  Cynthia and Kendall descend through daughter Nancy Payne, and the rest of the descendants descend through different children of John Red Bank Payne.  All of the DNA segments that Shawn utilized in his report share Native/Asian segments in both of these family groups, the descendants of both Nancy and John Red Bank Payne.

Shawn’s success in this project hinged on two things.  First, being able to test multiple (in this case, two) descendants of the original couple.  Second, he tested several people and had the tenacity to pursue the existence of Native DNA segments utilizing the Minority Admixture Mapping (MAP) technique set forth in “The Autosomal Me” series.  It certainly paid off.  Shawn confirmed that the wife of Thomas Payne was, indeed Native, most likely Cherokee since he was a Cherokee trader, and that today’s descendants do indeed carry her heritage in their DNA.

Great job Shawn!!  Wouldn’t you love to be his family member and one of the recipients of these lovely books about your ancestor! Someone’s going to have a wonderful Christmas!

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Disclosure

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

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Be Still my H(e)art…

You’re not going to believe this.  I’m not sure I believe it.

Remember, I closed my article on the Younger family yesterday by saying that I was hopeful that I might solve the mystery of who Marcus Younger’s wife, Susanna, was?  Well, I said that, but I had no real expectation that it would really happen, not after one already huge breakthrough.  I began working through cousin Larry’s matches, sending e-mails, and within six hours or so, I had several replies, one of which was this:

“Hello my name is Andrea. Thank you for sending me this email. I am new to genealogy and have a large interest in my family history. Younger is not a known surname for me, although Hart is. My oldest known Hart ancestor is Anthony Hart born in Oct 1755 in King and Queen, Virginia. He was my 5th great grandfather. He lived in Halifax Virginia in 1840 with his children and grandchildren. How is the surname Hart related to Younger?”

Oh Andrea, let me tell you.  You have made my day, my decade, my 30 years, and yes, indeed, this is the second jackpot hit in two days in the same family line.  I shoulda bought a lottery ticket but I think I’d rather have this:)

It has always been speculated that Marcus Younger’s wife, Susanna, was a Hart.  In fact, it was speculated that she was the possible sister of that one and the same Anthony Hart in Halifax County, Virginia, based on this tax record from King and Queen County, Va. just before Marcus Younger moved to Halifax County.  Robert Hart is believed to be Anthony’s father, but that is unproven.

1785

Alterations of land in King and Queen County

Proprietor’s Name                     QT Land                     of whom had

Anthony Hart                               190a                         Robert Hart

Anthony Hart                                94a                          Marcus Younger

There are a couple of other records in which they appear together too.

Unfortunately, King and Queen County is a burned county.

Now, we have a couple of pretzel twists that need to be considered.  In Larry’s line, Marcus’s son John married Lucy Hart who is mentioned in Anthony Hart’s Revolutionary War pension application in 1832.  So Larry could be expected to match Andrea regardless of who Marcus’s wife was.

However, I don’t descend from the same line as Larry and Andrea matches me as well.  I descend from Marcus through his daughter, Mary, sister to John who married Lucy Hart.  So, I should NOT match Andrea unless I too carry some Hart DNA.  But I do, in two distinct places where I also match Larry.  On the chromosome browser below, Andrea is orange, I am blue and we are being compared to Larry.  You can see that we all 3 match on the same segments on chromosomes 1 and 8.

younger hart 1

Additionally, Andrea matches other cousins descended from my Younger line.

Furthermore, Andrea and David (from the previous article whose pedigree proved that Marcus and Thomas Younger are related) both match Lawson, but they don’t match each other.  This makes perfect sense.  David descends from Thomas Younger, who has no known Hart connection.  So David matches Larry because of the Younger line and Andrea matches Larry because of the Hart line.

You can see in the chromosome browser view below that indeed, both Andrea, orange, and David, blue match Larry, but in no location do they match each other in addition to matching Larry.  No place does their DNA show one under the other, overlapping, when compared to Larry.

younger hart 2

Turning now to the spreadsheet where I can see all of the people who match both Larry and David together, I want to know who else Andrea matches.

First, I confirmed that Andrea does not match anyone else from the Alexander Younger line through sons Thomas and James, and she does not.  If she had, that would put a very big fly in the ointment and would prevent any conclusion about Marcus’s wife.  But since she doesn’t, that obstacle is removed.

Andrea does match the following people on several segments:

  • Me
  • Loujean, our newly found adoptee cousin whose closest autosomal match is Larry
  • Larry
  • Buster, my cousin, who also descends through Marcus’s daughter, Mary

We are all four descended from the Marcus line and she doesn’t match anyone who descends from the Thomas or Alexander lines, which makes perfect sense since Anthony Hart looks to be the probable brother of Marcus Younger’s wife, Susannah, based on the historical records and some relationship is now confirmed by the DNA.

Am I ready to call this a positive match yet and Susannah a Hart?  Technically, I probably could, but I’m rather conservative and I’m just not quite ready to give an unconditional thumbs up.  To make myself feel entirely warm and fuzzy, I’d love to see another Hart match for me or my cousins not descended through John’s line. I’d also love to be able to reconstruct the Hart family back in Queen and King and Essex Counties and have some additional paper document to go along with the results.  That would certainly be easier to accomplish were the Queen and King records not burned.  This family lived on the border between the two and had records in both counties.

Truly, I’m left speechless about my good fortune this weekend.  I’m happy dancing a hole in the floor.

happy dance 2

But I’m also left wondering how many other answers are really there, in the DNA of the people we match and I just haven’t worked with the matches effectively.  Maybe those walls are just waiting to fall….waiting for me to notice them.  Maybe yours are too.

Update: Please note that as of August 2019, this connection is still not proven. Still hoping!

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Disclosure

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

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Lovin’ My Cousins

lovin hands

I use DNA every day of my life.  Not only do I use it personally, but I utilize it for my clients.  I love what it can do for us – but DNA is only a tool.  A tool on a path – a path to your ancestors.  But ancestors lead us to cousins.  DNA is about cousins, finding them, getting to know them and then, yes, loving them.  I know, you guys are all cringing now about the L-word and searching for the little X to close this screen.  But it’s true – it’s about people – connecting to other people – both dead and alive.

My immediate family is small.  I didn’t know my father’s family growing up and my mother had only one sibling.  My own siblings are gone and the few children they had are scattered to the winds.  It’s hard enough to keep up with my own kids.  Many people are too busy to be interested in family, often until it’s too late.  As one old woman in my family so succinctly once said, “If you can’t bother to come and see me while I’m alive, don’t bother when I’m dead.”

Maybe I discovered early the value of cousins since my own immediate family was so small.  To connect, I had to reach out.  I’ve been so very fortunate.

lovin mary

This past month, on a trip made possible by DNA (which I will be writing about shortly), here I am in the churchyard in England where our Speak ancestor’s family lived in the 1600s, with my cousin Mary.  I love her, dearly.

lovin daryl

And this is my cousin, Daryl, my sister of heart and my research travel companion.  I met her through genealogy too, about a decade ago.  Here, we’re wading in the creek descending from the Cumberland Gap, running through the Dodson ancestral land, on a very hot summer day during a research trip.  DNA has taken us on an amazing  journey that we never expected.  We connect through the Dodson line.

lovin los and denise

And here in a slightly out of focus picture are my cousins Los, his beautiful daughter Landrii, and our cousin, Denise, of whom I’m extremely proud.  Just look how happy we are.  We were giddy with delight that day when we finally met.

This photo was taken in June 2011 at the Cumberland Gap Homecoming, coordinated by the Cumberland Gap DNA project members.  Our Herrell family lived near the Cumberland Gap where we met face to face for the first time.  A wonderful event, and Los drove from Louisiana alone with two toddlers to be able to attend.  Bless his heart.  (That’s the southern in me coming out.)  Denise flew in from the west coast.  Unfortunately, we live far apart but I can keep up with Los, his beautiful kids, and Denise electronically and via Facebook.

And this is only the beginning of the “I Love My Cousins” list – it goes on – and I meet new cousins almost every day now.  I’m amazed at how many people I’m related to, how large my extended family really is.  Fortunately, love isn’t a limited commodity!

Indeed, I’m grateful every single day for genealogy and DNA which connected me, and connects me, with my cousins.   They pop up in the most unexpected places.  Just this week, for example, I discovered when doing a DNA report for a client that I’m related to them, not once, but twice.  My quilt group, related to 2 of 5 people.  Someone I worked with on a special project a couple years ago, we recently DNA matched and discovered that we share a common Lemmert line out of Germany.  And Yvette Hoitink, the Dutch professional genealogist I hired to help me with the Dutch records, yep, we’re related genetically on our mother’s sides.  Reach out – you’ll find cousins too!  You never know who just might be one.

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

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5,500 Year Old Grandmother Found Using DNA

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Members of the Metlakatla First Nation Community near Prince Rupert, BC who collaborated with an international team of scientists in a genetic study of aboriginal people, including excavated remains that link them to their 5,500 year old Grandmother.  Photograph/handout courtesy of the Metlakatla Treaty Office.

Over the past decade or so, there has been a lot of debate about tribal participation in DNA testing.  Without getting into the politics of the situation which is deep and dangerous water, many tribes see absolutely no possibility that DNA testing could help them, and a significant potential that it might hurt them, one way or another.

For example, we know that the Eastern tribes were heavily admixed with Europeans quite early and we know that the Southwest tribes are equally admixed with the Spanish.  Yet, they are still Native tribes, carrying on the Native customs and cultures, including their own creation and other sacred stories.

Let’s say that a few tribal members test, and their DNA turns out not to be Native, but is European, or African.  Granted, the DNA would only be representative of one genealogical line, either the direct paternal (surname) line for males and the direct maternal line for both males and females, but still, if you expect Native and you get something else – it could be bothersome, and perhaps troublesome.  Add to that a historical situation filled with distrust for a government that routinely broke treaties and you have a situation where tribes would just as soon not open Pandora’s box, thank you very much.

However, not all tribes think this way.  For the past several years, people from Canada’s First Nations tribes have been working with scientists not only to test their DNA, but that of their ancestors as well.  Recently, a paper was published detailing the findings, but those findings didn’t really say much about the effects of the results on the currently living people and tribes involved.

The Vancouver Sun recently carried a human interest story focused on the Metlakatla First Nation Community and the people who were found to be related to the 5,500 year old bones that DNA was extracted from.

The people involved who descend from either this woman or a common ancestor with her are thrilled to be able to make that connection from some 220 generations ago, to be able to honor her as their Grandmother, and the connection cements the fact that these people’s ancestors were indeed on this same land at least 5,500 years ago, not far from where they live today.

This kind of information has great potential to help the tribes involved with land claims and treaty rights.  These deep rooted links to the region simply cannot be denied.  So the First Nations people stand to benefit, the people who match the Grandmother are thrilled, science benefits and they have the ability to confirm their own stories told by the Ancestors for centuries, indeed, for thousands of years.  Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

Congratulations to these First Nations people for this wonderful link to a Grandmother, for their brave participation and leadership role in scientific study, and for not being afraid of finding the truth, whatever it is.  The Ancestors would be proud of you!

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

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Pérez, Peres, Paries, Perica, Perry and Paris on PBS, Oh My

perez signatureYou know, it’s amazing the things you learn filming a PBS documentary.

You learn that no matter what you do, light is going to reflect off of your glasses.

You learn that you can indeed hear an unhappy cat who has been banished to the 3 seasons room through two closed doors.  That same unhappy cat begs to go out there any other time.

You learn that while you are filming, the phone, will, unfailingly ring every time, even if it hasn’t rung in 3 days.

You learn that if you take your phone off the hook, AT&T, now a smarter phone company, figures this out, assumes you made a mistake, and lets the phone ring again anyway.  Sigh….

You learn that if you get one of those annoying recorded sales calls, if you just lay the phone down (or bury it under a pillow), it will play forever and effectively takes the phone “off the hook.”  YES!!!

You learn that if you are a young man in the late 1800s from Guam, you sign on to a whaling ship, and the guys can’t pronounce your name, Dimitrio, they call you John.  Eventually you begin to call yourself John too.  It’s contagious apparently.  You do, however, give two of your children Dimitrio as a middle name, just to torment your descendants with hidden clues.

And you learn that the surname Perez which is pronounced in the US like the word pear with the beginning of the word Ezmerelda is pronounced like the city in France, Paris, in Guam.

You also learn that a man named Juan Perez, also known as Dimitrio Perez can mix his multiple first names and about 6 different ways of spelling Perez in an indefinite number of ways.  His signature as John Paris is shown above.

Indeed, maybe this is a clue to our mystery.

A mystery?  What mystery?  I love a good mystery!!!

The Mystery

Well, Jillette Leon-Guerrero has a fine mystery on her hands with all of the requisite red herrings and twists of fate included.  And she’s making a PBS documentary of her process of finding the answer.  Check out her website, Across the Water in Time.

It’s hard enough to track people whose surnames are misspelled, but to change countries, change pronunciations, change surnames, change first names….and to still be able to be identified…well, now we’ve entered the realm of DNA sprinkled with a little fairy dust for good luck.

So, here is the fundamental question.  Is Juan Perez, aka Dimitrio Perez aka John Paris, who was born in 1843 and died in 1928 in Hawaii related to the Perez family on Guam?

The descendants of John Paris on Hawaii carry an oral history that he was from Guam, then a Spanish colonial colony.  Jillette, from Guam herself, discovers later that they also had an oral tradition that he changed his name from Dimitrio to John.  How she wished she had known that sooner.  Dimitrio is a much easier name to search for than generic apparently-one-size-really-does-fit-all-men-on-a-whaling-ship Juan.

DNA Testing

In order to answer the question, DNA testing was performed, ultimately on three groups of people.  What we wanted to know was whether these people were related and if so, how and how far back in time?

Group 1 – In Hawaii, known descendants of Juan Perez/John Paris, his great-granddaughter Yolanda and her brother, Benjamin Paris.

Group 2 – From Guam, Jillette and her father.

Group 3 – From Guam, Jose Perez.  Jose ultimately tested to be a second cousin of Jillette’s father, but that was unknown prior to DNA testing.

Two different kinds of DNA testing can be utilized to answer the question.  These two types of tests answer fundamentally different questions.

The Perez/Paris Y Tests

The Y DNA test tests only the Y chromosome, handed from father to son, unmixed with the DNA of the mother, so it stays mostly intact generation to generation, except for an occasional mutation.  The inheritance path of the Y chromosome is shown on the following chart in blue.

Perez yline

The Y-line gives us a great deal of information about the direct paternal line, but no information about any other line.  Comparing the Y-line results of 2 men tells us whether they descend from a common ancestor.

In order to determine whether or not the Paris family on Hawaii is genetically the same as the Perez family of Guam, Benjamin Paris, great-grandson of John Paris of Hawaii, and Jose Perez, descendant of the Perez family of Guam, tested.  Indeed, their Y chromosomes do match, with one mutation difference, which would be expected to occur over time.  Initially, only 12 markers were tested, which included the mutation difference, so the tests were expanded to 37 markers each to confirm the match.  The two men match perfectly on the rest of the markers, so at 37 markers, they still have one mutation difference.

Family Tree DNA provides a tool called TIP which estimates the time to a common ancestor between men whose DNA matches based on the mutation rates of different markers and the known generational distance between the men.  For example, we know that these families aren’t related in the past three generations, since Juan Perez came to Hawaii.

The TIP tool estimates that at the 50th percentile, these men are likely to be share a common ancestor between 4 and 5 generations ago.  So it’s very likely that either the father of Juan Perez who immigrated to Hawaii was their common ancestor, or his father.  One thing we know for sure, it was after the adoption of Spanish surnames on Guam.  Guam was colonized in the 17th century after the Spanish claimed it in 1565 and the first Catholic missionaries arrived in 1568 and began to baptize people with Spanish given and surnames.

Therefore, if Juan Perez was born in 1843, his father would have been born approximately 1813 and his father approximately 1783, allowing for the average 30 year generation.

This means that the common ancestor of these two families was probably 5 or 6 generations ago, and possibly more.

Autosomal Tests

The second type of test utilized was autosomal testing which tests all of the DNA passed from both parents to a child, not just the direct Y DNA of the paternal line.  The reason to use this type of test is that it shows you who your cousins are as measured by the amount of DNA that matches.

perez autosomal

DNA is passed to descendants in a predictable way, allowing us to mathematically calculate how closely related two people are – at least roughly.

Each parent gives half of their DNA to a child.  Different children don’t get the same “half” of the parents DNA, so each child inherits somewhat differently.  Therefore,  siblings share approximately half of their DNA.

perez cousins

You can see in the above chart that people receive 50% of their parents DNA, 25%, approximately of each grandparent’s DNA, and so forth up the tree.  By the time we reach the great-great grandparents level, you only inherited about 6.25% of your DNA from each grandparent.

In the case of 5th or 6th generation descent, as in our case, we’re looking at each descendant carrying about 3.12% of the DNA at the 5th generation, and 1.56% at the 6th generation.  Two individuals descended from these common ancestors would both carry an estimated 3.12%, but not necessarily the same 3.12%.  In fact, you only share .78% of common DNA with a third cousin and .195% with a 4th cousin.

I’ve said “on average” and this means that after the parents’ generation, the DNA of each preceding generation is not passed in exactly 50% packets.  In other words, you might not get exactly 25% of the DNA of each of your grandparents, but might receive 20%, 30%, 24% and 26%.

Autosomal testing is a powerful tool, but it’s less and less specific in terms of exactly how closely people are related, the further back in time relationships and common ancestors reach.

Because of this, it’s important to use the oldest generation available for testing.

We tested 4 individuals using the Family Finder autosomal test at Family Tree DNA; Jillette’s father, Jose Perez from Guam and both Yolanda and Benjamin Paris who are siblings from Hawaii.

The results were that Jillette’s father matched Jose Perez from Guam as a second cousin, suggesting that they share a common great-grandfather, and at the third cousin level with both Benjamin and Yolanda, suggesting that they share a common great-great-grandfather with Jillette’s Dad.

Match Name Relationship Range Suggested Relationship Shared cM Longest Block
Jose Perez 2-3rd   cousin 2nd   cousin 222.83 29.77
Yolanda   Paris 2-4th   cousin 3rd   cousin 56.58 22.55
Benjamin   Paris 2-4th   cousin 3rd   cousin 67.52 21.10

Family Tree DNA utilizes the 5cM (centiMorgan) threshold to indicate a match, where we can see to the 1cM threshold on the raw data.  I did this breakout for all parties, and indeed, they did show as related.

On the graph below, each of the three individuals is being compared to Jillette’s Dad.  Notice that in many cases, both Yolanda (blue) and Benjamin (orange), together, match Jillette’s Dad, which would be expected because they are siblings.  There are other cases through where either Yolanda or Benjamin match Jose (green) on the same segment where they both match Jillette’s Dad.  For example, on chromosome 2, you can see the blue stacked on top of the green.  We also see examples of orange and green as well, but no place to we have orange, blue and green together.  This illustrates how differently siblings (Yolanda and Benjamin) inherited DNA from their parents.

perez chromosomes

The Question that Remains

We’ve now proven that the Paris/Perez family is one and the same on Guam and Hawaii utilizing Y-line DNA and that these people are all related at some level.  Of course, in genealogy, answers generally produce more questions.

Jillette will have to utilize genealogy records in Guam to determine who the father of Jose (aka Dimitrio) Perez was, and indeed, she has made inroads in doing so.

The second question is just how is the Perez family related to Jillette’s family?  We know that her father is likely a second cousin to Jose Perez, meaning they share a common great-grandparent, but who?  Keep in mind that these are estimates based on the percentage and length of shared DNA, and the cousin estimate could also fall a generation or half-generation (once removed) in either direction.

Leen tree - Jillette

Jillette’s father’s 8 great-grandparents are as follows:

  • Vincente de Leon Guerrero Y Santos and Maria de Las Nieves Gregario
  • Unknown Fejerang and unknown Guzman
  • Francisco de la Torre and Maria Acosta
  • Fabian de la Cruz and Juliana Ada

You’ll notice, there’s not a Perez among them.  Now what?

This is both a genealogical and a genetic question, and can be approached in both ways simultaneously.  Obviously, were Jillette to discover that the next generation included a Perez, then the mystery would be solved.  However, using genetics can narrow the scope of this hunt.

Jillette needs to utilize known relationships to narrow the scope of which line descends from the Perez family.

The best way to do this is to test another relative of her grandparents, assuming both grandparents are deceased.  The best bet here is to test a sibling of a grandparent.  If you test a sibling of both grandparents autosomally, one of them should match Jose Perez.  That immediately eliminates half of Jillette’s Dad’s ancestors.  If a sibling of Jillette’s Dad’s grandparents isn’t available, then test their children.

Let’s say, by way of example, that we have now limited the search to Jillette’s Dad’s paternal line.  That consists of two grandparents, Rita Guzman Fejerang and Justo Gregario de Leon-Guerro.  The next step, genetically, is to test people who descend from the parents of Rita and Justo, but not the children of Rita and Justo.  So, Jillette needs to find siblings of Rita and Justo and test their siblings oldest descendants.  Again, one line should match Jose Perez.

Utilizing this technique, it’s possible to “walk up the tree,” so to speak.  In the meantime, this technique will help Jillette focus on where to concentrate her genealogical efforts.

ICW – In Common With

Another tool that Jillette can use is the ICW, or “in common with” tool at Family Tree DNA.  This tool is underutilized, as many people don’t realize what it can do.

If you mark a match as a known relative, you can then see matches you have in common with that person.  If you both match an individual, you should contact that individual to see if they have a piece of genealogical information that links to either or both of you.  In Jillette’s case, the mystery of how her family connects to the Perez family in Guam could well be held in the genealogy records of one of the ICW matches.

You can see that Jillette has confirmed the relationship for two matches below.

Perez match

To view your common matches, in the drop down box, select “in common with” and in the box directly below, you’ll see the people you’ve confirmed with a known relationship.  Select the person you want to see your common matches with, and click on the orange “filter” button.

perez in common with

The display you will see are the people who match both of you.  In this case, there are two common matches between Jillette’s father and Jose Perez that are not among the group tested above.  That’s exciting, because we know they are related to both men – the only question is how.  Jillette is working on these questions.

Follow the Story

So if you are a Perez, Paris or anything similar from Hawaii or Guam, please, contact Jillette through her website.  If you are a Leon-Guerrero, contact Jillette.  And if you want to see how this episode of Genetic Genealogy Reality TV turns out, you’ll have to follow Jillette’s blog on her webpage.  Perhaps the PBS special will be widely available or uploaded to YouTube and we’ll all be able to share in the final chapter of this exciting mystery!

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The Autosomal Me – The Holy Grail – Identifying Native Genealogy Lines

holy grail

Sangreal – the Holy Grail.  We are finally here, Part 9 and the final article in our series.  The entire purpose of The Autosomal Me series has been to use our DNA and the clues it holds to identify minority admixture, in this case, Native American, and by identifying those Native segments, and building chromosomal clusters, to identify the family lines that contributed that Native admixture.  Articles 1-8 in the series set the stage, explained the process and walked us through the preparatory steps.  In this last article, we apply all of the ingredients, fasten the lid, shake and see what we come up with.  Let’s take a minute and look at the steps that got us to this point.

Part 1 was “The Autosomal Me – Unraveling Minority Admixture” and Part 2 was “The Autosomal Me – The Ancestors Speak.”  Part 1 discussed the technique we are going to use to unravel minority ancestry, and why it works.  Part two gave an example of the power of fragmented chromosomal mapping and the beauty of the results.

Part 3, “The Autosomal Me – Who Am I?,” reviewed using our pedigree charts to gauge expected results and how autosomal results are put into population buckets.

Part 4, “The Autosomal Me – Testing Company Results,” shows what to expect from all of the major testing companies, past and present, along with Dr. Doug McDonald’s analysis.

In Part 5, “The Autosomal Me – Rooting Around in the Weeds Using Third Party Tools,” we looked at 5 different third party tools and what they can tell us about our minority admixture that is not reported by the major testing companies because the segments are too small and fragmented.

In Part 6, “The Autosomal Me – DNA Analysis – Splitting Up” we began the analysis part of the data we’ve been gathering.   We looked at how to determine whether minority admixture on specific chromosomes came from which parent.

Part 7, “The Autosomal Me – Start, Stop, Go – Identifying Native Chromosomal Segments” took a deeper dive and focused on the two chromosomes with proven Native heritage and began by comparing those chromosome segments using the 4 GedMatch admixture tools.

Part 8, “The Autosomal Me – Extracting Data Segments and Clustering,” we  extract all of the Native and Blended Asian segments in all 22 chromosomes, but only used chromosomes 1 and 2 for illustration purposes.  We then clustered the resulting data to look for trends, grouping clusters by either the Strong Native criteria or the Blended Asian criteria.

In this final segment, Part 9, we will be applying the chromosomal information we’ve gathered to our matches and determine which of our lines are the most likely to have Native Ancestry.  This, of course, has been the goal all along.  So, drum roll…..here we go.

In Part 8, we ended by entering the start and stop locations of both Strong Native and Blended Asian clusters into a table to facilitate easy data entry into the chromosome match spreadsheet downloaded from either 23andMe or Family Tree DNA.  If you downloaded it previously, you might want to download it again if you haven’t modified it, or download new matches since you last downloaded the spreadsheet and add them to the master copy.

My goal is to determine which matches and clusters indicate Native ancestry, and how to correlate those matches to lineage.  In other words, which family lines in my family were Native or carry Native heritage someplace.

The good news is that my mother’s line has proven Native heritage, so we can use her line as proof of concept.  My father’s family has so many unidentified wives, marginalized families and family secrets that the Native line could be almost any of them, or all of them!  Let’s see how that tree shakes out.

Finding Matches

So let’s look at a quick example of how this would work.  Let’s say I have a match, John, on chromosome 4 in an area where my mother has no Native admixture, but I do.  Therefore, since John does not match my mother, then the match came from my father and if we can identify other people who also match both John and I in that same region on that chromosome, they too have Native ancestry.  Let’s say that we all also share a common ancestor.  It stands to reason at that point, that the common ancestor between us indicates the Native line, because we all match on the Native segment and have the same ancestor.  Obviously, this would help immensely in identifying Native families and at least giving pointers in which direction to look.  This is a “best case’ example.  Some situations, especially where both parents contribute Native heritage to the same chromosome, won’t be this straightforward.

Based on our findings, the maximum range and minimum (least common denominator or “In Common” range is as follows for the strongest Native segments on chromosomes 1 and 2.

  Chromosome 1 Chromosome 2
Largest   Range 162,500,000   – 180,000,000 79,000,000   – 105,000,000
Smallest   Range 165,658,091   – 171,000,000 90,000,000   – 103,145,425

At GedMatch

At GedMatch, I used a comparison tool to see who matched me on chromosome 1.  Only 2 people outside of immediate family members matched, and both from Family Tree DNA.  Both matched me on the critical Native segments between about 165-180mg.  I was excited.  I went to Family Tree DNA and checked to see if these two people also matched my mother, which would confirm the Native connection, but neither did, indicating of course that these two people matched me on my father’s side.  That too is valuable information, but it didn’t help identify any common Native heritage with my mother on chromosome 1.  It did, however, eliminate them as possibilities which is valuable information as well.

DNAGedcom

I used a new tool, DNAGedcom, compliments of Rob Warthen who has created a website, DNA Tools, at www.dnagedcom.com.  This wonderful tool allows you to download all of your autosomal matches at Family Tree DNA and 23andMe along with their chromosomal segment matches.  Since my mother’s DNA has only been tested at Family Tree DNA, I’m limiting the download to those results for now, because what I need is to find the people who match both she and I on the critical segments of chromosome 1 or 2.

Working with the Download Spreadsheet

It was disappointing to discover that my mother and I had no common matches that fell into this range on chromosome 1, but chromosome 2 was another matter.  Please note that I have redacted match surnames for privacy.

step 9 table 1

The spreadsheet above shows the comparison of my matches (pink) and Mother’s (white).  The Native segment of chromosome 2 where I match Mother is shaded mustard.  I shaded the chromosome segments that fell into the “common match” range in green.  Of those matches, there is only one person who matches both Mother and I, Emma.  The next step, of course, is to contact Emma and see if we can discover our common ancestor, because whoever it is, that is the Native line.  As you might imagine, I am chomping at the bit.

There are no segments of chromosome 2 that are unquestionably isolated to my father’s line.

Kicking it up a Notch

Are you wondering about now how something that started out looking so simple got so complex?  Well, I am too, you’re not alone.  But we’ve come this far, so let’s go that final leg in this journey.  My mom always used to say there was no point in doing something at all if you weren’t going to do it right.  Sigh….OK Mom.

The easiest way to facilitate a chromosome by chromosome comparison with all of your matches and your Strong Native and Blended Asian segments is to enter all of these segment groups into the match spreadsheet.  If you’re groaning and your eyes glaze over right after you do one big ole eye roll, I understand.

But let’s take a look at how this helps us.

On the excerpt from my spreadsheet below, for a segment of chromosome 5, I have labeled the people and how they match to me.  The ones labeled “Mom” in the last column are labeled that way because these people match both Mom and I.  The ones labeled “Dad” are labeled that way because I know that person is related on my father’s side.

Using the information from the tables created in Step 8, I entered the beginning and end of all matching segment clusters into my spreadsheet.  You can see these entries on lines 7, 8, 22, 23 and 24.  You then proceed to colorize your matches based on the entry for either Mom or Dad – in other words the blue row or the purple row, line 7, 22 or 24.  In this example, actually, line 5 Rex, based on the coloration, should have been half blue and half purple, but we’ll discuss his case in a minute.

The you can then sort either by match name or by chromosome to view data in both ways.  Let’s look at an example of how this works.

Legend:

  • White Rows:  Mother’s matches.  When Mother and I both match an individual, you’ll see the same matches for me in pink.  This double match indicates that the match is to Mother’s side and not Father’s side.
  • Pink Rows:  My matches.
  • Purple “Mom” labels in last column:  The individual matches both me and Mom.  This is a genetic match.
  • Teal “Dad” labels in last column: Genealogically proven to be from my father’s side.  This is a genealogical, not a genetic label, since I don’t have Dad’s DNA and can only infer these genetically when they don’t also match Mother.
  • Dark Pink Rows labeled “Me Amerind Only” are Strong Native or Blended Asian segments from Chromosome Table that I have entered.  My segments must come from one of my parents, so I’ve either colored them purple, if the match is someone who matches Mother and I both, or teal, if they don’t match both Mom and I, so by inference they come from my father’s line.
  • Dark Purple Rows labeled “Mom Amerind Only” are Mom’s segments from the Chromosome Table.
  • Dark Teal Rows labeled “Dad Amerind Only” are inferred segments belonging to my father based on the fact that Mother and I don’t share them.

Inferred Relationships

This is a good place to talk for just a minute about inferred relationships in this context.  Inference gets somewhat tenuous or weak.  The inferred matches on my father’s side began with the Native segments in the admix tools.  Some inferences are very strong, where Mother has no Native at all in that region.  For example, Mom has European and I have Native American.  No question, this had to come from my father.  But other cases are much less straightforward.

In many cases, categorization may be the issue.  Mom has West Asian for example and I have Siberian or Beringian.  Is this a categorization issue or is this a real genetic difference, meaning that my Siberian/Beringian is actually Native and came from my father’s side?

Other cases of confusion arise from segment misreads, etc.  I’ve actually intentionally included a situation like this below, so we can discuss it.  Like all things, some amount of common sense has to enter the picture, and known relationships will also weigh heavily in the equation.  How known family members match on other chromosome segments is important too.  Do you see a pattern or is this match a one-time occurrence?  Patterns are important.

Keep in mind that these entries only reflect STRONG Asian or Native signals, not all signals.  So even if Mother doesn’t have a strong signal, it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have ANY signal in that region.  In some cases, start and stop segments for Mom and Dad overlapped due to very long segments on some matches.  In this case, we have to rely on the fact that we do have Mother’s actual DNA and assume that if they aren’t also a match to Mother, that what we are seeing is actually Dad’s lines, although this may not in actuality always be true.  Why?  Because we are dealing with segments below the matching threshold limit at both Family Tree DNA and 23andMe, and both of my parents carry Native heritage.  We can also have crossed a transitional boundary where the DNA that is being matched switches from Mom’s side to Dad’s side.

Ugh, you say, now that’s getting messy.  Yes, it is, and it has complicated this process immensely.

The Nitty-Gritty Data Itself

step 9 table 2

Taking a look at this portion of chromosome 5, we have lots going on in this cluster.  Most segments will just be boring pink and white (meaning no Native), but this segment is very busy.  Mom and I match on a small segment from 52,000,000 to 53,000,000.  Indeed, this is a very short segment when compared to the entire chromosome, but it is strongly Native.  We both also match Rex, our known cousin.  I’ve noted him with yellow in the table. Please note that Mom’s white matches are never shaded.  I am focused on determining where my own segments originate, so coloring Mother’s too was only confusing.  Yes, I did try it.

You can see that Mother actually shares all or any part of her segment with only me and Rex.  This simplifies matters, actually.  However, also note that I carry a larger segment in this region than does Mother, so either we have a categorization issue, a misread, or my father also contributed.  So, a conundrum.  This very probably implies that my father also carried Native DNA in this region.

Let’s see what Rex’s DNA looks like on this same segment of chromosome 5, from 52-53 using Eurogenes.  In the graph below, my chromosome is the top bar, Rex’s the middle and the bottom bar shows common DNA with the black nonmatching.  Yellow is Native American, red is South Asian, putty is Siberian, lime green is Mediterranean, teal is North Europe, orange is Caucus.

Step 9 item 3

This same comparison is shown to Mother’s DNA (top row) below.

step 9 item 4

It’s interesting that while Mother doesn’t have a lot of yellow (Native), she does have it throughout the same segment where Rex’s occurs, from about 52 through 53.5.

Does this actually point to a Native ancestor in the common line between Rex, Mom and I, which is the Swiss/German Johann Michael Miller line which does include an unidentified wife stateside, or does this simply indicate a common ancient population long ago in Asia?  It’s hard to say and is deserving of more research.  I feel that it is most likely Native because of the actual yellow, Native segment. If this was an Asian/European artifact, it would be much less likely to carry the actual yellow segment.

Is Rex also genealogically related to my father?  As I’ve worked through this process with all of my chromosomes and matches, I’ve really come to question if one of my father’s dead ends is also an ancestral line of my mother’s.

The key to making sense of these results is clusters.

Clusters vs Singleton Outliers

The work we’ve already done, especially in Step 8, clusters the actual DNA matching segments.  We’ve now entered that information into the spreadsheet and colored the segments of those who match.  What’s next?

The key is to look for people with clusters.  Many matches will have one segment, of say, 10 that match, colored.  Unless this is part of a large chromosome cluster, it’s probably simply an outlier.  Part of a large chromosome cluster would be like the large Strong Native segments on chromosome 1 or 2, for example.  How do we tell if this is a valid match or just an outlier?

Sort the spreadsheet by match name.  Take a look at all of the segments.

The example we’ll use is that of my cousin, Rex.  If you recall, he matches both me and Mother, is a known first cousin twice removed to me, (genetically equal to a second cousin), and is descended from the Miller line.

In this example, I also colored Mother’s segments because I wanted to see which segments that I did not receive from her were also Native. You can see that there are many segments where we all match and several of those are Native.  These also match to other Miller descendants as well, so are strongly indicative of a Native connection someplace in our common line.

If we were only to see one Native segment, we would simply disregard this as an outlier situation.  But that’s not the case.  We see a cluster of matches on various segments, we match other cousins from the same line on these segments, and reverting back to the original comparison admixture tools verifies these matches are Native for Rex, Mom and me.

step 9 item 5

Hmmmm…..what is Dad’s blue segment color doing in there?  Remember I said that we are only dealing with strong match segments?  Well, Mom didn’t have a strong segment at that location and so we inferred that Dad did.  But we know positively that this match does come from Mother’s side.  I also mentioned that I’ve come to wonder if my Mom and Dad share a common line.  It’s the Miller line that’s in question.  One of Johann Michael Miller’s children, Lodowick, moved from Pennsylvania to Augusta County, Virginia in the 1700s and his line became Appalachian, winding up in many of the same counties as my father’s family.  I’m going to treat this as simply an anomaly for now, but it actually could be, in this case, an small indication that these lines might be related.  It also might be a weak “Mom” match, or irrelevant.  I see other “double entries” like this in other Miller cousins as well.

What is the pink row on chromosome 12?  When I grouped the Strong Native and Asian Clusters, sometimes I had a strong grouping, and Mom had some.  The way I determined Dad’s inferred share was to subtract what Mom had in those segments from mine.  In a few cases, Mom didn’t have enough segments to be considered a cluster but she had enough to prevent Dad from being considered a cluster either, so those are simply pink, me with no segment coloring for Mom or Dad.

Let’s say I carry Strong Native/Mixed Asian at the following 8 locations:

10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24

This meets the criteria for 8 of 15 ethno-geographic locations (in the admix tools) within a 2.5 cM distance of each other, so this cluster would be included in the Mixed Asian for me.  It could also be a Strong Native cluster if it was found in 3 of 4 individual tools.  Regardless of how, it has been included.

Let’s now say that Mom carries Native/Mixed Asian at 10, 12 and 14, but not elsewhere in this cluster.

Mom’s 3 does not qualify her for the 8/15 and it only leaves Dad with 5 inferred segments, which disqualifies him too.  So in this case, my cluster would be listed, but not attributable directly to either parent.

What this really says is that both of my parents carry some Native/Blended Asian on this segment and we have to use other tools to extrapolate anything further.  The logic steps are the same as for Dad’s blue segment.  We’re going to treat that as an outlier.  If I really need to know, I can go back to the actual admixture tools and see whether Mom or Dad really match me strongly on which segments and how we compare to Rex as well.  In this case, it’s obvious that this is a match to my Mother’s side, so I’m leaving well enough alone.

Let’s see what the matches reveal.

Matches

Referring back to the Nitty Gritty Data spreadsheet, Mom’s match to Phyllis on row 15 confirms an Acadian line.  This is the known line of Mother’s Native ancestry.  This makes sense and they match on Native segments on several other chromosomes as well.  In fact, many of my and Mother’s matches have Acadian ancestry.

My match to row 19, Joy, is a known cousin on my father’s side with common Campbell ancestry.  This line is short however, because our common ancestor, believed to be Charles Campbell died before 1825 in Hawkins County, TN.  He was probably born before 1750, given that his sons were born about 1770 and 1772.  Joy and I descend from those 2 sons.  Charles wife and parents are unknown, as is his wife.

My match to row 20, inferred through my father’s side, is to a Sizemore, a line with genetically proven Native ancestry.  Of course, this needs more research, but it may be a large hint.  I also match with several other people who carry Sizemore ancestors.  This line appears to have originated near the NC/VA border.

I wanted to mention rows 4 and 17.  Using our rules for the spreadsheet, if I match someone and they don’t also match Mother on this segment, I have inferred them to be through my father.  These are two instances that this is probably incorrect.  I do match these people through Mother, but Mother didn’t carry a strong signal on this segment, so it automatically became inferred to Dad.  Remember, I’m only recording the Strong Native or the Blended Asian segments, not all segments.  However, I left the inferred teal so that you can see what kinds of judgment calls you’ll have to make.  This also illustrates that while Mom’s genetic matches are solid, Dad’s inferred matches are less so and sometimes require interpretation.  The proper thing to do in this instance would be to refer back to the original admixture tools themselves for clarification.

Let’s see what that shows.

step 9 item 6

Using HarrappaWorld, the most pronounced segment is at about 52.  Teal is American.  You can see that Mother has only a very small trace between 53 and 54, almost negligible.  Mother’s admixture at location 52 is two segments of purple, brown and cinnamon which translate to Southwest Asian (lt purple), Mediterranean (dk purple), Caucasian (brown) and Balock (cinnamon), from Pakistan.

Checking Dodecad shows pretty much the same thing, except Mother’s background there is South Asian, which could be the same thing as Caucus and Pakistan, just different categorizations.

In this case, it looks like the admixture is not a categorization issue, but likely did come from my father.  Each segment will really be a case by case call, with only the strongest segments across all tools being the most reliable.

It’s times like this that we have to remember that we have two halves of each chromosome and they carry vastly different information from each of our parents.  Determining which is which is not always easy.  If in doubt, disregard that segment.

Raw Numbers

So, what, really did I figure out after all of this?

First, let’s look at some numbers.

I was working with a total of 292 people who had at least one chromosomal segment that matched me with a Strong Native or Blended Asian segment.  Of those, 59 also matched Mom’s DNA.  Of those, 18 had segments that matched only Mom.  This means that some of them had segments that also matched my father.  Keep in mind, again, that we are only using “strong matches” which involves inferring Dad’s segments and that referring back to the original tools can always clarify the situation.  There seems to be some specific areas that are hotspots for Native ancestry where it appears that both of my parents passed Native ancestry to me.

Many of my and my mother’s 59 matches have Acadian ancestry which is not surprising as the Acadians intermarried heavily with the Native population as well as within their own ethnic group.

Several also have Miller Ancestry.  My Miller ancestor is Johann Michael Miller (1692-1771) who immigrated in the colonial period and settled on the Pennsylvania frontier.  His son, Philip Jacob Miller’s (1726-1799) wife was a woman named Magdalena whose last name has been rumored for years to be Rochette, but no trace of a Rochette family has ever been found in the county where they lived, region or Brethren church history…and it’s not for lack of looking.  Several matches point to Native Ancestry in this line.  This also begs the question of whether this is really Native or whether it is really the Asian heritage of the German people.  Further analysis, referring back to the admixture tools, suggests that this is actually Native. It’s also interesting that absolutely none of Mother’s other German or Dutch lines show this type of ancestry.

There is no suggestion of Native ancestry in any of her other lines.  Mother’s results are relatively clean.  Dad’s are anything but.

Dad’s Messy Matches

My father’s side of the family, however, is another story.

I have 233 matches that don’t also match my mother.  There can be some technical issues related to no-calls and such, but by and large, those would not represent many.  So we need to accept that most of my matches are from my Father’s side originating in colonial America.  This line is much “messier” than my mother’s, genealogically speaking.

Of those 233 matches, only 25 can be definitely assigned to my father.  By definitely assigned, I mean the people are my cousins or there is an absolutely solid genealogical match, not a distant match.  Why am I not counting distant matches in this total?  We all know by virtue of the AncestryDNA saga that just because we match family lines and DNA does NOT mean that the DNA match is the genealogical line we think it is.  If you would like to read all about this, please refer to the details in CeCe Moore’s blog where she discussed this phenomenon.  The relevant discussion begins just after the third photo in this article where she shows that 3 of 10 matches at Ancestry where they “identify” the common DNA ancestor are incorrect.  Of course, they never SAY that the common ancestor is the DNA match, but it’s surely inferred by the DNA match and the “leaf” connecting these 2 people to a common ancestor.  It’s only evident to someone who has tested at least one parent and is savvy enough to realize that the individual whose ancestor on Mom’s side that they have highlighted, isn’t a match to Mom too.  Oops.  Mega-oops!!!

However, because we are dealing in our project, on Dad’s side, with inferences, we’re treading on some of the same ground.  Also, because we are dealing with only “strong clustered” segments, not all Native or Asian segments and because it appears that my parents both have Native ancestry.  To make matters worse, they may both have Algonquian, Iroquoian or both.

I have also discovered during this process that several of my matches are actually related to both of my parents.  I told you this got complex.

Of the people who don’t match Mother, 32 of them have chromosomal matches only to my father, so those would be considered reliable matches, as would the closest ones of the 25 that can be identified genealogically as matching Dad.  Many of these 25 are cousins I specifically asked to test, and those people’s results have been indispensable in this process.

In fact, it’s through my close circle of cousins that we have been able to eliminate several lines as having Native ancestry, because it doesn’t’ show as strong and they don’t have it either.

Many of these lines group together when looking at a specific chromosome.  There is line after line and cousin after cousin with highlighted data.

Dad’s Native Ancestors

So what has this told me?  This information strongly suggests that the following lines on my father’s side carry Native heritage.  Note the word “carry.”  All we can say at this point is that it’s in the soup – and we can utilize current matches at our testing company and at GedMatch, genealogy research and future matches to further narrow the branches of the tree.  Many of these families are intermarried and I have tried to group them by marriage group.  Obviously, eventually, their descendants all intermarried because they are all my ancestors on my father’s side.  But multiple matches to other people who carry the Native markers but aren’t related to my other lines are what define these as lines carrying Native heritage someplace.

  • Campbell – Hawkins County, Tn around 1800, missing wife and parents, married into the Dodson family
  • Dodson – Hawkins County, Tn, Virginia – written record of Lazarus Dodson camping with the Cherokee – missing wife, married into the Campbell and Estes family
  • Claxton/Clarkson – Russell Co., Va, Claiborne and Hancock Co., Tn – In NC associated with the known Native Hatcher family.  Possibly a son-in-law.  Missing family entirely.
  • Cook – Russell Co., Va. – daughter married Claxton/Clarkson – missing wives
  • Harrold, Harrell, Herrell – Hancock Co., Tn., Wilkes Co., NC – missing wives
  • McDowell – Hancock Co. Tn, Wilkes Co., NC, Augusta Co., Va – married into the Harrell family, missing wife
  • McNeil, McNiel – Wilkes Co., NC – missing wives, married into the Vannoy family
  • Vannoy – Wilkes County – some wives unaccounted for pre-1800
  • Crumley – Greene County, Tn., Lee Co., Va. – oral history of Native wife, married into the Vannoy family
  • Brown – Greene County, Tn, Montgomery Co., Va – married into the Crumley family, missing wives

While this looks like a long list, the list of families that don’t have any Native ancestry represented is much longer and effectively serves to eliminate all of those lines.  While I don’t have “THE” answer, I certainly know where to focus my research.  Maybe there isn’t the one answer.  Maybe there are multiple answers, in multiple lines.

The Take Away

Is this complex?  Yes!  Is it a lot of work?  You bet it is!  Is everything cast in concrete?  Never!  You can see that by the differences we’ve found in data interpretation, not to mention issues like no-calls (areas that for some reason in the test don’t read) and cross overs where your inheritance switches from your mom’s side to your dad’s side.  Is there any other way to do this?  No, not if your minority admixture is down in that weedy area around 1%.

Is it worth it?  You’ll have to decide.  It guess it depends on how desperately you want to know.

Part of the reason this is difficult is because we are missing tools in critical locations.  It’s an intensively laborious manual process.  In essence, using various tools, one has to figure out the locations of the Native and Asian chromosome segments and then use that information to infer Native matches by a double match (genetic match at DNA company plus match with Strong Native/Blended Asian segment) with the right parent.  It becomes even more complex if neither parent is available for testing, but it is doable although I would think the reliability could drop dramatically.

Tidbits and Trivia

I’ve picked up a number of little interesting tidbits during this process.  These may or may not be helpful to you.  Just kind of file them away until needed:)

  • Matches at testing companies come and go….and sometimes just go.  At Family Tree DNA, I have some matches that must be trembling on the threshold that come and go periodically.  Now you see them, now you don’t.  I lost matches moving from the Affy chip to the Illumina chip and lost additional matches between Build 36 and 37.  Some reappeared, some haven’t.
  • The start and stop boundaries changed for some matches between build 36 and build 37.  I did not go back and readjust, as most of these, in the larger scheme of things, were minor.  Just understand that you are looking for  patterns here that indicate Native heritage, not exact measurements.  This process is a tool, and unfortunately, not a magic wand:)
  • The centromere locations change between builds.  If you have matches near or crossing the middle of the chromosome, called the centromere, there may be breaks in that region.  I enter the centromere start and stop locations in my spreadsheet so that if I notice something odd going on in that region, the centromere addresses are right there to alert me that I’m dealing with that “odd” region.  You can find the centromere addresses in the FAQ at Family Tree DNA for their current build.
  • At 23andMe, when you reach the magic 1000 matches threshold, you start losing matches and the matching criteria is elevated so that you can stay under 1000 matches.  For people with colonial American or Jewish heritage, in other words those with high numbers of matches, this is a problem.
  • Watch for matches that are related to both sides of your family.  If your family lived in colonial America, you’re going to have a lot of matches and many are probably related to each other in ways you aren’t aware of.
  • If your parents are related to each other, this process might simply be too complex and intertwined to provide enough granular data to be useful.
  • Endogamous groups are impossible to sort through as to where, meaning which ancestor, the DNA came from.  This is because the original group founders’ DNA is just getting passed around and around, with little or no new DNA being introduced.  The effect of this on downstream generations relative to genetic genealogy is that matches appear to be more closely related than they are because of the amount of matching DNA they carry.  For my Brethren and my Acadian groups of people, I just list them by the group name, since, as the saying goes, “if you’re related to one Acadian, you’re related to all Acadians.”
  • If you’re going to follow this procedure, save one spreadsheet copy with the Strong Native only and then a second one with both the Strong Native and Blended Asian.  I’m undecided truthfully whether the Mixed Asian adds enough resolution for the extra work it generates.
  • When in question, refer back to the original tools.  The answer will always be found there.
  • Unfortunately, tools change.  You may want to take screen shots.  During this process, FTDNA went from build 36 to 37, match thresholds changed, 23andMe introduced a new user interface (which I find much less intuitive) and GedMatch has made significant changes.  The net-net of this is when you decide to undertake this project, commit to it and do it, start to finish.  Doing this little by little makes you vulnerable to changes that may make your data incompatible midstream – and you may not even realize it.
  • This entire process is intensively manual.  My spreadsheet is over 5500 rows long.  I won’t be doing it again…although I will update my spreadsheet with new matches from time to time.  The hard work is already done.
  • This same technique applies to any minority ancestry, not just Native, although that’s what I’ve been hunting for and one of the most common inquiries I receive.
  • I am hopeful that in the not too distant future many of these steps and processes will be automated by the group of bright developers that contribute to GedMatch or via other tools like DNAGedcom. HINT – HINT!!!

I would like to follow this same process to identify the source of my African heritage, but I’m thinking I’ll wait for the tools to become automated.  The great irony is that it’s very likely in the same lines as my Native ancestors.

If You Want to Test

What does it take to do this for yourself using the tools we have today, as discussed?

If your parents are living, the best gift you can give yourself is to test them, now, while you still can.  My mother has been gone for several years, but her DNA archived at Family Tree DNA was still viable.  This is not always the case.  I was fortunate.  Her DNA is one of the best gifts she gave me.  Not just by inheritance, but by having hers tested.  I thank her every single day, for both!  I could not have written this article without her DNA results.  The gift that keeps on giving.

If you don’t have a parent to test, you can test several other family members who will provide some information, but clearly won’t carry the same amounts of common DNA with you as your parents.  These would include your aunts and uncles, your parents’ siblings and what I’ve referred to as your close cousin circle.  Attempt to test at least someone from each line.  Yes, it gets expensive, but as one of my cousins said, as she took her third or 4th DNA test.  “It’s only money.  This is about family.”

You can also test your own siblings as well to obtain more information that you can use to match up to your family lines. Remember, you only receive half of your parents DNA, and your siblings will received some DNA from your parents that you didn’t.

I don’t have any other siblings to test, but I have tested cousins from several lines which have proven invaluable when trying to discern the sources of certain segments. For example, one of these Native segments fell on a common segment with my cousin Joy.  Therefore, I know it’s from the Campbell line, and because I have the Campbell paternal Y-DNA which is European, I know immediately the Native admixture would have had to be from a wife.

Much of this puzzle is deductive, but we now have the tools, albeit manual, to do this type of work that was previously impossible.  I am somewhat disappointed that I can’t pinpoint the exact family lines, yet, but hopefully as more people test and more matches provide genealogical information, this will improve.

If you want to play in this arena, you need to test at either Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, or both.  Right now, the most cost effective way to achieve this is to purchase a $99 kit from 23andMe, test there, then download your results from 23andMe and upload them to Family Tree DNA for $99.  That way, you are fishing in both pools.  Be aware that less than half of the people who test at either company download results to GedMatch, so your primary match locations are with the testing companies.  GedMatch is auxiliary, but critical for this analysis.  And the newest tool, DNAGedcom is a Godsend.

Also note that transferring your result to Family Tree DNA is NOT the same thing as actually testing there.  Why does this matter?  If you want a future test at Family Tree DNA, who is the premiere genetic genealogy testing company, offering the most variety and “deepest” commercial tests, they archive your DNA for 25 years, but if you transfer results, they don’t have your DNA to archive, so no future products can be ordered.  All I can say is thank Heavens Mom’s DNA was there.

Ancestry.com doesn’t provide any tools such as the chromosome browser or even the basic information of matching segments.  All you get is a little leaf that says you’re related, but the questions of which segment or how are not answerable today at Ancestry and as CeCe’s experience proved, its unreliable.  It’s  possible that you share the same surnames and ancestor, but your genetic connection is not through that family line.  Without tools, there is no way to tell.  Ancestry released raw data files a few weeks ago and very recently, GedMatch has implemented the ability to upload them so that Ancestry participants can now utilize the additional tools at GedMatch.

Although this has been an extraordinarily long and detailed process, I can’t tell you how happy I am to have developed this new technique to add to my toolbox.  My Native and African ancestors have been most elusive.  There are no records, they didn’t write and probably didn’t even speak English, certainly not initially.  The only clues to their existence, prior to DNA, were scant references and family lore.  The only prayer of actually identifying them is though these small segments of our DNA – yep – down in the weeds.  Are there false starts perhaps, and challenges and maybe a few snakes down there?  Yes, for sure, but so is the DNA of your ancestors.

Happy gardening and rooting around in the weeds.  Just think of it as searching for the very best buried treasure!  It’s down there, just waiting to be found.  Keep digging!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and that it leads you to your own personal genealogical treasure trove!

treasure chest

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

The Genomics Revolution 13 Years Later – Bennett Greenspan

Bennett GreenspanOn April 29, 2013, from 11 AM-12 noon, Bennett Greenspan will be the featured speaker in the CSE Distinguished Lecture Series in the Georgia Tech Auditorium located in the Technology Square Research Building, 85 Fifth Street, Atlanta, Georgia, 30332.

Bennett will be speaking about bridging the gap between traditional genealogy and genetics, and will be discussing the various kinds of testing and when each is important.  He will also be talking about new technology, exome and full genome sequencing and how that will be important to individuals.

Always a man with his eye on the horizon, thankfully for genetic genealogists, Bennett says the genomic revolution has just begun.

Bennett is speaking at the Bremen Museum on Sunday, April 28th at 2PM about using DNA to settle family disputes, connect to long-lost relatives and to garner an appreciation for where your ancestors came from and where they journeyed since our departure from Africa.

For those who have never heard Bennett speak, he is an exceptional speaker and makes genetic genealogy not only understandable, but very attractive to the novice.  Being a genealogist before genetic genealogy, a field established by Family Tree DNA, he brings a very powerful personal story to the table.  He has a way of speaking and simplifying the complex that resonates with people.

This is also a rare opportunity to hear someone personally who has directly caused a technology revolution.  Bennett founded Family Tree DNA in 2000, actually, almost by accident, as a result of the process he went through trying to answer one of his own long-standing genealogy questions.

I hope you’ll have the opportunity to attend one or both of these presentations.  Even though I’ve heard Bennett many times, if I were anyplace to close to Atlanta, you can bet I’d be in the audience.  Hearing Bennett speak makes me fall in love with genetic genealogy all over again!

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research