MyHeritage LIVE 2019

Genealogists from all over the world – get ready to have some fun! MyHeritage has just announced the second annual MyHeritage Live! Conference. A brand new location, new speakers, and the hottest topics on all things family history makes this a...

DNA Testing for Adoptees: Searching for Biological Roots

DNA testing for adoptees (and others with unknown parentage) isn’t a last resort–use it along with other strategies to discover biological roots. Genetic genealogists CeCe Moore and Diahan Southard share five tips for getting started.

DNA testing for adoptees

Not long ago, I chatted with genetic genealogist CeCe Moore of The DNA Detectives about using DNA testing for adoptees. Here I summarize some tips she shared, along with some perspectives of my own and resources that can help your search for biological relatives.

Click here to listen to our chat:

DNA testing for adoptees: 5 tips

1. Start with available records. A lot of people of people are coming straight to DNA testing now without looking at any available records first. Adoptees should start by looking at state laws and seeing if they can get access to original birth certificates. Click here to read about access to adoption records (U.S.).

2. Take an autosomal DNA test. This test looks at both sides of a person’s biological family, mom and dad. Most people start by testing at AncestryDNA because it has the largest database of potential matches (over 4 million now!). If you don’t find a close match (at least a second cousin),  you will want to transfer to both Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage for FREE to expand your search radius. Males with unknown paternity should also take a YDNA test (at least at the 37-marker level) from Family Tree DNA.

3. Do your own adoption search. Sure, you can hire someone to help. But you should be invested in your own search when possible. You’ll likely get a much greater satisfaction out of it.

As with any kind of search you are doing for people who may still be living, proceed with care and try to keep your search as private as possible. Try first to contact the people who are most likely to know about you already, including your parents and grandparents. If you do discover a biological family buy ed medication member who may not know about you, please carefully consider the impact you may have on their lives by revealing information you have learned.

4. Become educated. Learn all the strategies you can for researching your biological roots. Read and read! Keep learning! The DNA Detectives Facebook group is about self-education, with members helping members work their own cases without a professional having to work each one. (You can also check out The DNA Detectives website.)

5. Keep your expectations flexible. CeCe Moore says, “The end result of an adoption search is positive most of the time. There are some stories where contact has been rejected by a birth relative, but they are in the minority. A positive outcome doesn’t necessarily mean a connection ora loving relationship with a birth parent, but perhaps with a birth sibling or cousin.”

Finally, I want to share this powerful statement from CeCe Moore on adoptee rights:

Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 178

 

“I believe everyone has an equal right to learn about their heritage. There’s a whole class of people denied the joyful experience of building their biological family trees. Everyone deserves that knowledge. That doesn’t mean the birth family has to have a relationship. There’s a difference between knowing your heritage and having a relationship with the birth family. The adoptee deserves the knowledge of their origins.

But you can’t legislate a person to have a relationship with another person!”

 

 

 

Get the most from your DNA testing experience with my series of DNA quick guides, updated for 2018! Topics include:

10 DNA Guides Bundle

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Confused by Your AncestryDNA Matches? Read This Post

confused by AncestryDNA matchesOpening your AncestryDNA account to find a New Ancestor Discovery can be a bit like the experience my nine-year old had at the beach today. He noticed something unusual in the sand on his way down to the beach and excitedly used his hands to unearth the treasure. However, it turned out to be a Captain Hook figurine long lost by another (likely much younger) beach-goer. His initial excitement quickly dissipated. He was disappointed as he had clearly found something he did not need or want.

I have heard from many of you that are confused and disappointed with Ancestry’s attempts to merge your genetics and your genealogy. Keep in mind that AncestryDNA matches are only using your genetics. Your DNA Circles and your New Ancestor Discoveries incorporate your linked tree into your genetic test results.

genealogy gems podcast mailboxLisa recently forwarded me a comment from Kate that perfectly illustrates the confusion I’m talking about. “We had DNA done thru Ancestry,” she writes. “The results [have] made me seriously question what they are showing me. I believe they are using my tree to show me results that are more vague than they are revealing. The latest example they show is a person not related by blood. This family is related by name only (my uncle’s spouse).

“My results from Ancestry show that they use my tree to make matches. Just checked the web page for DNA results. They show numerous matches….Three or 4 contacted me because they were convinced they were related by blood when they may have had a remote tree connection. They contacted me because the DNA results showed they were a 3rd or 4th
cousin, when in fact they would only be a 3rd or 4th cousin in my tree.”

I can see why she’s confused. First, let’s review what an AncestryDNA New Ancestor Discovery (NAD) actually IS.  NAD’s are based on the DNA Circle idea created by Ancestry. Remember that a DNA circle is when Ancestry can identify a shared genetic AND genealogical connection between three or more people. Using various standards and measures, they name an ancestor as your connection. This is the ancestor I affectionately call our Party Host. This is the ancestor who passed his or her DNA down to all of their descendants, like tickets inviting them to this party in the future. So, everyone who holds a ticket, AND who has honored that party host ancestor by placing their name in their pedigree chart, is listed as a guest in the form of a DNA circle connection. (Click here to read a blog post about this concept.)

The New Ancestor Discoveries just take that one step further.  The NAD is an attempt to find ticket holders who have not yet taken that extra step and added that important Party Host ancestor to their family tree. The NAD is like a nudge, inviting us to double check our family tree to see if this particular ancestor might need to be added. It is important to remember that a NAD comes only after a DNA circle has already been formed, and there could have been errors in that formation. So the very first thing you need to do with a NAD is to correspond with circle members and double check that the Party Host of the circle, their common ancestor, is correct. Then we can move on to evaluating the NAD.

Ancestry admits on its help pages that there are three reasons why you might get an NAD, and only one is “right” in the way you and I might view it.

NADhelpFigure1The “right” answer comes when the DNA circle was drawn correctly, the Party Host properly identified, and your DNA connection is strong to two or more members of the circle. You are then able to verify through traditional genealogical methods that you are an actual descendant of the Party Host, holding that coveted ticket, shown in blue in this modified image from the AncestryDNA help page.

There are two other alternatives.

NADhelpFigure2First, you are related to the NAD Party Host (the New Ancestor that was discovered) via marriage. In this second example from Ancestry’s help page, we see that your ancestor was married twice. The members of the DNA circle are descendants of her other marriage. Remember, that you do not share DNA with every member of the DNA circle. In this case, you share the purple DNA with a few members of the circle. But there are other members that share the blue. So the super computers at Ancestry first put all the blues together in a circle with the Party Host at the top. Then you come along with purple DNA that matches a few in the circle and their supercomputer erroneously assumes that you too must have been invited to this “blue” party, but in fact, the blue/purple members of the circle are double booked.  They have been invited to both the blue and the purple party.

How can you fix this?  If you can identify your purple Party Host, then you can add that person to your tree, and the trees of your DNA matches and likely then a new DNA Circle will form with the purple Party Host at its head, and the blue NAD will disappear.

NADhelpFigure3BasicThe other situation that many of you are seeing, especially those of you with ancestry from small communities, is demonstrated in Figure 3 of the Ancestry Help page, reproduced here.  As you can see, this one is much more complicated.  (In fact, the colors I added aren’t even quite accurate, as not all descendants of the blue NAD have the same blue, but rather different shades of blue depending on the segment they received- but this is a story for another post!)

The short of it is, the members of the previously established DNA circle share one single ancestor with each other, but they share multiple separate and distinct ancestors with you. Looking at this chart it seems very clear, but remember, in the database we only see you and the people you match.  We cannot tell from the DNA shared which piece came from which ancestor. So, it is very important to check and double check the pedigrees of those in the circle to identify additional shared lines.

The short of it is, these NAD’s are following the guilt by association rule, but in fact, you could be innocent.  Just keep in mind the simple principle that you DO share a common ancestor with those members of the circle that you share DNA with.  You do NOT necessarily share common ancestry with those in the circle that you do not share DNA with.

The key is to take these NAD’s for what they really are: research suggestions.  Keep your expectations low, and then you will be pleasantly surprised when you are able to verify a connection.

Using DNA for Genealogy Ancestry Family Tree DNA GuidesReady to learn more about DNA testing for family history? Click here to watch two video interviews in which Lisa and I chat about genetic genealogy.

My DNA quick reference guides can get you started on your own DNA research, or help you unpuzzle and maximize results you don’t fully understand. Click here to see all six guides: purchase them individually or as value-priced bundles.

 

What’s a CentiMorgan, Anyway? How DNA Tests for Family History Measure Genetic Relationships

If you’re doing DNA tests for family history, you may see lots of predicted cousin matches: 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc…..But what does that predicted genetic relationship actually mean? Learn about centimorgans, the powerful genetic genealogy unit of measure, and how it helps your research.

genetic relationships and centimorgans

How DNA Tests Measure Genetic Relationships

When we are looking at genetic relationships, there are also many ways we can measure them. But ultimately, we want the testing company to tell us how likely it is that a particular individual shares a single, recent common ancestor with us. One factor in this calculation is to take into account the total amount of DNA we share with that match.

Currently, all the testing companies are reporting this sum in centimorgans (cMs).  Every company reports to you the total number of shared cMs, as outlined below.

  • AncestryDNA: Click on the match to access the personal profile page for that match. In the second section, under Predicted Relationship, you will see the confidence level. To the right of the confidence level, you will see a grey circle with a little “i” in it. Clicking there will show you the total amount of shared cMs as well as how many pieces of DNA you share.
  • Family Tree DNA: On the main match page for your Family Finder results, you will see the total amount of shared cMs in the third column.
  • 23andMe: You can see the percentage of shared DNA from the main DNA Relatives home page. To convert the percentage into centimorgans, just multiply your percentage by 68 (that will at least get you close). You can also see total shared cMs in the chromosome browser tool (go to Tools > DNA Relatives > DNA).
  • MyHeritageDNA: The total amount of shared DNA is shown on the main match page under the title Match Quality. MyHeritage also has a new DNA Match Review page. Click here to read more about that.

Centimorgan: A Genetic “Crystal Ball”

It is very tempting to think of a cM just like you would think of an inch or a centimeter, and for all practical purposes, that is okay. But it is actually much more complicated than that.

A cM is actually more like a crystal ball: it helps us predict how likely a piece of DNA looks exactly as it did a generation ago. This, in turn, helps us calculate how far back we should be looking for the common ancestor between two people.

But for our practical purposes, you can use the total amount of shared DNA, in combination with this chart compiled by Blaine Bettinger and the Shared cM Project, to better assess your genealogical relationship with your match based on your genetics.

To use the chart, take the total amount of shared DNA you have with a match, and look up that number in the chart to get an idea of what kind of genealogical relationship might best fit the genetics that you see. For example, if I share 69 cM with my match, we might be third cousins. But we might also be second cousins once or twice removed.

How do you figure out which one? Simply put: do genealogy research! It’s time to use traditional records and research skills to better understand the genetic clues in your family history mysteries.

My series of DNA quick reference guides can help you get the most out of your DNA tests for family history. I definitely recommend the value-priced bundle of all 10 guides. But I especially recommend the guides listed below if you’re to the point where you’re trying to understand what genetic relationships mean:

Thanks for sharing this post with someone who would enjoy reading it! You’re a gem!

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 239 DNA and The Lost Family

The Genealogy Gems Podcast is the leading genealogy and family history show. Launched in 2007, the show is hosted by genealogy author, keynote presenter, and video producer Lisa Louise Cooke. The podcast features genealogy news, interviews, stories and how-to instruction. It can be found in all major podcasting directories, or download the exclusive Genealogy Gems Podcast app to listen to all the episodes and receive bonus content.

Click below to listen to this episode:

Podcast host: Lisa Louise Cooke
March 2020
Download the episode mp3

In this episode we’re going to delve into how DNA testing has changed our world with award-winning journalist Libby Copeland, author of the new book The Lost Family: How DNA Testing is Upending Who We Are.  

Lisa Louise Cooke Roots Tech 2020 Photo Identification Class

Lisa Louise Cooke presenting her new class “3 Cool Cases Solved: How to Identify Your Photos” at RootsTech 2020. Video coming soon to Genealogy Gems Premium Membership!

Genealogy Gems Mailbox

Jenn shares her journey into genealogy and her brand new family history blog.

Jenn writes:

You even inspired me to start my own blog! This is something I thought I would never do, but with your helpful tutorials and encouragement I got started last month and I already have 7 posts!

My question is about getting my blog to show up in Google Search. I am using Blogspot. I have used Google’s Search Console to request indexing for my url’s (they are all indexed). I have included labels and pictures. I use the key words often that I think folks will search for. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. Can you help me?

I have tried the following searches in Google to no avail:

“William” “Poland” 1788…1856 ~genealogy -Polish -Russian -Austrian
“William * Poland” 1788…1856 “Ohio” “Indiana” -Polish -Russian -Austrian -China ~genealogy 

Here is a link to my blog: Poland Family History

Jenn has crafted some great Google search queries to see if her blog will come up in the search results. However, the query does need a few adjustments.

Numrange Search: 1788…1856

Use two periods – not three. 

Synonym Search: The tilde (~genealogy)
This search is no longer supported by Google, and in reality really isn’t necessary due to the updates and improvements it has made to its search algorithm.

Simply include the word genealogy at the end of your query and it should provide search results for words like ancestry, family tree, and family history.

It can take Google up to around a month to index your site so that it will appear in search results. Give it a little more time. In the meantime, I would recommend setting up Google Analytics and Google Console for additional traffic data. 

Run this search to verify your family history blog has been indexed:

site:https://polandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/ 

This blog post by Neil Patel is a great source of additional information about how to get your site found and showing up in search results.

Lisa’s Recommended Strategy:

  • Be Patient
  • Keep Consistently Blogging
  • Use free tools like Google Analytics and Google Console.

Genealogy Gems Book Club: Libby Copeland, author of The Lost Family

From the book: “In The Lost Family, journalist Libby Copeland investigates what happens when we embark on a vast social experiment with little understanding of the ramifications. Copeland explores the culture of genealogy buffs, the science of DNA, and the business of companies like Ancestry and 23andMe, and delves into the many lives that have been irrevocably changed by home DNA tests.”

Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 239 DNA

You’re listening to episode 239.

Get your copy of the book here.
Thank you for using our affiliate link. We will be compensated at no additional cost to you, and that makes it possible for us to be bring more interviews to the free Genealogy Gems Podcast.

The Lost Family How DNA Testing is Upending Who We Are by Libby Copeland

Click image to order “The Lost Family”

Libby Copeland is an award-winning journalist who has written for the Washington PostNew York magazine, the New York Times, the Atlantic, and many other publications. Copeland was a reporter and editor at the Post for eleven years, has been a media fellow and guest lecturer, and has made numerous appearances on television and radio.

Libby Copeland author of The Lost Family

Libby Copeland author of The Lost Family

Quotes from Libby Copeland:

‘I think that America in many ways because of commercial genetic testing is becoming a nation of seekers, and we’re all sort of seeking out our origins.”

“It’s hard to tell your story when you don’t have a beginning.”

“So, we’re sort of operating in the dark in a way. It’s like we have a flashlight and it only illuminates what’s directly in front of us.”

“We have all this information that’s available with the intention for it to be used for one thing, and we cannot anticipate the ways in which it might be used in coming years.”

“So, DNA is…really causing in many ways, the past to collide with the present. And that’s what I find so fascinating.”

Quotes from Lisa Louise Cooke:

“When you say, ‘what’s coming in the future?’ and he (Yaniv Erlich) says ‘oh, I don’t have a crystal ball, but you don’t need one because you look to the past.’ This is what we as genealogists do all the time!”

Get your copy of the book here.
Thank you for using our link and supporting author interviews and the free Genealogy Gems Podcast.

The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox , 3rd Edition

By Lisa Louise Cooke

    • Fully Updated and Revised!
  • Brand New Chapters
  • Featuring Lisa Louise Cooke’s Google Search Methodology for 2020

A lot has changed and it’s time to update your search strategy for genealogy!

The Genealogist's Google Toolbox Third edition Lisa Louise Cooke

Click to order your copy of “The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Third edition” by Lisa Louise Cooke

Discover the answers to your family history mysteries using the newest cutting-edge Google search strategies. A comprehensive resource for the best Google tools, this easy-to-follow book provides the how-to information you need in plain English.

This book features:

  • Step-by-step clear instructions
  • quick reference pages.
  • Strategies for searching faster and achieving better results.
  • How to use exciting new tools like Google Photos and Google Earth.

Visit the Genealogy Gems Store here to order your copy.

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