Thursday, June 27, 2013

Please Join Me and Shannon Christmas for Bernice Bennett's Blog Talk Radio Show on Autosomal DNA Tonight

Please join me and my good friend and colleague, Shannon Christmas, for Bernice Bennett's Blog Talk Radio show discussing Autosomal DNA testing at 6:00 pm PST tonight. We will be answering lots of your questions about autosomal DNA research and the companies that offer this test. (The show will be archived for listeners who can't listen in tonight. Since this post did not mail out as scheduled, interested readers can use that option to hear the show at the link below.)

You can listen at this link:

Strategies For Using Autosomal DNA
CeCe Moore and Shannon Christmas will discuss strategies for using autosomal DNA to resolve genealogical problems.

Shannon Christmas is an experienced genealogist specializing in genetic, colonial American, and African-American genealogy in Virginia and the Carolinas. He serves as a 23andMe Ancestry Ambassador, an Ace, administrator of The Captain Thomas Graves of Jamestown Autosomal DNA Project, and a co-administrator of The Hemings-Jefferson-Wayles-Eppes Autosomal DNA Project.

CeCe Moore is a professional genetic genealogist and writes the popular blog "Your Genetic Genealogist", where she covers the developments in the field of DNA genealogy as an independent, unbiased authority. She is the Southern California Regional Coordinator for the International Society of Genetic Genealogy and the administrator of the organization’s DNA Newbie Mailing List. In 2012, CeCe was personally appointed by the CEO of 23andMe to serve as their lead Ancestry Ambassador, a volunteer position that enables her to promote the interests of the genealogy community.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The First Ever Independent Genetic Genealogy Conference was a Smashing Success!

It has been a week now since our history-making  SCGS/ISOGG Genetic Genealogy Conference in Burbank. It was a smashing success in every way. I wanted to take a moment to thank all of the speakers who generously came, often from all the way across the country, to share their knowledge and expertise with us. I was thrilled and honored by the enthusiastic response from all of the speakers to my invitations to participate.

Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Dr. Spencer Wells were our headliner speakers and they definitely lived up to their reputations (and more). We would have been extremely lucky to have even one of them attend. For me, having both accept my invitation to speak was nothing short of incredible!

Dr. Wells of National Geographic did a wonderful job encouraging all of us citizen scientists and recognizing our efforts. I had seen him speak before and always love how he makes the science so interesting and approachable, even for the beginners in the audience. Dr. Wells spent the day at the conference, attending presentations and interacting with the community. He even joined us for dinner and socialized with a group of genetic genealogists late into the night. He is definitely one of us!

The packed house for Spencer Wells' wonderful opening presentation

Professor Gates spoke at our luncheon and he was absolutely hilarious! I had no idea he would have us rolling in the aisles with laughter the way he did. If he ever decides that he wants a new career, stand-up comedy should be first on his list! He regaled us with tales of his own family history and his early ventures into television. The Professor was a fitting participant in our history-making day since his PBS shows were the first to introduce genetic genealogy into American homes. He also stuck around most of the day, attending presentations and socializing with the attendees. (I have to tell you that giving a presentation while looking out on the audience of Dr. Wells, Professor Gates, Dr. Mountain and many of my colleagues was quite intimidating!)

Professor Gates entertaining us

With these two celebrities, it might seem easy to forget our other speakers, except that they were all so outstanding in their own right! We had wonderful representation from the companies that our community depends on - Bennett Greenspan from Family Tree DNA, Dr. Joanna Mountain from 23andMe and Dr. Ken Chahine from AncestryDNA all gave presentations packed full of valuable information for genetic genealogists. Their speeches were standing room only. This was a very important part of the event to me. From the beginning of the planning process, one of my goals for the conference was to gather management from all of these companies in one place with the common purpose of promoting the education of the community. This was the very first time that this has happened and it will not be the last time.

Dr. Mountain explaining the finer points

Many of our leading genetic genealogists also generously gave of their time to ensure that our first conference would be a success. The informative presentations from Dr. Tim Janzen, Blaine Bettinger, Judy Russell, Dick Hill, Debbie Parker-Wayne, Alice Fairhurst, David Reynolds, Emily Aulicino and Katherine Borges were essential to this groundbreaking event. Many of these presentations were livestreamed and/or recorded so more people could benefit from these outstanding speeches. Dr. Kathy Johnston and Bonny Cook were also integral to the event and helped it to run as smoothly as it did. Additionally, all of the roundtable discussion leaders and the general volunteer efforts were very much appreciated by us all.

Blaine Bettinger sharing his knowledge

We had a total of 352 attendees, including speakers, which is a very good turnout for the first conference of this kind in the history of our field. We even had attendees from China, Australia and the UK, making this an international event! Thank you all for the tremendous support! The success of this inaugural event ensures that we can hold similar conferences in the future. This has proven that the time had indeed come for genetic genealogy to have its own annual conference. Thanks to SCGS for giving us this trial run, Paula Hinkel for her expertise in conference planning, which ensured a perfectly executed day, and Vicki Hilb for taking such good care of the speakers.

Next year we plan to hold the event on the East Coast, so those who could not make the long trip this year can participate in our second annual conference. I hope to again entice our wonderful Dr. Wells and Professor Gates to join us (they say they will!). We intend to hold a two day event next time in order to allow attendees to see more of the speakers and presentations. I will update everyone once we have dates and a location nailed down. I hope it will be as much fun as this one was!

Unfortunately, I didn't get pictures of everyone since it was such a whirlwind day, but thanks to Tim Janzen, I have quite a few to share with you all.  (His are the clear ones. :-))

 CeCe and Professor Gates
Tim Janzen Presenting

Dick Hill telling his tale...

The Gates Luncheon
Confirming My Pedigree with DNA
What the Livestreaming looked like from our end

Does DNA Testing Work?

Socializing was fun with Blaine...
...and Debbie Parker-Wayne (with Cyndi Howells of "Cyndi's List" in the background)

I couldn't have asked for a better group of people with whom to share the day! There were so many familiar faces and friendly people that it was impossible to have the time to speak to everyone I wanted to. It was wonderful to be among people who share the same passion for genetic genealogy. Thank you to everyone who made the event so successful. It really was a dream come true!

Update: I received some great new photos from Katherine Borges which I have added, two below and one above in the section about Dr. Well's speech.

Adam, Spencer Wells, me, Lennart, Leo and Alice's infamous gold hat
At the Jamboree ISOGG booth, Back Row: Emily, Bonny, me, Kathy
Front Row: Linda and Katherine

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Sneak Peek at the UPDATED AncestryDNA Search Filter

AncestryDNA has been hard at work perfecting the new search filter these last few weeks. Not surprisingly, it has undergone some changes since I last shared it with my readers.

Stephen Baloglu,'s Director of Product Marketing, described what appears to be the version that will go live in the next few weeks:

The search includes looking within your DNA matches for surnames and birth locations in their family tree that they have linked to their DNA results. It does not currently include searching for username, but we may update that in the future. The top request was surnames/birth locations, so we started there. Also, we expect people to more likely know surnames they're looking for much more often than ancestry username.

He also shared these screen shots and accompanying descriptions with me on June 6th. Click to enlarge them for a closer look.


In a YouTube video on's account (dated June 3, 2013), this slide is shown describing the AncestryDNA search filters.

Notice that the username search was, apparently, still expected at that time. employees Anna Swayne and Crista Cowan discuss it on the video from about 15:30 to 16:00.  Crista clarifies that the username filter will be "an ability to search by the name of somebody who is a DNA match" and Anna says that it "will be coming soon". However when I asked Ken Chahine, General Manager of AncestryDNA, about the username filter at the recent DNA conference on June 6th, he explained that does not currently have the option to search by username built into their system, which is limiting AncestryDNA's ability to provide it. [Update: I have asked for clarification on this point.]

Although this additional filter would be convenient, in my opinion, it isn't essential. For example,  I would like to search my mother's account to determine which of my matches with a surname of interest also appear in her account, but I can do so almost as easily by searching on that surname. Further, to search your account to see if your research partners appear as matches, you can also filter by your shared surname(s). I would really like to see an "In Common With" filter to determine which of my matches are from my mother's side, but, fortunately, I can already use Jeff Snavely's tool for that purpose.

With these upcoming filters, Jeff's terrific tool and Family Tree DNA's recent announcement that they are accepting raw data uploads from AncestryDNA (for only $49!), this test is becoming much more useful for genetic genealogists. (Now, if only we could get that chromosome browser onsite!)

Stephen tells me that there still isn't a confirmed date for the new search filter's arrival, but I expect it to appear sometime this summer.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Family Tree DNA Promotions Galore - Father's Day Y-DNA Upgrade Sale, AncestryDNA Transfers, mtDNA and DNA storage!

I am behind in blogging, in part, due to the Genetic Genealogy Conference that was just held last week (which I co-chaired), so I am going to be posting a few articles in quick succession. I hope it is not too much mail compared to what my subscribers are used to receiving!

First, Family Tree DNA has announced a number of wonderful promotions and price drops recently which are of great interest to our community. Two of these are very important promotions that will help us all get greater benefit from DNA tests that we have already taken, while the third is a great way to learn more about the deep ancestry of our direct maternal lines and to get out relatives DNA into storage for the future.

Father's Day Y-DNA Upgrade Sale
From June 12th-19th, FTDNA is reducing the price of Y-DNA upgrades, so if you took advantage of the recent price drop on Y-DNA 12 or if you need to clarify your current matches, now is the time to get that much needed resolution to your results.

Y-DNA 12 to 25        was $49             Now $35
Y-DNA 12 to 37        was $99             Now $69
Y-DNA 12 to 67        was $189           Now $148
Y-DNA 25 to 37        was $49             Now $35
Y-DNA 25 to 67        was $148           Now $114
Y-DNA 25 to 111      was $249           Now $224
Y-DNA 37 to 67        was $99             Now $79
Y-DNA 37 to 111       was $220          Now $188
Y-DNA 67 to 111       was $129          Now $109

To order an upgrade at these special prices your members can log into their personal pages with their kit number and password. Click on the "Order Upgrade" button located on the right side of the menu bar. Then click on the "Special Offers" button.

ALL ORDERS MUST BE PLACED AND PAID FOR BY 11:59pm, JUNE 19, 2013, TO RECEIVE THE SALE PRICE. You can order here by logging into your account.

Family Tree DNA Accepting AncestryDNA Transfers for only $49!
The other terrific news that was announced at the conference last week is that Family Tree DNA is now accepting AncestryDNA raw data file imports in addition to the 23andMe raw data imports, both for only $49 (for a limited time).

The test is offered toward the bottom of their products list under "Autosomal DNA Transfer". The explanation on the site is as follows:

This option is available for men and women who have autosomal DNA results from a third party company that used the Illumina OmniExpress Plus Genotyping BeadChip, such as 23andMe© (known as the Relative Finder) and AncestryDNA™. You may use this option to upload your raw data to the Family Tree DNA Family Finder database to take advantage of features associated with the Family Finder product, such as relative matches and the Population Finder. This data transfer does not include any Y-DNA or mtDNA results from any company, nor does it involve the transfer of any physical DNA sample. 

The $49 Introductory fee will provide you with a Family Tree DNA personal page which will allow you to:
  • View matches related within about the last 5 generations and predicted relationship ranges.*
  • See percentages of your ancestral make-up from 62 world reference populations such as Native-American, Middle Eastern (including Jewish), African, West and East European.
  • Confirm close relationships regardless of gender.
  • Generate additional genealogical information..
Please note, uploaded files are batched once a week then run through the conversion program. Results take between 6-10 weeks based on volume. You will be notified by e-mail when your results are available. 

You can order here. Click on "Products" from the menu across the top and then scroll down to "Third Party >> "Autosomal DNA Transfer" (near the bottom).

mtDNAPlus (and DNA storage) for only $49
About a month ago, Family Tree DNA announced that they had reduced their mtDNAPlus (HVR1&2) test to only $49. This was the middle level test, so this is an incredible deal! Even if an mtDNA test is not your first choice for your genealogy research, this is a terrific way to get anyone's DNA in storage for at least 25 years for a very low price. You might wonder why this is important. With all of the new technology that will be developed in the future, we will all wish that we had our elderly relatives' DNA to test. If you go this route, be sure that the beneficiary field is filled out, so you can access the DNA in the future for additional testing if that person is no longer with us.

Here is the official press release about this development:

HOUSTON, May 9, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Family Tree DNA, the genetic genealogy arm of Gene By Gene, Ltd., has lowered the price of its mid-level maternal line mtDNA test to $49, effective immediately.  The company announced it will offer its mtDNAPlus product at a two-third price reduction permanently, in just its latest step toward universal access by individuals to their personal genetic data. 
"This groundbreaking pricing illustrates how next generation sequencing (NGS) is changing the DNA testing landscape," Gene By Gene President Bennett Greenspan said.  "For Family Tree DNA to be able to offer this test at such an affordable price would have been unheard of before NGS.  We're hopeful that by lowering the price of products like our mtDNAPlus, we'll be able to expand the horizon of DNA testing and, importantly, grow our database to fuel future genetic discoveries."
Earlier this year, Family Tree DNA -- the world's largest processor of Y-DNA and full mitochondrial sequences -- dropped the price of its basic Y-DNA test for males by 60 percent, in order to eliminate cost as a barrier to individuals interested in learning more about their personal genetic and genomic data. 
Since then, the company has been working to do the same with its mtDNA test, which is applicable to both males and females and provides data on the direct maternal line by testing the mitochondria.  The mtDNAPlus product tests Hypervariable Regions 1 and 2, or HVR1 and HVR2, providing individuals with both anthropological and genealogical information. 
With the largest DNA database in the world, Family Tree DNA has processed over 5 million discrete tests for more than 700,000 individuals and organizations since it introduced its Y-DNA test in 2000.  Data gathered from the mtDNAPlus test will be stored, free of charge, in the company's database. If customers are interested in performing any other DNA tests that the company offers in the future, they won't be required to resubmit DNA samples.

Customer Inquiries
Individuals interested in Family Tree DNA's $49 mtDNA test, or any of its ancestral testing products, can visit
Family Tree DNA or call (713) 868-1438 for more information.

What this means for us...
As a result of these promotions and price drops, we will all benefit from quickly expanding databases and more/better resolution matches. For those who transfer their data in from AncestryDNA, they will have access to the essential chromosome browser data and we will finally be able to see where our cousins from AncestryDNA match us!