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.

DNA and National Geographic, I Remember When…

Yesterday I received the March issue of National Geographic and as I unwrapped the cellophane, out fell an insert about their Geno 2.0 program. This got me thinking about how far DNA has come over the past few years.

Back in the day, I’m thinking circa 2006, a co-worker had used the Society’s DNA service. I don’t remember what the cost was but I remember thinking it was pricey for what she received, a slick brochure that gave her general information about her ethnicity. It told her she was of Greek heritage; since she lived in Tarpon Springs, Florida that was not an Ancestry.com trade in your lederhosen for a kilt revelation. I decided I’d wait until the results became more specific.

After reading the insert in the magazine, I figured the price still must be high as it was not provided, though a special $50.00 off discount was mentioned. Checking the Geno 2.0 Next Generation site, I found that the $199.95 regular price was on sale for $149.95. With the subscriber discount noted on the insert, the price would be $99.95. Guess they’re trying to be competitive with the rest of the market.

The results brochure looks quite similar to what my co-worker received over a decade ago. The biggest change appears to be identification of Neanderthal ancestry which my mother would have just relished. She always swore she had Neanderthal DNA long before science proved remnants remain. If she were alive today, this would have been an awesome birthday gift.

The other updates are vague; “improved ancestral results” and “ancestral calls” but it doesn’t say how the are improved and “more accurate regional ancestry” to include 60 reference populations.

What does make this offer unique is that you can also purchase a ball cap or t-shirt that provides further advertising for the project. Not that it would influence you to test with them, just sayin’.

Blaming DNA

naturenurtureI blame my DNA a lot and I know I’m not alone.  Did you ever hear an older individual tell you as you were growing up that you were just like one of your relatives?  I had a teacher tell me I was like my Uncle George and I was perplexed.  How could I be like him?  I was a girl and he was an adult.  When I told my mom she laughed and replied that I liked to play with words like he did.  Uncle George had a nickname for everyone.  Barely five feet tall and needing to sit on a phone book to peer over the steering wheel, Uncle George called my grandmother “Cutlass Mary” as she was quite assertive in her driving.  She also just happened to drive a Cutlass.  Since I loved alliteration, rhyming and play on words I understood what my mom was saying.  I think that was the beginning of my blaming DNA for my personality.

As I began to delve into my family’s history I completely identified with relatives who had gotten into some serious trouble for their views.  Never one to take the path of least resistance, I have questioned authority for as long as I can remember.  In high school, my husband joked that must be my personal motto.  When I discovered I wasn’t the only one in my family with that trait, I also attributed it to my DNA.

I’m rethinking, though, the amount of influence my DNA has on me due to two events that happened within an hour of each other.  The first occurred while visiting a new dentist.  At this initial appointment, the dentist asked me what happened to my front teeth.  Although not very noticeable, I have some fracturing on the bottoms and a small indent on one of my top teeth.  Regarding my bottom teeth, I told the dentist, I had a playground accident as a child as my permanent teeth were erupting.  They just came up that way!  I told him we must have a genetic mutation of some type on my maternal line as every female has the same indent in the same place.  He laughed and asked if I did arts and crafts, sewing in particular.  Well, yes, I had even worked as a subcontractor with a costume design company in my younger years.  He asked if I used scissors or teeth to cut thread.  My goodness!  The realization that every woman in my family used their teeth to cut thread hit and all I could say was, “I’ve got to tell my daughter.”  So, the indent wasn’t due to DNA but to passing on a habit.  My daughter learned to sew from me as I learned from my mom and she from her mom and who knows how far back.  I recall my Great Grandmother had the same chip on the same tooth.  Who knew?!

After I left the dentist I stopped by a store as I was having one of my kid’s certificates framed.  As the clerk displayed the final product another customer asked me who was the recipient.  I told her and she said, “Wow, you must be proud.”  I am a proud Momma but I always strive to be a Momma who recognized both of my children’s accomplishments so I added an achievement recently made by the other child.  Her response surprised me; she said, “You must have good DNA.”

What does that mean – having “good DNA?”  I guess “bad DNA” would be a true mutation that resulted in a life threatening illness.  Yet mutations alone aren’t “bad,” such as adaptions to make one resistant to diseases. These thoughts quickly ran through my mind as I paid for the frame.

As I left, I turned to the customer and replied, “Naw, it’s not my DNA or my husband’s.  It was hard work, tenacity, and self discipline.”

As we delve into our family’s history, we need to be mindful of both nature and nurture.  We can blame or praise our ancestors’ influences on our lives, both genetically and observed, but the choices and decisions we make are our own.  Happy Hunting!

DNA Lab Analysis – The Accuracy is Questioned

Recently I attended a workshop by Dick Eastman on Cloud Computing provided by my local genealogy society.  Dick spoke briefly, a lunch break was given and then the workshop resumed.  Although his information was interesting, it was the side conversations I overheard during lunch that piqued my interest.

I need to offer a disclaimer first – one of my children is employed by a large laboratory in the U.S. and part of the job responsibility is to trouble shoot and then correct problems that individual labs are encountering.   The troubleshooting my child does is regarding equipment and not results.  To my knowledge, none of that organization’s business is in DNA analysis.  Even so, this proud momma often hears from family and friends who got results back that there must have been some mistake – how could whatever level that was being measured be so high, etc.  It was with this background that I brought to eavesdropping on the conversation at the next table…

A woman was explaining that she had recently had her DNA results returned and she wasn’t matching with anyone in her family.  She is unmarried and has no children so none of them tested.  Her parents are deceased and she had no siblings.  By matching, she was referring to cousins.  A man at the table conjectured the lab had made a mistake and mixed up the samples.  Another attendee reported that his results matched with his children, siblings and first cousins but not with relatives from 3 generations back.  He, too, originally thought the lab had erred.  Then a match occurred with a surname which he was not familiar.  He thought he had somehow missed that line in his research so he went back over his records and low and behold, discovered that the matching surname lived in the same boarding house as his 2x’s great grandmother.  Hmm.  And yes, great grandma was married to who he had assumed was his great grandfather at the time.  There went all of his research on that great grandpa’s line!

Could a lab make a mistake?  Absolutely!  The likelihood, though, is not as great with the processes and procedures that are in place as is the entanglement of human relationships.

The following day I was reading a list serv to which I belong and an individual had posted how she had inadvertently given a female DNA test kit to a male relative.  The lab caught it and asked for clarification.

My advice if your returned results give you unexpected findings – get the test redone at another site.  Prices are dropping for the holidays so the cost is negligible.  There are “rumors” that Ancestry will run a special beginning November 25th for $69.00 to beat the FTDNA price of $79.00.  I don’t have that in writing so check around on the 25th to see what happens.

When the test results are returned, if they’re similar, well, you know you need to explore other lines to determine who’s the daddy.  If they are not the same, I’d contact the lab and share your findings.  You’d probably get your money refunded if the lab made the error and an offer for another test as a thank you for letting them know there is a quality control problem.  Personally, I’m betting on the relationships and not the lab as the culprit.

Top Five Conference Lessons Learned

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 15 May 2016.

Finally cleaned up the tote bag with all the info I accumulated at the National Genealogical Society Conference held the first week in May in Ft. Lauderdale.  I learned a lot but these five ideas keep circulating around in my head:

  1. Mind Maps – I always encourage my students to use them but I’m negligent in doing so myself.  Elizabeth Shown Mills displayed quite an elaborate spider web map that showed relationships and it was impressive.  I’m adding this to my “to-do” list to incorporate in my practice.
  2. Identify Expertise – D. Joshua Taylor mentioned that he always asks antique store owners what their area of expertise is.  Although I chat with store owners it never dawned on me to ask for specific information.  He related a wonderful story about finding a relative’s belongings in a shop in New York state by simply asking that question.  Definitely will add this to my genealogical tool box!
  3. WorldCat.org – One of the most valuable online resources to find materials I somehow missed the box on the right side that’s called “Related Searches.”  You have to sign in to view which I often don’t do.  This may give you information that you didn’t even know existed!  Definitely worth a look.
  4. DNA – I need to really get serious about DNA testing!  I learned a bunch from Tom Jones’ lecture but there is still so much more I need to learn.  That is where I’m going to be focusing my continuing education.
  5. At the BCG Luncheon, I learned a lot about copywrite and fair use.  Didn’t know that there is a free Fair Use Evaluator online that can help you determine whether a work is fair use or not.

I learned so much more but these items were those that I starred as Ah-ha moments and I wanted to share.  Enjoy!

Genealogy and Your Genes – Experiencing Trauma Can Last Longer Than a Lifetime!

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 21 Nov 2015.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I may receive compensation.

A week ago I attended The Science of Character Learning and the Brain Conference in Boston.  Lots of theoretical and not a lot of practical info given but one keynote session keeps reverberating in my mind.  Although the research findings are still being examined, according to Kenneth Ginsburg, MD, the line between nature and nurture is blurring.  This has implications for a genealogist and reinforces our research practices!

How many times have you re-discovered that you had several ancestors in the same or similar career that you engage in today?  Of course, if you live on the family farm that wouldn’t be surprising but hubby and I have both found that we have educators back into the 1500’s.  Who would have thought?  My mom was a bookkeeper and may dad worked in a steel mill and farmed.  Husband’s dad was a chemist and his mom, a secretary.  None of our grandparents were educators, or so we thought.  I did uncover that my paternal grandmother taught for a brief time prior to her marriage but that discovery was long after I became an educator.  Every time I complete a career interest inventory it points me into the direction of education so I must have inherited traits from a long list of predecessors.  Hmmm.

When I think of genetics I think of gender, body type and eye, hair and skin color.  I also think of diseases, such as hemophilia, Tay-Sachs and sickle cell.  As a counselor, I’ve never really thought about the fact that past traumatic experiences genetically influence the future.

Ginsburg mentioned a study regarding Holocaust victims and changes in their genetic makeup being passed to their offspring and their children’s children.  I’m not talking about horrific medical experimentation, either.  I’m talking about changes resulting from living during the time of the Holocaust.  You can read about the study here,

What does this mean for genealogists?  I think it drives home the importance of not just searching for records pertaining to a particular individual but also finding out about events occurring during that individual’s life.  Knowing the family’s socioeconomic status  can shed light on the person in more ways than just a marriage license ever could.  Here’s an example:

My mother, a product of the depression and a daughter of immigrants, had to leave school to support the family.  Later, as a single mother, her limited job choices hindered her earned income.  My husband’s family also experienced the depression geographically close to where my mother resided.  His maternal line, though, was not as severely affected as my family.  His grandparents were all born in the U.S. and none of their children had to quit school.  There was a tough time on his paternal line but the children were younger than my mother and with the help of extended family, bore less of a detrimental long term effect.

Am I cheap (my husband likes to call me thrifty instead) because I inherited a cheap gene due to the depression and my husband did not inherit one?  According to the research findings that’s possible. (Well, maybe there isn’t a cheap gene but gene markers may have been altered.)  I suspect changes occurred on the X chromosome as my daughter is cheap, too, and my son is not.  Mom could have passed it to me and I passed it to daughter. My maternal grandmother and great grandmothers were definitely not frugal!  Since I wasn’t there I can only go by hearsay but they didn’t like the monetary constraints of the depression at all and once the family’s finances improved, went back to spending on home improvements, new clothing and trips as they had done before the depression happened.  I can validate that by looking at pictures and items purchased by them over their lifetimes. My mother self reported many times as I was growing up about how stressful it was to live through the depression.  As the article mentioned, stress can influence genes.

Stress results not just from socioeconomic status.  Other areas need to be explored, as well.  Think about church and organizational affiliations (imagine the stress of being shunned!), military involvement (my dad stationed in Alaska was not as stressed as hubby’s uncle who was a prisoner of war), education (struggling academically or being forced to quit vs. being a valedictorian), relocation (being alone instead of having family and friends as support), and weather disasters (starting over after the Chicago Fire or Hurricane Katrina) could all alter a family’s future.  These examples are limited – there are lots of stress factors that I haven’t even mentioned.

Genealogically best practice:  we need to keep stress events of our ancestors in mind as we research and examine the stress level for the identified event.  A broken car axle would stress me out today.  I could have been killed or severely injured when it broke so a threat to my safety would have occurred, the financial impact would be painful and the lost time from work would make me anxious.  A broken axle on my ancestor’s Conestoga wagon, however, could have been far more stressful than what I would have experienced today.  No wagon shop on the prairie, safety threats would also include having to face severe weather, wild animals and unsavory individuals.  My ancestor’s stress level would far exceed what I would be feeling.

I want to caution, Dear Readers, that the implication of experiencing stress does not mean that future family members are doomed for eternity.  This blog was certainly not meant to be an excuse for being stuck in a detrimental family cycle.  There are many ways to cope with stress and traumatic life experiences that you or perhaps, an ancestor, had experienced. Definitely seek help if you’re affected!

All this reflection on stress also got me thinking about the changes being made to the Ancestry.com website. If you haven’t heard, by December 15th only the “new” Ancestry will be available.  Perhaps I’m giving Ancestry.com more credit then they deserve but maybe why they are featuring life events now is due to their revamped dna service.  I don’t know that for sure but it will be helpful if they can improve upon the no brainers featured of say, the years that World War I occurred.  If Ancestry could identify events that might be specific to the area where the ancestor lived would be just awesome! Until that time, we need to hunt down the events ourselves so we can better understand our families.

With the holidays approaching I will be letting you know about genealogy gift items that may be of interest to you.  Some of these flexoffers may provide me compensation.

Curse of the Dance

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 5 Jul 2015.

This month I’m fact checking my family legends in honor of my maternal grandmother, Mary Kos Koss’ 115th birthday on July 18th.  Non loved to tell stories but since she was somewhat dramatic, I wanted to discover the truths behind the legends.  Today’s family tale is rather ominous and as children, my cousins and I repeatedly were warned by older family members to guard against the curse that was placed on our family by a scorned woman.

Long ago, one of our several times great grandmothers was young and beautiful.  Being fair of face, with sparkling blue eyes and blonde hair, she was nicknamed Blondie.  Her best feature, however, was her shapely legs that could dance the night away.  It was then the custom to wear long dresses but that didn’t stop Blondie from hiking up her dress as she danced the intricate steps of the kolo, a type of circle dance   A young man who was promised to another woman became smitten by Blondie’s dancing and soon broke off the relationship with his then girlfriend.  The relationship with Blondie intensified and the couple was married.  The entire village was invited to the wedding feast.   At the feast, the ex-girlfriend  announced to the villagers that Blondie had stolen her man and because of it, the exgirlfriend was cursing Blondie and all of her descendants to unbearable suffering of their legs.  Blondie did not believe in curses so she laughed at the woman and continued to celebrate her wedding.  Not long after, however, Blondie did experience pain in her legs and eventually became crippled.  The ex-girlfriend never married and lived to a ripe old age alone on the outskirts of the town.

As a child, I assumed that this story was just used to keep us in line when all 11 of us cousins got together and went running at breakneck speed through grandma’s house.  I figured it was a version of don’t run with a stick in your hand that most parents tell their children.  But as one family member after another sustained leg injuries over the years, myself included, I decided to delve a little deeper.

This is not a story that can be verified as certainly no records would exist that recorded these events.  I can confirm that my family loves dancing and are quite musically inclined.  The kolo is a Croatian folk dance.  “Many young men and women used this as an excuse for courting and teasing one another”1 so there most likely is some basis to the tale of a long ago grandma hiking up her dress at a gathering and gaining the eye of a suitor.

Grandma and Great Grandma Koss
My Mom in a Blondie Pose

Here’s some pics of my own children – I just assumed it was normal to be this agile and flexible.

Still LIkes Rock Climbing
Has Moved on to Yoga

I can also give a long list of family members – actually everyone from my great grandparents on down to the present generation, that have been affected with serious issues with their legs and feet – including amputations, freak accidents while white water rafting, motorcycling, snowboarding, bicycling and horseback riding, lots of broken ankles, legs and hips from falling down stairs, bunions, arthritis and ingrown toe nails. I suspect Blondie became crippled from arthritis as that seems to effect most of the female family members.

I shared this story with my doctor daughter who laughed and said we should all just get tested for Ehlers-Dandlos Syndrome.  I had never heard of it but after looking up the symptoms, I’d say we all have a genetic predisposition to one of the many types of the syndrome – symptoms include overly flexible joints which do allow us to be good dancers and nimble athletes.  Our skin is rather stretchy and fragile, too.  Although we don’t have all of the symptoms I suspect this is the basis for our leg mishaps, coupled with some recklessness because when we’re young we think we’re invincible and when we’re older we forget our age.

6 Years Old

Yes, my daughter’s feet are backwards – when she was young she could turn them around and stand and it freaked teacher’s out.  In the pic she’s pliaing with her feet backwards because she was into ballet at this time. Daughter thought it was comfortable.

So now I know we aren’t a family of klutzes!  Next time I trip I’ll blame

  1. “Croatian Dances” Wikipedia.Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 05 July 2015.
  2.     “Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.” Symptoms. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 July 2015.