28 October 2014

10th Annual Family Tree DNA Conference

Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfeld opened the Family Tree DNA Decennial Conference by recognizing all those who have attended all the conferences and those who have been project administrators for ten years. They recognized the first time attendees and a couple of new DNA books, including mine entitled Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond along with a soon-to-be published book entitled NextGen Genealogy: The DNA Connection by David R. Dowell.

Over 180 project administrators and co-administrators attended this year, and internationally there were representatives from Canada, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan!

Shortly after I sat down, I noticed the sconces around the room. It was very 
serendipitous that  this new venue, the Hyatt North Houston, welcomed our group in such a manner.

The following are some of the highlights at the Family Tree DNA Conference and not a day-by-day blow of the events.  Usually at some point, most of the presentations are posted on the FTDNA webpage.  However, I greatly encourage you to visit Jennifer Zinck’s blog Ancestor Central.  She did tremendous job writing as the conference occurred!  Thank you Jen for this wonderful compilation!

Consumer Genomics: The 30,000-foot View by Dr. Spencer Wells
DR. Spencer Wells, Scientist in Residence at the National Geographic Society, and head of the Genographic Project stated that there are 6,000 languages spoken in the world today and if we can understand how they are related, we can more clearly understand how the people who use those languages are related.  The isolated populations which tend to be less mixed with other populations are the key to understanding these connections.  He is majorly concerned about cultural extinction as by the end of the century 50-90% of the 6,000 languages will be lost through cultural assimilation.  Cultural diversity defines us as a people, and once lost, it is gone forever.  Some cultures have been instrumental in plant knowledge which has helped doctors create medicines. Each culture has a great value to the make-up of our species.

Currently the National Genogrphic Project has 75,000 indigenous testers and 625,000 public participants. He reported that genetic sequencing is moving five times faster than Moore’s Law would predict.  That’s five times faster than technology, and we all know the evolution of the iPhone has not been slow!

For the future, Geno 3.0 is coming and a new SNP chip.  Spencer predicted that in a few years the whole genome sequencing will be $100 as it is really cheap with the X10 machine. National Genographic is continuing to collect indigenous samples and is planning a trip to Southeast Asia next year.

AND, his fourth book The Ghost of Genghis Khan is in the works.  Privately Spencer stated to me that he considers his greatest work to be the discovery of Genghis Khan’s DNA.  I can’t wait to read the book!

Ancient and Modern DNA Update:  How many ancestral populations for Europeans? By Dr. Michael Hammer
Dr. Michael Hammer, a research scientist in the ARL Division of Biotechnology at the University of Arizona, also holds appointments in the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology as well as being the Director of the University of Arizona Genetics Core facility.  He pioneered the use of the Y-chromosome as a genealogical tool and is actually responsible for Bennett and Max starting Family Tree DNA.

My favorite presentation, Dr. Hammer updated the audience on last year’s discoveries.  At that time only three archaeological sites were being explored in Europe, but now there are fifteen sites and eighteen fully sequenced genomes for ancient DNA.  From this research there are three main European Ancestral components:
  • West European Hunter-Gatherers (WHG) – based on an 8,000 year-old genome from Loschbour, Luxembourg.  This population includes the Swedish hunter-gatherers and a Mesolitic individual from the La Brana Cave in Spain.
  • Early European Farmers (EEF) – based on a 75,000 genome form Stuttgart, Germany which belongs to the Neolithic Linearbandkeramik culture.  This population includes Oetzi the Iceman and a Neolithic Funnelbeaker farmer from Sweden.
  • Ancient North Eurasians (ANE) – based on the 24,000 year-old genome from Mal’ta Siberia.  This population includes a Mal’ta boy as well as the late Upper Paleolithic sample from Central Siberia called Afontova Gora-2.  Mal’ta boy (MA1) is genetically similar to Native Americans.
Dr. Hammer mentioned that all Europeans are a mixture of the three populations.  He further stated that Ancient North Eurasians (ANE) are equally distributed across Europe including the British Isles and that the hunter-gathers (WHG) probably had blue eyes and dark skin.  The Early European Farmers (EEF) had dark eyes with lighter skin.  These findings so far indicate that Haplogroup I was pre-agriculture and that Ancient North Eurasians (ANE) are haplogroup G2 in southern France, Spain, Northern Italy and North Germany as well as Haplogroup I in France and Haplogroup E in Spain.  There was no R1b at this point, and G2 dominated at this time. It is clear that the R1b haplogroup is relatively new as most samples from the more ancient times in Europe were G and I so far. 

DNA Ethics: Why we can’t cover our eyes by Dr. Blaine Bettinger
Blaine is an intellectual property attorney.  His blog The Genetic Genealogist is definitely worth following.  Blaine spoke on ethics a topic that causes genetic genealogists much angst. In the past we have had speakers who were neither genealogists nor genetic genealogists trying to tell us what is right or wrong.  Blaine used the best approach yet!  He stated there is no right or wrong, but just “best practice” with the goal of reducing negative publicity and to do things ethically.  He suggested that our job as administrators or anyone asking for someone’s DNA should be to educate the person and to be sure they read the “terms of use.” Explain that NPE (No the Parent Expected) can be possible as 1-3% of those testing typically have an NPE. Let them know that if they do not want to know the truth, then maybe they should not test as ancient and recent family secrets could be revealed.
He spoke about getting informed consent and not promising what cannot be delivered including the guarantee of anonymity.  He mentioned that standards will probably be developed as practical guidelines to help us.

Family Finder (How to Succeed with atDNA) by Jim Bartlett
Jim Bartlett simplified the process of finding common ancestors for autosomal DNA in four steps.  His steps:
            1.  Get Ready by developing a robust Ancestral Tree and a standard email message
            2.  Communicate by sharing your lineage with every match and determine the common ancestors
            3.  Use a spreadsheet to track matches and segments
            4.  Triangulate three or more matches

To see my version of this, view my Dublin presentation at BTOP (Back to Our Past) entitled: Emily Aulicino - Who’s Your Cousin? atDNA Knows! at http://tinyurl.com/lz4u773

Discovering and Verifying your Ancestry using Family Finder by Dr. Tim Janzen
Tim, a family practices doctor in Portland, Oregon, runs a Mennonite project and has given many presentation in the US and Canada.  He stressed the importance of testing as many cousins as possible to help with autosomal triangulation.  He mentioned that endogenous populations can appear closer than they really are, so be aware and look to further generations.  He encouraged everyone to create cousin clusters so that can be used to compare matches you are new to you. Tim encouraged the use of GEDmatch, a third party tool, and gave a few statistics, such as the 4th cousin level on average is about 14cM. Tim sites the following centimorgans (cM) which can be Identical by Descent (IBD) or inherited:
5-6 cM can be 50% IBD
7-8 cm can be 50% IBD
11-12cM you see very little if any IBS (Identical by State*)

 *IBS segments are segments that are handed down for generations unmixed or segments which are too common in a haplogroup. Both situations make it difficult to impossible to determine a common ancestor.

Y-DNA Marker Tables, Mutation Graphs and Ancestral Trees: Useful Techniques for Family Genealogy by Robert Barber
Robert Baber had an excellent statement in his presentation:  Our ancestors never completely died.  They continue to live in our DNA.
            He focused on building a mutational graph and converting it to a genealogical tree.  In order to do so you must know the common ancestor at the top and understand the mutation rates of the specific markers.

ISOGG Meeting
Katherine Borges, director of ISOGG, gave a historical view of the organization and presented Bennett and Max with a plaque of appreciation for their work over the last ten years.

Y-Tree tidbits
Alice Fairhurst mentioned a few current statistics for the Y-SNP tree.  Amazing how popular the
ISOGG tree is in academia, and it is very apparent that Alice'a Crew is doing it right!
  • Over two million hits in six months
  • Most viewed pages were the SNP Index and Haplogroups R, I, E, N, J, and G
  • The tree was viewed from all continents and by universities and genetic laboratories.

Big Y Predictions for the future
  • New products like the Deep Clade 2.0 panel will be made possible by Y-chromosome sequencing and research
  • Read lengths could improve: Illumina is migrating the HiSeq platform to 250bp (base pairs) reads and there are plans to grow to 40bp reads.
  • Technologies such as PacBio and Oxford Naopore promise read length in 1 to 10 kb range
  • Eventually it will make sense to sequence entire genomes instead of the Y-chromosome.

Deep Clade tests
As it is becoming impossible to predict haplogroups even with a Y-111 and especially for some R haplogroups, new Deep Clade panels will be constructed by those working with the haplogroups.  These panels can contain 50-60 SNPs and will be priced very reasonably at $1-$1.50 per SNP. Bennett stated that there could possibly 6 Deep Clades for R and the current focus is on building a SNP panel for R-M222.  Haplogroup administrators can formulate their list and submit it to FTDNA so please contact FTDNA with your list of suggestions for a Deep Clade SNP panel. This will be so much easier and cheaper than selecting individual SNPs to determine more detailed haplogroups!  YEAH!!!

Submit Suggestions
Family Tree DNA has established a link for your suggestions at:
The maximum size for your suggestion is 1,000 characters.  

Thank you FTDNA for this suggestion link.  As I have compiled a list of administrators' requests for the past two years and submitted them to the company, this releases me from my self-appointed quest! Listening to the customer's needs (including administrators) is the best thing a company can do to keep growing.  We all know that staff at FTDNA does not have the time nor experience to do what many of the administrators and testers do with all this DNA information.  Many admins have created software to assist in finding matches as well as techniques to make the process more understandable for the tester.

DNA Census
FTDNA’s buzz word for the future is their goal of creating a DNA Census and not a survey.  By testing everyone, a DNA census will be produced where spotty testing is only doing a survey. To spur the interest they have reduced the autosomal transfers from 23andMe and AncestryDNA to $39 or by getting four people to look at transferring, you get your transfer FREE. 

Encourage everyone to test and those who have at other companies to transfer their results to FTDNA.  In doing so, they will be able to fish in more ponds as each database is different.  This means more matches for everyone and a higher likelihood of finding more recent cousins.  What a great benefit for adoptees as well!

Free Test Result Transfers
Transfers from AncestryDNA and 23andMe (v3 chip) for either $39 or for free.  You can upload your results to FTDNA and see your top 20 matches for free, but you only get the first initial and surname.  If you pay $39 you can see your matches and their emails.  However, If you recruit four other people to transfer their test results, whether they actually pay the $39 fee or not, your upload will be free. See:  https://www.familytreedna.com/AutosomalTransfer

Searchable Family Trees
Another feature this year is a new version of the Gedcom (family trees). The reason for doing so is to implement a new search feature which will allow a person to search all public trees.  I have personally found common ancestors in the past by using the Gedcoms so this will be a great feature if more people upload their data.  You do not have to have a software program which creates a Gedcom; you can input the information on your family directly on the site.  This means, of course, that you can change, correct, add or delete information without uploading a new tree.  YEAH!

Group Project Email Lists
A function entitled myGroups will allow contact within group projects.  At this point the feature is designed for use by project administrators and their testers for particular projects.  I typically run email lists for any tester in my individual projects including men who are connected to the line but who cannot test due to a different surname and women who are related to the surname, but, of course, cannot do a Y-chromosome test so I am not sure how this will improve my particular situation, but it does allow testers to carry on a dialogue which would be of interest to many in the project.  The Alpha testing for this will begin shortly, and FTDNA is looking for volunteers to test it and help remove any bugs.  Just contact FTDNA if you are interested.

Family Tree DNA has three goals for next year:
1. Customer service and feedback
2. Listening to citizen scientists and group administrators
3. New products and features to make genetic genealogy better for genealogists

Many other grand presentations were given, but this hits the highlights. All of you will just have to become administrators of a project and join us next year for the 2015 conference!


28 August 2014

FTDNA End of Summer Sale

Now is the time to purchase your DNA test kit or upgrade the one you have!

Y-DNA testers should consider a minimum Y-37 marker as this test puts you within genealogical time.  However, if you are a member of a common haplogroup or if you match many other testers at the Y-37, consider upgrading to a Y-67 or Y-111.  Doing so could put you in a more defined group with whom you would more closely match.  If there are matches which are a bit beyond the threshold for a Y-37 match, they could appear with a Y-67 as the threshold allows more differences.  OR, your match at a Y-67 could have no further differences.

This sale ends soon, so jump into the gene pool with the rest of us!

The message from Family Tree DNA...

Standard      Regular Price     Sale Price
Y-37                     $169                $129
Y-67                     $268                $199
Y-111                   $367                $279
Big Y                    $595                $495

Upgrades         Regular Price    Sale Price
Y-12 -> Y-37            $99               $70
Y-12 -> Y-67            $189             $148
Y-12 -> Y-111          $339             $239
Y-25 -> Y-37            $49               $35
Y-25 -> Y-67            $148             $114
Y-25 -> Y-111          $249             $209
Y-37 -> Y-67            $99               $79
Y-37 -> Y-111          $220             $179
Y-67 -> Y-111          $129             $109


18 June 2014

Family Tree DNA Releases Updates

Several updates were posted today at Family Tree DNA.  Of special interest is the Big Y settings and the name changes in the bio-geographical groups.

Note the Big Y settings and Search...something new!

1. Added a privacy setting that will allow a user to opt out of Big Y matching.  By default, matching is enabled.  If someone opts out of matching they will not be able to see Big Y matches and other users will not see them.  The opt in/out setting is located in the myFTDNA Account Settings page, under the "Match and E-mail settings" tab.  Here is the setting:

2. Updated the retail price for Y-DNA25 from $229 to $109.  This will put it in line with our other Y-DNA product prices. Upgrade prices were also edited accordingly. 

3. Created a SNP search feature on the Haplotree page to aid users in locating a SNP of interest.  It is located at the top right side of the Haplotree page.  The page will scroll down to the SNP being searched for and highlighted it with a yellow bar.  Even SNPs buried in the "More..." pop up will be searched!  Here is a pic of the search bar:

4. Name changes for Populations
myOrigins Introduces New Population Cluster Names!

Based on your feedback, we simplified the population cluster names on myOrigins!  It will now be easier than ever to share (and pronounce) your ancestral origins.
  • European Coastal Plain -> Western and Central Europe
  • East African Pastoralists -> East Central Africa
  • Trans Ural Peneplain -> Eastern Europe
  • Bering Expansion -> Native American
  • North African Coastlands -> North Africa
  • Asian Northeast -> Northeast Asia
  • Eurasian Heartland -> Central Asia
  • North Mediterranean Basin -> Southern Europe
  • Niger-Congo Genesis -> West Africa
  • European Coastal Islands -> British Isles
  • North Circumpolar -> Finland and Northern Siberia
  • European Northlands -> Scandinavia
  • Anatolian and Caucasus -> Asia Minor
  • Jewish Diaspora -> Ashkenazi Diaspora
  • Kalahari Basin -> South-Central Africa
  • East Asian Coastal Islands -> Southeast Asia
  • Indian Tectonic Plate -> South Asia
  • Eastern Afro-asiatic -> Eastern Middle East
In addition, the following composite myOrigins population clusters will have their names changed:
  • Coastal Islands & Coastal Plain -> British Isles, Western & Central Europe
  • Trans-Ural Peneplain & Coastal Plain -> Eastern, Western & Central Europe
  • Northlands & Coastal Plain -> Scandinavia, Western & Central Europe
  • North Mediterranean & Coastal Plain -> Southern, Western & Central Europe
Please note: We did not make any changes to the underlying myOrigins data.  In other words, if you were 20% Anatolian Crossroads before, you will now be 20% Asia Minor.

Descriptions of the clusters can be found here. For background on myOrigins, read Razib Khan’s pieces, “Unraveling Mysteries” and “Surprising Threads on the Tapestry.”


12 June 2014

Family Tree DNA reaches a historic milestone: over 1,000,000 DNA tests processed

Family Tree DNA just sent this press release:

Family Tree DNA, the genetic genealogy arm of Gene by Gene, and the world leader in the field, announced today that it has processed over 1,000,000 DNA test kits results for genealogy and anthropology purposes.

This historic amount includes Family Tree DNA’s tests as well the processing of public participation samples for National Geographic’s Genographic Project (www.genographic.com). Family Tree DNA is the Genographic Project’s genetic testing partner.

The million-test milestone was reached this week during the company’s Father’s Day sale, which includes the Family Finder test currently discounted at the affordable price of $79.

The Family Finder test finds relatives within 5 generations, and gives a detailed geographic breakdown of  where one’s ancestors came from, by comparing a person’s DNA to the DNA of other users in Family Tree DNA’s massive database.

Family Tree DNA offers the widest range of DNA testing services in the field of genetic genealogy.The company prides itself on its commitment to the practice of solid, ethical science. Family Tree DNA has the largest database in the world for matching purposes, which means increased chances of finding long lost relatives. In that regard, Family Tree DNA is an important resource for the three million people in the United States who either were adopted or descend from adoptees.

About Gene By Gene, Ltd.
Founded in 2000, Gene By Gene, Ltd. (http://www.genebygene.com) is a CAP-accredited and CLIA-registered genetic testing company that serves consumers, researchers, and physicians. Gene by Gene offers a wide range of regulated clinical diagnostic tests, as well as research use only (RUO) tests. The Family Tree DNA division (http://www.familytreeDNA.com) of Gene by Gene is a pioneer and leader in DNA testing for genealogy and ancestry. The company operates the largest genetic genealogy database in the world and has provided more than 5 million discrete genetic tests. Gene by Gene is privately held and headquartered in Houston, Texas.

For media information on FamilyTreeDna.com, please contact Lacy Gambee (520) 404-4357

For media information on The Genographic Project, please contact Colby Bishop (cbishop@ngs.org/202-828-8075)



09 June 2014

Family Tree DNA's Father's Day Sale!!!

Family Tree DNA has announced its Father’s Day Sale on their website. These are good prices, if you are interested in either test.  You can learn more about the Big Y at my blog post:  http://genealem-geneticgenealogy.blogspot.com/2014/03/big-y-is-rolling-on.html

The Father's Day Sale is here! Buy Family Finder now for only $79 and Big Y for only $595!

For a limited period from 9th June to 17th June the Family Finder test will be reduced from $99 to just $79.  The Big Y is reduced by $100 and if you previously ordered a Big Y and will order another, you receive an addtional $100 off!

Here’s a copy of what the Administrators received:

Father's Day is almost here and that means a new Family Tree DNA sale!  Here's what the sale will entail:

From 6/9/2014 to 6/17/2014, we will be offering:
Family Finder - $79   ($99)
Big Y - $595   ($695)

Additionally, customers that have already purchased a Big Y test will receive a coupon for $100 off another Big Y! This coupon is valid through 6/17/2015 and can be used on any Big Y order.  The best part is that if you combine it with the Father's Day sale, customers can get Big Y for only $495! 
News & updates
·      Big Y matching is coming!  Over the course of the next two weeks we will begin a phased release of Big Y matching so you can directly compare your comprehensive Y-DNA results to those of other Big Y test takers.  The key to identifying all new SNPs and subclades is finally here!
·      Family Finder was recently improved with the release of myOrigins, an all new ethnicity tool allowing you to compare your ethnic breakdown to that of your matches while providing more detailed information on your ethnic heritage than ever before!



06 June 2014

Y-DNA Transfers to Family Tree DNA

I just noticed today that Family Tree DNA is offering a great sale on transferring your Y-DNA test results from any company that used the Sorenson 33 or 46 marker test.  That would include results from Ancestry.com, GeneTree and Sorenson's SMGF.

The transfers are $19 for the 33 or 46, but if you wish to add the Y-DNA 25 marker or Y-DNA 37 marker along with the transfer that is $58.  A STEAL! 

Why add this upgrade?
When your DNA results are transferred from another company, your stored test sample is not transferred.  By adding the Y-25 or Y-37, you receive a kit and will have enough sample to store for future upgrades and tests at FTDNA.

Choosing the 25 or 37.
The 25 marker test provides matches for you on the all-paternal line that could be within this last 600 years where the Y-37 marker would narrow that time to within 400 years, give or take.  These are estimated times as every family can be different, but the more markers you test, the closer in time the common ancestor can be.

If your haplogroup is not a common one, the Y-25 marker could be enough, but if your haplogroup is common, I would suggest you go with the Y-37.  Frankly, if the price is the same why would you do a Y-25?

At this point in time, Family Tree DNA is the only major testing company who offers Y-DNA and mtDNA test, along with the ability to upgrade those tests if you start at a lower level of markers.

For more detail see Family Tree DNA.


05 June 2014

Ancestry.com Discontinue Some Products

Ancestry.com announced that it will discontinue some of its services by September 5, 2014 to focus on its "core products and mission".

The affected products are:

MyFamily.com - the family website service
My Canvas - the photo book publishing service
Genealogy.com - the site will remain online with some content
Mundia.com - the worldwide family tree site (you must subscribe to Ancestry.com to contact tree owners
Y-DNA and mtDNA testing - Raw data can be downloaded.  This leaves only Family Tree DNA available for these types of tests among the three most popular DNA testing companies.

The blogg genealogyinsider has detailed the situation and the site has a link to Ancestry.com's blog post on the subject.

Visit the above link for more information and spread the word as it may affect others you know. There is information on what to do and refunds where applicable.