Your DNA test results come with raw DNA data. This raw data is the next piece in your DNA puzzle. Your DNA Guide, Diahan Southard, shares some interesting facts about raw DNA data and its use. Dig in and learn why!
What is Raw DNA Data?
Raw DNA data is the actual output file created by the DNA testing company. You can access your raw data at each testing company, and I strongly encourage that you do. You will need to download and save your raw data results to your computer. For instructions on how to do this, head on over to this page on my Your DNA Guide website.
This file contains your little DNA values at over 700,000 locations tested by your testing company. Any company with the right set-up and analysis tools can help you find matches with other people, and make additional genealogical discoveries. They may also be able to tell you if you like cilantro and are likely to have high blood sugar!
Raw DNA Data Research Projects and Destinations
Raw DNA data has to have a place to go. There are several research projects underway that utilize your data from any of the big four testing companies (Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage DNA, and AncestryDNA) for various genealogical or genetic purposes.
Home page of the DNA Land website
Let’s look at four examples of places you might upload your raw DNA data.
1. Family Tree DNA. If you have tested at 23andMe or AncestryDNA, you can transfer your raw data file to Family Tree DNA for free! You can access all of your matches and use the matching tools. For an additional $19, you can get access to the ethnicity features and other tools.
2. DNA Land. The not-for-profit DNA Land has over 26,000 individuals who have voluntarily uploaded their autosomal DNA test results into their website to be used for research purposes. Their self-stated goal is to “make genetic discoveries for the benefit of humanity.”
3. MyHeritage. MyHeritage also accepts your raw DNA data for incorporation into their genealogical database. You can upload your results for free and receive access to matches along with the ability to contact them. For a one-time fee of $29, you can unlock access to all of MyHeritage DNA’s features and tools as well. Learn more and upload your data here.
4. Geni.com. Geni.com (a family tree collaboration tool) jumped on the DNA bandwagon and announced they too would be integrating DNA into their family tree tool. Utilizing a partnership with Family Tree DNA, Geni.com is utilizing all three kinds of DNA (autosomal, YDNA, and mDNA) in their offering. The interface looks much like what you would see at your testing company: a list of matches with some family tree information.
The biggest takeaway from the recent influx of destinations for your raw DNA data shows us that the integration of DNA into genealogy is in full swing. I estimate every genealogy company and every major genealogy software will offer some kind of DNA integration within the next five years. DNA has certainly earned a permanent spot as a genealogical record type!
A Word of Caution
With all of these options available, and surely more to come, you will want to be careful about who you are giving your raw data to. Make sure you are comfortable with the company and its goals. Be sure you understand what role your DNA will be playing in their research, as well. These are exciting times in the world of genealogy.
Take the Next Steps in Your DNA Journey
Wherever you are in your DNA journey, we can help!
Here are the reasons every family historian should be writing a family history blog–and how can you get started NOW.
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!”
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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!
Invite 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.
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
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.
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!
As evidence of its now proven usefulness in genealogy research, the genetic genealogy industry is growing at a fast pace. Ancestry.com has amassed the largest database, now boasting over 6 million people tested, and is growing at breakneck speeds, having doubled the size of its database in 2017. As the databases grow larger and our genealogy finds become more frequent, we can’t ignore that this kind of data, the correlated genetic and genealogical data, amassed by these companies, has great value.
In November, MyHeritageannounced an effort by their scientific team to “study the relationship between genetics and behavior, personal characteristics, and culture.” These studies are not new, as 23andMeis in open hot pursuit of the connections between genetics and our health, and always has been.
All of our genetic genealogy companies are involved in research on one level or another and every person who swabs or spits has the opportunity to participate in other research projects (clickhereto read up on the consent policies at each company). At the time of testing, you have the option to opt in or out of this research, and the ability to alter that decision at any time after you test, by accessing your settings. According to an article in FastCompany, it seems we as a community are very interested in helping with research: 23andMe reports an over 80% opt-in-to-research rate among their customers. And I’ve got some breaking news for you: Family Tree DNA just started a consumer awareness campaign to reinforce the message that they will never sell your genetic data. That’s another important topic worth talking about in a future episode, so stay tuned!
All our genetic genealogy companies realize that you might want to do more with your data than just look for your ancestors. This year FamilyTree DNAhas partnered with Vitagene in an effort to provide insight into your health via your genetic genealogy test results. Of course 23andMeis the leader in health testing when we look at our top genetic genealogy companies. This year 23andMefinally succeeded in passing several of their health tests through the FDA, a huge leap forward in their efforts to provide health testing directly to consumers.
While health testing has certainly seen an explosion of interest this year, it is not the only way that our companies are using the data they have amassed. AncestryDNA took the DNA and pedigree charts of two million customers who consented to research and, using some really fancy science, were able to provide amazing insight into our recent ancestral past with the creation of their genetic communities. These genetic communities enhance our understanding of our heritage by showing us where our ancestors may have been between 1750 and 1850, the genealogical “sweet spot” that most of us are trying to fill in.
LivingDNA, a relative newcomer to the genetic genealogy arena, announced in October of 2017 their intention to use their database to help create a One World Family Tree. To do so, they are collecting DNA samples from all over the world, specifically those who four grandparents lived in close proximity to each other. Along with this announcement, Living DNA is allowing individuals who have results from other companies and want to help with this project, to transfer into their database.
So it seems that with growing databases come growing options, whether to opt-in to research, to pursue health information from your DNA test results, or to help build global databases for health or genealogy purposes. Recognizing the growing appeal to non-genealogists as well, AncestryDNAadded to their list of options the ability to opt-out of the match page, and there are rumors that Living DNA will soon be adding the option to opt-in to matching (they do not currently have a cousin-matching feature as part of their offering). It can be tricky to keep up with all that goes on, but be sure we at Genealogy Gems are doing our best to keep you up-to-date with any news that might help you make better decisions about your genealogy, and ultimately better equipped to find your ancestors.
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.
Click here to read Margaret’s memories and see her pictures of Grandma Overbay
Start creating fabulous, irresistible videos about your family history with Animoto.com. You don’t need special video-editing skills: just drag and drop your photos and videos, pick a layout and music, add a little text and voila! You’ve got an awesome video! Try this out for yourself at Animoto.com.
INTERVIEW: TURN MEMORY FRAGMENTS INTO MEANINGFUL STORIES
Sunny Morton is a Contributing Editor at Genealogy Gems and presenter of the new Premium Video, “Share Your Own Life Stories More Meaningfully” (click here to watch a quick preview). She is also author of Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy (use coupon code GEMS17 for an extra 10% off by December 31, 2017).
Gather together even the smallest fragments of your memories together by writing them down.
Think about what missing details you could research by finding pictures, books, chronologies, maps and other resources (both online and offline).
Look for common patterns or recurring themes in groups of memory fragments. (For example, Sunny shared memories of swimming in this episode.) What kind of story do these memories tell over time about your personality, circumstances, relationships or other aspects of your life?
Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer
Sunny Morton, Editor
Diahan Southard, Your DNA Guide, Content Contributor
Hannah Fullerton, Audio Editor
Lacey Cooke, Service Manager
Disclosure: This page 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!
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.
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.
StoryWorthmakes 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 tohttp://www.storyworth.com/lisafor $20 off when you subscribe. Give a gift for Mother’s Day that is actually a gift for you, too!
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.”
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 recommendsRootsMagic 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 athttps://www.backblaze.com/Lisa.
“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 theGenealogy Gems Podcast for genealogy news, tips, inspiration and strategies (DNA is one of many tools talked about!)
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!