Maintaining a sensible weight has always been a struggle for me so I object to 23andme saying “Kitty, your genes predispose you to weigh about 8% less than average.” I really want to blame my DNA for this excess weight, not the eating habits I learned growing up. My maternal grandparents were a bit pear-shaped. My mother and brother also always struggled with their weight … it has to be in my genes!
I have a simple five year plan for weight control: diet for six months to lose 15-20 pounds then eat for four plus years to gain 20-25. You can see how this long term trend is going! So this time I will try to lose 30 even if it takes over a year to do it.
Critical to my many previous successes has been a support person or group. Perhaps that is why I have done Weight Watchers so many times. The last two times my husband dieted with me and we did Nutrisystem quite successfully. This time I am doing South Beach with my friend Lynne (her choice) and I am quite pleased with it as I do not get very hungry nor crave .. chocolate … Low carb has always worked well for me. As I teenager all I had to do was give up dessert and hamburger buns for a week to lose 5 pounds.
Since a reader told me at a recent conference that she enjoyed my occasional off topic posts, I will share some of my low carb creations here. By the way, whenever I find a recipe online, somehow I always have to fiddle with it a little.
I prefer to start the day with a good breakfast so here is my own invention, an easy recipe for an open faced breakfast sandwich using a microwave and a toaster oven that works on Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, (2 protein, 1 bread) and starting week 3 of South Beach. However my current weight loss stalled when I added back the whole wheat English muffin so I dropped that part of it and now serve mine on small slices of ham instead.
Breakfast sandwiches for two:
Collect the ingredients:
2 whole wheat English muffins
2 slices of cheddar cheese
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt (whole or nonfat)
1 green onion
¼ tsp curry powder (or more if you like it)
¼ teaspoon dill or fresh basil
3 shakes of salt
2 grinds of pepper
cream cheese (reduced fat or not, as you prefer)
Split the English muffin and start it toasting in the toaster oven (5 minutes or your preference)
Spray a low flat microwave safe bowl with olive oil cooking spray. Add the eggs, yogurt, and seasonings. Using your kitchen scissors cut the white part of the green onion up the middle (in half) and then cut little bits into the mix (or chop it small some other way). Beat it all together with a fork.
After the first minute, the outsides cooked, but the inside is liquid
Microwave the bowl with egg mixture for 1 minute then take it out and stir the outside cooked part to the center then microwave for another minute (or less if it was mainly cooked). Note that when making for one person with just one egg it is 30 seconds each time.
Spread the toasted muffin halves with cream cheese.
Cut the egg into 4 quarters, put each quarter on a muffin.
Top each with 1/2 of a cheese slice.
Put in the toaster oven for 2-3 minutes until the cheese melts.
Cut the green part of the green onion into small pieces and sprinkle over the top of the open-faced sandwich when you take it out of the toaster oven and serve.
Another possibility when time is limited is to eat one or two tiny egg muffins, actually mini crustless quiches. I bake them about once a week in my cupcake pan. A miracle invention is silicon cupcake liners. No extra oil needed to grease the pan and they slide out easily as does the muffin! Plus very little clean up is necessary afterwards.
Of course I had to change it up a bit as I found it too dense, I add 1/3 of a cup of yogurt to lighten it up. Plus I do not include the red peppers, which I dislike, so I double the onions instead. Also I prefer a more swiss-style cheese to the cheddar so I use an Irish cheese called Dubliner. Finally I make half of them with ham and the other half with spinach. So I mix it without the spinach first. Take two slices of ham cut into shreds and put in the bottom of half the muffin liners and fill those with the mix. Then I add maybe 3 oz of spinach to the remaining mixture. Stir and pour. The ¼ cup measure is perfect for filling the muffin liners.
A variation I like is to use no blueberries but rather almond extract and slivered almonds on top.
Another way to help weight loss is to increase exercise. We walk our dog every morning for about 2 miles and I try to do some arm exercises with weights three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, and if I remember Saturday). To this regimen I have added a yoga class at my silver sneakers gym Tuesday and Thursday. Lucky for me the teachers are great at our local Crunch gym.
In practice, I do not think it matters much which diet plan you use as long as it is one you can stick with over the long term. Six pounds down and 24 to go!
The thing I have disliked in the past about doing webinars is the lack of audience feedback. I really enjoy explaining my passion to a group of people, seeing their reactions, and then answering their questions. That is so much better for me than talking into a microphone while going through my slides.
Practice FHF online presentation, Sean, Andy Noel of FHF, and myself (0nly one person shows when presenting)
It is difficult to solve adoption cases in endogamous communities because everyone will share the same 4th and 5th grandparents, often multiple times, so the methodology for finding a birth parent from 3rd and 4th cousin matches just does not work. You have to wait for a few second cousin or closer matches.
Tessa was looking for her unknown biological father. Her mother had given her a name, Rudy Padilla, and said he was perhaps Mexican. I ran a GWorks for her which I showed in my lecture about unknown parentage at the SCGS Jamboree. This is the full story.
The Compare Trees at DNAgedcom from GWorks for Tessa
I had never seen ancestors who were in 30-40 trees before! How can that be? Perhaps endogamy? Then I looked at the names and recognized many of the surnames. These are the Spanish soldiers who were among the earliest Anglo settlers of New Mexico.
New Mexico in 1824 from Wikipedia, click image for the article (see *map credits)
These soldiers who came to the Southwest in the 1600s and 1700s mostly had to take Pueblo women as brides or not get married. A few brought wives with them from Mexico of presumed Spanish descent. For many years these Spanish “first families” of New Mexico hid the native part of their roots. Now many are proud of this heritage. Click here for an article about that which mentions the New Mexican woman in those Ancestry ads who discovered her Native American roots with DNA. By the way, Tessa shows 17% Native American at Ancestry.
I told Tessa that success finding her dad could take a very long time since she would need to wait for close matches, but to please upload to MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA to look for more relatives. She had tested at both 23andMe and Ancestry DNA.
At Ancestry she had three second cousin matches, none of whom had responded to her messages. Only one, let’s call her Gina, had a tree connected to her DNA, but it had just her parents names. Another had a tree on the view match page where everyone was private and the third also had a mainly private tree with the names of a few great grandparents. We were able to build a tree from the parents names for Gina but it had no Padillas.
How the trees of Tessa’s second cousin matches intersect
Tessa’s test at 23andme had one second cousin match, let’s call him Gerry, whose wife Laila actually responded via email to my message. She was into genealogy and was incredibly helpful explaining the family tree which she had built at FamilySearch. Laila suggested that Tessa might be her husband’s half first cousin once removed because her husband was from one of the youngest Padillas via the second marriage. This probable great grandfather, (Jose) Pasqual Padilla had 24 children and the right surname. A lot of tree building later, there was no one named Rudy or Rudolph and no obvious connection to Gina.
Another second cousin match, let’s call her Mary, turned up at MyHeritage and again from just the parents names we were able to build a tree. Eureka! She shared great-grandparents Eugenio and Maria Martinez with Gina. So now we had the grandparents of and a possible surname for the bio dad’s mother. This second cousin turned out to also be a first cousin once removed as her grandfather (Jose) Trinidad Martinez had more than one wife and many many children (see his obituary from newspapers.com below).
Trinidad is the son of Eugenio and note the Mrs Padilla! Yes this was a key clue.
Now we checked all the sons of Pasqual to see if any of them married a Martinez descended from Eugenio and we found only one such marriage. Exciting! This joined tree is shown above. Of course, there were 12 children of that marriage. Happily only two of the sons were in the right place (California) at the right time and old enough.
Now Tessa showed off her sleuthing skills, she called the librarian of the small town that most of these Padillas were from and got copies of their obituaries and lots of information. Neither possible father was still alive but she tracked down a son of each one of them and talked them into testing (Thank you so much search angel Tom K. for those two Ancestry kits!).
While we were waiting for those results, Tessa suddenly got a new match at 23andme of 10.38% and 774cM with the grandchild of one of the possible Dads. This made one man much more likely and validated our search results nicely. Soon after, the kits for her possible half brothers came in and the case was solved! Her new family members have been very warm and accepting.
Some key points from this search:
Endogamous searches need 2nd cousin matches or better to succeed
If a DNA cousin is willing to help, your path will be easier
You will have to build some or all of your DNA cousin’s trees yourself
Obituaries are an enormous help for tracking down living relatives and those born after the 1940 census
Kudos to librarians!
[*map credits: A map created using information from the United States Geological Survey, an agency of the United States Department of Interior 1810, 1820, 1830 and from the Secretary of the Public Education of Mexico (La Secretaría de Educación Pública de México) with 500 años de documentos. The Institute of Geography, (in spanish: Instituto de Geografía), Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) : Nuevo Atlas Nacional de México (2007)
The Family Tree of Pasqual Padilla at FamilySearch reaches back to Spain
If you and a relative have tested your DNA at different companies, you can compare your results at a free third party site – GEDmatch.com – which also has many additional, useful tools for analyzing your DNA and looking at match lists. Learning to use those tools may take some time as they are not intuitive, so I am writing this post to help a friend, Barbara, start to use them.
Once you have a username and password and log in, you are presented with a home page which, again, is not very user friendly. The first task, which we already did Barbara, is to upload your DNA test data. Start with this slide https://slides.com/kittycooper/gedmatch-10-13#/9 for the details of how to upload and manage your DNA results, known as kits, to GEDmatch.
The image to the left shows the big blue box, called “Analyze Your Data,” which you can find on the right side of your GEDmatch home page. I have put a red box line around the functions that I find the most useful. One of the first things I do for a newly uploaded kit is check if the parents are related (yours were not Barbara, nor Martin’s).
Once your kit is uploaded, it still has to be “tokenized” which you can think of as being put into chunks for the template they use for comparisons; this can take 24 hours or so. While you wait to be able to use your kit to look for matches, you can play with the ethnicity tools. Please remember that figuring out the groups you descend from is a science still in its infancy and far from accurate yet, other than in the broad strokes.
Start with Admixture (heritage). For most Europeans, the Eurogenes calculator is best and the default K13 is fine, but for those of us with mainly Northern European ancestors, K12 is better. I have a whole presentation on just these calculators at https://slides.com/kittycooper/gedmatch#/
Although its creator has disavowed the Eurogenes Jtest calculator for listing your Jewish percentage (click here for his article), I find that if you add up all the obvious ethnicities: Ashkenazi, Western_Med, Eastern_Med, West_Asian, and Middle_Eastern, it is not that far off. The Jtest image above is from Martin, the only person I have ever seen AncestryDNA call 100% European Jewish; most of my jewish friends come out between 87% and 98%.
Click here for the creator, Davidski’s Eurogenes blog posts on Gedmatch. Two important take-aways for me are that his ancestral clusters are much further back than the main companies and any ethnicity of 1% or smaller is likely noise.
Once your kit has tokenized, you can start using the most important tool, the One-to-many compare function which will compare your kit to all the kits in the database and then list your closest DNA relatives.
One-to-many is the workhorse of DNA matching for us genealogists. When you click on those words in the blue box you get a form which lets you pick which of your kits to use or type in another one. There is also a default number for the largest segment which is set to 7. Change that to 20 if you are jewish, else to 10 or even 15.
Below is an image of your top One-to-many results, Barbara, with the first column (kit number) and last two columns (name or pseudonym then email) cut off for privacy. Note that the kit numbers start with a letter which tells you where they tested so A is Ancestry, T is Family Tree DNA, M is 23andMe, and H is MyHeritage. Warning, Ancestry kits will typically have more matching DNA with you here at GEDmatch, because Ancestry removes segments that it considers common in the population in their matching algorithm.
The red arrows added by me to the image are showing two important spots on the report. One is showing where you can click the underlined A to get a one-to-one comparison with that match. The one-to-one will show you exactly where you match, which chromosome and location.
Barbara, below is the one to one “position only” for your best match, *FT etc, who is clearly in the 3rd/4th cousin range.
None of the matches listed in the One-to-many above are close relatives as they share too few total cMs. All are about 4th cousins or so. Click here for the DNA Painter calculator which you can use to see the possible relationships for a specific total. However please remember that after second/third cousins, DNA inheritance gets more and more random and the total cM number cannot tell you the specific relationship, just the likely ones. I usually tell people to start with those people who share more than 100cM.
The second red arrow shows where to sort by largest segment which I often suggest to jewish friends that they do. Why? Because so many people will match you at a 4th cousin level who are really 6th cousins three times over or the like, due to much intermarriage (endogamy). Therefore we need the matching DNA segments to be large for those real 3rd and 4th cousins whose common ancestors might be findable. My recommendation is one segment greater then 20cM and another greater than 10cM and about 5 or 6 segments. That is just a guideline, not an absolute, but works well among jewish matches.
My recommendation is to contact just your best matches at first. If you have other family members tested and so know which line the match is related on because of who they match, tell them! Be specific in your email as to where your family lines are from and include a link to your tree. Best is to add your tree to the collaborative world tree at WIKItree then add your GEDmatch kit number to your profile there with a public biography and tree (dates are still private for the living). If you do all that, a link to your tree will appear next to your kit number in your matches One-to-many. Alternately, you can upload your tree to GEDmatch itself which also puts a link next to your kit number, but be sure to privitize it first.
There are many advanced GEDmatch posts on this blog. They are listed on the DNA advanced menu under Gedmatch posts for your further reading, eventually.
One problem is that newer DNA tests like 23andme since August 2017 or LivingDNA can only be uploaded to GEDmatch’s in progress site: Genesis, because the underlying chip for these DNA tests is different from the previous kits used. My screen shots are not accurate for Genesis but the concepts are. I look forward to this post being outdated very soon when the conversion to that site is complete. If you have kits at GEDmatch they are automatically being migrated to Genesis and your same login will work there.
She used to scramble up my car to try and prevent me from leaving
My lovely dog Kyndra is NOT a labrador retriever! I was so sure she was some sort of lab/border collie mix. She is very loving, playful, smart, and even likes to swim. I can no longer let her off leash on the local river trail because there is a hole in the fence to the golf course and twice she has treated the water hazard there as her very own swimming hole! How can she not be a lab?
Smaller than a lab at 52 pounds but about the size of a border collie with the short glossy black hair of a lab, the face shape of a collie, and the flag-like upcurling tail of a shepherd. Her eyes are so dark that they look black.
Searching online, I find many sites which discuss the lab/border collie mix. I think this “borador” description is a very accurate description of her personality: http://www.spockthedog.com/mixed/borador/ plus the pictures of boradors look just like her with just a bit more hair. “Most often the body of a Borador has the build of the Collie and the colors of a Retriever,” as that site says and as she does to my eyes.
The DNA results from Kyndra’s Wisdom Panel Test
The idea of DNA testing your mutt is to know what breeds she is descended from. That way you know what health issues to watch out for. To be honest, it was really just to satisfy my curiosity. My husband did not see why we should do this, so I put the Wisdom Panel 3.0 Breed Identification DNA Test Kit on my Amazon wish list and I was delighted when a grateful reader got it for me! Thank you Pauline!
Lounging on the couch, you can see her few white patches: feet, chest, privates
However DNA results show no lab at all! At least they include 25% border collie. The other breeds are hard to see in her. German Shepard tail? Bulldog body shape? Rottweiler eyes? Hair growing backwards on her spine from the Airedale? Maybe the answer is that she is just so many generations from any known breeds that it is hard to be accurate. She is a rehome from Jamul (not far from the Mexican border) born to the neighbor’s black dog, father unknown.
Or perhaps the breed composition has the same basic built in inaccuracies as the DNA ethnicity tests for people: just not a big enough database to draw from yet.
That same article points out that the archaeological record and genetic analysis show that the first undisputed dog was buried beside humans 14,200 years ago with with disputed remains occurring 36,000 years ago.
Wikipedia has a good article about dog breeding where we learn that humans have bred dogs for thousands of years to herd, guard, and hunt but it was the Victorians who created many of the modern showy breeds less than 200 years ago.
NIH Genetic Dog Breed Wheel, click for the full article
I found this breed prediction tool online – http://acovant.com/mutt.html – which gave me wildly different results from the DNA test. Maybe I was not answering the questions all that accurately
What does your mutt look like?
Your mutt looks most like a German Shorthaired Pointer with a score of 21.
Your mutt looks somewhat like a Akita with a score of 16.
Your mutt looks somewhat like a Chow Chow with a score of 15.
Your mutt looks somewhat like a Collie with a score of 11.
Your mutt looks somewhat like a Rottweiler with a score of 10.
Your mutt looks somewhat like a Golden Retriever with a score of 7.
Your mutt looks somewhat like a Basset Hound with a score of 5.
Your mutt looks somewhat like a Shetland Sheepdog with a score of 5.
Your mutt looks somewhat like a Standard Poodle with a score of 3.
Whatever her ancestors were, our sweet Kyndra brings us much joy. Her only flaw, aside from the occasional chewing up of a shoe or book, is that she loves children more than other dogs!
This paw position is a bit like an Airedale
Kyndra likes to swim
She looks longingly at the hole in the fence and the golf course water hazard
There have been so many claims in the alternate medicine arena about health problems caused by variations in the MTHFR gene that I was not surprised to get this request from a favorite cousin:
Could you please check to see if there is information in my Ancestry test that tells you whether I have a bad version of the MTHFR gene?
Like many genes, the MTHFR is made up of a long DNA chain including many SNPs (Single-nucleotide polymorphisms), pronounced “snip.” SNPs are places where a single letter in the DNA code often changes to another letter. Since these can vary from one person to another they are useful for figuring out ethnicity. However some variations can have health effects. Typically you would need more than one variation to greatly increase your risks of specific diseases, but not always.
MTHFR location on chromosome 1 from the NIH page about it
One health condition, known as homocystinuria, causing blood homocysteine levels to be too high, is caused by variations in this gene. However that can easily be addressed with certain vitamin B supplements. Geneticist Charis Eng discusses why a DNA test is not needed to diagnose or treat this at https://health.clevelandclinic.org/a-genetic-test-you-dont-need/
Selection Panel on right at Promethease
The genetic cause is not simple, according to the NIH at https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/MTHFR#conditions – “At least 40 mutations in the MTHFR gene have been identified in people with homocystinuria, a disorder in which the body is unable to process homocysteine and methionine properly.”
So can I answer my cousin’s question? There are several SNPs in the MTHR that have been intensely studied, maybe these were tested in her Ancestry.com test.
My advice to her was to upload to Promethease.com which will analyze this nicely for her. When you look at the report, type MTHFR in the box labeled Genes (outlined in red in my image here) and let it tell you your risks.
Of course I still had to figure out whether I could find the most interesting MTHFR SNPs in the raw results. If they are not there, then Promethease will not be much use.
and “Studies have found that women with two C677T gene variants have an increased risk for having a child with a neural tube defect. Studies have also found that men and women with two C677T gene variants and elevated homocysteine levels may be at a mild increased risk for blood clots (venous thromboembolism).”
C677T is the one to look for then, but it was not immediately obvious how to turn that into a location listed in her Ancestry DNA results. That notation means that a C has changed to a T at location 677 in the gene, but it does not place it in the genome. Having two of these may cause various problems.
SNPedia.com is my go to website for explaining DNA topics in close to plain English. Sure enough, when I searched for MTHFR there I found a page which translated those numbers to the rsid numbers in the raw DNA data file. According to https://www.snpedia.com/index.php/MTHFR
There are 3 common SNPs giving rise to MTHFR alleles:
rs1801133, also known as C677T or A222V
rs1801131, also known as A1298C or E429A
rs2274976, also known as G1793A or R594Q
also I learned from the page about that SNP – https://www.snpedia.com/index.php/Rs1801133 that “Homozygous rs1801133(T;T) individuals have ~30% of the expected MTHFR enzyme activity, and rs1801133(C;T) heterozygotes have ~65% activity, compared to the most common genotype, rs1801133(C;C).”
Once I had the rsid number, searching the text file of the raw data for that number was a simple matter and both s1801113 and s1801133 were there. Of course it is showing a G not a C (they are paired so they are basically equivalent in the results just like A and T are).
Out of curiosity, I used the browse raw data (under tools) at 23andme to check if my 2011 test had those SNPs and if a cousin on the v4 chip from 2015 had them. Yes both tests had these SNPs but I hear that the latest tests may not have them.
Sample of the 60 or so SNPs on the MTHFR gene tested at 23andme
23andme wrote a blog post about the MTHFR gene a little over a year ago and they say: “Some websites have spread the idea that having one or two copies of an MTHFR variant can lead to dozens of negative health consequences. There are a couple problems with this claim. First, it’s unlikely that variants in a single gene could cause dozens of unrelated health problems. Second, the C677T and A1289C variants are very common: in some ethnicities, more than 50 percent of people have at least one copy of one of these variants. Most disease-causing genetic variants are not this common.
The “only scientific consensus about the impact of MTHFR variants is that certain very rare mutations can cause a disease called Homocystinuria. How rare are these mutations? Less than 1 person in a million has homocystinuria due to MTHFR mutations. We know you are unique, but you are very, very unlikely to be that 1 person in a million.
The questions we most commonly receive are not about these rare mutations; instead, they are about the very common variants (aka polymorphisms). The variants are usually called C677T and A1298C; in SNPedia, these are represented by rs1801133 and rs1801131, respectively.
There is scientific consensus about these common variants as well. The consensus is that (1) there is no medical reason to test these common variants, and (2) there no recommended actions based on the results of such genetic tests.”
In conclusion, genetics is far more complicated than a single variation in a single gene causing a problem, but disclaimer, I am not a geneticist, just an interested citizen scientist.
I hope this answers your question my beloved cousin.
The SCGS Jamboree is perhaps my favorite genealogy conference because there are so many DNA talks. Of course the i4GG conference, which is coming back to San Diego on December 8-9, is all DNA so I love that one even more.
It was great to meet so many of the people I only knew via the internet, particularly the DNAadoption crew for whom I have written several tools. Here we all are last Thursday night (thank you Leah Larkin for taking the photo!)
Front: Rob Warthen, L to R: Gale French, Barbara Rae-Venter, Pam Tabor, Barbara Taylor, Richard Weiss, Karin Corbeil, me, Don Worth, Kaytlin
My presentation about using GWorks with unknown parentage cases went very well. This pleased me since I had worked so hard to try and make this tool understandable. I did this by showing how I used it on a few cases. Here is my favorite slide:
The idea is that you can usually find the ancestral couple to build down from on a second cousin match’s tree by using GWorks alone. Look at the top ancestors in the GWorks compare all trees to see if any of them are on the second cousin’s pedigree tree. In the image above the tree is on the left and the top GWorks matches on the right. Do you see any names in both places? Click the image to go to the slide, then click the forward > to see the answer highlighted.
All the conference videos and audios are available for sale (Click here). There were talks I did not get to in time to get a seat, and others that conflicted with each other, so I will probably buy a few myself.
One of the things I have been thinking about a lot recently is how to get my younger family members interested in family history and perhaps even DNA.
However an idea that has been occurring to me recently is to make a picture book of the Munson family history for both younger and older family members. So I went to Devon Noel Lee’s talk “Self Publishing Your Family History” to see what I could learn. Besides, I wanted to meet her since I have agreed to participate in the Family History Fanatic’s Summer of DNA e-conference run by Noel and her husband Andrew. This is a disclaimer since I will be paid for that!
Noel was a delight, very energetic, and quite inspiring. She suggested Lulu for self publishing a family book and Pinnacle for editing your videos. I found a youtube video where she discusses picking a photo book company between her two finalists a year ago, Mixbook and Presto Photo. The Lees have a Family Fanatics channel on youtube which I am now subscribed to.
Noel compares PrestoPhoto and Mixbook on youtube
Later in the conference, I dropped by her friend Brett Weiss’ Photos Movies and More booth and bought his service to copy my last 5 VCR family movie tapes to MP4. He will even come pick them up!
My genealogy education also included learning about online Pennsylvania records for my Beyer cousins from the wonderful James Beidler.
Apologies for plugging so many products (most of which I am not even affiliated with) but the exhibit hall was, as usual, one of my favorite parts of the conference, aside from the outdoor restaurant bar. See the footer on this site for my affiliation disclaimer.
I have more news from some of my favorite companies, but those will get their own posts.
Next Thursday is DNA day at the Southern California Genealogy Society’s Jamboree in Burbank, one of my favorite events. I particularly love the outdoor bar restaurant between the hotel and the conference center. Usually the weather is perfect for spending the evening there with friends. If you have been wanting to buy me a glass of wine, here’s your chance!
Thursday also has a series of free events all day long, including a DNA round table at 5:00 pm with a number of DNA experts at tables. You can come to mine to ask questions about 3rd party DNA tools.
If you can’t get there, you can sign up for live streaming at http://genealogyjamboree.com/live-streaming-2018/ – sadly it is not free this year, but very inexpensive. In previous years you could buy recordings of many of the sessions, hopefully that will happen this year too.
The main genealogy sessions start Friday morning, but there is at least one DNA related session at every time slot including an “Ask the DNA Experts” at 5pm (and yes I am one of them). Saturday also has plenty of DNA sessions.
Some of my friends and cousins are worried about the possible invasion of their DNA test privacy. Most just want to understand how this can be done, so I will try to explain that in this post. At the end of this post I will include links to other genetic genealogy blog posts that have wrestled with the issues raised.
You share about 98.5% of your DNA with this fellow
Although I have sympathy with the concerns of people who fear false identification using DNA techniques, this is not my fear. The methodology used gets to a pool of possibles whose actual DNA is then collected and compared. I have confidence in that technology. My fear is that my cousins will stop testing their DNA to help my family projects or stop uploading their tests to my favorite tools site, GEDmatch, where the DNA test results from different companies can be compared.
Let me start my article by reminding all of you that every human’s DNA is about 99% the same as every other human and about 98.5% the same as a chimpanzee. The companies who test your personal genome only test a small sample of that differing 1%. To put it in numbers, our genomes have about 3 billion base pairs and the tests cover about 700,000 of those, which comes out to about .02% of your genome. Not enough to clone you or worry about, in my opinion.
Next let me remind you that uploading your DNA results from Ancestry or 23andme or wherever you tested to GEDmatch does not expose even that little bit of your DNA to the public. What happens is that your “DNA cousins” will match long sections of your data, called segments, and they can see which locations on which chromosome(s) are the same between the two of you. Therefore they know what your actual DNA code is only on those pieces they share with you. When they match you in the GEDmatch database, they can see your email address, name or pseudonym, and your kit number. With that kit number they can see what color your eyes are, what ethnicities various calculators give, and who else you match. If you have connected a family tree to your DNA they can also see the non-living people in your tree. But they have to match your DNA significantly to see any of that! Click here for an article I wrote addressing privacy worries at GEDmatch
You start by putting a DNA results data file of your suspect on GEDmatch that looks like a kit from one of the main testing companies.
The methodology involves building endless trees. This is much easier to do on Ancestry or MyHeritage which have good family trees and good DNA to tree matching tools. There is also WIKItree which connects their one world tree to GEDmatch, if their users have entered their kit number. Finally GEDmatch itself also has a family tree (GEDcom) upload and compare facility.
To start tree building, you need to find some people who match the DNA, predicted second or third cousins are best, but it can be done from fourths, as it was suggested may have been done in this case. It just takes longer. Next you build the trees of these cousins back to about 1800 looking for an ancestor or couple that is in more than one tree, a common ancestor(s). Sometimes the trees are already built. The next step is to build the tree of that common ancestor’s descendants down to the present day looking for someone of the right age in the right place. There are tools that can help with comparing trees to get to that couple or couples but there are no short cuts to building the tree of their descendants, unless some of them have already built large public trees.
I read that in the Golden State case they got down to a pool of 100 people over a four month period using this technique. I saw an article that said that another suspect’s DNA was tested a year ago and was negative. So this methodology was not a panacea. It got them to a pool of people whom they had to investigate using standard police work and direct DNA matching. Anyone who has ever watched the TV show Bones knows that DNA can be extracted from chewing gum and drink cans…
When I do unknown parentage work, this tree building methodology can get me to grandparents or great grandparents fairly quickly, provided enough relatives are tested (easiest for Amercans). I will be giving a presentation on this technique at the SCGS Jamboree in Burbank at the end of May. Here are some of my blog posts that describe the methodology:
But what is DNA day and who deems it a day to celebrate? It is the day in 1953 when “James Watson, Francis Crick, Maurice Wilkins, Rosalind Franklin and colleagues published papers in the journal Nature on the structure of DNA” [source wikipedia]
My husband remembers his text books from the 1970s on molecular biology which claimed DNA could never be sequenced. I recently saved his 1970 second edition of Watson’s Molecular Biology of the Gene (now in its 7th edition as of 2013) from our give to charity bin.
On April 25, 2003 the human genome project declared success; Fifty years to the day after the Crick, Watson, et al article. Do you think the choice of day was deliberate? And here we are 15 years later where the price of sequencing that part of your genome which is different from other humans is only about $50. Amazing!
The key to these tests is that they are just a sample of where our genomes differ. The amazing thing is how accurate the close family prediction are: parents, siblings, first and second cousins. Although half siblings look like grandparents or niblings and there is overlap with high first cousins. Still it is pretty marvelous that these small samples can achieve such good family matching.
What is less accurate are the ethnicity predictions. Although the broad strokes are good, a North German can look like a Scot and I am still wondering how my 100% Norwegian Dad gets some English predicted at every company. So I have been exhorting more family members to get tested to help me with my many DNA projects, including finding our Finnish and Saami ancestor(s).
I close with this thought that has come from my many years of working with DNA results: we are all related. I even share DNA with a fellow in Cambodia. He knows his 4th grandad was a Norwegian sailor. I was able to tell him that the DNA segment we match on comes from my Ve farm ancestors in Hordaland.
One of my favorite posts explaining how we are all related comes from the Coop lab – Our Vast Family Tree. Happy DNA Day!