Amber: Hey everyone! Thanks for joining us for our first ever Live DNA Q&A session. My name is Amber Brown, I am Marketing Manager for Legacy Tree Genealogists, and I’m here today with Paul Woodbury, one of our Sr. Genetic Genealogists, and he’s taking questions that users submitted on our website at legacytree.com/live. He’s answering questions about genetic genealogy and how to use DNA to find your ancestors. We’re going to give it about a minute to let everyone get logged in and join us. So while we’re waiting, go ahead and leave us a comment and tell us where you’re joining us from today.
Just as way of introduction for those of you that may not be familiar with Legacy Tree Genealogists,we are a full service genealogy research firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah near the famous Family History Library. We’ve developed a network of onsite researchers all over the globe, and we pride ourselves on being the highest rated genealogy research firm in the world.
Okay, I think we’re about a minute in, so let’s go ahead and welcome those that just joined us. My name is Amber Brown, and again, I’m the Marketing Manager for Legacy Tree Genealogists, and I’m here with Paul Woodbury one of our Sr. Genetic Genealogists and he’s answering all of your questions on genetic genealogy and using DNA to find your ancestors. Users submitted their questions on our website at legacytree.com/live and we’re going to try and get to as many of those questions as possible today within the next half hour. If you’d still like to submit a questionfor a future DNA session go ahead and do that on the website and the address again is legacytree.com/live and we’re going to have sessions like this in the future.
Just real quick, for everyone that tunes in today we do have a special offer at the end of the video, so make sure you stay until the end, you’re not going to want to miss it, it’s going to be pretty cool. So let’s go ahead, kick it off, and get started with our very first question.
Alright, Paul, this first question comes from Donna. Donna I hope you’re listening, give us a like or a comment if you’re here. She says “My second great grandmother was a civil war widow. She had one child with her husband before he went to war and was killed. Because she collected a widow’s pension, she never remarried before having three more sons, including my great grandfather. They apparently never knew who their father was, or didn’t share this information with their children. How accurate would DNA genealogy be in finding out who my biological second grandfather was? Any tips on using DNA to figure it out?” She says, “I have done a DNA test through Ancestry and have a number of matches of cousins with whom I can’t match a common ancestor to.”
Paul: So there are a few approaches you can take with utilizing genetic genealogy research in this situation. and it sounds like a fascinating case. Something that I would ask in this situation would be, “Are all of these three children the children of the same father?” and that is something that we could address with DNA testing. In order to do that we would need to make a DNA testing plan, identify descendants of each of those children, and invite them to do DNA testing as well.
Another approach that I would recommend taking in this situation would be to look for a direct line paternal descendant, so a son, of a son, of a son, of a son, somewhere along that line in order to find an individual who carries the same Y-chromosome as this unknown father. The Y-chromosome is passed from father to son, and when you match somebody on the Y-chromosome, it indicates that you share a direct line paternal ancestor. Because the Y-chromosome follows the surname pattern, follows an inheritance pattern that is similar to surname inheritance, we can often identify biological surnames based off the Y-chromosome. So if you can find a descendant along that paternal line to test, that would be really helpful for this case, because then we can identify the surname and then look for men in the area who have that same surname who could be the father of these children.
Amber: Very cool. Okay real quick, just a reminder for everyone that’s watching, if you find any of this information helpful or that you think your friends or family members would benefit from, make sure you share this video and tag your friends so they’ll have access to it as well.
Okay, let’s go ahead and get on with the second question. So this one comes from Emily, and she says, “Is there a way to determine a family question, if your father’s surname is not your DNA surname, as in an adoption or guardian?”
Paul: And this fits in perfectly with what we’ve just discussed, in that the Y-chromosome can really help you determine if your current surname corresponds well with your biological surname, and where that Y-chromosome came from.
It’s important to realize that it only does come through this male line. So even though you may not have the DNA to help answer that question regarding unknown paternity, you should search for other family members who may have the DNA that you don’t have to help answer that question.
So in addition to using your own DNA as a research tool and as a resource for genealogical research you should also consider what DNA other people in your family may have inherited from your ancestors.
Amber: Perfect. This next question is from Liz, and she says “With the many matches I see in my DNA profile, I have a hard time figuring out which ones are really close relatives compared to someone that is a distant relative or just a maybe. Please share what numbers we should look for in our matches?”
Paul: So the evaluation of your DNA matches are going to depend on the type of test that you take.
There are three types of DNA tests available for genetic genealogy. The Y-chromosome test available at Family Tree DNA; the mitochondrial DNA test, available also at Family Tree DNA; an autosomal DNA test which are available at ancestry.com, 23andMe and also at Family Tree DNA. So the way that you approach interpretation and evaluation of your matches in each of those situations is going to be a little bit different.
We’ll start with the Y-chromosome and talk a little bit about the mitochondrial DNA as well, and then we’ll talk about autosomal DNA match lists, and how to best interpret those. So with the Y-DNA test at Family Tree DNA, they have a few levels of testing that you can perform: either 37, 67 or 111 markers. The weight that you’ll give to different close matches on your Y-DNA is going to depend on the marker level that you’ve tested at. If you tested at 37 markers I usually focus on those who have a genetic distance of 0 to 2, meaning that the markers that they don’t share in common that kind of distinguish their different Y- chromosome lineages are similar enough that they appear as a match but there is only maybe 2 differences between them. I’ll focus on ones that are closer than that. At the 67 marker level, I’ll up that to about 4, and at the 111 marker level, I’ll look at 5 or less.
There are some great tables that you can use for interpretation of your Y-DNA test results at Family Tree DNA. They’re available in the Learning Center at familytreedna.com and they can help you interpret the closeness of your matches there.
At Family Tree DNA they also have the mitochondrial DNA test, and we haven’t talked a lot about that. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited from your mother, and she got it from her mother, and she got it from her mother in a direct maternal line of ancestry. It’s kind of like the Y-DNA that gets passed on intact from generation to generation, but instead of going through the father’s line, it’s coming from your mother. Both males and females have mitochondrial DNA, but only females will pass it on to their children.
Amber: That’s fascinating!
Paul: So with mitochondrial DNA if you take your test at Family Tree DNA and you get some close matches, I usually only will focus on those matches that are exact matches, because even with a genetic distance of 1 on the mitochondrial DNA you could be related within the last 10 generations or the last 28 generations, and we really don’t have very many people that have 28 generation family trees. It’s really hard to apply that in your family history. I will look at them to see if there is anything that stands out immediately, but as a general rule you want to focus on those complete, full sequence matches. On that note, for mitochondrial DNA, really the only one that’s the only test that’s genealogically conclusive that can really give you some strong evidence for common ancestry is the full mitochondrial sequence at Family Tree DNA.
So, that’s Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA. Let’s talk about autosomal DNA. This is by far the most popular type of test and it’s the test that Ancestry offers and 23andMe offers. Family Tree DNA also offers a version of the autosomal DNA test. When you take your autosomal DNA test you’ll get a list of genetic cousins, and those genetic cousins will be ordered typically in your match list by their estimated relationship to you.
So they’ll say, “We expect that this person is a close to first cousin.” Or they’ll say, “We expect that they’re a second to third cousin, or a fourth to sixth cousin, or a fifth to eighth cousin, and that’s based off of the amount of DNA that you share in common.
Autosomal DNA each of us gets half of it from our mom, half of it from our Dad. Beyond that point the percentages vary a little bit. I could get about 25% from my grandparents– in my case I only got 28% from my grandmother, and 22% from my grandfather. So it just kind of depends, it’s a little bit random as you go back. You’ll get about 12% from your great grandparents; about 6% from each great-great- grandparent. So because of that, based on the segments of DNA that you share in common with people, the length of those segments where they’re located, we can estimate how closely related you are to an individual based off of how much DNA you share and based off those characteristics.
So what I usually look at when I’m evaluating autosomal DNA matches, I will look at how many total centimorgans individuals share in common. I use that to estimate the level of relationship. Usually you can identify common ancestors between individuals who share more than about 100 centimorgans of DNA. Centimorgans is just a measurement of shared DNA, and it helps us to evaluate how closely related individuals are to each other.
Amber: Okay, wow, that’s a lot of great information, I hope you found that helpful Liz. Are you ready for the next question?
Paul: Yeah, let’s go.
Amber: Okay, let’s do this! The next question comes from Paul, and he wants to know “What are the benefits of x-chromosome research?”
Paul: Alright, so the x-chromosome is a really neat tool that we have in genealogy The x-chromosome is tested as part of an autosomal DNA test, so there’s no specific test geared towards just the x-chromosome, they test that as part of autosomal DNA tests.
The x-chromosome is the female sex chromosome. Females inherit one x-chromosome from their mother and one from their father. Males only get one x-chromosome from their mother, and from their father they get the Y-chromosome. So that’s kind of how it gets passed down. So in reality, what happens, and we talked a little about this with autosomal DNA, it recombines and gets mixed up every generation before it gets passed down, that also happens with the x-chromosome, but when it goes through a man, that process doesn’t happen, it gets passed on intact from his mother. So in reality, a female will inherit one x-chromosome from her mother, as well as an x-chromosome from her paternal grandmother.
The value of the x-chromosome is helping us to evaluate matches and identify individuals that can only be related through specific lines. If you match somebody on the x-chromosome, then there are only a few possibilities of how you can be related. You know in any case where you match somebody on the x-chromosome that you do not inherit that same segment on the x-chromosome from an ancestor through your paternal grandfather for either individual, because the x- chromosome cannot be passed through two successive generations of males.
So what that does is with autosomal research, you have tons of ancestors that you’re looking at and evaluating for if they could be the source of your shared DNA with your genetic cousin, with the x-chromosome if you share some with somebody on the x- chromosome, you can cut out portions of your tree as the people that may have contributed to that DNA.
Amber: Wow, okay. Again, fascinating. Also we have some articles on our blog about x-chromosome research. If you want to check that out, that’s at legacytree.com/blog. Thanks so much Paul. Okay, the next question comes from Judith, and she asks “I’m trying to search one side of a family and eliminate the other side. Is there any way to connect relations through this back door method when someone’s heritage includes an adoptive person, especially someone like a grandparent. Can you narrow down the other three lines and eliminate those?”
Paul: Yeah, and we kind of talked about this with the x-chromosome and that there are ways to eliminate portions of your family tree from consideration in a research problem. In the same way there are ways to eliminate portions of your match list from consideration in your research project as well.
So let’s say I take a test, and I know that my grandfather was adopted, and we’re trying to figure out who his parents were. If I take a test myself, then I will get this whole list of many matches, not only for my grandfather’s family, but also for my grandmother, and my grandparents on the other side. Now let’s say I find another relative who is a descendant of the same grandfather that I’m interested in exploring. I test that individual and any people that we match in common, are likely related through that ancestral couple. So then we can narrow our match list to focus on just those individuals.
You can also look at it from the other direction when I test somebody that I know is related to me, say through my maternal side. I test my maternal first cousin and anybody that is related to me and my maternal first cousin, I can eliminate from my research. I can say, “I already know how they’re related to me, I’m not going to focus on them as part of this research question.” So by doing targeted testing of known relatives, you can limit the pool of genetic cousins that you’re analyzing and corresponding with to explore the ancestry of this individual of unknown paternity.
I think that is one of the most important approaches in DNA testing in recognizing that not only do you have a resource in your own DNA but also in the DNA of your known relatives from both sides of your family.
Amber: Perfect, that’s awesome, thank you. This next question comes from Jeffrey, Jeffrey I hope you like us if you’re here. “I had a Y-DNA test done through Ancestry many years ago, and did the Family Tree DNA upgrade recently. My results show that I have over 50 matches, but not a single one has my surname. Furthermore, no more than three of them have common surnames with one another. I know there are no surprise paternity issues because my autosomal results are consistent with my paper trail. Is this weird?”
Paul: It depends. Particularly with the level of testing that he’s done. If he’s tested at the 37 marker level and if he belongs to a particularly common signature group, then it’s not uncommon to see many different surnames and many different matches in your match list.
What I would recommend is that he identify specific individuals that he could test hypotheses with. With Y-DNA research, and with DNA research in general, sometimes we want to take the approach of going fishing we take our DNA, we just put it out there, see what we get back. Does it correspond well with what we expect? That can be a valuable approach, and it can be effective, but particularly with Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA, it’s much more effective if you can do targeted testing and targeted exploration of your family rather than just kind of going fishing and seeing what comes back.
What I mean by that is if you have a research question, say the research question here is, “Was my paternal grandfather’s father really the man that we think he was?” We can find a paternal descendants of our paternal grandfather’s father, and search for a son of a son of a son, test them and then we’ll be able to compare that directly to our own results and say, “they are the same, therefore we do have the same common paternal great-grandfather.” Or if they’re different then that opens up new opportunities for discovery and investigation as we begin to explore who was great-grandfather. Or, was the other line that we explored, was that where the case of misattributed paternity may have occurred. So that’s also another possibility that you have to consider.
Amber: Perfect, well thank you. This next question comes from Patti. She says, “I am in touch with a known (through genealogy research) fourth cousin, who does not share any DNA with me.Her father and sister have been tested, and both match to me. I understand that DNA is random, but don’t understand how she and I would not match.”
Paul: Okay, so this is a great question, and I think the answer really lies in highlighting the nature of autosomal DNA inheritance.
As we discussed further, it’s a little bit random in how we receive autosomal DNA from our ancestors. I will get 25% of my DNA from each of my grandparents, and my first cousin will get about 25% from each of our common grandparents. But, we’re going to get different 25 percents. We’ll share some DNA with each other, but it’s going to be in different sections of their DNA. So overall, I may only end up sharing about 12% with my first cousin. So that’s one element of this. Eventually as you get farther back, there will be some ancestors in your family tree from whom you have inherited none of your DNA, just by the random nature of how it gets passed down to you through those generations. Typically that happens after about the fourth great- grandparent level. Most individuals at least some DNA from each of their third great-grandparents but at the level of about fourth great grandparents and beyond we begin losing people from what we call our genetic tree, or those individuals that contributed DNA to our genome.
By the time you get to eighth grade grandparents you’re only going to share DNA with about 10% of them. As you begin moving farther back you’re going to share less and less DNA with those ancestors. Another thing to consider is that each individual inherits 50% from their mom, 50% from their dad. But at any given portion of their DNA they can only inherit one piece from their dad. So let’s say my dad passes DNA on to me, that DNA has to have come either from my paternal grandmother, or my paternal grandfather. I can’t get DNA from both of them.
So in this case, what I suspect is happening, is the client is matching the fourth cousin on a single segment of DNA and she matches that fourth cousin’s father on that same segment of DNA. That match inherited that DNA from her father, and let’s say it’s his paternal copy of his DNA. She doesn’t match the other fourth cousin, which is common–you’ll only match about 50% of your fourth cousins. At that level the fourth cousin that doesn’t match, will have inherited the other copy of the father’s DNA. She’ll have inherited the maternal copy, and because of that, she doesn’t match the client on that individual segment. So it is possible to match a father and a daughter, but not the other daughter.
Amber: Okay, so I guess that answers your question. Thank you so much.That’s crazy–so much to learn! This question comes from Elizabeth, and she says, “What type of DNA test would you recommend that a first time user take?”
Paul: This is one of the most common questions out there, and the answer is, it depends. Typically, and it depends really on what your research goals are. It also depends on your family history, so I’ll give a brief overview of my specific recommendations.
If you have a specific research problem that you’re exploring in a distant, distant time period, then it might be better to do targeted testing with mitochondrial DNA and Y-DNA. Those tests are only available at Family Tree DNA. If you have a research question within the first few generations of your ancestry that might be addressed with autosomal DNA testing, I typically recommend that you start with ancestry.com or Family Tree DNA. If you aren’t able to answer your question at that point, then you can also move on to 23andMe.
Some other considerations for that however, include your ethnic background. If you have Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, Family Tree DNA hands down because they have the largest sample of tested Jewish individuals. If you have a specific region in the world where your ancestors came from then you might also check at Family Tree DNA to see if there is a group project dedicated to that ethnic or geographic region.
For example, there has been great efforts on the part of the Hungarian Bukovina project at Family Tree DNA to recruit individuals from Europe to do DNA testing. So if you have Hungarian Bukovina ancestry, definitely test at Family Tree DNA because you’ll be able to connect with those individuals that have tested as part of that project.
On the other hand, if you have Korean ancestry, consider 23andMe because there is a wealthy philanthropist who has donated hundreds of kits to 23andMe for the use by Korean individuals. Same for African- American family history research, I often recommend 23andMe because they have actively searched out individuals with all four grandparents from Sub Saharan Africa which can help you connect with living cousins in Africa.
So there’s different considerations that you might explore if you have different ethnic origins as well. But on a general level, I typically recommend starting with the largest database, which is ancestry.com, then going to also Family Tree DNA because it is $20 cheaper than any of the other tests. Also, if that still doesn’t answer your question, looking at 23andMe because they may have a larger international database.
So in the end, each of the companies has its pro, its cons, and you’ll also want to consider the other elements of how they store your DNA, how they use your DNA, the privacy associated with that, what’s the contact like between your genetic cousins and you–are you able to contact them directly or do you have to use some cumbersome messaging system…so there’s lot’s of elements of each of the companies that has its pros and cons. I would recommend that you explore those, we have some blog posts dedicated to that. I would also mention that it’s important to explore each of the companies and weigh their respective pros and cons as part of the genetic genealogy standards, that’s the first standard–to explore the companies and to evaluate if they’ll be able to reach your research goals.
Amber: Perfect, thank you so much, Paul. Again, our blog is found at legacytree.com/blog Be sure to check it out, so many great articles and content over there.
We’re about out of time, Paul has to go teach a lesson this morning, but I just want to thank everyone for joining us. I appreciate you joining us for our first Live DNA session .If you would like to submit a question for a future DNA session, you may do so at the web address www.legacytree.com/live
As promised, we do have a special promotional offer for everyone that joined us in the broadcast today. It expires on Monday, October 31st, 2016, so be sure to take advantage of this. We’re offering $35 off of our DNA analysis which is regularly $350, and I have to tell you, we have never done a sale on this before, so this is kind of a rare thing. If you have genetic genealogy questions, or would like to see what DNA analysis can do for you in extending your family line, definitely take advantage of that offer. That promo code is DNA35, and it will expire on Monday, Oct.31, 2016.
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Again, thanks so much for joining us, I hope you guys enjoy the rest of your weekend!