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Faces of America and Genetic Genealogy Testing

Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings (“I’m Puzzled by DNA Claims on ‘Faces of America’”) writes about the fourth and last episode of “Faces of America,” a PBS documentary series investigating the ancestry of several famous people in America. This fourth episode included several different types of genetic genealogy to examine the ancestral origins and relatedness of the show’s members.

1. Whole Genome Sequencing by Knome

The first type of genetic genealogy was whole-genome sequencing by Knome of Henry Louis Gates and his father. This analysis examined Henry’s (“Skip’s”) genome for medical conditions and physical traits, and also compared his DNA to his father’s, thereby allowing them to deduce the entire DNA contribution from his deceased mother. This segment was actually quite moving, as Dr. Gates was able to establish this intimate connection to the mother that he and his father obviously missed very much.

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A Review of Familybuilder DNA Testing

familybuilder1

Familybuilder, launched in 2007, is a genealogy company that ranks among the top 10 online genealogy services in the world with over 17 million users and over 120 million family tree profiles.  Late last year the company began offering a genetic genealogy product, as I wrote about here on the blog (see “Familybuilder Announces DNA Testing”).

Disclosure: This is a review of Familybuilder’s Y-DNA service using a kit I received free of charge for purposes of this review.  Please note that this is not meant to be an endorsement but merely a review of the Y-DNA service offered by Familybuilder.

The results of a Familybuilder Y-DNA test includes:

“The Migration Map for you and your ancestors, your 17 Markers, your Haplogroup and the History of your DNA.  In addition, the ability to share your results with family and friends on social networks such as Facebook and MySpace as well as a downloadable PDF (suitable for framing).”

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Q&A: Everyone Has Two Family Trees – A Genealogical Tree and a Genetic Tree

I recently received an interesting question from a reader (see this comment) about 23andMe’s Relative Finder, and thought it would be worth sharing the question and my answer with all my readers.

The Question:

I’m a man who recently took a 23andMe test, and I have a question about Relative Finder.  Another man who I match on 36 of 37 Y-DNA markers via Family Tree DNA also took a 23andMe test.  We believe that we are third cousins, but this individual does not show up as related in Relative Finder, nor does he show any similarities in the Family Inheritance section.  Does this mean that we are not related at all?

The Answer

If two individuals do not share any DNA in the Family Inheritance section of 23andMe or do not appear as relatives in Relative Finder, this absolutely does not mean that they are not or cannot be relatives.  It does suggest, however, that the two individuals might not share any DNA.  Although your Y-DNA test suggests that you share a recent common male ancestor, it appears that apart from your Y chromosomes you do not share any other DNA.

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Genetic Genealogy Tidbits

  • Linda Avey, co-founder of 23andMe, has started a new blog entitled The Life & Times of Lilly Mendel.  I’m looking forward to some interesting reading as Linda establishes the Brainstorm Research Foundation dedicated to the study of Alzheimer’s disease.

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Ancestry.com’s Genetic Genealogy Webinar

On July 8th, Ancestry.com hosted a webinar called “Genetic Genealogy Made Easy.”  The webinar is now posted and can be accessed at any time.  One great thing about a webinar is that it can be multimedia; indeed, this webinar uses both slides and video.

The presentation is pretty basic, but a good source of information for people who are new to genetic genealogy.  The following topics are covered, according to the site:

- DNA testing for genealogy works–in easy terms.
– To understand and apply your results to grow your tree.
– Ancestry.com DNA testing can continue to pay off for years.
– Women can benefit from a paternal lineage test.
– To use Ancestry.com DNA features: Groups, Transfer to Tree, and Ancient Ancestry.

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More X-Chromosome Charts

Last month I wrote “Unlocking the Genealogical Secrets of the X Chromosome” and posted a few charts that show the inheritance of the X-chromosome through 8 generations.  I thought these charts might be helpful since inheritance of the X-chromosome can be difficult to understand without seeing it.

New Chart with Ahnentafel Numbers

Since posting the article, two new charts have been created using the originals.  I made one, and the other was made by Rodney Jewett (who gave me permission to re-post the chart here) and posted at dna-forums.org.

Mr. Jewett added the Ahnentafel numbers of contributing X-chromosome ancestors to the chart.  Using these numbers, an individual can simply create a numbered Ahnentafel report to identify X-chromosome contributing ancestors using this chart:

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New Genetic Genealogy Article at Ancestry Magazine

A new article in Ancestry Magazine, “Meeting My New Family,” details a recent meeting of genetic relatives in Chicago.  The author is Howard Wolinsky, who has written other articles in the field of genetic genealogy (see, for example, an article in EMBO about 2 years ago).  As Howard describes, the meeting wasn’t a traditional family reunion:

“We are a new kind of cousin. Until a few days ago, we were strangers who just happened to have had our DNA analyzed. Then we discovered we matched one another to varying degrees. Most of us have common Jewish connections. And we learned that we come from relatively rare branches of the human DNA tree. Our mothers’ mothers came from the HV branch. Our fathers’ fathers came from the G group.”

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Identifying an Unknown Parent Using Genetic Genealogy

iStock_000007020771XSmall Last week, Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings posed a genetic genealogy question on his blog.  I posted a possible solution in the comments there, but I am asked this question regularly and thought I would discuss it here.

At a recent meeting that Randy attended, a woman in the audience asked the speaker:

“I don’t know who my father is. He and my mother had relations in Naples, Italy back in the 1950’s and I was born. I have no siblings. My mother did not tell me his name and there is no father’s name on my birth certificate. Can DNA research help me?”

This particular situation is exceptionally challenging.  If the child had been a boy, he would have his father’s Y-DNA and a decent chance at identifying his father’s surname (and thus could perhaps further elucidate his actual identity with the combination of DNA research and traditional genealogical research).  If the unknown parent had been the mother, the daughter would possess the unknown parent’s mtDNA and a remote but possible chance of finding an mtDNA match and using traditional genealogical techniques to identify the mother.

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Dick Eastman Interviews The Genetic Genealogist at FGS 2008

On September 5th at the 2008 Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I was interviewed by Dick Eastman.  In the interview we discuss my blog, DNA testing in general, and my free ebook, “I Have the Results of My Genetic Genealogy Test, Now What?” (which is available for download in the sidebar of the blog).

If the player doesn’t appear in the post, the interview is available here (http://rootstelevision.com/players/player_conferences.php?bctid=1811559654).  It was a pleasure to meet and talk with Dick, and I hope you enjoy the interview.

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TGG Interview Series VI – Ann Turner

Ann Turner has been a member of the genetic genealogy community since 2000, and during that time she has made great contributions to field (as will become obvious from her interview). According to her brief biography at the Journal of Genetic Genealogy:

Ann Turner is the founder of the GENEALOGY-DNA mailing list at RootsWeb and the co-author (with Megan Smolenyak) of “Trace Your Roots with DNA: Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree.” She received her undergraduate degree in biology in 1964 and her M.D. from Stanford University in 1970. In recent years, she developed software for neuropsychological testing and wrote utility programs for the PAF genealogy program. One of these utilities provided a way to split out all people in a database who were related via their mitochondrial DNA, six years before mtDNA tests were commercially available. The inspiration for this feature came from the (then) forward-looking predictions of Dr. Thomas Roderick, now associate editor of JoGG.

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