Episode 217 – The Golden State Killer and Your Genealogy and DNA

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 217

with Lisa Louise Cooke

In this special episode, host and producer Lisa Louise Cooke takes a look at the Golden State killer, one of the most notorious crime sprees in recent memory. She’ll talk about the role that DNA testing played in an ultimate arrest, and the impact that these events are having on genealogists and the use of DNA in genealogy.

The Golden State Killer

Golden State Killer: It’s Not Overdocuseries. (As an Amazon Associate, Genealogy Gems earns from qualifying purchases)
“The Golden State Killer,” 48 Hours episode on CBSNews.com (44-minute episode)

Between 1974 and 1986, activities attributed to the Golden State Killer include at least 12 murders, more than 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries in California from 1974 through 1986.
The criminal’s methods led some investigators to believe that these differently-labeled criminals were very likely one in the same.
In 2001, DNA definitively linked several rapes in Contra Costa County believed to have been part of the East Area Rapist series, a series of murders in Southern California.
In 2011, DNA evidence proved that the Domingo?Sanchez murders were committed by the same man, known as the Golden State Killer.

BONUS CONTENT for Genealogy Gems App Users

If you’re listening through the Genealogy Gems app, don’t forget to check out your bonus content for this episode! The Genealogy Gems app is FREE in Google Play and is only $2.99 for Windows, iPhone and iPad users

MyHeritage

MyHeritage.com is the place to make connections with relatives overseas, particularly with those who may still live in your ancestral homelandClick here to see what MyHeritage can do for you: it’s free to get started.

StoryWorth makes it easy and fun for Mom to share stories with loved ones every week. At the end of the year, she’ll get them all bound in a beautiful hardcover book. Strengthen your bond as you get to know her in a whole new way! Go to http://www.storyworth.com/lisa for $20 off when you subscribe. Give a gift for Mother’s Day that is actually a gift for you, too!

Help solve DNA mysteries with these resources:

Caution: In this episode, Lisa shares her personal opinions on the use of technology for crime fighting and the implications for DNA testing for genealogy. She encourages everyone to do their own homework and make informed decisions in line with their own values, opinions, and objectives.

Reality check: “The only way to ensure privacy is to never put anything of any kind online. Just like the only way to ensure you will never be in a car accident is to never, under any circumstances, get in a car.”

Read more about DNA testing company partnerships:
Another personal genetics company is sharing client data,” Wired.com article by Katie M. Palmer, published 21 July 2015, on Ancestry.com’s partnership with Google-owned Calico biotech firm
23andMe teams with Big Pharma to find treatments hidden in our DNA,” Wired.com article by Davey Alba, published 12 January 2015, on 23andMe’s partnership with Pfizer

Several ways we already use DNA matches:

  • Genealogists use to build family trees
  • Adoptees use to identify birth parents (or other biological relatives)
  • Orphans trying to find long lost siblings and relatives
  • Anyone looking for estranged family members
  • Researchers identifying unidentified human remains, including POW/MIAs

Lisa Louise Cooke uses and recommends RootsMagic family history software. From within RootsMagic, you can search historical records on FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com.

Keep your family history research, photos, tree software files, videos and all other computer files safely backed up with Backblaze, the official cloud-based computer backup system for Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems. Learn more at https://www.backblaze.com/Lisa.

More information on DNA testing

How to download, transfer and upload your DNA with various testing companies by Diahan Southard
How DIY genetic testing kits can be used against you,” News.com.au article by Gavin Fernando, published 3 May, 2018.

“When you test, you are also making a decision on behalf of your parents, siblings, children, grandchildren, and future descendants. Regardless of good intentions or stated ethics codes in the genealogy community, it isn’t possible to write and get the express permission of everyone who could be affected by you having your DNA tested.” ?Lisa Louise Cooke

Genealogy Gems can help you whether you test or not!

Keep listening to the Genealogy Gems Podcast for genealogy news, tips, inspiration and strategies (DNA is one of many tools talked about!)

Read free online articles at GenealogyGems.com. Click here to read dozens of articles on DNA.

Click here to view our complete line of DNA quick reference guides

Become a Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning Member, to get access to all the Premium video classes and the entire Premium Podcast: new monthly episodes plus the full archive of more than 150 previous ones.

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer
Sunny Morton, Editor
Diahan Southard, DNA Content Contributor
Hannah Fullerton, Audio Editor
Lacey Cooke, Service Manager

Disclosure: This document 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 this free podcast and blog!

Resources

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DNA Painter with Genetic Genealogist Blaine Bettinger

Show Notes: DNA Painter explained with the creator of the shared centimorgans project on DNApainter.com, Blaine Bettinger. In this video, you’ll get answers to questions such as:

  • what is DNA Painter
  • What is the Shared Centimorgans tool
  • What’s coming next in genetic genealogy

Special Guest: Blaine Bettinger, The Genetic Genealogist

Watch the Video

Show Notes

Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members
(This interview has been slightly edited for clarity)

What is DNA Painter

Lisa: What is DNA painter?

Blaine: DNA Painter is a really incredible website for genealogists working with their DNA results.

There are several different aspects of the website, including chromosome mapping, which is assigning segments of DNA to particular ancestors. There are some tools for testing hypotheses, like What Are the Odds. And there’s also the Shared Centimorgan Project, which allows you to hypothesize what a genealogical relationship to a match might be based on the amount of DNA you share with that match.

About Blaine Bettinger and the Shared cM Tool

Lisa: As I understand it, that’s kind of how you got involved with DNA painter, or how DNA painter evolved. Tell us a little bit about your background and your work with the Shared cM Tool.

Blaine: I have been a genetic genealogist, essentially, for almost 20 years now. I started in 2003 with my first DNA test and I’ve been a genealogist since middle school. So, I’ve been working in this DNA field for a long time.

Once autosomal DNA testing came along, we discovered that there wasn’t a lot of information about known ranges for various relationships. For example, if I test myself in a first cousin, how much DNA would we share? What might be considered a normal amount? What might be an abnormal amount, and so on? So, I started in 2015 collecting data from test takers, for example, sets of first cousins. We wanted to be able to answer questions like what’s your relationship? And how much DNA do you share? Once I started to collect enough of that data, I could get an idea about what the range for various relationships might be.

Johnny Pearl, the incredible creator behind DNA painter, asked if he could host a version of the Shared Centimorgan Project at the website. I was thrilled to see that. And so now there is a hosted version of the Shared Centimorgan Project with all of those ranges for about 40 different relationships at a DNA Painter.

shared cM tool at DNA Painter

Shared cM tool at DNA Painter

Lisa: Well, that’s really kind of the whole industry, isn’t it? It’s very collaborative. And it’s amazing how it seems like different people have different pieces of the puzzle.

How to Get Started with DNA Painter

Is DNA Painter free? How does someone get involved? Do we need an account?

Blaine: It depends on what you want to do. If you want to use the Shared Centimorgan Project tool, there’s no cost for that. That’s free for anyone to use. So, you would just go to DNA Painter, and either register for a free account, or have no account and still be able to use the Shared Centimorgan Tool.

If you want to start chromosome mapping at DNA Painter, you do get one free map. That’s the assignment of those segments to ancestors. But if you wanted to have maybe a couple maps, you would have to run into having a subscription to the site, which is well worth the money it takes to have a subscription because it’s so valuable in helping you organize your matches and working with your segment information, and so on.

What the Shared Centimorgan Tool can tell you about your DNA

Lisa: You mentioned the chromosome mapping, and the Shared Centimorgan Tool, and What Are the Odds? Can you give us an example of a burning question that a genealogist might have, and that the answer is, “you need to go to DNA painter to do that”?

Blaine: So, let’s say for example, you get a new match at testing company ABC, and that match shares 400 Centimorgans with you. The immediate question is, how is this person related to me? That’s a lot of DNA to share with someone but without a frame of reference you don’t really know. Is it could that my eighth cousin? Is it my sibling? What are the possible relationships?

If you go to DNA Painter and the Shared Centimorgan Project, you pop in 400 Centimorgans. What that’s going to do is it’s going to give you the possible relationships that that could be. And so that’s going to significantly narrow down your search for your genealogical relationship to this new DNA match that you have.

Lisa: Oh, yeah, that would be huge.

DNA Painter for Beginners

So, does this require much technical know-how? Do people have to feel like they’re scientific in nature, or can anybody do this? Could a person new to using genetic genealogy feel like they could do this?

Blaine: Absolutely! And I think one of the great things about DNA Painter and Johnny is that everything is designed to be user-friendly. The website is incredibly easy to understand and interact with the Shared Centimorgan Project. I’m of course biased, but I think it is also created in such a way to be easily understandable. The results of that search for 400 centimorgan relationships is going to give you an output that I think is easy to interpret and understand.

DNA Painter Best Tip

Lisa: What’s your favorite tip? What do you recommend that people either not miss, or make sure that they do while they are at DNA Painter?

Blaine: Bookmarking the Shared Centimorgan Project I think is really important. I think many genealogists use it on a daily basis. Again, I’m biased, but the value of the tool is that it’s free. And it’s so important to helping you understand the possible relationships for your DNA matches.

Now, years from now, once you do this enough, you can start to remember some of the ranges. You can kind of do it in your head. But until you get to that stage, bookmark that site, and you can just refer to it quickly when you’re working with your DNA results.

Lisa: That’s a good idea. It’s very easy to just drag that URL right on to your web browser bookmark bar and have a bookmark ready to go.

Genetic Genealogy Book by Blaine Bettinger

You’ve really been on the forefront of all of this genetic genealogy. And I know that you’re the author of a book, tell us the name of your book.

Blaine: The name of my book is the Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, second edition.

DNA Genetic Genealogy book

Get Blaine’s book (this affiliate link supports our free content)

The Future of Genetic Genealogy

Lisa: What do you think we can look forward to in the future of genetic genealogy?

Blaine: I think it’s really hard to predict in some ways. Some of the tools we have now are our tools we couldn’t even have imagined several years ago. And what’s fueling this growth is the growth of the databases themselves.

For example, just in the past week or so Ancestry came out with a new tool called Side View that allows the grouping of your matches into the two different sides of your family: your paternal side and your maternal side. We couldn’t have imagined a tool like that just a couple of years ago, but it’s because of the size of the database.

For me, the future is two-fold. Number one, it’s the development of these new tools by the testing companies. And it’s also development of new tools by third parties, including the tools like the Shared Centimorgan Project, DNA Painter, and so on. I think we’re going to see more and more tools come out that allow us to work with our results in new and interesting ways.

Lisa: Do you think they’ll ever be a time where the tools and the machine learning that eventually there’s enough data accumulated between people who have tested and people who do genealogy and people who do both, that it could actually automate this process?

Blaine: I do think there’s a huge potential for automation. The one thing that I think is missing right now is that most genetic genealogists, most genealogists period, function as islands. And there isn’t enough collaboration in a way that allows us to benefit from each other’s work. And so, I think there needs to be a way to start to tie together in a more collaborative way, the work that we’ve done. For example, assigning segments of DNA to ancestors.

If I figure out that this stretch of DNA came from Jane and John Doe, that’s great, but that lives on my computer. If there were a way to share that with the world in an easy and collaborative way by clicking a couple of buttons, then, once we have thousands of people doing that, we could have a pretty incredible database and start to really work in a collaborative fashion.

Lisa: Collaboration certainly has been the key behind so much of what’s grown in genealogy.

More from Blaine Bettinger, The Genetic Genealogist

Blaine, thank you so much for all of your work in this area. It’s fascinating to watch what you’ve been up to and I’m going to keep my eyes on you into the future. Please tell folks where they can visit you to learn more about you and what you have to offer.

Blaine: The two main places are thegeneticgenealogist.com, which is my blog. If you’re a Facebook user, we have Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques, which is a Facebook group. It’s free to join, and from beginner to expert, everybody I think has a really good time in that Facebook group.

Lisa: It’s always good to see you. Thank you so much, Blaine!

Blaine: Thank you so much.

Resources

Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership

Learn more about Genealogy Gems Premium Membership.

Learn More about Genetic Genealogy at Genealogy Gems

 

7 Important Reasons Why (and How) to Start a Family History Blog

Here are the reasons every family historian should be writing a family history blog–and how can you get started NOW.

7 reasons to start a family history blog

Why Start a Family History Blog

Many of us want to write up our family stories, but with busy schedules, a 300-page book may not be in our future! 

You don’t have to have a lot of time to write and share your family history. Blogging about family history is a perfect alternative. Blogs are just simple websites that present articles in chronological order beginning with the most recent. This is a great format for telling a story that travels through time. 

Blogs also allow your readers to “subscribe” for free much like a podcast. In other words, your readers don’t have to remember to visit your blog and read the latest. Instead, they can receive email prompts when you publish new articles, or they can receive those new articles alongside their other favorite blogs and podcasts in a blog reader. Very convenient indeed!

Still not convinced it’s possible to start your own genealogy-themed blog? Here are 7 reasons why and how you can start a family history blog.

 

1. You can write a little bit at a time.

You don’t have to fill hundreds of pages or lay out an entire book. With a blog you can write as little as a paragraph at a time. There are no rules because it is your blog!

Over time, even a one-paragraph blog post, once a week, will eventually result in many pages. It’s a great way to pace yourself and still get your family’s story in writing.

2. Every word you write is searchable by Google.

Gone are the days of simply posting a query on a genealogy message board that only reaches genealogists.

By blogging about your family history, other people who are researching the same family lines can find and connect with you through their Google searches. You’ll be writing about the family they are searching for, so you’ll very likely be using many of the same keywords, dates and information that they will include in their search query. This means your blog should pop up high on their Google search results list!

Think of your family history blog as your own big message board. Your posts can be found by anyone in the world searching for the same information. The connection possibilities are endless. So essentially, family history blogs are your way to “fish for cousins.” This of it as “cousin bait!”

cousin bait how to start a family history blog

Blogs typically include a Comment section at the end of each of your articles, so encourage visitors to your blog to leave comments. Don’t worry, you can set your blog to only show the comments after you have reviewed and approved them.

 

3. You might bust your toughest brick wall.

I’ve heard and shared countless success stories here at Genealogy Gems from readers and listeners. By just “putting it out there” on a blog they have opened the door to a distant relative contacting them with a treasure trove of new information about their family tree.

“Your encouragement to blog genealogy has given me courage and a vehicle for which I can share the stories of our family’s common history. So, over the past month I’ve been posting digital images of each day (from my great grandfather’s) journal from 50 years ago, the transcription of the journal and an historical image that gives context to what he was writing about.  I plan to include family photos and other documents as I expand this blog.”

– Chris C.

4. You’re more likely to spot your mistakes and missing links. 

Have you ever told a story out loud and discovered in telling it that something in the story didn’t quite jive? A blog can help you tell your family’s story “out loud” too.

The process of writing up your family history discoveries can often reveal gaps, errors, or bad assumptions in your research. And that’s a good thing! Use it to your advantage to identify further research that needs to be done. But those items on your research to do list. 

And don’t be afraid to let your reader know what your gaps are and where you’re stuck. They just might be able to help!

 

5. Your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews, etc. are online.

 

Your descendants probably prefer to read quick and easy stories on-the-go on their smart phones and tablets, and a blog fits the bill perfectly.

Putting your research on a blog provides your relatives with an easy way to digest the family heritage. And of course they can subscribe to it, since blogs can be delivered to their email inbox or to a blog reader like Feedly.

Blog posts are also super easy to share to Facebook, which means your post can get even more traction. 

Chris continues:

The family response has been amazing.  The cousins, siblings, aunts and uncles think it is cool and want to see more!  They love the stories and can’t wait for subsequent postings so they can hear detailed history about (him) that they never knew about.  

I believe this blog will be part of how our family begins healing and comes back together again.”

6. Because there are no excuses.

You can start a blog for free, so cost is not a barrier.

There are no rules, so you can decide how often and how much you write at once.

There is just one thing you have to do to successfully blog about your family history: begin.

 

7. Because your blog continues to share even when you aren’t researching.

The best news of all is that your family history blog will be out there working online for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Even when life gets in the way and you need to take a sabbatical from blogging and genealogy, your blog is still out there ready to be found. You will still be sharing your family’s story, and attracting relatives to it. And when you’re ready, your blog will be ready for you to add the next chapter.

family history blogging

How to Start a Family History Blog

Starting a family history blog isn’t hard. But some people find it intimidating. So I’ve created two entire series to help you get started.

blog your family history video series youtubeClick to watch this free series of videos on the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel These videos show you how to set up a family history blog. They are a few years old, but will give you the basic idea. You’ll see how to get started for free in Blogger, with your Google account.

(I use WordPress for my website and my blog. They have a free version at wordpress.com.) Need more encouragement? Click here to hear from other readers who are very glad they got started.

 

Learn More About Blogging on the Family History Podcast

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastClick to listen to a free series from our Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast(an online radio show).

Starting with episode 38, you’ll learn:

Part 1: What to Consider when Starting a Genealogy Blog.

The “Footnote Maven,” author of two popular blogs, talks about the process of starting a genealogy blog. She gives great tips for thinking up your own approach, finding a unique niche, tips for getting people to comment on your blog posts and more.

Part 2: Insights from Popular Genealogy Bloggers. 

We hear from two additional popular genealogy bloggers, Denise Levenick (author of The Family Curator and alter ego of “Miss Penny Dreadful” on the Shades of the Departed blog) and  Schelly Tallalay Dardashti (author of the Tracing the Tribe blog).

Part 3: Step by Step on Blogger.com.

How to create your own free family history blog on Blogger.com. Learn tricks for designing a simple, useful blog and how NOT to overdo it!

Final tips: Wrap-up and inspiration.

In this concluding episode, learn how to add a few more gadgets and details to your blog; pre-plan your blog posts, publish your first article, and how to help your readers subscribe. You’ll also get great tips on how to create genealogy content that others looking for the same ancestors can find easily online.

 

Share the Blogging Adventure!

thank you for sharingInvite someone you know to start a family history blog of their own. Send them a link to this webpage or share it through social media. They’ll thank you for it later!

And if you have started a family history blog, please comment below and share your experience. 

 

DNA Testing for Family History

From Diahan Southard, Your DNA Guide here at Genealogy Gems: DNA testing is one of the most personal ways to get involved in your family history. You have DNA from your parents, who have DNA from their parents, and so it goes, back into your greats and great-greats. The technology of genetic genealogy is all about tapping into that DNA record and pulling out information that might be useful in your family history. DNA can do this for you in two ways:

  • First, it connects you to places. These are places where your ancestors came from a hundred, a thousand, or tens of thousands of years ago.
  • Second, it connects you to people. These people are your genetic cousins, other living people who have taken the same DNA test that you took. The similarities in your DNA tell you that you share a common ancestor. You can then examine the pedigree of your match and work with them to help verify your family history, or give you new ideas about who your ancestors might be.

Types of DNA Tests for Family History

You have three choices of DNA tests, each with its own unique purpose.

Autosomal DNA – For any ancestor, male or female, who is fewer than 5 generations from you, you can take the autosomal DNA test at either Family Tree DNA, AncestryDNA, 23andMe, or MyHeritage to find out more about that individual. Remember with the autosomal DNA that you always want to test the oldest generation first. So anyone who does not have both of their parents living should take the autosomal DNA test.

mtDNA – If I want to know about a female ancestor, let’s say Mary West, I need to find Mary’s daughter’s daughter’s daughter’s, etc. child (male or female) to take the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from Family Tree DNA.

YDNA – Essentially, if you want to know about a male ancestor, you need to find a direct male descendant to be tested. So if I want to know about my 3X great grandfather Morris Mitchell, I need to find Morris’s son’s son’s son, etc. until I find a living male with the Mitchell surname who can be tested on the Y chromosome DNA (mtDNA) test at Family Tree DNA.

DNA Testing Companies

There are several companies that test DNA for family history including:

Each of these companies offers a very similar autosomal DNA test, but each has its own unique tools and databases. Decide which company you want to test with by evaluating things like:

  • their website accessibility
  • their company goals
  • and especially the size of their database

You can see a table comparing these companies here.

Great (DNA) Expectations

The best thing you can do when setting out on your genetic genealogy journey is set good expectations. You can expect that the test will document the personal genetics of the person who takes it. By so doing, you are creating another genealogy record that will last for generations. This test will link you to your ancestors via your cousins. That means that you may take the test looking for ancestors, but what you get are cousins. It will take traditional genealogy work to turn those cousin connections into ancestral connections. Above all, expect that this is a growing industry, and what we know today is different than what we will know tomorrow, so enjoy the journey!

Genetic Genealogy for the Layman

There are several comprehensive books on Genetic Genealogy out there. However, for the layman who just wants to understand their DNA test results and get some additional value from them, an entire book full of scientific explanations can be overwhelming and daunting. The following email is one we receive regularly:

“Could you direct me to an understandable publication which explains dna results in layman’ terms ? Thank you” – Anne B.

Genealogy Gems Publications is proud to publish Diahan Southard’s wonderful series of DNA quick reference guides for understanding your DNA results in plain language, and helping you get the most out of the investment you made in testing.

8 Guides to Help You Understand and Use Your DNA Results

The complete collection of DNA quick reference guides cover:

  • The testing companies: AncestryDNA, 23andme, Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage
  • The tests: Autosomal, YDNA, Mitochondrial
  • How to find your ancestors using your DNA. 

All guides are available in convenient digital download format. 

DNA Guides bundle of 8

Click here to shop now: Save on the set of 8 DNA quick reference guides at the Genealogy Gems store.

More DNA Resources from Genealogy Gems

Free Videos: Here’s a link to our DNA videos on YouTube with the author of the guides, Diahan Southard. Here’s a great one to start with:

Free Podcast: Diahan has a regular segment on the free Genealogy Gems Podcast where she answers your questions and provides invaluable insights into the latest in genetic genealogy.

Free Articles: You can browse the complete archive of DNA articles at Genealogy Gems. The most recent will appear first and then scroll down to read through the past articles.

DNA in the News

As of March 28, 2017, AncestryDNA customers can see if their ancestors belonged to about 300 different Genetic Communities, small migratory groups that can be identified by DNA. In the next free Genealogy Gems podcast episode #202, you will learn more about it straight from Ancestry’s Chief Scientific Officer, Catherine Ball. For more information on Genetic Communities, watch the video below:

Want to get tested? Get your AncestryDNA test here.

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