April 28, 2017

Adoption DNA Match Strategy: Combine DNA Test Types

Combining DNA test types can give you a better picture of your overall genealogical relationship to someone else. Combine your autosomal test results with the results of your mitochondrial DNA or YDNA test to make some amazing connections today!

combining DNA test types

My family recently visited the Jelly Belly Factory in northern California. Of course at the end of the tour, they funneled us into their gift shop where we felt compelled to buy jelly beans and other sundry treats. My favorite part of the big box we bought were the recipes on the side. We could turn the already delicious variety of flavors into even more pallet-pleasing options. Who knew!

This got me thinking about DNA, of course!

Combining DNA Test Types

Specifically, I was thinking about the power of combining multiple test types to get a better picture of our overall genealogical relationship to someone else.

If you recall, there are three kinds of DNA tests available for genealogists: autosomal DNA, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), and Y chromosome DNA (YDNA). Much of the focus these days is on how to use the autosomal DNA in our family history research. This may be because the autosomal DNA covers both sides of your family tree, so it is seen as a catchall for our family history. While it is a very powerful tool for our research, it can also be a bit overwhelming to try to determine how you are related to someone else.

Let’s look at an example from my own family history. My mom matched with Tom at 23andMe. Their predicted genealogical relationship, based on how much DNA they shared, was second cousins. To begin, we need to understand which ancestor could be shared by people who are genetic second cousins. To figure it out, you can count backwards like this: people who share parents are siblings, sharing grandparents makes you first cousins, and sharing great-grandparents makes you second cousins.

matches for combining DNA test types

Image credit: Diahan Southard.

So, if my mom and Tom are true second cousins (meaning there aren’t any of those once-removed situations going on, but that’s a subject for another time), then we should be able to find their common ancestor among their great-grandparents.

Each of us has eight great-grandparents. Because we can’t usually narrow down shared DNA to a single person, but rather to an ancestral couple, we are really just looking at four possible ancestral couple connections between my mom and Tom. My mom doesn’t have any known ancestors, as she was adopted, so we can only evaluate Tom’s line. Tom was kind enough to share his pedigree chart with us, and he had all four of his couples listed. But how do we know which one is the shared couple with my mom?

Narrowing Down the Results

Now, for those of you without an adoption, you will have some other clues to help you figure out which of the four (or eight, if you are looking at a third cousin, or 16 if you are looking at a fourth cousin) ancestral couples is shared between you and your match. Start by looking for shared surnames. If that comes up short, evaluate each couple by location. If you see an ancestral couple who is in a similar location to your line, then that couple becomes your most likely connecting point. What then? Do genealogy!! Find out everything you can about that couple and their descendants to see if you can connect that line to your own.

However in my mom’s case, we didn’t have any surnames or locations to narrow down which ancestral couple was the connection point between our line and Tom’s. But even if we had locations, that may not have helped as Tom is very homogenous! All of his ancestors were from the same place! But, we did have one very important clue: the mitochondrial DNA. Remember mtDNA traces a direct maternal line. So my mom’s mtDNA is the same as her mom’s, which is the same as her mom’s etc.

At 23andMe they don’t test the full mitochondrial DNA sequence (FMS) like they do at Family Tree DNA. For family history purposes, you really want the FMS to help you narrow down your maternal line connection to others. But 23andMe does provide your haplogroup, or deep ancestral group. These groups are named with a letter/number combination. My mom is W1 and we noticed that Tom is also W1.

combining DNA test types on pedigreeThis meant that my mom and Tom share a direct maternal line – or put another way, Tom’s mother’s mother’s mother was the same as my mom’s mother’s mother’s mother. That means there is only one couple out of the four possible couples that could connect my mom to Tom: his direct maternal line ancestor Marianna Huck, and her husband Michael Wetzstien.

Now you can only perform this wondrous feat if you and your match have both tested at 23andMe, or have both taken the mtDNA test at Family Tree DNA.

Just as a Popcorn Jelly Belly plus two Blueberry Jelly Bellies makes a blueberry muffin, combining your autosomal DNA test results with your mtDNA test results (or YDNA for that matter) can yield some interesting connections that just might break down that family history brick wall.

combing DNA test resultsLearn more about DNA test types with these helpful guides:

Don’t go it alone with DNA. My quick reference guides will guide you through the process in easy to understand language. You’ll get more out of your DNA test results with these guides:

FDA Authorizes Genetic Health Risk Tests by 23andMe

If you have ever wondered if you or your loved ones are at higher risk for diseases such as Late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, read on to learn about big changes that are happeningHealth history is just one of the ways in which genealogy research can benefit your family.

Genetic Health Risk Test
According to a recent FDA press release, “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today allowed marketing of 23andMe Personal Genome Service Genetic Health Risk (GHR) tests for 10 diseases or conditions. These are the first direct-to-consumer (DTC) tests authorized by the FDA that provide information on an individual’s genetic predisposition to certain medical diseases or conditions, which may help to make decisions about lifestyle choices or to inform discussions with a health care professional.”

The release goes on to say:

Consumers can now have direct access to certain genetic risk information,” said Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “But it is important that people understand that genetic risk is just one piece of the bigger puzzle, it does not mean they will or won’t ultimately develop a disease.”

The GHR tests are intended to provide genetic risk information to consumers, but the tests cannot determine a person’s overall risk of developing a disease or condition. In addition to the presence of certain genetic variants, there are many factors that contribute to the development of a health condition, including environmental and lifestyle factors.

The 23andMe GHR tests work by isolating DNA from a saliva sample, which is then tested for more than 500,000 genetic variants. The presence or absence of some of these variants is associated with an increased risk for developing any one of the following 10 diseases or conditions:

You can read the complete article called FDA allows marketing of first direct-to-consumer tests that provide genetic risk information for certain conditions here.

DiahanSouthard genetic genealogyFDA and 23andMe – Comments from Your DNA Guide

I look to Your DNA Guide, Diahan Southard for all things genetic genealogy, and here’s what she had to say about the recent news:

23andMe is certainly the outlier among our genetic genealogy companies. It is different because its purpose is not necessarily to help you find your ancestors or determine your ethnic composition, though it can do both, but their goal is to empower your personal health.

In November of 2013 the FDA ordered 23andMe to retract all health reporting from their website in order to better regulate the dissemination of health related information to consumers. 23andMe has slowly crawled back toward that same reporting structure, all the while jumping through the compliant hoops that the FDA has set up.

Now this week they have had a major step forward as they have been able to release the risk assessment for 10 major diseases including Parkinson’s and celiac. This is the first such test available direct to consumers, without first going to your doctor.

This is likely the first of many such developments as 23andMe works to make our own health more accessible via our genetics. If you do pursue this kind of evaluation, it is important to keep in mind the words of Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, “…genetic risk is just one piece of the bigger puzzle, it does not mean they will or won’t ultimately develop a disease.”

Learn More About 23andMe

As with all genetic testing, it’s your decision in the end, so be as informed as you can. Diahan’s quick reference guide Understanding 23andMe (a Companion Guide to Autosomal DNA for the Genealogist) will help you tap into the company’s services from a genealogical perspective. Over 1 million people have had their DNA evaluated by 23andMe. This website has powerful family history tools and this guide will answer the most pressing questions like:

  • How can I control how much information is being shared with others?
  • How can I enter my genealogical information?
  • How do I know when I have a good match?
  • Is the YDNA and mtDNA information they give the same as what I see at other places?
  • What is the best way to use the ethnicity results presented?

 

Get the Most out of DNA Testing with 23andMe with a New Guide

23andMe DNA quick guide blog collageOver a million people have done DNA testing with 23andMe, many lured by that company’s health information tools. Learn to use their genetic genealogy tools to get the most out of testing there! (and keep reading for a special limited time sale!)

I am one of the million+ people who have tested my DNA with 23andMe. Early on in my days as a 23andMe customer, I spotted a match who listed ancestry from Washington state, where I grew up. Because I have had both of my parents tested, 23andMe told me that this match was on my dad’s side. I sent an inquiry out to the match and named a few of my paternal surnames as possible connections between us.

As it turns out, this match was my dad’s half first cousin! They are about the same age and had played together all the time as boys, but their families had lost touch over the years. What was even more exciting for me, is that using the tools at 23andMe I was able to see the actual physical locations on the DNA that I shared with this cousin.

Knowing that our common ancestor was Lucy J. Claunch, I knew that these actual physical, tangible pieces of me were once pieces of her. All at once I felt a discernible shift in myself and the way I viewed my connection to her. She was no longer a name on a genealogical record, she was my ancestor, and I wanted to know more. For me, it took the DNA connection to give me that added oomph to turn my genealogy into family history. As it happened, that DNA connection came through 23andMe.

How to Focus on Genealogy DNA testing with 23andMe

23andMe is primarily focused on empowering personal health. They recently announced the restored ability to provide limited health information to their customers. The wide variety of content on their website can easily distract you from the genetic genealogy tools they are offering. To help you focus on these tools and use them to verify and extend your family tree, I’ve just released a NEW laminated quick guide, Understanding 23andMe.

23andme DNA quick guide DNA testing with 23andMeUnderstanding 23andMe addresses the most pressing genetic genealogy questions for those doing DNA testing with 23andMe, like:

  • How can I control how much information is being shared with others?
  • How can I enter my genealogical information?
  • How do I know when I have a good match?
  • Is the YDNA and mtDNA information they give the same as what I see at other places?
  • What is the best way to use the ethnicity results presented?

Purchase this guide NOW in the Genealogy Gems store and you’ll SAVE BIG! It’s only $5.95 right now–regularly $8.95! You’ll also save if you buy it with a super bundle of my entire series of DNA quick guides–7 of them now to help you “do your DNA” right from start to finish!

More DNA at Genealogy Gems

A family and its female slave house servants in Brazil, c.1860. Wikimedia Commons image. Click to view full source citation.We’re Cousins? DNA for Genealogy Reveals Surprising Relationship

DNA Confirms Presidential Love Affair 90 Years Later

Confused by Your AncestryDNA Matches? Read This Post

 

 

 

 

DNA Health Testing Back on U.S. Horizon for 23andMe

DNA shopperA direct-to-consumer genetic test, the first of its kind to be approved in the U.S., may become available through 23andMe, according to letters recently received by 23andMe customers. The FDA-approved test is designed to check to see if you are a carrier for Bloom Syndrome, a disease most common among those of Jewish heritage.

This is a huge step for 23andMe, which lost the ability to report health related information to its U.S. customers in November of 2013 and has been working to restore it ever since. Health testing for 23andMe customers is currently underway in Canada and the UK. This is the first big step toward restoring the health component of their testing to those of us in the U.S.

This kind of direct to consumer (DTC) testing is going to be a huge industry. For those of you with any experience getting a genetic test ordered and executed through your doctor’s office, you know this process can be lengthy, not to mention very expensive.

As more and more genetic tests are able to be offered directly to you via commercial companies, there will be more competition for this kind of test, meaning that there will be more research conducted into the cheapest way to produce this kind of test. Since these are the same kinds of procedures used for our genetic genealogy testing, more research and lower costs for DTC tests means cheaper genetic genealogy tests.

In further news, 23andMe announced their intention to enter the pharmaceutical industry and begin to develop medicines to address some of the diseases and conditions it has engineered genetic tests to identify. This is a good reminder that a company we have previously lumped with the other two purely genetic genealogy companies (Ancestry and Family Tree DNA) is very much a medically-minded company.

While 23andMe does provide information regarding your ancestral heritage and provides a list of genetic cousins, it is important to realize that this company’s interest in your family tree is focused more on your family’s ailments than its ancestors. (Click here to read a Forbes article about this development, and click here for more information about the laws that are in place to protect your genetic data, including health testing.)

Using DNA for Genealogy Ancestry Family Tree DNA GuidesAre you ready to get started with DNA testing for genealogy, or to get expert help in interpreting the tests you’ve already done? I can help! I’m “Your DNA Guide.” Consider starting with my series of genetic genealogy cheat sheets in the Genealogy Gems store:

  • Getting Started
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • YDNA, Autosomal DNA
  • Using AncestryDNA
  • Using FamilyTreeDNA

And visit my website to learn more my consulting services.

Savvy DNA Shopping Tip: Transfer Genealogy DNA Test Results to FTDNA for FREE

DNA shopperSavvy shopping can save you money and time. So what does savvy DNA shopping look like? Genetic genealogy tests–yDNA, autosomal and mDNA–do require a financial investment. They aren’t cheap. But they can save you hours of traditional research and give you results that no paper trail may provide.

Three main companies are currently selling autosomal DNA tests (that’s the test that is not limited to a direct maternal or a direct paternal line, and that can help you find genetic cousins with connections back as far as six or seven generations).  Those three companies, 23andMe.com, DNA Ancestry and Family Tree DNA  are all competing for you genetic genealogy dollar. All offer a good service, and it can be difficult to decide who to give your $99 to.

When your success or failure in finding matches depends entirely on who else has also been tested, it would be nice to have a crystal ball to tell you which testing company has the most participants who are useful to your research. FTDNA has no crystal ball, but they now are offering a reasonable substitute: FREE access to their database for anyone who has test results from 23andMe (if you received results before November of 2013) and AncestryDNA. Yes, I said FREE!

There are conditions. You can see your first 20 matches (but they can’t see you), and try out some of the tools that FTDNA has to help you identify how you are related to others. To have full access to the tools and results, you can pay $38, or just recruit four of your family members or friends to transfer, and then your transfer is FREE.

So, if you have been tested by Ancestry or 23andMe, run, don’t walk, to transfer your Y-DNA results to Family Tree DNA and take a look inside their version of the crystal ball. If you haven’t “done DNA” yet, currently the best option is to be tested with AncestryDNA and then transfer to FTDNA.” (watch for holiday sales, which would probably drop the price to $79). This gives you access to TWO databases of potential relatives for around $110–if you are a savvy shopper!

DNA Guide Cheat Sheet Diahan Southard

Final DNA shopping tip: be an educated consumer! Check out these quick guides I wrote to help genealogists find and use the DNA products that will help their research. Purchase each guide individually or pick up all 4 for the best deal!

Visit my website to learn about expert consultations with me. You’ll get customized guidance on which tests to order and how to maximize your results for your genealogy research.

Breaking News! MyHeritage and 23andMe Partnership

MyHeritageThis just in: Genealogy and family networking giant MyHeritage just announced a partnership with personal genetics company 23andMe. Here we share highlights from a press release, followed by comments from Your DNA Guide here at Genealogy Gems, Diahan Southard:

“We have some breaking news today at MyHeritage – we’ve just announced an important new collaboration and product integration between MyHeritage and leading personal genetics company 23andMe….

23andme_logo

23andMe pioneered autosomal DNA analysis, which can find relatives across all ancestral lines, and has built the largest autosomal DNA ancestry service in the world. MyHeritage’s 5.5 billion global historical records, 1.5 billion family tree profiles in 27 million family trees and innovative matching technologies, combined with 23andMe’s DNA analysis, will provide users with an integrated and enhanced experience to uncover their family history.

Combining documented genealogy – family trees, family stories and family memories – with DNA-based ancestry is the next evolution in family history research. While DNA testing can find relatives from shared ancestors, it’s the family trees and historical records that are critical to fully map and understand these connections….”

Hmmm….what to make of this? Diahan Southard comments:

diahan southard “The announcement of the collaboration between 23andme and My Heritage is definitely  good news for genealogists. This proves that influential genealogy companies and popular genetics companies are recognizing that genetic genealogy is a team sport. We need both genetics and traditional genealogical methods to tell the full story of our ancestry. I think this is a move that both companies needed to make in order to face the increased competition from competitors.

It also shows that the genetic genealogy industry is nearly bursting with new ideas and new collaborations, which means more innovation and more competition, ultimately leading to a better experience for us as genealogists as we try to integrate DNA testing into our research.

While the details of the collaboration are thin, we will watch anxiously over the next few months to learn how integrated the two companies will become, and then we can determine the best ways to use the tools of both to fill in the holes in your family tree.”

Read more about the collaboration and product integration between MyHeritage and 23andMe in a MyHeritage blog post  or watch the video below where MyHeritage Founder and CEO, Gilad Japhet, break the news live on Bloomberg TV earlier today.

your_dna_guideWant to learn more about DNA? Check out Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard’s series of laminated quick reference guides to genetic genealogy:

Family History Episode 13 – Genetic Genealogy and Photo Sharing

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast

No episode! But lots of good updates. Keep reading….

UNLUCKY Episode 13: Genetic Genealogy and Photo Sharing

Episode 13 of the original podcast reviewed genetic genealogy and photo sharing products that are either now longer offered or are outdated. This episode is not being republished with the series.

Fortunately, lots of advances have been made in both genetic genealogy services and photo sharing and tagging, and we’ve got lots of current resources for you.

Genetic Genealogy (DNA)

Start here where you’ll find answers to common questions, a free introductory video, and additional DNA resources

Next, listen to my interview with Dr. Turi King, who used DNA to identify King Richard III. That interview is on my Premium Podcast (available by subscription) and talks about what DNA can tell us–and what it can’t.

Another interview you might enjoy is with Bennett Greenspan from Family Tree DNA, featured in Premium Podcast Episode 92.

Premium_Podcast(Not a  Premium Member? Check out all the great membership benefits–including members-only premium podcast episodes, full access to the premium podcast archive for an entire year, video recordings of some of my most popular classes and even premium videos that teach you some of the most important skills for 21-st century genealogists.)

 

Free Photo Sharing Resources

Flickr

Photobucket

In addition, remember that Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, MyHeritage.com and other genealogy sites have excellent photo-sharing services for those who don’t mind sharing their images with the public.

23andMe Suspends “Health-Related” Sales But Keeps Genealogy Tests

I recently blogged about some governmental red tape being faced by 23andMe. They have suspended sales of  their “health-related genetic tests” and stopped providing interpretive information about those tests, but are continuing to offer their genealogy products. Below is a screen shot of the site showing their announcement. Just thought I’d share!

23andMe notice

23andMe Genetic Testing Kits Under Fire: FDA Compliance and ‘Designer Babies’

There’s been a lot of buzz lately over 23andMe’s genetic testing products and services. The company has ongoing issues with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which requires paperwork and data they say 23andMe hasn’t provided. A class-action lawsuit is in the works. But the second issue is creating most of the buzz outside of genealogy circles: the idea that 23andMe’s genetic tests could be used to create “designer babies.”

First: FDA

scientist_looking_observing_300_wht_13354So why does the FDA, a U.S. regulatory agency, care about genetic genealogy kits? Because they’re marketed as more than that. 23andMe describes their kits as tools for helping users make more informed decisions about their personal health. (See the letter sent by the FDA for more details.)

Bottom line? “FDA is concerned about the public health consequences of inaccurate results from the PGS [Personal Genome Service] device; the main purpose of compliance with FDA’s regulatory requirements is to ensure that the tests work….Therefore, 23andMe must immediately discontinue marketing the PGS until such time as it receives FDA marketing authorization for the device.(emphasis added)

news reporter describes his experience with 23andMe as very much about health information, not just ancestry: “I apparently have a higher risk of thromboembolism, Alzheimer’s, age-related macular degeneration, type 1 diabetes, melanoma, rheumatoid arthritis, restless leg syndrome, esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, and a number of other conditions I’d never even heard of,” he writes. He adds that the 23andMe site “provides recommendations for lifestyle adjustments and links to medical websites all in the interest of giving me, and others, a chance to review built-in genetic health risks.”

FYI, 23andMe immediately responded to the FDA’s letter with a public statement. “We recognize that we have not met the FDA’s expectations regarding timeline and communication regarding our submission. Our relationship with the FDA is extremely important to us and we are committed to fully engaging with them to address their concerns.”

Many genealogists are wondering what happens next for current 23andMe customers and the products under fire. Legal Genealogist Judy G. Russell’s blog  offers suggestions for customers and an interesting legal perspective. The most recent development is a class action law suit that has been filed against 23andMe (read about it on Forbes).

Designer babies?

mom_holding_baby_girl_400_wht_3455But a bigger story has been unfolding, too: the idea that 23andMe’s genetic testing could be used to select (or de-select) genes in unborn babies. Wired recently reported that “23andMe has developed a system for helping prospective parents choose the traits of their offspring, from disease risk to hair color. Put another way, it’s a designer baby-making system.”

The story explores existing technologies for pre-selecting genes for babies. Wired quotes 23andMe as saying they have no current plans for using their data this way because there’s no existing demand for it. The issue raises strong feelings on many sides of the question.  The idea that future generations could sidestep serious genetic medical conditions appeals to many. But a lot of other ethical and social questions come up.

These stories remind me that genealogy–gene-ealogy–is about so much more than the past! It’s also about what we do with our lives now and the fate of future generations.

What do you think? Join the discussion by leaving your comments.