RootsTech Connect 2021: Comprehensive DNA Session List

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

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

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

Two things first.

Sales Extended

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

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

MyHeritage has extended their RootsTech deals too.

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

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

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

RootsTech Sessions

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

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

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

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

Top 10 Most-Viewed Sessions

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

Drum roll please…

The top 10 most viewed sessions as of today are:

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

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

Sessions by Speaker

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

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

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

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

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How Can YOU Get Theories of Family Relativity at MyHeritage?

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and we have a gift from MyHeritage – two gifts actually.

First, MyHeritage is offering free access for everyone to all marriage records, including international records, through February 16th, here.

New Theories of Family Relativity

However, from a genetic genealogy perspective, MyHeritage‘s new Theories of Family Relativity (TOFR) results are a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift.

The email that I received indicates that the total theories produced for everyone in the database has increased by 19%, from 33,373,070 to 39,845,078 in just 5 months, and the number of DNA testers who have at least one TOFR has increased by 20%.

If you didn’t have Theories before, you may now. If you did have Theories before, you will want to check for new ones.

What Generates New Theories?

Of course, some of this increase is due to the holiday tests that are now available for matching in the system.

Some new Theories are a result of people who have uploaded or constructed trees who didn’t have trees before.

Some new Theories are because people have linked their DNA to a tree where it was not previously linked. If your DNA kit is not associated with “you” on a tree, the system has no way of knowing “who” you are in your tree, and therefore can’t generate theories about how you are related to other testers.

If you don’t have TOFRs, check and make sure that your kit is assigned to “you” on your tree. Under the DNA tab, select “Manage DNA Kits” and check to be sure all of the kits that you manage are properly assigned.

click on images to enlarge

What’s New?

I’m anxious to see what’s new for me.

MyHeritage completed the previous TOFR run in September 2020, so just shy of 5 months ago. At that time, I had a total of 67 matches with Theories. Today, I have a total of 73 for an increase of 8%.

You can check to see how many Theories you have by clicking on the DNA Match “Filters” then the “Theories of Family Relativity” option which displays only matches that have associated Theories. Follow the red arrows.

You can also review each Theory by clicking on Review DNA Match, which includes other information about that match.

I can quickly see which theories are new and I haven’t worked with before because I make notes when I have a new theory. When you have recorded a note, the little “conversation” icon is purple. You can see that with the green arrow, above.

Enabling Theories to Form

Like everyone else, I want more Theories to form, so I’ve intentionally been fleshing out the branches of my tree to encourage TOFR formation.

Theories are formed for people with whom you are a DNA match if one or more of the following conditions occur:

  • Your tree and their tree can be connected directly.

For example, let’s say our common ancestor is three generations back in time meaning we share great-grandparents, but my match has only their grandparents entered – nothing more. I have entered our common ancestor and all of their children in my tree, including the grandparents of my match.

My Heritage connects-the-dots between our trees through the grandparents of my match who appear in both trees.

  • Your tree and your match’s tree can be connected through other people’s trees.

Using this same example, let’s say that my match and I both have only entered our individual grandparents in our trees. A third person in the system has a tree that includes our common ancestor, our great-grandparents. The third person’s tree includes my match’s grandparent and my grandparent too.

Again, MyHeritage connects-the-dots between the three trees, making multiple “hops.”

Here’s one of my new Theories that connects me and the other tester through two separate tree connection “hops” with very high confidence, 100%, that the identical people are being connected.

MyHeritage generated 5 possible paths of connection for this match using different trees, so be sure to take a look at all different theories for each match. You’ll see those on the upper left-hand corner of the TOFR page.

  • Your tree and your match’s tree can be connected using some combination of trees and documents.

Let’s say that my match has only entered their grandparents. I have our common ancestors, our great-grandparents in my tree, but I don’t have their grandparent listed as the child of my (our) great-grandparents. MyHeritage may find a census record, for example, that connects those dots.

Multiple theories through different pathways may be suggested for the same match – and it’s important to evaluate every piece of data. They are called Theories for a reason. They aren’t always accurate, but they make great hints and, for me, they are generally either correct or close. Close enough that I can figure out the rest.

Priming the Pump

What can you do to help Theories form, aside from testing, uploading or creating a tree, and linking your DNA kit to “you” in your tree?

  • Add descendant generations to your tree with as much information as you have for each person including spouse, birth and death dates and locations, in addition to children. The further down the branches you populate your tree, the more information there is for MyHeritage to use to connect the branches.

MyHeritage generates both Smart Matches and Record Matches for every person in your tree. MyHeritage will notify you via email when Smart or Record matches are generated. That’s how I found over 800 newspaper records for my grandfather’s family containing juicy information I never knew – and there’s no other way to find out today.

You can view each category on the person’s profile card. Hmmm, looks like I need to get busy😊

Additional ways to help Theories form include:

  • Accept SmartMatches when appropriate. SmartMatches are tree matches generated to confirm that the person in question is the same person. That doesn’t mean the information has to match exactly. Accepting a SmartMatch doesn’t mean that information will be automatically imported into your tree. You will be able to select each individual field, or no fields at all. Confirmation simply means you agree that this IS the same person, and you are then given the option to import information if you wish.
  • Reject SmartMatches if the suggestion is actually the wrong person. This helps the system “learn.”
  • Confirm Record Matches if they are accurate. Record matches are generated when physical records or records from other databases are generated for an individual in your tree. Like Smart Matches, you can import data from Record Matches after confirming the match.
  • Reject Record Matches if they are not for the same person in your tree.

Test or Transfer, Either One

Of course, you’ll only have TOFRs at MyHeritage if you’ve tested or transferred your DNA.

You can order a test now for only $59 during the Valentine’s Day Sale, here, or you can transfer your DNA to MyHeritage from either Ancestry, 23andMe or FamilyTreeDNA which includes matching and basic tools at MyHeritage for free. The advanced tools including Theories of Family Relativity cost $29 per test to unlock unless you are a paid MyHeritage subscriber – in which case, advanced DNA features are free for any upload and there is no unlock fee. You can try a free MyHeritage trial subscription, here.

After you take a DNA test at MyHeritage or transfer, you’ll need to wait for the next TOFR run to have Theories, but if you test or transfer now and create or upload a tree, you’ll be the recipient of Theories the next time they are generated. You’ll also have time to work on fleshing out your tree and working with Smart Matches and Record Matches to learn more about your ancestors and to increase the odds of obtaining Theories.

You can order a DNA test, here, and you can transfer to MyHeritage, here. If you need assistance, I’ve written step-by-step transfer instructions, here.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revealing Your Mother’s Ancestors & Where They Came From

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

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

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

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

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

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

When and Where?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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

Triangulation Resources In One Place

I’ve written a number of articles about autosomal DNA triangulation.

I’ve created this repository to provide gather various resources all in one place to make it easier for you to find what you need.

Triangulation Concepts and Tools

What is triangulation, why it is important for genealogy, and how does one go about triangulating? More importantly, why do genealogists care?

In a nutshell, triangulation allows you to discover or confirm your ancestors or ancestral lines when:

  • You match at least two other people (who are not close relatives) on the same reasonably sized segment of DNA.
  • Those matches also match each other on a reasonably sized portion of the same DNA segment where you match both of them.
  • You identify a common ancestor or ancestral couple who passed that segment to all of the people who match on that segment of DNA.

I’ve written two articles that explain chromosome matching, triangulation, and how to use a chromosome browser.

This article explains chromosome matching and triangulation step-by-step to help you sort through your matches.

A chromosome browser is essential to genetic genealogy and specifically, to triangulation, allowing you to visualize your DNA matches on your chromosomes. This article starts at the beginning with what a chromosome browser looks like and explains each step along the way.

It’s important to understand that some people will match you, but won’t match either of your parents, or wouldn’t if your parents were both available to test. The technique of triangulation removes the issue of “false matches” which aren’t identical by descent, because you inherited that DNA segment from an ancestor through one of your parents, but are instead “identical by chance.”

If you’d like to utilize X matching, you’ll want to read this article. The X chromosome has a unique inheritance path, is treated differently by various vendors and you’ll need to evaluate X matches differently.

Genetic Affairs has numerous tools that facilitate and assist with different aspects of triangulation including their AutoClusters, AutoTree, AutoPedigree and AutoSegment features.

How to Triangulate?

Each of the major vendors, except Ancestry, provides a chromosome browser along with some type of triangulation tool. Additionally, third parties who do not perform DNA testing offer great supplemental tools. GEDmatch and DNAPainter both provide triangulation tools, allowing you to take advantage of matches from multiple vendors.

I’ve written step-by-step articles detailing how to utilize triangulation at each vendor:

FamilyTreeDNA is the only vendor that provides built-in parental phasing, even if your own parents haven’t tested. You’ll want to either test at or transfer your DNA file (free) to Family Tree DNA, then pay the $19 unlock for advanced tools. As an added benefit, you can also test and obtain matches to your Y DNA (paternal or surname line) if you’re a male and mitochondrial DNA (mother’s matrilineal line) for either sex in order to further your genealogical research.

MyHeritage is the only vendor to incorporate a triangulation tool with shared matches and AutoClusters into their solution. Of course, MyHeritage also provides traditional genealogical research records that they combine with DNA matches and trees in their Theories of Family Relativity feature, showing potential tree connections between you and your matches to common ancestors. You’ll want to either test at or transfer your DNA file to MyHeritage (free), then pay the $29 unlock for advanced tools.

23andMe doesn’t call triangulation by that name, but they provide the functionality, nonetheless. While 23andMe doesn’t support trees in the normal genealogical manner, they are the only vendor who has created a sort of genetic tree, giving you an idea of how your closest matches may fit into a family tree positionally. You can’t transfer files to 23andMe, so if you want to be in their database, you’ll need to test there.

GEDmatch does not provide DNA testing, but they do provide additional tools. You will find a number of people who have tested at Ancestry and other vendors, then transferred to GEDmatch to use their chromosome browser and other tools to obtain additional matches. GEDmatch is the only vendor who triangulates all of your matches at one time – providing a comprehensive report. You’ll want to transfer your DNA kit to GEDmatch (free) and subscribe to their Tier1 Level to utilize their advanced tools.

DNAPainter doesn’t provide DNA testing but does provide a critical service by facilitating the painting of your DNA matches on your chromosomes, identified by ancestor. This allows you to “walk the segment back in time,” meaning to identify the oldest ancestor to whom you can identify a specific segment. I utilize DNAPainter as a central location to house all of my identified segments from all vendors. You can get started by checking out the DNAPainter Instructions and Resources, here.

Testing and Transferring

It’s important to identify as many triangulated segments as possible, which means it‘s crucial to be in all the databases that support triangulation and provide tools.

All major vendors allow you to download your DNA raw data file once you’ve tested, but not all vendors support uploading other vendors’ files instead of purchasing their test.

You can upload (at least) recent versions of other vendors DNA data files to:

The following vendors do NOT support uploads, but you can download your DNA file from these vendors and upload to the vendors above:

I wrote step-by-step instructions about how to download your files from each vendor and uploading them to vendors who accept uploads in the article, DNA File Upload-Download and Transfer Instructions to and from DNA Testing Companies.

Up your genealogy game by transferring and triangulating.

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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

Utilizing MyHeritage AutoClusters to Analyze your DNA Matches

AutoClusters are so much fun and can provide tons of information. I’m going to step through how to analyze your cluster matches easily and productively in conjunction with the MyHeritage tools, but first, a little light housekeeping.

First, please note that this article was presented as a webinar for MyHeritage as part of the MyHeritageDNA Facebook LIVE series. You can watch it anytime, free, at the permanent link, here, courtesy of MyHeritage and me. However, everyone learns differently, and some people do better with written instructions. You can follow the step-by-step instructions in this article.

Second, AutoClusters are a built-in advanced DNA tool at MyHeritage for customers who either:

I would encourage the subscription because many of the MyHeritage tools function best with a large tree. While MyHeritage does offer free trees of up to 250 people, to take full advantage of your DNA test plus tools, you’ll want a larger tree. Subscription features and pricing can be found here and you can try a free trial subscription here.

Third, if you’d like to transfer your DNA file from another vendor, I wrote step-by-step instructions, here.

Fourth, MyHeritage is having a $49 Halloween DNA sale, here, with free shipping if you purchase 2 kits.

And last, Genetic Affairs, the author of AutoClusters, provides additional functionality on their own website for use with FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe. Customers at Genetic Affairs cannot access MyHeritage data from the Genetic Affairs website since MyHeritage contracts with Genetic Affairs to provide AutoClusters directly to MyHeritage customers at no additional charge. I only mention this because the functionality described in this article and in the companion webinar discusses the functionality by using a combination of AutoClusters and the unique tools available only at MyHeritage.

Ok, housekeeping complete – on to AutoClusters!

Get yourself a cup of coffee or tea. We’re taking a deep dive here, beginning to end, but keep in mind that you don’t have to do everything that’s possible initially, or ever. It’s OK to take baby steps. Just know that AutoClusters can be a superpower to breaking down brick walls. Not only that, AutoClusters are simply FUN!

Let’s start with a basic question.

What is an AutoCluster and Why Do I Care?

An AutoCluster is an artful bouquet of hints, arranged by family group in a puzzle format.

AutoCluster technology, a form of genetic networks, is a way to display your matches who match you and who also match each other in a meaningful, colored-coded group. Each group, or cluster, shares a common ancestral line, somehow. That “how” discovery, or better stated, “which ancestor” discovery is up to you – but clusters provide huge hints!

We’re genealogists, right – we live for hints. Let’s take a look at how this works.

I would suggest reading through this article the first time, then working through the steps as you read it a second time with your own AutoCluster. Don’t worry, I’ll show you how to request one.

This example of my own AutoCluster report, which I’ll be using throughout this article, shows three different clusters.

Everyone within a cluster matches you, but not everyone matches each other. Each cluster is represented by colored cells, each of which represent the intersection of two people who match each other. In the third yellow cluster, everyone matches each other except for two people who don’t match each other.

Grey cells fall into both of the two clusters they are between. For example, the grey cells to the right of the red cluster in the red box match people in both the first red and second tan cluster.

What this means is that once you’ve identified the genesis of each cluster, you know that people who are grey members of both clusters descend from both lines which could represent the two people in an ancestor couple. In my tree, my maternal great-grandfather Joseph Bolton married Margaret Claxton/Clarkson, and I expect the grey people descend from this couple or from both lines individually. One way or another, they match people from both clusters.

The grey people are an additional hint – so don’t neglect them. In fact, some of these grey squares can be even more important that people within clusters because they span two clusters.

Ok, so how do I generate an AutoCluster at MyHeritage?

Requesting an AutoCluster

You’ll find the AutoCluster featured under the DNA menu, under DNA Tools.

Click “Explore.”

If you manage multiple kits, be sure to select the right kit for the right person.

In my case, I have a transfer kit, then I tested at MyHeritage for the health product, so I have two kits. A MyHeritage kit shows with the MH prefix, while a transfer kit shows a different prefix.

The matches and AutoClusters are slightly different between the two kits because the tests are run on different DNA chips.

click to enlarge

After selecting the correct kit, just click on the purple “Generate” button. Note that if your parents have tested, generating an AutoCluster for one or both of them will help you immensely with your own AutoCluster. If both of your parents have tested, you may want to work only with their AutoCluster reports, and not your own. They will have people in their clusters that you don’t because you didn’t inherit that particular piece of DNA from your parents.

Next, you’ll see a message informing you that your AutoCluster is being generated and will be sent to the email registered to your account.

Queue up Jeopardy countdown thinking music

Just a few minutes later, my AutoCluster arrived in my email box. (Note – check your spam folder.)

If you request multiple AutoClusters for different tests or accounts at the same time, take care not to mix them up. Voice of experience here…

You’ll receive 3 items in zip file. I save my files to my computer.

  • Readme file
  • HTML (with the colored circle)
  • Spreadsheet which is a different format of the html file

I don’t know how well the HTML file and the spreadsheet will display on non-computer devices, although I know the HTML file does display on an iPad. I generally work from my computer.

The HTML File

Just click on the HTML file to display your AutoClusters. You’ll get to enjoy seeing them “flying into place,” assembling into clusters. I told you these were fun!

You can play around a bit with options, but “cluster” is the default view and the only one we’re covering in this article.

Each colored cluster is a group of interrelated matches.

I have a total of 18 clusters.

Scroll towards the bottom to view the parameters used to generate the clusters.

click to enlarge

These parameters are not adjustable and have been optimized by MyHeritage to perform well for all customers, including testers with significant endogamy, such as people with Jewish heritage. At the system-generated threshold, I have 100 qualifying matches. Note that the system optimizes the thresholds individually for each person, and your thresholds might be slightly different than mine.

  • Min threshold 40 cM (often this level of match is in the 5C or more distant range)
  • Max threshold 350 cM (closer than 350 would probably be 1C or closer)
  • Shared DNA match minimum threshold 15 cM (overlap of matching DNA)

You’re probably wondering – where are the highest matches such as parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, etc.?

Close family members would be in many clusters. Placing one person into more than two clusters is simply not technically possible due to the constraints of a two-dimensional grid medium, so close family matches are excluded from clusters as to not be confusing. You can still use close family members in shared matching. In fact, they are extremely useful and we will discuss that shortly.

Fly your cursor over the cluster to view the cluster members and their match status to each other. In the grid, each person who matches another has a colored cell. In this example, my cursor is pointing to the cell where “cro” matches Bonnie. Names are obscured for privacy.

Scroll on down below the cluster box to view additional information about each member of the cluster. Many people don’t realize there’s more because they are excited about viewing their clusters and miss this important information about the cluster members beneath the grid.

click to enlarge

Your notes are critically important and you can search by notes. When I identify how someone is related to me, or even clues, I record that information in the notes. I SHOULD have recorded “TOFR” for the matches who have Theories of Family Relativity, and I have gone back and done that now. We’ll talk about TOFRs in a minute.

You may be able to identify the common line or ancestral couple based on the matches alone. Note that these matches may not all be from the same generation. For example, I have some matches in this group who descend from various Claxton ancestors, spanning at least 4 generations. That commonality is how I know the cluster is “Claxton/Clarkson” and not from one of their wives – at least to the most distant generation where I’m stuck.

Matches can span many generations in a “line” and probably involve multiple DNA segments, especially in larger clusters.

Click on “Tree” to view the tree of your match.

Click on “Name” to review their DNA match with you.

Note that your match may match you on more than one line and possibly on both parents’ sides. Inclusion in this cluster simply tells you they match on this line and does not eliminate any other lines.

Now, let’s begin our cluster analysis and drill down.

Select the Best Match

I always begin my analysis with what I think is the “best” match in a cluster.

  • Best could be the largest tree.
  • Best could be the largest match.
  • Best could be the largest number of ICW (in common with) cluster matches.
  • Best is any match with a TOFR (Theory of Family Relativity)

I make notes for all TOFR matches, after verifying, of course, indicating the common ancestors. I also note “TOFR” so I know, when looking at clusters, why I assigned that specific ancestor. When you have a TOFR, MyHeritage has already done the heavy lifting for you.

I note matches’ inclusion in a cluster to remind me to check those clustered matches first. When a match is in a cluster, AutoCluster has done the heavy lifting for you.

The key to success is to utilize multiple tools, together.

Like what?

The Success Triumvirate

Successfully identifying clusters, ancestors and how each person matches you is accomplished through a combination of three primary tools. I call this the “Success Triumvirate” because the three are quite interwoven.

We are going to use all three of these tools, together, so let’s talk about them individually briefly.

Theories of Family Relativity (TOFR)

TOFRs are super hints – theories about which common ancestors your matches share with you.

I wrote about Theories of Family Relativity complete with step-by-step instructions:

TOFRs connect you to your DNA matches by identifying a potential ancestor through a succession of trees and documents from different sources. You can do a number of things to help TOFRs, (and yourself), along.

  • TOFR formation requires a tree, so create one at MyHeritage, using their free TreeBuilder on your computer, or upload a tree that you’ve already created elsewhere.
  • TOFR does best if you complete the tree through grandchildren of each ancestor, at least, if possible, for each generation. Think of each person as a hand reaching out to latch on to the same person in another person’s tree. The more hands, the better your odds of success.
  • Include birth/death date and location, or as much as you know.
  • Accept Smart Matches where appropriate.
  • Make notes. Notes keep you from retracing your own steps.

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A TOFR connection as offered by MyHeritage may not be exactly accurate, but the common ancestor may be accurately identified anyway. For example, in the above TOFR, Margaret Claxton did not marry William Luke Monday, her sister did. The TOFR isn’t exactly correct, but the common ancestors are easily identified. I can take it from this point – no problem.

Always check to see if multiple TOFR paths exist because important hints may be hidden in those links. Think of yourself as a sleuth😊

Let’s take a look at one cousin in this Claxton cluster, Bonnie. What can we learn, and how? Let’s review Bonnie’s DNA match to me.

Reviewing Bonnie’s DNA Match

Clicking on “Review DNA Match” with Bonnie shows me a host of information divided into sections, beginning with a TOFR.

Bonnie Has a TOFR – Hot Diggity!

The first thing we see is that Bonnie does have a TOFR with the tester (me), so we can identify a potential common ancestor.

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Not only that, but Bonnie has a fairly robust tree of 4043 people, so she must be interested in genealogy at some level.

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Not only that, but there are two separate potential “paths” that connect me and Bonnie at a potential common ancestor. One may be more accurate than the other. Be sure to check all paths.

I can click on the little green dots that bridge trees by connecting what the system believes to be the same ancestor to view and evaluate that information.

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Clicking on this green dot would display the match criteria from both trees.

In this case, the weighted match was 76%. The information for Margaret herself was mostly the same, but her husband(s) and children were different due to the inaccuracy of showing her married to her brother-in-law.

Evaluate all TOFRs, links, trees and hints for accuracy. They aren’t gospel.

Another great source of hints is Smart Matches. You may, and probably will, have Smart Matches with people’s trees who are not DNA matches to you. Smart Matches are not necessarily connected to DNA matches specifically, but they do help TOFR form accurately.

Bonnie Has Smart Matches!

MyHeritage generates Smart Matches WITHOUT factoring in genetic matching. Smart Matches occur when enough common factors exist between a person in your tree and a person in another tree whether you are a DNA match with that person or not.

If you have Smart Matches with a DNA match, they will be listed when you review your DNA match with that person.

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To determine whether or not this Smart Match could be relevant to your DNA autocluster, be sure to notice whether this is a direct ancestor of both people. To be relevant to DNA, the Smart Match must be for a direct ancestor or at least lead to a direct ancestor.

Next, click “Review Smart Match.”

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The first thing you’re going to see is “Confirm Match,” and as a genealogist, that stopped me dead in my tracks.

That’s skull-and-crossbones frightening. I don’t know what “confirm match” means or does? Does it mean that all of their information will automatically be copied to my tree if I click that button? I certainly DON’T WANT THAT!!!

I may not want the “Improved Info” either. That information may not actually be improved. What do I do?

For a long time, I did nothing because I didn’t want to mess something up – but doing nothing isn’t the right answer either – because confirming Smart Matches helps TOFRs for everyone.

I wish MyHeritage provided a bit more information here, because “Confirm Match” doesn’t import any information into your tree automatically. You have the opportunity to review everything first.

There are two questions at this point you need to ask and answer independently:

  1. Is this the same person?
  2. If so, do I want any of this data to be imported to my tree?

If it IS the same person, go ahead and confirm – you’ll get to review each new or “improved” item at that point.

If it’s NOT the same person, scroll to the bottom of the page and reject the match.

In this example, Nicholas Speak is the same person, so I’ve clicked on “Confirm Match” which then allows me to review each piece of information that is different, individually. If I want to import that information into my tree, I click on the little arrow to bring the information into my tree, replacing mine. If I do nothing, no information is copied to my tree. It’s that simple. If I make a mistake, I can always edit my own information.

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Bonnie Has Shared Ancestral Surnames!

Another hint for DNA matches is “Shared Ancestral Surnames.” If you can’t figure out how you are related, take a look at these. Of course, Smith is extremely common, but groups of shared surnames are a huge hint, especially if you also have shared locations.

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You may discover more than one line that connects you to this tester – which sometimes makes things a little more complicated! That’s when location can become a life-saver.

Bonnie Has Shared Ancestral Places!

Shared ancestral places can be very useful, even if you can’t identify common surnames, especially in cases where surnames may not be useful. Unknown parent events and adoptions have always occurred, and a specific location may go a long way in terms of identifying the ancestors of both parties that may be related.

Purple pins with numbers mean you BOTH have ancestors from that location. Bonnie and I share 65 ancestors from one place. I definitely need to evaluate that location!

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Clicking on Tennessee shows the pins in that location. Clicking on a specific pin displays the ancestors from that location.

Note that the purple “65” pin location revealed this common ancestor whose surname is spelled differently in our trees. This surname transitioned back and forth, so there I no “right” or “wrong” way to spell it. However, a different spelling may keep the person from being recognized as the same individual by computer software.

Now, let’s review Bonnie’s shared DNA match information.

Bonnie’s Shared DNA Matches

We know that each of the people in the first cluster match the tester, me, and all but 3 (yellow stars) of the people who match me in the first cluster also match Bonnie

However, don’t think for one minute that there are only 8 people who match me and Bonnie both. There are only 8 who match us both AND are included in the cluster. These are judged to be out “best” common matches.

Looking at my DNA match with Bonnie, I see that there are 162 total shared matches.

The balance, other than the 8 in the cluster, did not meet all of the match threshold ranges to be included in the cluster. In other words, shared matches not in the cluster were either less than 40 cM or more than 350 cM, or the shared piece of the matching segment was less than 15 cM. In other words, the matches in the cluster are the strongest shared matches, other than close relatives, but they certainly aren’t the only shared matches.

I match Bonnie on two segments, one on chromosome 13 and one on chromosome 16.

Just because someone matches me and Bonnie, both, doesn’t necessarily mean the match is on the same segment. For example, they could match me on chromosome 10 and Bonnie on chromosome 1, while Bonnie and I match each other on chromosomes 13 and 16.

However, there’s certainly a good chance that someone matches us both on the same segment(s).

Reviewing the cluster matches between me and Bonnie, we discover the following information regarding these two specific segments on chromosome 13 and 16, only.

Shared Match with Bonnie Triangulation Chromosome & Location
Sharon Yes Chr 16 only
Renee Yes Chr 16 only
Wilma Yes Chr 16 only
John Yes Chr 16 only
Celeste Yes Chr 16 only
Shirley No Neither
Carolyn Yes Chr 16 only
Ray No Neither

Six people match me and Bonnie both on chromosome 16, none match me and Bonnie both on chromosome 13, so that means that both Shirley and Ray match both of us on a completely different chromosome segment.

Now, of course, the question becomes if those 6 people match Bonnie and me on the same or at least an overlapping portion of chromosome 16.

Triangulation

Triangulation, which I wrote about here, occurs when the tester matches two or more people on the same reasonably sized segment of DNA, and they also match each other on that same segment. The “matching each other” part is important, because it verifies the match is from the same side, Mom or Dad, and from a common ancestor, not identical by chance (IBC).

I wrote about identical by chance here, but in essence, IBC means that a piece of your Mom’s DNA and a piece of your Dad’s DNA accidentally combined in you to look like a match with someone else, but it’s a false positive. You do technically “match” that other person, but it’s because of chance recombination, not because you share DNA from a common ancestor on one side of your family or the other.

The matching to other known family members on that segment is the clue to eliminating IBC matches from comparisons. Each of your valid matches will match one of your parents, or the other. If your match doesn’t also match one or the other parent, it’s not a valid match.

This is known as parental phasing and is why it’s extremely important to have both or one of your parents test, if possible.

If the tester’s parents have tested, each of your cluster matches will match to one parent or the other in addition to the people in the cluster.

Bonnie Has Triangulated Matches!

At MyHeritage, when you review shared matches, you can see if your match triangulates with you by the presence of a little purple triangulate icon.

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Looking at my shared match list with Bonnie, I see Wilma has a purple icon, indicating triangulation between Wilma, Bonnie and me. Woohooo!

Clicking on the purple triangulate icon shows me the common triangulated segment(s).

In this case, Bonnie, Wilma and I only triangulate on one segment, on chromosome 16. Do the other cluster members also triangulate with Bonnie, Wilma and me on this segment? The ones who have a triangulation icon should since I’ve already determined that they only match me on chromosome 16 in common with Bonnie. Let’s see.

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I added the other people in the match cluster to see who else triangulates on any portion of chromosome 16. Just type the names from the cluster into the DNA match name box below the profile cards in the chromosome browser to add each person to the view.

Only the triangulated portion for all people compared is bracketed. That’s so important to remember. In the example above, all people match me and each other on the bracketed portion of chromosome 16.

In this example, two of the people compared do NOT triangulate on this segment, so no bracket is drawn. This might lead you to think that the three people whose DNA matches the tester on the same segment don’t also match each other – but you can’t assume.

If you remove the two people not matching on the segment from the chromosome browser, the other three now show the triangulation bracket.

Triangulated segments provide evidence that a specific segment descends from a common ancestor. The challenge, of course, is to identify the ancestors who contributed that segment generationally through time.

I wrote about triangulation at MyHeritage in the article Triangulation in Action at MyHeritage.

Downloads

You can only compare a maximum of 7 people at a time in the chromosome browser, but you can download your entire match list in a spreadsheet and work from there. I do that often.

There are three different downloads that provide different information and serve a different purpose.

Chromosome Browser Match Download

Scroll down to the bottom of the chromosome browser page to download the matching segments (to you) of the people shown on the browser at that time.

You can download the segments for the current matches showing in the chromosome browser by clicking on advanced options on that page.

Click on “Download shared DNA info.”

This download will happen immediately to your system. I use this technique when chromosome painting matches identified to a particular ancestor at DNAPainter. I also note for each match when I’ve painted their matching segments so I don’t waste time doing it twice.

The second and third download options are found on your DNA Match page.

Export Full Match List and Shared DNA Segments

By moving to your main DNA match page, you can download:

  • Your DNA match list which downloads information about each of your matches
  • Your matching DNA segments for all matches

By clicking on the three dots, you will see the two download/export options. Those two files hold different information.

The “entire DNA matches list” provides information ABOUT your matches, such as:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Country
  • Contact link
  • DNA manager
  • Status (new)
  • Estimated relationship
  • Total cMs
  • Percent shared DNA
  • Number of shared segments
  • Largest segment
  • Link to review DNA match
  • Has tree (yes/no)
  • Number of people in tree
  • Tree manager
  • Contract tree link
  • Number of smart matches
  • Shared ancestral surnames
  • All ancestral surnames
  • Notes

This is important, and I use this file a lot because it provides all of the information in one place and I don’t have to click on each match to evaluate. Plus, I can search and sort to my heart’s content.

Option two, the entire “shared segment DNA info” match list will show all matches, including maternal, paternal and IBC. It’s up to you to figure out which are which, but we have lots of tools and hints.

Your shared segment spreadsheet provides information about the shared DNA, only.

Let’s start by looking at Bonnie again.

Bonnie and Chromosome 16 on the Spreadsheet

Here are my two segment matches with Bonnie in the spreadsheet.

The MyHeritage tools, combined, provide you with the ability to sort your matches meaningfully into genealogically relevant clusters and identify ancestors. I’m going to utilize that information with the downloaded spreadsheet segment information.

Let’s take a look at that matching segment with Bonnie on chromosome 16.

In the shared DNA segment spreadsheet, I filtered for chromosome 16, sorted in lowest to highest order (end location, then start) and looked for matches that fall between these two locations.

In reference to the match with Bonnie, look for any match between 79914629 and 87713399.

I am showing only a partial list below. The actual number of matches to be on this segment of chromosome 16 is about three times as large as this graphic.

After downloading the spreadsheet, I added a Triangulation Group column and a comments column, at right.

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I’ve colored the cluster members yellow who match on chromosome 16 to Bonnie AND me in the cluster.

People who match me on chromosome 16 and are NOT in the cluster fall into one of the following categories:

  • Also match to me and Bonnie, but outside of the cluster threshold. You can see that there are a lot of matches below 40 cM, which immediately eliminates them from the cluster.
  • Match me and Bonnie, but on an overlapping piece of DNA not large enough to be included in a cluster – in other words, the overlap of the three people is less than 15 cM..
  • Match to me, but not Bonnie which means that either they are a match from the other parent’s side, or identical by chance.

Discerning which category each match falls into requires looking at each match and evaluating individually.

You can look at each spreadsheet row, individually, below, if you wish, but what I’d like for you to do is to focus on the groups that I created as I analyzed each match on the segment of chromosome 16 where I match Bonnie.

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  • Green row is Bonnie, our baseline person whose match is why I’m analyzing this particular segment.
  • Bright yellow shows the 6 AutoCluster triangulated chromosome 16 cluster members.
  • Lighter yellow rows are also matches and triangulations on the same segment with me and Bonnie, but not included in the AutoCluster
  • Pink indicates matches on Mom’s side on this same chromosome segment. Mom is in the database, so this is easy to discern.
  • Grey is IBC (darker) or likely IBC (lighter) meaning they don’t match either parent’s side entirely.
  • Bright red is a breakthrough!

You’ll notice that the “best” matches, meaning the ones in the cluster, are clustered together on the spreadsheet too.

The second group of matches, below, begins to have more IBC and matches to Mom’s side. A third group, which I’m not including here, is almost entirely Mom’s side.

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When I finished analyzing the matches on this segment of chromosome 16 from the AutoCluster, I had:

  • Bonnie (green) + 6 Claxton matches (bright yellow) reflecting the first cluster triangulation with Bonnie and me
  • 93 total people that matched me on some portion of chromosome 16 that I match in common with Bonnie. However, on this spreadsheet, matches to me on this segment include some matches who will not match Bonnie.
  • People not matching me and Bonnie both on this segment will include both matches on Mom’s side (pink), and IBC (grey).
  • A breakthrough (bright red) identifying this segment as Claxton, as opposed to Sarah Cook’s, James Claxton’s wife, which means that I can focus on other people with trees with common ancestors who match on that segment on Dad’s side. Someplace in those trees is the information that will someday identify James Claxton’s parents/ancestors.
  • Identified 28 (light yellow) paternal matches through this segment assigned to Claxton that match me and Bonnie, both.
  • Identified 30 (pink) Mom segments, some of which are Acadian and some of which are German. On Mom’s side, two different portions of chromosome 16 recombined from two different ancestors and I can tell where that dividing line occurs by using visual phasing and triangulation at DNAPainter.
  • Identified 26 (grey) IBC segments which are false positive (or likely false positive) matches and should be disregarded.
  • Made notes on each of those matches at MyHeritage.
  • Painted each valid segment at DNAPainter.

About That BreakThrough…

Why is this breakthrough important, and what does it tell me?

Bonnie is descended from the same Claxton line as I am, meaning she is a proven descendant of James Lee Claxton born about 1775 and his wife, Sarah Cook through their son, Fairwick/Fairwix Claxton. We don’t know where James Claxton was born, but likely in either VA or NC. He first appeared on the tax list in Russell County, VA, with no other Claxton males, not long before he married Sarah in 1799.

Bonnie and I match Jim on that same segment.

Jim’s ancestor was Solomon Claxton, born in 1801 in NC. In other words, Jim does NOT share James Claxton as a common ancestor. This means that Jim and Bonnie and I share DNA from a common Claxton ancestor. That segment of chromosome 16 cannot be from the Cook side, because Jim does not descend from the James Claxton/Sarah Cook line.

Therefore, other people who triangulate on that segment, who don’t show trees with Claxton ancestors, and have matching trees to each other will one day hold the key to our common ancestors who contributed that segment to all of us on chromosome 16.

That means I need to take the time to evaluate every one of their trees looking for their common ancestors with each other. It’s likely that common ancestor could be mine as well, or lead to mine.

Just One!!!

Remember, all of the discoveries above were made from analyzing just one chromosome segment match from the Bonnie row in the first AutoCluster. Just one!

Autoclusters intentionally only utilize your “best” non-close family member matches. This allows you to see the genetic relationships between multiple people, even without trees.

You then use the trees, TOFR, surnames, locations, Smart Matches, shared matches, triangulation, and previous research to identify the ancestral connection.

Just scanning this AutoCluster report, I can immediately discern that people share matches between groups of clusters. For example, clusters 1, 2, and 4 share members – for starters. That tells me that these clusters are related to each other. In fact, that’s exactly correct as shown after analysis when I was able to assign each cluster to either an ancestor or ancestral couple.

I discovered a HUGE amount of information researching just one common segment with one match, including a breakthrough which may, one day, if not today, lead to the identification of James Claxton’s parents.

Just think how much more there is left to discover! I need to review the match to Bonnie on chromosome 13 and the other 99 people in my AutoCluster, utilizing the same tools and techniques.

I can hardly wait to get started!

Clusters are Genetic Super-Powers

Clusters are your super-power matches. Take full advantage of them.

  • Every cluster tells a story.
  • If you can identify the common ancestors with one or two people, and it’s the same line, you’ve probably identified the genetic “cluster.”
  • Every match tells a story.
  • You may triangulate on multiple segments with different people.
  • Every individual segment tells a story
  • Each segment stands alone, meaning one segment can descend from the mother of the couple, and another segment from the father. Don’t assume that each shared segment descends from the same ancestor.
  • Don’t assume that if you match one person on two segments, that they both necessarily descend from the same line or couple. It’s possible that you are related on another, known or unknown, line.
  • Every segment match has an individual genealogical history that can lead to different ancestors, meaning that the genetic line is the same, but the ancestors may be different. You may match one person who descends from the son of another match, for example.
  • Each triangulated segment descended from common ancestors who contributed that segment to all triangulation group members.
  • The history of brick walls is held in unidentified matches to segments.

An example is worth 1000 words.

Walking Back In Time

Based on multiple triangulated matches to various people, the triangulated segment on chromosome 16 belongs to the following ancestors:

Generation Ancestor Via Match to…
1 Dad Assigned to Dad’s side via triangulated matches to known relatives
2 Ollie Bolton Culley, Stacey
3 Margaret Clarkson Fred, John
4 Samuel Claxton Wilma
5 Fairwick Claxton Joy, Eugene, Billy, I.B., Bonnie
6 James Claxton, Sarah Cook Brent, Delilah
7 Unknown Claxton parents Jim (NC), Kelsey (TN)

As you can see, based on the genealogy of my matches, I’ve walked the segment on chromosome 16 back in time 7 generations.

How do I get to generation 8?

Clusters are Genetic Super-Powers

Now I need to search the trees of matches on this same segment, but without identified common ancestors to me, looking for common lineages in their trees with each other.

This Claxton segment descended from some unknown ancestor(s) upstream of James Claxton. The key to the identity of those ancestors is held in their DNA segments and matches.

What I’m looking for are common ancestors of those chromosome 16 matches to each other. For example, if James Claxton’s father was named John Claxton and his mother was Jane Doe, finding several people with trees connecting to the Doe family would be especially relevant. Those are the more deeply hidden clues.

I need to do the exact same thing, following the same process, with each segment of every cluster match!

The solution to brick walls is held in unidentified matches to triangulated segments which point the way – like invisible “this way” arrows through that door from our ancestors.

AutoClusters are the genetic superpower!

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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

Join Me For “How to Use AutoClusters to Analyze Your DNA Matches,” Live and Free

Please accept this invitation to join me this Wednesday, October 21, at 2 PM EST, for the MyHeritage Facebook LIVE event, “How to Use AutoClusters to Analyze Your DNA Matches,” presented by yours truly! Please note that if you can’t join us for the live presentation, it will be available to view later. I’ll post a link when it becomes available – after the live session.

The live webinar is free, courtesy of MyHeritage, and me.

You can read about this event and other free October seminars in the MyHeritage blog article, here.

To view the session, simply click on the MyHeritage Facebook page, at this link, near that time and the session will appear as a posting. I can’t give you the link in advance because until the live session is occurring, there isn’t a link to post.

We will be covering how to use the AutoCluster feature that’s included for all MyHeritage DNA users, incorporating cluster information with other MyHeritage DNA tools such as Theories of Family Relativity, Smart Matches, Ancestral Surnames, Shared Matches, Locations and Triangulation to solve genealogical puzzles.

I even made a discovery when creating this workshop and I’ll share how that happened and why it’s important.

You have surprises waiting for you too. AutoCluster opens doors and breaks down brick walls.

It’s Not Too Late!

If you haven’t DNA tested at MyHeritage, you can purchase a test, here.

However, if you’ve already tested elsewhere, it’s much quicker and less expensive to upload your DNA file for free, here, and pay the $29 unlock fee to access the advanced tools, including AutoCluster. Step-by-step transfer instructions for all vendors are found, here.

Instead of paying the $29 unlock fee, you can subscribe to the MyHeritage genealogy research package and that will gain you access to the advanced DNA tools as well. You can sign up for a trial subscription for free, here.

See you on Wednesday!!!

_____________________________________________________________

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

Longobards Ancient DNA from Pannonia and Italy – What Does Their DNA Tell Us? Are You Related?

The Longobards, Lombards, also known as the Long-beards – who were they? Where did they come from? And when?

Perhaps more important – are you related to these ancient people?

In the paper, Understanding 6th-century barbarian social organizatoin and migration through paleogenomics, by Amorim et al, the authors tell us in the abstract:

Despite centuries of research, much about the barbarian migrations that took place between the fourth and sixth centuries in Europe remains hotly debated. To better understand this key era that marks the dawn of modern European societies, we obtained ancient genomic DNA from 63 samples from two cemeteries (from Hungary and Northern Italy) that have been previously associated with the Longobards, a barbarian people that ruled large parts of Italy for over 200 years after invading from Pannonia in 568 CE. Our dense cemetery-based sampling revealed that each cemetery was primarily organized around one large pedigree, suggesting that biological relationships played an important role in these early medieval societies. Moreover, we identified genetic structure in each cemetery involving at least two groups with different ancestry that were very distinct in terms of their funerary customs. Finally, our data are consistent with the proposed long-distance migration from Pannonia to Northern Italy.

Both the Germans and French have descriptions of this time of upheaval in their history. Völkerwanderung in German and Les invasions barbares in French refer to the various waves of invasions by Goths, Franks, Anglo-Saxons, Vandals, and Huns. All of these groups left a genetic imprint, a story told without admixture by their Y and mitochondrial DNA.

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The authors provide this map of Pannonia, the Longobards kingdom, and the two cemeteries with burial locations.

One of their findings is that the burials are organized around biological kinship. Perhaps they weren’t so terribly different from us today.

Much as genealogists do, the authors created a pedigree chart – the only difference being that their chart is genetically constructed and lacks names, other than sample ID.

One man is buried with a horse, and one of his relatives, a female, is not buried in a family unit but in a half-ring of female graves.

The data suggests that the cemetery in Pannonia, Szolad, shown in burgundy on the map, may have been a “single-generation” cemetery, in use for only a limited time as the migration continued westward. Collegno, in contrast, seems to have been used for multiple generations, with the burials radiating outward over time from the progenitor individual.

Because the entire cemetery was analyzed, it’s possible to identify those individuals with northern or northeastern European ancestry, east of the Rhine and north of the Danube, and to differentiate from southern European ancestry in the Lombard cemetery – in addition to reassembling their family pedigrees. The story is told, not just by one individual’s DNA, but how the group is related to each other, and their individual and group origins.

For anyone with roots in Germany, Hungary, or the eastern portion of Europe, you know that this region has been embroiled in upheaval and warfare seemingly as long as there have been people to fight over who lived in and controlled these lands.

Are You Related?

Goran Rundfeldt’s R&D group at Family Tree DNA reanalyzed the Y DNA samples from this paper and has been kind enough to provide a summary of the results. Michael Sager has utilized them to branch the Y DNA tree – in a dozen places.

Mitochondrial DNA haplogroups have been included where available from the authors, but have not been reanalyzed.

Note the comments added by FTDNA during analysis.

Many new branches were formed. I included step-by-step instructions, here, so you can see if your Y DNA results match either the new branch or any of these samples upstream.

If you’re a male and you haven’t yet tested your Y DNA or you would like to upgrade to the Big Y-700 to obtain your most detailed haplogroup, you can do either by clicking here. My husband’s family is from Hungary and I just upgraded his Y DNA test to the Big Y-700. I want to know where his ancestors came from.

And yes, this first sample really is rare haplogroup T. Each sample is linked to the Family Tree DNA public tree. We find haplogroups G and E as well as the more common R and I. Some ancient samples match contemporary testers from France (2), the UK, England, Morocco, Denmark (5), and Italy. Fascinating!

Sample: CL23
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: T-BY45363
mtDNA: H

Sample: CL30
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-P312
mtDNA: I1b

Sample: CL31
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: G-FGC693
FTDNA Comment: Authors warn of possible contamination. Y chromosome looks good – and there is support for splitting this branch. However, because of the contamination warning – we will not act on this split until more data is available.
mtDNA: H18

Sample: CL38
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: E-BY3880
mtDNA: X2

Sample: CL49
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-CTS6889

Sample: CL53
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-FGC24138
mtDNA: H11a

Sample: CL57
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-BY48364
mtDNA: H24a

Sample: CL63
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-FT104588
mtDNA: H

Sample: CL84
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-U198
mtDNA: H1t

Sample: CL92
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-S22519
mtDNA: H

Sample: CL93
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-S22519
mtDNA: J2b1a

Sample: CL94
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-DF99
mtDNA: K1c1

Sample: CL97
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-L23

Sample: CL110
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-L754

Sample: CL121
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-BY70163
FTDNA Comment: Shares 2 SNPs with a man from France. Forms a new branch down of R-BY70163 (Z2103). New branch = R-BY197053
mtDNA: T2b

Sample: CL145
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-S22519
mtDNA: T2b

Sample: CL146
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-A8472
mtDNA: T2b3

Sample: SZ1
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Study Information: The skeletal remains from an individual dating to the Bronze Age 10 m north of the cemetery.
Age: Bronze Age
Y-DNA: R-Y20746
mtDNA: J1b

Sample: SZ2
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-Z338
FTDNA Comment: Shares 5 SNPs with a man from the UK. Forms a new branch down of R-Z338 (U106). New branch = R-BY176786
mtDNA: T1a1

Sample: SZ3
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-BY3605
mtDNA: H18

Sample: SZ4
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-ZP200
FTDNA Comment: Splits R-ZP200 (U106). Derived (positive) for 2 SNPs and ancestral (negative) for 19 SNPs. New path = R-Y98441>R-ZP200
mtDNA: H1c9

Sample: SZ5
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-BY3194
FTDNA Comment: Splits R-BY3194 (DF27). Derived for 19 SNPs, ancestral for 9 SNPs. New path = R-BY3195>R-BY3194
mtDNA: J2b1

Sample: SZ6
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-P214

Sample: SZ7
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-S8104
FTDNA Comment: SZ13, SZ7 and SZ12 share 2 SNPs with a man from Denmark, forming a branch down of I-S8104 (M223). New branch = I-FT45324. Note that SZ22 and SZ24 (and even SZ14) fall on the same path to I-S8104 but lack coverage for intermediate branches.
mtDNA: T2e

Sample: SZ11
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-FGC13492
FTDNA Comment: Shares 1 SNP with a man from Italy. Forms a new branch down of R-FGC13492 (U106). New branch = R-BY138397
mtDNA: K2a3a

Sample: SZ12
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-S8104
FTDNA Comment: SZ13, SZ7 and SZ12 share 2 SNPs with a man from Denmark, forming a branch down of I-S8104 (M223). New branch = I-FT45324. Note that SZ22 and SZ24 (and even SZ14) fall on the same path to I-S8104 but lack coverage for intermediate branches.
mtDNA: W6

Sample: SZ13
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century 422-541 cal CE
Y-DNA: I-S8104
FTDNA Comment: SZ13, SZ7 and SZ12 share 2 SNPs with a man from Denmark, forming a branch down of I-S8104 (M223). New branch = I-FT45324. Note that SZ22 and SZ24 (and even SZ14) fall on the same path to I-S8104 but lack coverage for intermediate branches.
mtDNA: N1b1b1

Sample: SZ14
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-CTS616
FTDNA Comment: SZ13, SZ7 and SZ12 share 2 SNPs with a man from Denmark, forming a branch down of I-S8104 (M223). New branch = I-FT45324. Note that SZ22 and SZ24 (and even SZ14) fall on the same path to I-S8104 but lack coverage for intermediate branches.
mtDNA: I3

Sample: SZ15
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-YP986
mtDNA: H1c1

Sample: SZ16
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-U106
mtDNA: U4b1b

Sample: SZ18
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: E-BY6865
FTDNA Comment: Shares 1 SNP with a man from Morocco. Forms a new branch down of E-BY6865. New branch = E-FT198679
mtDNA: H13a1a2

Sample: SZ22
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-Y6876
FTDNA Comment: SZ13, SZ7 and SZ12 share 2 SNPs with a man from Denmark, forming a branch down of I-S8104 (M223). New branch = I-FT45324. Note that SZ22 and SZ24 (and even SZ14) fall on the same path to I-S8104 but lack coverage for intermediate branches.
mtDNA: N1b1b1

Sample: SZ23
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-S10271
mtDNA: H13a1a2

Sample: SZ24
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-ZS3
FTDNA Comment: SZ13, SZ7 and SZ12 share 2 SNPs with a man from Denmark, forming a branch down of I-S8104 (M223). New branch = I-FT45324. Note that SZ22 and SZ24 (and even SZ14) fall on the same path to I-S8104 but lack coverage for intermediate branches.
mtDNA: U4b

Sample: SZ27B
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century 412-538 cal CE
Y-DNA: R-FGC4166
FTDNA Comment: Shares 1 SNP with a man from France. Forms a new branch down of R-FGC4166 (U152). New branch = R-FT190624
mtDNA: N1a1a1a1

Sample: SZ36
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: T-Y15712
mtDNA: U4c2a

Sample: SZ37
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century 430-577 cal CE
Y-DNA: R-P312
mtDNA: H66a

Sample: SZ42
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-P312
mtDNA: K2a6

Sample: SZ43
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century 435-604 cal CE
Y-DNA: I-BY138
mtDNA: H1e

Sample: SZ45
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Study Information: ADMIXTURE analysis showed SZ45 to possess a unique ancestry profile.
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-FGC21819
FTDNA Comment: Shares 2 SNPs with a man from England forms a new branch down of FGC21819. New branch = I-FGC21810
mtDNA: J1c

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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

Free Y DNA Webinar at Legacy Family Tree Webinars

I just finished recording a new, updated Y DNA webinar, “Wringing Every Drop out of Y DNA” for Legacy Family Tree Webinars and it’s available for viewing now.

This webinar is packed full of information about Y DNA testing. We discuss the difference between STR markers, SNPs and the Big Y test. Of course, the goal is to use these tests in the most advantageous way for genealogy, so I walk you through each step. There’s so much available that sometimes people miss critical pieces!

FamilyTreeDNA provides a wide variety of tools for each tester in addition to advanced matching which combines Y DNA along with the Family Finder autosomal test. Seeing who you match on both tests can help identify your most recent common ancestor! You can order or upgrade to either or both tests, here.

During this 90 minute webinar, I covered several topics.

There’s also a syllabus that includes additional resources.

At the end, I summarized all the information and show you what I’ve done with my own tree, illustrating how useful this type of testing can be, even for women.

No, women can’t test directly, but we can certainly recruit appropriate men for each line or utilize projects to see if our lines have already tested. I provide tips and hints about how to successfully accomplish that too.

Free for a Limited Time

Who doesn’t love FREE???

The “Squeezing Every Drop out of Y DNA” webinar is free to watch right now, and will remain free through Wednesday, October 14, 2020. On the main Legacy Family Tree Webinar page, here, just scroll down to the “Webinar Library – New” area to see everything that’s new and free.

If you’re a Legacy Farmily Tree Webinar member, all webinars are included with your membership, of course. I love the great selection of topics, with more webinars being added by people you know every week. This is the perfect time to sign up, with fall having arrived in all its golden glory and people spending more time at home right now.

More than 4000 viewers have enjoyed this webinar since yesterday, and I think you will too. Let’s hope lots of people order Y DNA tests so everyone has more matches! You just never know who’s going to be the right match to break down those brick walls or extend your line back a few generations or across the pond, perhaps.

You can view this webinar after October 14th as part of a $49.95 annual membership. If you’d like to join, click here and use the discount code ydna10 through October 13th.

_____________________________________________________________

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