Unexpected Results of Having My DNA Done


Just read a wonderful article from NPR on dealing with DNA’s unexpected results that I highly recommend – read it here.

I’m still receiving emails from my matches. Yesterday I got an email at 10 AM from a descendant of Samuel Samuelson and as I was responding, I got another email from a descendant of Samuel’s wife, Maria Swanson. I happily connected the two folks who kindly responded to my initial query. I just love those kinds of coincidences! Think about this, both send me a response within minutes of each other and after 150+ years, reconnect. Very weird!

What was even more awesome was that one of the emailers mentioned that his 100+ year old great aunt is still alive. I strongly urged that they share the info I sent. Hopefully, the photo of that woman’s grandfather will spark some memory that can be recorded before it’s too late. That was certainly an unexpected result of having my DNA done. I never thought I’d find someone who was still alive who had personal knowledge of those living in the 1800’s.

Here’s another result that I never anticipated – I’ve connected with a great grandson of one of my husband’s aunts who didn’t know his great grandmother. We have wonderful memories from when we were teens of this lovely lady and I shared via email some of the kind things she did. I’m sure he’ll pass the information to his own children someday and I just love that the connection will go forward. Happy Hunting!

Gedmatch How To

Since I last blogged I explored Gedmatch. It was simple (and free!) to use and I highly recommend it. Here’s how:
First watch the Youtube video Gedmatch Basics. There is no handout but you really don’t need one.
I had already created an account on the site but if you haven’t, you can make one as you’re watching the video.
Once you’ve logged in to Gedmatch, look on the right side where you’ll upload your DNA files. I had one 23andMe and one Ancestry to upload and compare.
If you’re not sure how to get your DNA files, don’t worry! The video and the Gedmatch site will direct you to the provider and step you through downloading it to your computer and then uploading it to Gedmatch.
Now you’re ready to analyze what you’ve uploaded. Not all features are available immediately but that’s okay, what you’ll be most interested in is the 1 to Many which compared shared DNA to everyone who’s uploaded on the site and the 1 to 1 which compares two people. I was interested in 1 to 1 as I uploaded my son and my results.
Your options to view the results are position, graph or position with graph. I chose position with graph. I like seeing the color comparison; my son preferred the position table only. See the picture at the top as that shows what you’ll see for position with graph. The yellow denotes the match from person 1 to person 2 is half, the green are full matches. There’s a lot of green looking at all 22 chromosomes and the rest yellow as our relationship is mother-son.
Check the bottom of the data to see the estimated relationship, how many segments matched and the largest matching segment.
There are other analysis tools available which I haven’t checked out. I plan on doing that when I get my daughter tested as I’d like to compare her to my son.
DNA offers continue this week – Ancestry and FTDNA both have promotions for $69.00.

We’re still waiting for hubby’s results to be returned from 23andMe.

And More Results…

Last time I blogged about my son’s autosomal dna results being returned so quickly from Ancestry. Minutes after I finished that blog, 23andMe sent me an email that my results were back. We’re still waiting for hubby’s results from 23andMe. All three kits were mailed at the exact same time. I’m not complaining about 23andMe, my results were returned 2 weeks to the day they received them and the original information said results would be back in 4-6 weeks.

Like me son, there was no startling surprises. Instead, it confirmed that I have quite a bit of neanderthal dna which my mom swore we did. I gasped when I saw the numbers. Don’t you hate it when your parents were right?! I wish my mom was alive to see those findings. When I told hubby he was stunned. “How did your mom know that?” he asked. She was always fascinated with them and read anything she could. Back in the day, the thought was there was none of their dna surviving. I would tell my mom that and she would counter that science will find out the truth. Geez! I always thought my mom was interested because most of the excavated sites were in northern Croatia where her parents had been born. She also swore her slightly extended jaw was a carry over from them. Now I have a cave visit on my bucket list.

The rest of the results were exactly as I had expected. Lots of French/German and Eastern European. Those early Persian-Greek roots show up supporting my grandmother’s stories and my grandfather’s gypsy heritage also is visible. I’m so glad I listened when they told those tales. I admit I didn’t believe them 100% in my youth. Seriously, how many families could pass down stories from 2000 years ago but they proved to be correct.

Since I’m an only child and there are no males that could test on my father’s line for 3 generations back, I never had any results on his side. The autosomal gave me that. It’s a no brainer to figure out from where my Great Britain, Scandinavian and French/German was received.

I’m not greatly impressed with 23andMe’s connections to other test takers. I preferred Ancestry’s which shows clearly if another tester had uploaded a tree, how many were in the tree, if the tree was private or public and if a match from my uploaded tree to another tester was found via a shaky leaf. I discovered that most of 23andMe’s matches to myself were recorded as Anonymous and were so old that they don’t even use the site any longer. There was really no one to share a tree with as all were 3-4 or more cousins apart from me. Since I tested my son through Ancestry I could use that feature to make connections which I did.

I created a database in Excel and made the following headings:
Message to
Common Ancestor
Descended Through (this is where the other person was descended and not me)
Date (I sent the email)
Relationship Estimate (such as 3-4 cousin)
Comments (if no tree, how I deduced where the relationship was)

I sent out 50 brief emails to relatives and recorded who I sent a message to on the database. Within 12 hours I’d heard from 25%. I’ve heard complaints that Ancestry’s system is useless since many people do not upload a tree or have a minimal one, at best. I didn’t find this to be a problem for me as I have a very large tree and recognized many unique surnames. Of the first 50 cousins given, only 3 do I not find a connection. Two of the 3 wrote back immediately and we’re exploring relationships now. I could see how this would be a problem if someone was adopted and had no parental knowledge. On a side note, I attended a training in the past week where the presenter made a catty remark about large trees. The trainer felt it was a “waste of time accumulating people.” I agree just trying to collect names isn’t productive but if a surname study was done with citations to prove relationship then accumulating the data is beneficial to making connections.

The coolest thing about my results was reconnecting with people who have emailed me over the last 22 years since I first posted a public tree online. My 4th cousin on the Bollenbacher line and my 3rd cousin on the Leininger side had tested and sure enough, we’re related exactly how we thought. They made those predictions 10 years ago. It’s nice to know that the paper trail matched the science.

The 23andMe result interpretation again mentions Marie Antoinette as my old Ancestry mtDNA had mentioned years ago. Not relevant to me but does correlate with the other test. The new results added Copernicus in the same haplogroup. My son liked that. Since I’m now working in a STEM school I thought that was appropriate.

Now we wait for hubby’s results. In the meantime, I uploaded my raw data to FTDNA and MyHeritage. I’m going to upload my sons and my results to gedmatch, too. Stay tuned.

The Results Are In!


On Amazon Prime Day, I purchased 3 autosomal DNA kits – two from 23andMe and 1 from Ancestry. Seven years ago, hubby and I tested through Ancestry. He completed mt and y; obviously I just could do mt. Ancestry has long since stopped supporting those test results although they are still available to view on their site. Back in those days, I never connected with anyone. My “closest” match was Marie Antoinette of “let them eat cake” fame. I was so unimpressed I decided not to upgrade when autosomal became available.

A second cousin of mine reconnected with me via Find-A-Grave and in our back and forth emails, had tested with National Geographic. We compared maternal Hapogroup and not surprisingly, were the same.

The more I read about dna, which was my genealogy goal this year, and since I am an only child I thought I could gain some additional info on my paternal side by taking an autosomal test. I also was interested in comparing my husband and his sister and then to our children. My plan was to purchase 5 autosomal kits. Sales had come and gone earlier this year – DNA Day in April, Mothers Day in May, Fathers Day in June. Due to our major remodel I figured I’d wait til November and give the kits as Christmas presents, thinking they’d be on sale. You can just imagine the excitement of my family members when I told them this was my plan. (I’m being facetious).

When I saw the price for 23andMe on Amazon Prime Day I decided I’d buy 2 kits for hubby and me since I had read it’s a good practice to compare results from different companies. I had wanted to do the full health tests but they were sold out. Later that day, Ancestry’s kits went on sale with a limit of 1 so I purchased it and offered it to my kids. My son lost the rock-paper-scissors (I am not making this up) so he took the test.

Two days after purchasing, the Ancestry kit arrived and son completed it the following day. The 23andMe kits arrived three days after purchase and my husband and I completed them immediately. Hubby took them all off to be mailed at the same time.

All of these kits were spit kits; our older tests had been cheek swabs. Personally, I like the cheek swabs more as they were quicker to complete.

On Thursday, Ancestry emailed that our son’s results were ready. Although the instructions said it could take as long as 6 weeks, the results were back in less than 2 weeks. I was quite impressed!

The results were interesting but not startling. Now I always knew he was our biological child so I didn’t anticipate any conflicts there. He had a unique look at birth so I knew he hadn’t been switched by the hospital. I just didn’t know if our ancestors had been faithful. I know that sounds awful but I always had a funny feeling that something was not quite right with a family member’s tale. One of my direct line ancestors had gone out west for 6 months. I personally felt that there was a child born out of wedlock but no one would ever confess to knowing more. Reading so many books and journal and newspaper articles lately about DNA surprises I thought I may have one of my own. If my hunch is correct the test results didn’t reveal it, possibly because no one has yet taken a test.

What we found interesting in the results was that it made our son eager to learn about his heritage. My kids grew up visiting cemeteries and old houses that ancestors had lived in long ago. We have many customs and foods that have been handed down, along with things that belonged to those long gone. None of that interests either one of my kids. What hit him was the DNA Matches. The closest match stating it was a 1st or 2nd cousin was his godfather’s brother. He recognized the name immediately and said, “Wow, now I know why you picked such a close family member.” The results were accurate – the individual was his 2nd cousin and we’ve always said our son favors that side of the family more than any other. It’s not just how he looks, it’s what he like and how he acts. He grew up far away from anyone on that side and only knows about them from occasional holiday notes. He is more open to learning about that line now that he has the results. Why? Because he’s the kind of person who is logical, analytical and very scientific oriented and the results proved what I’ve said for years.

The next closest matches were for two other second cousins on his dad’s side. Surnames of third cousin matches were also familiar and a mix of both my sides and his dads. He recognized the names and just kept saying, “Wow.”

The only Community Circle that he had was Pennsylvania which would be his dad’s side. You know I’ve blogged extensively about the Harbaughs and that would be them. Those lines came in the mid-1700’s and intermarried for several generations. It wasn’t until 1869 that they relocated from Pennsylvania to Indiana.

I should have expected the percentages of ancestry to be what they were – predominately Great Britain with lesser amounts of Scandinavia and Eastern European. Back in the day my husband’s results on his y included Chad but our son’s results did not. My husband’s old mt also showed Asian ethnicity and again, this didn’t show up in our son. We’re thinking that was the reference groups that had been used that are more refined now. Also, my husband’s haplogroups did have lines going from those areas.

Yesterday I uploaded the results to FTDNA and MyHeritage. It takes 24-48 hours to get matches there so I’ll write more if anything exciting is discovered.

Was spending $49 worth it? You bet! I’m looking forward to receiving my results soon.

Must Reads

Still catching up from my recent vacations and would like to pass on some awesome articles I’ve just read:

Ancient DNA solves the mystery of the Canaanites (Washington Post)

She thought she was Irish… (Washington Post)

How a rare skin disease links SA to an 18th century Frenchman (The Conversation Africa)

Save the Census (New York Times)

Plus, just announced, Legacy Family Tree will merge with MyHeritage. Special deals coming soon!

Small, Small World

Disney is right – it’s a small world after all! Just back from my travels through the jungles of Central America with a family member and the similarities I’ve encountered were quite interesting.

First stop was Grand Cayman; our driver gave us historical insights as he took us around the island. The cemeteries, above ground, reminded my of New Orleans. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out if you can’t go down you go up! The colorful island flowers left on graves was a custom that I’ve found everywhere. It’s nice to see the commonality of remembering our ancestors.

Next we visited Honduras which reminded me of the West Tampa neighborhood. At the beach we met a local who told us about his educational journey from the island to the mainland for high school. He received a technical degree in air conditioning but was unable to find work so he returned to his birth island. Sure, wars, religious persecution, natural disasters and limited marriage opportunity influence migration but I’ve found with my own ancestors, it was mostly the desire to find work that created wanderlust. I truly believe that Maslow should have put work as a basic need on his hierarchy. We, as genealogists, need to keep in mind occupation as an important factor for movement.

I love Belize! Any country that only has 5 working stoplights and people with a warm and funny attitude is my kind of place. It was in the jungle, however, where I met 3 guides that shared their love of genealogy. All had had their DNA done. Two were 100% Mayan and one was 1/3 Mayan, Spanish and African. In a remote jungle would be the last place on earth I think I would be talking DNA with someone I met but well, it happened. Their genealogy is oral which is probably wise since we all know what happens when computers crash. In their case, there isn’t electricity close. I wish I could have the capacity to remember my maternal and paternal lines as well as they do.

Our last stop was an adventure at Tulum, Mexico and spending half a day on Mayan land. We had authentic lunches in both Belize and in Mexico and I had to laugh at the staple similarities – chicken, beans, rice, and fruit with slight variations in preparation – different seasonings. When I came back and spoke with family, friends and colleagues I got similar comments which applies to my own family. If your grandmother was known for a specific dish and your mom and you tried repeatedly to replicate it with no success, well, that seems to be a worldwide commonality. I cannot for the life of me make my mother’s flaky apple turnovers. She came up with her recipe because she couldn’t make her mother’s to die for apple strudel. A friend told me she has given up making her mom’s fruit iced tea because she can’t get it right, even with her mom standing over her. The patient guide in Belize gave me the recipe but I bet when I make it, it will not taste as delicious. Guess I’m just going to have to go back!

DNA Father’s Day Specials


Unless you plan on waiting until Black Friday, which I’m going to do, there are two special offers available for DNA kits in honor of Father’s Day:

1. Ancestry DNA is $79.00, however, if you order it via Amazon.com and are a prime member, you don’t have to pay shipping. Sale ends June 18th.

2. MyHeritage DNA is $69.00 – ends June 19th.

MyHeritage DNA Upload Trouble Shooting


I took a wonderful webinar through the Association of Professional Genealogists on Thursday evening on DNA and Ancestry given by Jennifer Anderson Zinck. Although my husband and I tested through Ancestry before their new tests became available in October 2014, our earlier results are still available through the DNA tab on the ribbon. I had thought Ancestry was no longer supporting their older tests so I was pleasantly surprised.

Understandably, the old results aren’t going to be a part of their new communities and circles. I decided to upload that old data into MyHeritage.com’s new DNA feature as they recently began accepting data from other companies.

To upload, click on the MyHeritage DNA tab’s dropdown “Upload DNA data NEW.” Click the pink box “Start.” Click if you are uploading your data or someone else’s. In my case, I was trying to upload my mtDNA. Then, click the Service Terms and Consent Agreement. Next, click the pink box “Upload.” Ancestry downloads the results as a csv file which my computer didn’t like. I converted it to an Excel file as that is what it is and uploaded it.

The pop up told me “DNA uploaded successfully.” Good thing I decided to click “Manage Kits” before I uploaded hubby’s data. Surprise, surprise – my kit was marked “Invalid.” I thought that might be because I had changed formats so I went back through the steps and uploaded the csv file. Again, I got the “DNA uploaded successfully” but in checking further, it was marked as “Invalid.”

I called MyHeritage at 1-877-432-3135. Don’t get confused by the voice mail options! I wasn’t needing billing or accounting (1) or sales (2) and the third option, tech support, says to call back between 7 am -5 pm. Since it was 9:15 AM I thought the phones might be down. The message repeats twice but just hold on because you’ll eventually be placed in the queue for assistance. I was number 9 and the wait time was about 15 minutes.

I told the tech guy the process I had followed and it turns out that MyHeritage does not accept mtDNA or yDNA, only autosomal, which we hadn’t taken. I suggested that the type of test be written on the site to save phone calls and wasted time though autosomal is the way to go now and there probably aren’t a lot of folks like us who have older tests.

So, if you have an autosomal DNA test done at a competitor’s site, you might want to take advantage of MyHeritage’s free offer. Getting your data out to another site just might unlock secrets you never knew existed.

DNA Plan


Had a wonderful time in Raleigh last week at the National Genealogical Society Conference! I focused on DNA workshops as that is an area where I would like to gain more knowledge and practical experience.

My 3 favorite sessions on this topic were by Debbie Parker Wayne, Blaine Bettinger and Judy Russell. Now that I have a rudimentary understanding, I plan on working through the book, Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Bettinger and Wayne this summer.

I also learned that the Journal of Genetic Genealogy (JoGG) had been reactivated as a free peer reviewed online resource. Check it out!

Two of the major DNA players, MyHeritage and Ancestry.com, offered conference specials but I decided to wait until Black Friday to make purchases. My plan is to purchase kits from either or several organizations but more likely from Ancestry first since it has the larger database. Then, I’ll download the results and upload to Family Tree DNA and Gedmatch.

Hubby and I tested years ago through Ancestry – he did X and Y and I did X but that version is no longer supported. I’d like to do add Autosomal this time around and include other family members. Besides the benefit of identifying new family members and confirming ones we are aware of, I think it would be fascinating to see if any mutations occurred between our kids and us and between my husband and his sister.

For Mother’s Day, my family got me an e-Book, Mansions of the Dead, by Sarah Stewart Taylor. It’s a genealogical murder mystery that I find interesting as it takes place in Boston, a city I’ve happily researched in, and revolves around mourning jewelry, which I’ve been fascinated with since working with a Client several years ago that inherited a mystery piece from a paternal grandmother. The book was written when DNA analysis was relatively new and I question some of the info but it is a fun read and I can’t wait to confirm my hypothesis of who done it. Happy Hunting!

National DNA Day

On April 25, 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick’s article, “The Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid,” was published in Nature.1 Thus began the DNA revolution.

In honor of that anniversary, Thomas MacEntee has deemed April 25th as DNA Day and other organizations have come forward to offer sales and specials that may be of interest to you (Think of this as a genealogist’s own President’s Day sale!)

Ancestry.com’s price is $79.00. The offer ends April 26th. AncestryCanada price is 30% off ; AncestryUK is 25% off

MyHeritage is also offering kits for $79.00 but will bundle a kit with a subscription for even greater savings.

23 and Me is offering free shipping on their $99.00 autosomal kit with 10% off an additional kit

FamilyTreeDNA is offering Family Finder kits for $59.00

The last time these prices were this low was during the 2016 Holiday shopping season.

1 Watson, James D., and Francis Crick. “Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid.” Nature 171, 4356 (25 April 1953): 737-738.