Discover the fascinating world of genetic genealogy! Written for the non-scientist, YGG is the best source for unbiased news on the major genealogy DNA testing companies.
Written by CeCe Moore, an independent professional genetic genealogist and television consultant.
I received this welcome news from Family tree DNA today:
As the season draws to a close, join us for one last celebration with our End of Summer Y-DNA Sale! Customers can order a Y-DNA test and join the world's largest Y-DNA database today. All Y-DNA tests and upgrades have been marked down for significant savings! Time is limited. The sale ends 9/3/2014. As an added bonus, Big Y is also on sale for just $495. Big Y coupons acquired during the Father's Day Sale can be used on Big Y orders placed during the End of Summer Sale. With Big Y, 340,000 years of Y-DNA ancestry is just a test away!
The following is a guest post by Angie Bush, my partner in The DNA Detectives:
Today, I received in my email inbox a questionnaire from Ancestry.com
asking about my thoughts in using my family tree to study family health
history. I recently wrote an article that touched on the use of
genealogical data in conjunction with genetic studies for the APG
Quarterly. In this article, I talked about how the Utah Population
database was started as the result of a joint collaboration between the
LDS Church and scientists at the University of Utah. This database is
unique in that it links detailed family history information with genetic
data to allow scientists to study the inheritance of many diseases.
Many significant genetic discoveries have been made as a result of this
database, including the famous (or infamous) BRCA1 and 2 genes. It is a
significant resource for those interested in studying the inheritance of
genetic disease. More about the Utah Population Database and the role
of genealogical information can be found
here: http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/science/utah/ Just as in
genealogical research, DNA is of little value without a paper trail.
Significant value and power lies in combining detailed family health
histories with genetic data. In my opinion, 23andMe has missed a
significant opportunity to link family histories with genetic data and make
ground-breaking discoveries. From this survey, it appears that
Ancestry.com/AncestryDNA recognizes the value of this information and
that they may be considering getting into the business of supplying
their customers with heath related information the way 23andMe did prior
to November 2013. It would appear that they are constructing a database
very similar to the Utah Population Database with SNP data generated
from the Illumina Chip they currently use.
I have a few questions about this:
AncestryDNA now be subject to the same FDA guidelines that are
currently prohibiting health information from 23andMe, and if so, will Ancestry
join the effort with 23andMe to allow this type of information to be
provided to consumers?
Or, will they ride 23andMe's coat-tails into the health side of the personal genomics market? Will Ancestry re-sell
this data to large pharmaceutical companies?
How can we participate in
this research, and should we as customers be participating?
many other questions I could ask, and in the end, I do believe that
health care needs a serious overhaul and the revolution that Anne Wojcicki
started with 23andMe cannot be stopped now. I believe one of the best
ways to revolutionize health care is to understand what our individual genetic code is telling us about future disease risk, how to manage
that risk and prevent disease if possible. It appears from the questions
on the Ancestry survey, that they recognize the power of this
information as well, and that they plan to move into the space currently occupied only by 23andMe.
Screen shots of the email and survey follow:
Thanks to Angie for sharing this update and important information with my readers!
A quick reminder about the upcoming i4gg.org conference
(a not-for-profit event).
This is truly a unique opportunity to personally meet with - and learn from - some of the world's leading Genetic Genealogy experts who, for the first time ever, will appear under ONE roof at the first International Genetic Genealogy Conference scheduled for Friday, August 15th through August 17th.
MEET THESE WORLD RENOWNED GENETIC GENEALOGY EXPERTS:
Dr. Spencer Wells - The Genographic Project (keynote)
Joanna Mountain - 23andMe
Julie Granka - AncestryDNA Razib Khan for Family Tree DNA
Diane Herman Hoog
Katherine Hope Borges
Debbie Parker Wayne
The fabulous Judy Russell, Julie Granka, Greg Magoon, William Howard and Razib Khan were all added to the schedule since I last wrote about the conference.
Take a minute to check out this video for a quick overview:
There is something for everyone - all levels of experience are encouraged to attend. Expert or novice - you'll take away a world of knowledge from the i4gg.org International Genetic Genealogy Conference August 15-17 at the National Youth Conference Center in Washington DC!
Don't miss this opportunity to learn from the best! Go to i4gg.org and register today - there are still tickets available.
Sponsored by the Institute for Genetic Genealogy. THIS IS A NOT-FOR-PROFIT EVENT for the advancement of genetic genealogy.
Ancestry.com announced today that they are officially retiring five of their sites and/or products as of September 5, 2014. These include Mundia, Genealogy.com, MyCanvas, MyFamily and, of special interest to my readers, the Y-DNA and mtDNA tests (now being called LegacyDNA). The sales of these tests have been halted, effective immediately.
I don't think the news about the retirement of the Y-DNA and mtDNA tests will come as a big surprise to most of us since Ancestry.com has been focusing their resources on the AncestryDNA autosomal DNA test and have been backing away from promoting the direct line tests for some time. As has been noted by many in the genetic genealogy community, it has become increasingly difficult to find the ordering interface for these tests over the last year or more.
I participated in a conference call detailing these changes with bloggers yesterday where we
were given an opportunity to ask questions. I asked several about the Y-DNA and mtDNA tests, as follows:
Q: Will the entire Y-DNA and mtDNA site interface be retired? Will you be able to view and contact your matches? A: The entire interface will be retired, including the match lists and the ability to contact your matches.
My comments: If you have tested there, I strongly encourage you to contact your matches before September 5th (and so does Ancestry.com) because you will not have another opportunity to do so. You can download your raw data (CSV file) until September 5th by going to www.DNA.Ancestry.com and upload to other services like Family Tree DNA. FTDNA has a transfer program for Y-DNA tests here. For $19 you will be able to upload your results to the FTDNA site. Here is the description of their transfer product:
This option is available for customers who have 33 or
46-marker Y-DNA results from a third party company that used the
Sorenson's laboratory (this includes tests performed by Ancestry,
GeneTree, and Sorenson's SMGF). You may use this option to upload your
results to the Family Tree DNA database. The $19 fee will provide you
with a Family Tree DNA personal page which will allow you to:
Join Family Tree DNA projects freely, but you will not receive matches or a haplogroup prediction.
Your uploaded results will be available to the administrator and
included on the project's public page for comparison with other project
For an additional $39 you can get a new kit from FTDNA. If you tested 33 markers at Ancestry.com, then you will have the additional markers filled in to be equivalent to FTDNA's 25 marker test or if you tested at the 46 marker level at Ancestry.com, then you will receive 37 marker results from FTDNA with this additional test.At the very least, I encourage you to add your results to the free Ysearch site (note the conversion needed) and Mitosearch site. Q: Are there any Y-DNA or mtDNA test still in the queue and, if so, will these be completed or refunded? A: There are a small number of Y-DNA and mtDNA tests still in the queue. If you are one of these, then you will be receiving an email detailing your options. Ancestry.com encourages you to call their customer service to discuss this. Q: What will happen to the stored DNA samples associated with these tests? A: The stored DNA associated with these tests will be destroyed.
Q: Can the stored DNA be returned to the testers or their families rather than being destroyed? A: No.
Q: Can those stored samples be used to upgrade to an autosomal DNA test before they are destroyed? A: Ancestry.com does not currently have anything in the works for doing this. An additional question was posed by another blogger regarding whether the halpogroup designations that are populated on testers' Ancestry.com user trees will remain. They are going to get back to us about this. For more information about the other four site retirements, please see Randy Seaver's GeneaMusings, Thomas MacEntee's GeneaBloggers and/or the Ancestry.com official blog.
I'm sorry that I haven't had time to blog much lately, but I wanted to share a few of my activities with readers of YGG, so you will know that I have not deserted you. I am presently working as a genetic genealogy consultant and educator more than full time. Here are some of the things that are going on with me that you might be interested in: 23andMe Google+ Hangout Video On Thursday, I participated in a Google+ Hangout with 23andMe. It begins with my presentation, a very basic 30 minute walk-through of the 23andMe Ancestry features, followed by a 30 minute question/answer discussion with Ancestry Product Manager, Laurie Kahn, Christine Moschella from Customer Care and me. You can watch the video below, but I recommend viewing it directly on YouTube (by clicking the YouTube logo at the bottom right of the screen) and watching it full screen to see the details on my slides. This video was intended for beginners, but the later discussion may be of interest to others. (I should probably thank CJ Swenson of 23andMe for bearing with my schedule limitations while trying to get this on the calendar for several months!)
World Science Festival in NYC - May 29 This upcoming week I will be participating in the World Science Festival in New York City as part of an exciting panel discussion entitled "It's All Relatives: The Science of Your Family Tree" with Genomic Scientist Catherine Ball of AncestryDNA, Geneticist/Anthropologist Mark D. Shriver, Geneticist/Anthropologist Brenna Henn and moderated by Broadcast Journalist Randall Pinkston. The event will be hosted by Louise Mirrer, CEO and President of the New-York Historical Society.
Researching the farthest branches of your family tree is now faster,
cheaper, more accessible and more accurate than ever before. Today you
can find distant living relatives, learn how you are related to
important historical figures or discover how your ancestors participated
in major movements in human history. And, using advanced technologies
to analyze face structure and skin pigmentation, evolutionary
geneticists can determine what your ancestors actually looked like.
Join a conversation among leading researchers about how gains in
computational power, together with technological innovations, are
allowing scientists to come ever closer to understanding how we are all
"It's All Relatives" will be held at the New-York Historical Society on Thursday, May 29th at 6:00 pm. Further information can be found and tickets purchased here.
Harper's Magazine June Issue The lead story in this
month's Harper's Magazine is "America's Ancestry Craze: Making Sense of America's Family Tree Obsession" by Maud Newton. It includes some details of my work excerpted from extensive discussions with the very talented author (and genealogist) last year. Maud will be following up with a book published by Random House to further investigate this subject that is near and dear to many of our hearts. The magazine can be found at select newsstands and is available to subscribers online.
Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr - Season Two We
are finally close to wrapping up the interviews for season two of the PBS series "Finding Your
Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr." The season will begin to air Tuesday, September 23 and will include interviews with Ben Affleck,
Sally Field, Derek Jeter, Deepak Chopra, Tina Fey, Valerie Jarrett, Carole King, Tony Kushner, Ken Burns, Angela Bassett, Alan Dershowitz, Ming Tsai, Aaron Sanchez, Tom Colicchio, Rebecca Lobo, Nas Jones, Billie Jean King, Stephen King, Courtney Vance and several others. This has been a huge undertaking for me since I am the only genetic genealogist working on the show and I analyze the results of all of the guests across three companies (AncestryDNA, 23andMe and Family Tree DNA). This upcoming month will be my year anniversary working with Professor Gates on the show and his personal genetic genealogy. It sure went by fast (even though I didn't get much sleep)!
Dr. Gates and I at last year's SCGS DNA Day
SCGS Jamboree and DNA Day SCGS Jamboree is fast approaching where I will be giving three presentations and participating in one panel discussion. My first presentation on Thursday June 5th at 10:00 am will be live streamed, "Real Life Cases from the Desk of a DNA Genealogy Detective". There will be many genetic genealogists presenting both on Thursday and throughout the rest of the conference weekend. Here is my schedule:
DNA Thursday TH003 - Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. "Real World
Stories from the Desk of a DNA Detective." DNA testing is revealing
unexpected surprises in the trees of many genealogists, involving both
immediate and more distant ancestors. These surprises often lead to
fascinating stories that could never have been unearthed without DNA and
this new-found knowledge has taught us that our family trees on paper
may not always be the same as our true genetic genealogy. After learning
of its potential to reveal and unravel complex family relationships,
many are flocking to DNA testing to solve their own family mysteries.
Actual cases from the presenter’s own files will be shared.
TH017 - Thursday 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. "Autosomal DNA:
Discovering Your Ancestors in You." As genealogists, we have all
invested a significant amount of time and effort searching for
information about our ancestors. Rapidly advancing genetic technologies
have now made it possible to discover more about our ancestors and in
ways we never could have imagined. CeCe will demonstrate the methods
that the experts use to get the most out of their results, including
chromosome mapping and applications for adoption and African American
genealogy. Examples from CeCe's research will be shared to demonstrate
the potential for using autosomal DNA to discover more about our
Jamboree Weekend FR019 - Friday 4:00pm - 5:00pm. "Why Should I Take a DNA Test?"
This is an introductory presentation for genealogists interested in
venturing into DNA testing. It will cover the basics of the three types
of DNA testing used for genealogy: Y-DNA, mtDNA and autosomal DNA as
well as the pros and cons of the major companies offering services to
the genealogy community. Come learn about the potential of DNA testing
for opening doors and breaking down brick walls in your genealogy!
SA049 - Saturday 5:00pm - 6:00 pm. ISOGG Panel: "Ask the Experts about DNA and Genealogy." This presentation
is sponsored by the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG).
Where are we now? What is the current "state of the art" in relation to
each of the major DNA tests? What test tells the percentage of
inheritance from different areas of the world? What new tools and
utilities will be developed by independent developers? What does the
future hold for genetic genealogy? These questions and more will be
answered by the experts. Alice Fairhurst, Moderator with panelists:
Blaine Bettinger PhD JD, Katherine Borges, Dr. Maurice Gleeson and CeCe
Moore. (90 minutes)
GRIPitt "Practical Genetic Genealogy" Course I am also preparing for the upcoming Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh course in July where I will be teaching with Blaine Bettinger, PhD, JD and Debbie Parker-Wayne, CG (course coordinator). The course sold out mere minutes after registration opened, so the GRIPitt administrators arranged for a second classroom. This will double our teaching load, but will allow many more people to benefit from this intensive, week-long education. Due to its popularity, we will be offering this course again in 2015 (twice).
Institute for Genetic Genealogy Conference Tim Janzen and I are very happy with how planning is moving along for the I4GG conference. The conference will be held August 15-17 in Washington D.C. and is intended for a wide audience. We will have presentations geared for the beginner all the way through to the advanced genetic genealogist. I have heard quite a few people remark that they aren't advanced enough to attend, so I want to emphasize that everyone is welcome no matter what experience level they have with genetic genealogy. In addition to the more basic presentations like mine "The Four Types of DNA Used in Genetic Genealogy" (title subject to change), there will be workshops presented by both 23andMe and Family Tree DNA on Friday (AncestryDNA has also been invited to host a workshop). These workshops will undoubtedly be of great benefit to the less experienced attendees. I will be posting more updates about this conference in the next day or so.
Registration for both opens on June 14th at 9:00am (Mountain Time).
Working on Various Unknown Parentage Cases I continue to work on several unknown parentage cases, such as the one involving Paul Fronczak (and others that remain private) with my team(s). These types of cases take a tremendous amount of time and effort, but are well worth it in the long run. I hope to have the opportunity to catch up with many of you soon!
My colleague and friend, Angie Bush, is attending the National Genealogical Society's conference in Richmond, Virginia this week. She has kindly agreed to fill my readers in on any interesting DNA news from NGS. Her report on the AncestryDNA presentation given by Kenny Freestone follows. I attended the AncestryDNA presentation by Senior Product Manager, Kenny Freestone, in hopes of learning what new and exciting features Ancestry has on the horizon for genetic genealogists. There was not much new information presented, but there were a few things that I thought might be worth mentioning: 1. In response to questions about AncestryDNA's plans for adding a chromosome browser or segment data, Kenny repeated that Ancestry is working on something that would give their customers access to that type of data, but that it would be something different than what current chromosome browsers offer. No date was provided for launch or when such a feature might appear. He did admit that at this point the tools that Ancestry has for triangulating data are quite lacking. This tells me that they recognize that there is a need for these features. I can only hope that when these new tools are finally released that they really are as good as what they are claimed to be. I found it very interesting that he used a slide showing how he inherited DNA from a set of third great-grandparents and that he illustrated chromosomes, but that Ancestry provides their customers no way to view this type of information. 2. In a somewhat related slide, Kenny showed several of his lines that had been "confirmed" by DNA shaky leaf hints. He said that this was "independent" evidence that his tree was correct. As readers of this blog know, unfortunately you cannot always say that is the case. As a serious genealogist and scientist, I continue to find the lack of segment data to be a problem. In both disciplines it is imperative that data be able to be reviewed. On the genealogy side of Ancestry's site, they do provide the actual images or data in many instances. When viewing any educational video by Ancestry, there is always encouragement to look at the actual image, as it contains so much more information than the transcription. I just cannot understand why this same level of access to the underlying data is kept hidden on the DNA side of their site. 3. Kenny was asked a question by someone who has Jewish background regarding why there are so many matches at a high level and yet no common ancestor is discovered. Genetic genealogists who have worked with endogamous populations know this can a difficult problem. Kenny did say that they are actively working on this issue, but have not yet come up with a solution. 4. I have long wanted to understand the cut-off levels for how AncestryDNA is predicting matches. For example, if AncestryDNA predicts that you are a 1st - 2nd cousin to a match, then how much total DNA do you share with that person and how many segments do you share? 23andMe and FTDNA have always provided this information. Kenny flashed the following slide, which may be helpful in determining the parameters they are using for predictions: 200
megabases for 2nd cousins 150 megabases for 3rd cousins 100 megabases for
4th cousins 30 megabases for 5th cousins 20 megabases for 6th cousins 10
megabases for those further out
This slide raised a question as to whether or not AncestryDNA is using centimorgans or megabases in their matching algorithms. Kenny clarified that they are using a combination. They switched to using centimorgans in November - December 2013. If you tested recently, then your matches are in centimorgans. If it was prior to that date, then your matches are in megabases.
5. Kenny told us that the communication/contact rate between DNA customers was twice that the communication rate between regular customers.
6. An audience member asked if Ancestry stored the sample for future/other tests. Kenny didn't directly answer this and said that as the science improves that they will just apply those improvements to the current test. He did say that the only thing better than their test was a full genome sequence, and for that a new sample would need to be submitted. 7. I appreciated the fact that Kenny emphasized that the ethnicity information is an ESTIMATE. It is important that we all remember that the science that each company uses to give us our admixture is still in it's infancy and that each company uses different reference populations to do so. It behooves all of us to take this information with a grain of salt no matter which company we test with. 8. Kenny did a great job answering several questions from audience members regarding Y-DNA and mtDNA testing that were completely unrelated to the product that AncestryDNA offers. Attendees even had specific questions about surname and haplogroup projects. This highlighted the need for those of us in the genetic genealogy community to reach out to the genealogists and help them to understand the power of DNA. Things we take for granted such as the three types of tests and the companies that offer these tests can be confusing. If DNA is to be effectively used as a genealogical research tool or record, there is a significant amount of education that will need to be done.
9. Lastly, after the presentation, Kenny showed me that Ancestry has a new "spit kit." The return box and packaging are much more compact now and the kit itself is a bit different. I asked if there were plans to offer some type of assisted collection kit or "cheek swab" as the spit kit can be difficult for older individuals. He said that they recognized this was a need and that Ancestry probably would do something to address it, but that he couldn't confirm anything.
mtDNA tests are exclusively informative of direct maternal lines (image credit: www.FTDNA.com)
I just received an email from Family Tree DNA announcing a sale on their mtDNA Full Sequence test, starting tomorrow (copied below). This is their lowest price ever and, fortunately, includes upgrades.
Although mitochondrial DNA is not the first test that I would recommend for a genealogist, in my recent work I have become increasingly interested in full sequence mtDNA testing. The reason for this is that, in some instances, the full sequence allows for geographic specificity, which can potentially open new and valuable avenues of discovery. The lower resolution tests are not often helpful, so if you are going to order a mtDNA test, then the full sequence is the way to go. (With this very reduced price, this is a good time to try it.)
I can't share most of the instances (yet) that it has been useful for my recent research since some were in the course of my work for "Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr." (scheduled to air Tuesdays starting at the end of September) and others were for private projects, but I can give an example of a situation where mtDNA testing might be helpful for our genealogy research outside of the typically discussed applications.
I have long been brickwalled on my German Stolebarger line and do not know if Sarah (maiden name unknown), the wife of John Stolebarger, was German like her husband. Since my mother's first cousin is a matrilineal descendant of Sarah's, I asked him to take the mtDNA test for me two years ago (HVR1 + HVR2). The only match was with someone who is brickwalled at his ancestor, also named Sarah from the exact same time and place as my Sarah! So, matching didn't help us. I didn't plan to upgrade for matching purposes since there were no other matches and he only tested at the lower resolution.
Recently the mtDNA Haplogroup I Project administrator wrote to me and expressed interest in my cousin's rare mtDNA signature, requesting that I consider upgrading to the full sequence. That got me thinking and, with the great timing of this new offer, I now plan to go ahead and upgrade to see if my cousin's unique mutations can pinpoint a specific geographic region. This may, at least, help to determine if Sarah was German or of completely different ancestral origins. Is it guaranteed to work? No, but I'm ready for the "Hail Mary" play on this one and, anyway, aren't we all accustomed to trying different approaches to our research challenges?
If you have a research question that you think mtDNA testing might help answer* or you are just a DNA testing junkie like me, you can order here. (Prices, starting tomorrow, are listed below.)
Best of luck with all your DNA testing pursuits!
(*If you need help determining if this test is applicable to your research question, you can read about mtDNA basics here.)
Dear Project Administrator,
We will send all customers
a sale announcement tomorrow when our March mtDNA Madness sale begins.
However, we wanted to give you advanced notice so that you have time to
For four days only we are offering our customers
the chance to order or upgrade to the mtDNA full sequence at greatly
reduced prices. To take advantage of the outstanding prices below, your
project members need to place their orders and pay before 11:59 PM
Central Time April 1, 2014.
mtDNAFullSequence Add-on and New Kits - Was $199 US Now $139 US
mtHVR1toMEGA Upgrade - Was $149 US Now $99 US
mtHVR2toMEGA Upgrade - Was $159 US Now $89 US
Why Get the mtDNA Full Sequence?
Unlock the full potential of mtDNA testing.
Enjoy the definitive test for your direct maternal line.
Compare to others at the highest mtDNA testing level.