“Spread the love around…”
…is what the instructor at GRIP (Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh) said, talking about acquiring lots and lots of DNA kits and distributing them throughout the world for people to use and join this community of those who know their chromosomal cousins and their haplogroups – all their ancestors’ haplogroups – or at least are working on learning them.
We, Dai and I, had a great week at GRIP learning more and more about our much-loved DNA-for-genealogy tools and all the trimmings from some of the best instructors the world has to offer.
Blaine T. Bettinger (and I might add that one of our instructors, Angie Bush, pointed out it should be Dr. Blaine T. Bettinger, Esq) was our course coordinator and instructor for DNA Evidence and if you love DNA for genealogy, then you must read his work, follow him on Facebook and follow his blog.
Oh, I am so hoping you will follow my blog too!!! 🙂
And to round out the course, Blaine had the dynamic Karen Stanbury; get ready to learn! And it was Karen I am quoting when I say, “Spread the love around.”
Well, that is that, for the rest of this blog it is about me and what I think and feel about this ever-changing DNA stuff. I will write the glowing praise I have for our much beloved GRIP and all three of our magnificent instructors in another blog. The best and the brightest were there for the many courses about learning genealogy from records sets, and how and where to research for world genealogy. There was Tom Jones for documentation and the always amazing Cyndi Ingle of Cyndi’s List. You can get the benefit of her years of collecting great websites and blogs on everything to do with genealogy from DNA to local history and so on. And of course many many many thanks to Elissa and Debbie who make GRIP so amazing!
This is about me, or rather my family and DNA. My new half sister requested that, since our shared father’s birthday is almost here, I write again about how she and I found each other through DNA. She was not an adoptee, and when I looked, she had a well-worked tree — and I might add with no bull-SSS! (I deplore name collectors with error-prone trees; yes, I have mistakes in mine also I bet, but I hope there is not a public tree left that I am responsible for which has the horrendous lies about ancestry that I have seen.)
Clearly my pet peeve, and I will say it right up front: With all the new features being added by the companies to incorporate DNA and regional and local history with a person’s own research, there is no reason on this earth why there could not be DNA flags and document flags to show when lines have been questioned or there is a conflict. I heard someone say this would not be any fun for people, and I could have had a stroke.
“Honor your father and your mother” (“the mating pair,” Dr Bettinger aptly called them). And with the massive amounts of data being fed into algorithms, there is no bloody excuse (or spitting-distance reason, or cheek cell-scraping defense) for the big websites not helping us to spot and fix the errors in trees. When the companies first began suggesting tree links, there was no requirement to compare first and click twice. There was no “undo.” But under no circumstances will they take any, even partial responsibility for the rapid spreading of tree errors, or provide any remedies. And for those who suggest it would be too hard, I point out again: There are massive amounts of data being processed with just a click.
For privacy – and I have many broken blogs of the last year’s privacy controversy – I keep saying: There is no privacy and law enforcement is the least of our worries. Medical insurance and pre-existing conditions are at the top of the list. And it is naive for anyone to say, “Oh, but it is illegal for the insurance companies to get and use this info.”
First of all, they already have it. Just look at the magnificent research about the man who brought the first colon cancer gene to America: This guy has been identified in colonial times and his descendents are much sought after. And because of all these error-riddled on-line trees, filled out by folks seeking their wonderful early ancestors, millions of people are now said to be descendants of the man, whether that is true or not. Of course with the many different ways to skin a cat and name-collect, the insurance companies and their death panels will have all our names. Even with the current legal protections, nothing controls insurance prices. Meanwhile a world of additional knowledge about us is being accumulated.
We already have companies that have facilitated testing before marriage so a couple can get to “know” (medically genetically) each other better. And we have testing for fetuses (and now we move into the places where the fundamentalists worldwide have strokes and right-wingers just look at the costs and run). But setting all that aside, we have seen an industry grow in these last 20 years from one that provided a few unrecognizable new things, to one that provides more and better unrecognizable and unpredictable amazements, which we can all enjoy about ourselves and others.
There are many social media pages for genealogy and DNA for genealogy groups that are still buzzing with these reasons not to test, and I see more questions that I have not addressed here, but I do not want to hide the trends in worry and the questions I hear. These issues might all be valid, but as I always remind, the information is already out there, and will all be accessible.
There are so many wonderful ways for us to use DNA for genealogy and our own traditional genealogy and family history in combination with this new DNA industry. I still encourage all folks to participate, the argument that we need to protect our privacy is true but if these bits pieces and snippets are being accessed in other ways then we should still make sure we use to enjoy our own DNA and family history.
So, my new sister: I call her “that woman,” and Dai calls her, speaking to me, “your father’s daughter.”
I had just found out about her a few weeks before last year’s GRIP, where Dai and I had Blaine, CeCe Moore and Tom Jones for instructors and where one day at lunch, I had blurted out in front of Blaine, Jon and Dai – something to the effect of “having wanted a day without DNA.” And Blaine, in a nice cheery way, expressed his delight at having DNA every day. But I should have explained I was still in shock over discovering my new sister.
You can see what I wrote about it last year: Her AncestryDNA message began by saying she had taken the DNA test on a whim. At that time, AncestryDNA did not suggest half sibling as a likely relationship. It just told her “close family to 1st cousin.” She assumed we must be 1st cousins. But she told me she had looked through the stripped-down public tree attached to my DNA and had not recognized any names. She did not need and certainly was not looking for a new parent; she had always been close to the man she had thought was her father and a wonderful step father, who, along with her mother raised her as his own. Her mother certainly knew there was a “possibility”, but she believes her mother would have been as shocked as she had been with the news.
She has a pageful of photos of her mom’s next-door neighbors, who also happened to be our dad’s favorite 1st cousin, her husband and her son. So we were blessed with a huge clue as to how everybody knew each other, placing the “mating pair” in proximity.
But at GRIP last year, what I was struggling to face when I cursed another day with DNA was the fact that she was married/separated at the time and my dad was in one of his many divorces. He drank too much, and when he drank he was “pushy.” It made me feel sick. I think it is so important for people who are going to take a test to keep in mind that there can, and likely will be, surprises. (How big a surprise, and how close to home it strikes, will be revealed by how many centiMorgans you share with your new match.)
But maybe this was not a bad encounter or a passing fling; maybe it was the love of their lives, “so sorry that we did not get to spend the rest of our lives together.” We will never know the answers to our questions. In the end we found a piece of ourselves we didn’t know as lost, so are those answers really important?
The first thing I did when I got the message about a match who thought she might be a first cousin was to check my DNA match page. “That woman” and I shared 1,555 cMs — an amount that could mean we were half siblings. (using the shared centiMorgan charts and also the project this amount could be aunt/uncle/niece/nephew, or double first cousin, or grandparent/grandchild. And I also compared her with my other matching known cousins and could see she was also related to my paternal relatives).
This is why it is soooo important to see how many centiMorgans you share with a match. We can go running off into the name-collected tree and look for a 10th generation wanna-be ancestor to connect to. But this stuff is real and we now have the tools to see how much DNA we share. That allows us to know “exactly” how two people might be related. So if you share 200 cMs with someone, it is not confirmation of a 16th century ancestor; this person shares with you a pair of great grandparents, or possibly great great grands.
And there are now charts and guides. There is no longer an excuse for saying, “I’ll bet this or that couple is them.” There was a mating pair and they may not have been the same people who were married, or who appear in the paper ancestry, or who lived in the family home or on the land in Nelson County, Va., as genealogist Debbie pointed out. In this world of DNA for genealogy, we need to use all three types of DNA testing and re-confirm all our paper ancestries, no matter how well documented with primary and secondary records. They might not be right — at least genetically.
Don’t just guess with the excuse of not understanding science. We do not need to understand the science; this has been done for us if we will use the tools and charts and guides that are offered to us.
Blaine T. Bettiner has in his project and in his groups the best information anywhere comparing shared cMs to likely relationships. These are not guesses; His chart is based on submissions from more than 50,000 people who provided their relationships and shared cMs.
Today we have this handed to us on a plate. What we thought we knew 20 years ago from 12 marker y-DNA matches has jumped to Dai and me searching out a thousands-of-years-old y-DNA haplogroup G2a in northern Spain (we visited the area because Dai’s early haplogroup is G2a). By the way, Otzi the Iceman is also from the G2a family – how cool is that? And if that is not enough, so is King Richard III.
So does that put Dai and the whole G2a family at the mercy of the insurance companies because Richard is known to have had scoliosis? Yes, if I am right about the thoroughly capitalistic mentality of insurance companies’ research such as mortality tables (we used them when I worked in cemetery sales).
The next time those DNA test kits go on sale – get a handful. Give them around to your 2nd cousins – that is a great place to start. Then you can compare new matches with your paternal side 2nd cousin and hopefully know “exactly” which family line the match belongs to (as I was able to do with “that woman’s results). These will be grouped, sorted into families. Then a maternal 2nd cousin will represent another mating pair, helping you to organize other new matches into the family line of those great grandparents!
Learn your matches this way – easily. There is no reason to guess when the numbers of shared centiMorgans to identify cousins is available and haplogroups are often already identified to confirm many colonial families and some others. It is very easy to start family and surname groups if they are not already in place.
Below find links to charts and tools. It is more fun to honor real, documented DNA-confirmed ancestors.
Collect family members who share DNA in your tree. Don’t use trees without proving them. Really! Today it is easy – well, easier. Don’t be on the wrong side of history or herstory with the trees that someone defends saying, “No one can prove it wrong.” Well – yes we can! The genealogy lights shine on truth today and it comes in centiMorgans and haplogroups.
As for that woman? I wrote last year on July 2nd I had heard I might have a sibling, a sister. This was our father’s birthday. He liked to say this was the real Independence Day since the declaration was signed on the 2nd. It was the morning of July 4th when I got the message saying she had taken a DNA test on a whim.
We met weeks later, after last year’s GRIP, and after we had both had time to deal with the shock. We caught on like a house on fire, and we are very fortunate in that; it doesn’t always go so smoothly. She said she had told someone something to the effect of she “didn’t get a new sibling, she got a DNA guru.” Since then, she has visited my aunt — our father’s sister — and they also are thrilled with each other.
Spread the love around.
I want people to love my blog too – but he has so much more stuff than me and really great stuff! And this will link in to find the Shared cM project if you are not using it already – remember there is no need to guess a relationship there are knows and the work is already done for us!
And one stop shopping – for ever and ever for genealogy the one and only Cyndi’s List
Folks have seen my links to free and other info for ages on my pages – well, the years of this blog that are still online, so also remember to Google your people and always use the Google browser at least regularly to find info through their search engine!
For more info about GRIP
I started making an mt-DNA and y-DNA tree on ancestry – but the changes happened too fast and there are now more gaps and too many mistakes. I had so hoped some wonderful geek would make us a tree and we could be added under our SNPs. One day I hope this will have a fix and easy clicking and the ancestors will be slotted and happy in their truth.
Sam’s birthday July 2nd:
A few weeks later:
This week in GRIP we learned about wonderful tools – DNA Painter is where you will find the shared centiMorgan project.
ISOGG talking about Chromosome Mapping – while you are on this site search for anything DNA
We also had wonderful lessons for using the X DNA that I am also always reminding folks to use – see this blog from last year with the X charts and others
I share all my charts and try to note where free charts can be found.
One of my favorite sites and in honor of… the birthday guy – all about red hair: