She was born on March 2, 1889 in Mexico, Oswego County, New York, the unnamed daughter of a “Minerva D. Johnson” (age 20 and born in nearby New Haven, Oswego County, NY) and an unknown father. (New York State Department of Health, birth certificate 8040 (1889), no name; Office of Vital Statistics, Albany).
She died at the age of 93 in 1983 in Watertown, New York. Visiting the elderly Helen (by then known as Marley) is one of my earliest childhood memories.
In an attempt to find Helen’s ancestors, I’m using DNA that I graciously obtained from four of Helen’s grandchildren (my father, two of his sisters, and their first cousin). Last week, I uncovered some possible clues that have raised more questions than I could have ever thought possible. And when DNA is involved, that’s really saying something!
This year’s cruise is focused on using the newest tool for your genealogical research, DNA testing. Are you a DNA newbie? No problem, with more than 20 different genetic genealogy presentations, this conference will take you all the way from complete novice to an intermediate user ready to add DNA to your genealogy toolbox. Are you well-versed in genetic genealogy? Come and learn the latest tips and tricks to enhance your DNA knowledge.
In addition to a full slate of presentations, one-on-one consultations, and several group sessions, conference attendees and passengers will have plenty of time to enjoy the sights, sounds, and flavors of the Caribbean as the Coral Princess makes stops in the topical destinations of Aruba, Cartagena, Grand Cayman, and even makes a partial transit of the unparalleled Panama Canal. You can find the full schedule for this amazing trip here.
I’ve recently noted a trend among genealogists to discount unexpected (or unwanted?) DNA test results in order to make the results fit an existing hypothesis, instead of properly re-evaluating the hypothesis in light of the new DNA evidence. (This is NOT made in reference to any specific person, post, or question; it is rather something I’ve been mulling over for some time).
Let’s take third cousins as an example. According to Family Tree DNA’s FAQ, you will share detectable DNA with approximately 90% of your third cousins under FTDNA’s threshold. According to AncestryDNA’s help page (see “Should other family members get tested?”), you will share detectable DNA with 98% of your third cousins under AncestryDNA’s threshold. In other words, if you have 100 third cousins and they all get tested (how’d you do that?), you will share DNA with 98 of them.
With a database of over 700,000 genotyped members, AncestryDNA has generated over one billion cousin connections to date. In 2015, we project this database to grow to exceed well over one million genotyped members, resulting in even more and higher quality cousin matches.
Following the successful launch of AncestryDNA in the UK, we will soon be bringing the service to our members in Australia and Canada, and in doing so, will connect the major English-speaking migrations and globally connect families like never before.
Building on DNA Circles, in 2015 we will launch a new experience that will use the latest genetic technology to discover new ancestors without the customer having to search records or build a family tree. This new feature will transform how family history research is done by providing valuable hints to help experienced genealogist looking to break through brick walls, as well as open family history to a whole new segment of the population. Through this new experience, AncestryDNA customers will be able to discover new ancestors as far back as the 1700’s by connecting into existing DNA Circles.
DNA Circles Without Family Trees
On the last point, in the coming weeks AncestryDNA will launch an extension of the DNA Circles tool in which they assign you to a DNA Circle without having a family tree connection.
Currently, you must have a decent public tree in order to be put into a DNA Circle based on genealogical relationships. Using this new tool, however, you will (potentially) be put into circles without a tree showing that you belong to the circle (in other words, based only on genetic relationships regardless of the trees).
Many genetic genealogists, myself included, often talk about DNA segments getting “broken up” or “broken down” as they are passed from one generation to the next. But this language can be misleading, since DNA isn’t really “broken up” into pieces when it passed down; instead, a few pieces are traded between nonsister chromosomes in a process called RECOMBINATION.
Genetic recombination is a process of crossover between chromosomes during MEIOSIS (meiosis = a very specialized cell division that creates eggs and sperm for reproduction). Very early in meiosis, the cells duplicate the chromosomes. Normally, every cell has 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46 chromosomes. However, in the first step of meiosis, the chromosomes are duplicated to result in a total of 92 chromosomes. There are 4 copies of chromosome 1 (2 copies of the chromosome you got from your mother, and 2 copies of the chromosome you got from your father). There are 4 copies of chromosome 2, and so on.
Inspired by other end-of-year posts by Denise Levenick, Judy Russell,Roberta Estes, and others, here are my Top Five Posts in 2014. This year was a turning point for genetic genealogy as it finally switched from a cottage industry to a widely accepted commercial enterprise. I can only imagine what 2015 will bring.
Here are the top 5 visited posts, ranked from highest to lowest:
Last week I published “Small Matching Segments – Friend or Foe?” to join in the community’s conversation about the use of “small” segments of DNA, referring to segments 5 cM and smaller (although keep in mind that the term “small,” without a more specific definition, will mean different things to different people).
The question that the community has been struggling with is whether small segments of DNA can be used as genealogical evidence, and if so, how they can be used.
As I wrote in my post, a significant percentage of small segments are false positives, with the number at least 33% and likely much higher. In my examination and in the Durand paper I discuss, a false positive is defined as a small segment that is not shared between a child and at least one of the parents.
There has been a great deal of conversation in the genetic genealogy community over the past couple of weeks about the use of “small” segments of matching DNA. Typically, the term “small” refers to segments of 5 cM and smaller, although some people include segments of 7 cM or even 10 cM and smaller in the definition.
The question, essentially, is whether small segments of DNA can be used as genealogical evidence, and if so, how they can be used.
While it may seem at first that all shared segments of DNA could constitute genealogical evidence, unfortunately some small segments are IBS, creating “false positive” matches for reasons other than recent ancestry. These segments sometimes match because of lack of phasing, phasing errors, or a variety of other reasons. One thing, however, is clear: there is no debate in the genetic genealogy community that many small segments are false positive matches. There IS debate, however, regarding the rate of false positive matches, and what that means for the use of small segments as genealogical evidence.
I am incredibly honored to announce my election to the Board of Trustees of the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society! The NYG&B is the largest and oldest genealogical society in New York State, and the second oldest genealogical society in the nation. As a lifelong genealogist with New York roots dating back almost 250 years, joining the NYG&B is a dream come true for me.
Over the past decade, DNA has become a powerful tool for genealogical research. As a member of the NYG&B’s Board of Trustees, I hope to be able to help bridge the (ever-closing) gap between traditional genealogy and genetic genealogy, and help both members and non-members understand and incorporate DNA into their family histories.
The board represents an incredible group of people dedicated to helping people discovery their family histories, and I am so grateful to be able to join them. The full list is below.
VIGR will offer courses on a comprehensive list of genealogical subjects, giving genealogists access to a great curriculum year-round through the VIGR virtual platform. I’m proud to announce that I will be a speaker for the VIGR, and I look forward to interacting with the online genealogical community though my course on autosomal DNA. I am honored to be listed among the incredible speakers below.
No fewer than nine upcoming courses are already listed on the VIGR official website, the earliest commencing in November this year. Each will consist of a total of four 90-minute lectures, presented two each on consecutive Saturdays. Each course will also have extensive syllabus material and practical exercises, as well as time for Q&A. The institute intends to keep class sizes small, which allows for more interaction with instructors and a greater depth of instruction as compared to more typical genealogy webinars.