Summer Hiatus and October in Dublin

Remember summer vacation when you were a kid?

Summer vacation seemed like it would last FOREVER. The endless days of sunshine and the smell of freshly cut grass with the swimming hole or beach beckoning endlessly.

As adults, we get so caught up in work and family that we forget what those summer holidays were like. I haven’t even seen my hammock in years. Where is it anyway?

I’m trying to remember those summertimes of yesteryear, and I’m giving myself a kickstarter by taking some time off.

Well, OK, it’s not really “off.” I’m preparing for three trips that are genetic genealogy related, and I’ll be writing about those in the coming months.

Plus, I’m stuck on some of my 52 Ancestors articles, waiting for information to arrive which is arriving very slowly. I think the staff from those various locations must be on vacation too.

I’ve found that I can’t prepare to travel, create presentations, complete customer reports, create a class and then travel along with maintaining my current article production schedule, so I’m taking a bit of a hiatus – in particular from my 52 Ancestors articles.

I have several regular articles already scheduled, but unfortunately, those ancestors are just going to have to wait patiently.  Maybe they’ll relinquish some of their closely guarded secrets in the mean time!  You think?

Upcoming Event – Dublin, Ireland

I do want to share with you that one of the events on my schedule is an appearance where I’ll be giving two separate presentations, at Genetic Genealogy Ireland, sponsored by Family Tree DNA, which takes place on October 20-22 in Dublin, Ireland.

Needless to say, I’m very excited.

Most of my regular readers know that I’m mostly retired from speaking and traveling, but this is one exception I’m glad to make. Of course, it helps a lot that I have McDowell ancestors whose homelands are close by, along with my McNiel line thought to have descended from the Niall of the Nine Hostages lineage, which of course means I absolutely HAVE to visit Tara.

Let’s just say that it didn’t take a lot of arm-twisting to convince me to speak😊

So, I hope to see you in October in Dublin! Take a look at the list of incredibly exciting speakers here. I can hardly wait and hope to meet lots of you in person!

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

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

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

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

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

Independence Day – Life and Death – Organ Donors, Angels and Wings

Today is Independence Day – the 4th of July – where we in the US celebrate the birth of our nation.  However, my cousin is celebrating a very different sort of victory today – a very personal Independence Day – his life.

This week, an epic life and death battle took place – in an operating room. The forces of good battling evil – in this case, the evil of a crippling genetic disease…and time. My cousin lost the genetic lottery, but this week…

Good won!

My cousin received a kidney transplant from a living donor after 18 months of not-so-patiently waiting. Thankfully, he didn’t have to wait any longer for a cadaver donor – a wait that was fruitless for my brother in 2012. My brother, Dave, died waiting. There aren’t enough donor angels who have earned their wings to go around.

My Brother

My brother needed a liver transplant. Because the liver can regenerate itself, live donors can donate part of their liver to recipients, and both will grow normal livers. Kidneys, on the other hand, don’t regenerate, but people can live with only one kidney, so living donors can contribute a kidney and live the rest of their life just fine.

However, in my brother’s case, he couldn’t have a living donor – even if someone was willing, and I was willing to be his donor. Why? Because when he became very ill and couldn’t work due to liver failure, he also didn’t have insurance. He was a long-haul truck driver and when you can’t work, you don’t have insurance – even if you had insurance originally. He worked his entire life, until he couldn’t anymore. Then, much to his chagrin, he had to enroll in Medicaid, the safety net to protect our vulnerable population. He didn’t like this one bit, but thank goodness Medicaid was available for him, because otherwise, he would have had no care at all.

But there was a catch – Medicaid only pays for cadaver donor transplants – not living donor transplants – because the cost of two patients is more than the cost of one patient. My insurance said that they don’t pay for voluntary surgeries of this type – and that the recipient’s insurance would have to pay. So – Catch 22.

My brother died.

There aren’t enough cadaver donors.

Let that soak in for a minute.

Dave died because someone who was already dead didn’t think ahead of time to donate their organs or perhaps didn’t know how much good they could still do after their death.

Eighteen People

Eighteen people die every single day in the US alone due to lack of an organ for transplant. Every one of those 18 people is someone’s loved one, a spouse, a sibling, a child, a parent – someone with a family that loves and needs them. Someone who didn’t need to die.

Like my brother who was also a husband and father.

Every donor can save at least 8 lives with vital organs and affect the lives of up to 50 more who need procedures like skin grafts or corneal transplants.

Eight. People. Will. Live.

Imagine giving the ultimate gift of life to eight humans, and joy to many more through saving their lives.

Just imagine.

If you could wave your magic wand and save those people if it cost you absolutely nothing – would you?

Everyone dies eventually, and many unexpectedly die every day. If you’re dead – YOU certainly don’t need and can’t use those organs anymore. But others can, and are dying, no pun, to get them. So please, PLEASE, consider becoming a donor. You can save the lives of many people, even as you earn your wings. Part of you can live on – providing life for others.

It’s a gift you can give with absolutely no cost to yourself or anyone you love.

There is no reason not to.

You have that magic wand!

Living Donors

And then there are the living donors. These people are true heroes in every sense of the word.

My cousin who had his transplant this week would surely have died waiting for a cadaver donor. He nearly died just waiting for his living donor to get through the qualification process and then be paired with another couple of people. The person willing to be my cousin’s donor didn’t match him, so they were paired with another recipient and donor who did match.

Pairing takes place when the person willing to be your donor doesn’t match you, so you can’t have their organ, but they match someone else whose donor matches you. So they swap.

In his case, my cousin and his donor were in Michigan, and their pair donor and recipient were in North Dakota.

The donor kidneys were removed first, beginning about 6 AM, then flown, one on Delta with the crew and one on a charter plane between Michigan and North Dakota, then helicoptered from the airports to the hospitals where the donor kidneys were checked out by the surgeons to assure they are undamaged after their flight.

You can see the temperature controlled organ transport case, below. It even got it’s own wheelchair!

After the kidneys were confirmed to be in good shape, the recipient surgeries began, late in the afternoon. It was almost 11 PM before the recipient surgeries were complete. An extremely long and emotion-filled 16-hour day to save the lives of two people where even so much as a sneeze would have meant that it didn’t happen at all.

My cousin who received the donor kidney is 41 years old, a single dad with two children. He has, in essence, received a second life – thanks to the two donors.

Living donors are heroes – angels long before they earn their heavenly wings. God bless those living donors who are willing to endure pain and sacrifice part of their body so another might live.

However, if we had enough cadaver donors, we wouldn’t need living donors.

Gift of Life Flag

In 2016, hospitals and transplant centers performing organ transplants began flying a Gift of Life flag when transplants are taking place.  Seeing this flag signifies to the community that someone has become a donor, meaning that either a family, in the case of a death, or a living donor, has made a very difficult and benevolent decision, giving their organ and with it, bestowing life on another.

The Gift of Life flag flying as seen from my cousin’s hospital room, honoring both the donor and recipient!

I believe that the donor family receives the flag.

It’s a beacon of light…

A flag of hope…

You can read more about the Gift of Life Flag tradition here.

How Can You Help?

We often don’t think about organ donation until it hits home. When it does, it’s because a loved one is desperately ill and needs a transplant. We may not be able to make a difference to them that day, but one day, each and every one of us can make that difference through after-life donation.

Please, PLEASE, become an organ donor after your death. With more cadaver donors, we wouldn’t need live donors. Desperately ill people wouldn’t have to wait so long for transplants – unable to work, jeopardizing their family’s financial circumstances. Many lose their homes while waiting for a donor.

My brother’s home went into foreclosure, until I bought it out of foreclosure, affording him the opportunity to live there until his death. It hurt his pride and damaged his dignity, but at least he wasn’t homeless too. I couldn’t give him part of my liver, but at least I could salvage his home.

Most importantly, with enough cadaver donors, people wouldn’t have to die waiting. Some people are so ill by the time that a donor is located that they are, in a horrible irony, too sick to have the surgery.

Signing up for organ donation is easy to do. On your driver’s license, you can indicate your donor status. Furthermore, be sure your family is aware of your wishes, as well as your medical team.

Once you don’t need your pieces and parts anymore, donating them to someone who will die otherwise is the greatest legacy of life, of love, you can leave.

You can begin by reading about organ donation, how it works, and signing up at:

https://www.dmv.org/organ-donor.php

Have concerns? They provide a page to answer questions too.

You can also read about organ donation here: https://www.organdonor.gov/register.html?gclid=CMST6prR5tQCFce3wAodZpQKGg

I’m a donor.  Are you?

It’s easy to be someone’s angel!

Which Ethnicity Test is Best?

While this question is very straightforward, the answer is not.

I have tested with or uploaded my DNA file to the following vendors to obtain ethnicity results:

The links above provide product reviews of recently released or updated results.

Guess what? None of the vendors’ results are the same. Some aren’t even close to each other, let alone to my known and proven genealogy.

In the article, Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages, I explained how to calculate your expected ethnicity percentages from your genealogy. As each vendor has introduced ethnicity results, or updated previous results, I’ve added to a cumulative chart.

It bears repeating before we look at that chart that ethnicity testing is relatively accurate on a continental level, meaning:

  • Africa
  • Europe
  • Asia
  • Native American
  • Jewish

Intra-continent or sub-continent, meaning within continents, it’s extremely difficult to tease out differences between countries, like France, Germany and Switzerland. Looking at the size of these regions, and the movement of populations, we can certainly understand why. In many ways, it’s like trying to discern the difference between Indiana and Illinois.

What Does “Best” Mean?

While the question of which test is best seems like it would be easy to answer, it isn’t.

“Best” is a subjective term, and often, people interpret best to mean that the test reflects a portion of what they think they know about their ethnicity. Without a rather robust and proven tree, some testers have little subjective data on which to base their perceptions.  In fact, many people, encouraged by advertising, take these tests with the hope that the test will in fact provide them with the answer to the question, “Who am I?” or to confirm a specific ancestor or ancestral heritage rumor.

For example, people often test to find their Native American ancestry and are disappointed when the results don’t reveal Native ancestry. This can be because:

  • There is no Native ancestor.
  • The Native ancestor thought to be 100% was already highly admixed.
  • The Native ancestor is too far back in the tester’s tree and the ancestor’s DNA “washed out” in subsequent generations.
  • The testing company failed to pick up what might be arguably a trace amount.

Genealogy Compared to All Vendors’ Results

In some cases, discrepancies arise due to how the different companies group their results and what the groupings mean, as you can see in the table below comparing all vendors’ results to my known genealogy.

In the table below, I’ve highlighted in yellow the “best” company result by region, as compared to my known genealogy shown in the column titled “Genealogy %”.

British Isles – The British Isles is fairly easy to define, because they are islands, and the results for each vendor, other than The Genographic Project, are easy to group into that category as well. Family Tree DNA comes the closest to my known genealogy in this category, so would be the “best” in this category. However, every region, shown in pink, does not have the same “best” vendor.

Scandinavian – I have no actual Scandinavian heritage in my genealogy, but I’m betting I have a number of Vikings, or that my German/Dutch is closely related to the Scandinavians. So while LivingDNA is the lowest, meaning the closest to my zero, it’s very difficult to discern the “true” amount of Scandinavian heritage admixed into the other populations. It’s also possible that Scandinavian is not reflecting (entirely) the Vikings, but Dutch and German as a result of migrations of entire peoples. My German and Dutch ancestry cumulatively adds to 39%.

Eastern European – I don’t have any known Eastern European, but some of my German might fall into that category, historically. I simply don’t know, so I’m not ranking that group.

Northwestern Europe – For the balance of Northwestern Europe, 23andMe comes the closest with 43% of my 45.24% from my known genealogy.

Mediterranean and Southern European – For the Mediterranean, Greece, Italy and Southern Europe, I have no known genealogy there, and not even anyplace close, so I’m counting as accurate all three vendors who reported zero, being Living DNA, Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage.

Unknown – The next grouping is my unknown percentage. It’s very difficult to ascribe a right or wrong to this grouping, so I’ve put vendor results here that might fall into that unknown group. In my case, I suspect that some of the unknown is actually Native on my father’s side. I haven’t assigned accuracy in this section. It’s more of a catch all, for now.

Native and Asian – The next section is Native and Asian, which can in some circumstances can be attributed to Native ancestry. In this case, I know of about 1% proven Native heritage, as the Native on my mother’s line is proven utilizing both Y and mitochondrial DNA tests on descendants. I suspect there is more Native to be revealed, both on her side and because I can’t positively attribute some of my father’s lineage that is mixed race and reported to be Native, but is as yet unproven. By proof, I mean either Y DNA, mitochondrial DNA or concrete documentation.

I have counted any vendor who found a region above zero and smaller than my unknown percentage of 3.9% as accurate, those vendors being Family Tree DNA, Ancestry, 23andMe and MyHeritage.

Southwest Asia – I have no heritage from Southwest Asia, which typically means the Indian subcontinent. National Geographic reports this region, but their categories are much broader than the other companies, as reflected by the grey bands utilized to attempt to summarize the other vendor’s data in a way that can be compared to the Genographic Project information. While I’m pleased to contribute to the National Geographic Society through the Genographic Project, the results are the least connected to my known genealogy, although their results may represent deeper migratory ancestry.

Summary

As you can see, the best vendor is almost impossible to pinpoint and every person that tests at multiple vendors will likely have a different opinion of what is “best” and the reasons why. In some ways, best depends on what you are looking for and how much genealogy work you’ve already invested to be able to reliably evaluate the different vendor results. In my case, the best vendor, judged by the highest total percentage of “most accurate” categories would be Family Tree DNA.

While DNA testing for ethnicity really doesn’t provide the level of specificity that people hope to gain, testers can generally get a good view of their ancestry at the continental level. Vendors also provide updates as the reference groups and technology improves.  This is a learning experience for all involved!

I hope that seeing the differences between the various vendors will encourage people to test at multiple vendors, or transfer their results to additional vendors to gain “a second set of eyes” about their ethnicity. Several transfers are free. You can read about which vendors accept results from other vendors, in the article, Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?

I also hope that ethnicity results encourage people to pursue their genealogy to find their ancestors. Ethnicity results are fun, but they aren’t gospel, and shouldn’t be interpreted as “the answer.” Just enjoy your results and allow them to peak your curiosity to discover who your ancestors really were through genealogy research! There are bound to be some fun surprises just waiting to be discovered.

If you are interested in why your results may vary from what you expected, please read “Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum.”

If you’re interested in taking a DNA test, you might want to read “Which DNA Test is Best?” which discusses and compares what you need to know about each vendor and the different tests available in the genetic genealogy market today.

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

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

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

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

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

LivingDNA Replaces Download Terms

Great news, and fast on the part of LivingDNA.

Yesterday, I wrote about indemnity language required when downloading your raw data file from LivingDNA.

LivingDNA said last night that the verbiage did not really reflect their intentions.

Today, they have modified their terms going forward and retroactively, according to David Nicholson, Managing Director of LivingDNA, and have simplified the content.

Below is the new download verbiage, as provided by David.

I am greatly relieved. The indemnification language is gone and is replaced by you agreeing to, in essence, be responsible for yourself and release LivingDNA from anything bad that happens resulting from your download. (Caveat – I am not a lawyer. This is only my personal opinion.)

As always, please read all language and be sure you understand the verbiage and ramifications to your own situation, with LivingDNA and all vendors. Seek legal advice if you have questions or concerns with any legal document.

Thanks, LivingDNA, for listening to the community and addressing our concerns so quickly.

23andMe’s “Your DNA Family” Feature

A few days ago, I received a message from 23andMe that a new feature, “Your DNA Family” was ready to view. I decided to take a look. You’ll find this feature under the Reports, then Ancestry Reports tab.

The first part of the screen shows how many matchs of different types that I have. This report includes only people who have opted in to share through DNA Relatives.

I have tested on both the V3 chip and the V4 chip. I’m utilizing the V3 results for this article, but it is interesting to note that I have 1436 V4 chip results, as compared to 1440 V3 results, above. The number of matches is almost exactly the same. However, the numbers in the various categories below between the two tests (V3 vs V4) are sometimes significantly different, so these are clearly not (all) the same people who have agreed to share on both platforms.  You can read more about the V3 and V4 comparison here.

On the page above, the “learn more” link explains about degrees of cousinhood.

Scrolling down, the next section shows you a map of the location of your DNA Relatives.

The part I find the most interesting is that the places where I have the most relatives do not include the state where I was born or where my parents were born.  My mother’s family was from the Netherlands and Germany before immigrating to Indiana in the US, except for one grandfather who was Acadian. In the Midwest, Indiana is darker than the rest on the map, but I only have 25 relatives there. My father was born in Tennessee with only 15 matches. Of course, the fact that my matches live in those locations today does not mean our common ancestor is one of my Hoosier or Tennessee ancestors, but it’s a good place to start looking.

Conversely, I have 110 relatives that live in California and 65 in Texas. Texas was a destination location for the people of Appalachia, so that makes some sense. My great-grandfather died in Texas in 1895, having walked from Tennessee, twice.

From the looks of things, California was a destination location for everyone! I have more matches in California than any another state, by almost double. I have to wonder if the fact that 23andMe is a California company has something to do with how many Californians have tested.

“Click here” shows you the top 10 locations in a table.

It’s interesting to note that my proven 39% German and Dutch combined is no place to be seen. The Dutch and most of the Germans were immigrants in the mid-1800s – so there is no question about the accuracy of these immigrants. 23andMe did not test outside the US for a very long time, and when they did, the shipping cost almost as much as the test itself which discouraged international testers.

Scrolling down again, we see the Ancestry Composition breakdown of my DNA Relatives.

For a minute I was all excited, hoping that I could then click on one of the ancestral regions and see which of my matches include that region, but that’s not the case. Believe me, I tried clicking everyplace☹

Of course, just because someone that I match also has some amount of Native American or other common ancestry, that doesn’t mean that’s how we match, but it might well be a clue.

Scrolling down again, we see how our DNA Relatives compare to the rest of the 23andMe data base in a few categories.

For me, this falls into a time-waster category and causes me to ask myself, “why do I care?” I suspect this is included in the hope that people will find it interesting and will therefore answer these rather innocuous questions posed by 23andMe, along with more that are health related.

Summary

There certainly isn’t anything wrong with this information. It’s not misleading in any way like the last feature to be released, their Ancestry Timeline.

The DNA Family information is at best lukewarm and leaves me more than a tad disappointed.

I think at least two aspects have potential, but today, it’s like 23andMe showed us the teaser to the movie with no way to see the movie itself.

I would like to see which of my DNA Relatives fall into the following two categories:

  • Location – state and country
  • Ancestry Composition category

In other words, I want to know which of my matches are from Indiana, and which have Native American ancestry, for example. I’d like to know if there is an intersection between those or any two groups too.

I could find absolutely no way to utilize the Ancestry Composition categories, but I thought I had figured out how to detect at least some of the location matches.

Going to my the DNA Relatives page, I entered the word “Indiana” into the “Search keywords” and pressed enter, which returned 36 DNA Relatives. Granted, that’s not 25, as shown on the map, but it does return information based on something and that something might be useful.  I wish we knew where 23andMe is retrieving this data from so we know how to interpret what it means.

Next, I tried the keyword “Germany.” The search returned 76 results, but Germany was not among the locations where my DNA Relatives were shown to live – so the answer is that whatever is being shown utilizing the search keywords, it’s not the tester’s location so does not connect to the map location results.

The DNA Family Report earns a shrug and a “Meh.” Now, if testers could view which of their DNA Relatives matched them in those categories, I’d have to upgrade the shrug and meh to something a little more exciting. I sometimes look at where and how the vendors invest their development dollars and wonder what the heck they were thinking.

For genealogy, this new feature simply isn’t useful.

______________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

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

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

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

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

Hugs in the Churchyard – Thanks to Y DNA

Isn’t this just a wonderful picture? Even though the picture is of two very excited female cousins, it’s all because of Y DNA. Don’t tell anyone, but I think we might have jumped up and down a few times too (wink), with very good reason!

This exuberant photo is my cousin, Mary and me, in the cemetery of the church in Downham, Lancashire, England where our ancestor, Thomas Speake was baptized in 1634. How we got here is truly a genetic journey, and we couldn’t have done it without our Speak male cousins who were all too willing to help by Y DNA testing!

Mary and I share ancestor, Nicholas Speaks, who was born in 1782 in Charles County, Maryland and migrated as a child with his father to Washington County, Virginia where he married Sarah Faires. The young couple homesteaded in Lee County, Virginia, establishing the first Methodist Church in the area about 1822.

When Cousin Mary and I began our genealogy journey, along with a few other cousins, years ago, we didn’t have any information prior to Lee County. Where did Nicholas come from and who were his parents?

Over the years, our line was traced back to Maryland in the 1600s to immigrant Thomas Speak. However, we were truly stuck in Maryland, with absolutely no idea where Thomas originated in the UK. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Several Speak men Y DNA tested when DNA testing became available, and then the wait began. A few years later, they matched a man who lived in New Zealand. The Speak cousin from New Zealand knew a lot more about his ancestors in England than we did since they migrated to New Zealand in the 1800s, not the 1600s like our Thomas Speak.

Our newly discovered cousin from down-under pointed us to the little town of Gisburn, where his Speak ancestor was born and baptized. Our Thomas’s baptismal record wasn’t in Gisburn, but working in a circle in surrounding communities turned up Thomas’s baptismal record in 1634 in the tiny village of Downham, just 4 miles distant.

The baptismal record further told us that Thomas was from an even smaller village, if that’s even possible.  Twiston is more of a farming hamlet (shown below), a mile or so away from Downham down a tiny road so twisty that anything larger than a passenger vehicle can’t navigate the road.  Let’s just say I have personal knowledge of this issue:)

Two years later, after our amazing DNA discovery, followed by confirming record discoveries, about 20 descendants of the Speak family of Gisburn and Downham, including our New Zealand cousin, arranged a tour back to our homeland. We met in London, having rented a bus and driver, and off we went to Lancashire on a journey back in time.

This amazing adventure truly was the trip of a lifetime, a dream come true, with cousins near and dear to my heart, finding and honoring our common ancestral homeland.

All, thanks to Y DNA. Y DNA isn’t always a sprint, although sometimes you have an important immediate match. Y DNA is sometimes more of a wait and be patient proposition, as the DNA results are constantly fishing for you – but it’s so, so, worth the wait.

I hope that you too get to hug your cousin in the cemetery where your ancestors are buried on a journey someplace you could never have imagined. But you’ll never get to hug in that cemetery if you don’t start the journey by testing. I couldn’t test myself, being a female, but I surely could test my cousins – and I have – lots of them!

All of genetic genealogy is a collaborative journey and you never know which new tester will make that fateful difference!

With Father’s Day on the horizon, and a sale at Family Tree DNA, there’s no better time to test your male lines that haven’t yet tested. You truly never know what wonderful adventure or new cousin is waiting. Give the gift of discovery.

______________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

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

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

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

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

Working with Y DNA – Your Dad’s Story

Have you ever wondered why you would want to test your Y DNA? What would a Y DNA test tell you about which ancestors? What would it mean to you and how would it help your genealogy?

If you’re like most genealogists, you want to know every single tidbit you can discover about your ancestors – and Y DNA not only tells males about people they match that are currently living and share ancestors with them at some point in time, but it also reaches back beyond the range of what genealogy in the traditional sense can tell us – past the time when surnames were adopted, peering into the misty veil of the past!

If you aren’t a male, you can’t directly test your Y DNA, because you don’t have a Y chromosome, but that’s OK, because your father or brother or another family member who does carry the same Y chromosome (and surname) as your father may well be willing to test.

What Is Y DNA?

Y DNA a special type of DNA that tells the direct story of your father’s surname line heritage – all the way back as far as we can go – beyond genealogy– to the man from whom we are all descended that we call “Y line Adam.” In the pedigree chart below, Y DNA is represented by the people with blue squares – generally the surname line.

Y DNA is never mixed with the mother’s DNA, so the Y DNA of the blue line of ancestors above remains unbroken and intact and the Y DNA is passed from father to only their male children. The Y chromosome is what makes males male, so females never inherit a Y chromosome. Of course, that means females can’t take Y DNA tests, so they have to ask a family member to test who carries the Y chromosome of the line they are interested in.

Because the surname doesn’t typically change for males between generations, this test is particularly powerful in identifying specific lineages of the male’s surname.  For men looking to identify their paternal line, Y DNA testing is extremely powerful!

Y DNA testing is a great way to determine which ancestral line of a given surname a male descends from.

Want to see how this works?  Family Tree DNA provides 13 great tools for every Y DNA customer. Let’s take a look!

Haplogroup

Everyone who tests their Y DNA at Family Tree DNA receives a haplogroup assignment. Think of a haplogroup as your genetic clan. Haplogroups have a history and a pedigree chart, just like people do. Haplogroups and their branches can identify certain groups of people, such as people of African descent, European, Asian, Jewish and Native American.

While the Y DNA is passed intact with no admixture from the mother, occasionally mutations do happen, and it’s those historical mutations that form clans and branches of clans as generation after generation is born and continues to migrate to new areas.

If you take any Y DNA test at Family Tree DNA, you will receive a haplogroup prediction. In the following example, the gentleman received haplogroup C-P39 as his haplgroup prediction.

Haplogroup predictions from Family Tree DNA are very accurate. They are basic in nature, but detailed enough to identify the continent where your ancestors are found as well as sometimes identifying groups like Jewish or Native American. To receive a more refined haplogroup, additional tests are available (individual SNPs, SNP panels and the Big Y), which confirm the original haplogroup assignment and give you the opportunity to find the smallest branch of the haplotree upon which you reside as a leaf.

Let’s look at an example.

Y haplogroup C arose in Asia and subgroups are found today in parts of Asia, Europe and among Native American men.

Recently, by utilizing the Big Y test, an advanced specialized test that scans the majority of the Y chromosome for mutations, the haplogroup C tree was extended by several branches at Family Tree DNA.

With regular STR marker testing, which is the Y DNA test you purchase from Family Tree DNA,  this particular haplogroup C male had his base haplogroup of C identified along with the additional branch of C-P39. With additional advanced testing of some type, such as individual SNP testing, panels of SNPs available for some haplogroups, or the Big Y test – testers can learn more about their haplogroups – and with the Big Y, virtually everything there is to know about their Y chromosome.

However, until testers receive their regular STR results for their markers, advanced tests aren’t available to order, because testers don’t yet know into which haplogroup, or clan, they will be placed.

The haplogroup C Y-DNA project at Family Tree DNA provides a map of the most distant known ancestors of Haplogroup C members, including all branches, shown below.

Hapologroup C-P39, a Native American subgroup, is found in a much more restricted geography in the Haplogroup C-P39 project, below.

Tools at Family Tree DNA

At Family Tree DNA, your Y haplogroup is shown in the upper right hand corner on your personal page dashboard.

In the Y DNA section, additional tools are shown. Let’s look at each tool and what it can tell you about your direct paternal line.

You can always navigate to the Dashboard or any other option by clicking on the myFTDNA button on the upper left hand corner and then the Y DNA dropdown.

Matches

The first place most people look is at their Matches page. In the case of our example, he has twenty three 111 marker matches ranging from one person with a genetic distance of 1, meaning one mutation difference, to several with 6 mutations difference. The fewer mutations, in general, the most likely the closer in time your most recent common ancestor with your match.

You can see by just looking at the matches below why entering the name of your earliest known ancestor (under Manage Personal Information, Account Settings, Genealogy) is so important!!! That’s the first thing people see and the best indication of a common ancestor. I always include a name, birth/death date and location.

In this case, it’s very clear the common ancestor of most, if not all, of these men is Germain Doucet born in 1641 in Port Royal, Nova Scotia. And before you ask, yes, it’s rather unusual to have an entire list of men descended from one man, but it’s clearly not unheard of.

As you can see, many of these matches (names obscured for privacy) have trees attached to their results and several have also taken the autosomal Family Finder test.

The different Y-DNA haplogroups listed to the right are a function of the “Terminal SNP,” meaning the SNP that tested positive furthest out towards the tip of the branch of the tree. Four matches have had additional SNP testing which shows their terminal SNP to be either Z30754 or M217.

This gentleman can then view his 67, 37, 25 and 12 marker matches by clicking on that dropdown.

He can also e-mail any of his matches by clicking on the envelope icon or view their trees by clicking on the pedigree icon.

Results

Next, let’s look at the Y-STR results for 67 markers. This page should really probably say “raw results,” because as many people say, “it’s just a page of numbers.”

This page shows your values and mutations at specific markers – in other words, what makes you both different from other people and the same as people you match, which means you share a common ancestor at some point in time in the not too distant past.

The beauty of these numbers, is, of course, in what they tell us in context of matching other people. You can’t have matches without these numbers. You also can’t have maps or anything else without the raw mutation information.

HaploTree and SNP Page

STR markers show mutations in recent timeframes, generally within the past 500-800 years, but SNPs take you back into antiquity – just like your family pedigree chart – working from closest to further back in time .

Your Haplotree and SNP page shows you the tree for your haplogroup – in this case C – designated by SNP M216, shown at the very top, along with all branches of the tree. The branches and leaves are color coded based on whether you have tested for that particular SNP, and if so, whether you were positive, meaning you carry the mutation, or negative, meaning you don’t.

SNP Map

The SNP map shows you cluster locations worldwide where any selected SNP is found.

Matches Maps

One of my favorite tools is the Matches Map because it shows the most distant ancestor for all of your matches that have provided that information.

Hint: you MUST enter the geographic information through the link at the bottom of this map (below) for YOUR ancestor to be displayed on THIS map and also on the maps of your matches.

You can also display your match list by clicking on the link beneath the map. You can click on the pins on the map to display the accompanying information.

Note the legend, as your exact matches are shown in red, 1 step mutations in orange, 2 steps in yellow, and so forth. Be sure to look for clusters, and note that if there are multiple people listed in the same location, their pins will stack on top of each other.

For example, in this case, the orange pin shown has two people’s ancestors in that location, including this tester, and a relevant cluster is clearly shown in Nova Scotia.

Migration and Frequency Maps

Are you wondering how your ancestor and his ancestors arrived where you first find them?

The haplogroup Migration Maps shows you the path from Africa to wherever they are found – in this case, the Americas.

The Frequency Map then shows you how much of the New World population is branches of haplogroup C.

Haplogroup Origins

The Haplogroup Origins tool shows the distribution of the haplogroup, by region, by match type and count.  Please note that you can click on any graphic to enlarge.

For example, this person has one 111 marker C-Z30765 match in Canada.

Ancestral Origins

The Ancestral Origins page shows matches by country along with any comments. These matches don’t have any comments, but comments might be Ashkenazi or MDKO (most distant known origin) when US is given.

Advanced Matching Combines Tools

Another of my favorite tools is the Advanced Matching tool, available under the Tools and Apps tab.

Advanced Matches is a wonderful tool that allows you to combine test types. For example, let’s say that you want to know if any of the people you match on the Y DNA test are also showing up as a match on the Family Finder test. You could further limit match results by project as well.

Be sure to click on “show only people I match in all selected tests” or you’ll receive the combined list of all matches, not just the people who match on BOTH tests, which is what you want.

In this example, I’ve selected 12 markers and Family Finder, because I know I’m going to find a few matches for illustration.

Of course, for adoptees, finding someone with whom you match closely on the Family Finder test AND match exactly (or nearly) on the Y DNA test would be very suggestive of a patrilineal common ancestor in a recent timeframe.

Projects

We started our discussion about Y DNA haplogroups by referencing two different haplogroup C projects. Family Tree DNA has over 9000 projects for you to select from.  The good news is that you really don’t have to limit your selections, because you can join an unlimited number of projects.

Thankfully, you don’t have to browse through all the available projects.

  • Haplogroup projects are categorized by Y or mtDNA and then by subgroup where appropriate.
  • Surname projects exist as well and are searchable for your genealogy lines.
  • Geographical projects cover everything else, from geographies such as the Denmark project to the American Indian project.

Some projects focus on Y DNA, some on mtDNA and some include both.  Additionally, some projects welcome people with autosomal results that pertain to that family surname or region.  Every project is run by one or more volunteer administrators that define the focus of the project.

To help people select relevant projects, project administrators can enter surnames that pertain to their project so that Family Tree DNA can match your surname to the project list to provide you with a menu of candidate projects to join.

Of course, you’ll need to read the project description for each project to see if the project actually pertains to you. You can see what is available for other surnames by utilizing the “Search by Surname” function, at the bottom of the menu.

You can also scroll down and browse in a number of ways in addition to surname.

All testers should join their haplogroup project so that everyone can benefit from collaboration.

You can join and manage your projects from your home page by clicking on the Projects tab on the upper left, shown below.

Y DNA Summary

I hope this overview has provided you with some good reasons to test your Y DNA or to better understand your results if you’ve already tested.

If you are a male and are interested in testing a line that is not your surname line, or if you are a female and you can’t test, you can find a male who descends from the ancestral line in question through all males and recruit that gentleman to test.  You can also check existing surname projects to see if someone from your line has already tested.

Y DNA holds the secrets of your patrilineal line. You never know what you don’t know unless you test. You don’t know what kind of surprises are waiting for you – and let’s face it, our ancestors are always full of surprises!

Y DNA Order Options

Family Tree DNA is the only company that offers this type of testing.  Ordering options include 37, 67 and 111 marker tests. You can also order 12 and 25 marker tests within projects. I suggest testing at the highest level the budget will allow, but no less than 37 markers. Most people have matches. Some people have a lot of matches and need the 111 marker test to more fully refine their matches to just the ones that may be genealogically relevant.

You can always upgrade later to a higher marker level later, but the combined original test plus upgrade cost more separately than just purchasing the larger test out the gate. It’s really a personal decision based on your goals and your budget.

Discounts

If you have never tested at Family Tree DNA, you can obtain a discount any day of the week by joining through your surname project. Just click here and then enter your surname into the Project Search box, shown upper right below.  I’ve typed Estes for purposes of illustration.

You will be shown a list of projects (at left above) where the various project administrators have indicated that someone with your surname might be interest in their project. Read the project descriptions, then click on the resulting project that best suits your situation – generally your surname – Estes above for example. You will automatically be joined to the project you select when you order a product, shown below. After you order, you can join multiple projects.

Next, click on the test level you wish to order.

By virtue of comparison, the project pricing for 37, 67 and 111 markers, above, saves you $20 off the regular price if you don’t order through a project.

If you already have a kit number at Family Tree DNA and have ordered other products, you can sign in, upgrade and order your Y DNA test by clicking here.

Happy ancestor hunting!

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

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

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

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

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.